Creative Cosplay With Jennifer Parker

Brimming with a can-do attitude and an innovative spirit, Jennifer Parker has always been a fan of the arts. From an early age, she was actively participating in local theater productions and soon found herself enamored with the costumes. Her pursuit of creative expression eventually led her to Sailrite® and the Ultrafeed® LSZ-1 Sewing Machine. Jennifer was kind enough to share her incredible DIY journey with us and explain how Sailrite became a small, yet crucial, facet of her unique artistic endeavors.

In an effort to expand her artistic ability, Jennifer began teaching herself leatherworking as a way to recreate the costume of a beloved video game character. The results were just the start of her journey into cosplay! “I started teaching myself leatherworking three years ago, simply because I was interested in making a cosplay of the character Ciri from “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt,” a visually gorgeous video game. They designed a strong, skilled, smart and capable heroine with a handful of awesome outfits and I thought, ‘Yep, I want to make that.’ Buying all the pieces was going to be crazy expensive, so I sought to learn how to do it myself.” 

By the time the project was done, Jennifer had enough motivation to tackle another project, then another and then another. Before long she had created several costumes that featured bags, sword sheaths, belts, corsets and more. With her experience and confidence growing, she eventually decided to do the leather accessories for a Captain America costume for her husband. This meant sewing gaiters, a utility belt, gloves and a shoulder harness. 

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Captain America, ready for action!

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Soon after that, Jennifer realized she would need a high-quality sewing machine to sew through the myriad of materials used in her costumes. Living in a one bedroom apartment at the time meant that her sewing space was limited and a portable machine was a must-have. While there were many household and light fabric projects on her radar, the machine in question also had to be equipped to sew through the occasional thick pieces of leather used in cosplay attire. But could there possibly be an industrial sewing machine out there that didn’t require a large, stationary setup and was versatile enough to meet Jennifer’s needs?

“I started doing research and came across leatherworkers who were recommending the Sailrite Ultrafeed Sewing Machine as a very versatile option. I went to the website and was immediately hooked by the entire culture and history. My dad was a sailing instructor before he moved into the aviation industry, so I have a very strong foundation in maritime culture and fond childhood memories of learning how to sail. So not only did this machine have everything I needed, it was beautiful and affordable and I thought, ‘Well, this is a perfect fit in every way!’”

The Stitcher Becomes The Witcher

With her new machine in tow, Jennifer began making boot covers and emblems, journal covers, dog collars and even Christmas ornaments. With those projects under her belt, she once again decided to delve into the wonderful world of custom costumes. Everything she had learned up until that point would prepare her for her most complex project yet (and the one she is most proud of to date). She was going to create an exact replica of the costume for the main protagonist, Geralt, in “The Witcher” video game series and Netflix show of the same title. 

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Geralt (right) and one of his many real-life clothing pieces sewn by Jennifer.

“I dusted off my costuming skills and wrote a production schedule for myself — including not only the insanely complex armored jacket, but also all the accessories, velvet jacket, linen shirt, leather and chino pants, boot covers, and all the leather straps that attach his armor throughout. Planning, engineering, patterning and constructing every single garment had its challenges. I used a total of three machines, but the Ultrafeed (whom I have affectionately christened ‘Big Blue’) made her mark somewhere on them all, and exclusively on the armored jacket. It was so much more difficult than I expected. Creating something real and wearable from a rendering is immensely challenging. I found entire weekends completely scrapped because something I tried simply did not work out — more than once!”

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We’re endlessly impressed by Jennifer’s dedication to her work and her patience to make sure every last detail was perfect, even the most minute ones. She went on to explain, “The jacket took nearly two weeks just to plan and over 100 hours to build. It weighs over 10 pounds, is fully lined, fully adjustable, and features removable rerebraces (sleeves) and armored mantle top piece. I used 20 square feet of five different leathers, 4 yards of canvas, 2 yards of cotton pique, 2 yards cotton batting, 5,000 aluminum chainmail jump rings, 2 pounds of hardware (rivets, snaps, buckles, spikes), 5mm foam for pauldrons and over 700 yards of nylon thread.”

Jennifer’s hard work speaks for itself and has garnered attention on Instagram and the admiration of friends and family. It’s certainly caught our eye! But for this creative connoisseur, the journey is just as important as the destination. “The most rewarding thing about all this has been discovering an art form that I love — and watching each project yield measurable progress in my overall craftsmanship.” 

Future Forward

Now that she’s taken her sewing skills to the next level, what advice would Jennifer give to someone ready to start their DIY journey? She was eager to share with us. “Start small and just jump in and do something. I got some leather and basic starter supplies to start and just rolled with it until I was sure I wanted more from the hobby. I watched HUNDREDS of YouTube videos on everything from saddle-making to foam-smithing and worked on scraps while I watched. I spent a day playing with my machine, seeing exactly what it could do. Make friends with your tools and you will get to know their limitations. I talk to myself A LOT and have different playlists (and alcohol pairings) for every mood and project.”

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“You will feel like your first project is totally awful. You’re going to make mistakes and do things inefficiently and take the long way and get super frustrated. In the end, you may not even be ‘doing it right’ but who cares because look at what you’ve just made! Just like anything, to become good, it takes study and practice — years of it.”

We can’t wait to see what you sew next, Jennifer! 

 

How to Sew a DIY Medical Hood

We were recently contacted by a Sailrite customer who created his own design for DIY medical hoods that are used in conjunction with PAPR (Powered Air Purifying Respirator) machines to keep medical workers safe when treating a COVID-19 patient. George Warner was generous enough to take time out of sewing hoods to answer our questions about his hood design, share his instructions and drawings, explain his motivation to help, and how he’s hoping other DIYers will join in the fight against COVID-19.

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One of George’s early hood designs made from Tyvek material.

Q. What was your reasoning or motivation behind wanting to design these medical hoods?

A. Our daughter is a third-year resident at one of the larger Boston, Massachusetts, hospitals in internal medicine. Her friends, who are our friends, are Emergency Room doctors, pediatricians and anesthesiologists. 

They will be intubating people for ventilators and are very at risk during some of these procedures. We are trying to produce hoods to fit positive pressure respirators known as PAPR units. PAPRs are a type of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) used by medical personnel to safeguard workers against breathing contaminated air. The low pressure, positive pressure keeps contaminated air from getting into the hood and potentially infecting the medical worker. These hoods have plenty of room in them. For added protection, you can wear an N-95 Mask inside of the hood and it is not going to get dirty.  They just came out with safe ways to re-sterilize these masks.

Q. Do you have a background in design work? Are you already familiar with these PAPR units?

A. I’m an architect and I have worked on building houses, boats and kiteboards. I have had two of these PAPR units for building and construction purposes for 20 years. Instead of breathing dust, you’re breathing clean filtered air, even when sanding or grinding metal with carborundum (silicon carbide) discs that produce very fine dust.

A few companies make these PAPR units, but there is no reason to expect that production will be ramped up in time to meet the impending surge. In the United States, we have the advantage and luxury of a small head start on the COVID-19 pandemic. All of the medical outlets and industrial outlets will be scoured and empty in short order. The units have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters.

Q. What is your goal in making these DIY hoods for PAPR units?

A. To get these PAPR hoods in the hands of frontline medical workers who are at risk of contracting the coronavirus when treating COVID-19 patients. I am hoping that by sharing my design and story, other DIYers will help out and start sewing these hoods to donate to local hospitals in need.

For anyone interested in sewing these hoods, please be aware that they are not up to medical protocols, neither are they CDC approved as PPE. However, in a very short amount of time, no emergency room or ICU in the United States will be able to fully meet the PPE standards of a normal day. When that happens, medical professionals will get sick as they have in China, Italy and Spain. There are thousands of sick doctors in Europe right now. They can’t treat anybody. They are the ones needing treatment. My goal is to make these hoods in order to keep medical workers healthy so they can continue to treat the sick without getting sick themselves.

Q. What materials are required to make these medical hoods?

A. I have been using a medium duty white tarp that is easy to clean and not so difficult to sew. We have experimented with Tyvek® polyethylene dumpster bags and with Tyvek house wrap. The commercially made hoods made by 3M use a fabric called tychem, that is very similar to the Tyvek paper that is used for post office envelopes. My latest prototype using Tyvek house wrap worked well and sews easily.

I’ve also experimented with Stamoid™ Light and clear vinyl window material from Sailrite. The window material from Sailrite is excellent. It is strong and cleanable and still flexible enough to fold inside out in the sewing process. The 30-gauge vinyl is great if you have a Sailrite sewing machine that can easily handle it, which I do. A 20- or 12-gauge clear window vinyl might be better for home sewing machines. I’ve used an old windsurfer window and it worked great. Others are using clear file folders.

The Stamoid Light fabric is really great in many regards but a little stiff and difficult to maneuver in the tight turns. It is strong and will be easy to clean. Again, my Sailrite sewing machine was able to handle this vinyl material, but I’m not sure how a home sewing machine would do. Hoods can also be made from Dacron® sailcloth, which is easier to sew.

Q. Are you making your medical hood design available to the public for anyone who wants to make and donate them to hospitals? If so, where can people find your instructions and design illustrations?

A. We created a hood tutorial on the Instructables.com website. If anyone needs additional help, they can contact me through the website. The sewing is an intermediate skill level I would say. I would say that most Sailrite sewers should be able to do this. There will be a short video of the most difficult section. You can test this on a piece of scrap material and see how you do. You’ll get it quickly enough!

https://www.instructables.com/id/Protective-Hood-for-Powered-Air-Purifying-Respirat/

 Note: Neither Sailrite nor George Warner makes any claim that this medical hood design will protect the medical worker from contracting the coronavirus. Positive airflow is a safe procedure, but there are many elements that only the user can control. We are not an authorized medical or health safety authority. Use at your own risk.

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If you would like to help sew medical hoods for your local hospitals, please use the link above to George’s written instructions and drawings. Please check with your local hospitals that they are accepting DIY medical hoods and other protective gear beforehand. Sailrite would like to say a big thank you to all DIYers out there who are donating their time, talent and sewing supplies to help provide their communities and medical facilities with face masks, shields and other protective equipment. Together we can save lives and help limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Weathering the Storm: Sewing & DIY

Bruce Carlile is a lifelong boater. He grew up in California’s San Diego Bay Area sailing, racing and enjoying life. From participating in the Junior Sailing Program at his local yacht club to racing a variety of sailboats, including Sabots, Lasers, Hobie Cats, Star keelboats and more, to speeding along on his family’s powerboats, Bruce can’t imagine his life without a boat of some kind in it. In 2018, he obtained his late father’s Duffy boat. It was in rough shape, having been devastated by a freak November storm, but Bruce was determined to save it. With time, hard work and his Ultrafeed® Sewing Machine, he was able to restore his father’s boat to its former glory.

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The first surrey top Bruce sewed, including vinyl window panels.

A Cocktail Cruiser

Bruce’s lifelong love of boats was inherited from his parents. “My parents had a place in Coronado Cays, a residential marina in the south end of San Diego Bay, and there was a dock behind the house. It was the perfect setting for a cruising boat, and my father saw one cruising by one day.” Bruce’s father asked the owner what type of boat it was and that’s how he was introduced to the Duffy boat. Soon after, he bought one for himself — first an 18-foot Duffy and then he upgraded to the 22-foot Duffy Classic.

As soon as Bruce’s father purchased the Duffy, Bruce immediately fell in love with the boat’s laid-back design. The first electric boat, a Duffy glides slowly and silently on the water and is designed for the cruising lifestyle. Nicknamed a “cocktail cruiser,” this slow-moving vessel maxes out at about 5 mph. For owners of this boat, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

Giving DIY a Try

The Duffy was a 2005 model and came with the original surrey top. It was worn out and needed to be replaced. Bruce contacted local shops inquiring about a commercially made replacement top for his father’s Duffy and was shocked by the quote. “Commercial and factory-made surrey tops were priced at about $6,000! I then started researching how to make them and came across the Sailrite website. After watching the DIY videos, I figured that I could make it myself.”

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Patterning and measuring for the surrey top using Dura-Skrim® Patterning Material.

Bruce didn’t let his complete lack of sewing experience deter him from tackling the project. He purchased the Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine as well as Sunbrella® fabric and binding, patterning material, zippers and all the other tools and accessories to sew a new surrey top. “Using only Sailrite materials, I successfully completed the project for less than half of the price of a commercially available Sunbrella top, even including the price of the sewing machine!”

In addition to purchasing all his supplies and sewing machine from Sailrite, he also relied heavily on Sailrite’s inventory of how-to videos and tutorials. “The DIY videos were key,” Bruce explained. “I’m a visual learner, and had it not been for those instructional videos I don’t think I could have done it. I found the Ultrafeed incredibly easy to learn how to use and I quickly became proficient at sewing with it.”

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Sewing the surrey top with his trusty Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Sewing Machine.

When his father passed away in 2014, the boat went to Bruce’s sister. Unfortunately, his sister’s family didn’t use the boat and from 2014 to 2018 it fell into disrepair. “In the fall of 2018, they put it up for sale and I offered to buy it,” Bruce said. However, that Thanksgiving, a catastrophic storm rolled through the San Diego area. The high winds and heavy rains did terrible damage, ripping the Duffy’s surrey top to shreds. “Winds were estimated at over 60 mph with even higher gusts,” Bruce recalled.

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A Passion Project

Due to the storm’s damage and the years of neglect, just about everything needed to be fixed. Bruce was dutifully up to the task. The boat needed a new surrey top, new vinyl side curtains, new upholstery and carpeting. “The hull had oxidized badly, the boot stripe had worn away from rubbing against the dock, and the running gear was horribly corroded. So I set about restoring it, completely refurbishing every inch. I made a new surrey top (my second one) and replaced the engine belt, shaft, cutlass bearing, propeller and new bottom paint.”

“Nothing went untouched. I had to buy a used trailer and retrofit it to take the Duffy. I towed it to a storage yard, bought a portable generator to provide electricity for the power tools, and relaunched her 6 months later.”

What began as a cost-cutting measure has grown into a true passion for sewing and DIY. “It started out as a way to save money but grew into the challenge and accomplishment of making it myself. Not only that, but I also taught myself a very useful trade, especially being a boater.” Bruce and his wife also own a 21-foot Yamaha ski boat and two Yamaha WaveRunners®. “I will be making new covers for the WaveRunners this summer to prepare them for next winter.”

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Bruce working hard on the second surrey top for his Duffy boat.

Duffy Sewing & Beyond

Bruce’s uses for the Ultrafeed haven’t stopped at his Duffy boat. “I’ve found myself venturing into new areas where I can utilize my sewing skills. I’ve repaired a jean jacket for my niece. I sewed a custom canvas cover for a high school basketball scorekeeper’s table. I’ve even made safety barriers for a deck that leads down to a dock. All of these projects were produced using Sailrite as my material supplier. It’s exciting to think of new projects for this ever-expanding hobby!”

For Bruce, enjoyment of his Duffy boat comes down to living the cruising lifestyle. “I love the classic look of the boat and the fact that it’s electric. My Duffy Classic seats about 16 people and has a built-in refrigerator, which makes it the perfect cocktail cruiser.” Bruce particularly enjoys taking his family out on the water and spending time together. Bruce and his family launched the boat on Lake San Marcos in the northern part of San Diego County just before July 4, 2019, in time to enjoy the patriotic festivities and show off the new surrey top.

What sewing projects are on the horizon for Bruce? “I’d like to make a new full-boat cover for the Duffy.” In addition to canvaswork, Bruce wants to try his hand at upholstery. “I’m going to tackle reupholstering the seats in the Duffy with the help of Sailrite’s videos and materials. Through sewing and DIY, I’ve learned that I can tap into my creative side, something I never knew I had. I now have the confidence to attempt just about anything that can be made with fabric and the Ultrafeed.”

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It’s all smiles as Bruce’s family enjoys the brand-new surrey top — version two.