Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gift Wrapping: Butterfly and Spider

Gifts: blanket, spoons, and socks
Wrapping materials: styrofoam balls, craft wire, cardboard (for butterfly wings), and cotton balls (for stuffing spider feet)

Gift Wrapping: Cake and Cookies

Gifts: Diaper Genie and headband/bootie set (white flower is attached to headband, booties stuffed inside)
Wrapping: construction paper, lace paper, paper plates, plastic tray, fake flowers

Gift: deoderant discs
Wrapping: cell phone decoration stickers, plastic tray, cling wrap, ribbon

Thursday, September 24, 2015


I have a friend that had never had a Halloween costume before. (Gasp!) I decided this needed to be rectified immediately. He said that if he did have a costume, he would want it to be Scorpion from Mortal Kombat: Armageddon.

Reference photo from here.
Aside from the shoes and black clothes, this is made almost exclusively of felt, foam, and glue sticks. Exceptions to that are four straps for the shin guards, one nylon belt with attached clip, some duct tape, an old thin shirt cut up to line the mask and bracers, and a smattering of velcro. The base yellow paint I had on hand from painting Hawkman, and the other colors are acrylics or water-based paints from the hundred yen store.

The vest is made entirely of felt. The pattern itself is pretty basic, just wide strips that drape over the shoulders. What is harder to show is that there is one layer directly over the shoulders and a higher layer that flares up a bit, with wire sewn into the top of the curve to help hold the shape. Halfway through construction I added a strap across the chest to keep the sides from falling off the shoulders.
1. uncut felt 2. felt strips draped over DIY dress form 3. inside pocket 4. wire added to shoulder flares (sewn in by hand), chest strap 5. side view
The yellow parts are single shapes of felt sewn into fairly simple shapes and attached to the vest. It wasn't easy to find screen grabs of the back, but I eventually did find one.

The green foam sheets for the center part glued along the top edges.
1. felt and belt 2. foam clipped in place 3. center panels marked placement with chalk, attached w/ velcro until after painting
The belt is a blue nylon strap with a plastic clip wrapped in duct tape. The skull is sculpted from some wood pulp clay I found at the hundred yen store. It's almost bouncy, incredibly light, and takes glue and paint pretty well. The down side is that it doesn't get along with sandpaper. I could have made a smoothing layer out of something else if I had to, but in this case it's fine if it's a bit rough.

The mask went through some agony in the planning stage. I debated between paper mache and foam, went through several paper pattern ideas, and ultimately landed on this.
1. individual pieces; red segments to add depth to cheekbones 2. cheeks, jawline, and cheekbones glued together 3. adding the T portion to cover the mouth and nose 4. comparing to reference image 5. view of the inside; blue added to keep mask from spreading 6. mask lined with thin fabric to hide tip of nose and mouth
I use a heat gun to shape craft foam into curved shapes or to help make sharp corners, it's extremely helpful.

The bracers were sized by wrapping a foam sheet around my friend's arm and marking where the overlap was. Then it was all sketches on paper based on the reference image. The heat gun helped the foam fold, and glue gun glue was put in all the creases and seams to hold the shape.
1. foam sheets cut into appropriate shapes 2. Shapes in approximately the right placement
3. shapes formed by heat gun and glued 4. Glued to flat sheets (velcro closures added later)
The shin guards were a similar process.

Here's where it starts to look like a real thing. To prep the foam for paint, I used a mixture of Mod Podge and water (more Podge than water) and a little bit of Tacky Glue. When it's shiny, it's ready for paint (after 5-6 coats). The flat yellow waterproof, but cracks instead of flexing around corners. Solution: cut it with Mod Podge and Tacky Glue, about 2:1:1. It took probably six or eight coats to get it to a solid yellow. It's still a little transparent in that you can tell which foam sheets started out darker and which started lighter (green is harder to hide than pink), but after the shading and battle damage it's impossible to tell. The black paint is a water based paint, that covered pretty well in 2-3 coats.

The orange was the base yellow mixed with an acrylic vermillion, about 1:1 and brushed on wet to blend. The darker shades are watered down brown acrylic. The light source was easy enough to paint for everything but the arm bracers. For the arms, I just shaded the edges instead of picking an edge for light and an edge for shadow.

The fun part is adding battle damage. It's just two lines, a dark brown one on top, a white-yellow line immediately underneath. 

The same white-yellow was added to the vest plate corners, the high points of the mask, and any edges that would catch light.

I am particularly happy with this picture.
Same thing with the shin guards. The shin guards were completed by adding black foam to the back and gluing additional strips of foam on to hold the straps in place. The straps are strips of woven cotton with added velcro. Lucky for me, I found black glue sticks, which cut down on visible glue blobs.

The arm armor is completed by gluing a foam triangle to a piece of felt, then sewing the corners to one of those cheap stretchy one-size-fits-all gloves with the fingers cut off. The bracer and the glove aren't attached to each other, but this is how they should appear when worn.

Mask paint progression:
In hindsight, I should have put that black fabric on after the whole thing was painted.
The belt buckle skull is painted with a pearlescent silver acrylic, shadows deepened with dark gray and black. White was added to the high points. The round buckle part is the lid of a plastic jar with a slightly beveled edge, also painted silver with highlights/shadows, and the flat black is a circle of foam. The whole thing is attached to the belt with velcro so it can be removed when clipping or unclipping.

The back: paint and glue. The black panels are glued along each top edge where they cover the felt, the yellow arch is glued along the seam at the top of the shoulders and along each outside edge.

The front sides of the vest have some edging, but that process is the same (and less interesting to look at) than the other armor parts. I glued those strips to the backpiece before I attached them both to the felt.

I spritzed in some watered down orange and brown to the felt under the belt so it wouldn't look too flat. I could probably have pushed the dark a little more, but I'm afraid of pushing it too much, since the felt wasn't forgiving with the color.

Costume pieces semi-assembled (ignore the red shirt and black towel, I couldn't find a plain black tee shirt to put on the dress form).

One of my favorite things about this costume is the mask-hood attachment: magnets! One glued to the inside of each cheekbone in the mask, and one sewn into the corresponding place in the hood. It pulls right off and clicks right back into place (adult Halloween costumes are best designed with drinking in mind). Of course, it's better comedy when you pretend it never comes off. (I didn't take these, but I love them.)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Girl Stinky

For Dragon*Con 2013, I made a Girl Stinky costume from one of the later Sam and Max games.

Clothes and Shoes
The shirt is a regular plum-colored tee shirt. The pants were hard to find, but I settled on some violet pants from TJ Maxx that felt more like leggings and hemmed them up to be capri length.

I couldn't find dark purple pumps that fit, so I painted a pair with Mod Podge and a mixture of acrylic paint and textile medium (half and half, to make it flexible).

It probably took five coats to hide most of the brush strokes, and the final step was two coats of a spray enamel because the paint was a little sticky even when dry.

Crown and Bracelets
I started with a metal tiara, taped paper to it, and traced the shape. Then I held the reference image in front of me and drew the design on as best I could. I did half the swirls, traced them on the opposite side, and freehanded the horse in the middle.

Same basic idea with the bracelets.

I didn't want to draw on or paint the craft foam more than necessary, so I transferred the pattern by putting the paper on top of the foam and poking holes along the pencil lines and connected the dots with marker.

The crown foam was glued to the tiara and the bracelets got velcro closures.

Unfortunately, the crown was too big and lumpy. So I made a second version at about 2/3 this size, and clipped it directly to the wig.

This and the wig are the things that caused me the most anxiety. I'm still new to the sewing machine, and there are so many ways I can mess up a time-consuming process of putting the fish tail on the fabric, especially since I was planning to include a fish-tail-shaped pocket to carry my essentials (ID, money, phone/camera) at the convention.
Reference from the game character skins.
Apparently you can download those, and it's super helpful.

I went through a lot of trial and error with colors and media. I liked the pre-made colors and control of pastels and crayons, but they didn't soak into the weave of the fabric and looked like a kid's drawing on rough paper. So I bought a bunch of ¥100-yen-store acrylic paints and used almost an entire bottle of textile medium to mix six colors and paint them on the fabric.

1: paper pattern
2: canvas with pencil outline and scales
3: blue-green paint
4: green paint
5: dark green paint, slight white wash in center
6: white highlights, scales darkened with pencil (hard to see at this size), purple added
The painted part is the front layer, the back of the pocket and ribbon are the back layer, sewn on about an inch from the edge. This is so the back layer is keeping it to my body, and I can lift the front layer open the pocket.

Necklace and Earrings
I tried real seashells for earrings, but they were too heavy and just looked like white blobs from a distance, so I sculpted both both the earrings and sand dollar from a lightweight clay, sanded them smooth, and painted them. The pearls are wooden beads painted white and coated with a pearlescent nail polish.

The star on the sand dollar was drawn on masking tape, placed in the center of the sand dollar, and pencil was smudged around it until I was satisfied. The tape was peeled up, the darker accents were added, and I sprayed it with a sealant to keep it from smudging. After spending what felt like a hundred years on the wig (from Arda Wigs, and the quality is good, but turning a wig with bangs into a wig with a bare hairline is not easy), I ended up with something that works well enough for photos, even if the ponytail is a little loose in the back and the hairline in the front is a little thin.

Test run, without wig

Details: heavy eyeliner, blue eyeshadow, purple lip gloss, and green brush-in color over eyebrows.

Friday, September 11, 2015

1920s Dress

A friend hosted a 1920s-themed murder mystery party, so I figured a 20s dress would be a good warmup sewing project, since I never really learned how to use a sewing machine. Knee-length, tube-like dresses snazzed up with beads (or in my case, ribbon because I can't be arsed to actually do all that beading). This was my primary inspiration:
I know I can't duplicate it, but it's SO PRETTY. Photo from here.
I liked that it has limited fringe, was all a single color, and has geometric patterns in angles that are flattering to my body type. So I did my best to sketch out a simple sheath dress and geometric pattern.
And made a paper pattern following the basics of this tutorial, guessing on the straps and V-neck parts.

The first two attempts were made from an old bed sheet and some ¥100-store fabric, and gave me a chance to iron out some weirdness in the pattern. The first one fit around the hips like old-timey jodhpurs (4" too wide, and with a rather sudden departure from my actual shape, like a cartoon), the second gave me hope that darts are possible (it turns out that a straight potato-sack shape is not a good dress shape for me). The third and final attempt was in silver satin with a little bit of stretch.

The simple sheath dress. And it didn't immediately fall apart or burst into flames!

The shape it's on is a DIY dress form, made from wearing a plastic bag and having the husband wrap me in duct tape, then stuffing that shape with newspapers. It's a little lumpy, but it's a heck of a lot easier than trying to pin all the ribbon in place while it's on me or laying flat on the table. 

Unfortunately, I ended up sewing on the ribbon and fringe by hand instead of the machine so I wouldn't destroy everything, but the dress shape itself was pretty good practice.
The ribbon puckers the fabric a bit, but overall it gives the impression I wanted.

With fringe added (I wanted silver fringe for a gray-on-gray look, but it was so hard to find any I jumped on white as soon as I found it):

I knew there would be plenty of sequined headbands, so I opted for a fascinator. Probably not entirely historically accurate, but I think I'm allowed a little bit of artistic license. The feathers are from the craft section of the ¥100 store, and I was lucky to find them; either nobody does crafts with feathers or they're hard to come by, every store I tried only had two or three options. Scrap dress fabric and beaded wire added for texture, and the felt rose was made from this pattern and tutorial. It took about an hour, but wasn't difficult at all.

I really tried an accurate finger wave, but I only managed a halfway-decent wave around my face, so I pinned what I could in place and pin-curled the rest up to approximate a bobbed hairdo. I probably could have hidden the pins better if I could have seen what I was doing. No wonder ladies used to go get their hair done all the time, it's a pain in the neck to do it yourself!

Makeup: heavy eyeliner and dark shadow, Clara Bow lips (painted in the middle, not to the edges). Accessories were a black feather boa, a long string of fake pearls, sparkly earrings, and the closest thing I could find to long white satin gloves.
Bonus: also got to wear my wedding shoes again.
All in all, it came together pretty well, and everyone was super supportive and complimentary. I didn't guess who the murderer was (remember, this was for a murder mystery party), but I did win Best Dressed, so I can't complain.