A big part of cosplay revolves around the construction of props and garments and most of the time they involve using a sewing machine or even hand stitching. This can be a very daunting prospect for newcomers to cosplay, but it’s not as bad as you think. Plus, we all need to start somewhere.
Sewing can be used to create your own costumes from scratch, or to help modify any clothing you need to portray your character. Lets not forget that the skills you use in cosplay making are always handy when tackling life’s unexpected puzzles and problem solving. We will cover hand sewing and machine sewing and give you the lowdown on what is needed for a beginner.
For anyone who works in crafting, you will always need some tools of the trade to begin your journey. Below is a simple list of items we recommend you have at hand and to get you started on any projects you have lined up.
- Straight Pins: These are essential for keeping your fabrics together as you work and are useful for marking areas as well.
- Sewing Needles: These are cheap and come in many sizes. Use the needle that’s suitable for the job, but if you’re unsure then the longest needle is always the best bet.
- Thread: Having the basic black and white thread to start is absolutely fine, but as time goes on you will want to colour match your thread to your fabric as you will be able to see the thread in the seams if it doesn’t match.
- Scissors/Snips: Having fabric scissors is always handy for any cuts you need to make in your fabric and for cutting your thread. Paper scissors are also handy just in case you need to cut out any patterns, and snips are easy to handle and not so bulky, so any cutting of thread is made easier.
- Seam Ripper: This crab claw tool will become your best friend and worst enemy. After spending all your time sewing a section of your design, you will undoubtedly come across a mistake. This little tool can turn back time so you can start fresh.
- Tape Measure: Although you might not use it as often as you think, it’s always handy to have a measuring guide at hand that is flexible and moves freely.
Practice Makes Perfect
To get used to the idea of hand sewing all you really need is some scrap fabric. Try to find fabric that is similar in style to the fabric you will be using (or even getting a piece of the fabric you will want to use), as different fabrics will work in different ways. There are many different types of stitches that you can do. I personally recommend that you check out Apartment Therapy‘s stitch guide to get a better understanding when first trying hand stitching.
Although the hand stitching technique may seem a tedious job, it is ideal if you have difficult patterns, no access to a sewing machine, or even if you’re not confident in using a sewing machine. Many costumes and props have been made using hand sewing, and although it takes a little longer than using a machine, it’s a great alternative to fully hand crafting your costume.
Sometimes the mere mention of a sewing machine can set people on edge. Even shopping for one can be a complete nightmare with all the information and different types available. But if you’re just starting out, there is no need to worry as you don’t need anything fancy at all. As long as the sewing machine comes with basic changeable stitching, such as the straight stitch and the zig-zag stitch, then you will have everything you need. There are a plethora of brands out there but a few favourites are Brother and Singer, available online or in shops like Argos or Wilkinson. They can range from £25 – £100, but don’t be put off by the price tag as these machines are built to last.
Sewing Machine Tool Box
Just like hand sewing, you are going to need some tools of the trade, not just for sewing your items, but to also look after your machine:
- Spare Needles: When you buy your machine you should be given details about needle size and type. The best tip when buying needles is to take your information booklet with you to the store and ask a member of staff if they can help you. They may ask what fabrics you are using so they can give you the correct needle for the job.
- Spare Bobbins & Case: Having a spare bobbin case is always handy should something happen to the other one. This is essential to your machine and will allow for a smooth run. As a machine sewer you can never have too many bobbins. I usually have a bobbin in each of the colours I’m using for a specific costume so it will be quick and easy to change the colour of the thread.
- Presser Foot: This little foot attaches to the outer part of your needle and holds your fabric to the bottom of the machine. It guides your fabric and allows you to have control over the fabric’s movement.
- Zipper Foot: This is a different style of foot which will allow you to sew zips onto your projects. You can’t use a normal foot for zips so this is always an essential part of your kit.
- Maintenance Kit: This should contain a small screwdriver, oil, and a small bristled brush. These are needed to keep basic maintenance over your machine.
Keep On Practicing
That’s right, just like the hand sewing you will definitely need to keep on practicing with your sewing machine before you go full out on making your costume. Grab your scrap fabric and get yourself used to how the machine works. As most modern sewing machines use a foot pedal, be sure to familiarise yourself with the pressure needed for specific speeds and have a play around with the stitch settings and tensions to make sure you understand their use and form.
Before you Aim Big, Go Small
From personal experience and talking to others, I would highly recommend that you look for random little projects to test both your hand and machine sewing skills. Take a look online and search for “sewing projects” for a wide variety of projects that can help you get used to using your new skills with patterns.
If at any point you find yourself getting frustrated or angry that something isn’t going right or that you keep messing up, take a deep breath and remove yourself from the situation. Taking a break from your work when things aren’t what they are supposed to be is never a bad thing. It will allow you to clear your mind, reasses the situation and allow you to calm down. A lot of big mistakes can happen when anger and rage is involved, including some very nasty accidents involving fingers, pins, needles and trips to the hospital.
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Being able to sew is just one small step to the wider world of cosplay. It’s a useful skill to have for everyday use as well as showing off your skills to the cosplaying community. It doesn’t have to be as boring or as tedious as many make you believe. I also recommend you do your sewing when sat down with your TV, computer or music playing in the background so you can be fully relaxed whilst working.
All cosplayers have had to learn their craft in one way or another. Although this is a short guide I implore you all to do more research, create your own path and get creative. If you have any questions or tips and tricks of your own that you would like answered or shared, then please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and it might be featured in a future article.