Monthly Archives: June 2012

If You Can’t Stand the Heat

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After a month and a half of late nights sewing and crafting, my Steampunk Baroness costume is done. A friend came over yesterday to work on costumes, so I  decided to give the outfit its first viewing.

I need to work on my Baroness pose

Lessons learned:

  • Standing in a kitchen dressed in costume makes you feel utterly ridiculous. It’s one thing to be at DragonCon where most people are decked out in outfits as outlandish or even moreso than you are, but when you’re next to someone who’s dressed in jeans and a tee shirt in the same area you normally eat your cereal, the corset, holster, and guns look really out of place.
  • When there are twenty different pieces to a costume, there IS a right order to putting them on. I just gathered all the pieces and started dressing willy-nilly. BAD idea. I got all corsetted up (everyone else makes up words–why can’t I?), and then remembered the skirts go under the corset. Let me just say that uncorsetting is even more difficult than corsetting. Then, things were smooth sailing for a while until I got to the gloves. Note to self: gloves that come up over the wrists but under the sleeves and gauntlets should go on before the jacket and gauntlets, especially when the gauntlets have to be laced up.
  • I need a lady’s maid if I’m going to continue to dress in all this clothing. Any ideas on how to get one of those?

Last, but not least, the most important lesson I learned from yesterday’s little experiment:

  • Jackets are HOT! And not in a good way. Even in the comfort of my air-conditioned house, the jacket felt sweltering. So, I’m probably going to have to relegate use of the jacket to the evening hours at DragonCon. It’s also made me completely rethink my second costume.

I had been considering dressing up as the Evil Queen from Once Upon a Time:

I’m getting heatstroke just looking at the coat, though, and I don’t want to spend another month and a half working on a costume I can only wear at night. So, I need a new idea. Any suggestions?

The Plunge

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OK, I’m doing it.  After thinking more about the Seamless Pledge, I realized that it wouldn’t be so hard. My closet is so full of clothes that I really need to get rid of things to put any more in, yet I am constantly saying, “I have nothing to wear!” Thinking more about this, I think the pledge will help me be a bit more creative with my combinations and accessories. If I get the shopping bug too bad, I can always hit Goodwill. And of course, accessories aren’t off limits, so I can still buy those. Best of all, this will give me the motivation I need to start working on the drawer full of patterns and boxes of fabric I have in my craft room. They’re not going to sew themselves. 🙂 So,

I, the Crafty Asian, am taking the Seamless Pledge until September 30, 2012.

Don’t worry, though. The costumes are still my number one priority until the end of August. In fact, I am so dedicated that even though I am out of town for work, I’ve packed part of my project with me to work on. I have the toy guns that I’ve commandeered from my son and the paints that I’m using to steampunk them up. It makes me smile to think of what the stuffy lawyers at the convention would think if they knew what I was working on in my room. 😉

The Pledge

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I’ve been exploring a lot of sewing blogs on my down time, and I kept running across a button that said, “I’m taking the Seamless Pledge.” Always curious, I took the bait and clicked on it to find that it’s a pledge in which people promise not to buy any new clothing for a period of time determined by the pledger. The goal is to buy used and vintage clothing and make or modify clothing. It’s just the motivation I need to keep up with my sewing. I love the idea of this, but I’m torn as to whether to commit to it.

Seamless

I’ve been trying to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, and two months ago I vowed not to buy any new clothes until I got down to my goal weight. I did cheat once and buy three dresses, but other than that I was really good, and my pocketbook was happy about it. I’m so close to the goal now (half pound to go!), and I’ve been dying to buy new clothes!

On the other hand, I was just having a conversation with a lady in my office who is always impeccably, fashionably dressed, and she said her secret was accessorizing. She explained how you can come up with completely different looks using the same base pieces of clothing but switching the focus with the accessories. I was just telling myself I needed to make more of an effort to do that when I ran across this pledge.

Really, I wouldn’t hesitate to take this challenge at all if I had more time on my hands. I work full time and have two rugrats not to mention a husband who also wants to spend time with me (darned needy man!). The only way I make time for my projects is to stay up after everyone else has gone to bed, and I’m getting sleep deprived as it is. As the DragonCon costumes are taking up all that time now, I don’t know how I would make time for making or modifying clothes. So, maybe this is something that should also be put on hold until after the costumes are made. Damn it DragonCon! Why do you have to be so awesome yet so inconvenient?!?!

Accessories make the outfit

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One of the things I love about making costumes is that there are so many different creative elements involved. I love sewing, and as I’ve been doing that since I was old enough to hold a needle and thread, I’d say that’s my costuming forte. However, I love dabbling in other arts and crafts, so I was thrilled to try my hand at making armor.

When we went to DragonCon last year, I marveled at all the people dressed in very realistic-looking armor and wondered where they bought it because surely not everyone has their own forge or plastics factory. I couldn’t fathom that such things could be made at home with regular equipment, so I was thrilled to find out that you can make a lot of those amazing creations with things as common as craft foam or paper mache. I tried out the craft foam method in making my armor for the Baroness costume, and it was so much fun!

I found the best tutorial on making craft foam armor by Penwiper on entropyhouse.com. I made gauntlets, leg armor (is there a special name for that?), and a belt buckle. I made patterns for the pieces by drawing my shapes on paper and then tracing them on to craft foam.

 
Craft foam ready for cutting

Once the pieces were all cut out, I glued the COBRA shapes to the arm pieces. When the glue was dry, I shaped the pieces with a heat gun (which I bought eight years ago to do embossing on my wedding invitations and has been sitting on a shelf ever since. I love it when I pick up a new craft and just happen to have the tools I need on hand already!).

Shaped with the heat gun
I glued some muslin left over from my jacket mock up to the back of all the pieces for stability.  
 
It’s so great when I can find a use for those tiny fabric scraps
The most time-consuming process was coating the pieces with a watered-down glue mixture to give the pieces a smooth finish. I applied about eight coats, waiting for it to dry in between every coat. The process took a few days with all the drying, but I just did it in between working on other parts of my costume, so it wasn’t so bad. 
 
When the pieces were finally smooth enough, I was ready to paint. I knew I wanted to use Rub N Buff for an antique look, but I wanted to give it a base coat of gold spray paint. Unfortunately, it rained during the 20 minutes I left the pieces outside to dry after painting, and the rain was so light I didn’t even know it had happened until I went outside to collect the pieces. Luckily, it was outdoor spray paint which made it waterproof, so the pieces were mostly fine except for the parts that didn’t get enough coverage. I was a bit upset at first, but I’ve decided I kind of like the extra “weathered” (literally!) look.  
Left them outside for 20 minutes, and it rains!
Not really how I wanted to “weather” it.
I pained the pieces with Rub N Buff and sealed them with a layer of Future polish, though, and they were mostly fine afterwards.
 
 
Still some water spots, but it kind of adds to the patina
Finally, I weathered the pieces using some black acrylic paint mixed with a little green. It applied the paint in the crevices of the pieces and then wiped most of it off with a damp cloth.
Weathered vs. unweathered
I made gauntlets out of faux leather and used velcro to attach the arm guards to the gauntlets. For the leg pieces, I made straps out of the faux leather and attached brass buckles. I attached the straps to the armor with more velcro. The belt I’m using has a flat metal buckle, so I’ll attach the COBRA “belt buckle” I made with some double-sided tape.
 
 
Because every cartoon character needs a ridiculously large belt buckle
 

Steampunk Goggles Tutorial

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I’ve admited before that I’m not a steampunk expert, but it seems like if one accessory is a staple of a fashionable steampunk wardrobe, it’s a nice pair of goggles. With the goal of saving time, I looked and looked for some regular goggles that I could transform with some paint. I thought with summer here I could defintiely find some good swim goggles or something. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything with the right silhouette. The quintessential steampunk goggles have round lenses, and all the ones made these days are oval and streamlined (as a former competitve swimmer, let me tell you that steampunk goggles are not what you’d want in a pool). So, once again, I decided to take a stab at making something new.

I looked at tons of tutorials, and thought I would try these airship goggles. However, they required cutting metal, and I just don’t have the equipment for that. One day, though, I was putting away my son’s old baby bottles and inspiration struck. These were so easy to make, so I thought I’d share how I made them.

Materials needed:

2 baby bottles
faux leather (enough to make eye pieces and straps)
buckle
grommets
clear plastic cup
metallic paint
thread

Optional materials:
glue
toilet paper roll
gears, rivets, nuts, etc. for decoration

Tools:
scissors
needle
sewing machine
awl
glue gun(optional)

Step 1:
You’ll need the bottle and lid. If you have a selection of them, like I did, find the bottle with the most interesting lid, preferably with no logo on it. The first lids I used for this project had “Evenflo” marked on the front, which I didn’t really notice until I’d painted them.  
Oops!
It was fine, though, because the second set of lids I found were much prettier. Once you find the right lids, paint them. I spray painted mine with a satin finish gold paint and added some Rub N Buff for a more aged look.
Well, these are better anyway
Step 2:
Saw off top of bottle, retaining the threaded section to secure the lenses. I used a hacksaw and some help from my husband.
 
Step 3:
I made lenses for the goggles by tracing the top of the bottle on to a clear plastic drinking cup. I decided to use a colored cup for added interest. I was torn between pink and orange and ultimately settled for pink. After tracing the circles on to the cup, I cut them out using scissors. I then sandwiched each lens between the lid and the sawed-off top of the bottle and screwed the top on. 
 
Step 4:  
I used toilet paper roll to make a pattern for the eyepieces. I cut the roll to make a segment with the approximate depth I needed. I then cut one side of the segment with a curve. I kept holding it up to my eye and making adjustments until I got the correct contour for my eye socket. Once I got the right shape, I made a vertical cut so that I had a flat piece of cardboard that I could use as a pattern.
 
Step 5:
I added a quarter inch seam allowance when I cut out the eyepieces out of the faux leather except on the sides in which case I left a half inch seam allowance. The circumfrence of the toilet paper roll was slightly smaller than the lids, so I took that into account. Once I had the leather pieces, I hemmed along the top and bottom. I then wrapped the piece around the lid, marked, and sewed the ends together by hand.
 
Step 6:
I took a two-inch by one-inch strip of faux leather, folded it in thirds, and sewed. I then used the strip, cutting to fit, to make the nose strip. I sewed the strip to the eye pieces by hand.
 
 
 
 
 Step 7:
 I had a small buckle that I had cut off of an old wallet. It was silver, so I spray painted it gold. I cut two ten-inch by two-inch strips of leather, folded in thirds again, and sewed to make the straps. I attached the buckle to one strap and after measuring on my head to see how much I needed, attached it to one eyepiece. I attached the other strap to the other eyepiece. Finally, after measuring on my head again, I used and awl to punch holes in the strap without the buckle and attached grommets.  
 
Tah dah!

I haven’t decided if or how I should embellish them yet. I thought avout adding some (faux) rivets and maybe a gear on the sides. I feel like they’re a bit plain, but then again, the Baroness might use goggles that were pretty utilitarian. What do you think?

Distractions!

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So, I’ve been browsing other blogs reading about sewing and costuming, and I ran across this fantastic sewing blog, A Fashionable Stitch, that does a monthly sewalong! The pattern they’re doing this month is a shirt or wrap dress, two of my favorite types of dresses.

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Cute, right?

Despite my love of making (sometimes) outlandish and (oftentimes) slightly trampy costumes, my regular clothes and appearance are very subdued (oh, stop laughing, husband of mine who thinks anything other than a pantsuit is inappropriate office attire for a woman!). Shirt dresses are especially up my alley, being feminine, demure, and flirty all at the same time. I SO wish I could sew along, having just the right fabric at home already. I even bought the pattern on sale yesterday at Joann’s. Alas, DragonCon is only 76 days away, and I’m still not done with my first costume. So, it looks like I’ll be sitting this sewalong out. On the bright side, I’ll have a great project to work on when I get back, and maybe the September sewalong will be just as fun.  

Hustle and Bustle

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For the bustle, I couldn’t find a pattern for exactly what I wanted, so I decided to just wing it. I made the underskirt out of left over fabric from the jacket and other projects. The back of the skirt is actually three panels made out of two different materials, but it’ll be mostly covered by the overskirt, so hopefully it won’t matter much (isn’t steampunk about repurposing materials anyway?).  I sewed some stiff netting to the top back of the skirt to act as a foundation and add extra fullness. I also added ruffles out of strips of crepe from the jacket.

The front of the skirt is also left over crepe gathered on both sides for a draping effect.

I made the overskirt out of the same red satin taffeta I had used for the trim on the jacket and corset. I can’t really say this was left over as this was the plan all along. I added a pleated trim. The dressform came in very handy for this portion of the project because it just pinned the fabric to form and pleated and tucked using binder clips and safety pins until I liked the effect.