Machine-embroidered embossed appliqués tutorial

The best thing about making costumes is discovering new techniques! The other day, I stumbled upon a tutorial from Urban Threads about using craft foam to add texture and depth to machine-embroidered designs. The tutorial (that you can find here) was for a specific embroidery design, but it did made me curious about the possibilities of using craft foam for embroidery. I asked myself: where else could I use craft foam in combination with machine embroidery? Craft foam is easy to sew, all cosplayers know that.

When I started planning my new Élise de la Serre cosplay, I knew one thing for sure: I didn’t want to make the red sash plates with Worbla like for all the other ones I made. While they don’t end up being that heavy, they do have a tendency to hit each other when you walk, incurring damage over time. I wanted a sash that would be more durable, less prone to damage and lighter. And then I thought: why not embroider the design at the end of the sash instead? I haven’t seen many cosplayers using embroidery for the sash, so that would make me stand out a little 😉 I first found an embroidered frame appliqué I liked, and combined with the Templar cross embroidery file I already had, I was good to go!

The first sash plates I made were with embossed metal sheets, and I really loved the embossed effect, on top of the plates being very light. Unfortunately, the metal plates were too pliable and I eventually removed them altogether. Today, I had a brain wave: how about using craft foam in combination with my appliqué contrast fabric, in order to add some depth to the design and mimic the embossed metal? BINGO!

I do not pretend to hold the truth and nothing but the truth about the technique I’ll explain below, but here’s how I made my new sash:

1. Choose your appliqué design(s) for your machine, and gather your contrast fabric, your main fabric, your craft foam (I used 1mm because that’s what I had at hand, but the thicker, the bigger the embossed effect!), your embroidery thread(s). Also, do not skip on a super important tool: temporary adhesive spray. I cannot embroider without it anymore!

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2. (You can skip the references to centering in this step if your machine is always perfectly centered, but mine isn’t.) Mark your center. Spray adhesive to your stabilizer, and place the fabric on top of it. Press to have the layers nicely flat. Then, hoop your fabric + stabilizer, and attach your hoop to your machine. Since my machine isn’t precise, I first double-check the centering of my needle vs my hoop before anything else!

3. Spray adhesive to the back of your craft foam, and place the foam on top of your fabric. No need to attach the foam, the adhesive will hold it in place. Repeat the process for your contrast appliqué fabric, and then press well both layers on top of your hooped fabric + stabilizer.

4. Start your appliqué design in your embroidery software. In my case, my machine does a large oval with a straight stitch.

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5. Detach the hoop from your machine. DO NOT UN-HOOP YOUR FABRIC! With scissors, carefully cut away the foam and the contrast fabric as close as you can from the stitching. Tip: I usually I cut off most of the excess with big scissors, then cut off close to the stitching with a pair of scissors that are sharp but without pointy ends – as the pointy ends would dig into my fabric and make holes. This is a fiddly process, try not to pull too much on the foam and fabric as this might pull your main fabric out of the hoop or make the hooping less ‘tight’.

6. Re-attach your hoop to your machine, and continue embroidering your design until you’re done!

7. And here’s the final embroidered result! The sash ends are much lighter than with Worbla plates, yet the addition of craft foam gives them more body and a tad more weight. I’m sure using thicker foam, like 2mm or even 3mm foam, would give a more pronounced effect. I’ll be sure to experiment some more later!

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I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it useful! Don’t hesitate to share it!

Do you have ideas for tutorials? Let me know! 🙂 I’d love to hear from you!

Machine smocking tutorial

While working on my Eleanor Guthrie cosplay, I researched how to do smocking with a sewing machine (rather than by hand) I’m quite pleased how it turned out, and I thought I’d share a little tutorial. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out!

What you’ll need:

  • Sewing machine with decorative stitches
  • Embroidery thread (I used Gütermann Sulky Cotton Multicolor in grey/beige tones)
  • A ruler or measuring tape
  • Chalk or disappearing marker

1.  First, you must decide on your ratio (how much fabric you will gather), and mark your gathering stitches lines. I went for a 1:3 ratio and marked lines 18cm long. My desired final gathered length is 6cm. My lines are 1.5cm apart, but you can experiment with lines closer or wider apart for a different effect.

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2.  After sewing a long gathering stitch on each line that you marked in step 1, gather your fabric down to the length you decided in the first step (in my case, 6cm). Press your fabric to set the pleats.

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3.  Go back to your sewing machine and sew decorative stitches between each gathering line. This will permanently set the pleats. Note: smocking isn’t elastic like shirring is, don’t confuse them! They kinda look the same and they both reduce the width of your garment by gathering fabric, but they have very different in behavior: shirring keeps its elasticity by using elastic thread as the bobbin thread, while smocking is permanent. I see smocking as something more decorative rather than functional, like shirring is.

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4.  Remove all your gathering stitches (the most tedious task of them all!), give your fabric another good press with steam, and there you go! Admire your beautiful smocked piece!

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And done!

There are many other methods, including smocking by hand, but I hope this short tutorial will have inspired you to give it a try! Smocking is not difficult and the final result is sure to make a statement on your costume!

Liked this tutorial? Don’t hesitate to share it! Sharing is caring! ♥

The costs of making your cosplay

In the past, I’ve received many inquiries about how much I would charge to make a cosplay. But sadly, once I quoted the price, the transaction didn’t go any further. I questioned myself: Did I really quote too much? Should I quote lower, just to get the commission?

My most recent commission and most recent inquiry was for the waistcoat of Jacob Frye. I quoted a price which sounded quite reasonable, all the while keeping a bit of profit for myself. Once I was done making the cosplay, I made the breakdown of the costs and the time I spent on it, and I realised I was still selling myself short. So how much did it all cost me? Let’s have a look at the materials first…

Alright, this isn’t too bad. I could have probably found a cheaper fabric online, but once you add shipping to it, the costs end up being all the same. It had the colour and the weight/drape I needed, sturdy enough to hold the fabric paint and yet having a rich feel to it. All other materials were bought using my judgement on what would be the best quality/price ratio.

Where it gets worse is when I started to calculate the time…

And to be honest, €10/hour is very close to minimum wage. Please note: I understand this hourly rate is way too low, but this is also the purpose of this demonstration: that even by putting a low hourly rate, I still end up not making up for the time spent on the costume.

What’s the grand total? Something between €144.93 and €164.93, I am actually pretty bad with calculations. There isn’t a single euro of profit for me in the end.

I’m not writing this to make my clients feel bad about the price I’ve asked them! I’m just writing this to make everyone realise that no, we can’t make you a full Cinderella costume for 50$. Or a cosplay of Ezio for  €100-150, “depending on the amount of details you want on it” (as I’ve seen in a comment somewhere…)

What you are buying from us is more than the costs of materials, it’s the costs of labour. Making a costume may be a labour of love (yes, we do love making costumes!) but it is skilled work, and skilled work needs to be paid accordingly.