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. 


  1. Wow!! That's an accomplishment. And what a coincidence- I, too, have just started sewing. I always wanted a sewing machine, so instead of just longing for one and coming up with excuses as to why I shouldn't/needn't/mustn't.... I just bought one as a gift for myself. I bought it Thanksgiving weekend, and I've been teaching myself ever since. I'm still a complete novice, but I'm figuring it out as I go along. I think my theater background has helped me, just as it did for you. I love it. And now I'm seriously psyched to check out Bad Wolf Costumes for patterns! (Oh- but I guess I have to learn about patterns- I know absolutely nothing. Can't wrap my mind around how they would work.) Congrats on that Voyager jacket- it looks fantastic from here. :)

    1. Oh yeah! That's fantastic! Congratulations on pursuing a goal! It's the same for me. I always wanted to sew and just never did. I also LOVE the machine I got which has a top loading bobbin. I remember my mom futzing with the bobbin on hers all the dang time.
      I'll bet you could email Bad Wolf costumes and ask which patterns of theirs a novice could start with. Then, you'd end up with something geeky and fun as your first pattern project!

  2. For your first sewing project that was very ambitious! But you could easily and proudly wear this at ANY Star Trek Convention! A lot of people there have much worse costumes and they are still proud of it and practically no one makes fun of them,because everyone knows how hard it is to make one starting out,so for that BRAVO! You have done an outstanding jacket! Looks fantastic to me,will make your GE videos that much better,really looking forward to the next one and yes,i do enjoy them. :D

  3. I happened upon your blog while I was sitting here watching Voyager and trying to find perfect image of Neelix in his iconic apron to do a fan art piece of the print on it. Lo and behold your Tuvok and Neelix art. NEW FAVORITE BLOG. Thank you so much for your love of Trek. XO

  4. Hi again Ashley,
    MAKE IT SEW!!!
    love your jacket and glad to see you are still posting about Trek.
    I have tried to get into "Discovery" and "Orville" but they just can't compare, for me anyway.
    Best wishes to you


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