It all started with a comic book show…

Last spring, my boyfriend and I attended WonderCon, an annual comic book convention held in the Bay Area.  We’re both what you might call geeks – we love all things comic book/sci fi/fantasy related, and enjoy being thoroughly immersed in these worlds when we get a chance.  While we are pretty serious about our geekdom, there are a group of folks even more hardcore than us, that take the idea of immersion in a fantasy world to a whole new level.  Behold, the Cosplayer:

Hellboy’s little sister?

Cosplayers enjoy recreating themselves as their favorite characters from many different venues, from comic books to movies to animated shows.  Most Cosplayers create their own costumes, and often spend months creating a near perfect replica of the iconic look of whatever character they have chosen to embody for that particular convention/day/hour.  Cosplayers garner a lot of attention at shows from fans who want their picture taken with their favorite character, and many conventions offer costume contests or pageants to showcase the work that a Cosplayer has put in to their creation.

WonderCon was the biggest comic convention I had attended to date, and I was amazed by the detail, quality and intricacy of the costumes I saw there.  While I had held an interest in costuming for a long time, seeing the level to which these people were able to take their creations was the spark that ignited a desire in me to begin exploring Cosplay and reenactment opportunities.  My boyfriend was very supportive and shared my interest.  He introduced me to  Dragon*Con, an annual convention renowned for Cosplayers, and a local group called PEERS (Period Events and Entertainment Recreation Society) that held monthly themed dances, and suggested we begin attending the PEERS events and plan for Dragon*Con in 2012.

My son got to meet Captain America... and hold his shield!

I was excited to begin my costuming adventure, and spent part of my time at WonderCon visiting the various costume vendors with the intent of purchasing a costume.  I was in particular interested in Steampunk costumes, as PEERS had a Steampunk ball coming up early in the year.  I did find many, many gorgeous things, but I also found that the price of most pieces meant that they were out of my reach.  I continued to search online and in local shops for costume pieces for the next several weeks, but every item that caught my eye had the same thing in common – while it was all beautifully crafted and obviously worth what the shop and/or artisan was asking, none of it fit in to my budget. 

While I was looking hopelessly through rack after rack of gorgeous corsets, waistcoats and bustles, a little voice began to whisper the same thing over and over in my head: You used to sew.  You could MAKE these things! 

Well, I did sew once upon a time, and in fact I used to really enjoy it, but I hadn’t had my hands on a sewing machine or a piece of fabric in nearly 15 years, and I was convinced that there was no way I was going to be able to create something as wonderful as the items I was lusting after.  But there was also no way I was going to be able to afford to purchase those items either, and so there was really nothing to lose.  My quest for a sewing machine began that day.

With my mind consumed by Steampunk, and my budget limited to used machines, I decided to try to find something that would fit in with the look and feel of the era I was trying to recreate.  I scoured Craigslist for used sewing machines, and one day in the summer I stumbled across what seemed to be the perfect fit: a vintage 1935 Singer in it’s original wood cabinet, for sale by the original owner’s son.  I drove out to take a look, and immediately fell in love with this little beauty:

She even looks Steampunky!

I loaded her up and brought her home, and began planning my first project.  I wanted to create something appropriate for a Steampunk costume, but considering my skills were rusty I needed to make it something fairly simple, so a corset, dress, bustle or overcoat was out of the question.  After a quick google search for Steampunk patterns, I located a free pattern for spats and decided it would be the perfect project to begin my journey towards a full-fledged Steampunk costume


Spats success!

Making the spats was not as “easy” as I thought it would be – aside from having to learn the ins and outs of my new machine and becoming re-accustomed to the rhythm and feel of sewing, I found that there was a lot of terminology and technique that I had never really properly learned in my earlier sewing adventures.  But eventually I did finish them, and despite a few beginner mistakes and bumps in the road, I was pretty proud of my creation.  I also discovered that a) I still really enjoyed sewing, and b) I had a lot to learn before I was going to be able to create anything like the beautiful costumes I had seen at WonderCon and had been envisioning for myself.  With that in mind, I decided to begin sewing garments on a regular basis until I felt I was far enough along in my skillset to create the costumes I wanted to create.  And thus my sewing adventure began.

I’ve been sewing regularly again since late 2011.  I’ve created a few wearable things.  I’ve tossed more than a few non-wearable things.  I’ve cursed at my machine when I’ve made stupid mistakes, and she has taken the abuse graciously, even though we are both fully aware that she has little if anything to do with it when something goes wrong.  Along the way I decided to begin documenting my journey.  I’ve learned so much from my fellow seamstresses and their blogs, as well as sites such as Pattern Review, and hope that I can pass along some of the things I’ve learned to others who are new to sewing, or have found their way back after a long hiatus.