Category Projects

Xena: The Warrior Princess: The Cosplay

Xena’s Journey to Hades and Back in Cosplay Form began as an ambitious Halloween costume idea in August 2022 and “finished” August 2023…so, well past Halloween and yet also in time for Halloween. Despite not being quite finished, it’s now “old” so in true Sisyphian fashion I’ve started on another ambitious cosplay that will almost certainly not be finished in time for plans I don’t have. I could learn my lesson, but why?

Xena: The Costume Base

I decided to construct this cosplay from leather, primarily because I wouldn’t then have to go shopping to find just the right brown vinyl fabric. Especially when I already had some damaged hides on hand that I’d purchased at a deep discount for just this type of experimentation and I could get started right away. Leather also offered the benefit of durability and the beauty of natural material; the dings and scuffs of bargain bin leather add character to a project like this. Leather has visual weight.

It also has physical weight. I absolutely, positively, 100% cannot flip around like Xena regardless of what I am wearing or the power of trampoline upon which I might hop, but the added weight of this leather armor keeps me extra grounded.

Using leather in the interest of saving time turned out to be an exercise in self-delusion. With fabric, you just cut it out and sew it together. With leather, the cut pieces need to be dyed on all sides, multiple times if you want deep, dark color. The excess dye needs buffing off the surface. The edges need burnishing. Places where attachments are made can need skiving to remove bulk. You need to align pieces that are to be joined so stitching holes will match, and then you punch all those stitching holes by hand and sew it all together by hand. Leather also needs conditioning and finishing. And if you screw up, if the pattern was not quite right? Sometimes you’ll have to cut a new piece of leather and start the process over while feeling guilty about the animal who died so you could suck at cosplay.

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A Holiday Pony Party

Last Saturday, the barn had its holiday party. The day’s schedule featured multiple events: a horse parade, a costume contest, and an obstacle course. This is all great fun for the humans, but for a sensitive, reactive horse, it’s like asking them to participate in a day-long episode of Fear Factor. 

I have a sensitive, reactive horse. If an object, say, a mounting block, has moved position since the last time she encountered it, Navani views it with fear. The kind of fear that indicates she has heard the stories about Pinnochio and is suspicious that other fairies might be out there, granting wishes of sentience willy-nilly. And of course, every object dreams to be free, free to move about and predate on horses. Other, less cautious horses.

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Makin Stuff: A Stranger Things Gingerbread House

Like everyone else on the planet, I enjoyed the heck out of Netflix’s Stranger Things. I spent some time thinking about how I could rig up a Christmas card with lights that blink out “MERRY CHRISTMAS” or “RUN” or “YOU’RE NEXT” but I couldn’t figure out a non-digital way that wouldn’t be cost-prohibitive both to make and ship out 100+, not to mention I’d probably  be working on them from now until Christmas 2037 at which point Stranger Things’ faux retro will look real retro and the post office will be replaced with directly thought-beaming cat pictures into each other’s brains . But still–those blinking Christmas lights made the holiday season an ideal time for an homage if I could just figure out a good angle.

Finally, inspiration struck. I could make a Stranger Things gingerbread house! With lights and a demogorgon coming through the wall and gingerbread furniture with little marshmallow pillows and a frosting shag carpet and a whole “upside down” spooky tree area outside and and…WHOA THERE, MELLY. Considering I’d never made a gingerbread house before (except for one half-assed attempt at these cute little bastards that turned into a big honking mess in my kitchen with no tangible results, certainly no tiny cup-perching houses) or even royal icing, I was probably in over my head on just the house, nevermind all the gingerbread dollhouse furniture that would make it next level. I already needed to make frosting look like wallpaper, I had plenty on my plate without making some a plan so grandiose that I’d never actually follow through on it.

To make my Stranger Things house, I used this recipe (doubled) and this template (altered a bit to make the house a little more like Joyce’s). I also fashioned some of the gingerbread dough into a lumpy protrusion and tried to thin the edges so I could glue it on with frosting and make it look like something is coming through the wall without there being a corresponding divot on the outside of the house.

The part that I was dreading turned out to be the easiest–I slathered on some pale yellow icing for the wallpaper and dotted it with a toothpick dipped in food coloring for the pattern, the idea being not to mimic it exactly (which would be maddening) but to get close  enough to convey the idea of wallpaper. I then mixed up some brown and added the wood paneling. The letters and light wiring were painted on with black food coloring and a small brush. If I were doing it again, I’d try to pipe on the wires with frosting for a more three dimensional look, maybe pipe on the molding for more evenness.

As far as challenges go, I don’t know what sucked more: mixing all of those freaking colors of frosting (8! Mostly for those tiny dots of frosting for the strung lights) or assembling it. My parts weren’t quite perfect, the icing took longer than I’d like to dry, and the roof was so heavy that it wanted to slide straight off. All in all, I think it was a success! The outside could look more like Joyce’s house, and in fact, I cut some support beams for her front porch, but ultimately that would have made it too difficult to see inside, so I left it off. 

I’ve got the gingerbread house, I’ve got the witch costume, all I need to do is lure in a plump child and Christmas dinner is settled. I mean, a ham. We’re having ham.