Secret of Mana

Cosplayer: madmazda86

Status: Complete

Condition: Not Set

2nd Place, WCS preliminaries, Play Expo 2013; Best Group in Show, Play Expo 2013

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AyaCon 2013

15th October 2013: Play Expo After Ayacon, Angela and I decided to give the WCS qualifiers at Play Expo a try, with our costumes. We worked really hard to put together a set, and to design and rehearse our skit in just five weeks, as right after Ayacon I was away till the second week of September at various conferences in different parts of the UK and Europe. Even after this we could only rehearse once a week on a weeknight: Angela was working full time during all this, as she had no annual leave left, and I was writing 350+ lecture slides for the 3 days of university teaching abroad that I was doing the day after Play Expo! I'm writing this from Norway having delivered the first 7 hours worth of teaching.

All our hard work paid off, though, as we came second in the qualifiers and won Best Group in Show too! At the end of the event we were able to get some lovely feedback from the panel of judges - the quality of craftsmanship on our costumes was excellent, and the judges loved many of the concepts in our performance. The only criticisms they had were that we didn't use the entirety of the stage, and our costumes lacked flow, despite having a good visual impact in terms of colour and complexity. This is something that is considered as part of WCS judging now - how well costumes move on stage. This was never something we would have had much joy with, alas, because Angela's costume just wasn't the right sort of design for that, and all the flowy bits of my costume were safety-pinned to buggery to stop the layers of the costume from separating and flipping over when I fell down in the skit. Didn't want to reveal all the goodies I had hidden away for the latter half of the skit - that'd be spoilers! XD

In our skit we didn't use the whole of the stage because we ran the risk of missing the audio cues in our music track if Angela was too far away from me, so it was a deliberate decision on our part to move closer to the boss. However, we could have asked the stage hands to move our Wall-Face set further towards the centre of the stage to centralise the space that we were using. This also had an impact on how much of me was seen to be facing the audience, also. We sent our skit rehearsal video to a friend of ours who gave us some tips on how to stand so the audience could see us better, while making it still obvious that we were interacting with the set. So during rehearsals we designated a part of the room to be the audience and tried our best to perform with our bodies turned towards that. However, in the video of our skit taken from the judges table, although I had my body turned towards the audience we were so far over to the right of the stage that from the judges table it was difficult to see what I was doing while attacking the boss in the latter part of the skit, and it looks like I have my back to the audience. Although this wasn't said to us as part of our judging feedback, it's a fairly obvious thing to me watching the video. It probably wouldn't have happened if we'd moved the set further towards the middle. These things in hindsight!

But everything else in our skit went off without a hitch, and we were really happy about that, as there was a lot that could've gone wrong despite us trying to keep the performance as simple as possible! In our skit video I have 4 different props hidden within my costume, including a 40cm wide frisbee and a 1.5m long piece of orange fabric on a wooden pole! At various points during rehearsals things went wrong with those - they fell out, or got stuck, or I dropped them, etc etc. I'm really relieved that during the actual skit, all these things worked without any problems at all and looked great! We also had fabric hidden inside our Wall-Face set to make it look like it was attacking us and those worked well too (although wish I'd been able to pull the yellow chiffon all the way out of the buttonhole sewn into the central eye, I thought I'd pulled it out completely but there was a tiny bit still stuck in the middle so it dangled!) I think if we were redoing the performance for another event I would make the orbs I was flinging much larger - the dark orb I threw was barely visible even from the judge's table which was right up the front!

But although I may notice these flaws now, overall we were really happy with how our skit went - the sacrifices we made ensured Angela could met the audio cues, and that was worth a lot to us because it would've looked so crap if we'd missed those. We got some lovely comments from people at the end of the show and it was such a great thing to have done, and knowing we were so close in points to the winners of the qualifiers makes me feel even more proud of what we pulled together in just 5 weeks. It's a really nice thing to have won a prize for my costume work too - it's the first one I've ever won and I'm so happy :D

We learnt a lot from the experience of entering the WCS qualifiers (myself especially as it was my first ever skit at an event) and had a lot of fun in the process! Rehearsals were hilarious XD I would recommend having a go at it to anybody :D

I also made a lot of improvements to the costume as well, based on feedback from Pez who was part of the judging panel at Ayacon. I recast the pendant using a larger mould and used the large turkey feathers I'd bought for the original pendant. I also incorporated the third wig into the base wig, by slashing the netting at the top as suggested by Storme, and pulling the hair of the base wig through these and through the gaps in the weft elastic at the back. I decided to plait the base wig to make it easier to pull the hair through, and oh Lordy, that took forever! I only ended up having time to pull through half of the wefts at the back, I'll get to finishing that off at some stage when I rewear the costume.

I also had to glass-paint a plastic Christmas bauble to put in place of the large crystal during the performance, as the staff was too heavy with the large crystal in place for me to move it effectively during the performance. NOBODY noticed the switch till I pointed it out XD Successful plan was successful! On the topic of the crystal, not only did I buy a properly coloured one, I also lined the branches that hold it with felt so they don't scratch anymore, woooo!

So the other added bonus of WCS is that my costume is now DONE and I can put it away and get it out whenever I like. Now onto the next thing, huzzah! XD

15th October 2013: Skit pictures Another picture from our performance - Angela tipping candy all over me to try and revive me.

31st August 2013: Costume improvements So, I managed to get everything done, and Ayacon has been and gone! However, I am going to make some changes to my costume to make it better, as Ninodog didn't manage to get Randi done for Aya, so rewears will be happening at some point!

I'm going to bite the bullet and order a properly tinted acrylic sphere for the staff, as despite all that heartache with painting, stripping, repainting, varnishing, stripping etc etc etc, when I put the crystal inside the branches it STILL got scratched :( I was disappointed after all that effort that it got scratched up so easily. So I'm paying £50 for a new large crystal (the smaller one was okay). It seems pretty close in colour to what I have and is only 7mm larger in diameter so should fit on the staff okay still.

I'm also going to make the wig thicker by incorporating wig #3! I just plain didn't leave myself enough time to do a proper job of it before Aya. Having had a look at some of the Coscraft wigs on display in Cosplay HQ at Aya and been given a lot of advice by Storme, I have a much better idea of how to tackle this now. I didn't realise you could just cut up the top mesh of the wig, I thought it would fall apart or something, but you can actually slice through it and pull the wefts of the wig beneath through. So I'm going to wash all the styling product out of my wig, and have a go at slashing the netting of wig #3, then sew the original wig to the inside of it and pull the hair through (and do the same with the wefts at the back too.

If the wig is bigger then I can scale up the hair decorations too - I made larger ones initially but they just looked a bit wrong with the wig so I shrunk them down.

I'm also going to cast a larger gem for the necklace - I made a smaller one again because I tried it and thought a large one might look a little silly, but because of the way I've tried to scale everything on the yellow tabard, a big pendant is needed to fill in the yellow space over the chest. I have larger feathers for the pendant as well, which I again didn't use because I thought they were too big, so having a larger pendant will also let me use the larger feathers.

Finally, I'm going to buy some silk painting supplies and have a go at silk painting the flower and diamond trim on the sleeves. If this is successful then I can replace that trim, although that's a little less of a priority compared to the other things.

4th August 2013: Almost doneeee Blue tabard is done bar cutting the tassels so they're even lengths and putting some gold cord around the collar. Green dress is done bar criss-cross trim down the sides and intermittent vertical strips of trim around the bottom. Yellow tabard is about 3/4 done - I have backed one half of it, tomorrow I'll pin and back the other half and do the trim around the edges, then it's just the collar triangles + trim which will be mostly a handsewing job I think. Should have those all done by Friday, leaving me the weekend to do the wig and the necklace, and then I'll have three days for emergency stuff, or for making my other costume. I've made a start on the shoes too, but they're mostly layers of paint and PVA so not too worried about those.

15th July 2013: Ugggh trim So I went quiet on this for nearly a month - that's because I discovered that the gold trim wouldn't cooperate with my Singer. Manually operating and with a ballpoint needle, the trim was still being spiked and pushed through the fabric by the needle, causing the gold strands to go underneath and get caught in the feed dog. I got the dress form in the penultimate week of June and made the tulle netting skirt on it, which has helped fix up some of the sag issues but now the Triflex hooping is definitely not dealing and needs replacing with hoop steel. I've then spent the last three weeks handsewing all that bloody gold trim on. Boohoo! It's mostly on now, I just need to wait till the end of this week for my extra trim to come in the post, and then I can finish it off and put the tassels on. I have a day off tomorrow so I'm going to have a shot at making the yellow tabard, I don't think it'll be anything like as bad as this blue tabard as I can bondaweb the felt designs on. After that I then have the mammoth task of sewing all the double welted piping cord on everywhere (it's foam flex so I'm hoping and praying it'll go through the machine!!) I think this is going to be really time consuming and will take at least a week. I have so much to do at Uni right now too. I really hope I'll be able to get everything done.

18th June 2013: ALL the trim! I cut out the blue tabard to go over the green dress, only to discover I'd run out of fabric and Remnant Kings were no longer stocking the fabric I'd used. Fortunately the original blue layer is covered by the green dress so the fractional difference in shade between the tabard and the blue dress won't be obvious. This has never happened to me before but it wasn't a big deal, I only had enough fabric to cut one half of the tabard so it wasn't a big money loss or anything, and I had a convenient pattern to use in the form of the half-tabard of old fabric, to cut the new one! So I've cut two of everything in order to be able to line the tabard with the same fabric. Next was the gold trim, which I needed to put on before I could do the lining. I spent the last few days pinning all the gold stuff onto the tabard. IT WAS THE MOST BORING THING EVER OH GOD. Seriously, there were times I had to go away and leave it for the night even though I had hours of the evening left because it was so dull! It's really shitty trim in actuality but it looks fab as it was the perfect colour and width! In the reference art for the iOS release of Secret of Mana the gold strips are double with a blue line in the middle, but honestly, pinning this trim was the most boring thing I've had to do for this costume so I'm not in a hurry to replicate that effect!

The trim is stretchy, and the thickness changes with stretch. I don't really trust Tom's Brother sewing machine to sew it without mangling it, so I'm going to get out my trusty Singer. I can operate it manually and that's my plan, I have used this method when doing piping and other things that I need absolute control over to make sure nothing screws up. The last time I did this was when making piping for my Fuuka costume, and I ended up with a big blister on my index finger from turning the Singer's operating wheel. But I think it'll be worth it over the stress of having it mess up, especially when it took so long to pin!

I've actually run out of gold trim (I bought like 27 metres or something and it still wasn't enough, boohoo!) so I'm just going to sew what you can see in the picture. The trim came from Fabricland in Brighton, and I'm not in a huge hurry to navigate their horrendous website or attempt to mail order from them, so I will put this to one side once I've sewn it and work on other things until my friend Carrie next pops in there and can get me more of the trim. I'm also waiting on 70 tassels (yes, 70, there are roughly 35 on each side of the tabard!) coming from Hong Kong which are expected to arrive around early July. Having ordered wigs etc from Hong Kong I don't think they'll be as long as that!

Sewing the trim will probably take me the next day or two, and I'm getting Annette's dress form next weekend so at that point it'll be much easier for me to store and work on the layers of Popoi! The next parts are as follows:

1) Make a tulle layer to go over the petticoat, to fix the sag. The Triflex hooping is not dealing very well with all the layers and is warping a little, so I may need to order some steel hooping instead.

2) Make the yellow tabard. I've bought the red and green felt to do the detailing with (I thought felt would be a nice texture for an otherwise fabric costume). This'll be easy to pattern as it's essentially the same as the blue one but with a wider neckline and it's slightly shorter. This will be really easy to do with my new dressform as I can just put the blue tabard on it and then pin the hems accordingly.

3) Measure around the hems of the green dress, edges of the yellow tabard and the diamond patterns to calculate how much white trim I need to order. I can only do this when the entire garment is pretty much made and hemmed. It took me a long time to find out what sort of trim would be suitable for this endeavour. I am using double-welted upholstery piping: http://jamiltonupholstery.co.uk/show_similar_detail.asp?prod=4864&dept=6

I'm going to need a LOT of it. On the reference art the trim is double-sided in many locations, plus there's the little loops. The hem of the green dress as it is just now is about 3.3m plus 2.5m for the sides, the tabard will be about 5m all the way around, and I'll probably need another 4m for the front and back detailing on the tabard. When you add all that together including the double sided bits, I would say I'm going to need about 30m of the stuff. It's 67p per metre thank goodness so it's not the bankruptcy it could be! Still about £24 plus postage though :\

So that's my plan for the next few weeks. All being well I should have the costume itself finished in early July, and then I'll have a month for working on the wig.

9th June 2013: Sleeve trim Here's one sleeve trim! I've only biased one edge as I've run out of white bias tape. I plan to bias the other edge and simultaneously attach it to the sleeve where it's pinned. After that I'm going to use white embroidery skein to tack down the trim edge that's nearer to the armhole, to get that rough stitching effect you can see on his sleeves. The pastel colouring-in looked terribly primary-schoolish when it was taped to the wooden board I was working on, but ironing it to fix the permanence caused the colours to melt in a little bit and it looked pretty good when it was done. For anyone considering working with them in the future - use scrap fabric rather than a teatowel to iron the colour in, as it will transfer!! I had the iron on about two dots to fix the colour. I'll colour in the second lot of trim tonight. I was an idiot when cutting the first lot, despite measuring the sleeve twice I somehow still managed to cut it too short! I fixed this with a strip of bias tape over the frayed ends where they met in the middle but were not long enough for me to overlap.

7th June 2013: Sewing! So I have started actually making Popoi's costume! The blue underlayer is done bar hemming, and you can see a (awful phone) picture of it on the main page for this costume. Attached to this journal entry is a picture of the green upper layer, which has big kimono-style sleeves that I drafted out over the last few days. I mocked them up in calico first before cutting them out of my green fabric, as it's Panama Lime curtain fabric at £8.99pm! Next thing I need to do is design the patterned sleeve trim. I've got some Pentel fabric pastels that I think will give the rich colours I want for this. I looked at silk painting but I couldn't get hold of any gutta at my local art shop. If the fabric pastels don't work then I'll order some gutta and silk online and do it that way.

Really pleased with my progress on the costume over the last week or so. Things are really coming together!

1st May 2013: The vines are on! The flexibark cracked apart in a few places, I was bending it a lot more than I did the ones for the crystal holders so it wasn't unexpected. I've patched the cracks up with more flexibark and will be repainting those bits over the next few days. I'm pleased with how the vines are wrapped but I feel the colour is a bit too uniform right now. I'm going to spraypaint lightly with the lighter brown I have and see how it looks, and possibly dry brush some lighter brown on in places to give it a bit more texture so it's not just flat colour. I think it would be fun to add a bit of moss so I've ordered some artificial reindeer moss on Ebay. I'm not planning on adding the leaves until nearer the time as I want to apply fresh ones on the day of the con so they look real.

Next week I'm going to do a final layer of PVA on the crystals and varnish them now the weather is warmer. I'll also varnish the staff when I'm happy with the paint job, prior to adding the moss. At that point I'll put it all together and take a final photo of the finished product! I haven't been able to get on with much sewing with all these vines festooned around the room so it'll be back to that once the staff is done!

13th April 2013: Staff progress Today I nailed the rest of the branch holder bits onto the staff. The wood the staff is made of (hazel) is really hard and it took a good hour or two of hammering and cursing to get them in! Sometimes the netting nails would go a bit skew-whiff and start splintering the wood, because I was hammering them into a curved surface. But they're in, and superglued for good measure! I have covered them with hot glue to even out the surface, then painted a layer of flexibark over the top. They're looking pretty good, I'm quite happy with them. I spent a good hour or two plaiting some aluminium wire today - It was about 3m long initially and shrank down to twoish after plaiting. I then covered it with masking tape and the first PVA glue layer is just drying. I'll probably put another layer on tomorrow, then I'll start applying the flexibark tomorrow evening so it can dry overnight. Once the flexibark is on I'll have a go at wrapping it around the staff and see how it looks. If I'm happy with it then I'll plait wire number two during the week. I think two-three vines will be enough, I'll see how it looks!

Lots of sewing to do tomorrow while I'm waiting for things to dry.

12th April 2013: Resin casting and other things I've not been very well the last couple of weeks so progress on Popoi has been really slow. I had a go at resin casting for the first time but it didn't go so well. I was trying to make the blue jewel Popoi wears around his neck. I bought a 12" plastic bauble and pressed it into some alginate that I'd mixed up. That went fine, a few air bubbles but no biggie. I then made the mistake of leaving the mould for a few days - it was a little tuppaware container so I thought if I put the lid on it'd be fine. I poured the resin into the mould, but after I popped it out of the mould the next day, I discovered there were these large white streaks on the surface of the cast. I thought it was just alginate and would rub off, but no, it was actually embedded into the surface of the resin! I'm honestly not sure what the cause of it was but I suspect it was because I didn't use the mould straight away. I tried painting it with blue glass paint to see if I could salvage it, but it just looked poo. So that was that, I had to do another one, which I did today. I really hope it works, because I've run out of hardener and that clear resin kit cost £16! If it's a failure I might just have a go at cutting the plastic sphere I bought with my Dremel tool.

In other news, I have done both branch holders for the crystals. The big one is partially nailed onto the staff. I bought some netting nails to do this and they're working quite well. Will hopefully have those done tomorrow. I then need to spray the bottom end of the staff brown, and then I'm going to stain it with watered down acrylic paint so that it matches the colour of the branch holders (the brown spray paint I bought is a different shade and slightly lighter than I would like).

Then it's onto making the long vines that go down the staff - I bought aluminium wire for this in the end, so that the look is consistent with that of the branch holders and I don't have to worry about the wood going all funny, as I would if I'd been using willow. I haven't decided whether or not I'll varnish it once it's all done. It would make it more durable, and if I bought matt varnish it would hopefully not look really obvious!

I have started doing some sewing too. I have thrown together a petticoat to go under the outfit, and I bought some Triflex hoop plastic to give it the shape I want. Once the petticoat is finished (this weekend) I'll be able to cut out the fabric for the blue under-dress.

10th March 2013: Branch-ness So I managed to bend the wire - it was a pain in the bum =_= It took me about three hours to bend it right so that it hugged the crystal snugly, and then when I thought I had it right, the curls of the branch interfered with the crystal sitting properly in the crook on the staff top. I then wrapped it with masking tape, and PVA'd it. Now I've put a coating of flexibark on it and am waiting for it to dry! I got flexibark all over my jeans, abooo, hope it comes out in the wash!

I did the big one first cos I knew it was gonna be a pain, the little one will be loads easier to mount as I'll only need to do double-twisted wire to get the right thickness and it's just a spiral shape.

Tomorrow evening I'm going to paint the big branch brown, then nail it into the staff with a bit of hot glue for good measure. Then I just need to mask and flexibark over the nail, and then comes the big test of mounting the crystal and seeing if it'll stay on! I can pick up the crystal when it's inside the branch by just holding onto the branch, so I'm hoping the added support from sitting in the crook will do the trick.

7th March 2013: Those blimmin' branches! I stopped doing stuff on this for a while due to illness and Minami costumes needing to be done, now I'm back! Today I finally got around to making the wire armature to attach the big crystal to the staff. I'm using galvanised steel wire, and I twisted one end around itself, and then the other end around the double-twisted length. It was really hard to do, I had to put a screwdriver into the loop at one end to aid the twisting, and it didn't twist uniformly, so in some places the wire is wrapped around the other wire rather than the two twisting together (although that'll be covered up by the masking tape). So it's now triple twisted (it was far too stiff to plait) and is so stiff that with my puny arm strength I can't actually bend it into the shape I want it to have XD This is great because it means there's next to no chance of the weight of the crystal deforming the wire and allowing the crystal to fall out. The downside is that I now need to go and buy a pair of pliers (maybe even two pairs) to bend the metal with!

Once I've got it in the shape that I want, I can then wrap masking tape around it. I'll then apply a few layers of PVA to get rid of the masking tape ridge edges, and at that point I can then put the flexibark on. Then it'll be time to paint it. I'm trying to get some different colours and textures so I'll probably be taking my time with the paint job, likely a base coat and then a wash or two).

If this all works out, I'll then be doing the same for the little crystal, but that'll be easier as it's smaller, and will only need a double-twisted wire.

Once the crystals are on, I then need to decide whether to buy willow withies to soak and wrap around the staff shaft, or whether I want to do a similar twisty wire and flexibark thing but with aluminium wire, as it's much easier to work with and I don't need it to hold anything in place. I'd like to try the withies first as they'll look the most realistic. I want to get this staff all finished by the end of March, so watch this space!

In other news, I finally found a painting method that worked for the crystals. It's not great, but it'll do. I watered down the glass paint with white spirit and applied it using a plastic spray bottle (the travel kind you get from Boots). The side effect is a star-shaped line of darker paint at the bottom of the crystal (from where the paint pools against where it's sitting on the holder, and I had to blend it with my fingers after the top part had dried), but that'll be sitting at the bottom against the staff and will be hidden by the branches.

I really wish I could've found a better way to do it, but short of spending several hundred quid on an airbrush and compressor kit, it wasn't going to happen. Rit Dye doesn't dye acrylic plastics anymore as they've changed the formula, and an ink bath with Adironack ink failed to stick either. What I should've done is bought coloured crystals to begin with. These things we learn!

23rd January 2013: Fun with glass paint continued Having painted my large crystal to a level I was happy with, I went to my local art store. I told them I had a large plastic ball that had been painted with glass paint and covered with several layers of PVA. I then asked them to recommend me a suitable gloss spray varnish, because I know sod-all about varnish.

The lady in the shop recommended me Plastikote Ultra Clear. I bought it, went home, and sprayed the large crystal. It was still tacky the next day. And stuck to everything, took fingerprints like anything. A week later, it was still tacky, and was so fingerprinted and shitty-looking. The plastic sheet I'd laid it on to spray stuck to the surface and left a wrinkled mess behind. I put it in a plastic bag and took it to the art store, along with the spray paint. It got stuck to the bag. The people at the art store were absolutely mortified. The lady I'd spoken to previously wasn't in.

Turns out that despite the name 'Plastikote', this spray varnish is not designed for non-porous surfaces. I.e., plastic! They gave me a refund without question, and recommended me Krylon Clear Coat instead. Looking online (what I should've done originally), this is much better for plastic things and won't go tacky.

It's now very cold here in Glasgow, and this Krylon stuff is apparently pretty potent and you definitely can't get away with using it indoors like you can with other stuff. This means I won't be able to varnish my crystals until the weather is warmer.

As for the big crystal, I was back to square one. I had to peel everything off, white spirit the whole thing clean, and start again. I had another go, but my brush was totally screwed from the previous painting attempts - even though I'd cleaned it with white spirit between, there were teeny tiny little dried bits of paint on the very ends of the bristles that then got stuck to the new layer of paint.

So I had to buy another brush (brush #3), and a new pot of paint (for the other one had little dried bits around the rim that were also clinging to the pot), strip it, and start again. So this is attempt #5. It's looking a lot better, and I'm hoping again that the PVA layers will even it out like last time.

But if it comes out looking like ass again, I have this to try, courtesy of TheKillingDoll:
Rit-dyeing PET - http://www.therpf.com/f9/daft-punk-interstella-helmet-wip-97512/index3.html

3 x 5 minute dips in the hot dye, interchanged with cold water dunks to set the colour. I could use string bags to suspend the crystals to do this.

I'm so desperate now I'll try anything XD I feel like faffing around with these crystals is holding me back on working on the rest of the cosplay, so really hoping this paint job #5 will be successful! But it's good to know I have another option that doesn't involve spending £80 on an airbrush that might still cause issues with coverage/dribbling.

I'm going to move onto the vines that hold the crystals in place next - I can still PVA the crystals so they're vaguely hardy to being handled. I had good results with my flexibark test (see the attached picture) - even just covering the wire with masking tape makes for a good shape, while the flexibark adds texture. It didn't quite work in the way I thought it would, I thought the flexibark would shrink and crack to create the texture, but instead it's got little bits in it that give texture. The galvanised steel wire when it's double-twisted is really hard to bend so I think it will stand up to the weight of the crystals well, and keep them in place.

So my plan is to make the wire armatures and nail them into place, then I can just bend them around the crystals when those are ready to go. I only wanted to varnish the crystals to make them a bit more scratch resistant! So much hassle. But never mind, I'm just going to crack on, otherwise I won't have the costume done in time for Aya.

So my plan for this weekend is to get the wire armatures done, and I also want to have a go at making a mould for Popoi's pendant. It's quite big proportionally to the size of Popoi, but I don't want it to be so big that it looks ridiculous, so I'll be aiming for about 10cm in diameter for the size of it. I'm just going to buy one of those half-spheres that make up the bauble I used for my very first glass paint test, make a little pot of alginate and press the sphere halfway into it. The reference art indicates it's not a total half-sphere, it's slightly flatter, so I'm hoping pushing it only half way into the alginate will get the shape I want.

5th January 2013: Stuff! Today I raided the January sales at the fabric stores! I have everything I need to make the first layer of Popoi's outfit. The layers are as follows:

Blue robe
Green robe
Blue tabard
Yellow tabard

I'm starting off with the blue robe he wears beneath the green one - you can just about see it in the reference pictures. I have a nice cotton/elastane mix with a decent drape. I've got some hoop steel kicking around, and right now I'm not sure whether I want to put a hoop in or just use a tonload of petticoats underneath to floof it. Either way the hoop steel will give me a good guide for sizing it and I can decide that later, as I'd probably want to make yet another layer to put the hoop in to go underneath the blue robe XD So many layers! The fabric together with matching thread came to £35 so that's another month's budget gone!

I've also finally painted the big crystal and am in the process of varnishing it. In the end I bought a new brush and put the paint on by painting continuously in one direction. The PVA did a reasonable job of evening out the surfaces. It's still not perfect, and I think perhaps I should've paid a little extra to get coloured acrylic balls to begin with, but these things you learn! A lot of it is gonna get covered up by bits of vine anyway.

For the vines touching the crystal, I bought some stuff called Flexi-bark from a site called Antenocitis Workshop which does wargames and model railway terrain. The way it works is you wrap masking tape around bits of wire, paint this stuff on, and it cracks as it dries to give a bark effect. The nice thing is it's rubberised so you can still bend things after you've finished with them. I haven't tried it yet, so stay tuned for more progress shots! It was only a few quid for a pot so I thought it'd be worth having a shot with it. I need to also experiment with what type of wire to use. Aluminium wire is super easy to work with and bend but it just doesn't have the resistance that galvanised steel wire does, and the heavy acrylic balls would just bend it away so they could fall out. I might do one sample branch made out of steel wire with aluminium twisted around it, and one of just steel wire. It's being covered in masking tape so it doesn't really matter what's inside, just making sure it'll hold the crystals in securely!

6th November 2012: Fun with Glass Paint My contact juggling balls arrived at the weekend. They're kinda heavy D: But the big one nestles neatly into the crook of the staff so I think it'll be okay. I've been having a go at painting the big one. I left it under a cover to dry overnight and when I got it out the next day there were bits of dust clinging to it D: I was hoping I might lift it off with the next coat but no joy. I persevered anyway to see what the final result might be like - the PVA I've got turns out to dry matt rather than shiny and it looks a bit crap ><; I tried to use a makeup sponge to apply it evenly but the sponge actually lifts off the paint/PVA as well as spreading it! As I'm not happy with it, I'm going to buy some turps and take it all off, and start again. Having had a go at it I've got a better idea on how to do it now. For the redo I'm going to buy a bigger brush, allowing me to get a more even coverage. I'm also going to get a different tub of PVA to use. I'm also going to do just a single coat of glass paint as the second coat dried quite dark, darker than I wanted it. Not sure what I can do about the dust buildup, though ><;

30th October 2012: Staff has arrived! It looks fab :D Now I have it, I've measured it and figure it needs a 120mm crystal for the top and a 60mm crystal for just below the bigger one. I didn't want to use glass in case it got chipped, plus it'd be really heavy. I've looked also at acrylic contact juggling balls, but I think I will experiment a little with the plastic screw-half ones first to see if they might work, as I'll only lose a few quid from trying that out and it may save me a lot of money (£50) in the long run if they actually work! So tomorrow's plan is to nip to the art store to pick up a plastic ball and some blue glass paint to see what I can rustle up! Annoyingly the plastic balls have a stupid hanging attachment which I'll need to file off, but oh well!

I've also emailed DecorativeBranches.co.uk to ask if their Snakewood vines they have in stock could be sold in smaller bundles. They want £59 for a bundle of 12 and I would only need 3-4 of them as they're 2m long! Hopefully they'll get back to me this week on that.

For the bits of vine that are stuck to the crystal, I will use wire to help anchor the crystal in place, and then build on top of it with air-dry clay to make it thicker. I've found some stuff called Flexi-Bark that may give me the wooden look that I'm after, it's only a few pounds for a pot so I'll probably try that out. Expect lots of experiment-y progress shots in the weeks to come!

30th October 2012: Baubles and glass paint So I bought a 60mm plastic ball from the art store, and some Marabu GlasART turqoise (colour 498). Things I have learnt about glass paint:

1) It's sticky like anything. Turns out you're supposed to buy solvent cleaner to go with it which I didn't know. Silly tiny instructions on the bottle (ok ok I didn't read them XD) I now have green fingers!
2) Needs overnight drying time
3) Is still susceptible to fingerprints and will need a layer of PVA.
4) Hides brushstrokes fairly well but needs to be applied evenly to prevent blobs.
5) Should probably be done in two halves, including the PVA.

So the verdict on the painted bauble from Tom and I is that front on the seam is invisible, and side on it's really noticeable, especially in light. This means I should definitely get a contact juggling ball for the larger crystal. For the smaller one, I've decided to get a contact ball for that too, so I don't need to worry about hiding the seams (the smaller one is cheaper too, it's only about £10).

So I need to order those, and it will come to about £52, which is over my monthly budget. I could just order them separately, a month apart, to be within budget, but I save £2 with combined shipping for the two from the same supplier, and I can't start making the actual staff until I've bought and attached the crystals. So I'm going a bit over budget.

I will be going over budget more because tonight Tom and I are driving to our local branch of Country Baskets to have a look at their contorted willow stems, and if they are of suitable thickness I'll be getting some of those too. More money!

I've been thinking about branches and vines for ages now - the Decorative Branch people haven't gotten back to me about my enquiry but the more I think about it, the more I wonder if the Snakewood vines I'm interested in are going to be too thick and hard for me to work with. The thing with willow is that it's a lot more readily available if I screw up, plus I know for a fact that it's bendable if you soak it. There are lots of different types of willow, and salix tortuosa has curves and bends in it already, therefore might be suitable for my needs. The trouble is finding thick enough stems. In the reference art there's at least one stem that's about two fingers width. I've found a place online that will do them to broomhandle thickness, but it's quite pricey so I think it's worth a few quid in petrol and a trip down the M8 to go and have a look at some examples and decide. You can buy soaking bags and so on too.

So yeah, I am most likely going to be over budget this month, but as I was going to wait until the January sales before buying fabric, I think it's okay as I can spend up until Christmas making the staff and after Christmas I'll have overcome my deficit and will have enough money for fabric.

20th October 2012: Staff yayness From Birchwood Bushcraft:

"Hi, I was going to email you today. Your staff is done and its just drying through. It looks fantastic and has the Merlin twist then the bit on top to hold a crystal etc. I will dispatch it Monday as it needs 24 hours more to dry. So many people who have visited my workshop wanted it, take care and I will email Monday as soon as its on its way!"

SO EXCITED. I'm really happy that I had the confidence to send them a picture and tell them exactly what I wanted, as I think it'll be much easier for me to build upon the staff in the long run.

For the spheres on the staff, I will probably use an acrylic contact juggling ball for the largest one. It will be expensive, taking up another month's cosplay budget (the 120mm balls are £40), but the advantage of these is that they don't have any plastic seams, which kinda ruins the look I want. I don't mind having a seam for the smaller one as it's tucked into the body of the staff and I can hide it, but the big one is visible for a just about 360 degree view, so having no seam is important. I'm going to wait until the staff arrives to see what size sphere I'm going to need (perhaps I'll be able to get away with a smaller, less expensive one). I'm going to paint the blue colour using glass paints, so I can get a swirly effect with it.

When the staff arrives I'll also be able to figure out what kind of decorative branches I'll need. I might make a foray to Kelvingrove Park to see if I can get some ivy vines and suchlike but I might be better off with either plastic ones or decorative ones that have been fumigated etc!

2nd October 2012: Staff ordered! The guys at Birchwood Bushcraft were really helpful - they extended the listing so I could place my order. I've sent them pictures to help them pick one with a suitable finish, as they have a number of different ones but could only put one photo up on Ebay. I'm very excited to receive it and see what I need to do to build upon it. One of the first things I'll need to do is figure out how I'm going to do the blue spheres. They need to all be the same colour and of varying sizes. I'm not sure if it'd be best to cast them in resin or try and find some plastic ones - only I wouldn't want any mould lines to show! I also need to worry about weight - while the staff itself will be sturdy, I don't want the spheres to fall off because they're too heavy. Will have to have a think!

23rd August 2012: Saving up + Staff So, from the end of September I'll be saving £40 a month for this costume. I did a bit of preliminary research to cost this out a few months ago - just to give an idea, the decorative branches I'm looking at using for the staff are £72.

http://www.decorativebranches.co.uk/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=4&products_id=154 (Need to see if somewhere else does this sort of thing cheaper!)

And the green fabric I'm going to be using for the bulk of the costume is the same curtain fabric I used for Beat, and that's about £8.99 a metre. And I need something stupid like 30 gold tassels which are like £1.60 each.


So yeah, expensive. The only way this is going to be feasible is to order little bits at a time to spread the cost!

So first things first, I've found a perfect staff to use as a base for Popoi's vine staff:

However, it's £47 and they're only doing them for a limited time. I've messaged them to ask just how limited a time they're doing them for and whether I can order one at the end of September (there goes one month of costume saving straight off! :O). It's quite cool cos they made them for BBC Merlin! Can't get much more magic-y than that :D

P.S. I'm putting these links in more for my own reference!

KuroStylr avatar

KuroStylr - 23rd August 2012
You are going to look SO adorable in this. I may have to hug you and not let go!

Littlegeeky avatar

Littlegeeky - 24th January 2013
Wow I can't wait to see this! I loved this game as a kid :)

Siouxsie James avatar

Siouxsie James - 11th March 2013
Such an awesome costume choice, hope everything is going well :)

Freyarule avatar

Freyarule - 6th June 2013
Oh my gosh, that character is so adorbs! Liking the progress so far on the staff, interesting techniques used!

ToroSonyCat avatar

ToroSonyCat - 6th June 2013
The prop looks so cool!

TheStarlightFairy avatar

TheStarlightFairy - 7th June 2013
Everything looks awesome so far! I especially love that staff!

KhaosKreator avatar

KhaosKreator - 5th August 2013
Looking good!

Freyarule avatar

Freyarule - 20th August 2013
So cute! I loved seeing this :D

Mighty Odango avatar

Mighty Odango - 20th August 2013
You were adorable! You are truly a hidden UK cosplay gem in my opinion <3 there was a lot of creativity and thought in this costume.

KhaosKreator avatar

KhaosKreator - 21st August 2013

Amy-Lou avatar

Amy-Lou - 22nd August 2013
So adorable! I've really enjoyed following your journal on this, lots of inspiring creative thinking and a wonderful costume.

Kei Lin Sama avatar

Kei Lin Sama - 24th August 2013
Wow there's so much detail on this costume! Great job, you look beautiful!

Littlegeeky avatar

Littlegeeky - 26th August 2013
This cosplay is simply amazing! All the detail is just beautiful!
I'm so glad I got to see this in person, sorry again if I scared you
while queuing for the masquerade ^_^'

Siouxsie James avatar

Siouxsie James - 31st August 2013
LOVED this costume at Aya, so pretty and colourful :)

Siouxsie James avatar

Siouxsie James - 26th September 2013
Feedback from the thread, I agree with your idea on the wig! You could make it bigger and it would possibly look even more great! Have you thought about putting anything in it to bulk it out a bit? My only suggestion is clips or sponges as I have used them in my own hair (real hair) to lift it off my head :p
I think this costume is pretty perfect, really, really love it :)
Sorry to hear about the crystal thing >_> typical!
It's up to you if you re-cast the necklace but I wouldn't personally, at least it looks great in these pictures.
I am tempted to say that maybe the colours on your cheeks could be a bit duller, but that's just my personal opinion.
Over all this costume looks so well made!!! Really love the staff and the whole costume, you have made it your own while paying tribute to the original imo

TheStarlightFairy avatar

TheStarlightFairy - 12th October 2013
This looks absolutely incredible! All your hard work has definately paid off! And your skit at Play Expo was adorable and perfect <3
Now I want to find an LP of this game so I can truely appreciate this!

Nesproxy avatar

Nesproxy - 20th October 2013
I adore the level of detail in this. It's a beautiful costume and your hard work really shows. :)

Spicary avatar

Spicary - 29th July 2014
I remember this cosplay from last Aya- amazing work! ^^

Amy-Lou avatar

Amy-Lou - 31st July 2014
The new photos are lovely!