Hou Yi - A Procrastinator's Tale

February 2, 2017

I hope to make this into a more detailed video soon but who knows...


This costume was one of the worst for me in terms of procrastination.


I always say that I’m going to manage my time better on new costumes and I always have one a year that ends up like this where I’m actually doing work in the hotel room the night before the event.


I’ll keep this brief so there isn’t a lot to read, but this costume was the most emotionally taxing one to date.  I started on the bulk of it way too late in the game and nearly stopped altogether several times.  In the end I’m glad that I pushed through and completed it, I was very proud of the end result. 


Hou Yi was one that I have wanted to make since 2015 when I was trying to decide on a costume to make for HRX/SWC 2016, so finally seeing that massive bow come to life really is an accomplishment I’m proud of.


Onto the process…


The bow I actually started on early and had I continued working on the costume, I would have finished before the event and wouldn’t have been so stressed.




First, I created a blueprint in Adobe Illustrator. I designed blueprints for each piece of the bow as I would separate it and have it connect later on. I printed out the template and taped the pages together, then cut out the pieces individually.


To make the bow I tried a method which was new to me: Pink insulation foam and Worbla.

Those who watched my streams in the beginning got to see some of this in the process.


I drew out four pieces onto the foam, cut them out and then glued them together in pairs to have two ends which would screw together in the middle via pvc pipe fittings.  Being able to break down this seven-foot monster was absolutely essential in being able to fit it into a car.  When broken down, the two pieces could easily stack and take up MUCH less space than if it were one large piece. At the time I had a general idea of how I would fit the extra pieces on but didn’t spend too much time working out the specifics.


After the pieces were glued together, I marked the length of ¾” PVC for both ends and cut the foam out to allow the PVC to be inside the shaft of each middle end of the bow.  Once glued into place I added foam on the outside of the exposed PVC to build of the thickness and shape, then used a blade to round and shape the ends.


After the foam and pipe construction was completed, I then used a heat gun and wrapped both halves of the bow in black Worbla (this is what I had in stock at the time). I then used an X-Acto knife to carve the wooden texture into the warm Worbla.  Sadly, not much of the wood portion of the bow would be seen in the end and it was one of my favorite parts.


After this portion of the construction was done, I let time slip.  I got in a rut of “well I won’t do it, maybe we won’t go this year” and “well yeah we should go” back and forth for a while.


I didn’t start back on the costume until November 27th, 2016…only a month before HRX and knowing I had Christmas and New Years get-togethers that would involve weekends (my main working time) and evenings (my other main working time). Let the crying begin.


At least I knew it was my own fault.  I pressed on.


I knew that the bow would be one of the most challenging parts so I had to finish that first.  If I could finish the bow then I could relax if only a little.  I use EVA foam floor mats (around ½” thickness) to construct the middle, large portion of the bow’s body.  This had to be in two pieces so that the bow could twist to unscrew and break down.


I slowly built up this piece with layered EVA foam and used Barge cement to adhere pieces together.


Another huge hurdle was figuring out how to get the swirly design in all of the pieces.  This was a very particular design and it was also hard to see in the references, I had to kind of make it up based on the general look of it.  I tried several different things ranging from ordering a silicon sheet with a similar design (it was WAY too small) to creating my own resin stamp to use as an embossing tool when heating up the foam, and finally gave in to having to carve out every single swirl in every little piece of armor. It was a huge pain in the butt.


Speaking of pains in my butt, this was my first time making fake feathers.  Many commenters would say “why don’t you just use real feathers?”  Well, because I personally don’t like the look of it.  The feather in the game don’t look real, they’re not fluffy, or even very feather-like.  They look very structured and stiff. I did, however, want to give them some more detail so I frayed/feathered  the edges to give a little more visual interest without straying too far from the in-game look of the bow, which is what I wanted.


For the large feathers on the ends and any feathers which extended beyond the body of the bow and lacked support, galvanized wire was glue to the back. So even if the feathers became bent (which they did) I could easily bend them back to get the right shape and the feathers wouldn’t be damaged (which worked and they weren’t).


The bird head and two pieces on the ends which glowed were made separately and secured onto the bow with magnets. The bird head also hid the split between the two pieces that met in the middle of the bow.


The lights on the bow were my typical method of twist-tea-lights, I secured the fronts in place and twisted the back to turn them on and off. The only lights on this costume (just as with Tyr) that weren’t tea lights were the ones in the belt. 


After I was happy with the construction of the bow I had to quickly move on to the armor.  It’s now one month later, December 28th and I’ve completed the bow and almost all of the armor pieces (construction wise). All of the armor was made using EVA foam from TnT Cosplay Supplies, it’s smooth on both sides and I’m never going back to floor mat EVA unless, like in the case of the bow construction, the texture won’t be seen and won’t matter.





The head piece was the only portion of the armor made from Worbla.  The mask on the face was easily fitted to the exact shape of my husband’s head for a relatively comfortable and tight fit.  This also helped to hold the VERY heavy wig onto his head.  The feather on the head piece was also made from Worbla with wire running through the middle. The large piece that extended upward was made from EVA foam.


The armor had a very distinct and particular purple hue to it, so when giving everything a base color coat of spray paint, I chose to do a mixture of a very light lavender and a metallic silver.  Though it required a lot of acrylic painting, this base color was perfect for the lighter areas of the armor.


Moving onto fabric:


It is New Year’s Day, about one week before the event.


It was very important to me to get the belt right.  It had a perfect pleat all the way around and while I hate ironing pleats, it’s also incredibly satisfying.

Pleated belt means triple the amount of fabric. If you’re not familiar with pleats, let’s take a look at the math involved:


If you want three inch sections of pleats, that means you have a 3 inch top pleat, then half of a pleat (1.5”) behind your top pleat, then another 3 inches behind to stretch to the back of the next pleat, then another half a pleat (1.5”).

This means that for every 3” pleat that shows on top, you have to add 6 inches to meet the beginning of the next pleat.  Every pleat requires 9 inches of fabric.

In the case of Hou Yi’s belt, I needed about 36 inches of fabric to accommodate for some fabric underneath and some overlap in the back to Velcro together.


So for a 36 inch pleated belt, you divide 36 inches (total girth) by 3 (length of each pleat) to figure out how many 3 inch pleats you will need.

36 divided by 3 = 12, so I’ll have about 12 three inch pleats to meet a 36” girth.


Then to calculate the amount of fabric you need, I figured for 3 inch pleats we need 9 inches of fabric, so we multiply 12 (number of pleats) by 9 (required length of fabric per 3 inch pleat) and deduce that we need about 108 inches of fabric.




Luckily I had an inch or two over that which allowed accommodation for seam allowance.


I cut out my two belt pieces (front and back) and then stitched on a gold ribbon for the details on the front of the belt at the top and bottom.  I then sewed the front and back together, flipped the belt inside out and ironed it flat.  Using a heavy duty starch, I began ironing the pleats.  I would make marks at the top and bottom at 3”, 4.5”, 7.5”, and 9”. (3, 1.5, 3, 1.5) and continued through the rest of the belt. I turned the ends in and then sewed heavy duty Velcro to close the belt.  It fit like a glove, and was just one more of my favorite pieces that would be covered up for the most part.


I was in such a hurry toward the end that I didn’t even have the mental capacity to take photos of every step.


January 3rd: I got the right pattern for the neck piece drafted (I draft all of my own patterns unless otherwise specified), then added 2mm foam inside to help it keep shape. I also dyed the rope on that night.  I ordered two different sizes of nylon rope and used Rit DyeMore in Racing Red to get a nice red color.  Unfortunately my method of dyeing or the rope (could be both) caused the rope to not be as vivid as I originally wanted, but it worked for my purposes.


January 4th: The wig and extension has been sitting in the box for at least a month now. I fit it to my husband’s head, leave the lace front until we figured out what needed to be cut, and brushed it into the smoothest ponytail I’ve ever seen.  (This would not last).  After getting the right height on the ponytail I removed it from his head and pinned it onto a styrofoam head. I continued to brush the ponytail until I worked up the nerve to make a foam insert.  I cut cushion foam into shape and glue it to the inside of the ponytail.  I then glued the hair around the foam piece in strips to hide it.  After that was complete I glued part of the extension into the end of the foam piece to be attached, then glued the foam piece in placed on the ponytail.


After I finished the wig that evening I sewed and painted the golden dragon on his left hip.  This was actually very relaxing and a nice break from the rest of the costume. I used a metallic gold fabric paint from Jacquard.  The pattern for the dragon was actually (to my knowledge) the exact dragon that the character modelers used for this piece.  I did a google search for “chinese dragon design” and did side-by-side comparisons until I found something similar, which ended up being the exact same thing.  I had blown up the design and printed it out, cutting out important curves and lines to get the general size and layout of the dragon and drew them on with a red sharpie.  I then went in and free-hand drew the rest of the major pieces.  All of the details were added free-hand as well.


January 5th:

I had been toiling in my mind over how to get the look of the fitted piece on his shoulder while still allowing for freedom of movement.  I finally came up with the idea of using some scrap jersey material (very stretchy) and 2mm foam with yarn.  This worked out better than I hoped.


At this point I became so stressed and rushed that I didn’t record anything else until we finished painting everything in the hotel the night before.  We arrived at our hotel around 3:00pm I believe, got lunch with family, then I started painting somewhere around 5:00pm and did not stop to breathe until 1:00am.  Thankfully Daniel painted the arrows for me, which may not sound like a lot but it was a huge help to have one less thing to do.  I had to paint ALL of the armor, ALL of the feathers, the gourd details. it was overwhelming.


When I say I didn’t have time to document things in the end, I mean things like the gourd (made from two Styrofoam balls wrapped in Worbla), any of the fittings/attachments/rigging for the armor, the rope details, beads that I had to make from foam because the wooden ones I bought wouldn’t fit around the nylon rope, the shoes, pants, leg pieces or belt which held most of the things around his waist, the glove underneath his left arm piece, the necklaces, the ankle pieces, the arrows, miscellaneous belt pieces and the bow string (EL wire).


The morning of the event, we found out that the opening had been postponed due to inclement weather and icing of the roads, so I had more time that I thought to finish working.


Finish working on things like…rigging most of the armor and attaching the Velcro to the armor pieces. I started working around 8:30 am and we just made it to the red carpet around 1:30pm by the skin of our teeth.


Seeing him finally dressed in everything for the first time was a real treat, that I enjoyed after the whirlwind of getting him from the hotel through the masses of people to the red carpet (oh and I forgot our badges but our buddy Dustin managed to get us in until I could go back to get them later….banner morning for me).


Having to paint all of those feather made me wish that I had an airbrush so this might be something that I invest in soon.


Our buddy David McClone took some phenomenal photos that I’m excited to see, hopefully those will be up soon.


This year’s HRX was so awesome, it was great to see everyone again and to meet new people.  It was an honor to meet Shappi and Shinju and I hope that they come back in the future so that we can spend some more time hanging out.


David and Amanda rocked the cosplay scene again this year with their welcoming and embracing attitudes for the community that they care so much about.  Additional thanks to Shappi, Shinju and Mari (AtomicMari

) for lending their time and talents to judging the contestants this year.


Special thanks to our buddy Dustin for taking care of us as usual, as we like to get lost and hungry and halp we’re from a small town.


Thanks to everyone who made this year’s HRX such a huge success, congratulations to NRG, Burrito and EGR for fighting your way to the top and for all teams who compete helping to further validate Gaming as a competitive professional sport.


I already have plans to make Bellona’s SPL skin…but that will be much farther down the road.


See you next year!

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