Apr 302015
 

We finally got around to building Isaac’s shoulderpads for this convention. And it was a lot easier than we expected! We bought some wonderflex, which is a polymer material made by the same people that make the fosshape I adore so much for ears. It’s super easy to work with now that we’ve bought a heat gun.

Step one: Chaos made a mold out of poster board that fit his shoulders correctly and had the right amount of curl to it.

Step two: Chaos draped the wonderflex over the mold, heating it with the heat gun until it softened. It was super important here to keep the mold bent; laying it out flat would let it flatten out and not give the correct shape, so he ended up hanging it to keep the right bow shape. A more sturdy mold would have worked better, but we were experimenting here.

Step three: Now you have shoulder pads:

The spine, resting in my lap

The spine, resting in my lap

spine2

Edge-on view to show the bowing

So it’s time to cover them with something! We could have painted them for a metal look, but we decided to cover them in faux leather instead. I traced the posterboard molds onto the faux leather, added about half an inch all around, then cut four pieces. I stitched pairs together to make a pocket, then used hot glue to anchor them onto the spines (to ensure they curved correctly) and seal the seam.

 

Shoulder pad

Shoulder pad

I then took some more of the faux leather and, having measured the length from shoulder to hip on Chaos and cut out four wide strips. I then folded each strap in half, stitching it shut, then stitched the straps at right angles at the hip. Finally, I glued the tops to the shoulder pads (you can’t stitch through wonderflex).

strap1

The strap

 

Step Four: I stitched on some quick pockets so he could hold his wallet 🙂

 

Pocket

Pocket

I had him try them on over the robe from last year’s con:

 

Armor over the robe

Armor over the robe

Just like the spec… but way too ren faire. Not nearly steampunk enough! We ran out and scrounged up some other pieces in a last-minute shopping flurry. I think the result works well, don’t you?

Tadah~!

Tadah~!

Oct 032014
 

Since we knew we wouldn’t have time to do the full costume, and because the Symposium’s theme this year is “Steam Wars”, we decided to make Isaac a basic green Jedi robe and then trick it out with accessories.

When searching for patterns, we narrowed down the choices to two: this excellent detailed post from SithariRog or this Instructable by MrTinkerer. We decided to go with the Instructable because it looked easier to adapt to Chaos’ plus-size frame, and because I hate math. Not that the pattern for the Instructable didn’t involve enough math already 🙂

We took Chaos’ measurements and jotted them down. I added an extra measurement for girth, since the model for the Instructable was built skinnier than Chaos is and I wanted to be sure the thing closed. I then attempted to map the measurements onto the pattern like so:

Image (2)

(Sorry for the wrinkles, it almost got thrown out before I scanned it).

Once we had the plans on paper, we used graph paper (and tape!) to measure out the pattern; I find graph paper helps me keep the dang measurements accurate, whereas a measuring tape often slips sideways and a ruler is too short. I guess a yardstick would work 🙂

By the time we had everything cut out, however, I didn’t feel confident at all about the size. So we went to Dollar General and bought some bedsheets — a cheap, quick source of fabric for prototyping.

Thankfully, it fit just fine, and we were able to stitch up the real fabric next:

A Boy and His Automaton

All done, and just in time for the con!

Sep 262014
 

Chaos got me to watch Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, a show about… well… it’s not really important what it’s about 🙂 The show’s all well and good, but I fell in love with this hat:

Tell me that’s not the most awesome hat of all time!

After months of rolling about my head, I came up with this sketch I like:

Image (3)

It shouldn’t be too hard. I have plenty of black slacks, so it’s just a matter of making a vest and round three at hat-making 🙂

May 152014
 

So since our hat block turned out to be a complete failure, I still needed a hat to mount the ears from the fosshape tutorial onto. Since I’ve made mini top hats before, I decided to adapt the process to make a full-sized top hat.

This is going to be pretty brief, so check out the gallery below:

It’s not the sturdiest hat in the world, but it’ll do!

hat pinnable

Apr 232014
 

This is just a quickie; I know I’ve been missing frequently over the past month, it’s been crazy trying to get everything ready in time for the Symposium! One of the things I needed was a lot more belt pouches, some in specific sizes and some more for looks.

For Isaac’s belt, I just wanted some pretty pouches, so Chaos went to the thrift store and got some purse. I got the idea from this tutorial and basically followed it:

For Laika’s belt, I needed specific-sized pouches to fit the electronics, so I made boxes out of fosshape; these basically followed my messenger bag tutorial, but sized for the electronics I needed to carry. Like so:

And there you have it: two ways to make belt pouches! Our pinnable today brought to you by Lady Val, our newest steampunk:

pinnable

Mar 212014
 

Welcome! For once, I’m actually sure what I’m doing, and can share tips and tricks in a proper how to with you all. Been a while, hasn’t it? 🙂

For the Laika Leonne build, I decided to make a pair of custom lion-esque ears. This is a process I’ve used to great success in the past making cat ears; I first started doing this when I got tired of hard-edged ears that hurt people when I headbutted them, which I am prone to doing >.> You know that thing where housecats walk up and shove their head into your hand as a way to demand affection? It’s hard to mimic when your ears can poke someone’s eye out >.>  Ears made with this procedure will squish when they encounter resistance and bounce back into shape after.

Fosshape is a specialty fabric made by the people who make Wonderflex; I first came across it when I was working in my university’s costume shop for credit. We used it to make lightweight masks. Basically, it’s a fabric much like felt, but when exposed to heat, it hardens and becomes more rigid — not totally rigid, but it holds a shape. Typically it’s molded or stitched or what have you while soft, then firmed up with a steamer. Lacking a steamer, I discovered that the oven works just as well: it just needs to get above 212F, which it can easily do in a 350F oven.

I make my molds out of tinfoil, mostly because I have plenty lying around.

 

The good thing about tinfoil is it’s fine to put in the over but can still hold pins in place 🙂

 

It took about ten or fifteen minutes to get them nice and hard in the oven; they cool quickly, so you can tell if they still feel floppy when you pinch the edge of one. I did the ears one at a time, but you can do more than one at at time if you make multiple molds; I used to do whole trays of ears when I was planning to sell them at cons.

finished 2

finished 3

Don’t think I’d forget your pinnable!

pinnable

Mar 192014
 

Hello everyone, Yami and Chaos here. Today we’re debuting some information on Top Secret Project #1: a joint build we’ve been working on together.

Later this week you’ll see one of the more costumey pieces of the build, but today we’re debuting the central piece, the brain that makes it all run. Yes, that’s right: we’ve gotten into electronics. Woo!

More importantly, we’ve gotten into electronics that we have to assemble ourselves. Which is equal parts, exciting, interesting and dangerous.

The number one name in hobbyist electronics is, as I’m sure you’ve heard, the Arduino. The Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform; there are dozens of variants of the boards, including the Uno, which you can buy at Radio Shack *shameless plug* (I was shocked, too, I thought they ditched all that in favor of cellphones). We went with an Uno-like variant that’s meant to slot on top of the Raspberry Pi called the “AlaMode”.

Which is called that because someone thought they were clever. It connects to pins on the top of the board and it tends to be white, so it’s like ice cream on a pie.

See? Sit's right on top

See? Sit’s right on top

It comes unassembled, so we had to solder the servo pins, analog pins, and GPIO headers. We also soldered in the digital pins, but turned out not to need them just yet. If you want to get into soldering, get some instruction, because it’s really dangerous, but you’ll want the following:

Soldering iron:

Stand and sponge:

Solder:

Patience also helps, but we couldn’t find an image. So, obligatory safety spiel: be VERY careful with soldering irons. They get really hot and you will know very quickly if you’re touching anything you shouldn’t. You also want to make sure you wash your hands, as most solder you buy has lead in it. You can buy lead-less solder, but it’s harder to work with, and you can be perfectly safe with the normal solder as long as you wash your hands.

So…how do you actually solder electronics? Well, the idea is that you heat up the area you want to connect and you melt the solder into the connection, allowing electricity to flow through. In our case, we wanted to attach the pins through some of the holes in the Arduino.

You can tell where you solder since those holes have metal on the sides.

You can tell where you solder since those holes have metal on the sides.

First, make sure that you have the pins oriented the right way. Look at your board and think about how the connection should look like when you’re done. This will save you a lot of headaches later.
Make sure you have all pieces flush against the board, that way you’ll know that the connection will be good and you’ll only have to do this once.
Take the soldering iron and press the tip so that it touches the metal around the hole and the pin you have going through. You’ll want to hold it there for about 2 seconds, leaving enough space so that you can get the solder a little into the hole and to the iron.
Take the piece of solder and carefully touch it to the iron while getting as much of it over the gap in the hole as you can. The solder is going to melt pretty quickly so you won’t have to do this part long.
Once you have a bead-sized bit of solder, pull the solder away, but leave the soldering iron there for another two seconds. This will allow the solder to flow into the hole, making a full connection.
Pull the iron away and dab the tip in the wet sponge. Also, make sure that it’s actually a wet sponge, since sponges are actually pretty flammable and you really don’t want to start a fire in your workspace.

And there you have it! That’s basically how you solder electronics. It’s not nearly as scary as it seems, but with some practice you’ll find it easy. Yami found a nice little comic that gives the beginner’s run-through of how to solder in case you want some more detailed instructions. A couple more pieces of advice: when you’re first soldering several pins, after the first one check to see if your connection is straight. It is a LOT easier to remove the solder from one pin than it is to do several and it will save you a lot of time, frustrations, and possibly burnt fingers. Also, if you have the parts that will be connecting to your pins, you can plug it into the loose pins as you solder it. That way if it’s only a little off, the connections should still work.

As far as my first adventure into hobby electronics, the Arduino is pretty good. The board has a lot of labels so you know what is going where, and it’s pretty easy to put together. If you take your time and make sure you understand what’s going where, you’ll have an easy time putting it together. The actual programming of the Arduino is also pretty simple, but I’ll let the more experienced programmer go over that.

There will be more parts in this series, rest assured, because we only have half the build working so far. The Arduino IDE allows you to program the Arduino in C, using special Arduino libraries, and upload the resulting bytecode to the board. Since I’m the only one in our household who knows any C, that’s where I come in 🙂 We ran through a number of sample sketches to ensure that we’d hooked up our pieces correctly, and then I wrote the final sketch.

First, we hooked up a servo and a potentiometer, verifying that we could read from one and write to the other using the Sweep and Knob sample sketches. Then, I wrote the following sketch:

#include <Servo.h>
Servo myservo; 

int pos = 0;
int potpin = 0; //the pin that the potentiometer is attached to
int val;

void setup()
{
    myservo.attach(3); //the pin the servo is attached to
    myservo.write(0); //resets the position after the power has been lost
    delay(5); //wait for servo to reach position
}

void loop()
{
    val = analogRead(potpin); //Read the potentiometer's value, which will be between 0 and 1023
    if (val < 700) { //700 is the cutoff for when we stop the sweep, as the potentiometer never seems to send the max value
        val = map(val, 0, 700, 5, 30); //scale it to be between 5 and 30 instead
        doSweep(val);
    }
} //The loop function will loop infinitely on its own

void doSweep(int delayVal) {
    //sweep one way
    for (pos = 0; pos < 180; pos += 1) {
        myservo.write(pos);
        delay(delayval); //this controls the speed of sweeping
    }
    //then sweep back
    for (pos = 180; pos >= 1; pos -= 1) {
        myservo.write(pos);
        delay(delayval);
    }
}

This allows the potentiometer to control the speed of the sweeping servo, rather than the angle. The servo will waggle back and forth, though it can be stopped by turning the potentiometer all the way to one side. You’ll want to fine-tune the magic numbers in the above sketch to your potentiometer and servo; we found that our potentiometer doesn’t actually send the full range of potential inputs reliably, so we set our threshold for turning it off to be much lower than the top potential input. We also fine-tuned the speed of the servo using the map parameters; too fast and we’d break the motor, but too slow and it’d look wrong.

Now that we had the electronics working, it was time to build the actual moving piece: Laika Leonne’s tail.

We’ll be devising a cover for the tail so it doesn’t look so naked, and we’re considering lengthening it by adding some bare wire and maybe a weight on the end so it sways right, but that’s all fine-tuning and will have to wait until we get back from our vacation and have time to finish the build. This is all due at the end of April, and we still have to hook up the ears, so we’ll need to work fast, but I feel confident we can do it. The end is in sight!

Feb 172014
 

In case you guys hadn’t noticed, January was REALLY COLD. So I finally caved and agreed to make the coat I’d had materials for since last October: a winter-thick black duster for Bob that could double as a Harry Dresden costume.

First Thread

Breaking out the trusty machine again~!

The outer layer is canvas, with a fleece lining I added to the pattern. Fleece, my assistant informs me, is incredibly difficult to cut. I reminded him that that’s why I asked him to do the cutting while I was at work 🙂 The pattern we used is the more elaborate view, labeled “Australian Drover’s Coat”.

Pocket pinned in place

Pocket pinned in place

  Fun fact: Did you know you have to thread a sewing machine with the presser foot in the up position? Thinking back, my instructors always had the foot up when they threaded the machine, but I don’t remember being told why. Turns out, the tension disk will not open to admit thread with the foot down. That’s what’s been causing my jamming problems on the last few builds. Well, that and I keep having trouble winding bobbins with the thread taunt enough. They keep coming out loose. I think it’s a lot more persnickety than I want it to be.

The finished pocket on the coat

The pattern felt really straightforward and familiar after doing so many coats and tops in recent years for men. It had me attach the pockets to the front first, which was kind of strange, but pretty straightforward as they’re purely exterior pockets. Then I had to stitch the back pieces together.. and hit my first snag. I was told to attach the fantail to the back “matching notches, squares, and circles”. Except the back had several sets of squares, notches, and circles. Where the heck does the fantail go? What IS a fantail? The pattern didn’t say. If you ever find yourself in this position, folks, the best thing to do is google for other patterns. Sometimes their preview images will show you what you’re doing in more detail, helping you understand what’s going on. In this case, I used Folkwear #137, which I plan to purchase should I ever need to make another one of these coats, as it has better instructions and includes the leg straps that Kae suggested I add after I’d already picked out a pattern 🙂

This is where a fantail goes, by the way.

This is where a fantail goes, by the way.

Once I had the fantail attached to the right spot, I continued on, attaching the front bits. Here, it says to do the collar and front facing; however, because I was adding lining, I skipped over that to do the sleeves. Then I stitched the back, front, and sleeves together in the fleece, leaving it inverted so the nice sides of the seams were facing down, towards Kae’s body. Finally, I inserted the fleece into the canvas and hemmed the sleeves, anchoring that in place. The collar was a bit difficult to add in after the sleeves, but I managed, centering it with difficulty. It was around this time that my arms began to seriously ache from hauling this heavy coat around, pinning and stitching, but I persevered, as it was Sunday and my time was running short. After another round of fittings, I decided to finish the last details over the next few days, particularly since the university would be closed due to snow so Kae didn’t have to go anywhere until Thursday. The stupid buttonholes took forever, though. I kind of hate using the buttonholer because when the machine inevitably jams, it’s nearly impossible to pick out all the thread. I got enough buttons stitched on that he could button the front closed and took a week off, coming back to finish up the last few details later.

Finished coat, front

Finished coat, front

Finished coat, back

Finished coat, back

Oh, so there’s this thing out there on the internet, I guess it’s called Pintrest? You may have heard of it >.> Anyway, since we’ve been getting a little traffic from Pintrest lately, I thought I’d throw out something for you all to pin:

Duster Pin

Feb 012014
 

Okay, we had some problems getting the photos off the bloody camera (for whatever reason, the computer would recognize the camera was plugged in but trying to access the photos on them would cause the camera to crash and the computer to freeze up. fun times) but success is mine!

Ahem.

I should probably explain what I meant with the title. The CZU (that’s Cleveland Zeppelin Union for those new around here) managed to get use of Parma Township’s public library (well, one of the conference rooms anyway) to host a ‘Making Day.’  What that is, exactly, is the lot of us doing something of a show and tell about some of the things we make to support our obss- hobby. Enjoyable pass time. Activities of interest. For interest, we brought in the business cards Yami has created for our group complete with a short but nifty little slide show. I also whipped together another slide show about general creating idea, using the steampunk wreath we made as the main example.

Gabriel hard at work making a trinket for a curious attendee.

Gabriel hard at work making a trinket for a curious attendee.

We also had a booth showing off some LED creations, one that helped explain some of the common character ‘archetypes’ and paper wind-fish (think of a windsock but made of paper and in the shape of a carp).  It was pretty neat to see how far the gambit can run, from the relatively cheap and easy to make calling cards to the really impressive LED-studded costume pieces that can take weeks or even months to create.  Of course, props and costumes are only as cool as the ideas behind them, so even having a platform to explain to a few people about how to start ‘thinking steampunk’ was really great.  

 

 

Some of the CZU members trying to get the FB page up on the projector.

Some of the CZU members trying to get the FB page up on the projector.

 

The star of the show, however, was Gabriel  and his jewelry, ornaments and doodad creation seminar. He brought his hot glue gun, boxes of small metal, plastic and paste-gem bits and some chains, then did some quick tutorials and demonstrations of how to assemble some very simple creations. I, for example, worked with him and another CZU member to create my Owens persona a fake pocket-watch to go with his new vest.  It’s a simple piece, just a false watch face attached to a metal chain on one end and a decorative weight on the other.

 

 

It was half ‘hey, nice to see you all again!’ and half ‘PSA: Hello people, this is Steampunk!’ And personally, I think both halveswent great. Sure, we may not have gotten as many visitors as a panel during a con, but we had at least two dozen or so people attend our little three hour session. That’s not bad for a bunch of people who just want to share their fun.

Not a bad sized crowd.

Not a bad sized crowd.

And we also got to debut some new additions to the  Owens costumes (most of which has been covered elsewhere):

Got some nifty new vests and button-up shirts.

Got some nifty new vests and button-up shirts.

 

Nothing new technically but we haven't had a 'in costume' photo of Nettie as yet.

Nothing new technically but we haven’t had a ‘in costume’ photo of Nettie as yet.

 

The new pocket watch (and weight, which is what you can see) for Owens.

The new pocket watch (and weight, which is what you can see) for Owens.

 Posted by at 7:43 pm