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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 5: Painting on the flames

LOTS of flames.
Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles art still © CLAMP

Hey look! Firey! -_- *mutters*

Yeah, I still can't decide if I'm bitter or triumphant about this stage. Probably a lot of both. I had basically no experience in fabric painting but wanted to do it for this one. Only other option I could think of was layers of firey fabric and I didn't have the time or patience to make more fabric cooperate for me. Also, despite the eventual cost of the paint, getting enough fabric in the colours to do the fire at the scale of size I'd already made the kimono at, may have actually cost me more money in the long run. I wanted to do the paint. And I will admit, now that it is all done, that I am glad I did. I looks really sharp.

However, I thought it might cost me $100 and take maybe 6-10 hours to paint. Oh how I was wrong.

I will tell you this: good fabric paint on anything more than a minimal scale is an investment, but quality fabric paint is heat-settable (and thereby washable), soft, wear resistant, and gorgeous stuff. Read instructions, do your research.

Painting supplies. By the time I got to a point where I was ready to actually paint I had less than a week until the convention I was hoping to have it done for. I ended up taking up the entire front foyer of my house (the largest non-carpeted area in my house aside from the kitchen) and painting there for 4 days straight. I think it was the second day where I started a bit later, but it was basically starting at 10am in the morning and painting until 2am the next morning, slowly and patiently doing the lines.

This would have gone much faster if I had proper fabric painting brushes. On a whim I had bought one small fabric painting angle brush which was very stiff and really nice to work with. All the other brushes I had (even the larger ones), though as stiff as I could have them with what I had in the house, were far too soft and took a lot of paint and effort to work the paint evenly over the texture of my fabric. I know for next time:

Buy proper fabric painting brushes. They are stiff and made for painting fabric.

At least if you're doing this on a large scale on textured fabric. I truly believe it would have fractioned the time taken and saved my wrist a lot of strain instead of manually working the paint into every stretch of the weave.

We picked up a massive drop cloth to cover the floor and prevent the fabric paint from staining anything. Thankfully the design of my kimono let the bottom part flare out smoothly so I could actually lie the whole thing out flat when I painted it and not worry about keeping excess fabric out of the way. The sleeves were left unsewn and flat until the painting was finished. Then the two halves were folded and sewn together and then finished with a white lining before being attached. Leaving them unfinished at this point was by far the easiest way to paint them. Once I knew that and all my materials were tested and gathered it was time to start painting. And painting. And painting.

The very first step was to plan out what I was painting. I didn't want to draw on the fabric even with a chalk pencil because it might show up afterwards. So I did a sketch to decide how much area the flames would cover before marking out the rough areas and getting started.

I started Tuesday with the gold outlining on both the flattened sleeves and the kimono. The day before I had done some loose stitches with my extra red thread to mark off the areas I wanted the flame contained in. I figured as long as I freehanded the flames within these marked off areas that were mirrored on each part of the sleeve then the flames themselves would balance in the final product. It really paid off too. I'm also now incredibly good at freehanding stylized flames! ... >_>

Once that was dry I did the deep red outlining on everything. I was hoping that by letting it set for a day it would prevent the paint from bleeding past the gold boundaries, except for two small spots it did.

Then I painted the interior of the flames on both the sleeves on the third day. This was a horrible day. I'd been painting for so long that both my wrist and arm kept cramping up and eventually the nerves were spasming. It was really hard going and several people suggest I just quit. But if you've been reading through this entire process you'll know I've already spent about 3 months working on this and I'm halfway through painting away from it being DONE in time. I had to finish the paint, let it dry, bake it in the oven to set the paint, line the sleeves and attach them to the kimono, and hem the kimono. This was on Thursday. If I could finish painting the sleeves and let them set then I could paint the entire body of the kimono on Friday. It almost didn't happen.

Below is what it looks like when you need to be using 4 paintbrushes at once to get a gradient effect.

Then I finally painted the entire body of the kimono in one horrible go.

I did say the entire front entrance way.

Then I put the whole thing in the oven. No seriously. It had to be heat set, I did not want it ruined in a rainstorm and there was no way I could consistently iron the whole thing to set it (and didn't have the time either). I expect I never could have gotten up the nerve to actually do this stage without being high off paint few for days on end beforehand. My flamey kimono did not, happily, catch on fire.

Still carefully folded, post-oven. This costume is not half baked. :P

I did have to line the sleeves at the last minute to prevent the paint bleed through from ruining the otherwise gorgeously clean look of the costume. That lining material was bought at Wal-mart, was more basic than all the other fabrics, and cost me more than the rest of my fabrics combined. That's what happens when you're desperate and don't have time to drive farther to an actual fabric store to get what you need. At least it allowed me to finish in time!

Its a couple weeks after now and my ankles are still kind of sore and stiff from being crouched in strange positions for hours on end to get this done.

I had lots of time to think while painting this, and lots of time to try not to think while painting this. My MP3 player proved its worth as I only recharged it once at the beginning of the week and it just kept on playing for days of painting without dying on me.

I generally just left it on random. Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" came up frequently and "I remember, I remember I remember when I lost my mind~" was somehow very fitting for this dang project. It was also the only song I wasn't sick of by the time I finished all my painting.

» Final Summary

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