Leliana’s Leg Armor – Working with Worbla

I consider myself a highly competent seamstress. But a prop-maker or armor-smith? Not so much. Leliana is the first costume I’ve wanted to make that required armor. A cosplay panel at ECCC with Yaya Han helped to dispel the mysticism of cosplay armor (until that day I had never heard of worbla), but I was still intimidated by the material. My friend Kit Cosplay came over to teach me the basics of working with worbla and together we leveled-up my cosplay skills.

We started by making a cast of my leg with foil and painter’s tape. Whatever shoes or layers you plan to wear under the worbla, include them in the casting process. In this case the grieves would be worn over my knee-high boots so the cast was made around my boots. (It gets warm fast.)

worbla_leg_cast

Kit recommends using seran wrap, instead of foil, but I had used it all our plastic wrap for an upper body cast a few weeks prior.

seranwrap_bodycast

While the cast was in place, Kit drew the basic outline of each armor piece on my leg. This captures the curves of my leg for each piece. Then the cast is carefully removed and each piece is cut out and traced onto craft foam. I made a few modifications and straightened out the lines of Kit’s original sketches on the cast.

worbla_shapes

For each piece of craft foam, I cut out a slightly larger piece of worbla. That extra “seam allowance” is folded around the edge of the foam to secure the worbla in place.

The shaping process is simple – heat (blow dryer or heat gun) activates the adhesive in the worbla and makes it flexible.

  • The smooth side is the adhesive side and should be placed against the craft foam.
  • Be careful not to overheat the worbla, it is easier to tear and can burn your fingers.
  • Too much heat can warp the craft foam as well
  • If hot air bubbles form, puncture them with a pin to smooth out.
  • Once the worbla is successfully adhered to the craft foam, continue to heat each piece and shape them around your leg or arm.
  • While warm, sections of the worbla can be sliced to insert D-rings for lacing.
  • I used paper craft tools (intended to crease or emboss papers) to press the worbla in the creases.

At the end of our workshop I had completed the basic form of the star-shaped knee armor.

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After Kit went home I started on Leliana’s medallion/armor clasp. This medallion took two episodes of BSG to complete. The longest part was cutting all of the craft foam pieces and gluing them together before overlaying the piece of worbla and tucking it into the creases.

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After applying the worbla, I reheated the medallion and gently bent it over a glass sphere to make it convex.

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I used gold spray paint for a base color and pewter rub-n-buff for the silver accents. Overall this Inquisition medallion could have been smoother – I can still see some of the rough worbla texture. Clip-on earring backs hold the medallion to the “leather vest”.

JKrolakPhotography_PAX14_1925
Photo Credit – J. Krolak Photography

The other armor components were less detailed, but required more heating and reheating to wrap around my legs correctly. I was very hesitant to make big changes to the shape, and I think I could have been firmer with my worbla. The stars did not sit flush against the thigh armor and the upper leg armor broke apart after walking a couple blocks (before I even made it to the convention). You’ll notice the photo below only shoes me wearing the greaves.

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I enjoyed working with worbla. It is a crafting material that has great potential for detailed work – check out Abi Sue Cosplay’s Lady Sif armor. Yet it has a gentle learning curve for beginners. The speed at which the armor came together offered a nice change of pace when compared with my drawn out sewing process. I could easily be more detailed and precise next time. The most tedious part is the cycle of applying gesso, sanding, applying more gesso, sanding, applying more gesso, sanding, and finally painting.

Photo Credit - J. Krolak Photography
Photo Credit – J. Krolak Photography

I will likely repaint her leg armor with a shinier metallic paint with a silver-ish sheen. In Dragon Age Inquisition gameplay her armor appears silver. The image I used for reference was bathed in golden candle light. That said, I enjoy the warmer look of the gold.

leliana-fullbody Cropped

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