Patterns

Last post I promised I would explain what’s happening with the Antiope costume. In short, nothing. If that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading here and go about your life.


There’s more to it than that, though. I did start. I played with a home recipe for a Worbla-like material. I bought craft foam, paint, and glue. I looked up and saved lots of pictures of the costume, the techniques I would use, and other tips from cosplayers. Then, ready and anxious, I started on the first real step of the costume: creating the pattern from which I would create the costume.

That was the problem.

Despite looking and looking, I couldn’t find any patterns for making Antiope’s armor. I could find some for Wonder Woman. I could find them for Hippolyta. I could find them for dozens of other armored characters from other movies. Nothing, however, for the character I wanted. Slightly deterred, I tried to freehand a template for the foam on paper, starting with the tiara.

Have you really looked at that tiara? It’s complicated. There are several layers of shapes and colors involved. The angles are strange. And, despite trying various tricks to help a cosplayer size a movie costume to their own height, I just could not get that pattern to work. I sketched, erased, sketched again. I cut, taped, and recut. I held the pattern to my head, set it down to tweak something, then picked it up again. I poked and changed and stared for three days until I knew this method wouldn’t work. I didn’t know what would.

I asked my mom, who sewed all my Halloween costumes growing up, how to make a pattern from looking at a picture. She didn’t know; she worked from Butterick patterns for my costumes and then tweaked them. I read an article once (that I cannot find to reference) that showed that people who sewed and designed clothing regularly had more activity in their brain in the area related to visualizing what the flat shape of a pattern would look like in three dimensions, and vice versa. So, conceivably this is a skill I could learn, with lots of practice. It’s not one I have right now, though, which makes this project much more difficult.

On top of that, I don’t have confidence in my ability to “just wing it” on most things. When I cook, I almost always work from recipes. This directly stems from when I was trying to learn spices and try them in different foods — a challenge for someone like me who is perpetually stuffy. I started by putting nutmeg in my scrambled egg. Mom laughed at me for trying such a weird combination, the egg tasted bad, and I went with someone else’s recommendations from then on, because my curiosity, my instincts, were obviously horribly unreliable.

I don’t like writing code from scratch. I will find something that does something similar to what I want, then tweak it to fit what I need. This is not Best Practices, but it’s what works for me when scratch won’t. When I was first trying to learn to code, getting the damn thing to compile took so much freaking time and effort. By the time it compiled (i.e. I made it valid code instead of gibberish), I was so tired, frustrated, and confused that I didn’t have the energy or heart to figure out why it didn’t work the way I wanted. So I worked from code others wrote because, while it might not do all I want, at least it runs.

Throughout my life I have learned that my instincts are wrong, that I do not know enough, and that I should just shut up and let someone who knows better tell me what to do. This gets old when that person clearly has no better idea than I do, but somehow still has a mountain of confidence. Why haven’t they learned to be humble? Why has no one laughed at their failures? Why do they think they’re competent despite them? Then I worry about what’s wrong with me that I’m not confident, which is yet another failure, and feel undeserving of being confident because, while I might know better than one idiot, I still don’t know enough, etc. etc.

I color in the lines. I don’t draw anything new, because I suck at it. I know this. I have learned that lesson well.


A few weeks ago I got chatting with a friend. He commented that I had not posted anything for a while, then asked how my costume was going. He has done cosplay, I thought, He might understand. I related, in short, that it wasn’t. That I couldn’t find a pattern, that I lacked the skill, patience, and confidence to make one. That I got frustrated and quit. That if I had a pattern to work from, I would be fine; I had the other skills, or could learn them easily enough. That I felt that I was not a real “Maker” because I am more comfortable working from patterns, even while cooking or coding. That most projects I see emphasize starting from bare idea and not using any templates to get the final result. Making an apple pie by first creating the universe.

Then he told me a story.

He once went to see a comedy show by Kevin Smith, aka Silent Bob. Smith told that when he started telling jokes, he would find ones someone else had written and tell those. After a while, he found that people liked the jokes more when he replaced the characters in the joke with his own friends. Then, as he grew more comfortable, he started writing his own jokes, and eventually entire sets of his own material. So maybe, my friend said, the point was that it’s ok to work from patterns until you’re comfortable working without them.

What if I never get there, I asked. Then you’ll still be doing cool things, he said. Not everything has to start from scratch.


I’m doing small projects right now. I’m papercrafting, which isn’t making anything new, but building someone else’s creation. I’m following a cross stitch pattern where I had to choose my own colors. I’m not modifying them, I’m choosing them! That’s enough trying to create something new for right now. I want to do more, to create from scratch, but I’m too dissuaded by failures to leap right in. The colors being not quite right is frustrating enough. So, like I have had to approach so many other things lately, I am taking very small steps. Comfortable steps. Stretching my abilities and comfort zone just the tiniest bit each time. Progress is slow, slower than anyone wants, slower than I want. I’m impatient. But if I want it to stick, if I don’t want to lose that progress and more, slow, small steps are what I need right now. Establishing a habit of doing, of making, of creating something even slightly new, is better than failing at one big thing. I want to complete the project; for now, though, I’m creating the pattern.

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One comment

  1. I like what your friend said. He’s right. You know I know how you feel though. Hearing the criticism (real or imagined) from others resonates far longer than I wish it did. I’m looking forward to hearing how these small steps pan out.

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