Introduction: Leyla the Rescue Rider
Hello again! It's been a while, I know, but life got interesting, bought a house, moved, and all that jazz. Now that were are mostly unpacked (garage sits mockingly half full of boxes) and settled in to the homestead, it was time to get back into the costume game.
I work for DreamWorks Animation (no, I'm not a cool animator, modeler, rigger, etc. I'm an office monkey folks, I play calendar tetris all day long with people's schedules), although I have been with Dreamy for 6-ish years I have never done a costume of one of our many characters. This was the year to choose one and I chose from one of our newest TV shows to air on Netflix, Dragons Rescue Riders. Halloween 2019 was the year for Leyla!
If you haven't seen the show, it's a preschool series set in the How to Train Your Dragon universe, but follows new characters in a new town. Leyla is one of the human leads in the series and is a red head, always a bonus to me being one myself. (I hate wigs!).
So with 2 weeks to go til Halloween I decided I was going to start on a costume for Leyla . . .then came fire season to CA.
I down scaled my plan to create every inch of the costume and started working on acquiring base garments and focused on the leather over dress, bracers and a few other details that would make this costume really pop.
- sweater dress
- knit scarf
- crossbody bag (not shown)
- Purple Cowhide Leather Side [12+ Square Feet]
- Lavender leather- 2 8"x7" pieces (bracer trim - not shown)
- 52 plastic buttons (40 black dome shaped and 12 pewter grey flat rounds)
- Silver airbrush paint
- 1 piece of faux fur
- 1 package of wood discs
- Remnant of faux suede/leather look fabric
- I piece of lavender Velcro, left over form my Batgirl project.
- Purple thread spools, also left over from Batgirl
- I pulled out the boots I had used previously for my Rey costume (now I have the fancy Po-Zu boots) to remake them for this new costume.
- Used a pair of faux leather finger-less gloves I had bought for a Jyn costume (color was too light for Jyn)
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Step 1: Drug Dumb Drafting
Waking on 10/26 to massive allergies (thank you fires) I was forced to take some of my prescription medication. In my Drug Dumb state it took me over 20 mins just to draft a simple pattern. Probably another 20 to stop overthinking it and create the diamond pattern for the top stitching.
Kids, don't take drugs and play with numbers, scissors or operate other "heavy machinery" like sewing machines.
PSA concluded . . .
Once I was done feeling frustrated with my fuzzy brained condition I decided to trouble shoot by making a mock up out of some scrap fabrics. I was out of muslin so I used some old nylon lining I had hiding in my stash. I originally thought to make it in 4 pieces, but upon reviewing my reference art I noted there was no center seam. I scrapped that idea and went with 2 pieces. I made minor adjustments to the neck and arm holes on the mock up but they were so minor I did not need to make a new pattern piece. I used chalk to draw out my pattern on the back side of my leather and drew in my adjustments. I purposefully made this less form fitting, the character I am portraying is younger so I wanted my design to match.
After a few more cups of coffee I took a deep breath and started cutting.
Step 2: Stay Within the Lines
Once I had my two pieces cut it was time to transfer my drafting pattern for the top stitching.I used chalk and a handy ruler I borrowed form the hubby, I liked the width of the ruler as it was so really this was very simple to do, just took time.
I had originally thought to draw the pattern on the back with chalk, which I totally did on both pieces, then I remembered I was TOP stitching so I had to go and do it all again on the front. WHOOPS! So let's say I lost about an hour to stupidity.
Once I had my pattern transferred to the correct side, I set to work. I adjusted the stitch width and tension on my machine ever so slightly and used a scrap piece of leather to test the stitch. Once I was happy with it I moved on to the real deal. [I use a Brother, Model #CS8800PRW] Now and then a line of chalk smudged but, for the most part, it was fine and it was never more than I could eyeball. I used a slightly lighter shade of purple thread to stitch the pattern on and I liked how subtle it turned out.
Nitpickers Note: The character design has a slightly padded doublet (for lack of a better term). Being in sunny CA, and having been dumb enough to put myself into heavy costumes for prior Halloweens, I decided not to add padding and simply created the top stitch design.
Completing the design took about 2 hours. I was taking my time and constantly making sure my lines were right, I was probably over-complicating it because I didn't fully trust my brain.
I used a scrap of left over hem tape to trim out the neckline, I decided this was a better look and was less bulky looking. Also saved me from having to try to stitch through 4 layers on the should seams. I completed the arm holes and connected the pieces on the right side. I chose to only connect the left side at the shoulder and used Velcro to created the closure under the arm, this design made it very easy to get on and off. I did leave about 1.5 inches open at the bottom on each side to help with the fit over the top of my hips.
Next up was the skirt pieces. I had considered making the skirt a completely separate piece but all my mock ups (using the ever handy duct tape) came out really bulky and uncomfortable. So I decided it was better to attached the skirt panels directly to the doublet and make a faux belt.
I was running low on my leather so made a few paper mock ups (parchment paper is my go to, it has a bit more weight to it) and laid them out on the leather to see how many I could get out of it. It took about an hour or so of minor adjustments before I had a shape that gave me enough panels and still had left over scraps to make bracers. Once the pieces were attached, as you can see I used Duct tape again to help keep them in place while I stitched, and took a look at how it hung over my sweater dress.
Side note: I forgot to visually document making my bracers. It was a "work with what you got" thing and I just went for it. I used 2 slightly oval-ish pieces to make the base, trimmed the tops with pieces of lavender leather and made faux buckle straps with the last remnants of my original leather and 2 silver pieces of hardware I had in my kit. I used Velcro to attached them, overlapping in the back to hide it as much as I could, and also added a separate Velcro closure to the buckle straps.
Step 3: Taking a Break With Fur
I took a break from stitching leather to modify my boots. I had purchased a piece of faux fur (slightly longer hair). The boots needed a little more height to them and I was lucky that the backing was just strong enough to stand up without a lot of help.
I used a sectioning comb (that would be a comb with a long, tapered handle) to help me separate the fur for cutting. This help lessen the waste. Each cuff was made of 2 triangular pieces that I trimmed down to fit my calf (rough 13.5 inches in circumference) I stitched them together on the sides to create the finished cuff.
I pulled on the cuff, then the boot and started to figure out the placement for attaching to the boot. As I mentioned I used the cuffs to fake out a few more inches to make my boots look taller. Once I had the placement where I wanted it, at just the height where the long hanging fur grazed the tops of the boots, I hand stitched the downward facing points of the triangles to the front & back of the boot shafts.
And that was it for the boots!
Step 4: So Many Buttons
Once I was done taking a break and making my boots, it was time to add on a faux belt and get to work on ALL THOSE BUTTONS!
I cleaned out my local Joann's of all their black dome shaped buttons, which was enough to do the skirt but not he belt. So I had to improvise. I found some gray round buttons and there were just enough for the belt so I went with a slightly different style to be used on the belt piece than on the skirt. The hubby helped me paint all those black buttons to be more of a silver/pewter color with the use of an airbrush and some model paint he already had. The paint took well, didn't even need to scuff up the surface of them with sandpaper, and it didn't rub off on the leather at all (had that issue with Rocketeer's helmet). While they dried I got to work stitching on the faux bet piece.
I used a remnant piece of fabric that had a leather look but was thin and wouldn't add too much bulk (nor threaten to snap my needles) to make a simple belt. Pins were no help so I went back to my tape method, With right sides together I stitched down the middle of my brown fabric to attached about 2 inches up from the hem of the doublet. Then I flipped it over and hand tucked the ends in, this time using regular invisible tape to help keep my folds in place as I top stitched the bottom pieces of the belt together. Removing the tape took a bit more time but it worked well enough and it was a breeze to stitch through. With the "belt" on I added a piece of Velcro as a closure on the side (same side that doublet had it's Velcro closure) and it was time to start sewing all the buttons. It took about 3 hours to stitch on all the buttons and I only did about 3-4 stitches per button. 33 buttons on the skirt panels and 12 on the belt.
While I worked on that Hubby wood burned a dragon "medallion" to add to my bag. We had some basic round wood discs (12 to a bag, you can find them in any craft store) to use. Once painted I glued the wood disc to some scrap felt and sewed the felt backed piece onto my bag. And off to bed I went.
Step 5: Everybody Needs a Hero . . .
After 2 days and 3 nights of work, I had a completed costume. Add in a side fish-tale braid and some modest make up, was all I needed to complete the look. I was ready to be a Rescue Rider.
I didn't tell anyone on my team or the production that I was doing this costume, mostly because I was starting it so late I wasn't sure if I was going to finish it in time. My boss was thrilled and immediately texted a picture of me to the crew, who were ecstatic! It felt so good to get such a warm response to a costume and to have it be my first DreamWorks character costume too.
I was the only TV character from our shows to walk in the costume contest (before you ask, nope not a winner this year either) but I think I set the bar. I hear there are plans for many more TV folks to take part on 2020 so we'll have to see what comes of that.
I am self taught, learned everything I know from screwing up endlessly but not giving up, even when there were times I wanted to (oh batgirl, the flash backs never stop). I enjoy making costumes, the challenges that come from trying something new, modifying or making it all from scratch. It's my creative outlet and I hope that you enjoy reading about my screwy process as much I as I enjoy attempting it.
Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2019