Six months ago, I sat on my bed, heart pounding, tears hidden behind fear and a relentless cognitive dissonance.  I was lost somewhere between repulsion, guilt, apathy and confusion while my husband stood in the doorway of our bedroom again, his red face twisted somehow with a look of both disgust and pleasure.  What are you going to do? It seemed to say. When I tried to reach for my phone, he took it.  When I asked if I could leave to use the bathroom, he told me to piss myselfYou can leave, go ahead, try…but you have to get by me first.  When I ran to the window to yell for help, he wrapped a single arm around my neck, picked me up, and slammed me, face down, onto the bed.  As I laid there on my stomach, I wailed.

He kept going on, about what I don’t remember.  Over and over in my head, I recited to myself the self-talk I had been practicing for the past few months, since I realized what was happening.  You are worth more than this.  You do not deserve this.  You need to leave; your life depends on it.  I knew that shortly after this incident, I would be subject to wifely duties, the fight would be over, and I could sleep.  Normalcy would return if I could stick it out until the morning.  The scariest part of this midnight violence was that I knew I would forget.  I knew I would make excuses for him, and I would justify why he did what he did.  I knew this, because it wasn’t the first time.

I received a call from the Court Administrator’s Office the day I wrote this post, just before stepping into a meeting.  My divorce was signed.  In the last 6 months, I have shattered every negative perception he ever made of me.  Every fear I had about my ability to survive without him, I have crushed.  I feel empowered and unstoppable, confident and proud.

The most tragic part of an abusive situation like this, is that victims love their abusers.  They are dedicated husbands, wives, girlfriends and boyfriends.  They are people passionate about wanting to fix everything and make things work because they honestly believe the issue is themselves.  Abusers condition victims to continue to feel this way, which is what makes leaving so hard, and abuse so easy.  I promised myself that when the divorce was over, I would do everything in my power to keep others from experiencing what I and so many others have.  I would help families and friends look for signs of domestic violence and abuse, and most importantly get information to victims in creative ways.  Abusers serve as master filters to their victims, because often it is not until victims realize their experience is not unique, that they see the reality of their situation.

This portion of the blog will serve as a repository for articles, interviews, and vignettes centered around awareness, healing, and support.  What I found in my research thus far, is that many people leave abusive environments and never look back or share stories.  In my fear to leave, I wanted to hear stories of successful women and read about their lives after they made the decision to no longer be a victim.  I will share my story openly, as well as use my experiences and the experiences of other contributors to illustrate concepts and raise awareness.

Much, much more to come.


I am not a licensed therapist or psychologist, but I am always available to help.  Consider me an automatic friend.  Please feel free to contact me (anonymously if you wish) for support and guidance.  Having been through this, I have a wealth of resources and scope that I have been sharing with others and want to share with you.  Frances Meres  

Adventures in Cosplay: Part Two – Fabrication

GenCon2016 was a BLAST, and Cosplay on Saturday was fantastic.  Here is an overview of how I constructed Anthony’s Sunny costume.  This is in no way intended to be a tutorial, but should provide some tips for coming up with your own costumes by using existing patterns and a bit (OK a lot) of creativity.

When I am Frankenpatterning, I first start out by taking a look at the costume components and trying to break them down into small parts.  I outlined how I went about choosing a few patterns as a base in my previous post.

When I begin, I take out the pattern that I am using as a base and typically draw all over the illustration on the inside.  This gives me a visual idea of what I need to cut, and where I need to make alterations.  In this design, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do, so it was relatively clean.  When you open your pattern, you should study the pieces to get an idea who which ones you will be using. This also gives you an idea of how everything will go together.  For Sunny’s jacket, I knew I needed the main breast of the jacket, and I knew the collar area in the front would fold over to create the mandarin-style jacket front (instead of folding it down to make a deep V shape).  I also knew I would need the tail pieces.  I discarded the accessories, pockets, and jackets I did not need.  One thing to remember is that the pattern will come equipped with pattern pieces for ALL jackets.  It is up to you to decide what you need.


Next, I cut out the pattern pieces for the parts I knew I needed.  In this case, it was the breast (jacket), sleeves, collar, and tails.  Remember to regard those notches…they are extremely important as they help you line up pieces later on.



I trace the patterns onto the fabric and cut.  On the breast of this jacket, I knew I wanted the jacket to form more of a V shape at the waistline, and the jacket price was suited for a higher waist.  You can place the cut pattern piece on your dress form (or model in my case) to see where it will hit.  When selecting a size and cutting, remember that’s your pieces will be bigger than seemingly necessary.  You need to account for hems, and it is always better to cut larger and trim down.  It is much harder to add fabric to your design!



Follow the instructions in the pattern to assemble the jacket.  This one was straightforward because it came with a Left and Right front and back pieces, which are typically sewn together at the shoulders after being stiched in the back to form a seam.  With Sunny’s jacket, however, there are no seams on the shoulders!  So, I added a bit of fabric to account for the folds I had to make (see below), and I cut the front and back pieces as a full Left and Right peice.  I laid out the provided Left front and Left Back peices on the fabric at the seam to determine the size of the peice I needed to cut.

Now, this part was tricky.  For the arms, Sunny’s coat has ridges that follow the armhole.  This was a perfect example of how difficult it is thinking about a 3D shape (like a human) on a flat surface (like the floor).  To determine how much extra fabric I needed, and in what shape to cut the armhole to allow me to made these modifications, I almost had to start “ripping” before I even cut.  I envisioned what the coat would look like “undone”, and cut accordingly.  Luckily, it worked out and I was able to made consistent ripples that left me with a shape that fit the measure of the [left front+left back] peice that I needed to complete the jacket to size.  WHEW!



I figured that was a good time to have Anthony try on the new jacket…or at least what was done!  Luckily, my modifications worked out, and it was beginning to take shape!  You will see on the “ripples”, I stitched about 1/8″ topstitch to hold these in place.  They are not hems, just decoration really.  This stitch held these ripples in place.


It is a good idea to check frequently, even if it means sticking your model with a few pins (sorry Ant!). This helps you determine how much you need to trim down the product.  In this case, I tailored the back quite a bit, to accommodate the difference in Anthony’s shoulder to waist ratio.  Then, I stitched up the sides.

Next it was time for sleeves.  Sleeves are another special challenge is you are not used to pattern design.  The pattern calls for you to pin the right sides together, but the shapes are not identical for the inner and outer sleeves.  This accommodates a 3 dimensional arm attached to a shoulder 🙂  Also, in this particular pattern, I also stitched in an allowance for elbow room, which allows the arm to bend without causing a bunch of fabric in the elbow crease.



Once I had the arms stitched, I duplicated the pattern for the lining, and slid the lining into the sleeve, wrong sides together.  THEN, I slid the arm wrist first into the shoulder hole, with the jacket inside out.  Effectively, the sleeve and the jacket hole should be right side together.  It might help you visualize to get a jacket and tuck the sleeve inside.  You will better I understand how this works.  It is worth noting that this is a cosplay costume and not a “real” jacket, so I did not mind that the seam showed inside the coat.  Make sure to line up the longest point of the sleeve with the middle of the shoulder.


Now, I pinned the heck out of this mess.  You may have some puckering.  Try to spread the sleeve out to fit the armhole.  I had a bit more puckering because I had to abandon the pattern to accommodate the ripples on the shoulders, else it would have fit more nicely.  If you do have puckering though, fear not.  Just try to make the left and right sides as even as possible, including where any puckering lands.


Turn the jacket right side out, and it will look like a real coat!  Topstitch your seams to make them lay nice and flat.

For the tails, I used the pattern, but ended up free-styling for the most part.  I wanted to line these with a nicer deep red satin, and measured against Anthony to make sure they were the right length.  The important part here is to make one giant peice that will be folder over to make the tail.


Stitch along the length and the bottom.  You will turn these inside out and slide them up under the jacket and lining, then topstitch.  For these tails, I wanted a front “facing” in leather, so I made the leather part a bit bigger than the satin.  That way when I folder over, some leather showed on the front facing side.


I have a special place in my heart for top stitching.  It makes everything look so clean!



Slide the tails up inside the lining, and create a hem by folding both the leather and lining under, the pinning. Stitch away!



Following the coat, I followed a similar process for the vest.  This was pretty straightforward.  I used a velour and an armory-looking leather from the cosplay section of Joann’s for the vest.  These shoulders were seamed, but the sides were not stitched.  Instead, I used eyelets and leather to bind the sides of the vest.  I also created a binding for the armholes to give it a clean look!imageimageimage


That is pretty much it!  I did create some belts and straps as accessories as well.  The finished product came out looking GREAT!  I will leave you with this comparison.  Thank you for joining me on this adventure in Cosplay!  For a walk through of how I created mine, visit my YouTube channel!  This will also explain some of the techniques I mentioned in this post.  Happy sewing!

Anthony as Sunny, and me as the Widow…but more to come on that 😉
Daniel Wu as Sunny – Into the Badlands

Adventures in Cosplay: Part one – Planning

In preparation for this year’s GenCon, I am making costumes for both myself and Anthony of AntLabGames.  Due to Anthony’s striking resemblance to Sunny of AMC’s Into the Badlands, and my butt-kicking attitude, we are going as Sunny and the show’s only baroness, The Widow!

Anthony and his pseudo persona.  Can we pull this off?

My challenge will be a bit more difficult to pull off, but I think we can manage.  Here are the costume looks we are going for:

Sunny wears a leather coat, with tails, over a vest with a Mandarin collar.  His look is completed with leather bands, belts, and sword.

 The Widow is a highly pro-feminine Baroness with an “anything men can do women can do better” attitude.  Naturally, her costume follows suit (literally!). She wears a Victorian-Gothic inspired suit jacket with a corset underneath.  Her jacket also has tails, and she too is adorned in belts and leather straps.

The Plan

So buying costumes at over $200 a piece was out of the question, because I sew!  So this post and the following in this series will cover how I went about making these.  First step was to look at the costume and determine what kind of patterns I needed to acquire.  I could have written my own, but sometimes buying something that is close will at least give you an idea of where to start.  I am relatively talented, but certainly no professional, so this is a great way to get going.
For Anthony, I picked out two patterns which I will Franken-pattern to get the right look for his coat.  Once I have a base established, I can amend things like the details and the coat front closures to match the costume.

For me, I chose a dress pattern that contains a coat-like article, and a corset pattern, which contains the patterns for a few different styles of corset.  I will get into why I chose these patterns, and how to Franken-pattern when I go through the development of each costume.

Remember, you do not need to follow the patterns to a T (yes, I will be turning a Captain Hook/Mad Hatter costume into an Asian fighting machine). They are used only to give you a solid foundation.

If you recall from 6th grade Home Ec., the back of each pattern lets you know how much yardage you will need, as well as any interfacing, notions (thread, buttons etc.), and the type of fabric the pattern-maker recommends.  Again, I am not making these exact outfits, so I disregarded the notions for now, and used fabric that I needed for the costumes.

I selected a few different fabrics for the costumes, which I will get into as I construct these bad boys and write about them later.  I will start with Anthony’s Sunny  costume in the next post!