Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Making My Voyager Jacket

First off, you should go check out this lovely review post about my latest book, Lona Chang: A Superhero Detective Novel, from fellow MYoST reader/watcher Jordan. SO NICE!

Second off, my hands are not nearly as bad as they used to be but typing still puts a lot of stress on them. That's why it's been almost exclusively Generic Ensign Vlogs this year. But, the great news is, I'm really enjoying doing them! And, because I enjoy it so much, I decided to step up my costume game for the Voyager GE series. The only thing is... you really can't get a decent  any Science Division jacket/uniform anywhere. So, I reasoned, I had to make one.

For that, I turned to Etsy and quickly found Bad Wolf Costumes and their amazing selection of cosplay patterns. They've put SO MUCH work into making patterns that will help the (mostly experienced) costumer create a gorgeous and screen accurate piece.

But, I'm not a mostly experienced costumer. I don't own a sewing machine. I've never cut out a single pattern. I can barely run an iron. On the other hand, what I do have is the kind of gung-ho enthusiasm and naive optimism that makes me think I can learn to do anything I want. While this mentality has led to several catastrophic failures in my life, I've had just enough spectacular triumphs to not change how I do things.

I asked for a sewing machine for my birthday, ordered the pattern, laid in the course and set out (as usual) at warp nine.

At the end of January I found myself wandering around JoAnn's sending my mother (an actual highly experienced seamstress) questions like, "Where the hell is the muslin... what even is this? Is it like linen?" "What is interfacing?" "If you were supposed to make a costume out of wool gabardine and couldn't find any what would you use?"

In the end I managed to come home with a decent amount of fabric but I was sick and busy and didn't get around to actually starting on the costume until mid-March. When I did finally get into the package and the giant pattern paper exploded on the floor, I confess I spent about an hour on Ebay looking at Chinese cosplay stores that sell custom Voyager jackets (though they only offered Command and Operations, no Sciences.)

But, with an equal mix of enthusiasm and hand-wringing, I persevered.

The pattern pieces went up to Q! 
After several hours I finally cut out the pattern pieces (wrong on two pieces) and fabric (also wrong on two pieces of regular fabric plus two pieces of lining) and commenced to figuring out how to operate a sewing machine and what seam allowances were. The pattern STRONGLY SUGGESTED I make at least one muslin prototype but honestly, with my hands the way they are, I can't operate scissors for hours on end for a muslin jacket. I was confident that I MIGHT be able to make a Voyager Jacket such that I needed it (for my videos you really only see the front of my head and shoulders so I reasoned that if I could JUST get that mostly right, I'd be ok.) 

Sewing proceeded apace for three days. I spent an entire weekend under a mountain of discarded thread, fabric scraps, and strong swear words. 

This pin cushion was the first thing I sewed...
because I didn't realize how much I'd need a
pin-cushion when I began this crazy endeavor. 
Eventually, sometime late at night (on the second day), I had completed the shell for the jacket but it was still crazy looking, frayed, and bottomless: 
All Star Trek uniform pants should actually be Fair Isle leggings. 
I kept working my way through the VERY thorough (seriously amazing, well-researched and painstakingly put-together) Assembly Instruction PDF that came with my pattern. Until, finally, on the fourth day, I emerged from my sewing cave, triumphant. I went outside, stood in the reliably beautiful California sunset and took selfies:

Thrusters on full! 
OK. Is it perfect? No. Is it still the best Star Trek costume piece I've ever had? Without question. 

I'm really proud of this jacket, even if it is a little janky and rough around the edges... and partly because of that. Part of the enjoyment and charm of Generic Ensign, for me, has always been that it's a low-rent labor of love. Everything in Generic Ensign comes from me, all my feelings about the show, all my silliness, all my hard work. I just put it out there and think, "Well, maybe someone else will enjoy this as much as I do." 

I don't plan on ever wearing this to a convention because I don't ever plan on going to a convention so I'm not really worried that it's not exactly straight in places or that some of the wrong color thread shows through. To me, it's perfect. 

And now, a note:
If you ever find yourself in need of a cosplay costume and you suck at sewing, and you actually DO want it to turn out just right, make yourself a muslin mock-up (or two, or three). Save yourself the headache of accidentally sewing the wrong seam allowance for approximately 70% of your costume or whatever else I did wrong. I literally could not operate scissors for that long so I didn't. 

Really, I think a big part of the reason my jacket turned out as well as it did is because I grew up backstage with a seamstress mother, I was always around this stuff and I found that I understood innately (in my wonky theater brain) how costumes were constructed and altered. Additionally, I have an Asperger's endowed laser focus paired with a really high tolerance for cocking things up and then fixing them. Me and my seam ripper have become really close lately. So, just keep that in mind. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Generic Ensign's Vlog: Voyager 3

Y'all I've been all kinds of sick. Like... so many kinds. Did you know that steroid inhalers can give you insomnia and panic attacks and horrifying muscle cramps? I did not. But I do now.

Anyway, I've been watching Voyager (and a whole lot of the Winter Olympics including every single Japanese Women's Curling Team game) so I've got a new batch of Generic Ensign entries for you!
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