Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Let the Crafting Frenzy Begin...

So we’re in the run-up to the Second Annual Steampunk Cruise, and while I have pretty much everything I had last year (the goggles keep self-destructing – I need to repair/replace the loupe yet again), I would like to make things pop a little more. One advantage of hanging around with a group of people that included two professional costumers and at least 4 members of established Steampunk interest groups is that you get inspired to step up your own game.

Last year’s top hat decorations were a hit – small glass vials (empty), with a spray of gears on wires, a cephalopod medallion in the front, and blinking LED lights. This year, I want to fill the vials (colored salt, most likely, and possibly some tonic water in case of black light) and move that array over to my new bowler, while upgrading the decorations on the topper. I have more blinky lights on order, two USB squirming tentacles, a battery pack with dual USB output, a bunch of Sugru putty, and some octopus-patterned ribbon from Fancy Tiger. Muahahahahaha…

I’ve also managed to incorporate my chainmail hobby into my Steampunk – I picked up a graduated Byzantine chain kit in copper that makes a lovely necklace for B., and a brass experimentation kit that has resulted in a nifty Double Albert watch chain that I’m using for a matchbox and pipe tool instead, as a sort of chatelaine for a pipe smoker.  

Next up, leatherworking…

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Quick Crafting Update

The initial Sugru project was a success. I was able to cover the exposed circuit board and wires with one packet, and then used a second one to fill in the concave bits and smooth over a couple of sticking-out bits. It still looks a little rough, as it's all hand-shaped, but that part of the cord is usually hidden in a pocket anyway. I'm just glad the headset it once again functional.

As for other crafting, I got distracted by learning to knit, and haven't really done much that's directly Steampunk related. We will be attending MileHiCon and SteamCon this year, as well as the 2nd Annual Steampunk Cruise early next year, so once October is done, I'll be frantically putting together a couple of new bits for the Cruise. It looks like I won't be the only kilt-wearing Steampunk this time - at least 3 other guys have purchased kilts since last year. I'll have to wear pants to stand out...

Finally figured out a way to wear a pith helmet that doesn't simply unthinkingly embrace the image of colonialism that is so widely (and correctly) associated with such headgear. I need to look up a quick tutorial on vampire makeup, and my fangs are on order...

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Getting It Together

An awful lot of costuming consists of sticking something to something else. I started off using rivets to attach one bit of leather to another, and then picked up some contact cement for other projects, and finally figured out how to use a lock stitch awl to sew up a sporran. I'm learning how to use a sewing machine to attach various bits of fabric to each other. And now I've got another tool or two in my arsenal...

First up is Epoxy Putty. You've probably seen the late-night TV ads for one particular brand flogged by the late Billy Mays, but there are actually several of these on the market - so check the label. Different formulas are intended for different applications. I picked up a couple of these from JBWeld - one specifically for use in attaching disparate materials (metal to plastic, wood to glass, etc.) and one reinforced with steel for high-strength repairs.

I've had some trouble keeping the jeweler's loupe attached to my goggles, so I had high hopes for the steel-reinforced putty. The laser pointer that I superglued to one of the vents likewise snapped off, so I had a couple of options to play with the putty.

The process is pretty simple, actually. The putty is a two-part formulation, with one part wrapped inside the other and the whole shebang packed in a plastic tube. Use a sharp blade to cut off a chunk, knead it together until the two colors blend into one, then form it up and let it set up for about 24 hours. Oh - and use gloves to be on the safe side. A couple of test beads mixed nicely in just a few minutes of fiddling, and started setting up within 15 minutes of setting them aside. I cut another slightly larger slice and kneaded it into submission, then encased part of the spring clip and pressed it onto the outer ring of the goggles, nicely covering the mess left when the cyanoacrylate glue failed. I'll probably touch up the putty with some dry-brushed metallic paint for daytime and close examination, but the putty itself has a nice silvery metallic sheen to it.

One more slice, and the vent cap was neatly reattached to its vent hole. No more ventilation on that side, but I tend not to wear these as actual goggles, so it's not really an issue.

My wife purchased a lovely umbrella from the Kraken Rum website, but sadly Colorado's heat and lack of humidity did a number on the hot glue they used to attach the tentacle handle on our first excursion. In examining the handle, I found that the hole in the handle was deeper than the shaft of the umbrella, so I employed the other mixed-media putty to effect a repair. After measuring the precise depth, I prepared a chunk of putty and filled in the extra space, then wrapped the umbrella shaft in a thin layer of putty and pressed it into place. I scraped off the excess - this will also probably require a little touch-up paint to finish the job, but so far the handle is holding. Will have to take it outside again to test the putty adhesion, but so far so good.

And for good measure, I picked up a sample pack of Sugru, the air-cure silicone rubber that Makers everywhere have been going nuts about. I plan to repair my headset with it - the volume control wheel's casing fell off during AnomalyCon earlier this year, and the bare wires aren't particularly attractive - but a nicely shaped bit of Sugru should enclose the circuit board and leave the wheel exposed, so that it's still functional.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Little by little, I'm getting the details worked out on my steampunk outfits. I've got all the major clothing bits - hats, shirts, waistocoats/vests, socks, boots - and I've got pieces that tweak those bits into Steampunk ensembles - goggles, the gauntlets, the gaiters. Now it's time to step it up a notch.

I've repaired my goggles - the loupe exploded while at Steamcon, and one of the little nuts that holds the lenses onto the main arm went completely AWOL. I replaced it with a new one, and added a targeting reticle made out of an ornamental gear and some brass screen cut into an X. The strap has also been upgraded, and can now be properly fitted either as a hatband or as actual goggles.

I made a couple of kilt hose flashes out of thin leather, and then realized that I actually needed to make two complete sets if I wanted them to match - but unfortunately, I ran out of larger chunks of the thin leather, so the pairs have been split up so that I'm at least symmetrical. Now on days when the gaiters are just too bloody hot to wear, I have something else steamy to put on my legs. 

This weekend's project is to finish up a steampunk sporran that I got cut out last weekend. Need to punch some more holes, glue and stitch the pieces together, and then decorate. Then on to the headset...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Catching Up

Sorry about the radio silence lately - life got unexpectedly complicated after SteamCon last year, and I have not had a lot of time or energy to write lately. If you know me in so-called "real life", you've already heard the story, and if not, this isn't a place where I choose to share large chunks of it - look me up at AnomalyCon, SteamCon, or on the Steampunk Cruise and I'll tell you more...

Anyway, there are things that I had wanted to talk about on here, but of course it's now just a few weeks until the Steampunk Cruise and I'm once again madly rushing around, finishing costuming projects and postponing the really cool ones. I've got a little time, however, to put down some of my thoughts about the events I've recently attended, and I've got a few more pictures of the projects I've actually finished that I can share.

So - back in October, I made it to MileHi Con, which is the local science fiction con. There's a sizable local Steampunk contingent (thus AnomalyCon, our local Steampunk event), and a fair bit of programming aimed at the Steampunks. Cherie Priest was one of the guest authors this past year, and I really enjoyed her presentations. I also made it to an author reading by Carrie Vaughn, as well as a panel discussion that she moderated. There was also a hands-on workshop on resin casting that gave me a lot of ideas for costume elements...

Cherie Priest talked about several things - her house, her characters, Steampunk in general - but the ones that stuck out to me were the ones that dovetailed with some of my own interests within Steampunk, specifically the cultural critique that Steampunk lends itself to in talking about issues of colonization, colonialism, race relations, etc. At that point, Ms. Priest's novel "Ganymede" was the most recent one out, and I really enjoyed the cast of characters. Evidently, some people complain that certain of her characters are "too unrealistic", and that this interferes with their suspension of disbelief. Zombified corpses are okay, and turning the substance that causes zombification into a street drug is fine, but they have a problem with, for example, a strong female character that functions as a highly effective spy. Insert eye roll here.

As Ms. Priest pointed out in her presentation, that particular character (not from "Ganymede", actually - this character is one of the primaries from "Clementine") is in fact based loosely on Belle Boyd, and was toned down for the novel. It certainly says something about the way some people think that a Steampunk fantasy novel in which the Civil War drags on for an extra decade or two as steam-powered war machines slug it out is somehow made less "realistic" by a Belle Boyd character - and it's probably worth noting that, in looking up Ms. Boyd's name, I immediately ran across references to articles regarding the "embellishment" of her record. Evidently, people have the same problem with a strong female character in real life as well...

And that's pretty damn sad. Plenty of male memoirs are "embellished" - and in a lot of cases, it's still the embellishments that people remember (George Washington and the cherry tree, Paul Revere's ride, Robert E. Lee's tactical brilliance).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gaiters - Finished! (Part Two)

So in June, I posted about having done the initial riveting of the pieces together. Basically, my design involved  riveting a strip of leather to each side of the pattern pieces up the front of the shin and up the back of the calf. I did not include any seam allowances, since I was not sewing them. I measured out the rivet holes, marked them and punched them, then used Tandy Rapid Rivets in an antique bronze finish.

 I started out using Medium size, and realized they were much too large for the thickness of leather I was using - Smalls were just right.

 The pieces fit together pretty well - you can't quite see the curve of the calf seam in this picture, but it's there:

I did the same thing up the front seam, and then measured and punched the holes for the toe kick. Here's a closeup of the toe kick on the completed gaiter:

You can see the end of the front seam rivet strip - I tapered the end and used a single rivet to attach the top of the toe kick. At that point, I started attaching the straps that wrap around from the shin to the outside of each leg, and eventually buckle up the side. I used decorative steampunk rivet plates from Tandy that look like they're screwed on - they actually are, but from the back. At the toe, I was going through 3 thicknesses of leather, and had to sub out Chicago screws for the ones included with the rivet plates (fortunately, they're exactly the same diameter and thread pitch!)

Having placed the rivets 1" apart, it made positioning the 1" straps pretty easy. They're 8" long - I tapered them with a belt end punch and then marked and punched the belt holes. I punched holes for the two screws on the back of each plate, and used that to attach the straps. After attaching all of these, I placed the strap that goes under the sole of the boot (ideally, just in front of the heel) and riveted it in place:

At this point, I went to figure out where to attach the strap buckles, and realized that the additional material I'd added to the pattern was bunching, so I cut out a small dart and riveted the leather back together with a small overlap. These pictures didn't come out too well - I'll have to retake and update them.

You can sort of see the cut line here, running just above the trio of rivets (one for the dart, two for a buckle) and then out to the other two that mark the overlap. Here's a frontal view:

Blurry as all heck - it was late when I took these, so my eyes probably were focused... The two rivets at the bottom of the pick are the same as the ones on the right of the previous picture. The buckle strap covers up the third rivet, and you can sort of see how the slit puckers a little at the end. I punched a round hole there to mitigate any stress and keep the slit from expanding further.

Then, I cut out short 4" strips, used an oblong punch to cut a hole for the buckle's tongue, and punched rivet holes in each corner. Making an original and using it as a template was a big time-saver. I put the short strips on each buckle, then buckled them onto the long straps using the third hole on the long straps to get a relatively consistent placement - truly professional looking spats have the buttons or buckles in a straight line, but was going for a more tinkerer/homemade look on this pair, so they're not completely straight. I'll save that for Version 2.0.

Then I started the whole process over on the right gaiter... My spouse has a shot of me wearing the finished product. I'll have to grab it from her for the postscript.

Gaiters - Finished! (part one)

I did manage to finish the gaiters before SteamCon, and I even got pictures.

Looks like my original pic post got as far as making the duct tape template. Once that was done, I cut the template along lines that I wanted to be seams, specifically up the back of the calf and up the front of the shin, as well as up the outside of the leg (where I planned to put all the straps and buckles). Note the triangular toe kick, to cover the laces:

I then used the template pieces to cut out a pattern using some leftover canvas. I neglected to get a photo of the canvas pattern pieces as I cut them out, but here they are stapled together for the pattern fitting, at which point I found that the pattern was somewhat too small. I cut out a new piece with several inches of additional fabric added on (the stripes at the edge of the pattern). The original outer leg piece is next to the assembled expanded pattern parts, with the straps stapled in place:

At this point, I went ahead and cut out the pieces in black leather (since the boots I planned to wear these over were black; I've since acquired a brown pair, and will probably make Version 2.0 out of brown leather):

That's where I was at when I worked on them in June.