How to Make Armour (Sort Of)

Taylor and I decided a while ago that we would go to a local comic con. She had been to a couple before, one time not dressing up at all, another time half-heartedly attempting it. We talked about doing the whole cosplay thing and decided that we’d have a go at it.

We didn’t want to spend a load of money – nor did we want to buy something already made up by someone else. Most of the point was trying to make something half decent for ourselves.

We bandied about a few ideas and spent a drunken night or two trying to decide who to be. The problem is, Taylor and I look almost identical. There were few related people we could think of that we liked, would want to dress as, and could be told apart as. In the end, we gave up on that plan and decided to go as our Dungeons and Dragons characters, who are sisters anyway, so it would be realistic! Mostly we just wanted to make armour.

We asked a family friend who’s both good at this sewing lark and incredibly knowledgeable about lots of stuff. She pointed us in the direction of a relatively cheap fabric shop. We bought some leatherette. It arrived. We smelled it a bit (it didn’t smell good) and unrolled it and rolled it up again. Eventually, time started to run out so by necessity we got brave.

Making the Armour

We were agreed on one thing, and one thing only. We didn’t want what we have dubbed ‘booby armour.’ This is in reference to the fantasy trope of having women with busty armour. It’s not that we particularly mind boob armour (mostly we find it hilarious) but we didn’t want to be running the risk of indecent exposure, and didn’t really trust our sewing skills. So our initial research centred around how to make a bodice that wouldn’t leave us hanging out.

After perusing pinterest for some time, and googling ‘female armour’ (which mostly got us boob armour…) we finally settled on a sort of interlocking weave design.

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I have the sort of brain that can picture things pretty easily – I’m good at visualising solutions to problems, not so good at actually putting them into action. Fortunately, the whole interlocking idea was pretty easy to sew.

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The strips of leather were alternating in colour, and attached at each end to another leatherette strip, folded in half for extra strength, that we then punched eyelets in, so we could tie them together with string.

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Our step-dad, ever the sort of bloke with a zillion random things in his shed, had an eyelet kit for his ‘tarpaulin repair kit.’ I don’t even know, but it was pretty useful. Mr T got handy with a hammer and punched the holes in.

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We didn’t have anything to tie them with apart from scoobies at first, but it gave us the idea! Because the bodice tied up on both sides, we were able to get some flexibility in terms of fitting, so we didn’t have to worry so much about getting it perfect. We sewed on some shoulder pads to hold it all together, as they would just pull apart (the interlocking design didn’t tie it together!) if you picked them up wrong. The shoulder pads also made it easier to get in the right place.

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Next came the skirt, which we made separately. The idea was to have a belt that tied much the same as the sides of the bodice. Onto that, we would sew two panels for the sides. In the gaps, we’d put another two strips (in a different colour) to protect our dignity. We did it this way, as we figured it would be easier to move about, and again, we’d have less chance of making them too small or big. Hanging everything from the belt meant we had one pretty straightforward dimension to work from.

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Taylor is much more curvy than me though, and she had a bit of a wider gap with her belt because of this. Not that it mattered, it just made our armour a little bit unique. We had some fun cutting the panels – initially cutting two the same, rather than two that were opposite to each other, and therefore would match when put on opposite sides of the belt. But we got there between us and had enough spare leatherette to make some mistakes.

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The central pieces we cut according to the size of the gap – the ones at the front of our armour were bigger than the ones at the back. We cut them to a triangular shape at the bottom (not the tail Taylor looks like she has in the picture) to make them look a little decorative.

Then we cut another two thinner strips – one black one brown – for the belt and sewed it all together. It took AGES. But we got there eventually. The trickiest part was sewing on the front black strip. The idea was that it would be attached on one side, then buttoned up on the other when you put the armour on. The black would then be a backdrop for the string we used to tie the armour. Remembering not to sew it completely to the belt was tricky, and a bit scary. We’d got far enough that we really didn’t want to mess up. Then it was just a case of punch in a few more eyelets, sew on a button and make a button hole, and we were done.

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Next we had to decide what to wear underneath. We’d decided leggings, an old-fashioned looking shit (I’m wearing my step-dad’s shirt, hence the enormousness of the thing. He’s over six foot tall.) with a black tank top on top to disguise the gaps in our bodice a little better.

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Taylor managed to find some leather string that we used to tie our bodice and belt. It all fit well, and I didn’t feel in too much danger of having a wardrobe malfunction!

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Here we are outside comic con about to head inside. The armour held up well on the day, though it was very sweaty. Taylor lost one eyelet (when we ran out of the massive ones our stepdad bought, we used some bought in the shop and they were a bit rubbish) but apart from that there wasn’t any damage. It’s now hanging up in Mum’s garage ready for next year.

Not bad for two girls who hadn’t picked up a needle before!

Cover Lust #32 – Embassytown

Cover Lust #32 – Embassytown by China Mieville

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I’m picking on Embassytown because I happen to be reading it at the moment, but in truth, this entire series of covers is just gorgeous. I love the way they are rustic and paintsplattery (why, yes, that is a word) and how the stark white line divides the image into two connected but entirely different halves. They’re really, really striking – even more so all together.

With Embassytown, it works doubly well, because it’s an accurate representation of the two sides of the titular town. The part inhabited by ‘humans’ and the part belonging to the Ariekei. I don’t know enough about Mieville’s work (Embassytown is the first I’ve read) to know if this idea of duality, of things having two contrasting sides, is a common theme in his work, but the imagery of this series of covers would suggest it is.

I’m really enjoying the book, though it’s very strange – full of big ideas and concepts. I don’t envy the artist with the job of summing all that lot up in a cover, but think whoever did the designs did an incredible job. They are suggestive without being overt, and that works well – you’ll just have to discover the world and the story for yourself.

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What covers are you lusting after this week?

October Reading List

It looks like a bit of a thin month this month – and it is in terms of books finished. I’ve been slowly plodding through all the books that I’m halfway through reading. Slowly. But I am several chapters further forwards in each than I was this time last month. So progress has been made, though my desk is no tidier as I haven’t actually finished any of them yet…

Anyhoo, this month I have read:

Found by Harlan Coben

Review here.

Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

Review here.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Review here.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Review to follow on October 16th!

 

October Reading List

No review books at time of writing (le gasp! that almost never happens. But after having about 20 in August, I’m kind of glad for the break!) so I’m going to put on everything I haven’t finished and some others – time for a big catch up :)

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (nearly halfway through this one)

The Bone Palace by Amanda Downum (this is my handbag book and so will get read before the week is out with some luck!)

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks (Far too big to be a handbag book, which I think is why I keep neglecting to pick it back up…)

For a Few Demons More by Kim Harrison (can’t even remember when I started reading this)

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (another book that’s far too large to be a handbag book)

If I can read all that, I will have more space than I know what to do with on my desk…

Audiobooks:

Embassy Town by China Mieville (Which I’m also about halfway through now – would have finished this month if I hadn’t had to listen to all my podcasts to make room for iOS8 lol)

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen (possibly)

5 People You See at Comic Con

So Taylor, Mr T and I went to a local Comic Con yesterday. It was the first time the event had been run, and though I feel the organisers have a lot to learn from it, it was a wonderful event and we had a really great time.

Ahead of some proper coverage of the event, here are 5 types of people you see at Comic Con.

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1. The Try-Hard Cosplayers

Don’t get me wrong, these guys look amazing. They put the rest of us amateurs to shame. They spend the entirety of their time at the event taking photos with other people who look at their outfits and can’t help but admire the beauty.

I’m not even sure who this guy is – I think he’s someone from a video game – but his armour made Taylor and I salivate. If it was homemade he must be semi-professional, or know some semi-professionals, because it was just gorgeous.

P11402582. The Guys in Outfits that Look a Bit Sweaty

There were several people in outfits that, while undoubtably fabulous, were not well thought out. The venue was warm – very, very warm. Taylor and I were sweating pretty badly with just a couple of layers of leatherette on. These guys with their face masks and full body outfits must have been sweltering. I’m surprised they weren’t passing out all over the place.

3P1140259. The Guys With Epic Homemade Outfits

These two had made their costumes completely from scratch, and you could tell. Which is not to say that they didn’t look incredible, because they did. They looked all the more incredible because you could see the effort and the love that had gone into it. And they were really good sports too, posing with us like their characters.

P11402604. That One Guy With The Really Obscure (But Awesome) Outfit

Bad photo because I only saw this one when he (or she) went up on stage for the Cosplay Competition. I knew they wouldn’t win, but I wanted them to – talk about original, and hilarious. If you know what it’s referencing, which, despite the popularity of Welcome to Night Vale, it was clear most people in the room didn’t.

P11402635. Anime Cosplayers/That One Guy With The Outfit They REALLY Didn’t Think Through

Not necessarily always grouped, but they were in this guy. I have no idea who he was (I think it was a he, anyway, again it was from a distance, and this photo is terrible because of that) because I’m not much of an Anime fan, but he spent the entire day wearing that… gourd, thing on his back. The place was extremely crowded, and it was difficult to get around just carrying your shopping bags. I can’t even imagine what it was like trying to navigate while carrying that!

Character Development Case Study #2 – Shaun Mason

Character Development Case Study #2 – Shaun Mason (Newsflesh trilogy by Mira Grant)

(There will be Spoilers!)

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Character Background

Shaun Mason, adopted sibling of Georgia Mason, is an Irwin – a journalist whose purpose in life is to poke dangerous things with sticks. Specifically, Zombies. Together with his sister, he forms a core part of a news business that provides the largely housebound populace with insights into the outside world, though news articles, fiction stories and Shaun’s Irwin antics.

Motivations

Interestingly, Shaun starts in the first book of the trilogy as a fairly passive character. He likes to poke things with sticks, that’s sort of his highest calling. It’s Georgia who has the drive and wants the success and Shaun is happy to follow on behind her.

So, when (SPOILER) she dies at the end of the first book, Shaun suddenly has to start finding his own way. His motivation becomes muddled. He wants revenge, but he’s also pretty sure he’s going crazy. He’s still largely directed by other people, but he’s a loose cannon – reckless and not completely in control of his own actions. His grief and naturally reckless nature combine to make him a dangerous character for everyone he encounters.

But ultimately, his recklessness leads to an important discovery – one that could have been the end of him, but instead provides a potential solution to the world’s zombie problem. By the end of the series he’s motivated by the thing that will give him his happy ending – which is the truth about this discovery coming out.

Development

Shaun’s story is very much about him learning to think for himself. Without his sister to tell him what to do (okay, so he still hears her voice in his head, which means she is kind of telling him what to do) he lacks direction.

But, as the situations he ends up in demand, he is forced to become more of a thinker and to plan rather than just act. His ability to lead becomes stronger, and with that comes the difficulty of responsibility – made harder by the vulnerable state of the world. When everyone can turn into a zombie at any time, it can be hard to make decisions about keeping people safe!

By the end of the trilogy, Shaun has really been through the wringer. The loss of his sister, the subsequent madness he endures, the way he has to step up and become a leader and a fighter to expose the truth – his is a journey that takes him to many dark places, but ultimately leads to a happy ending. By the time you’ve finished riding the roller coaster with him, you definitely feel he’s earned it!

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Station Eleven proofTitle: Station Eleven

Author: Emily St John Mandel

Series: N/a

Genre: Post Apocalyptic Literary

Summary (from Goodreads)

DAY ONE

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO

Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY

A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Reviews

By all rights, I shouldn’t have enjoyed this book. Okay, Post Apocalyptia, killer flus, survival, post-human civilisation – I’m all over that – but Station Eleven has a much more literary sensibility than its subject matter would suggest.

There weren’t even any explosions.

Hopping through time either side of Day One – the day Arthur Leander dies, but also the day the Georgia Flu takes hold of America and Canada – this book is much more about art, celebrity and relationships than it is about the trappings of Post Apocalyptic life.

The transition from glitzy Hollywood to St Deborah by the Water, post apocalyptic town in the sway of a ‘Prophet’, should be jarring. But there’s something very gentle about the way Mandel writes – it’s a bit like the tiny waves on a beach washing over your feet, soft and pleasant, and you don’t think that much about it, except you want it to keep happening.

Then, before you know it, you’re sucked in. As the seemingly disparate threads of the characters lives start to connect, you start to see the tapestry of the story for what it is – a beautiful interconnected picture of the senselessness of life at large, and how humanity creates meaning through art and love. How those things, when done right are a force for good, but also how easily they can be corrupted.

I confess, I guessed the identity of the Prophet based on the law of novels, films and TV shows – every character is Someone. And there were only so many Someones that the Prophet could be. But then the interest became ‘well how did that happen’ and the explanation wasn’t disappointing. As conflict and tension went, this was really the only biggy in the story, beyond the tension of the flu outbreak. But due to the time-hopping nature of the story, you know who survives and who doesn’t pretty much straight away, and there isn’t much time spent on the ‘how did we get from a to b’ parts of the flu survival story for most of the characters.

There’s plenty of imagery of the horror of the flu and the days immediately after Day One. Jeevan’s desperate rush through the supermarket to buy twenty-odd trolleys of stuff for him and his brother is rendered utterly heartbreaking later on when the supplies run out and they realise that there’s no way they can go on surviving together. The plane at The Museum of Civilisation that stands locked up and separated from the rest of the airport after someone aboard made the brave decision to trap the contagion they carried inside it. The tattoos of knives on the wrists of travellers that represent the number of people they’ve killed.

But there’s also a thread of hope. The joy of art and performance. The chance of meeting someone who makes life worthwhile. An inventor powering a laptop with a bicycle.

I wouldn’t describe Station Eleven as a story, more a study of the characters within it. Those who live on, those who are doomed to lose their lives in the flu – they each have something to say or demonstrate about life and the art of living. And it’s probably an incredibly accurate representation of how, in our global society, disparate lives can be so utterly interconnected.

So, a departure from my usual reading style, but one I’ve enjoyed enormously. Clever, observant and something I think will stick with me for a long time.

Rating: 5/5

Weekly Round Up #8

Weekly Round Up #8 (15/09 – 21/09)

This week has been a lot about saying goodbye to Taylor. She’s off to Uni again. Not for long – she’s back again next week for Comic Con – but she’s embarking on her final year of her degree.

They grow up so fast.

So, we had a celebratory dinner at Mum’s. It was, by Mum’s estimation, a disaster. Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it. We had homemade pizza and curly fries, followed by a fruit crumble. Delicious.

On Friday night, the Boyfriend’s grandfather was down from the North, so we went out for a meal at a local pub called The Sheet Anchor. The food was very overpriced for the quality, and they were seriously tight on the custard with my treacle sponge, but the atmosphere was lovely, and it was nice to spend some time with his family. Even though he’s in a right stressy mood at the moment, for reasons no one can quite divine, including himself, I think.

The outfits for Comic Con are finished. We had a dress rehearsal and didn’t flash our underwear to anyone. We don’t have any weapons – the plan was to make swords and stuff, but the armour took rather more time than we intended. I might knock something together next week, but I don’t want to have really good looking armour and a naff cardboard sword… So it might be a case of pretending we have weapons.

On Sunday the Boyfriend raised some money for a local church by participating in a Silly Vicar run. I was going to do it but had the worst stomach pain ever and decided it probably wasn’t the best idea. Disappointing, but these things happen. You have to listen to your body sometimes.

Lots of exciting things coming up. I’m looking forwards to Comic Con next weekend, and autumn is just around the corner. Which means pretty leaves, Hallowe’en and The Walking Dead.

Everything a girl needs!