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Ask Ani-Mia: Masks, Photographers, & Sewing

This week's advice includes making masks, sewing machines, and more!

Ask Ani-Mia

Hey there cosplayers and cosplay enthusiasts. Welcome to Ask Ani-Mia, a running advice column where you can ask questions on any topic that may be cosplay related and get an answer. Hopefully my years of cosplay experience can help shed some light on questions you may have been dying to ask but for some reason or another haven’t. So let’s get started.

Hi Ani-Mia, I‘ve been seeing lots of cosplayers making masks for COVID protection and I wanted to help but I don’t know what to do. I also worry my sewing isn’t that great. – Chelsey H.

One of the impressive things to come out of the stay at home orders, is the number of cosplayers giving their time to making masks to help others around the world. The best part is, masks aren’t difficult to make and even for a beginning sewer, can be good practice, especially when repetitively making them.

The recommended fabric to use is 100% cotton with a tight weave. You can find fabric online but some retailers may have shipping delays and items can run out of stock so plan accordingly. If you can’t find fabric, bed sheets, woven shirts, table cloths or curtains can also be used. Make sure to wash the fabric first so that it’s preshrunk and clean.

You’re also going to need elastic or ties to hold the mask to the face and a metal piece (ie paper clip) to fit it around the nose snugly. Create a pocket for a nonwoven interface or filter to be placed into. The filter will be replaceable while the fabric mask will be rewashable, adding another layer of protection. Patterns can be found online but the best ones I’ve found start with a 9x8 rectangular pattern which gives room for three one-inch pleats.

Once you’ve made some masks, you can start distributing them. Some cosplayers have put masks up for a reasonable cost in their stores while a number of groups have popped up to coordinate creators with those in need. The best resource I’ve found is https://www.masksforheroes.com/ which not only has additional information about making masks but also has an organized system to get masks to healthcare workers around the nation, including number of items needed and how to donate them.

Dear Ani-Mia, Last week there were posts on Facebook about a cosplay photographer who was asking cosplayers for nudes. I want to start doing shoots with cosplay photographers but this kind of stuff scares me. Is there a way to find good photographers that are safe? - Anonymous

Truthfully, there have been a few photographers who have been exposed for some sort of improper behavior; and while this can seem unsettling, it does give hope in that exposing these people helps to ensure they aren’t able to hurt others and helps to teach newer cosplayers how to identify this behavior and keep themselves safe.

Any time you want to work with a photographer, whether they approach you or vice versa; look into their background. Google them and ask others that have worked with them about their experience.

Keep an eye out for any troubling communications. Are they respectful of your guidelines for what you are comfortable with? Are they professional and decent in the way they speak to you? Be aware if you start getting uncomfortable feelings, go with your gut.

I ALWAYS recommend that you take a friend with you to your photoshoots until you feel comfortable. Any reputable photographer will be fine with this, just don’t let your friend become a distraction during the shoot. Shoot somewhere public and where you feel safe. Ultimately, the photographer should want you to feel comfortable during the shoot anyway or your unease will come through in the shots.

If a photographer ever makes you uncomfortable or tries anything, first, get away from the situation by either ending communication or if you’re at a shoot already, find a way to leave. Next, tell someone. If you’ve been victimized, you may not be the only one. Also, friends can help you figure out what the next steps should be that are best for you but never be afraid to come forward.

Dear Ani-Mia, I’ve been cosplaying for a while now but I usually get my cosplays online. I want to start sewing my own. What sewing machine should I get? – Gabriela R.

Starting to sew your own cosplays can be an exciting new challenge but is easier than many people think. Like any skill, it takes practice and a good “instrument”; yours just happens to be a sewing machine.

Just starting out though, you may not want to begin with something budget busting, especially when you’ll also need additional supplies like a pair of good fabric scissors, threads and needles to get you going. The major features you want to consider are: the number of stitches available on the machine, the weight, ease of use and durability.

You really only need two stitches to begin with, the straight and the zigzag. Later, you may want the option of decorative stitches or various other functions like button holes. Weight is a consideration if you plan on traveling with your machine but isn’t something to really consider if it’s going to have a stationary home. Last, you want something that is going to be easy to figure out but also last. It’s better to spend a little bit more to get a machine that will last you longer.

The two most known and used brands are Singer and Brother; both of which have machines at all price and skill levels. I started with a basic Singer machine off Amazon that was around $100 but ended up upgrading and loving my heavy-duty Singer which is only about $50 more. I also recommend eventually getting a serger down the line as it’s incredibly useful and I particularly love my one from Brother.

If you have a question that you’d like to have answered, feel free to send it to askanimia@gmail.com. Make sure to include your first name and last initial or let us know if you’d like to mark the question as “From Anonymous”.

About the Author
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Ani-Mia has been cosplaying since 2008 and her love for video games, comic books and anime are reflected in her wide variety of cosplay costumes. She has been a cosplay guest at over 150 conventions across the globe as well as judged championship cosplay contests, appeared in both online and print magazines as well as television appearances. She’s also the Cosplay Writer for Otaku USA Magazine, the premiere print magazine about anime and manga in the United States, and an official video host for PreviewsWorld catalog and Sapphire Studios.