Choosing The Perfect Machine for Cosplay

You are getting into cosplay and the closet cosplay ideas are wearing thin. You want more. Cosplay commissions are sometimes cost prohibitive. Making your own cosplay is challenging but incredibly satisfying and learning to sew is fun. Are you ready to dive in?

What is cool about cosplay is that you use really interesting materials to create amazing costumes. What is challenging is that all machines aren’t built to stitch through all of those unique fabrics. The machines you find in big box stores near the vacuums may not be the best option for cosplay because they are made for very basic applications. So where do you turn? We will walk you through all you need to know!

Where To Shop

Sewing machine stores are in every state and you likely have one somewhere near you.  A sewing store can be a Sewing machine and vacuum store, a sewing machine and fabric store, or a quilting shop. They may sell one brand of machine, or many brands. All of these types of stores will have a knowledgeable staff that can answer your questions about buying a sewing machine. We have been working overtime at Sew Much Cosplay™ to get sewing machine stores up to speed on what cosplay is so that you have a resource in your area. (And if you are a store, check out our new programs just for you!)

Sewing machine manufacturers have a store locator on their websites. Some of the brands to look for are Baby Lock, BERNINA, Brother, Elna, Janome, Juki, Necchi, Pfaff, Singer, and Viking. Try googling one of these brands + your state to find a store near you.

The bonus to buying from an independent store is that you have somewhere to go when you have any trouble. Stitch over a pin? They have repair people. Is the machine skipping stitches? The employees can trouble shoot a better needle option. They also usually offer lessons on how to use the machine so you know the basics.

Buy A Machine That Fits

Buying a sewing machine is much like buying sneakers – you have to find the right fit and see how it feels. Sewing machines have always been an investment, but a quality machine can last you 25 years or more if you take care of it.

They start at about $100 and go up to more than $13,000. Luckily, you don’t need to spend $13,000 on a machine to get a fantastic machine that will allow you to make lots of cosplay and accessories.  As the price of the machine goes up, you get more features on the machine. It is just like buying a car. Do you want a Kia or a BMW? Both have great options, take a test drive to see which one is right for you. Try to buy more than features than you think you need so you are sure to get one that you will be happy with for years to come.

The Test Drive

Think about the cosplays on your wishlist. Will you need to sew with leather? Neoprene? Organza? 4-way Stretch? Each of those materials needs a different needle, foot and stitch. Ask about stitching with those materials and we suggest bringing a few different fabric swatches to try out the machines. If the store has more than one brand, try out each material on a few different models.

Features To Look For

Variety of Stitches – At the minimum, you need straight stitch and a zig-zag. The stretch stitch and overlock stitch are really handy if you don’t have a serger. Decorative stitches are great for some costumes.

Needle Threader – Not necessary, but it sure is nice!

Built in scissors – Also not necessary, but nice!

Feet – Straight, ZigZag, Zipper, Ruffler attachment, Walking foot, pintuck, teflon, roller – these are all feet you may need. Do they come standard? If not, how much do they cost? Factor this in to the overall cost of the machine too. (see more below)

Needle up/Needle Down – This feature makes adjusting the fabric easy without losing your place. It is vital for machine applique.

Free arm – The free arm is the part of the machine bellow the needle where you find the bobbin, feed dogs, etc. There is usually a removable drawer or tray here that covers this small section. The free arm is a smaller area that allows you to sew sleeves and hem pants and other small sections of garments. This is on most machines. However, some machines made for quilting and other flat sewing do not have this section.  For cosplay, we suggest you get a machine WITH a free arm. Here are a few photos showing what we mean.


This beauty is a typical sewing machine with a free arm.


This is a great sewing machine, but it does not have a free arm. Sewing sleeves or hemming pants would be tricky!

Questions To Ask

What feet are included? How much do extra feet cost?

Do you offer lessons on how to use the machine?

How often do I need to get a tune-up and how much does that cost?

Do you offer a cosplay night where I can come in and try your machines for free?

Is A Used Machine A Better Option?

Some sewing machine stores accept trade-ins when a customer upgrades their machine. The retailer then gives the machine a tune up to ensure that it is in good working order and then offers it for sale. Since the machine is used, you can often get a lot more machine for your money. This might be a great option depending on their stock. Sometimes these machines come with extra feet and attachments too.

Don’t overlook those machines you find at the thrift store or at yard sales either. A good vintage machine is often better than the inexpensive models you find at big box stores. Do make sure you can still buy parts and feet for the machine first and be sure to bring it in for a tune up. It’s much like getting the oil changed on your car – it helps to keep the machine running well. A tune-up will cost you approximately $100, give or take but it is worth the investment to ensure that that machine is in good working order and is safe to use.


Sewing machines are a great investment as you get into cosplay. They may be a bit intimidating at first and a bit “spendy”, but if you keep in mind that a great machine that will last you for several years will cost around $500, and that machine will stitch you up many cosplay… well, that is many, many hours of enjoyment right there! Learn as much as you can before you buy and be an educated shopper. And don’t forget: Sew on it before you buy!

Do you have any questions about buying a sewing machine? Leave us a comment and we will be sure to answer your questions.





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Cosplay Conversation: Christine Diep

Name:  Christine Diep

Location: Chicago, IL


Facebook: theshiningpolaris OR ShiningPolaris (Personal)

Instagram: shiningpolaris

Twitter: @shiningpolaris

Other: Facebook Event Page – CosplayersWithoutBanners



Tell us about your cosplay. What was your inspiration?/why did you choose this character?

I am a HUGE Game of Thrones fan.  Sansa is one of my favorite characters.  She, in my opinion, has the prettiest outfits.  I just fell in love with her “crow” dress because it signifies her change into a little girl to a woman that is starting to understand the “Game.”


How long did it take to make your Cosplay?

This took me about a month to make.  This costume was also made as my entry to Dragon Con Cosplay Contest!


What was your biggest challenge?

Hand sewing each feather and bead into the dress!  Feathers were worse because they either broke or didnt look right after touching them!


What was your budget? Approximately how much did you spend?

My cosplay really have no budget!  I love cosplays and spend way to much money on making them.  This probably cost me around $100.00 which isn’t bad at all.


What special techniques did you use?

Not really any special techiniques.  Basic sewing on the dress and cape.  But I hand sewed everything else such as the feathers and beads.


What was the most satisfying about making this Cosplay/What made you proud?

Just knowing that I did it and it was accepted to DragonCon Contest which is super hard to get in!  Also looking at it, it was well made and fit.  It made all the Baelish cosplayers jealous!

If you had to remake this Cosplay, what would you do differently?

Maybe redo the beading on the bottom of the dress.  I did it in a hurry so it is coming apart.  My necklace too.  That piece was also done last minute.


About Cosplay in general:

How often do you Cosplay?

I been cosplaying since 1996.  I now do it almost every single week!


How many cosplays do you do?

Last year for an example I wore 50 cosplays!  Maybe made 30 new ones!


What do you want to make next?

I enter the Crown Championships every year which is a huge extremely difficult costume contest to enter.  I am working on Rocket Racoon for that one.


Favorite cosplay moment? 

I won Best Seamstress at the Crown Championships in 2015!


Favorite fandoms to follow?

At the moment I love Doctor Who, Flash, Gotham, and Game of Thrones


What sewing machine do you sew on?

I actually won a Bernina 830 from the Crown.  But I use a regular brother from Costco!


What materials do you like using?

I don’t really have a favorite?  I try to buy cheap stuff that looks the closest to what I am making!


What materials do you want to try?

Worbla one day!


What materials do you wish were easier to work with?

Worbla and foam!


What techniques are you dying to learn?


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SMC Pattern Review: Cloak X By Cosplay By McCalls

This week we are reviewing the pattern Cloak X by Cosplay By McCalls™. This line of patterns is a custom line that McCalls put out several years ago specifically for the cosplay market. These patterns are currently only available online and come  on durable white pattern paper and a thicker large cardstock envelope that we like.

For this pattern Cheryl worked on the long cape and Tracy worked on the fur capelet. We used Shannon fabrics Luxe Cuddle Hide in Caviar for the body of the cape and Shannon Wolverine Fur in Taupe and black for the capelet. You can find Shannon Fabrics at many local quilt shops and fabric stores, or online at stores like and You can also view their Store Locator to find more online shops and shops near you.


Cheryl – I made the long cape. The only challenge I had using the Cuddle™ Hide was when I got to the neck facing. (The neck facing is the tube along the neckline.) Using Cuddle™ for this section was a bit thick and if I had to make this cape again, I likely would use a different fabric for this section.

Tracy – I made the small cape that sits on the shoulders. I have made capes before, but this was the first time I made one using faux fur. Cutting out the fur needs to be done carefully so it doesn’t get that “bad haircut” look. Here is a short video that Cheryl and I made while we were cutting the pattern where Cheryl discusses some great tips for working with fur.

Attaching the lining was a little tricky because the nap of the fur was pretty thick. It was fine along the neckline and center front part of the capelet, but I wasn’t liking how the bottom of the cape was stitching because the fur was so thick. I ultimately decided to hem the bottom of the lining and tack it to the fur in a few places instead of stitching the fur to the lining. It was a simple fix and I love that it allowed the jagged edge of the wolverine faux fur to look kind of like a hide.

I think it looks great and I love that I can make more of the small capes to change the overall look of the cape to make different cosplay with one pattern!As you can see from the packaging, this one pattern offers a few different options for the look and would work well with many different cosplay.


We really liked this pattern and will use it again.


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Exclusive Interview: Game Of Thrones Principal Costume Embroiderer, Michele Carragher

As a Film and Television costume embroiderer, you often work on garments after they have been already constructed.  How scary is it to work on the finished garments directly? 

On Game of Thrones I am given a huge workload for a single hand embroiderer, it is a full on Job where deadlines are always looming, most of the time you are working long hours in order to get the job done. The main thing you have to learn, which is not solely exclusive to working on a production like Game of Thrones, is to adapt your process to suit the deadlines that you are presented with for each design that you are asked to create.

As an Artist I have never liked to dampen down my ambitions for any of the designs I have been asked to create, and I have always been driven to create the best work I can even in a limited timescale, so it is a constant battle for me to be highly creative as well as practical in my approach to my work. One solution I have developed to aid me to achieve my ambitions within my work is for me to start the embroidery separately to the costume on silk crepeline or organza, creating a kind of motif that I can then apply to the costume and work on it further if needs be.

When I start my embroidery I will draw my design onto tracing paper and pin it to the costume or costume toile (prototype) to work out the flow and scale of the design required. The reason I quite often start off on the design on some organza, working separately to the costume, creating a kind of motif that I will then apply to the finished garment, is because the costume is usually still being made and there isn’t time to sample and plan the embroidery to fit to the pattern pieces before the construction of the costume.

The way I approach my embroidery, as I work on it, is as if I were drawing or painting using threads and beads instead of pencil and paint and the design will evolve organically as I work on it.

The reason for me using silk crepeline is that it is very sheer and can be dyed to match the costume, so that when I stitch the embroidered motif onto the garment the base fabric of the silk crepeline becomes almost invisible.

So to answer your question, no I am not scared to work on a finished garment, it doesn’t bother me, it is a necessary part of the process, there is not a right or wrong way to decorate or embroider you just have to find the best solution to each particular situation and for me by creating the initial stages of my embroidery on organza/silk crepeline it means I can be more ambitious with the work that I want to create and have less pressure on myself as I am not holding up the Costume Makers process.


As the Game of Thrones embroiderer, the embroideries on the costumes always seem to tell a story about the character in some way.  How do you come up with the designs we see on the show?

Whether you are working on a Contemporary, Period or Fantasy TV or Film Production a costume is always a fundamental devise to present a character’s personality to an audience. Each costume with its cut, colour, style, and small details, is a very important narrative tool that can express much to a viewer. One of the smaller details of a costume can be that of the embroidery, and my work as an embroiderer entails visualizing and capturing what the Costume Designer on a production wants for a specific characters costume, I myself have to understand what is appropriate in order to reveal and portray each characters personality.

I have always enjoyed incorporating hidden meanings and metaphor within my designs for a character’s costume especially on Game of Thrones. I will place imagery mostly naturalistic such as flowers that I have researched and have found them to add some meaning to the personal narrative and personality of a character that I am working on. For example for Sansa’s Wedding Dress that was featured in Season 3, I embroidered a band that wrapped around the dress and I incorporated pomegranates interweaving and growing throughout the design. The pomegranate has many meanings, a symbol of life and death, and of fertility and marriage.  My use of the pomegranate was to represent a meaning that it was the death of Sansa’s freedom, virginity, and her fertility now was to be devoured like a ripe fruit by her enslavers the Lannisters.

I mostly create embroidered decoration for some of the principal female cast, such as on the dresses for Cersei Lannister, who was an obvious candidate for some decoration, her embroidery could be quite rich and decorative given her status. Regarding showing her personality within her embroidery designs, one of her first costumes I embroidered was her blue bird dress, the embroidery reflected her position at the time when we are introduced to her in Season 1, she is a beautiful woman with a hidden desire for power and wishing to be regarded as an equal in the male dominated world she inhabits. At that stage she lives in the shadow of her husband King Robert Baratheon, who holds power over her and the Kingdom, having this imagery of a bright colorful bird on her costume helps to belie Cersei’s intention of power under a soft unthreatening feminine look.

After Robert’s death Cersei and her family the Lannisters take over power when her son Joffrey becomes the King, at that point Cersei grows in position and strength and starts to reflect this new authority and loyalty to her family by wearing the Lannister Sigil of the Lion on her costumes more predominantly. She presents a stronger more powerful look that has a regal structure and adornment, so the embroidery on her costumes was a useful symbolism to express her personal script narrative, following her status transformation from a weaker woman to a more powerful one.

My process when creating an embroidery design for a costume starts by having a meeting with the Costume Designer Michele Clapton who will have illustrations, moodboards, colours and fabric swatches of the costume that I will be creating a design for. We may discuss a character’s back-story, their traits, their personal narrative within the script and this will all go towards influencing my design.

After my initial conversation with Michele I will then go away and research in relation to the piece I am creating, this usually involves me looking for imagery to inspire me, either by visiting museums, looking through historical costume reference books or just looking on the internet.

For the next stage I will need to start sourcing suitable materials that are suitable for the design and will help to portray the character’s status and personality. I will then start with some sketches of a design, followed by creating samples and then the embroidery will develop and evolve from there.


Your tutorial on the Dragonscale smocking that has been used on Danerys’ costumes throughout the show is very popular with cosplayers.  How did you think of the smocking as a way to represent this character?

It was in Season 3 when I started to be involved in embellishing Dany’s costumes, this was when Michele Clapton wanted me to incorporate a dragonscale like texture into her costume which would grow and become more pronounced as she developed in power and strength.

To create the desired look for these dresses I began by doing some samples experimenting with beads, stitches and smocking, and the North American smocking was chosen as the base for the texture with some lock stitch and mesh wire highlights.


What is your take on cosplayers who try so hard to faithfully recreate garments that you have worked on for the show?

It’s fantastic and it is always a joy to see them in their costumes, showing off their passion and attention to detail. I am always amazed by how much effort they put into all aspects to create the character they want to portray.


Do you ever get sent any cosplay photos from cosplayers who dress up as characters from the show?

Yes I have received many, it is really a joy to see them. When I see their work I am always mindful that I may be witnessing the virginal careers of many future Costume Makers and Costume Designers, so it very encouraging to see the abundance of talent out there, talent who may wish to use their skills further, possibly contributing to the future of the craft of Costume within the Film and Television industry.


It was quite nice to see Sansa embroidering her clothes in Season 6, which was revealed to be a Direwolf sigil.  Did you happen to give any tips for Sophie Turner (the actress) on how to embroider?

No I haven’t, there is no need to, as you know Sansa is an amazing Embroiderer, she was taught by an excellent tutor Septa Mordane, I am so glad she kept up with the noble craft even after the death of Mordane who was killed off in Season 1. I suppose Sansa has had many hours to practice her embroidery over the Seasons when she has been locked away by various nasty people she has stayed with, or married. One thing that amazes me is how she gains access to all her materials for her embroidery when she is stuck in a far-off land, locked away, maybe there is good Online shopping in Westeros, delivered by Raven couriers, well that is what I am guessing.

What kind of formal training did you have in embroidery and stumpwork?  Are there any resources you could give cosplayers to learn these traditional techniques?

I’ve never had any extensive education in embroidery, my skills in sewing were forged at an early age, being taught some basic stitching by my Mother. The first major manifestation of using embroidery as a creative medium was while I studied Fashion Design at college, a lot of the designs I was conceiving there I wanted them to have a sculptural presence, so I started to develop a passion for Stumpwork and in order to get the desired look I invested much time into learning skills to aid me, such as embroidery, millinery and knitting.

After leaving college I worked in Textile Conservation, repairing and restoring historical textiles for private collectors and museums, specializing in hand embroidery, this is where I would say I truly honed my hand needle skills, and apart from learning different techniques and stitches, I absorbed inspiration from all the beautiful historical textiles that passed through my hands.

My advice for Cosplayers are interested in learning skills of embroidery is simply learn by doing, start with something easy, try out different stitches, some are easier and quicker to do. You may find it easier to copy some existing embroidery you like and then progress towards designing your own, you will develop your own style naturally.

Some threads are easier to use than others so experiment, metallics can be tricky and need more patience, you just need to practice, as with anything, and a lot of the accuracy of technique is in the control of the entry and exit points of the needle, you will gradually use most of your fingers on both hands to feel the needle and thread as you work.

There are too many books to list on embroidery but if you have one good basic one that shows you all the stitches this can always be referred to and then if you find a particular style of work you like, then look to specific books on that technique, and there are also lots of Online Video Tutorials out there that can be helpful if you need to see a stitch or technique in practice.

What was your biggest costume challenge on the show?  How did you solve it?

The wonderful aspect of working on a production like Game of Thrones for me is that it has given me the opportunity to experiment and develop my craft, trying new ideas and processes each season. Each design I work on can pose a challenge in some way, either technically or in sourcing the right materials in order to create a suitable piece for a particular character. But the main angst is always will I be able to achieve the design that I have envisioned in the limited time I am allocated, although sometimes this forces you down a new route and you stumble across or develop something that you hadn’t thought of before.

One costume that was quite a challenge was for the character of Myrcella which was featured in Season 5, it was a bias cut chiffon dress with a low cut back. The difficulty was, I was unsure as to how the embroidery that I had created separately on some fine silk crepeline would technically sit on the fabric when I stitched it to the dress, as I had created a fairly heavily beaded embroidery to apply to the costume, and I thought it may drag and cause unsightly puckers. Thankfully it turned out fine, which is just as well as there would have been no time to change it or start again with something different.

Lastly, what’s your favorite costume that you have done on the show so far?

That is a very difficult question to pick just one costume, as with each embroidery that  you work on you are continually developing, experimenting and trying to achieve the elusive vision in your mind, so you never feel you have quite done the best you could.

To mention a few, I do like the collars I created for Catelyn Stark and those for Lisa Arryn with their concentrated areas of rich embellishment using different beads, gemstones and fish scale sequins.

Another favorite is Cersei’s rust red kimono with the lion heads on each arm that have a 3 dimensional quality, as well as Daenerys’ dragonscale textures.

I also loved creating the Qarth beetles, moths and grasshoppers, rather than being just the stitches it was really about finding the right materials to create the creatures.

Maybe on the next season I will have a more defining favourite, but I doubt it. I am never completely happy with something I have just finished and always think how I could have improved it with more time, so I am always driven in the search of perfection in my work.



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Cosplay Conversation: Carrie Stier

Name: Carrie Stier
Location: Scales Mound IL (tiny town of 400 in NW Illinois)
Cosplay Affiliations: Midwesteros Game of Thrones Cosplay Group, Age of Geeks, Legends of the West Cosplay group.
Tell us about your cosplay. What was your inspiration?/why did you choose this character?
Lady Olenna was my first cosplay character. She is a character that is age appropriate for me, her costume is something I felt comfortable in and I can identify with her temperament.
For Night King, I wanted to try something completely different from my “safe” choice of Lady Olenna.
How long did it take to make your Cosplay?
Lady Olenna – My first version was really only some items picked up from the local GoodWill (old prom dress, crinoline to make the skirt full and an appropriate woman’s jacket). I made the hat and the wimple myself from fabric, glue and a sturdy cardboard ovalbox purchased at a craft store. As I continued to find other pieces for the costume, I began to make alterations on already made items I found at Goodwill.
The Night King – This was my first costume that required a lot of sewing. (We will share some instructions that she wrote up on how she made this costume in a later post.)


What was your biggest challenge?
The Nights King required a mix of sewing and crafting skills. A challenge for all costumes is to make it easy to transport, easy to move around in
and get on and off.
What was your budget? Approximately how much did you spend?
Lady Olenna: The original outfit cost under $40. I have since purchased va
rious dresses and coats in different colors (depending on the Queen of Thorns mood) and have made 4
hats/wimples to match.
The Nights King: The material for the leggings/skirt was from an old paint drop cloth so it cost nothing. I probably spent $200 on the top trying out various materials and techniques to get the look I wanted.
What special techniques did you use?
I used grommets and rivets that I had no previous experience with. Getting the foam details to adhere to the under shirt of leather
was a challenge. I finally found a glue specific to leather that worked, but isn’t perfect.
What was the most satisfying about making this Cosplay/What made you proud?
My personal cosplay goal is to repurpose as much as possible and get items as in-expensive as you can (GoodWill/thrift stores). I thought the skirt of the Nights King turned out pretty well considering it was my first time sewing a garment since HS and without a pattern. (I have sewed quilt block, but that is different)
If you had to remake this Cosplay, what would you do differently?
Figure out a different way to make the top part to the Nights King. It was difficult to get on/off and move around in.
About Cosplay in general:
How often do you Cosplay?
Maybe 4 or 5 times a year.
How many cosplays do you do?
5 costumes currently working on 3 more
What do you want to make next?
Just got done making a western themed Calamity Jane costume and working on a Mary Poppins/Yondu mash up.
Favorite cosplay moment?
Being chosen to participate on a panel at C2E2 and getting to go backstage at the C2E2 Grand Championship Cosplay contest.
Favorite fandoms to follow?
While I am a fan of GoT and some other shows, I wouldn’t really say I follow any “fandom”. Too busy crafting that next costume!
What sewing machine do you sew on?
Singer and a Husqvarna Huskylock 910
What materials do you like using?
Eva foam is fun and easy.
What materials do you want to try?
I have worked a bit with Worbla and would like to do more.


What materials do you wish were easier to work with?
Thermoplastic pellets. They are easy to melt but get solid very quickly and it can be a challenge to shape the way you want.
What techniques are you dying to learn?
Ohhh…so many. Painting and shading, making
things with worbla.
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Game of Thrones Special Cosplay Week

Can you feel it in the air? The feeling that something is coming? We can too…


Announcing an entire week dedication to GoT cosplay in anticipation of the premiere of Game of Thrones season 7!  We will be sharing fantastic cosplayers, a pattern roundup, pattern review and a SPECIAL GUEST that we just can’t wait to… well, you will see soon enough!

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Cosplay Conversation: Timothy Harrison of HDC Cosplay and Fabrication

Tell us about yourself:

Name: Tim Harrison of HDC Cosplay and Fabrication.

Location: Chicago, IL.

Instagram: @HDCCosplay

Facebook: HDC Cosplay

About this specific Cosplay:

Tell us about your cosplay. What was your inspiration?/why did you choose this character?

This costume is based off a Smuggler from the Star Wars: The Old Republic video game.  I chose to do this because I love the smuggler/bounty hunter aesthetic from the Old Republic era and it was a relatively quick costume to throw together having a lot of the items in the closet already. I also have been working on a Han Solo but that wasn’t ready for Star Wars Day so I decided to put a generic smuggler together.

How long did it take to make your Cosplay?

This didn’t take too long to put together because it was primarily a closet cosplay. The things that took the most time were the belt and the blasters. Both items are modified Han Solo prototypes I’ve been working on for a Rebel Legion certified Han.

What was your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge with this was getting clean casts for the guns. This was my most extensive mold and cast project to date. There was a little bit of a learning curve with this two part mold, but it gave me the opportunity to not only learn, but also make some custom dl-44’s.


What was your budget? Approximately how much did you spend?

Not too much was spent on this with it being a closet cosplay. Also, a lot of the work was prep work for commissions so it was a lot of prep work for a few builds. With resin and leather and a few other miscellaneous items, a couple hundred was probably spent on this.

What special techniques did you use?

There was a bit of sculpting, mold work and resin casting, painting, leather work, and some minor metal work involved in this costume.

What was the most satisfying about making this Cosplay/What made you proud?

The most satisfying part of this was the belt and the custom dl-44, I think. I felt like one of the classic star wars prop makers just finding items to add to the blaster to make it stand out. They took a lot of random items and added them to things to give the props that classic look. It was interesting to do the same.

If you had to remake this Cosplay, what would you do differently?

I didn’t have time to repaint the goggles and make a new strap for them. I’d also like to do a different a different hat and a more detailed vest. With the time it came together though, I’m happy with the results.

About Cosplay in general:

How often do you Cosplay? 

Depending on the events going on, probably once a month or more you’ll find me in costume somewhere.

How many cosplay do you do?

I do quite a few and the list keeps on getting larger.

What do you want to make next?

I think I want to work on finish my Rebel Legion approved Han next. Then my screen accurate Torbjorn form Overwatch for competition season next year. My Fallout garb needs a revamp too.   It’s tough to make a decision 😊

Favorite cosplay moment? 

My favorite moment so far is when I did my original take on the Final Fantasy Black Mage and wandering around the con and seeing big Final Fantasy fans light up with excitement when this classic character that they love and grew up with comes around the corner. It’s the moments of being able to bring these classic characters to life and the fans sharing your excitement. Those moments are what makes the work worth it for me.

Favorite fandoms to follow?

My favorite fandoms right now are probably Fallout and Overwatch, Star Wars as well. Star Wars is a long-time love but the thought and backstory that Bethesda and Blizzard put in to their franchises makes prop making and costuming from those respective universes all the more enjoyable.

What materials do you like using?

I love working with closed cell foam. Foam is just so cheap to work with and versatile. I also love electronics. Adding practical effects to props always adds so much, be it leds, electroluminescence, smoke, sound effects, it’s that extra little step to bring the character to life.

What materials do you want to try?

I want to play with Sintra and also Vacuum forming. Lots of different things out there but I think those would be my next two choices.

What materials do you wish were easier to work with?

Easier to work with.. hmmm… Some other the more extensive sealants/coats for foam and prop finishing can be a bit of a pain. Smooth-On Epsilon provides a great finish to work with but with larger props, you’re fighting pot life to get a nice coat on the prop and then if there isn’t enough, you need to mix up more and then keep on coating.

What techniques are you dying to learn?

I would like to do more 3d modeling and cold casting. More cold casting to get that nice metallic look without having the weight or trouble of working with actual metals.


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Cosplay Conversation: Lisa Hale of Haelstorm Cosplay and Designs

Name: Haelstorm Cosplay and Designs

Location: Chicago (NW Suburbs)

Facebook: haelstormdesigns

Instagram: haelstorm_designs

Twitter: @haelstorm dzynz

Cosplay Affiliations: We Are Cosplay; Costumers with a Cause Midwest; Rebel Legion

Tell us about your cosplay. What was your inspiration?/why did you choose this character?
I chose Padmè Amidala because for the longest time—ever since the Star Wars prequels came out—I’ve wanted to make her costumes. It all started with the desire to make the very first costume she appears in: her red Theed Invasion gown. In 2005, my sister gave me a book entitled: “Dressing the Galaxy: the costumes of Star Wars,” by Trisha Biggar. At that time, I was in my Senior year in college, studying Fashion Design. But, I wasn’t nearly as skilled in costume construction as I am now. So, this costume got put on the back burner.
Fast forward 8 years later, and I finally tackled the red Theed Invasion gown for C2E2’s inaugural Crown Championships of Cosplay competition in 2014. Ultimately, I won 1st place in my category (TV/Movie) and 3rd place overall. It wasn’t until December 2015 that I joined the Rebel Legion with this particular costume. Fast forward 2 years later, and I decide to tackle Queen Amidala’s senate gown. I loved this particular costume because it proved to be more challenging, detailed, and involved more techniques  than the Theed Invasion gown. So much hand-beading!

How long did it take to make your Cosplay?
The senate gown took over 300 hours to complete, over a 4 month period

What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge I faced was the actual design of the bead work. There weren’t many hi-res reference photos available. And most of the bead work is covered by the outer robe. I did find at least one behind the scenes photo of model wearing just the dress for the FIDM fashion show in New York and was able to see (somewhat) the general pattern for the bead work. Some of the bead work I had to come up with a design that made sense and fit with the rest of the established bead work design.

What was your budget? Approximately how much did you spend?
I am on a tight budget in general, so I try not to spend too much on my costumes, if possible. I think it cost almost $250 for all the materials.

What special techniques did you use?

Hand beading and hand pleating for the tunic and skirt.

Ruching, braiding, hand beading, hand painting, free-form quilting for the outer robe.

Embossing, hand painting, hand sculpting/molding/casting for the headdress.
I also had to use out-of-the-box type thinking on certain aspects of the costume. The hanging tubes are wrapping paper tubes cut in half. And I used simple circular and rectangular shapes to make the outer robe.

What was the most satisfying about making this Cosplay/What made you proud?
The fact that I actual had the ability to make the costume makes me proud!
Also, I am rather proud how close to accurate I was able to get with the fabrics and materials.  It’s all in the sourcing of your materials.

If you had to remake this Cosplay, what would you do differently?

I’d try to find a way to make the headdress lighter and more balanced. That’s the only thing that bugs me about this costume. And I’d probably go back and put some tulle fabric over the bead work to keep it from snagging. I get caught on myself quite a bit. LOL!

About Cosplay in general:

How often do you Cosplay? 
I usually try to cosplay as much as possible. I attend about 7-8 conventions a year; some smaller ones in between. I also attend charitable events and movie premiers with a few of the  charitable cosplay groups  I’m involved with (We Are Cosplay and Costumers with a Cause Midwest). And I also try to troop with the Rebel Legion when I can. Mostly for Star Wars Day at Joliet Library.

Sometimes, my sister and I find events to cosplay at. We recently cosplayed as Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) at a Cubs game. The first Friday of June we went to Aurora dressed as Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar (Wayne’s World) to celebrate the year-long 25th Anniversary of “Wayne’s World.” Back in February, we dressed as Wayne and Garth for a special showing of “Wayne’s World” and got to meet Tia Carerre, who portrayed Cassandra in “Wayne’s World.” We’ll be dressed as Wayne and Garth for Aurora’s 4th of July Parade. A group of friends and I will also be cosplaying characters from “Jurassic Park” when we go to visit the Field Museum’s new Jurassic World exhibit.
How many cosplay do you do?
I usually do at least 2 cosplays from scratch (mostly for competitions). All other cosplays I do are pulled together from my own closet or found at thrift stores.

What do you want to make next?

I’m currently working on is Ankh-su-Namun from “The Mummy Returns.” Her 1930s reincarnated ensemble, not the gold body paint costume (yikes!). I hope to wear it when I go with a group of friends to see the new Mummy movie that’s coming out June 9th.
I also want eventually do a few more Padmè costumes and a couple of costumes to join the 501st Legion.

Favorite cosplay moment?
Gosh! There are so many!
One time, my sister and I were dressed as 2 versions of Effie Trinket from “The Hunger Games” and I believe it was at San Diego Comic Con. Several memorable moments happened in these costumes. First, we stopped by the Lionsgate booth and wanted to do a photo op really quick with the Capital backdrop.  Before I knew what happened, we literally became a part of the booth; so many people just bombarded the booth, taking our picture.
After that, we were just walking around and saw Ve Neil—who did the makeup design for “The Hunger Games”. We scrounged up the courage and asked if we could take a picture with her. When she saw us, she exclaimed, “Oh, my Effies!”

I also had several moments involving the Power Rangers. One moment happened while I was backstage, competing in a Prop competition in LA last year. I had made a Rita Repulsa staff. Some girl in the competition says to me, “You know the original Rita Repulsa is here, right?” I actually was not aware of that. The actress wasn’t even listed as a guest. So, after the competition, I walked around to the celebrity signing area–specifically near the Power Ranger actors that were there–thinking she might be somewhere near them. Lo and behold, there she was! At a table that my sister and I walked past at least five times! So, I go up to her table and we end up talking for about 20 minutes. And she even signed my staff. She told me that she had never seen someone make the staff before, and that this was the first time she had signed one. Talk about a childhood dream come true!
This past year, I finally made a Rita Repulsa costume. It was really fun being mean to people. They loved it! But what really was the best moment as Rita Repulsa was when I did a photo op with the Blue Ranger and Black Ranger in my Rita costume. My sister was dressed as Scorpina. When it was our turn to take a photo with the Power Rangers, they immediately began to pretend to cower in fear and exclaim, “Oh no! It’s Rita.” To which I replied, “Well, if it isn’t the Power geeks!”

Favorite fandoms to follow?
Doctor Who



DC (Wonder Woman)

Star Wars

Star Trek

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

What materials do you like using?

Mostly fabrics (any kind)

Foam for armor and props


Worbla and wonderflex

What materials do you want to try?

I have such a wide range of knowledge on materials. But I really want to try my hand at metal smithing, someday. Forging my own metal. That’d be cool.

What materials do you wish were easier to work with?

I can’t really think of anything.

What techniques are you dying to learn?

Leather tooling. I have been wanting to do this technique for so long.

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Announcing Sew Much Cosplay™


New Partnership Brings Cosplay to Sewing Stores Nationwide

Cheryl Sleboda and Tracy Mooney build a new sewing brand


Plainfield, IL: Senior editor of GenQ Magazine, Tracy Mooney and art quilter Cheryl Sleboda have partnered to create their new brand, Sew Much Cosplay™. The two will bring their sizeable sewing prowess to a new audience – cosplayers. Their new website,, will feature tutorials, products, book reviews and more. In addition Tracy and Cheryl have plans to educate stores about attracting this underserved buyer.


“I have been saying that this is the future of sewing for a long time. I love Cosplay and I can’t wait to bring cosplayers the products and techniques that will make their costumes better,” says Cheryl Sleboda. In recreating “screen perfect” costumes, young people today have been reinventing the wheel when it comes to the products they use to create their costumes. Currently, after spending upward of 200 hours and anywhere from $200-$2000 on one costume, the finished product may only be useable for the short term. “I think that there is not only a lot of room for improvement in the products that are currently on the market that they have been using, there is a lot of room between the armor making and the sewn costumes. There is so much room for improvement in stabilizers and interfacings that would be more realistic to what they see on the screen,” says Tracy Mooney.


Cosplay is a portmanteau of “costume” and “play” and Cosplayers like to dress up as their favorite characters from TV, movies, cartoons, comic books and more.

  • Considered “superfans” in the Pop Culture Industry, they are 64% Female.
  • Cosplayers have been identified as the top spenders at conventions.
  • They are young, 49% are 18-29!
  • Nearly 60% describe themselves as super-fans, and a whopping 28% have been to five or more fan events in the past 12 months.


About Tracy Mooney: In her work as Senior Editor for Generation Q Magazine, veteran quilter Tracy Mooney designs projects and writes patterns for WeSew2, a feature in Generation Q that teaches kids ages 7-16 how to sew and quilt. She has also been instrumental in creating GenQ’s Cut & Sew Club, a curriculum-based program giving dealers and quilt shops the tools needed to create successful kids sewing classes. She is a correspondent for “The Quilt Show”, teaches kids sewing classes in Illinois and teaches in-the-hoop embroidery classes for Pickle Pie Designs around the country. Tracy also blogs and lectures through her brand, Sew Supportive, about strategies, tools and equipment to help people with arthritis, autoimmune disease and other health challenges continue sewing and enjoying the many health benefits sewing and quilting provide. Tracy has been quilting and sewing for nearly 25 years, is the mother of 3 children and has created their costumes for cosplay, renaissance fair, Halloween, steampunk accessories and “nerdy” clothing hacks for her kids.


About Cheryl Sleboda: Cheryl is a 20-year veteran executive of the pop culture and comic book industry and been sewing for over 25 years. Trained in theatre costuming, she is an award winning art quilter who teaches and speaks nationally. Cheryl has worked with national sewing brands about the Cosplay market and has appeared on It’s Sew Easy TV in 6 episodes demonstrating projects for Cosplay.  Cheryl has a line of heirloom sewing tools and patterns as part of her efforts to make heirloom sewing “cool” again.  Cheryl also has a line of hip sewing “skull” brand merchandise that appeals to the “rock n roll” quilter and sewist in all of us.  She can be found online at







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RNK And Sew Much Cosplay™ To Partner



RNK and Sew Much Cosplay™ to Partner

New Products Coming for Underserved Cosplay Market

Plainfield, IL: Sew Much Cosplay™, owned by Tracy Mooney and Cheryl Sleboda, is partnering with RNK Distributing to create a new line of products specifically for Cosplayers. Their new website,, will feature tutorials and products that are custom made for this market. This collaboration will debut at Spring Quilt Market in St. Louis May 19-21, 2017.

During the 2017 VDTA in February, attendees heard Ricky Brooks of RNK Distributing say repeatedly that the Home Sewing Industry MUST give birth to a new younger generation of crafters. After attending C2E2, a comic book convention held in Chicago, Ricky and his wife and business partner Kay Brooks witnessed over 100,000 attendees that are passionate about creating Cosplay costumes. “I believe anyone talking the talk, should walk the walk,” says Ricky Brooks of RNK Distributing.  “This new thing, idea, concept, entertainment called cosplay has captured the newer, younger demographic we have been looking for. Whether it’s a love of comics, movies, or video games (and more!), this passion is driving them to the sewing machine to bring their favorite characters and styles to life!”

By partnering with Sew Much Cosplay™, RNK is hoping to bring new and better products to this underserved sewing market. “I think that there is not only a lot of room for improvement in the products that are currently on the market that Cosplayers have been using, there is so much room for improvement in stabilizers and interfacings that would be more realistic to what cosplayers see on the screen,” says Tracy Mooney of Sew Much Cosplay™.

Cosplay is a portmanteau of “costume” and “play” and Cosplayers like to dress up as their favorite characters from TV, movies, cartoons, comic books and more.

  • Considered “superfans” in the Pop Culture Industry, they are 64% Female.
  • Cosplayers have been identified as the top spenders at conventions.
  • They are young, 49% are 18-29!
  • Nearly 60% describe themselves as super-fans, and a whopping 28% have been to five or more fan events in the past 12 months.

About Sew Much Cosplay™: Cheryl Sleboda and Tracy Mooney created Sew Much Cosplay™ to bring better products and education to the sewists of today, as well as to educate stores about this new group of sewists that are looking to learn more about the art of making cosplay.

About RNK Distributing: RNK Distributing is a manufacturer and distributor of high quality specialty Sewing, Quilting, and Embroidery Supplies for both the Commercial Embroidery and Home Crafting Industries including stabilizers, software, needles, thread and tools. Their brands include Floriani, Jenny Haskins, Quilters Select and Sew Much Cosplay™.

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