Now onto the parts where embroidery was not the main hurdle: first is the massive headdress and how it was made.
Man, I really should have taken more photos of the beginning of the process! Now that I did not I'll just try to explain how the thing was made.
First of all you need two bowler hats. Not real ones, just the cheap, cardboard variety you find in costume stores. I cut off the brims of them both, set one aside as the base that'd go over the head. The other one was reshaped into the red and black top part.
To reshape it I simply cut it at four points at the sides but leaving the whole top intact (important!), and removed small pizza-slice-shaped portions and folded it smaller until I was happy with the size. Then I both glued and stapled the sides over each other, always making sure that the left side overlapped the right side so the inevitable ridges it would leave would at least be at exact intervals and therefore easier to deal with.
The red felt was the next part, and here I could already cheat a little. I cut four "puffy" pizza-slices (or half almonds, if you will) out of it that were long enough to reach from brim to top and glued them on. They didn't meet exactly, but that didn't matter. The black strips I glued over them nicely hid all the edges of the red pieces underneath.
...aaaaand then for some moar embroidery. Besides the glue, these lines helped keep the edges of the felt pieces taut and tidy.
Top view. Btw the fabric glue makes it really hard to embroider anything over it so I had to be careful with it and try not to get it where the stitches would go. Well, it went there anyway, making it a Herculean feat to force the needle through, all the while trying to not tear the fabric. In the end I simply resorted to the power of the One Sacred Word that may or may not start with vittu and end with perkele and just pulled through this part of the project fueled by bad temper alone. :P
Next it was time to figure out the correct place for the top to sit on and draw it on the other bowler hat with fabric chalk. Then to plan how to put the black cords into place. Notice how the back part tapers down? It has yet another glued-on black felt piece supporting the shape. On the front the cords are glued straight over the bowler hat though.
I say cords but actually it's thick, Icelandic wool yarn! Álafoss Lopi to be exact.
Next I put the bowler hat over my head and marked (haphazardly, but no problemo) where the red "ear flaps" and front band would go. Then it was down to the garage, where I sprayed the hat seriously full of contact glue (it's got a fabric-y top layer, so it drinks the glue in a lot - needs therefore a lot of glue). The yarn stuck to it quickly and so well that I had to be really careful with how I laid it there. I went on adding a section after another varying the direction of the yarn to create that criss-cross-pattern. Everything had to be done in one go, since there was no way I could have sprayed on more glue once there was already some yarn there for fear of staining... on a hindsight maybe spray glue was not the best idea.
My only real concern besides this was to fill in all the spaces that would be showing underneath the top and the red front parts, so I put a generous amount of yarn. After the glue had dried I hand-sewed around the edge of the back flap, the only place where the ends of the yarn would be seen, so that it'd look tidy.
Working on embroidering the tail of the hat...
After the embroidery was finished I glued the tail on the inside of the top part.
My glass bead holder, courtesy of Atlantic Sea. :D
Next I glued the top on taking care to cover the ends of the yarn cords. I used epoxy glue for this part. Then I made that glass bead string that you can see going around the edge and used more epoxy glue to glue it in place, also to further make sure the top would be so damn well glued it would definitely stay on no matter what. I'm severely allergic to my cosplays falling apart while wearing them, so I try to make everything so secure I don't even have to think about it.
Right, so the cording was in place, tail attached to top part and the top part attached to the lower one.
Magic/salt dough / trölladeig / taikataikina. My recipe for it can be found here.
Pros: CHEAP LIKE MY SOUL. Fairly light. Easy to file, sand, dye (while in dough form), paint and glue. Stays good forever in the fridge.
Cons: relatively fast drying time - keep the dough covered well when not working on it. Puffs up a little when baked, bead holes have a tendency to collapse. Not usable for items that take a long time to mold such as the jewellery items of this cosplay.
Some finished beads etc. Had to dump the blue ones though since the colour was way off the mark. Another con, then: if using food colouring to dye the dough it might come out of the oven in different shade than intended.
(The photo is taken with a flash, so all the colours are rendered to unnatural yellow shades, but I figured it's a good photo to illustrate the painting process itself.)
Painting sculpted things to look metallic is quite straight-forward: first put on a layer of dark paint and make sure it goes in all the creases and such to create a convincing shade.
Once dried, apply metal paint. After that I painted the gems: you can see in above where I added little highlights on them to further make them pop. As a final touch I added epoxy glue over the gems and left them to dry overnight before attaching them to the headdress.
The next day I cut out two ear flaps and one rectangular piece of red felt and glued them in place with both fabric and super glue (one grabs on tight and fast but will eventually grow brittle, the other takes a while to dry but is very secure in the long run). I also went over the upper edge, stitching the fabric into the cording with tiny stitches.
Btw, the beads did not come out of the oven looking all shiny either, I attached them first by sewing them on and gluing them securely in place, and put a layer of varnish over them as a final measure. I started again at the middle - the little sun went in first, then the smaller gems on both sides of it, biggest ear flap gems, and then the forehead beads. For the ear flaps the gem pieces were attached first and then the beads.
The last part of the headdress itself was to sew the "bead fringe" on.
You can see more beads drying in the background of this photo, that were used to make the three strings of beads that hang from the ear flaps and over the chest. Here's a secret though: they don't hang from the ear flaps at all.
Re: my allergy to parts of cosplay falling apart, I didn't want to jeopardize the ear flaps, especially since many beads that large threaded on three strings do weigh some. The strings of beads are therefore actually detachable and hang not from the ear flaps but the actual brim of the bowler hat within. I punched two holes on the sides, made a ribbon loop through each, threaded the beads into intended shape and attached a hook to either end. The hooks slip through those ribbon loops.
Pros: easier storage, sturdier built + also feels sturdier when worn on the head, less strain on the neck since the weight is balanced evenly on both sides and not only at the front, this balance also makes sure the beads don't pull the headdress over the face, ribbon loops allow the bead strings to move naturally.
Cons: none so far.
Next: embroidered shoe covers made from a non-stretchy material.