About six years ago, Chris Tock attended an anime event dressed as an assassin in a get-up that he made himself. This was just the beginning of an extreme side hustle.
“I started sewing because I wanted to cosplay,” he says. “I didn’t want to stop after my first convention.”
That was in Milwaukee. At the time, Tock worked in the mental health field but, he says, he fell so in love with the convention culture that he’d go home every day after work and make new creations. Although he’d never sewn before, he’d buy new patterns and fashion everything from men’s clothing to custom bags and accessories.
“I didn’t take any classes,” he says. “Even when I started, I taught myself everything.”
Since then, Tock has mastered the art of sewing and landed a partnership with Brother Sewing Machines. He also transplanted to North Texas where, when not sewing, he works as a marketing coordinator for TNT Cosplay Supply.
“I had just a few videos that got really popular really fast,” he says, explaining how he was already using Brother sewing machines when he got an email from the company. “When they reached out to me, I was really excited."
The company sent him their new heavy-duty machine (the Brother ST150HDH), and he began using it "every day for everything."
Tock’s most recent project with the company was Brother’s side hustle campaign, which illustrates how sewing machines are not only a hobby. They have turned into serious home businesses.
“Since the start of the pandemic, the popularity of home sewing and crafting has hit record level interest and demand for sewing and crafting machines and materials has skyrocketed to unprecedented levels in the industry,” writes public relations guru Chris Collora in an email. “Many people have turned their sewing and crafting hobby into business opportunities.”
Tock, 36, moved to Dallas shortly before the world shut down, and since he was already working from home, the pandemic gave him ample time to devote to his projects. He hasn’t had a chance to meet many locals but keeps well-connected with other cosplayers and costume designers around the world. He’s also met some leather workers and fashion designers at local Goth clubs.
“A lot of the people I met were into some pretty super, like, out-of-the-box, wild fashion, which was really cool,” he says.
Tock says when he first started sewing he would take commissions mostly for men’s fashions or gender-neutral messenger bags.
“If someone said ‘I love Spider Man' or 'I love the Care Bears' or 'I love Transformers,’ I’d make them whatever bag they wanted with whatever theme they wanted,” he says, adding that he’d digitize all the graphics and use Brother’s entry-level embroidery machines.
These days, however, Tock says he mostly teaches people “how to make whatever they want to make,” through YouTube tutorials, workshops and conventions for both cosplay and fashion or just sewing in general.
“I’ve kind of moved into influencer marketing, kind of inspiring people to learn and educating,” he says.
Tock uses lots of different materials and says he’s learned along the way that brocade can be more challenging to work with “even though it looks amazing” and he prefers to work with denim or leather.
“I don’t make wedding dresses or anything like that,” he says. “But when I sew in the lining of a suit, like, suit lining is very difficult to work with, but it’s so important. I make everything from just fabric costumes to full armor sets with fog machines and LED lights."
Tock's last competitive build was a 31-piece armor set with a 6-foot-long weapon prop, with two fog kits and close to 800 LED lights. He also owns a few dozen pairs of pants that he’s made himself from patterns ranging from mermaids and skulls to rainbow unicorns and casino themes.
“There’s a challenge and satisfaction in making clothing just as much as there is in making a costume,” he says.
“Making a simple dress shirt or a hoodie or a vest, you might look at it and 'That’s really simple.' But it’s actually really quite complex and being able to execute that and fool people into thinking that you bought it is really satisfying for me.”
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