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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 4: Beading

Bead reference!
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles art © CLAMP
The trick to these was to make them comfortable to wear and rich enough looking to match the kimono without much expense or fuss. Early on I debated including some orange tone beads in the pattern but quickly decided to stick with just three basic colours of white/clear, red, and yellow. Its a much stronger look that way.

My friend Cat came over for a few days the week before the convention and we worked on cosplay things and lots of beading. Here you can see my initial layout. I just pulled out all the beads I was looking at using and started laying them out to get a sense of the pattern and balance I wanted.

Laying out the beads.

The beads I bought came from a combination of things I had on hand, the dollar store, Claire's jewellery store (10 for $10 sale!) promptly disassembled, and surprisingly some necklaces at the grocery store. Most of the stuff was pretty ugly looking jewellery when I bought it but made really good materials once I hacked them all down. You can get really good materials for very little money when you know how to look at things to take them apart for use rather than what they actually are.

I didn't really want to use feathers for the end of the strands because I was concerned they'd just get tangled and the beaded chandelier earrings I had found made really nice weighted tassles to balance out the design. They flip around and catch the light really nicely and keep the strands easy to seperate out.

Challenge: Make the strands of beads so that if they got caught on something at the convention they wouldn't explode in a shower of beads and lose everything. Also, make them strong enough that won't happen at all. I've seen this happen with one too many Inuyasha necklaces that weren't near as complex or easy to catch on things. Beaded things are awesome. Watching the shower of beads when a single thread snaps is just heartwrenching. I like making my stuff sturdy.

Solution: Aside from simplifying the design significantly I made them in segments and I used the coated steel jewellery wire I like along with crimps to attach everything together. Its still really flexible but won't get tangled nearly as much as thread or string would and is far less likely to break. What about these segments though? Well I lucked out in the design because instead of having a single strand of beads I had shorter sections of beads interspersed with solid metal connections or chain to connect. Finally I used lobster clasps so that I could attach/detach the strands all at once or individually.

Using clasps to attach to a chandelier finding on the headband // A sample of the wire - chain segments.

[ Note: Something to watch out for when attaching thin wire or thread onto a link of a chain or a split-ring is whether or not the link is solid or has a split in it. If it has a cut that has not been soldered together that means it can be opened and adjusted but also that the thread can catch there and pull right through if the ends aren't close enough together. ]

Challenge: Attaching the beaded strands to my head!

Solution: The options I had to attach these seemed to be tying them into my hair (hair wrap style), clipping them into my hair with hair clips, or using a headband of some sort.

I opted for the headband and a balance to the design of the strands so that the weight was balanced and distributed over my head. It ended up being heavy, but really comfortable to wear! And because I made it so I could clip the strands onto the headband after it was on, the whole thing was really manageable to position as well. If the strands had been permanently attached to the hairband then they had a tendency to whip it around and get tangled in absolutely everything when I tried to put them on, making a mess of themselves, my hair, and me (getting whipped in the face with lots of beads).

The finished beaded strands, still missing the fabric 'butterfly' accents, but with the original crafted headband.

I've actually attached the beads to my costume in many other ways - attached over a bun, to hair clips, straight to the wefts of a wig. The lobster clasps have been wonderfully useful but have stretched from the weight of all the beads. I'll be replacing them soon (after over 7 years).

First version photographed by Alex Luyckx; Two shots of the feathered version from my shoot at High Park, Toronto

I did come back and replace the ends of these with feathers to better match the initial design after some of the beaded chandeliers snapped through fatigue. Dollar store findings are often made with 'pot-metal' and doesn't hold up over the long term apparently. The feathers came with their own problems, predominantly getting them to the right colour and keeping the purple dye from transferring at all to my pretty-white-kimono-that-I'm-not-remaking. I have since found the perfect colour of feathers at a fishing tackle store (sold for tying flies) and am planning a full remake of the beaded strands once I can get the dye to stop leaking at all.

» Stage Five: Painting the flames.

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