What got you into sewing?
I got started really early. My parents both sew, and they always made amazing Halloween costumes for us. One year I was a firefly and thumped around the neighborhood with a flashlight in my purple taffeta tail. As my sister and I got older we helped out, and eventually we made stuff ourselves. We always had fabric and thread and notions stashed in the basement, and when I was bored during summer breaks I'd usually go make something—costumes or clothes or weird unwearable experiments. Also, I was a competitive gymnast for almost ten years, so I learned to sew with spandex to make my own leotards. I made my own prom dress too, with some help from my grandma, who taught me the niceties like how to adjust the fit and clean finish seams. And then there were friends’ parents who taught me hand sewing and beadwork and so forth. I was lucky enough to have teachers pretty much everywhere I looked.
When I graduated college, I had a summer free before I started my master’s program and decided to spend it on some higher level sewing classes. That was when I got really serious about it. I did a series of patternmaking workshops and spent the next several years collecting reference books and practicing on my own. Eventually the continual search for new challenges led me to the cosplay community and bigger, more detailed costume projects.
Why focus on teaching people to make cosplay outfits?
Well, to start with I’m a big nerd. I grew up on science fiction, fantasy, anime, comics, video games, you name it. And even though going to conventions wasn’t a thing that was on my radar as a kid, I would mostly choose characters from those media for Halloween costumes. One of the first costumes I made on my own was Aerith from FF7. (I even had friends going as Tifa and Yuffie, it was a whole thing). So, it’s a very personal interest.
I also felt like there was a need for it. If you look at most beginning sewing books, they’ll start out by telling you how to make a cotton dress, or a pillow or something, and many won’t deal with stretch materials at all. So, what are you supposed to do if you’ve never sewn before, but you really want to make a superhero outfit? I felt like there should be a book that would incorporate spandex right from the beginning and cover all the other odd stuff you need for cosplay like embellishment techniques, pattern alterations, project planning, working with weird fabrics. So, I went ahead and wrote one! I really hope people find it useful.
What has your favorite project from this book been?
I think my favorite outfit was the Superhero 2 suit, which is the one in the middle on the cover. I really like that design because it uses a slightly unusual trick to make the seams as unobtrusive as possible, which gives you a big, clean canvas to decorate. And I also really like how the reverse appliqué detailing on that sample came out, because it was a labor-intensive project with a ton of basting and hours of stitching and trimming but it ended up looking just like I’d imagined it, so it was all worth it. Plus, it ended up looking really cool on the model, he totally rocked that one.
Has there been anything you’ve learned from putting this book together?
No matter how long you think something’s going to take, it’s actually going to take longer. This applied across the board, but especially to the sample-making and illustration. And it’s really a thing that applies to cosplay in general! If you need your costume to be done in time for a specific convention, double your initial time estimate and then add a bit more for good measure. (And then if you’re me, you still end up sewing on trim in your hotel room the night before because you spent that time remaking the hood that turned out too large or whatever.)
What are some tips can you give someone who has never sewed before but are interested in starting?
Be realistic about your first project but choose something you love. I firmly believe that anyone can learn to sew, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of practice, and if you’re not in love with your first project it’s going to be really hard to power through. Be prepared for some trial and error, and don’t hesitate to make a mock-up in cheap fabric before you cut into the nice expensive stuff. You might need to adjust the fit or proportions or something, and you don’t want to have to go get more. Also, take the time to try out techniques and stitches on a scrap of fabric first, because it’ll give you more confidence and save you some seam ripping when you go on to the real thing.
When and where can we find your book?
The Hero’s Closet is out on April 18th, and you should be able to find it in any bookstore with a decent craft section! You can also pre-order it at your local bookstore or online (Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, etc.) which lets the store know that people are interested in the book, so you get bonus points. Thank you so much!