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.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cultural Appreciation, Cultural Appropriation, and Steampunk

Recommended reading (via the Silver Goggles "Read These BeforeEngaging" list):
"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much." - Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
This blog of mine was originally intended as a space within which I could explore the various facets of this thing called Steampunk, as I encountered and explored them. So far, I've written mostly short bits on the superficial aesthetic stuff - the clothes, the accessories, the events I've attended. The deeper stuff, however, I find more difficult to write about in the confines of a blog post, in part because of time constraints and in part because I'm used to having 20 - 40 pages (typed, double-spaced, plus bibliography and notes) to explore topics in depth.

One of my concerns when first delving into Steampunk was the perception that this was yet another racial project by mostly white people, reifying an era of the past that wasn't nearly as jolly as the people looking backwards seem to think it was. Fortunately, while there is certainly a large amount of uncritical Victoriana to be found, there is also a good bit of critical analysis going on as well. I found Jaymee Goh's Silver Goggles blog fairly early on, along with Ay-leen the Peacemaker's Beyond Victoriana. Now that I've spent some time reading and digesting, I'm feeling a little more confident in my own ability to critically examine my own hangups, blind spots, and problematic opinions.

As a white male, it would be all too easy just to go along with the whole neo-Victorian aesthetic, dress in khaki and pretend to be at least comfortably upper-class without really thinking about what I already know from my sophomore-level history survey classes - the entire Victorian system was built on the notions of colonialism and empire, and has deep roots in a systematic treatment of colonies (and the colonized people) as raw material for the industrialization that is almost fetishised within Steampunk. Problem is, I'm one of those who has trouble just turning off the frontal lobes and enjoying things mindlessly (unless I'm whacked out on cold medication). I resent the anti-intellectualism that got me labeled a "nerd" back when the term was still one of approbation rather than celebration. I believe, along with Socrates, that “The Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living.”

And so, with all this in mind, I'm trying to be very careful about my upcoming trip to SteamCon in Seattle. See, they have an event known as the Wayfarer's Brunch which is promoted as an opportunity for people to break out of a purely Western perspective on Steampunk, and celebrate "wonderfully colorful and diverse cultures" by donning "non-British steampunk ensembles" while having Sunday brunch. “How is this problematic?”, you may be asking yourself. After all, isn't this exactly the sort of thing I should be happy about, that there is recognition of a world beyond the borders of Great Britain, and even Europe as a whole within the alt-historical if not outright fantastical world of Steampunk?

More on that in a bit...

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Upcoming Events

Boy - once I got B. into a full outfit, things have taken off! She was initially a little reluctant about the convention scene, not having quite realized that I was already exposed and quite enthusiastic - but after last year's MileHiCon, she started to understand that we really do fit in with the SF/SP crowd, and that made getting her to AnomalyCon that much easier. And she really had a blast on the steam train ride at the Mensa AP, so now there seems to be no end in sight...

We spent much of last weekend ordering additional patterns, getting the sewing machine serviced, shopping for a second machine with embroidery features (a lower-end one for now while we save up for a pro-grade machine that can handle leather...), and getting tickets and reservations made for several events over the next few months. We're committing to MileHiCon (can't miss Cherie Priest as GoH!), then SteamCon the following weekend, then a break, then the Steampunk Cruise in March, followed by AnomlyCon the weekend after.

I've got a couple of new canvas waistcoats and a banded-collar "tux" shirt that will accept detachable collars - just need to remove a sleeve button and replace it with a buttonhole and I'll be ready to find some nice, steamy cufflinks. Shepler's down in the DTC carries the period stuff on the men's side, though the pants were not my size (will need to order online, I suspect - and/or make my own, once I learn to sew).

Gaiter Progress

The front seam worked out just about as well as the back seam, and the toe kick was less problematic than I'd feared (although some trimming turned out to be necessary). I've got pictures taken, but I need to upload them before I can do a full-on picture post.

The side that I expanded wound up needing a small dart put in so that it fits more smoothly, but the buckles are going on reasonably straight so far. These will definitely wind up looking like a Mark I project, so I'll need to get some additional leather and start designing the Mark II.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mensa on Steam

One of the side tours at this year's Mensa Annual Gathering is a chartered train ride from Carson City to Virginia City, with a steam locomotive. Participants were encouraged to dress Steampunk, and there were several that did so, myself included. The head of the local Steampunk crew was on hand, along with Unwoman and a gentleman playing the role of Samuel Clemens.
Side benefit - the Red Garter mercantile sells Scully shirts and waistcoats, as well as period and modern Western wear. My Steampunk wardrobe is expanding...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Little By Little

I need to remember to take a couple of pictures of my assembled test pattern and my leather cutout pile so I can do a proper WIP post at some point - but the important thing is, I got the pattern figured out and I've cut out the leather pieces, so if there's time this weekend, I'll start in on punching holes and pounding rivets.

And maybe spray-painting my goggles, too!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pattern Fitting

Good thing I decided to do a test gaiter using my duct tape templates - turns out the elastic in the socks I wore pulled in more than I expected, so the test gaiter in canvas was not quite large enough to go around my calves. After undoing the test gaiter, cutting out one piece somewhat larger than the original, and stapling everything back together, I've now got plenty of extra material to deal with - so I'll need to trim the excess at the ankle and taper toward the calf more.

On the plus side, buckles and rivet plates have been acquired, so once I get the pattern dialed in I can start cutting leather.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More bits acquired

One of the benefits of having a local Steampunk con to go to is the availability of vendors. Since my lady and I are both, shall we say, generously proportioned (though working on it), purchasing certain items of clothing/costuming over the Internet can be an exercise in gambling. Fortunately, there was a perfectly lovely vendor of corsets at AnomalyCon, and my lady is now the proud owner of a stunning example of Butterfly Frillies' work. This has, in turn, spurred more interest in completing a costume (we're scheduled for a steam train ride outside of Reno this July, as part of the Mensa on Steam tour, just prior to this year's Annual Gathering.), so we're back on that particular horse.

Turns out my mother-in-law has a sewing machine that can do light to midweight leather, so I don't actually have to use rivets to hold the gaiters together, so once I've fitted my pattern and verified that it works with cloth, I can get the leather cut.

And I've purchased a set of longer-than-elbow-length welding gloves, which will work nicely as part of a tinkerer/airship stoker look. Just need the leather Glengarry (I'm leaning away from the pith helmet look) and I should be just about ready.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So - it has been a while.

Sadly, my absence has also been occasioned by my not getting a lot done in the realm of Steampunk costuming. Time and funding have been in short supply, and I've been distracted by other projects, none of which I've actually completed.

On the other hand, I did make it to AnomalyCon this year and had a great time - and just as my purchase of a Utilikilt a couple of years ago sparked my burgeoning interest in a full-on steampunk outfit, so too has the purchase of a properly fitting corset sparked my wife's interest. She's shopping for patterns now, and I need to obtain some buckles and continue working on the blasted gaiters...

More anon...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Leather Acquired!

Tip #1 - Shop the sale racks. Tandy had some black leather on sale, a little heavier than garment weight and a little lighter weight than standard tooling leather or chap-weight. I got a full side for about half the price of anything else I saw in-store.

Tip #2 - check for tools to make things, rather than buying pre-made. I was considering buying pre-cut 1" strips of leather, but those turned out to be both significantly heavier duty than the black leather I'm making the main bits out of, and fairly expensive. For less than half the cost of one 72" strap, I bought a strap cutter. Once I  cut a straight edge on the leather I bought, I can cut strips of whatever width I choose. I also found a nice rotary cutter that I can use with my wife's straightedge and cutting board...

Tip #3 - get the membership. I did the math, and I saved enough just on this purchase to cover the Gold level membership fee at Tandy.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Minor Gaiter Progress

So after rolling over and going back to sleep on Monday when I remembered that I didn't have to go to work, I wound up thinking about the gaiter project, which has been on the back burner for a while. When I eventually got up for real, I dug up the duct-tape tubes that I'd made, and found that they do indeed fold flat - so I cut one of them into parts as a template for a pattern, and then traced out a pattern on some leftover canvas. The plan is to rivet the leather together, so as to avoid stitching - and then buckles on the outside. 1" wide straps should work, with 1/2" spacing, Next, I'll have to cut out the pattern and then probably cut out a second copy, and staple/stitch the canvas to see if I've left proper allowances...

Then I can go buy some leather, buckles, and plating at Tandy next weekend.