By Catherine Sullivan
Great novels inspire great cosplay. And the best novels inspire the cutest cosplay. Today we’re delighted to share with you the very best of the cute-best: guest blogger Catherine’s instructions for turning a dog into Rii, the wonderful bat-like monster from Rebecca Levene’s Smiler’s Fair and The Hunter’s Kind!
Warning! This post contains the cutest dog-dressed-as-a-giant-batlike-monster pictures you’ve ever seen.
A vaguely instructive guide to making it up as I went along.
To complete this project you will need:
1 or more vile enablers/bad idea bears to talk you into doing it
1 dog (the size of the dog will determine how much everything else you will need)
Paper (either the back of some roll wrap or lots of A4 taped together)
Quite sturdy wire
Pencil, ruler or tape measure, scissors (if you’re fancy like me you’ll have paper, fabric and snips), thread (extra strong recommended), needle, silver (or other metallic if you prefer) sharpie, needle-nose pliers, wire-cutters and dog treats
Optional speech bubble: printed quote, cardboard and glue
For the wings, the essential part of the project:
Be talked into doing this thing that sounded kind of interesting, but you wouldn’t really follow through with it normally, by your Vile Enabler. Ensure that they provide you with such a spectacular mental image that you can’t back away from wanting to accomplish such perfection. In this example the Vile Enabler was Fleur
and she convinced me to enter my resident fluffball and all-around-adorable Chloe in Sci-Fi London’s dog cosplay contest. I have screengrabbed evidence from Twitter.
Measure your dog for wings and draft the pattern. There are probably a couple ways you could do this and the size of Chloe’s wings evolved with the shape of them (we started with a cartoon dragon style and wound up more realistic bat), so I’m not sure if how I initially did this is best. Anyway, the initial measurement was from shoulder point to ‘wrist.’ This gave a rough idea for the height (as they were originally vertical). As for the wingspan, I’m sure there are complex mathematical equations that would tell you how big the wings need to be to get your dog airborne, but you can estimate based on a bird with a comparable body size and ignore the weight factor here as there is no actual flying. I was thinking hawk for Chloe’s wings. A beagle might need something swan-sized. Whatever. Wing it.
Doodle your approximate wings on the paper, cut them out and check against your dog. There, you’ve just pattern drafted wings!
Make the wing ‘bones’ out of wire. No, really. This is what you bought the wire for. Here we have Chloe modelling the early cartoon design and then asking for tummy rubs on the Rebecca Levene-approved more bat-like design.
Use the knitting wool to connect all the points of the wings. This will give you some stability in the edges that don’t have bones and also create tension which will help hold the shape of the wings. It also gives you something to sew the fabric to on the boneless edges.
Sew the sheer fabric on to the wings. Depending on how sheer your fabric is you may want one or two layers.
I opted for two layers to make the wings more definitively black and it also meant that I could sandwich the bones between the two layers of fabric. The funky shape is because I butchered a skirt I’d never much liked to get the tulle (tulle was approved by the author as a good fabric choice).
The sewing takes ages and you need to ensure you keep the tension taut (unless you want wrinkly wings, your call). You don’t need to use any fancy sort of stitching, just ensure the fabric is firmly attached to the bones and the wool. As long as you can poke the needle and thread in one side and out the other, you can handle this!
I recommend regularly attaching the wings to your dog to make sure they still work with the shape and size and so on, although your dog may get bored of this. Break out those dog treats!
This is where you have to decide what, if anything, to do about the bum end. Having a girl made this a little easier for me and you may need to work out some adaptations if you’ve got a boy. I experimented with various ways to extend the wings down Chloe’s body (to maximise the bat-like style, but you could choose to simply have shoulder joined wings), mostly by tying them on, but I knew that wouldn’t be good enough in the final product.
At this point I realised that just attaching the wings to Chloe’s normal harness wasn’t going to work to give the wings the stability I wanted. I’m still not sure what I actually did here, and I know some of it was pointless in the end (like attempting to use the zip as a wing raise/lower device), but ultimately I used the waistband from the skirt, cut it up and made a shoulder-strap-harness thing.
There’s a longer bit that goes around under her armpits (the wings themselves were attached to this band) and then some bits that cross over her shoulders/chest to meet in front and one side has a leg hole and the other a safety pin. I think for this bit you and your dog are just going to have to negotiate something you’re both comfortable with. As with anything you strap around your dog, ensure you can get a finger or two comfortably underneath so it’s not too tight.
It was also around this point that Chloe started to get really fed up with the idea of ‘you stand over there while I take your photo’ and repeatedly charged me while I tried to focus the camera. There are an almost embarrassing number of photos that look like this:
Adding leg loops. Working from what I liked about the tied-on version I cut the extensions into points and tacked them together so they would rest at the base of her tail. Then I used more knitting wool to make loops to go around each of her hind legs to hold the ends of the wings in place.
Voila! This should be your wings completed. Chloe was quite chuffed with them at this point and comfortable moving and snoozing in them.
Next we’ll cover the accessories that will turn your costume from winged dog into the perfect Rii.
Welcome back to part two of How to turn your dog into Rii—A vaguely instructive guide to making it up as I went along. In part one we covered making the wings; this part is all about the accessories that make your winged dog Rii and not just winged!}
For the tunic:
The tunic is how Rii gets her armour, but if you’re just interested in having a winged dog, you can skip this part.
If your dog already has things like jumpers and coats for cold-weather wear this part is easy, if not… well, we’re embracing the concept of making it up as you go along anyway! I used Chloe’s favourite pink hoodie (you may have a moment to make all the Chihuahua-in-clothes jokes now and then we’ll move on) to get a rough idea of the size and shape I needed for the top and bottom halves drew it onto the non-sheer fabric (the skirt lining actually, so Chloe’s tunic is silk!), added a bit to the shoulders to fit over the wings and then cut it out. Once it was loosely draped over Chloe and her wings I trimmed it accordingly so it was the shape I wanted.
In order to hold the ends of the tunic down I stitched little knitting wool loops (visible in the photo for the next step) onto the top half and long strings onto the underside. The strings wound up being really long but it worked out well because I was able to thread them through the loops, back under Chloe’s tummy where they crossed over before tying on her back. Dog anatomy means you can have the top of the tunic longer than the underside so if you give yourself some space between the loops and the hem you’ll have a flap to hide the ties under.
There are probably many ways of turning blank fabric into something resembling chain mail and several of them are probably easier than what I did, but I just took my trusty silver sharpie and hand drew lots of little circles.
Add an optional rider strap. I had a leg loop that wound up being too short so I used it as a handle for a rider to hold on to, as Rii gives lifts to Eric in the book.
Put the tunic on your winged dog and you are done!
Optional speech bubble:
I decided it would be good if Chloe could express herself as Rii so I printed out the classic line ‘What use have I for a morsel such as thee?’ and the suitably Rii-ish ‘Greetings, morsel.’ Then I glued them to either side of a bit of cardboard and glued on a spare bit of wire as a handle. Then I made Chloe practise her facial expressions
So, that was it, we were all ready for the Sci Fido cosplay event! While, alas, we didn’t win Chloe was much admired and posed for her photo so many times for her adoring public she wasn’t interested in behaving for the professional photographer. Such a diva. I don’t think we’ll do it again but if we do… Cersei Lannister. Why not, they’re both blonde megalomaniacs.