How I Made That: Maleficent’s Horns / Headpiece

Back in October, I posted a Cosplay Tutorial: Maleficent’s Staff. As Maleficent has been one of the costumes that generates the most email questions for me, seemed like a good idea!

I have been meaning to post a tutorial on how to make the headpiece, but – as it turns out – I didn’t take any photos of the earlier steps. So, here we are with a “How I Made That”, instead!

So, let me first detail what all went on before I thought to start taking photos 🙂

1 – I had a cement casting of my Maleficent model’s head. I greased it up with vaseline, and laid down some wet plaster tape in a rough shape of the base head cap. I did about 3 layers, and let it harden fully before removing it and trimming it to the right shape.

2 – I made the horns. For things like this, I like to start with a base of crunched up aluminium foil – it’s lightweight, easy to form, and holds shape well. I took the time to make two symmetrical horns.

3 – Using thin strips of plaster tape, I wet, wrapped, and smoothed a couple layers of plaster from the tip down towards the base of each horn.

4 – With the cap part centered on the head casting, I used mroe strips of plaster tape to securely affix the horns to the cap base, taking care to keep them symmetrical. Then, I let that harden completely.

5 – Using some “Fast Mache” paperclay, I filled out and smoothed over the horns. Let that dry completely.

6 – I sprayed the horns with Super 77 spray adhesive, and wrapped them with twine. Let that dry completely.

7 – Once the whole thing had dried *completely*, I coated it all with a layer of black Plasti-Dip. This would protect the plaster from outside moisture. Once that was dry, I painted it with black PAX paint, for a nicer finish.

8 – I draped a small piece of textured black fabric (stretchy) over the headpiece, trimming it and cutting holes out for the horns. Once I was satified with how it looked, I sprayed the back of it with Super 77, and glued it down to the headpiece, smoothing out all the wrinkles, etc.

9 – I draped a piece of shiny metallic black lycra over it, trimming to form the “V” trim. Once I was satisifed with the shape and fit, I glued it into place with Super 77, folding edges to the underside of the cap.

10 – Using a larger piece of black metallic lycra, I draped one side of the … I don’t know what I’d call it. Skull cap? Cowl? Sort of? Anyway, draped that on one side, pinning in place.

11 – Used another large piece of black metallic lycra to drape the other side, overlapping the first. Once I was happy with it, I hand stitched the pieces together, sewing right up to the horns to secure everything in place.

aaaaand finished!

For more photos of this stunning costume, head on over to our Facebook page. We have an album for it HERE.

Be sure to “like” my costuming page on Facebook for more progress pics, tips, and other fun stuff: Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer.

Note: If you’re looking for a quote on custom costuming, please contact me through my costuming page, www.evilcostumeoverlord.com.

How I Made That: Dwarf Wig Part 3 – Reusable Beard

As I’d mentioned in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I like to make my Tolkien cosplay dwarf wigs from scratch for several reasons. Beyond fit, style, etc.. I like to have matching loose hair available for making beards.

The first time I went out as Thorin, I did the beard right on my face with liquid latex, layer by layer. Looks good, but took TWO HOURS. After doing this twice, I knew I’d need to come up with a better way, something reusable.

Another issue is that I find the liquid latex application doesn’t last very long, and starts peeling off my face early in the evening. Want to eat or drink anything? It’ll peel that much faster.

So, I used a heavier liquid latex to make a more reusable Thorin beard, and it took about 2 minutes to put on. I was able to use Pros-aide adhesive, which holds MUCH better than liquid latex. I’ve since used this method to create the beard for my Beast costume, for the mustache and around the bald spot of Mini Bombur, and now my Dis costume. Here is how I did it:

First off, I prepared my work space with medical exam table paper – this will make a big mess, and it’s nice to be able to just bunch up the paper and toss it when I’m done.

I cut some strips of plaster casting tape into thinnish strips, and set a container of water out. I also set out a pair of gloves, because handling plaster really grosses me out. (Too close to chalk. click here if you’re curious to read about some Aspie issues :0 )

Then I pulled all my hair off my face, greased it up with Vaseline, and built up 3 layers of plaster casting into the beard mould you see here. About 15 minutes later, I made a few faces to loosen up the mould and pulled it off.

While it can be tempting to get started right away, I recommend letting the mould air dry for at least an hour.

As a design note: You don’t need to make the beard mould as big / full as this for the style of beard I’m doing here. I purposely made it very full because the mould is reusable – who knows what kind of beard needs I may have in the near future? 😉

Once the mould has dried, I dusted it with baby powder (because of the vaseline residue) and gave the whole inside a nice coat of a thick, casting latex. I use the #269 flexible casting compound sold at a local supplier. You don’t want to use the makeup style of liquid latex for this, but flexibility is KEY. You want it to move with your face.

Once the first coat of latex has started to get a bit gummy, I set a piece of beige stretch mesh in it, smoothing so there are no folds. This gives a bit of extra strength, while still being flexible. Let it cure with the mesh in it, then add one more coat of casting latex.

Once the latex seems to be dry, gently pull it from the mould. If it sticks or you can see wet latex underneath it, let it dry a bit longer. Set it on the outside of the mould and let the outside of your new beards prosthetic cure for a bit, before trimming rough edges and using sharp craft scissors to trim until the piece is symmmetrical (I just fold it in half and cut through both layers)

Then I held the piece in place and used a marker to draw some rough lines of where I wanted to trim the beard into shape. After trimming, I tried it on again and adjusted until I was happy with the shape and size. Note: This is just the base of the beard – hair will extend down below the actual edge.

When I was happy with it, I used a couple small clamps to hold it on place on the outside of the mould.

I coated what would be the underside of the chin with some Liquid latex (Ben Nye), and started laying the hair. While the makeup stuff isn’t good for the base, it’s perfect for the glue, especially as it sets up MUCH faster than casting latex does.

I start at the front corner/edge of the chin, gluing loose lines of hair down, with the loose, cut edge of the hair facing the front of the chin. I work my way backwards towards the neck, bit by bit.

Once I’m happy with the chin hair, I trim the front edge so it lines up with the chin/jawline of the mould.

Then I continue applying hair in loose, layered rows, working up to the top edge of the beard. I used hair cut to lengths MUCH longer than I figured I wanted, because it gives me more flexibility for trimming/styling. Much easier to remove hair, than to add it!

Take note of direction when you’re placing your rows – I started out aiming them straight down, but ended up adjusting so the pointed slightly towards the center. For my Beast costume, I had the hair aiming outward. It all depends on what look you’re going for.

Take a look at your beard and make sure everything is symmetrical enough. While the latex is setting, you have a little bit of time to gently nudge hair in a different direction.

Once I was satisfied with the sides of the beard, I attached layers of much longer hair to the center front, working my way up front the chin. This is the part that I had plans to braid. If you’re not doing a long center braid, you can just cover this part while you’re doing the sides.

I used double sided tape to try the beard on.. as planned, it was WAY too long. I trimmed it a bit before trying it on with the wig, for a better idea of what it would look like. Decided it was still too full, so trimmed a bit more.

Here is a photo of where it’s at right now. That bead is a placeholder, until my Fili bead arrives from Dwarvendom on Etsy.

So, it’s ALMOST done! Still need to trim it a bit more, but I want to wait until the gown is done so I can see the whole thing together before deciding how much more to take off.

To wear it, I stick it on with Pros-aide, let that dry a bit, and then tidy up the edge with makeup and/or gluing on a small amoutn of hair to hide the edge… depending on my mood 🙂 As pictured, this is just held on with a couple strips of double sided tape for an idea of what it will look like.

Be sure to “like” my costuming page on Facebook for more progress pics, tips, and other fun stuff: Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer.

Note: If you’re looking for a quote on custom costuming, please contact me through my costuming page, www.evilcostumeoverlord.com.

How I Made That: Dwarf Wig Part 2 – Sewing and Styling

As I’d mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Dwarf wigs for Tolkien cosplay have a unique set of challenges when it comes to obtaining them: commercially available wigs don’t have right texture, as they’re smooth and silky, not rough and with a bit of kink/frizz. Additionally, when making dwarf wigs, you need them very full, and you want extra hair available for making extra wefts, braids, beards, etc. It just makes sense to make the wig from scratch.

While a standard way of making wigs from scratch is to build on a weave cap, that doesn’t work for me – I have a LOT of hair to hide under the wig, so weave caps never fit me.

Instead of using the wig cap as-is, I decided that I would use the outer edge/border of it (which would fit, if not for the main body of the cap not being full enough), with straps of elastic sewn onto it, Arda-style (rather than a full mesh base). I’d never done anything like it before, and winged it the whole way.

It was a ton of work – and my finger tips were raw for days afterward – but now I have the best fitting wig I’ve ever owned! Here is how I did it:

First, I tried on the weaving cap that would serve as the (partial) base for this new wig, and determined how much size I was missing, and where. I needed about 3″ of extra fullness front to back, and 1.5″ from side to side.

I checked an Arda wig we had on hand to get an idea of how many front-to-back strips are usually used, and sewed a few strips of elastic in place to the front of the weave cap, situating the ends of elastic / seam on the reinforced section of the cap. I pinned them in place on the back, fussing with the lengths, until I had something symmetrical that looked like it would fit. (That is, I measured the middle elastic to be 3″ longer than the section of wig cap it would be over, then tapered down the lengths of the strips on either side to create a decent shape). O

Once I was satisfied with the size/shaping of this new base, I sewed the ends to the back of the weaving cap.

I placed the cap on a wig head. Note – This is WAY too small for any human head, so I was careful to stretch it over, pin it in place, and be mindful of the fact that I was basically *freehanding* it the whole way.

Starting at the very back of the wig, I sewed a short piece of weft to the back flap of the wave cap, and another one just under 1″ higher than that one.

I kept sewing wefts, aiming to keep them about 3/4-1″ apart at the center of the wig cap. As I began each weft, I measured across the section it would be coving, taking care to not squish down the vertical strips of elastic that they would be sewn to. The ends of each weft were sewn down very close to the previous weft ends.

As I sewed each weft, I would stitch it down to the first inch or so of weave cap, then knot it off before only sewing the weft to the vertical strips, distributing the length of weft evenly across the strips, holding the strips in place, not pulling them off to either side.

Once I got about 1/3 of the way up, I took the cap/partial wig off the wig head, pulled all of the pins out, and trimmed out the excess wig cap from under my strips. I had enough wefts sewn on to hold everything in place, so it was time to try it on.

Here is what it looked like on the inside:

I tried it on, with my hair under a wig cap, as I would when wearing the wig. As it turned out, one side was a little long, so I pinched the difference on those pieces and pinned them down in the front. I would later sew them down, as I got closer to it. (Wasn’t in the mood to sew them when I pinned them, so I procrastinated. )

I continued sewing wefts to the strips, trying to keey the curves of the wefts consistent with the shape of the remaining wig cap.

Eventually, I came to the front flap of the wig cap. Based on my design, I sewed one last weft, and cut it off there. This would be where there would be a very obvious part, which I would be covering with a braid.

I cut the elastic down on a few remaining wefts to be about 1/2 the width they started with, to remove some bulk when sewing the “bangs” in. Starting at the front edge of the wig cap, I sewed these down, much closer together than the main wefts had been.

The final bangs weft was sewn so that the edge of it touched the edge of the final weft from the main body of the wig.

Now that the wig was completely done, I gave it a quick brushing to remove any loose hairs, and got started with styling it. I wanted a combination of two strand twists, and 3 strand small braids coming from the front, which would start just under the braid across the bangs. As I braided and twisted, I was careful to not take too much hair from any location – I didn’t want wefts / cap to show from underneath, as bald spots.

Additionally, there would be a large, thick braid from the center of the wig, extending down the back. Inspiration struck, and I taught myself how to do a 4 strand braid. This was the first I’ve ever done – i didn’t even have to take it out and redo! Was very proud of that.

After braiding the larg braid and typing it off with a strip of elastic (more on that later), I started looping the mini braids around the back, and over/under each other and the main braid, sewing everything in place.

I was careful to keep both sides symmetrical to each other – brad length, size of the loop, where it laid, etc.

The fat main braid was much too short for the actual wig (as I suspected it would be), so I made a separate braid from additional braiding hair, with a clear elastic holding it together at the beginning of the braid. I love how it formed brown and black diagonal stripes. Should I say “I meant to do that”? LOL. I have no idea how it happened. That is literally the second 4 strand braid I’d ever made.

I inserted the top of this loose braid into the main body braid, right under some of the mini braid looping, and sewed it down thoughout the length of the remaining end of that original braid, if that makes sense. Aside from being slightly bigger than the original braid, you totally can’t see the transition. Kinda shocked myself!

I didn’t take progress shots of this next part, so I’ll describe.

The bangs were to be separated with a part up the center. I didn’t worry about the wefts showing / bald spot, as I intended to have a chain and large fake sapphire jewel sewn down in it.

I twisted the hair on either side of the part backwards, and out/back towards the ear. I tied each side off and sewed it back behind where the ear was, allowing the remaining ends to hang down as ponytails.

Then I braided some additional loose hair into yet ANOTHER 4 strand braid, tied the ends off with small, clear elastics, and sewed that across the bangs/main hair part, and over the tied-off sections of the bangs, behind the ears. The ends of the braid were sen down a bit behind the ears, completely hidden by the main hair.

Then, I divided those two ponytails into 3 equal sections anbd braided them. Not only wasthis a handy way to deal with that excess hair, it’s a bit of a nod to Thorin’s design – he had one such braid on each side, each pulled forward with a bead on the end.

Though not shown in this pic, I ordered 6 “Kili” beads from Dwarvendom on Etsy. (I also ordered one “Fili” bead at the same time, for the beard)

Finally, I attached the jewel to a chunky chain that I liked, and worked the ends of the chain up under the “headband” braid, and around the back, to be secured together with a jump ring under the thick main braid.

…. and done! Tomorrow, I’ll post a “How I Made That” for the beard that accompanied this.

In the meantime, be sure to “like” my costuming page on Facebook for more progress pics, tips, and other fun stuff: Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer.

Note: If you’re looking for a quote on custom costuming, please contact me through my costuming page, www.evilcostumeoverlord.com.

How I Made That: Dwarf Wig Part 1 – Making Wefts

Dwarf wigs are a pain – none of the commercially available wigs have the right texture, and then there’s the matter of having hair available for braids, extra wefts, beard making, etc. Makes most sense to make them from scratch.

Problem: Weave caps never fit over my head/hair right! I always have my own hairline sticking out, always adjusting, they move, etc.

So this time, I decided to get creative with it. Instead of using the wig cap as-is, I would use the outer edge/border of it (which would fit, if not for the main body of the cap not being full enough), with straps of elastic sewn onto it, Arda-style (rather than a full mesh base).

I caulked my silicone-strip homemade wefts to more strips of elastic, and painstakingly hand sewed it all together, fairly freehand, on a too-small mannequin head, before cutting out the main body of the original weave cap.

Well, it was a ton of work – and my finger tips are raw – but now I have the best fitting wig I’ve ever owned!

It’s full, designed such that it’ll work perfectly for the design I have in mind, fits PERFECTLY, and the elastic/silicone are grippy enough that it stays RIGHT in place – no clips or bobby pins needed, even with ALL that hair!

Here is how I made it 🙂

Before doing anything else, I had to design it. Dís is Thorin’s sister, daughter of Thráin II, and mother to Fili and Kili. So: dwarf royalty.

On one hand, I kind of wanted to do something crazy with both the wig and beard – Thorin’s was so plain, I always had beard envy over people doing the other dwarves. While this was slightly quelled when I did Mini Bombur, but that was her wearing it – not me. I wanted a crazy beard, damnit!

On the other hand… Thorin was really basic. He had 4 braids in his hair, as far as I could tell – two larger in the back, two smaller that pulled through to the front, 1 bead on each. His beard was short and unadorned. While I didn’t want to do basically a Fem!Thorin costume, I thought it would be nice to at least reflect some Thorin type influence in the style.

Ultimately, I decided to go fairly basic, but more girly. Most of the hair down, but some braids looped up and around back. I planned for bangs, and a “headband” of a thicker braid. I wasn’t quite sure exactly how I wanted the braids to go, but I knew I’d need a lot of thickness up top to draw from Because of the thick braid up front, I wanted an obvious part where that would be, for a clear view of where I would be sewing it. The hair behind it would be sewn to aim back over the head, the hair in front of it would aim down to the front, as bangs.

All of this would determine how I’d be sewing the wefts on.

WEFTS.

I prefer to make dwarf wigs with the silicone caulking method of making wefts. I’d done it on my sewing machine, and I hate it. Some people prefer sewing machine – do whatever you like. I like making nice, thick wefts for dwarves.

First, I cut a couple dozen pieces of parchment paper, about 4″ wide. Pretty sure wax paper would also work, but I never have any. (I only back with parchment!). For this, I’m aiming for about 24 wefts, so I cut 25 strips – you’ll want 1 more strip than you have wefts.

I also cover my table with medical exam table paper. I buy the stuff by the case not only for stuff like this, but for pattern making. I use a 6′ long banquet table, and can do all my wefts for a wig in one shot.

Then, the hair. I like to order jumbo braid hair from Doctored Locks. Tons of colours, cheap, easy to work with, and they ship FAST. Perfect! This stuff has a bit of a kick to it (perfect for dwarves), but can be ironed out to flat and smooth.

For this wig, I used 6 packages of hair, 2 each of three different colours. I find that mixing colours looks more natural and interesting than 1 colour.

Open the packages for one each of the three colours, and cut each in half at the elastic. Set the side with elastic still attached for later, work with the loose pieces.

Lining up the freshly cut edges, stack the three colours and spread / mash around a bit to mix slightly.

Lay 1 strip of parchment across your work surface – perpendicular to you – at a far end of the table. Tape the ends down to secure slightly (tape doesn’t stick to the parchment very well).

Take a small amount of hair from the pile, and spread out along the length of the parchment. You want it fairly solidly covered, but not SUPER thick. Aim to keep the cut edges fairly even, about 1″ from the edge of the parchment (ie allowing the hair to cover ~3 of paper).

Using 1″ wide masking tape (which I did not have, only 2″ on hand and was feeling too lazy to go to Menards!), lay a strip of tape across the very edge of the hair, extending on to the paper work surface to hold it in place.

Lay another strip of parchment across the hair. I usually leave about 1″ of hair showing, between the top edge of the new parchment, and the bottom edge of the tape I just placed. Tape edges down, being sure to not catch hair under the tape.

Lay out hair and tape down, like in the previous steps.

Continue doing that, all the way down the table. I find that I’ll average about 4 wefts per package of hair, so you’ll get about 6 wefts from that first set of 3 halves. When you run out of hair, use the other half from those first set of braids, then proceed on to the next set of three when you run out of those. The less hair you have laying around as you work, the better – it can get messy, FAST.

Eventually, you’ll have a table full of wefts laid out, like this:

Next, you’ll need a tube of CLEAR silicone caulking, like this. Usually about $3-4. One tube usually does at LEAST 1 full wig worth of wefts, for me – but buy 2, just in case.

Carefully pipe a line of caulking on each weft, JUST against the tape line It doesn’t need to touch the tape, but should be close.

Have a bowl of water on hand. Dip your finger in water, and smooth the caulking down and INTO the hair. I’ll mash it in, and extend slightly up onto the tape, the full way across. Take your time, be careful not to catch hair on the tip of the caulking tube, etc.

When you have all the wefts done, leave it alone for a few hours, until the caulking has dried clear. (It has NOT dried, in this pic!)

Once everything has dried clear, carefully cut the tape at each weft, so that the parchment/wefts can move freely. Remove the last 3 or so wefts you made, and set aside for now.

The new “last” weft you made, flip over so that the tape side is down, and near the edge of the table. Arrange a strip of parchment under it.

Tape the hair down, using the previous long strip of tape as a guide. You want to have this new strip of tape almost exactly on top of the first strip. Repeat the flipping / taping for all wefts. At the end, do the same with the “last” few wefts that you’d set aside. BE SURE TO PUT PARCHMENT UNDER EACH STRIP YOU FLIP.

Here’s a close view of what it looks like as you flip each piece:

Pipe a new strip of caulking along each weft, aiming to be right on top of the first strip of caulk. Wet the finger, mash it down in once again. Allow to dry fully.

Once everything is fully dried, cut every strip of tape to free the wefts from the table. Use the edge of the tape as a guide, cut the tape right off, leaving a straight edge of wefted hair/caulking. Cut off any extra globs of caulking at the edge of each weft, and you’re good to go!

Part 2 has been posted: Making the wig cap, sewing it together, and styling.

In the meantime, be sure to “like” my costuming page on Facebook for more progress pics, tips, and other fun stuff: Marie Porter, Cosplay Costumer.

Note: If you’re looking for a quote on custom costuming, please contact me through my costuming page, www.evilcostumeoverlord.com.

Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Asiago Bread Braid

Late last week, the forecast for the weekend was looking great, so we decided to drop everything and catch up on some photo shoots. I had a few costume commissions I hadn’t had pro shots of yet, so we picked two locations and contacted everyone who had costumes suitable to them: one superheroes set, and one wintery location. It was a bunch of work to organize people, logistics, model releases, etc.. but the results were fantastic – I have some preview pics up on my Facebook page, here.

ANYWAY.

I have a “family discount” with my fabulously talented husband when it comes to his photography. This time, he asked to be paid in homemade bread. Bread that I can’t have, due to my gluten issues… so he’s been deprived of it for a while.

I decided to create a very special bread recipe just for him, utilizing a few of his favourite flavours… all done up in a visually stunning way. I made three different batches of dough, rolled, braided, and coiled them.. and it was a HUGE hit. The technique used for rolling the dough before braiding it results in almost a “pull apart bread”, and the garlic butter adds a great, complimentary flavour to all three doughs.

It’s a bit of effort and makes a ton of bread – 4 decent sized loaves! – but trust me when I say that it’s not hard to find some friends who are excited to take a loaf off your hands! This is totally worth the effort. This makes a soft, flavourful, and gorgeous bread… and with the red, white, and green colouring, it would be a pretty addition to any holiday table!

Excuse the crappy in-progress photography. I had to take cell phone pics, as my photographer was busy building my kitchen 🙂

Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, and Asiago Bread Braid
Makes 4 loaves

Asiago Dough

1 1/3 cup Warm water
2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Yeast
4 cups Flour
1 cup finely shredded Asiago cheese
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Olive oil

Add honey to warm water, stir till well blended. Add yeast and stir again. Allow to sit (somewhere warm!) for 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, cheese, 1/3 cup olive oil, and foamy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed till well blended, then turn speed up a bit and let it “lazy knead” for 5 minutes or so. Dough should ball easily – if it’s too wet, add a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water.

Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large bowl, add dough, flip over to coat. cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.

Basil Dough

1 1/4 cup Warm water
2 Tbsp Honey
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Yeast
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
4 cups Flour

Add honey and salt to warm water, stir till well blended. Add yeast and stir again. Allow to sit (somewhere warm!) for 10 minutes.

While yeast is hydrating, combine 1/3 cup olive oil and the basil leaves in a food processor or blended, blitz until smooth.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, basil olive oil, and foamy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed till well blended, then turn speed up a bit and let it “lazy knead” for 5 minutes or so. Dough should ball easily – if it’s too wet, add a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water.

Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large bowl, add dough, flip over to coat. cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.

Roasted Red Pepper Dough

1 cup Warm water
2 Tbsp Honey
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Yeast
4 cups Flour
3 Tbsp Olive Oil, divided
1/2 cup pureed roasted red peppers

Add honey and salt to warm water, stir till well blended. Add yeast and stir again. Allow to sit (somewhere warm!) for 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, 2 Tbsp olive oil, red pepper puree, and foamy yeast mixture. Mix on low speed till well blended, then turn speed up a bit and let it “lazy knead” for 5 minutes or so. Dough should ball easily – if it’s too wet, add a bit of flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water.

Put 1 tbsp olive oil into a large bowl, add dough, flip over to coat. cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for one hour.

————

Assembly

1 cup butter
1 Tbsp pressed or minced garlic

Put butter and garlic in a microwave safe cup or bowl. Heat until just melted.

Gently knead each of the doughs to deflate slightly, divide each into two equal sized balls. Work with one set of 3 different doughs, while leaving the other set covered with plastic wrap.

Roll one dough ball out to about 12″ x 15″ rectangle – I like to do this on a large piece of parchment paper. Brush with melted garlic butter, leaving a 1″ border unbuttered.

Roll one long side towards the other long side, taking care to keep it tightly rolled, and not just slidding in the butter as you go. Repeat with other two doughs in the set.

Use a sharp knife to cut each long in half, lengthwise. Be careful in handling – each 1/2 log consists of concentric semi-circles of dough now, and can be prone to sliding around. Also, be careful not to stretch them out of shape.

Working with one strip of each colour, secure the three strips together at one end and carefully braid them, taking care to have the cut sides facing up the whole way. Pinch strips together at the end.

Gently coil braid into a round loaf – I like to tuck the start of the coil under itself, to elevate the middle of the loaf a bit. Tuck the end of the coil under the load to secure.

Repeat braiding with rest of cut rolls, starting on a new piece of parchment.

Repeat rolling, buttering, cutting, braiding, and coiling on second set of dough, having each loaf on its own piece of parchment paper.

VERY LOOSELY cover each with plastic wrap. Start timing 30 minutes, preheat oven to 375 F.

Transfer each sheet of parchment / loaf to its own baking sheet. Don’t remove loaves from parchment!

Melt remaining garlic butter, gently brush over each loaf.

One or two loaves at a time, bake for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Dragon Bodice – A Giveaway!

If you’re in the Tolkien fandom, you’ve NO DOUBT heard about The One Last Party, hosted by TheOneRing.net. It’s to be the final in their series of crowd funded parties to celebrate the LOTR and Hobbit movies.

Well, this time around, we’ve joined their fellowship, and have donated one of our Smaug shirts to the cause. For those who donate between the time they made the announcement this morning (11am GMT Thurs 8th) , and 11pm GMT Sunday 11th, each pledge made in that time will be entered in a random draw to win the second of these tops ever to exist, bypassing the wait list that’s been accumulating for when I start to produce these again! (Beyond that first prototype!)

It’s a high quality latex bodice, sculpted and hand painted by me, featuring a wired “skeleton” to allow for wearer customization of size, shape, and cup shape/coverage – it’s a highly adjustable top, and will fit anywhere between a ladies XS to Medium, and up to a DD cup size. (DDD for those in the XS size range). Includes adjustable clear bra straps.

So… let’s take a closer look at what’s up for grabs, shall we?

This shirt started off as a crazy idea. As you may know, I’m a big fan of Eurodance music. Several years ago Daisy Dee – one of my favourites – put out a song and video called “Open Sesame” (Click here to see the video). In it, she was wearing this really cool dragon top. At some points, it was animated with CG, but there did appear to be an actual, non-CG top. It’s been there, in the back of my mind for a while… some day, I wanted to make a dragon top. When I started dabbling in sculpting and casting for costuming last year, I realized that I’m finally in a position to do it! I decided to make a top inspired by not only that music video, but my favourite dragon – Smaug.

So, I asked my friend Sylus – the gorgeous model you see pictured above – if she’d be down for wearing such a thing, were I to make it. Being a huge Tolkien geek herself, she was ALL OVER the idea, so… it happened 🙂

First, I sculpted:

Then I made a mold:

Then I cast that sucker in latex:


… and finally, I painted it.

Voila!

We actually have 2 whole albums of progress AND photoshoot pics up on our Facebook Page. The direct link to the progress album is here, and the photoshoot album is here.

So, if you’d like to get your name in the draw, head on over to the The One Last Party IndieGoGo Campaign, and pledge something before Sunday night! Good luck!

If you end up missing out and would like to get on the wait list for one of these tops, contact me through my costuming page!)

How I Made That: Katniss’s “Catching Fire” Wedding Gown Wings

So, I’m going to start a new category here on the blog: “How I made that”. Not QUITE a costuming tutorial, but with enough information, photos, etc to help you on your way!

So, let’s start this off: The wings on Katniss’s wedding gown in “Catching Fire”. You all remember my adorable Mini Katniss, right? That’s her over to the right – Great kid! She rocked that costume all the way to a “Best Workmanship” win at Convergence this past summer. The wings on that gown is one of the costume elements I’ve been asked about the most, and it was actually quite easy to do!

The first thing I had to do was to gather reference images. This was easy for the front – there were some gorgeous, hi-res images online, including the magazine photo that Mini Katniss’s portrait was based on. The back was not so easy – I ended up having to put the Blu-Ray on, and pause/photograph my TV screen when it came to the perfect, clear view of the back of the gown:

From there, I opened the front and back images up in Photoshop, and sized them to a printing size that would reflect my Mini-Katniss’s actual size. That is, I used Mini Katniss’s backwaist measurement to determine the print size of the photo, by using markers on that original photo – where Jennifer Lawrence’s waist and prominent vertebra in her neck is. I tweaked it slightly to work with Mini Katniss’s shoulder measurement: She has the build of an 11 year old girl, after all: the proportions are a little different than from a grown woman!

Once I had it properly sized, I set the file to print at a lighter opacity – probably 60%? – and divided each file up into 8×10 sized sections. I printed them all out, and assembled them together with tape. This created the template for the two wings.

Using a thick black marker, I traced over all of the lines on the wing in each template. Combined with the less vibrant printing, this would allow the pattern to easily show through the parchment paper I’d use in the next step.

One wing at a time, I taped the template down to my work surface, and covered with a large piece of parchment paper. Using Instamorph (The stuff I got into more detail about in my Thranduil Crown Tutorial), I stretched hot strips of Instamorph into long “snakes”, and laid them out following the pattern I’d made. I continued this until the entire wing design was laid out, then let it cool.

Then, I went back over it with a heat gun. At every intersection of pieces, I heated the area up and gently pressed the pieces together to form a lasting bond. This is important! When laying the design out, the pieces cool too fast to bond with each other, and you really want that security.

Once everything was bonded and cooled, I had to shape it. I started with the bending at the points above the shoulder of the dress, by heating the whole area with a heat gun, and propping it up til it cooled:

As it turned out, the sizing/shaping of my dress form was pretty similar to Mini Katniss, so I covered it in foil to protect it, and used the heat gun to mold the pieces to shape:

From there, both sides of each wing were hit with grey primer:

A mirror-finish shiny metallic spray paint (that I ended up not liking):

… and, finally, with a white glitter spray that I used to tone down the obnoxious shine of the metallic silver:

At that point, the outward-facing sides of the wings were accented with crystals. Use the GOOD, Swarovski ones for maximum shine! I used E-6000 to glue them down:

At this point, the wings themselves were finished, and all that remained was attaching them to the gown. Early on, I had decided that they would need to be easily removable – we were talking about an 11 year old girl, after all. Had to keep logistics in mind!

I also knew that she intended to spend most of her time in the gown SPINNING (who could blame her?), so I knew the attachment would have to withstand that force. The solution? Ribbon ties!

I pinned the wings into place on the dress, which had been sewn and fit, but not FINISHED (feathers). I took great care to make sure everything was in place where I’d want it to be, and this would provide the guide not only for where the ribbons would be sewn on, but where the feathers would be stitched as well:

So I pinned along where the edges of the wings were, as a guide, and made note of where ribbons should go – I think I sewed 3 each on the front and back. On the front, this was up near the top of the left side of the bodice (her left), one at the right side of her waist, and one at her left hip. This held it in place well.

I machine sewed the middle of each length of ribbon right to the bodice, then pinned the ribbons up and out of the way for sewing all of those feathers down:

To wear it, she put the gown on. A wing was positioned where it was to go, and the ends of one ribbon were pulled through to the front of the wing, one end on each side of a line of wing. A bow was tied over that dividing line of wing, and the loops and ends were carefully pulled back through to be hidden and secured behind the wing. It was a beautiful thing!

The finished product:

Smaug Costume!

Going to keep this short and sweet: I’ve finished the costume that I’ve basically been keeping secret for the past month or so!

A little while ago, I decided that I wanted something really epic to wear to the premiere of Battle of the Five Armies. Something new, something DIFFERENT… I’d go as Smaug! I hadn’t seen any really good Smaug costumes, just like.. human versions. I wanted to do an actual dragon costume for it. I thought it out for a bit, and came up with a cool idea of how to do it:


… and just went from there. I am SUPER happy with the results.. just look at this face!

… and these feet!

Aside from being the most insane costume build I’ve ever done – it features a crazy mask/head, custom shoes, 14′ wing span, and 8.5′ long tail! – it’s been scary for another reason – spandex. All of my other costumes cover as much as possible, this… was something else. Spandex was the best way to do it, but I’m… uh.. not small.

… but hey, neither is Smaug! Slow and fat in his dotage, right? 🙂

I almost chickened out on actually wearing it a few times, but I’m proud to say that it made its debut at a convention this past weekend, and went over really well! Check out some of the final pics:



To see photos of the whole process, Click here to go to my Facebook page album for it!

Costuming & Cosplay Tutorial : Maleficent’s Staff

Remember the Maleficent Costume I made for one of my two Convergence masquerade entry this year?

It’s since become our MOST asked about costume, with an insane amount of emails about it. It was a huge project, my first collaborative masquerade entry, and – I’m SO proud to say! – is apparently the most accurate one out there!

I’ve since sold it to a lovely woman in Florida, who will be putting it to good use. However, the nightmare that shipping was for the staff, as well as the high ticket price on the costume? I don’t think I’ll be making any more of these. SO… let’s teach YOU how to make some of the pieces! (I’d write a tutorial for the whole thing, but I’m lacking photos for a lot of it, and some of it is so instinctive to me, it’d be impossible to describe!)

Just want to see more photos of the costume? Check out our Facebook Page album for it!

Today, let’s look at making the iconic staff…

How to Make Maleficent’s Staff

You will need:

Heavy paper or newspaper
Small bucket or container for water that you don’t mind ruining
Several 4″ rolls of plaster tape (Available at medical supply or craft stores)
3″ garden gazing ball. (We ordered from here
Vaseline
3/4″ – 1″ diameter wooden dowel. Length will depend on height of the person it’s for – ours was around 5′.
Acrylic paints in dark browns, blacks, and grey
Variety of paint brushes
Clear polyurethane varnish
Paper towels and/or toilet paper

Method

First, cover your work surface and the flood in front of it with heavy paper. The plaster can get EVERYWHERE. Fill your small bucket with warm water, and cut your plaster tape into manageable lengths – a foot or two, depending on how comfortable you are with it.

Generously coat your gazing ball with vaseline, set aside (but close at hand!).

Starting at what will be the bottom end of the staff, use the plaster tape to sculpt directly onto the dowel. One piece at a time, dip a strip of plaster into water, bunch it up lengthwise (to make a long, narrow piece), and apply it to the dowel. I wind pieces up almost the entire length of it, smoothing as I go – you want to get rid of the “mesh” look.

Once I’ve got the initial bunched pieces applied, I’ll go over it with un-bunched pieces, smoothing and sculpting as I go. The goal is to make it look like a gnarled tree branch.

Working quickly and carefully, make three bunched up pieces into long “fingers, attach at roughly equal distances around the top end of the staff. Secure with more un-bunched plaster, around the dowel. Position the greased up gazing ball at the top of the dowel, form the 4 “fingers” up and around the ball. Add a few smaller “fingers” to connect and create more of a branched-off design.

Allow staff to dry completely, usually overnight.

Paint the staff all over with 2 coats of a dark brown acrylic paint. Be very careful when painting up around the gazing ball, and be sure all plaster is hidden by paint. Allow to dry completely.

Using a toothpick or pointed sculpting tool, carefully scrape away any plaster spaltter on the gazing ball, and clean up the edges of the “branches” that encase it. Touch up any newly exposed plaster with more of the dark brown acrylic paint.

Once dark brown paint has dried, use a smallish paint brush and black paint to paint “shadows” in all of the ruts, etc. Take a look at movie screen caps for an idea of how much black there should be (it was a VERY dark staff!). Allow to dry fully.

Use a grey acrylic paint SPARINGLY to paint some highlights on the high points of the staff. Allow to fully dry.

Once you’re happy with the paint job on your staff, use a soft brush to coat the entire staff (plaster only, not the gazing ball) with polyurethane varnish. Allow to dry completely, paint a second coat on, and once again allow to dry completely.

Use small pieces of paper towel or toilet paper to GENTLY AND CAREFULLY polish off any remaining vaseline on the gazing ball… and, you’re done!

Cosplay Photography – Some Tips Before You Shoot!

So, I’ve been noticing a lot of sketchiness when it comes to photographers and cosplayers lately, and wanted to write something about it. (Seriously, a lot of photographer-audience cosplay articles come off like pick up artist articles!) Have a lot of thoughts to organize, so apologies if this ends up being sort of disjointed.

First, a little background. I’ve run my own business for over 2 decades, and many years of that was in the fashion industry. (As a designer, I dealt with models, photographers, pro shoots, etc) While I’m not a lawyer, I’ve run the business side of my husband’s photography business for years, dealing with contracts, copyright, arranging photo shoot logistics, and more.

As a cosplayer AND business owner, I understand that having someone express interest in you and your work can be exciting… but please exercise a little caution in proceeding!

Before the Shoot:

– Before agreeing to a shoot, familiarize yourself with the photographer’s work and personality. Do their photos look professional? Do they conduct themselves – and present their photography business in a professional manner? Would you feel proud to have your image on their site, or is every second image of the exact same poorly-lit pose, across multiple photo shoots? If every shot is aimed straight at the chest, and/or down the cosplayer’s shirt – and that’s not what you’re going for – it’s probably better to find a photographer with a different .. uh.. artistic vision .

– Get references, preferably from people you know. Ask how the photographer was to work with, and how happy the model was with their photos.

– ASK QUESTIONS… ideally, in writing. Email is great!

– Have a clear idea of what is expected of the shoot. Is there a theme? Does the photographer have a clear idea of what they want, or is it a “Let’s just go out and get some pics somewhere” type thing? Will they be bringing professional lighting? A clear plan is best, obviously!

– Ask about your photographer’s experience with the planned shoot. As an example, outdoor shoots can be challenging, from a lighting perspective. Certain locations may require a photography permit – has the photographer looked into / obtained any necessary permits, or at least know how & when to?

– Be clear on what is expected in terms of payment. Are they paying you? Are you paying them? Are they “paying” for your time with images, and if so, will they be high res?

– IF A PHOTOGRAPHER IS ASKING THAT MODELS BE 18+, THERE IS PROBABLY A REASON FOR IT. Ask what that reason is. It could be that they plan to be raunchy with the photos, it could be that they have certain plans for the use of the photos (see next point!), or it could be that they’re just very inexperienced and don’t have plans for a parent to be able to sign a release for a minor.

– Get a contract. Any legit photographer will have a good contract prepared. READ IT. Pay special attention to usage rights (both yours and theirs) and compensation. Do not agree to anything you are not comfortable with. I’ve seen / heard of way too many instances of people signing away their rights, and only realizing it when they hear of their image being sold on, say, body pillows. Don’t be that person! Make sure you both keep signed copies of the contract.

– NEVER go to a photo shoot alone. Have a friend with you for the duration of the shoot. This is sound advice for any shoot, but is especially important when it comes to cosplay. Restrictive costumes, ridiculous footwear… it can make a cosplayer an easy target.

On the day of the shoot:

– If your character has any signature poses, be sure to print out some photos to help out with posing!

– Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Bring all of the makeup you need for your character, and extras of everything – tights, bobby pins, etc. If possible, bring a repair kit. DEFINITELY bring a sensible pair of shoes, if you’ll be walking between different locations, or on weird terrain. Bring bug spray and sun screen, and plan for the weather!

– Bring some snacks and water. Take breaks. Don’t let yourself get dehydrated, etc!

After the shoot:

– When the photographer provides you with a CD of digital images, make sure that you also get a signed print release with it. Without it, you may not be able to have the images professionally printed.


As a final note:

Remember, you get what you pay for. Photo shoots take a LOT of time, much of which is time you don’t see. Planning the shoot, preparing contracts, selecting and packing equipment, hauling and setting up lighting… packing it all up, hauling it back, and post production. While helping someone build a portfolio can be fun – and MAY net you a few decent photos – don’t overlook a photographer because they are actually charging for photos.

For talented professionals, time is money – and you’ll likely see a huge bang for that buck. Paying for a shoot usually means the difference between getting photos from a point and shoot camera (and/or onboard flash), and getting a professionally lit final product. The difference is night and day (sometimes literally so!)