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The Making of: Sakura's Fire Kimono from Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles [Feb 28 - May 25 2008]

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Stage 2: Designing the red under-tunic

The reference picture showed a collar and sleeve-ends. I went from there.

I started out just working on structural details first. The intent was to come back and add the firey trims and accents to the edging after the garment was constructed. Before the convention if I had time, otherwise sometime after. That way if I ever need to reuse the tunic/sleeves for anything else I can just pick off the details and have a simple red base to work from. We'll see if that ever actually happens.

In complete honesty my favourite piece of the entire costume, pretty much bar none, are the detached sleeves. Probably because they took the least amount of work for a really functional thing. Also because they're just really cool.

The best part of the sleeves is that they're really quite basic. I traced out the sleeve of a stretchy fitted shirt I had where the sleeves flared out around my wrists pretty much like how the ones Sakura's wearing do. Sewed them up, end is trimmed using more of that red bias tape, top ended up being cut against the side edge of the fabric so it didn't fray, so I just folded that down to the interior to make a clean pocket along the top edge. Either elastic or a pretty ribbon can be threaded through that as an accent tie if I ever desire to. Because I was using stretchy fabric they just form to my arms and don't really slip down too much at all. Also very easy to pull off from under the kimono if I start over heating. Ready to wear! :3

Sadly making the tunic itself was rather harder because of a few key challenges. I didn't have a pattern but after making A20s costume last year (seen here) I had some experience making stuff of this shape so I actually freeformed it as I went along. I did use A20's dress and a tank top I had to help get the angles of the sides and distance from the underarm hole to the shoulders right. The hard part was getting the arm holes sized appropriately and deciding where I needed the shoulders to join together but I faked my way through it.

Not really that exciting yet. Challenge: Tailoring it in with darts without a pattern to work from and making the neck and collar wearable.

Solution: Trial and error. Pinching in where I felt it made the most difference. Taking it off. Measuring the width and depth of that fold and its distance from the sleeve and collar and both sides. If all the numbers match for both darts then I finalize and sew it. I don't really like doing darts (at least not without a pattern) but I don't think this one would have looked very fitted without them.

Collar being prepped and on the completed tunic.

Challenge: The neckline and the collar.

Solution: While the fabric I was using was very stretchy, it also frayed so I would have to find a way to seal the edges. I decided on bias tape because its a very sharp way to edge the fabric and it let me cut down on the layers of fabric around the collar and keep it simpler than trying to cleanly hem the fabric itself at so many strange angles. This then meant that the collar would no longer stretch over my head because of the bias tape and I would need a 'keyhole' or overlap or something so I could actually get it on over my head. I didn't need to use a pattern to make the keyhole (just scissors) so I went with that.

The key to making the collar stay stiff was that I used some more of the wonderful stiffening foam material that I found to do A20's collar. Really stiff, very flexible, very soft, and about 2mm thick. It comes in rolls at a width of about a meter and you buy whatever length you want the same way you do fabric. It is considered interfacing and will likely be filed with that. This is glorious stuff. I also used it as the base for the obi for this costume and look forward to using it for stuffed animals in future.

Getting it to work in such a small collar rather than the massive thing that A20 had was a bit finicky but largely because I had to trim around the curves of it with bias tape to make a polished edge. Finding the right colour of bias tape was another matter. But the universe keeps rewarding my perfectionism! (Not sure if thats a good thing) And if I hold out long enough I seem to find the materials I'm looking for.

A close-up of mitering the bias tape for the collar. I fray-stopped those interior seams -before- trimming that closely.

Bias taping the collar was a slow process to get around the curve but worked really nicely. Unfortunately I had to make a 'v' slit to the neckline or I wouldn't be able to get the collar on over my head. I made a cut that was large enough and looked really pretty. But it ended up being a really weird angle. How the heck was I going to finish that off cleanly? Bias tape doesn't bend -that- much. Answer? Mitered bias tape. Mitering is what carpenters do to get those nice angled joints on doorframes and the like. It gets a bit more challenging when you're working with several layers of folded fabric on a very small scale. BUT I MADE IT WORK.

I did come back eventually and add in the firey details to both the sleeve and collar with fabric paint. It's subtle but makes for a really nice finishing accent.

» Stage Three: Making the 'obi'.

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