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May 2006

May 2006: Space



  • EMG News:
    May: Space
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Studio Space
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Inside Paper
  • Behind the Art:
    Color Theory, Part 1
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Heraldry, Part I
  • Cosplay101:


  • Reaching Out: The Continuing Quest for Space
  • Dipping Into Digital, Part 1: The Tools
  • Stitching Scans


  • Movie: Silent Hill
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  • Assembly
    by Amy Waller

    Welcome again to the fabulous world of Cosplay 101! So you have your fabric, you have your pattern, now it's time to put it all together! Now before I being I should note that I assume that you, the reader, are familiar with a sewing machine and the use thereof. If you don't, find someone to teach you. While it's possible to construct a costume using only hand-sewing, a machine makes things much faster, and usually neater.

    So get your machine out and set up. If you're following a commercial pattern, read the instructions carefully as to what to sew first. When using your own pattern carefully think about what needs to be sewn in what order. For instance, the front and back of a shirt need to be sewn together before you set the sleeves in. You will want to stay-stitch around the neckline of your costume, which basically means run a line of basting just inside the neck edge. This helps keep the fabric from pulling. If you have a very lightweight fabric, you'll also want to stay-stitch around the tops of sleeve and other curves.

    Now, sew the pieces together as directed by the pattern instructions. If you made your own pattern, use common sense. Go slow, and don't be afraid to seam rip something out if it's not quite right. Better to fix mistakes now than to get all the way done and realize that it doesn't fit or hangs funny. Feel free to try parts of the costume on as you go to check if they fit. Make adjustments as soon as possible for the best end fit. Remember, a costume that doesn't fit well will be uncomfortable to wear at a convention.

    Certain fabrics are harder to sew than others. I know personally velvet penne is one of the hardest fabrics to work with because it tends to roll at the edges. Satiny or slick fabrics can also be a problem, as they tend to slide around when you're sewing. The solution is usually more pins. With penne I usually pin every inch or so. It may seem like overkill and take forever, but it's better to take the time before you start sewing than wait until you have a problem and try to fix it then. The other piece of advice I can offer is one I've said several times before: Go slow. If you try to sew too fast, machines tend to try to �eat� fabrics, especially lightweight ones. This is when the machine pulls some of the fabric into itself, which usually results in the machine jamming, your bobbin getting tangled, and a hole in your fabric. Not fun. So take the little extra time to go slowly, even when sewing long, straight seams.

    Now, with all this talk of machine sewing you may ask, "So this means I don't have to do any hand-sewing, right?" The answer is yes . . . and no.

    It all depends on your fabric and how closely you expect your costume to be looked at. If you're just making a costume for fun, out of basic fabrics, then yes, you can do everything by machine. But if your fabric has sequins or beads of any sort, you should probably hand sew it to avoid breaking many, many needles. This is also something to consider when picking out your fabric in the first place. The fabric might be perfect, but do you really want to hand-sew the whole thing? Trust me, I made a shirt out of a navy blue sequined fabric once, and while it looked fabulous (especially from stage), it took literally months to hand sew together.

    Also, if you are entering a costume in any kind of craftsmanship contest, you may want to consider hand-sewing your hems. With hand-sewing you can make smaller stitches that almost disappear. When hemming a skirt, especially a floofy one, machine hemming can bunch awkwardly in places and tends to not look as nice.

    You can also use hem tape or �stitch witchery� for hems. This is a special fusible (meaning you can attach it with your iron) fabric to do hems. While it is quick and neater than machine stitching, it can still bunch, and the iron line can show thru. And, as with any iron-on fabric, stitch witchery has a habit of losing its hold at the worst possible moments. So save it for small bits, or baste over it to secure the hold.

    So now that we're well on our way to having a costume complete, I shall leave you for this month. Next month Cosplay 101 will be back with talk of accessories and Amy's quick-and-cheap way to fake armor.

    Amy Waller makes costumes.

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