Category Archives: Steampunk Baroness

Spats Tutorial

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I know it’s been a while. I keep telling myself I’m done with my DragonCon preparations, but I can never leave well enough alone, so I’ve been busy reworking some things and adding various details. One thing I decided my Steampunk Baroness costume needed was a  pair of spats. I had looked online at a lot of tutorials on how to make these things, but when I actually sat down to make the pattern, I couldn’t really get the other methods to work for me. After some trial and error, I came up with a pretty good way to make the pattern and was able to replicate the process (with a few changes) a few days later when I made another pair for my friend.

Of course, I learned a few things in the process. First, in making my spats, I thought it would be nice to line them. You can choose to do this or not, but I found that lining was completely unnecessary, so I skipped that step in making my friend’s.  Also, I thought it would be cool to have working buttons on my spats, but I’ve found that they really are a pain to use in practice.   I have ten working buttons on each of my spats, and it’s hard to button and unbutton them, especially because I’ve tried to get the spats to fit tightly over my boots. I used zippers on my friend’s spats, and they are definitely the way to go.    However, I used invisible zippers on hers, and they look fabulous, but the problem is that the bottom of the spats are too narrow for the foot of the boot to go through. She’ll have to put the top of the boot through the spats and then put her feet in before she zips up both. Separating zippers would work much better, but you won’t get the nice clean look you do with the invisible zipper.

Materials

1 yard fashion fabric

buttons or zipper

1 yard iron-on interfacing

thread

1 yard muslin or other scrap fabric for the pattern

small binder clips

chalk or marking pen

pins

boots

Step 1

To make the pattern, cut out two rectangles of scrap fabric a little taller than and as wide  as your boot.  Hold the two pieces together and use binder clips along one side of the fabric to temporarily hold them together. Then, wrap the fabric around to the boot with the binder-clipped side to the back to the boot.  Pin the other edge of the fabric pieces down the front side of the boot as closely as possible from the top of the boot to the top of the foot. Once the front is pinned, remove the binder clips from the back side and pin.

Step 2

Once the pattern is pinned, take a marking pen or chalk and mark along the seams that were pinned. Then, mark a line at the bottom from the heel to the front of where you want the spat to go, following the curve of the boot.

Step 3

Remove the pins, lay the pattern flat, and retrace the lines to make them more clear.  Cut the pattern out with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Once you have the pattern cut out, sew along the front and back lines and put it back over the boot to check the fit.

Step 4

Once you are satisfied with the fit, rip out the seams. Take one panel and draw a straight line where you want the buttons or zipper to go and cut. You should now have three pieces.

Step 5

Trace the pattern pieces on to the fabric you plan to use for the spats. Add a seam allowance where the buttons or zipper should go. If you plan on using buttons, add a 1 inch seam allowance. For a zipper, add a 5/8″ allowance. Cut two of each pattern piece. Repeat the same process with the interfacing. Iron the interfacing pieces to the fabric pieces.

Step 6

Match up side seams with the right sides together. Sew. Clip curves and iron out the seams.  Topstitch one line on each side of the front and back seams. Fold down top edge of spat  5/8 ” and edgestitch. Do the same with the bottom edge of the spat.

Step 7

If using buttons, fold side seams in one inch and edgestitch. Add buttonholes to one side and buttons to the other. If using a zipper, install as you normally would with the pull at the bottom of the spats. Decorate away, and you’re done!

My spats

My friend’s Wonder Woman spats

Well, after months of preparation, DragonCon is finally here. We’re heading to Atlanta tomorrow. I’m hoping to post some pictures from the convention, so stay posted!

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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?

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?

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.

 

The Jacket

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I’m definitely not skilled enough to draft my own jacket pattern yet, so I found this pattern for a jacket with a mandarin collar and modified it.

Image Detail
 
I made a mock-up to see how I wanted to crop the jacket.
See my cropping line?
I made the final version in a light black crepe with black muslin for lining (again, Labor Day weekend in Atlanta is hot!). I left the sleeves unlined and used red satin taffeta for the collar and epaulettes. Also, I finally learned how to properly set in sleeves! I had been struggling with how to attach sleeves for years, so for this project, I decided to look for help and found this awesome tutorial. Once I knew what to do, it was a cinch! I was able to do it on my first try. I’m so proud of myself, I might just give myself a reward.
The collar is supposed to close, and the jacket doesn’t lay right here. My dressform is deformed, so things don’t fit right on it. That’s what I get when my husband helps me with projects. Luckily, I’m just using it as a fancy hanger for this project.

The trim was the fun part! I found some gold braid and used it around the collar and epaulettes. I also used it to make closures for the buttons. The only problem I found was how to keep the ends from fraying. I ended up wrapping scotch tape on the ends and sewing through it. Hopefully, the buttons will cover that up.

 
You can also see the overskirt in progress here.
  
Done! And yes, it closes up, but not on the dressform.
I love the steel buttons I found

My first corset!

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I’ve always assumed that making a corset would be really complicated, so for previous costumes, I bought my corsets online. This time, though, I wanted to be able to say I made everything myself. Plus, the darndest stuff comes up when you Google “black leather corset.” I swear, with all the the things I research for my costumes, I’m going to look like one weird, kinky chick if my computer ever gets confiscated. Anyway, I decided to take the plunge and try making my first corset, and I’m so glad I did.

I read several tutorials online (thank goodness for Instructables.com!), and after reading a lot of them, I thought it would be best to make my own patternbecause I didn’t want to fuss with having to make adjustments to a  store-bought one. The instructions called for wearing an old tee shirt, but I can’t stand the thought of wasting even a raggedy old tee, so I cut a head and arm holes into a garbage bag and wore that instead. I then took a roll of duct tape and wrapped it from one shoulder, down through my legs, up my back, and down the other shoulder. I then wrapped the duct tape around my torso right underneath my breasts and kept wrapping horizontally, overlapping each layer slightly, until I reached the bottom of where I wanted the corset to be (right around my hips). I found that it was much easier to hold the roll and wrap continuously than cutting the tape off in strips. I then went up to my chest and started wrapping again until I got the tape up as high as I wanted the corset to go. I had drawn lines down long strips of blue painters’ tape prior to the wrapping, so I laid those down where I wanted the seams to go. I had to get my husband to help with the back seams (which he did grudgingly as he hates helping with my craft projects). He then cut me out of the duct tape corset. Once I was out, I then cut the corset along the top, bottom, and seam lines. I wish I had taken some pictures of the process, but it was hard enough doing it myself. Anyway, here’s the start of my pattern:

 I took the pieces from the half of the duct tape corset that I felt looked more cleanly cut and traced them on to some muslin that was folded in half (to get two mirrored pieces) with a half inch seam allowance and made a mock-up. After trying the mock-up on, I decided that I wanted the corset to come up a little higher, so I added an inch to the top of each pattern piece. I figured out after I’d completed the project that I had made a mistake during this step because instead of curving the pattern in when I added my inch (to follow the curve of the chest), I went straight up, so the corset ended up a bit loose at the top. It’s not horribly noticeable, but I will have to be on my guard for possible “wardrobe malfunctions” when I wear it.

I had debated whether to make the corset in leather (or fake leather, more likely) or brocade. Leather would have probably been more appropriate for a Baroness costume, but as this was my first corset and pleather is hard to work with on even simple projects, I didn’t want to risk it. So, using the muslin pieces from my mock-up as a pattern, I cut out a layer in black brocade and a layer in black muslin. After sewing the pieces of each layer together, I lined up the two layers and sewed one line a quarter inch on each side of every seam to make a channel for the boning.

 
Next, I needed to attach the COBRA symbol before inserting the boning. I found a COBRA symbol online and printed it out in the appropriate size. After cutting it out, I traced the image onto red satin taffeta and cut it out. I cut the same image out of some fusible web and ironed it to the fabric following the product instructions to make my applique. I then ironed the applique to the corset. 
 
  
 
I finished the sides of the corset by folding the right sides of the material together and top stitching. I then made channels for boning by stiching another line a half inch from those lines. After finishing the top edge with a strip of the brocade fabric cut on the bias, I was ready to insert the boning. I know that “real” corsets require steel boning, but I’m only going to be wearing this for one day, and I’m definitely not using it for waist training, so I looked for a less expensive and more manageable option. After reading about various alternatives, I settled on heavy duty zip ties that I found at Home Depot in the electrical supply section (again with the unintentionally kinky purchases!). They were the perfect solution: cheap, readily available, no need for boning caps, easy to cut, and plenty sturdy for my purposes! I just cut them to the length of each channel minus a half inch and then sanded the ends before inserting them. I finished the bottom using another strip of bias-cut brocade. Finally, I attached grommets and laced it up.
 
There’s something about hammering in grommets that is so satisfying…
 
My first corset!