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February 3, 2011
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COSPLAY FAQ!

Most of the time, I find FAQ to be a little bit pretentious, but I've finally decided to make one simply because, I get one of these questions at least once a week, and while I love giving you all the individual help that I can, those of you who have asked these questions and received answers know they tend to be suuuuper long winded (I have a hard time explaining any other way), and I just don't always have time to answer in as much detail as I like. So here I can make sure I give all the basic info I can think of, but you are more than welcome to note me or comment with any further questions!  

First, this one is really more for my sake, but has been asked a few times: Can I make a replication of your (whatever character) cosplay?
Let me first say that I don't feel knowledge belongs to any one person.  I am more than happy to explain in detail to you how I have done absolutely everything on any of my cosplays.  From makeup to armor, beading, sewing, whatever, I have no qualms helping you to achieve your own cosplay projects, as nothing comes from a vacuum and I didn't figure this all out without help either. However, My costumes look the way they do because put a great deal of effort into altering the original designs to look how I wanted them to.  I wanted them to be different from other costumes and have their own character.  This does not mean that I don't want you to do this with your costumes, quite the contrary, I LOVE when people put their own spin on a costume, it's just that I worked hard to make my costumes look different and that it kind of would defeat the purpose if people went out and replicated it.  I would much rather that you made your own altered design of the character and made it look how YOU feel it should be.  I want to see YOUR spin on it! I'd be more than happy to help you figure out how to do that, but all I ask is that you do not attempt to copy my costumes.

See how long winded that was?  Just imagine me trying to type out in detail how to MAKE the costumes, and you can maybe see why I'm writing an FAQ! Anyway, on to the questions that help YOU!  Which is the point of this. Let's work from the ground up!:

First, What sewing pattern did you use for your Suki/ Yue/ cosplay?
Okay, I've rummaged through my house, and I am sorry to say that I could only find one of the two for you guys. For Yue's robe I used a base pattern from See&Sew: B4326 which is actually like the most hilariously ugly pajama set ever, but it was an alright base!  I had to make the hood bigger, bottom of the dress wider, and completely redraw the shoulders, though.
And my Suki cosplay, I can't find the original pattern for. It was over a year and a half ago! :( but basically any  costume kimono pattern at Joanns is the same and will work. Again, I altered this pattern a lot. The top with the collar and such wasn't there at all.  And the bottom of the robe had to be widened a fair amount.  The sleeves too.

How do you make the front part of Suki's over-robe kimono thing open up in the middle?
The beauty of the armor is that you can hide the fact that this is just a crummy cutting job! I made this diagram to show how this was accomplished: img.photobucket.com/albums/v48… black lines are the robe pattern to begin with, the red line is how I cut the front bit instead.

How do you do your Suki makeup/what face paint do you use?
I use Ben Nye face paint in firebrick red and white (though I've heard Snazaroo works great too), with a little bit of wet 'n'Wild lipstick of some reddish shade (the cheapest stuff I could find, but it works fine for me!) and some wet 'n' wild liquid eyeliner (again, the cheapest stuff I could find.  This stuff works alriiiiight, but not amazing.  If you know of a good brand of liquid eyeliner, use it!) and some random black eyeliner pencil I had lying around.  I think it was one of the cheap brands, but I can't remember which, all I can tell you is that the cheap stuff, other than the basic face paint (seriously, spend the extra four bucks a pop and get the nice face paint.  It will make a wooooorld of difference) is all you really need.  I certainly don't use my good stuff for this.  
Now for application, please note, I suck at makeup.  Like really badly. Like, don't take my advice, you'll regret it, I do it differently every time badly.  My best advice?  Go check out this chick's tutorial: fav.me/d1qyhuk
She does a great job and explains it better than I ever could.  The only real differences between what the two of us do is that I fade the red into the white, line the red that goes down the nose in black, and have slightly different angle on the red face paint when I do it, which are really just  personal preference.  I get questions on how to do the fade a lot, and I have a really hard time explaining it, just because, being a painter, it's knowledge that just seems almost inherent to me.  But I realize that not everyone does that sort of thing, so I'll do my best.  Well, I always apply my red with a brush first, actually, and then the white around it, getting as close to the red as I can without quite touching it. And I mean like a millimeter's distance. And then I wipe of the brush I used for the red to get most of the face paint off of it, and move it in small circular or sweeping motions into the white, wiping it often as I get to the further reaches of the blending and want to start getting into the white aspect of it. Does that make sense?  I really hope so. You can ask further if it doesn't!

How do you do your Yue makeup?
I've actually only gotten this one once, but the person was surprisingly persistent so I'll just throw it in. I pretty much do my makeup the way I normally do it, except I added fake eye lashes once. So, uh, foundation, powder, blush, pale pink and brown eye shadow as natural as possible, and mascara. But that's really just because I'm terrible with makeup, and normally don't wear any at all. For me, the key is to look natural.  
Here's a great natural makeup tutorial: the-sushi-monster.deviantart.c…
I don't know if I totally agree with the eyebrows, but otherwise this gal's got it all figured out!  If I remember right, she's a beautician in real life, cosplayer on the side.

And now, question numer eins, the one I for sure get the most: How do you make Suki's armor?
And the magic answer is craft foam.  That stuff is glorious.  Whoever first came up with the idea to use it for ANYTHING other than conventional craft-foamy things was a genius.  I'd live and die by this stuff.  I've even seen cars decorated with it. Aaah-mazing!  Anyway, how do you use it? Pretty much everything you need to know you can learn from this tutorial.  It's great! www.entropyhouse.com/penwiper/… the only additional thing I think you may need is how to finish it to give a leather-y look to the armor. Because painting it gold proooobably won't do that for ya.  So here's how you give it a leather-y appearce:
Well, in the first tutorial I posted, see how he says to put it over the burner to make the forms curve? Well, you're going to want to do that on all your foam piece whether you plan to make them curve or not.  This will kind of pre-seal the foam a little bit and make the texture nicer.
Say you're wanting to make the armor brown: you're going to start with brown craft foam.  You've heated it and glued it all: you're all set!  Now what you want to do is get some brown shoe polish.  For a big project like this, you might want to get one of the big containers, not a little one.  Also, be sure you get the little tins with the solid polish, and not the little roller ones. I mean, I don't know how those work, but if you want to find out, be my guest…. Anyway, rub it on with an old rag or painting cloth, or whatever you don't have a problem tossing afterwards.  This will make it darker, and make the color just a tiny bit uneven which will make it look more natural.  Then you're going to want to paint the whole thing over with Decoupage.  I recommend glossy, for that polished leather look.  I used Collage Pauge, which I think was like $8 for a big bottle, and it lasts and lasts and lasts and lasts. I've used it a lot, for a bunch of different projects, and three years later, there's still plenty left.  It's fantastic! And you're done!  If you're doing black, get black craft foam and just use black shoe polish. If you want that deep red-brown color, use red craft foam just do a heavy coat of that dark red brown polish.  If you want any other colors that you can't find shoe polish of, I don't necessarily know what you'd do, but if you're having a hard time coming up with alternatives, you can note me, and we can put our brains together and come up with something!
Craft foam works great for Suki's head piece as well, be sure to coat it with five-ish layers of decoupage before you paint the gold, though.  This will seal it to make it look more solid and metallic.  I use liquid leaf paint in classic gold.

How did you make your Yue Wig?
Well, first, don't make my mistake—DO NOT buy a wig with bangs as your base.  You will start styling it, realize why this is a horrible mistake, rip out your brainstem, go into the middle of the nearest four way intersection, and jump rope with it. Or just be really really sad and have to do a lot more work.
ANYWAY, here's how I did it (minus the acclimations for the bang mistake) which is probably not neccisarily the good way, but it;s the way I know how to do: .  You're going to want to order a long, white, BANGLESS wig and first go look at the back. You're going to want to take a few inches from the back on the bottom and separate it from the rest of the wig fiber.  Then you're going to want to split the rest of the hair down the center and braid it. Cut the back bit so it hangs a little bit down the back of the wig, it's going to cover your real hair.  Take some wefted extensions, roll the end into a spiral, sew it together like that, then sew it to the wig wherever you want the  hair loopies to start.  Take the ponytail you've created, split it in half, maybe use some wig hair spray to try and get them to stay half-ish. The take the ends and attach them to the base with, I dunno glue or something (if you haven't noticed, I'm not really skilled with wigs.  I just kind of winged this when I did it, and this is what I'm advising you to as opposed to what I actually did) .  So maybe seal the ends together with caulk and then caulk that, or super glue it, or something, to the base?  Wrap it with ribbon so you can't see that. Sorry I can't be more of a help =/

Where'd you get your koi plushie?
My sister makes and sells plushies, so I commissioned her to do one for me.  I'm sure she'd be more than happy to have your business!  You can find her at www.hugablezoo.com

GENERAL ADVICE:
I get this a lot too, people just ask for general advice on making costumes.  My biggest tip is REASEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH!!!!! At least if you want a realistic interpretation for your cosplay, I think that's the best/only way to accomplish it.  Research is the only thing that will tell you what materials to use  Because, I mean, you look a screenshot of the show, and, for example, you see Suki's armor.  It's basically a brown blob going around her body with some shoulder straps and little nubs coming off the end. Does that tell you what it's made of?  How it comes on and off?  Not really, no.  So how do you find out?  Research!  With a show like Avatar, just about all the clothes are based off of clothing from different countries and eras, it didn't come out of a vacuum.  So you look up Samurai armor, and Chinese armor, etc. trying to figure out what Suki's armor is most likely based off of.  That doesn't mean that you have to make it look exactly like that, of course, but use that as inspiration, a guide. This goes even more for fabric.  When picking fabric, research!  Yes, Yue's robe is purple, but purple what?  Broadcloth?  Fleece? Brocade?  What?  If you look up images and information in inuits, you're going to find they tended to wear a lot of patterned, thick fabrics (is Yue's costume patterned?  No.  Would it look good patterned?  Probably not because she's got the details at her sleeves and bottom of dress, and that would probably detract from it), pretty much completely fur coats (is Yue's coat completely fur? Nah.  Would it look good all fur? Eh, probably it'd just look silly), and suede (Is Yue's coat Suede? That certainly could be dyed suede. Would it look good? Yeah, wouldn't detract from the rest of the costume, and definitely fits in with the vibe of the Northern Water Tribe.  Is it available? You can buy microsuade which is a non-animal substitute in a plethora of colors at Joanns in the home-décor section. So I think we have a winner!).  This also helps when you're trying to create realistic detail in your costumes. You get an idea of how cultures represent certain things, like for my Yue costume I really studied Inuit representations of the moon and fish, and incorporated those in my costume. Make the detail you add meaningful to the character.  If there are symbols that can represent them, use them!  Back to materials: Some of the materials you decide are the perfect match are going to be a little pricy. So you can either, A. wait for a sale (recommended.  Joanns is having sales all the time. And you're going to want the costume to be just as you envisioned it. This is the most important part of the entire costume.) or B. pick a different material.  But you're going to want to be sensible about that too.  Can you get really cheap microsuade?  Yes.  Of course it will be thinner, and maybe not look quite so swell, but it's a start if that's what you really want to do.  But whatever you do, you're really just going to want to avoid some fabrics. There are some fabrics while, having more texture than broadcloth, just don't work.  They will only bring you down.  Do not touch them!  Back away! Run! The main one that comes to mind is that Crushed Velvet stuff.  You know, that stuff that's on most halloween costumes you get in those bags?  It is so ugly, and doesn't make sense on any character.  Unless your character is wearing a cheap halloween costume.  Then do it!  Bottom line, it looks cheap.  And yes it is cheap, which is a plus, but you can get things that look much better for the same price or less.  If it comes down to it, just get a broadcloth or something, just avoid fabrics that are common in the bag-sold Halloween costumes, basically.  Also, try to avoid using shiny fabrics unless you feel you can really back up that it's something valid for the outfit to be made out of.  Prom dresses, ball gowns, maybe a vest for a tuxedo or something.  It's not that shiny fabrics or bad or never appropriate, it's that I see them used for things that don't make sense ALL the time.  When making something, just really consider its real-world equivalent.  Another example: say your character is wearing a sweater.  The ONLY appropriate kind of material is a knit material.  Broadcloth and fleece and anything else will just look silly and fake.  Just be mindful about these things.    And this may seem contradictory to the last few statements (though it really is not!) don't be afraid to change the original design.  As long as the character is still recognizable, people will appreciate the liberties you have taken to make the character your own.  You still want to make things make sense with the real-world equivalence and base your costume in research.  But that's what research will do--alter your costume to make it more based in reality.
Really, those things are just my own personal opinion.  Rules are meant to broken and such, but for the most part, those are just some simple-ish guidelines that I think can make a big difference.  And I do not study costume or fashion, so maybe I'm totally wrong.

Will you sell your costumes?
I don't wear them much anymore, but I think I'm going to keep them.  It's nice to have something to wear to cons when I happen to go every now and then.  And even if I were to sell them, I spent so much time and money on them, I don't think I'd part with them for very cheap.

Can I commission you to make me a costume?
sorry, I'm in college right now, and I hardly have time to sleep with how busy I am.

Uhhhh….and that's all I can think of.  So if you guys have any more  questions, just message me by either commenting here, or sending me a note!  Hope this was at least a little helpful!

YOUR ADVICE!!!
if you have any advice for your fellow cosplayers, let me know, and if I agree (hey, it's my FAQ!) I'll add it here!
this one's from Bodici22
"Don't be afraid to look like a fool when you're shopping for fabric! I take my big DSLR camera when I go shopping (if I could afford a flash, I'd take that too) and take pictures of the fabric. Something that may look perfect turns out to look terrible when photographed, or suddenly it's transparent when photographed with a flash and then you know you'll have to put in a thicker lining. Hold the fabric bolt up, unwind half a yard, and shake the bolt back and forth for a bit. Does it move in a way that you like? Does it move in a way that seems to make sense?
If I've gone fabric shopping and don't get weird looks from other customers, I get the feeling that I've done something wrong"
  • Mood: Neutral
  • Reading: Beloved--Toni Morrison
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:iconcelebsilmasilnoear:
CelebsilmaSilnoear Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What type of fur did you use for Yue's cosplay? Its perfect!!!
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Student Filmographer
Thanks!  I used "snowy tipped fox" from a website called "mendel's far out fabrics" :)
Reply
:iconcelebsilmasilnoear:
CelebsilmaSilnoear Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you!

I'm going to guess that this whole outfit was uber expensive?
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:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Student Filmographer
My estimate is that it cost me around $300 to make including the wig and everything.  That's the main reason I don't really make costumes anymore. haha
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:iconcelebsilmasilnoear:
CelebsilmaSilnoear Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
X_X Dang. I can't.... I can't even image. I'm sorry you don't get to make costumes anymore.  But what about making costumes for profit? Someone commissions you for them or something? You have to love what you do, but it would yield some profit.
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:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2013  Student Filmographer
Ah, the other hangup is time.  I work five days a week, and intern the other two.  But it's all good!  I miss costuming sometimes, but I'm sure I'll get the chance to again :)
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:iconcelebsilmasilnoear:
CelebsilmaSilnoear Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ahh. Where are you interning?

I love painting, and digital art and some crafty stuff, but most of my time has gone to job hunting X_X
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:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013  Student Filmographer
I'm interning at a small stop motion studio in Hollywood called Lift Animation right now.

Ah, yeah, that can definitely be a time suck, that was pretty much my whole Summer last year. :/
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(1 Reply)
:iconhells-butterfly:
hells-butterfly Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2012
This is amazing, not only are you a wonderful cosplayer but you are so sweet and gracious to take the time to share all these tips with others. I have always wanted to do Kyoshi warrior Suki and I have always looked at your version as the ideal to try and accomplish. I have recently decided to do Yue and again I find that it is you who I want to emulate! These tips were so helpful, thank you so much for sharing them!
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012  Student Filmographer
Thanks so much! I'm so glad you found it helpful! If you have any further questions, or need any help, don't hesitate to send me a note!
Reply
:iconhells-butterfly:
hells-butterfly Featured By Owner Dec 26, 2012
Thanks! I may just take you up on that offer :)
Reply
:iconsarahpicklesdill:
sarahpicklesdill Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Wow, thanks so much for the advice! I'm very much new to cosplaying and this will really help me out.
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Student Filmographer
Hey, I'm glad it was useful! Good luck in your cosplaying endeavors!
Reply
:iconflyingninjapig:
FlyingNinjaPig Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2011
Hey just wanted to say I'm making a Suki and though I am using your method for the armor I really hope it looks different... the rest sure does! Anyway, I'm currently trying to design the headpiece-thingy while not copying yours but still giving that more ornate feel. Any suggestions?
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2011  Student Filmographer
Hey there! The two things I would recommend doing would be to A. look around at Fanart, a lot of people have done redesigns just in their drawings of Suki, and those can help to get the creative juices flowing! and B. I would spend some time researching crowns from different asian cultures, or now that I think of it, samurai helmets would be a really great place to draw inspiration from!
Reply
:iconflyingninjapig:
FlyingNinjaPig Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011
Ok so I'm having a few issues with the costume right now... maybe you could help? First of all, I could not find the right pattern/design for the belt- does it have a specific name? And I'm not really allowed to use the stove as a heat source for shaping the armor, so an iron was fine for the shoulder and arm pieces, but I couldn't bend the front piece to fit correctly. Though I might be able to use a gas heater, I'm still not totally sure how to get the front to sit right over, well, my front. Any tips? (I'm really short on time hehe)
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2011  Student Filmographer
For the belt, I didn't use a pattern, I just cut out a long strip of fabric and cleaned up the edges. I used a circular piece of metal with a hole in the center to anchor it.

As long as the pieces are hot, they should still be moldable. Unfortunately, craft foam doesn't have unlimited mold-ability, but what I did when I pulled the armor off the burner was a pushed up against my body and used my hands to really push in the intents around my lady-lumps. Really pushing equals just a tiny bit of indentation, but it really helps you not look like a board. That's all I was really able to do as far as the body armor went. Of course, be careful that it isn't too hot when you put it against your body!
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:iconubercaledor:
ubercaledor Featured By Owner Feb 4, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
My girlfriend is doing a Suki, and yours is a huge inspiration for us (I'm doing black-sun Sokka). We're following the basic ideas you put forward already (research research research, and appropriate fabric choices). It's good to know that we didn't miss anything major. I hope we can get as nice an effect as you did. You're one of the best avatard cosplayers out there, so you're a huge inspiration to the rest of us.
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2011  Student Filmographer
Thanks so much, man, I'm glad I've been able to serve as some inspiration for you, and I'm glad you've been researching and such! Good luck on your cosplays! (my boyfriend cosplays Sokka....maybe I can weasel him into doing black sun. That'd be a fun costume to make!) If you two have any further questions, don't hesitate to hit me up with a note!
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:iconubercaledor:
ubercaledor Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah, no worries. The biggest issue I've had with DoBS Sokka so far is the white fur that is now... EVERYWHERE! But I'm sure you had the same with your Yue

Yeah, I really just wanted to make the helmet and space-sword, so, yeah. But it's been pretty fun so far, I've still got a ways to go though.

I'm sure I'll pick your brain at some point, but- as you say in the FAQ- I don't want to copy your stuff.
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2011  Student Filmographer
Oh my gosh, I know! That stuff followed me everywhere! The worst was when I was opening my PE locker at school, and found some bits of faux fur in it, and just trying to wonder how the crud it even got there! It's been a year and I still find bits of fluff around my room occasionally.
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:iconubercaledor:
ubercaledor Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Where the faux fur doesn't get, the cat fur does. I hope my new vacuum is up to it...
Reply
:iconharlem-remedy:
Harlem-Remedy Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a little random, but I'd love to see your spin on a Painted Lady costume!
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2011  Student Filmographer
Haha, that would be an interesting one. Have to choose between the actual spirit and Katara version of the painted lady, though!
Reply
:iconharlem-remedy:
Harlem-Remedy Featured By Owner Feb 16, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Lol either one would be really cool =]
Reply
:iconbodici22:
Bodici22 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Student Artisan Crafter
That was actually really helpful! I like your advice about the researchresearchresearch bit...I'm pretty dang awful at that but maybe when I get around to redoing Ty Lee I'll do more research because I feel that costume's one of the most lacking of mine...
I have one piece of advice that was the single most important piece of advice ever given to me ever when it comes to cosplay: Don't be afraid to look like a fool when you're shopping for fabric! I take my big DSLR camera when I go shopping (if I could afford a flash, I'd take that too) and take pictures of the fabric. Something that may look perfect turns out to look terrible when photographed, or suddenly it's transparent when photographed with a flash and then you know you'll have to put in a thicker lining. Hold the fabric bolt up, unwind half a yard, and shake the bolt back and forth for a bit. Does it move in a way that you like? Does it move in a way that seems to make sense?
If I've gone fabric shopping and don't get weird looks from other customers, I get the feeling that I've done something wrong. Though that possibly has something to do with my tendency to summon whatever friend I went shopping with and shake fabric in their face. "Nicole! Lookit! Lookit how it drapes!" And there was the time that I yelled "Shiny! Look at this! It's not shiny at all!"
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Student Filmographer
Glad it was helpful! Yeah, I think research really helps when you're trying to put a realistic spin on cosplay, but you gotta train yourself!
And that's great advice! Mind if I put that in?
Reply
:iconbodici22:
Bodici22 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Student Artisan Crafter
I don't mind at all. Of course you can. :D
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:iconkimba616:
Kimba616 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011
Wait, you're not twelve? EVERYTHING I KNOW IS A LIE!!

... nice faq, though. It's understandable that you get asked so many questions; your costumes are beautiful. ^^
Reply
:iconshotzgoboom:
ShotzgoBoom Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011  Student Filmographer
my DOCTOR was surprised I wasn't twelve when I went to see her last week D:

I feel bad about making one sort of, just because I want to answer people's questions personally, but I'm so bad at explaining things that it's tough to explain them over and over again. Thanks, though!
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