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:


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!


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!


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
Jan 262014

Guess who has two thumbs and just got a new job? This gal!

Fortunately, this job comes with a sweet-ass new laptop. Huzzah! Unfortunately, it’s friggan impossible to find a cute bag for a 17″ non-Mac laptop. (Why does Mac vs PC matter? Because the 17″ MacBook Air is super thin, and this beast is not. It’s a good inch and a half thick at least.)

What’s a stylish girl to do? Make her own messenger bag. I’ve marked this tutorial as “non-steampunk”, because the bag I made is cute and purple and totally not steamy, but I’m sure an intrepid adventurer could steampunk up this style of bag in no time. Maybe a canvas bag, with faux rivets and shiny brass buttons?

First things first: I measured the machine. The screen size is measured diagonally from corner to corner, so I needed both length and width measurements. This machine is 16.5″ long by 11″ wide, and, as mentioned before, about 1.5″ thick.

For inspiration, I took the tutorial found at Crazy Little Projects. With some space for padding and a nice deep pocket I could put notebooks and pens in, I decided to make the front flap 13″ x 20″, with the back flap 24″ x 20″ (to allow for the foldover part) and the side piece 46″ x 4″. I elected not to make a strap, instead stealing one from another bag that I already had.

I bought the following materials:

  • 2 yards outer fabric – in my case, a fashionable flower-print denim
  • 2 yards inner fabric – I chose a crushed velvet in deep purple
  • 2 yards fusible fleece interfacing
  • 2 D-rings
  • one snap or button or other fastener

2 yards turned out to be excessive; the tutorial said 1 yard, but I like to have extra for when I inevitably mess up. I could have gone with 1.5 yards easily though. I chose my outer fabric to be rugged and protective, while the inner I chose to be soft and cushioning. For a fastener, I considered a magnetic purse closure, but instead decided on a snap closure, mostly because the magnetic one I was looking at seemed awfully powerful and I didn’t want to risk erasing my hard drive. I considered a belt-style fastener too, I think that might be cute later. A button could also work if you feel comfortable stitching buttonholes.

Measuring the fabric turned out to be difficult, even for my engineer husband. I would recommend buying some poster board and making a template, as sturdy paper or cardboard won’t wiggle out from under your pencil and make your measurements wrong. If you regularly freehand patterns, though, by all means go right ahead and trace directly onto the fabric.

I fused the interfacing to the denim, because the velvet is sensitive to heat, then stitched together the two fabrics. Then, I lined up the side panel on the front flap, pinned, and stitched. Remember to leave some space sticking up on either side! I forgot, and had to make do with adding pieces to secure the D-rings instead of folding over the excess.

Stitch the back panel. If you’re like me and have no excess to secure the D-rings, take the stronger fabric (in my case, the denim) and cut out strips an inch wider than your side panel and several inches long. Press half an inch under on each side to make a nice edge, and you should probably do the same to each end too but I didn’t bother. Secure this TIGHTLY, with many stitches, to your side panels, with the D-ring looped securely in place. My first attempt ripped off as soon as I hefted the bag onto my shoulder; I suggest making a box shape with an X in the center to ensure that your threads are going different directions and thus wear easily.

Of course, if you planned ahead, you can just fold over the excess around your D-rings and stitch that in place. Again, err on the side of excess!

I hand-stitched my fastener in place so it wouldn’t show from the outside. It looks pretty awful because despite doing a ton of it in school, I never got good at hand-stitching. Feel free to add iron-on appliques or anything to help jazz up the bag; feel free to make a strap and stitch it to the D-rings, or scavenge one from another bag as I did. Voila!



Isn’t that denim pretty? You can just see a bit of the velvet


The outer flap


Closeup so you can see how I stitched on the D-ring


me with bag

It matches my coat 🙂



Sep 292013

Now for some real hatmaking, from scratch! For Nettie’s second costume, I wanted a mini top hat. Have you seen how expensive those things are? Definitely pricy impulse buys at cons! I’m working on the cheap here, so I decided to make my own.

I used a template from one of my favorite free pattern sites, Fleece Fun. Side note, I found them when I wanted to make a cape for my baby brother, who has decided to go by Darth Blaze in his superhero persona 🙂 He adores the cape, and fleece is fairly cheap 🙂 I actually used a red riding hood cape design, shh don’t tell anyone it was for girls 😉 Anyway, I downloaded the smallest hat pattern, mostly because it fits on separate pages so I could print directly onto cardstock. I figured I could always do it again. I got some cheap felt (it’s less than $1 per 8.5×11″ piece at Joann Fabrics) and I had plenty of cardstock left over from the wedding to lend shape to the hat. It had been a few days since my last hatmaking adventure, so the burns from the hot glue had healed — time to fire up the glue gun again, clearly 🙂


The pattern, traced onto felt.

Protip: sharp scissors help. Cutting out the felt with dull ones was torturous. They also suggested use spray adhesive for the first step. Spray adhesive is a wondrous invention… and, alas, not one I have in my crafts cabinet. So I just used hot glue all the way.

Once everything was cut out, well… nothing to it but to glue it!

And there you have it: a mostly finished tophat. I had to go to bed, but I plan to add some ribbon to tie it on next. Voila!

Sep 222013

It has been mentioned that Nettie needs a hat. Well, I am here today to reveal not one, but TWO new hats — and that only because I ran out of time for the third! Yup, that’s me, Yami the Overachiever 🙂

I found two black straw hats on my last thrift shop/dollar store crawl: one that I didn’t like the feel of that I got at the thrift store for $1.07 including tax, and one that I liked rather a lot that I got at a dollar store for $4. I decided to make one big showy hat and one that’s a little more subdued, so I could pick the best for the occasion. I started with the big showy hat:

$4 floppy-brim straw hat from the dollar store

$4 floppy-brim straw hat from the dollar store

I then immediately blew my budget by spending $50 on flowers and ribbons at Michael’s craft store 🙂 But I started out well!

For inspiration, I looked at both Victorian-era hats and Kentucky Derby hats, which are apparently still worn today and can get kind of intense:

Like this one from


Or this one, from Just. What.

Chaos thinks my hat is a bit excessive… I think maybe I didn’t go far enough!

Some work in progress shots:

And the final product:

Aren't I lovely!

Aren’t I lovely! My hair’s a mess, I can’t wear a ponytail under this hat.

On to the second hat! This one was cheaper, and it shows when you touch it: it sort of crinkles like cheap plastic instead of feeling like straw. Ah well.

The hat, unadulterated

The hat, unadulterated

Right off the bat, I knew that flower and ribbon had to go. Black on black? Talk about funeral attire!

Try some red ribbon instead. Much more contrast.

Try some red ribbon instead. Much more contrast.


And poofy red flowers finish the job

And poofy red flowers finish the job

The final look is much more… Nettie-ish, I think:

hat2 final

I’m tired, and I know it

But it was still missing something. It just didn’t want to sit right on my head. I wracked my brains for inspiration a bit, until finally I thought about a hat I’d seen on a duster pattern once:

Simplicity 2581

I didn’t have netting, but what about the ribbons used to tie on mini top hats? Maybe they would help the darned hat stay on my head as well as add a little extra flair?



You’ll notice I’m making a strange face in that photo. Five minutes prior, I’d burned my finger on the hot glue, and it was just starting to really hurt as I posed. It was another hour or so before it subsided enough to go to sleep, complete with a small white blister for my troubles. C’est la vie de steampunk, I suppose.

Stay tuned, I plan to make a mini top hat once Chaos gives back my glue gun 😉

May 262013

Details is an image-heavy feature in which I discuss accessories I’ve created or purchased and how they fit the overall vision of a character. 


This is Bob’s post, so let’s talk about guns, shall we? I’m always on the lookout for new guns. NERF, squirt, cap, nonfunctional plastic… you can find cheap guns at dollar stores, Wal-mart, Target, even goodwill. A fresh coat of paint and voila, ready to go. Chaos is handling guns going forward, but he and I worked together on the first few.

Bob- Gun and Holster

Painted Maverick with holster

This was the first gun we painted for Bob; it’s your standard Nerf Maverick (the unofficial gun of beginning steampunk), unmodded, painted with brass and bronze spraypaint. You can see how the paint welled up in spots and how the wind mussed the paint as it dried; we plan to make another, better-painted model with Rub ‘n Buff later. Still, for having no idea what we were doing, I’m proud of the way it came out.

Bob- Holstered Gun

Maverick in holster


The holster was purchased on amazon. You can find a lot of good Maverick holsters out there, again, because it’s everyone’s first gun. In this shot, the gun is still peacebonded from Ohayoucon, hence the yellow binding strip around the handle marking it as having passed inspection.

Bob- Holster and Sidearm

Pistol and holster

His new sidearm should look familiar if you follow Chaos’ column. It came in a set of two with a sheriff badge and plastic cow-pattern holsters on a matching plastic belt; I pulled apart one of the holsters and traced it onto pleather to make a pattern that I knew would fit the pistols. Ricky’s holster I left as a belt holster, but Kae requested that his be able to go onto his leg, so we attached belts so he could strap it to his calf.

Unfortunately, the darned thing wouldn’t stay up. It had a brief second life as an upper-arm holster before one of the belts ripped off during adjustment. I’ll have to come up with a better plan, or resize it for his thigh.

Bob- Knife and Holster

Knife and holster

The knife is plastic and quite bendy. It spent most of the Symposium tucked into the small of Ricky’s back. Kae insisted that Bob would want backup weapons hidden so well nobody would find them — hence, hidden on his companions.

Bob- Hat

Cowboy hat

The hat is from Party City, and is the only halloween-costume hat we’ve found that looks even halfway decent. It’s actually not bad, considering it’s not custom nor expensive.

May 192013

Details is an image-heavy feature in which I discuss accessories I’ve created or purchased and how they fit the overall vision of a character. 

One of the things that stood out to me last year was when we met a guy with an awesome costume and he handed us a calling card so we could find him again. Calling cards are the predecessors to modern business cards; while they are not meant to contain information about your business, I figure tucking the blog’s address on the back would be a great way to ensure any new friends we make can find us again. To that end, I designed a calling card for each character that will be portrayed at the Empire Symposium and had them printed on cardstock.

Business Cards

Four business cards, front

While it’s not really good manners to put your employment on a callling card, Lucas can’t resist; so much of his identity is tied up in the running of Warren Industries that it’s become almost like a title. Still, in a nod to convention, he’s put the company name in much smaller font so it doesn’t take too much emphasis away from his name.

Ricky, by contrast, is very no-nonsense. He put a small, subdued flair above his name, but he elected for block-printed cards off a newfangled printing press rather than the more classic hand-engraved cards, and his military rank is displayed prominently  as that was perfectly acceptable to put on a card.

Erika’s card is the most elaborate; as an unmarried woman, her card size is smaller, which makes it seem a bit crowded in comparison. She spared no expense promoting herself as both elegant and ladylike as well as mechanically-inclined, as though there were no contradiction inherent in her dual identity, and she managed to pull it off well, I think.

Bob doesn’t do frills. Or frippery. Or borders. He has his name, his profession, and a hat. So what if it’s not done to advertise yourself so blatantly? He doesn’t care.

Cards with Holder

The reverse side of Kendandra’s card, propped in front of a holder

The reverse of each card is the meta-side; it contains out-of-character contact information, including a link to this very blog. This is the practical side; we hand these out anywhere we go in costume, so it needed to have actual contact information in case people want to find us again. Or I suppose you could collect them like baseball cards?

The cardholders were a lucky dollar-store find Chaos made a few days before the Empire Symposium.

Bob Card

Bob’s card again, with the envelope he uses to carry them

Originally I planned to make a custom holder for each character; however, as time grew short, this was the only holder that got made. Bob wouldn’t bother with a leather card holder, instead going for an old envelope he had lying around. The envelope was fairly fun to age; we used some underflavored teabags we bought a while back and weren’t fond of, brewing 2 of them in minimal water then saturating an envelope with the tea. We let it soak for a while, then poured off the excess tea and baked until dry. Voila, aged envelope, just add crinkles.

May 142013

Howdy everyone, this is Chaos and I’m gonna talk about characters.

Now, I’m sure some of you have already seen the interviews with myself and the others, so it’s probably obvious that I’m not the successful owner of a shipping company in the late Victorian era. Nor do I own an airship. The prototype one I was doing pictures of doesn’t count either since it’s getting completely rebuilt so that it’ll actually work. It would be pretty sweet tho, except for the Victorian age being far enough back that you wouldn’t have the same things and I’m not sure how cheesecake would be made in an era before refrigeration was easily done and available to everyone. Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. The point is that Lucas is a character that I play rather than being me, so when planning or coming up with prop ideas, it’s important to think of how the piece compliments and brings out that character rather than just what you would and wouldn’t have.

Case in point, I’m a rather large dude. It’s pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen me, and as a large dude, I tend to sweat a good deal. This makes most dress clothes now somewhat uncomfortable in certain times of the year now, so you can imagine how a vest, waistcoat, dress shirt, hat and slacks aren’t always fun if there’s no AC, but Lucas wouldn’t be caught outside in less than his best. The image he portrays is much more important than any discomfort that he could suffer and to be dressed ‘down’ in public would be a failing on his part. Everything he has has to show his standing and give an air of constant class. He’s a perfectionist in a world that already sees him as imperfect and he strives to give no signs of weakness in everything he does.

What does that have to do with props? Well, for one thing, it means that none of my previous methods are going to work as something he would actually have on him.  I couldn’t find a plastic toy weapon that, while fitting for the setting, would look elegant enough for Lucas to keep on his person. I was also not nearly good enough with paint or metalwork to make something that would fit. So, as usual, Yami comes up with the brilliant plan of looking on the internet and finding something I can modify. Enter this nice little number:

Absolutely in love with the vine pattern

Absolutely in love with the vine pattern.


Now, unfortunately the problem here is that A) The gun barrel doesn’t rotate when the trigger is pulled, and B) The barrel or gun doesn’t move in any way that would allow you to put in rounds. I understand that is part of it being a non-firing replica, but I figured that something like that wouldn’t prevent it from at least functioning like it could. I haven’t fully decided what additions and other such things I’ll have to do to make it fit a little better, but it probably won’t have much to do with paint, why? Well, because a couple weeks before I got that, I picked this up at the Steampunk Symposium:

It even has a similar design as the gun on the edges.

It even has a similar design as the gun on the edges.

This worked out even better than I thought since they’re a similar color and some of the design on the gun is on the watch. That’s something that would immediately drawn Lucas to commission that particular firearm. Not because he plans to fight often, since he has people to do that for him, but because he could afford a personal firearm that actually goes with his watch. This was pretty much an easy sell, since the look of the watch worked for the character and I just liked that it showed a lot of the internal workings.

I also like the red roman numerals as it's a prominent color in the character's overall design.

I also like the red roman numerals as it’s a prominent color in the character’s overall design.

Look at all the little gears!

Look at all the little gears!

So, what was all this about? Well, I felt like giving everyone a good look at how I approach props and accessories for characters. Some people complain that the general idea of steampunk is to glue gears on some clothing, dress like you’re going to a fancy party, wear some goggles and call it a day. I wanted to show that myself, and others I’ve seen, put a lot more thought into it. Also that it’s not exactly hard. The idea is that after you’ve picked a period in “history” come up with a persona. You don’t even really need a name starting off, just an idea of what kind of person you want to portray. From there, think about what that character would need to have and what they’d WANT to have. Not only will that reflect in the pieces and accessories you build, buy, or find when they’re put together, but you’ll have a lot more fun putting said things together and seeing how it all fits.

Anyway, if you want to ask any questions or want to say how YOU choose what to make for a character go ahead and comment below. I promise I don’t bite. Also leave a comment if you like hearing more about the ‘signature props’ as I’ll most likely get into those for each character as ideas come.

Hope to see  you next time, when either I’ll get into dismantling a firearm or start work on a REALLY big weapon (Which of course means it’s for Owen)