Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Sewing Stitches, Explained!

Happy February everyone!  Can you believe that we are only 3 months away from Otafest?! I sure can’t! The planning staff is all working super hard at putting together the best Otafest ever and we can’t wait to see everyone again!  We have so many cool things planned this year and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

This month I’d like to go over the different types of stitches you’ll typically see in sewn cosplay costumes and how to produce them. Now, I do both hand stitching and machine sewing, so I am going to cover both types, so don’t worry if you don’t have a sewing machine of your own! Both types of stitches can be really useful in different situations!

  1. Straight Stitch/Running Stitch  – – – – – – – –

This is the most basic stitch that you will see, either produced on a sewing machine or by hand.  It is just a series of small, linear stitches that is great for many purposes, including hemming, attaching trim, and edge finishing.  This is also a good stitch to use when connecting two pieces of fabric together (like the sides of a shirt) because, when ironed out flat, it creates a straight line.  When doing a straight stitch by hand, make sure to not bunch up the fabric and make sure the stitch is snug but not too tight, or else you’ll end up with wrinkles when you knot it off at the end.  Also, when hand-stitching a straight stitch, you will end up with small spaces between your stitches. If you don’t want those spaces, you should look maybe at a…

  • Back Stitch  ————-

This stitch is a different variation of the straight or running stitch and is closer to what a straight stitch looks like when done by a sewing machine.  When you perform this stitch by hand, you almost have to work backward, as you start the stitch at the furthest part of the stitch and then come back in next, to the end of the previous stitch, which ends up using a bit more thread. The visual look is a nice solid line, so sometimes this is a nice stitch to use if it is going to be seen on top of a piece, like around a collar or top seam.

  • Zig Zag Stitch  /\/\/\/\/\

Another very basic stitch, easily done on both a sewing machine and by hand. This stitch gives you a slightly more secure seam because of the angles and increased amount of thread used per inch of sewing, so this is handy to use when securing a seam next to a straight stitch.  This is also a good stitch to use when applying lining or batting to the inside of a piece of fabric, something that needs to be strong but won’t be visible on the outside. Zig zag stitch is also ideal to use when working with stretchy materials! With stretch fabrics, any straight stitch you put in will pop as soon as you pull on the material. With zig-zap stitch, it will stretch along with the material – this is something to test and play with when you first get your fabrics.

  • Blanket Stitch  TTTTTTTT

I love using the blanket stitch when making bags, pouches, or even plush accessories. This stitch is done by hand and is designed to connect two pieces of fabric together that will lay flat (like in a bag) and will be seen on the outside of the finished piece.  This makes a neat accent to many projects, especially if you use thicker thread like embroidery floss or even yarn because it stands out and looks really fancy.  The only thing to keep in mind with this stitch is that the edge of the fabrics used will be unfinished, so try and use fabrics that won’t fray, like felt, leather, or even a thin plastic.

  • Satin Stitch  IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

This stitch is an embroidery stitch that is used to fill in shapes, like flowers and symbols. It creates a nice colored patch of thread that stands out because of its texture and height from the surface of the fabric. This stitch can sometimes be achieved with a regular sewing machine if you play with your zig-zag settings and have it very close together. Some of the more advanced machines may have embroidery options on them which can be used for amazing results, but it’s just as easy (if time-consuming) to accomplish the same look by hand.

  • Cross Stitch  XXXXXXXX

This is another embroidery stitch, but instead of one large block of color like with the satin stitch, this is a stitch made up of lots of tiny X stitches arranged in rows. You will often see this stitch in tapestry pieces, but it can also be used in embroidering symbols or nice borders onto costumes as well.  One thing my mom taught me when doing cross stitch is to always work in the same direction so that the top stitch of the X is always going in the same direction.  It makes for a nicer stitch and doesn’t distract visually from the completed piece!

  • Serger Stitch  WWWWW

This is a stitch that can’t be done with a standard sewing machine. Instead, it can only be done by a special machine called a serger. This machine performs a very special stitch that is made up of 4 different threads instead of a standard machine’s two, and also has a cutting edge on it that actually finishes the edge of the seam as well with the stitch.  This is the stitch that you will see on the edges of most commercially made clothing as it is the fastest and most secure stitch for finishing garments.  If you are lucky enough to have access to a serger, definitely take advantage of it! It can be a godsend if you are working with materials that love fraying, like costume satin. A small zig-zag stitch can be an alternative to finishing edges as well – it can help hold in the fraying edge, but again, experiment.

That’s all for me today, have fun with your needles and thread this month and I can’t wait to see what you all come up with for Otafest!  Keep your eyes open over the next couple of weeks to the Otafest social media pages as well as the website, registration for our Cosplay events is opening very soon! 

Policy Update – Explicit Imagery on Clothing

Dear Otafest Community,

Since Otafest 2019, many of you have reached out to us asking for us to consider a revision of our dress code policies regarding sexually explicit imagery on clothing, as many conventions have recently done. Otafest is committed to building an inclusive and welcoming community where everyone can belong, feel safe, and have a great time at our events. We are also committed to providing fun and engaging all ages content, including 18+ content, such as panels by industry-leader FAKKU, the popular “Cards Against Otafest” 18+ charity fundraiser, and much more.

It is very important to us that our community feels that boundaries and consent are respected when they choose to view explicit material. As a result, Otafest has made an update to our policies:

*** Garments containing sexually explicit imagery, pornographic content, or that depict implied sexual acts – such as ahegao and similar designs – are not permitted to be worn or displayed.***

As in all prior years, exhibitors are restricted from openly displaying sexually explicit merchandise, and from selling it to minors. We are very excited to be working with our returning Industry Guest of Honor, FAKKU, who will be offering their fantastic merchandise and programming again this year in accordance with Otafest’s policies.

You can review Otafest’s policies at https://otafest.com/policies/.

– Otafest Planning Committee

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Choosing Fabrics

Hello cosplayers, and happy 2020!  I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season and that you spent some time relaxing and enjoying some time away.  But, in the immortal words of former Otafest Chairman Justin, it’s time to “get back to work!”  (He always said it lovingly, and so am I!)

For this month’s cosplay tip, I figured I would go back to something that has caused me grief in the past, especially when I was first starting out in cosplay: choosing what fabrics to use for my projects.  They are all vastly different and depending on the costume you are planning on making, picking an appropriate fabric definitely has an impact on the final product, as well as your budget.

Broadcloth

This is the easiest and most versatile of the fabrics you can find at your local fabric or crafting store. While it’s seen as a “bad” fabric by some, the reality is that it’s available at an amazing price point and is available in every colour under the sun (as well as patterned). These qualities make it an amazing fabric to use in a pinch, whether it’s budgetary or colour-wise.

Broadcloth is just a simple fabric that is evenly woven and is very easy to sew. This is a great fabric to use for simple garments, like shirts, dresses, and pants.  If your character has a piece of clothing that is one solid color, doesn’t have many accessories on it, and is loose and comfortable, broadcloth can be a good choice for you to use.

Pros: Versatile, comes in lots of different colours, easy to sew, easy to wear, easy to colour with dyes or paints

Cons: THIN! I often find that I want to double up on the material for sections of costumes, it shrinks a lot (so pre-wash your fabric!!), can scorch or turn shiny if using heat (keep heat tools like irons below 100 degrees Fahrenheit), is a very simple looking fabric so it doesn’t have much pizzazz.

Linen

This fabric is thought of as the next step up from broadcloth (aside from heritage cottons). It is made from flax instead of cotton, so it means that linen has a higher strength and heat resistance and is also more breathable.

Linen also can be found with many different textures, as it is a thicker weave than broadcloth (think of a smooth sheet of plastic for broadcloth vs a piece of wood for linen, it has more texture to it). Linen can be a bit more challenging to sew than broadcloth because of the thicker weaves available (one of the costumes I made was out of this beautiful thick weave linen but whenever the sewing needle on my sewing machine hit one of the fibers straight on, it pulled on it so hard that I’d have to stop and smooth the fabric out over and over again).

Pros: more heat resistant than cotton, doesn’t shrink much and is very breathable, has lots of texture and visual appeal, looks more natural, very strong, and irons beautifully

Cons: thicker weave can be challenging, can be damaged by adhesives containing acids, not easy to dye

Silk

Need that shimmer and shine for your costume? Silk is a natural protein fiber that creates a lustrous shine when woven into fabric. This is caused by the triangular, prism-like structures of the fibers.

Silk is quite expensive and requires special care, so make sure you are prepared for this if you plan on using silks for your costume. It also comes in a variety of textures, other than the traditional “silky” material, such as dupioni silk. Silk is very easy to wear, keeps you cool in the summer, surprisingly insulated in the winter, and is quite water resistant as well. However, it very easily shows water stains and can be extremely stressful to clean.

Pros: looks amazing, very smooth and flexible, easy to wear

Cons: expensive, can shrink when washed, hard to wash (hand wash, do not tumble dry, iron on low setting only, may require drycleaners attention), can stain easily, colours can fade with extended sun exposure, can be difficult to sew.

Polyester

This is a synthetic fabric that is typically combined with cotton to make a blend.

It’s hard to discuss polyester as it comes in an incredible range of looks, from organza to fleece. Chances are, you will likely use polyester blends for many of your costumes, simply because this category encompasses a huge variety of materials, such as imitation-like silks or pleathers.

Polyester is durable, available in many different colours and textures, and is easy to sew and craft with. The main issue with polyester, is that it does not take to dye easily. There are poly-dyes available on the market, but you will want to experiment with this as much as you can with swatches, before you. With any polyester blend, you will want to take down the name of the material (available on the fabric bolt) and follow recommended washing instructions.

Pros: long lasting and very durable, dries quickly, easy to wash, doesn’t wrinkle easily, flexible

Cons: can feel sticky to wear, not very breathable, dyes don’t hold well and can run or fade, very temperature sensitive (can melt or deform with high heat)

Leather and Fur

Looking to add that perfect accent or textural touch to your costume? Leathers and furs add richness to a costume, and in some cases, are vital parts to the outfit depending on the character.

Both are quite expensive but are mostly straight forward to sew with. It is essential to make sure you are using the correct threads and needles when doing so (see Leather Needles, etc). When using these types of materials, make sure to look for faux or artificial to be more sustainable as well. Don’t worry, most people won’t be able to tell the difference, and it will still look great! Just remember to use extremely strong sheers when cutting down these materials.

Pros: looks amazing, adds texture and richness to the costume

Cons: can be very expensive, requires different sewing technique and materials, limited colours and textures

I hope this brief introduction to fabrics is helpful. There are tons of resources available online so for more detail, please consult the almighty Google! The folks at your local fabric and crafting stores also are able to help you out and sometimes will help suggest materials for you, if you show them the project you are working on!

It’s a great idea to just walk around fabric stores and feel everything (the drape, the weight, the texture) to familiarize yourself with the materials available to you!

Fabric cutters often will cut swatches for you (a tiny strip of the fabric in question), if you want to take a sample of it and compare it to others! Don’t be afraid of asking!

See you next month, and happy cosplaying!

Chair’s Holiday message

Dearest Otafest Community,

It is with a full heart that I extend warm holiday wishes to our incredible community of supporters. From volunteers, vendors, artists, sponsors, panellists, special guests, event partners, to you – our community of attendees and supporters – the Otafest community is full of kind, generous and positive people of all kinds. We are so thrilled to be part of this community. The holiday season calls us to reflect on all of those people who fill our lives with joy. For the Otafest team, this means all of you. 

For many people, the holidays can be tough – I personally enjoy the hopefulness, generosity and kinship that December brings. I take heart in also knowing that we can all find that same joy and warmth every year in May, when we come together to celebrate our shared passions and fandoms. 

I hope that you all continue to shine your own unique light into the darkest days of the year. 
Happiest holidays – and cheerful wishes for a new decade. 

On behalf of the Otafest planning team,

Stephanie Mok 
Chair

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Explaining Cosplay

Hello cosplayers, and Happy December!

One thing that makes December so special to me (other than my birthday lol) is all the time you get to spend with friends and family. I remember when I was younger, we have company over, and it would always come up in conversation at one point or another. “So what kind of hobbies do you have?”  Whenever this happened to me, my mom would always go on and on about the crazy costumes I make and wear to conventions and sometimes, would even tell me to go “Put one on to show off.”  So, I present to you, some tips on how to explain what cosplay is to people who have no idea what you are talking about!

1.       Explain the meaning of the word cosplay.  Cosplay is a word, that is made up of the words “costume” and “play”,, which explains why it’s not just all about wearing a costume, but embracing the character as well and acting like them.  The word cosplay was coined by a man named Nobuyuki Takahashi when he first visited the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Los Angeles in 1984.  He saw all of the people dressed up in costumes and he wrote an article for the Japanese magazine My Anime about what he saw.

2.       Create the setting.  Many people who aren’t familiar with the art of cosplay or even the convention scene itself will be confused on why someone would want to do this sort of thing.  Explaining what conventions are like, including the different panels, shows, concerts, guest interactions, and cosplay contests can set the tone for why people enjoy dressing up the way that they do.  My parents were always confused on why I enjoyed anime and, by extension, cosplay, but they were always supportive when I told them how inclusive of a place a convention can be and how so many of my friends were involved as well.

3.       Show off your skills.  If you sew or craft your own costumes, don’t be afraid to bring out a couple of your newest or best pieces to show off.  Tell them about the different techniques you used or materials you chose and explain how you made the piece and what it is for.  If you don’t craft your own costumes, show off your photography poses or even a few photos of you in a group setting with other characters or a video of you performing in your costume.

4.       Own it!  Don’t let people make you feel silly for the things you do and enjoy.  Just because they may not understand or enjoy the same sorts of things you do, be proud of your work and your passions!

Have a wonderful holiday season everyone and we will see you in the New Year!  Otafest is only 5 months away, so happy cosplaying!  ;)

Otafest wins Best Anime & Pop Culture Festival 2019 – Canada

NEWS RELEASE

CALGARY, Canada, November 28, 2019 – for immediate release

Otafest has been selected as Best Anime & Pop Culture Festival 2019 – Canada by Lux Magazine’s prestigious Global Hospitality Awards, recognizing “dynamic, dedicated and driven organizations from across the hospitality market.” (Lux Magazine)

Otafest is proud to celebrate everyone whose commitment to excellence made this award possible, from our partners at the Calgary Telus Convention Centre, Calgary Marriott Downtown Hotel and Calgary Downtown Association, Otafest’s sponsors, and over 400 volunteer festival staff and planning committee members that make Otafest happen each year.

“(Otafest) is truly committed to bringing a best-in-class pop culture festival experience to Calgary,” says Amy Pratt, Otafest Board of Directors. “From providing high calibre programming and creating inclusive social spaces for fans to connect, to showing our Industry Guests of Honor how special the City of Calgary truly is, Otafest is created with passion and excellence at the forefront of the planning process every year.”

“Take a moment to consider what it takes for 150 people to plan a 9,000+ attendee festival, all on donated time,” explains Behfar Lotfizadeh, Otafest Vice Chair Internal. “What an incredibly humbling experience. I couldn’t be more proud of our group in earning this award, and we’re excited to continue growing our event and our community.”

ABOUT OTAFEST 
Otafest is a three day festival in Calgary, Alberta, dedicated to building a local community of fandoms, nerdism and a celebration of Japanese pop-culture. Established in 1999, it is a fully volunteer run and organized non-profit organization, and has raised over $135,000 for the benefit of charities since 2009. Learn more at otafest.com.

Interested parties can read more about Lux Magazine Global Hospitality Awards at: https://www.lux-review.com/the-winners-of-the-2019-hospitality-awards-press-release/

MEDIA INQUIRIES
David Ly, Vice Chair, Marketing
davidly@otafest.com

© 2019 The Otafest Film and Cultural Festival Planning Committee. All third-party product and company names are for identification purposes only and may be the trademarks of their respective owners. 

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplay Comfort

We’ve all been there. You pour hours and hours of work into making your dream costume, but 2 hours into wearing it, you want nothing more than to take it off and never wear it again.  Whether it’s too hot, it pinches and squeezes your limbs, or you want to scratch your head off, cosplay costumes can be super uncomfortable and frustrating to be in for long periods of time.  Luckily, there are many ways to help make your costumes more comfortable and easy to wear, like a good pair of shorts ;).

  1. Choosing a costume for the season:
    Wearing a costume with multiple layers of foam and fabric, to a convention in Florida in August isn’t the greatest plan. Likewise, wearing a spandex bodysuit and nothing else here in Calgary in January, won’t be the most enjoyable experience.  Many characters have different variations to their outfits to fit the different seasons, so try and plan your costumes around when you will be wearing them and have ways to warm them up and cool them down, either by removing or adding a layer, or changing up the fabrics and trims.
  2. Think about mobility:
    Yes, the 14 foot wings you’ve made look stunning, but how on earth are you going to go to the bathroom?  Make sure that you can remove, collapse, or even hide away bulkier parts of your costume so you can not only enjoy the convention offerings, but can still perform normal human functions!
  3. Wigs and head-wear:
    This can fall into multiple categories, including being way too hot, as well as being awkward and large, but head-wear and wigs can also be difficult to wear for hours on end.  Make sure you take time before the convention to wear your wig around the house for a bit , to become comfortable wearing it. Use a good wig cap, and, if you have long hair, braid or tie it up neatly instead of just shoving it under the cap.  Another fantastic tip I learned recently, is to carry around a little can of dry shampoo, so if your head does get hot and itchy, you can head to the bathroom (or cosplay green room), take the wig off, and give your hair a spritz.  It works wonders!! If your head-wear or wig is heavy, make sure it’s not so heavy that you strain your neck and back.  Take breaks, and try and make any head accessories out of light materials.
  4. Wear a comfortable base layer:
    Yes, this can add to the “too hot” situation, but make sure that you are wearing good, sweat-wicking clothing under your costume, like a tank top, fitted shorts or leggings, as well as good socks inside your shoes.  This layer should stay out of sight, but in the case of accidents, or if you do have to take a break in the bathroom or green room, you can remove layers, easily.  Also, make sure you are wearing appropriate undergarments, such as a dance belt or brassiere if you are wearing a tight fitting outfit. Not only will it be more comfortable for you, it makes the costume look more complete and professional without any unintended lumps and bumps.
  5. Range of Motion in the costume: 
    You never realize how hard it is to do things with your arms bound to your sides. When patterning out your shirts and tops, make sure you leave enough room in the shoulders for a range of arm movement.  This also goes for pants as well. Leave enough space in the inseam so that you aren’t waddling like a penguin down the hall, and you can comfortably bend down, or squat.  This will make sure that nothing is too tight to comfortably do anything needed, like snapping a quick selfie, or doing a in-character pose!
  6. Storage and pockets:
    Not everyone is blessed enough to have a cosplay assistant or a group of friends who are willing to carry your stuff around for you while in costume.  A couple of super easy ways to help with this, is to put a hidden pocket or two into your costume or take some extra fabric from the costume and fashion a quick bag with a strap.  Both are really easy solutions and can help you keep those most important things close by, like your phone and wallet, and make sure you have a place to carry that impulse buy from the Vendors Hall.
  7. Self Care:
    Stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep, and make sure you eat.  Your costume will only be seen and appreciated if you are healthy enough to be wearing it! And don’t forget, the better you feel, the more fun you are going to have, which is the most important part!

Cosplay shouldn’t be uncomfortable and just taking an extra bit of time in creating your costume in comfortable ways, as well as being mindful of your body during the convention, can make cosplaying a most enjoyable hobby.  The outward appearance of the costume may be super important to you, but we don’t call it cos”play” for nothing. Your happiness and comfort inside the costume also lends to the authenticity of the character, and adds to your experience and good memories!

Happy cosplaying and we will see you next month!

Amanda’s Monthly Cosplay Tip: Cosplaying with Contact Lenses

Every October and before every convention I always see at least one of the following posts on social media:


“Does anyone know where I can get cheap contact lenses for my costume?”


This makes me cringe every time, because, other than working for Otafest, for my “day job” I work in the Ophthalmology clinic at the Rockyview Hospital. For those who don’t speak medicine (and trust me, some days, I can barely pronounce the word myself), that means I work with a bunch of specialized eye doctors. We see a big range of patients, from those who just come by for routine eye testing (like visual field tests), to those with complex eye diseases like glaucoma and retinopathy. Just as importantly, we see people who are having eye emergencies. If there’s one thing I have learned working in ophthalmology, it’s that you are given exactly one set of eyes and that’s all you get. Your eyes aren’t like most other parts of your body that can regenerate or be replaced if something serious happens, and it only takes the smallest thing to cause huge problems with your eyes. The absolute worst thing you can do is treat them poorly and that’s my advice for this month: if you are going to wear contact lenses with a cosplay costume, DO IT RIGHT! That means following these super simple but very important steps:

  1. Make sure your eyes are healthy enough to wear contact lenses. This means booking an appointment with your optometrist and asking them about your intent to wear contact lenses. They will do some simple checks for you, such as checking you for dry eye symptoms and possibly recommending eye drops, they will check the curvature of your eye which can determine the size of lenses you may need to order, and they can give you your contact lens prescription (if you are ordering corrective lenses) because it isn’t the same as a glasses prescription!
  2. Have eye drops on hand. Even if you aren’t diagnosed specifically with dry eye, we live in Calgary, a notoriously dry city. Wearing contact lenses disrupts your natural tear film which will almost always cause dry eyes during and after wearing contact lenses. Make sure your eye drops are branded as “artificial tears” and use preservative free drops where possible. Again, ask your optometrist for suggestions, they often have samples of various brands for you to try as well!
  3. Know how to safely handle, insert, remove, and store contact lenses. Many optometrist offices offer appointments designed to teach you all about wearing contact lenses. Always make sure you wash your hands before touching your eyes or anything going into your eyes, make sure your lenses are sterile when you get them and handle them with care, and make sure you know what kind of lenses you are getting and how to store or dispose of them.
  4. Make sure you are purchasing good quality lenses. As of July 2016, contact lenses of any kind (including costume lenses) can only be sold by companies who have been licensed by Health Canada. Most places online that offer “cheap lenses” aren’t licensed and keep their lenses “cheap” by cutting corners, like using materials and packaging that may be hazardous for your eyes or sometimes selling lenses that aren’t sized or shaped properly. Like I mentioned above, you only get one set of eyes, you shouldn’t sacrifice their safety and your health to save some money. Ask your optometrist where they recommend purchasing lenses from , if they don’t sell them right there (which most do) or check with the company you plan on purchasing from what licenses they possess that allows them to sell contact lenses (especially if shopping from overseas). Also remember to pay attention to contact lenses expiry dates, because, unfortunately, they do expire! Keeping them around longer than their lifespan can also be very dangerous.
  5. Know what to do if something does go wrong. Even if you follow all the right steps and do everything right, your eyes are super sensitive to changes and may still get irritated from wearing contact lenses. If you suspect anything is wrong, don’t delay. Make an appointment with your optometrist right away, see your family doctor, or go to your nearest emergency department. If you can’t do any of these right away, try calling 811 (in Alberta) for free health advice from a registered nurse. It’s better to not wait around and see if it gets better on its own, with eyes, chances are if it gets worse, you could be in bigger trouble than if you catch a problem when it’s first developing. Things like very dry, gritty eyes, redness of the sclera (white part of the eye), blurred vision, pain of any kind, or things like flashing lights or floaters in your vision are all things that should be looked at right away.

A good pair of contact lenses can give a cosplay costume just the right finishing touch, but as a cosplayer and former judge myself, you definitely won’t lose points for not having the exact same eye colour as the character, and preserving your vision is 1000% more important! As much as I love you all, I don’t want to see you when I’m at work! ;)

Happy Cosplaying and Happy Halloween!