If you want to learn to sew for cosplay or for fun, or even if, like me, you dabble because you want to make your own costumes, you absolutely need a copy of the new sewing book by Gillian Conahan, The Hero’s Closet. The book releases tomorrow, Tuesday, April 18, 2017.
Gillian Conahan is not only an avid, and amazing, cosplayer, but she’s also the editor-in-chief of Vogue Patterns magazine. Needless to say, she knows a thing or two about cosplay, patterns, and sewing.
The Hero’s Closet is divided into three parts–Getting Started, Patterns, and Costumes. The Getting Started section of the book is really a lot more than that. It encompasses the first 87 of the 200 page book, and so would almost seem to be misnamed, but this is where I think the book really shines and makes it worth the price of admission alone.
Conahan has included everything, yes, everything, you could possibly need to get started on any project. A book that covers everything you need to know would be a gigantic tome that would be pretty difficult to use, so instead, she has made sure to help the reader get their toes wet on everything. In just 87 pages, the book covers (to name just a few) researching your cosplay, seams and darts, choosing and modifying patterns, different types of fabrics and how they behave, fasteners, basic sewing tools, different types of stitches, zippers, buttons, hems, appliqué, and embroidery!
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So why is it so important that Conahan went shallow and wide instead of deep and narrow? There are a ton of great resources and tutorials and videos online for how to do and use just about everything she mentions. The problem, especially if you’re new to sewing, is knowing what you’re looking for. By doing such a great job of organizing and touching on all of the basics, The Hero’s Closet gives you a terrific foundation to build on. As an example, one of my first sewing projects was to make sleeves for my Ashitaka cosplay. I had to make my own bias tape to finish the edges and to use as the ties. But guess what? I had no idea that’s what I was making. I had seen things with what I wanted, but didn’t know what bias tape was. So instead of just googling “bias tape,” I spent a ton of time doing trial and error trying to figure it out on my own and trying to find a resource online. If I’d had this book, I would have known exactly what it was I needed to look into more depth on.
So maybe you think you don’t need any of that because you already know all of the basics. Or maybe you don’t think that is enough to make the book worth it. Well, that’s where the last two parts of the book come in. Part Two and Three really go together as the second part of the book details the eleven patterns that come with the book and part three then takes it to the next level applying those basic patterns into making full costumes. And while I say “basic patterns,” from my own limited experience with patterns, these are definitely not basic. And I don’t mean that they are necessarily complex (though some are more difficult than others), but that these are a great staple of building block patterns. They can also be used as is to make any number of costumes.
The patterns include a cape, leggings, a leotard, a seamed jumpsuit, a seamless super-suit, a tunic, a pleated skirt, a blouse, pants, a dress, and a coat. With these eleven patterns, unless you’re making something truly fantastical, you can probably make just about any cosplay you can think of (and I already have a couple earmarked for my next big project). One note about the patterns–they aren’t ready to go right out of the book. An amazing job was done overlaying the patterns to fit onto two double-sided sheets. This means cutting any of them directly out would ruin others, so you’ll need to transfer the pattern you need onto something else first.
The third part of the book, as I mentioned, takes everything you have, hopefully, learned, and applies it to making ten different costumes. The Hero’s Closet finally finishes up with cutting layouts for the patterns, a glossary of more sewing terms than you thought you needed to know, and a list of other resources to help you continue your sewing journey.
Will James: Will is a geeky CosMaker and father of 6-year-old and 3-year-old geeks-in-the-making living in Seattle, Washington. He loves reading, comics, cosplay, games (tabletop and video sorts), and robots - especially Transformers. He's also a custom prop and costume builder at Billythebrick Cosplay.
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