Nov 072014

As you know by now, the three of us decided on a Red Riding Hood theme for our costumes this year. Looking at the pics, you can probably tell what my least favorite part of my outfit was: that damned belt.

The Belt and Armbands

It all started with a pattern. Specifically, Butterick B5371. Oh, the image promised good things:

Specifically, the belt on the top left and the bracers on the bottom left. A simple little waist-cincher and matching armguards. What could possibly go wrong?


Everything could go wrong.

That belt has the minimum amount of sewing possible. You’re meant to cut out the lining and outer fabric and fuse them with fusable webbing rather than stitch the edges. I can sew a straight line with a machine, but leaving the edges raw meant every wobble of my scissors showed. Plus, the fabric I picked didn’t like heat, so it was awful trying to get the webbing to stay.

You see the problem. :/

I picked a white lining, which I discovered was a mistake: the straps need lining to give them enough heft to close anything, but the lining totally shows, because unlike every other strap anywhere ever, instead of stitching the lining to the fabric right-sides together and inverting, you just fuse and pray.

The pictures you see above? Those are finished, according to the pattern. 100% complete. Yay belt. I couldn’t leave it like that. I did what I could, trimming the edges in ribbon and clipping some of the straps, but it still doesn’t look great.

Of course, that leads to the next problem: in a belt that wide, there is no tapering whatsoever. With my corset on, I have a pretty severe hourglass sillhouette. It just gapes badly.

Oh, and what’s with the straps being like 6 inches longer than the belt?! Blech. I had loose bits flopping about all day when I went to work.

Capes and Vests

The two capes, on the other hand, were MUCH nicer patterns from Fleece Fun. Funnily enough, the Woodsman is wearing their Red Riding Hood pattern, with a hook instead of ribbon; I wanted a floor-length cape, so I went for their Fast Hooded Cape.

These are the best cape patterns I’ve ever seen, and I keep coming back to them again and again. They’re free, they’re simple, and including printing and taping, you can knock out a cape in an afternoon. You do have to be a little careful when taping; you’ll need to trim the margins, though I like to only trim one side so I can overlap the other margin underneath the trimmed one when taping two pieces together. Otherwise, all is great.

The vest was McCalls 2447; I had Chaos help me with the math to upsize the pattern to fit him, making this now the vest that fits him the best. We meant to put buttonholes and shiny buttons on it, but the buttonholer is apparently made of witchcraft and dark sorcery, so we have to wait until the right moon phase to make the darn thing work 🙂



Kae did this all on his own while I was at work 😀 He went and got some sticks, spray-painting them gold, which instantly made me think of The Honest Woodsman, definite A+ from me. He then used styrofoam blocks to make the axe-heads. That’s when he ran into a little trouble: he had some trouble finding the remains of our scattered paint collection. He decided to use Rub n’ Buff on the heads, but it took him some time to find our black spray paint to go underneath. That turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because he mentioned this to Chaos, who reminded him that spray paint melts styrofoam. Instead, he grabbed duct tape to make a solid surface and then painted over it with the Rub n’ Buff. Works for me!


Chaos doesn’t like things touching his eyes, so he’s never worn stage makeup before. We were going to go for a minimal look, but after browsing minimalistic makeup tutorials with a Wolf theme, he declared that they all looked stupid. I convinced him to try the full-face getup, and it paid off 🙂

We used the following makeups:

  • Ben Nye cl-26 grey
  • Ben Nye cl-25 steel grey
  • Ben Nye cl-29 black
  • Wet n’ Wild a042 pagan angel lipstick
  • Wet n’ Wild 392a tunnel vision eye-shadow palette

I took a photo of his face without glasses and ran it through GIMP filters to make a basic outline of his face, which we planned out the look on. We were trying to emulate the look of a wolf’s fur pattern, which more or less worked; I’m definitely not a makeup expert, but it looked pretty good. Later we mused that furry ears or a tail would have completed the look.

And there you have it!

Nov 022014

I know things now, many valuable things, that I hadn’t known before

Do not put your faith in a cape and a hood, they will not protect you the way that they should

Red proud

And take extra care with strangers, even flowers have their dangers


And though scary is exciting, nice is different than good

wolf crouch

Now I know, don’t be scared; Granny is right: just be prepared

Hope your Halloween and Day of the Dead were spook-tastic! Now let’s get hyped for Into the Woods Christmas!

May 132014

Hey, have you guys heard about Parade The Circle? The Cleveland Zeppelin Union is totally going to be at Parade the Circle! If you’re coming here because you’ve been linked to this tutorial by the CZU and you haven’t been in touch with anyone but you want to attend, go to that event page right this minute and contact them, young man or lady! Time is running short!

The theme we’re planning to do involves wind-up toys, so we got together for a work session this past weekend to make wind-up keys we can attach to our backs so we’ll all match more or less while still being able to put together our own unique costumes. To that end, I’ve put together a tutorial for those who couldn’t attend the work session, and I thought I’d share it here in public so other people might get ideas on how easy and cheap it can be to put something like this together 🙂

Please forgive the image quality, I only had a cellphone to take pictures with.

Let’s start with your basic materials:


Any cardboard will do, but this tutorial is going to use the simplest option: a box, already made and about the right size.


These clackers cost about 60 cents at a party store. You hold them by the plastic stem and spin them to make clacking noises.

Not shown: Paint, tape or glue or both, and a belt.


Step 1: Compose your structure

If you’re not starting with a kleenex box, you’ll want to get your base into some kind of box shape. Most of us also decided to cut a keyhole in the box for decoration, but that’s not strictly necessary. You also want to attach the clacker to the box in such a way that the handle sticks out so you can attach things to it. This is the simplest way to achieve that given our tutorial materials:


…but other designs got more sophisticated with it.

Step 2: Paint the box

If your base material is plastic, you’ll want to use Krylon Fusion or another plastic-bonding paint as a base layer. For cardboard, almost anything works.


I did have some trouble with the textured paint I tried to use, so I did a base coat of black and then re-applied the textured paint.


Nice and rusty-looking

Step 3: Make a Key

This is your basic wind-up key shape:

But it’s steampunk, so feel free to go wild! Here’s a pretty straightforward one made of cardboard and a cardboard tube:

IMG_20140510_154317097You can see how tape was used to attach it to the clacker, but what you can’t see is the layers of cardboard stuffed in tube for stability and to help it grip the clacker firmly enough so that turning the key would turn the clacker’s stick, making the noise. That’s going to be the trickiest part.

Of course you want to paint that too:


Step 4: Assemble!

modellingSome of us talked about attaching to belts, while others were going to experiment with backpacks or harness systems. It’s up to you what will work with your costume best. You could even glue on some fabric and stitch it to your costume I suppose!

Here’s a gallery of some variants we came up with, to spark some ideas:

Dec 042013

Hey everyone. Chaos here, and I wanted to welcome everyone to the new site layout. Hopefully if you’re new here you’ll take this chance to look through some of the older posts and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

*crickets chirp*

Alright, great. Now that you’re caught up I’ll go ahead and introduce myself for those that didn’t look at the backlogs and are just going ahead with this. I’m the prop builder of the group, in so much that they let me paint over nerf guns and make interesting things that may or may not light up and make sound. I modify pieces or items we can find to fit characters (mostly weapons at this point) and in some cases I’ve even created bits from scratch. I kinda fell into the job since I’m going to school for an Engineering Master’s degree and I really can’t make costumes, but it’s actually been a lot of fun.

Bob- Gun and Holster

The gun was modded personally, but the holster was purchased.

I’ve done a few posts on what I think about when coming up with pieces for character costumes, but this is actually something that I ran into when going over my next project. I was talking with Yami about some of the ideas I had and she mentioned that it wouldn’t really work because if someone WAS wearing said prop as a real thing, it would be really hot and probably burn whoever was wearing it. I countered that Steampunk is somewhat fantastical so I didn’t see what the problem was, but she insisted that it didn’t make sense. We eventually settled on another design for the prop that worked with something less problematic, but it got me thinking. How much do the props we wear in Steampunk have to worry about real-world physics?

Not a clue what's it's for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

Not a clue what’s it’s for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

There’s some merit in not worrying about how props would actually work in the real world. There are a lot of props that you see at Steampunk conventions wouldn’t really work by the strictest sense of science, but they have enough grounding in them that you can see how they work with just that dash of outlandish that makes them interesting. Personally, I’ve always liked science fiction and the more outlandish the design, the more interesting I find it. I always find my mind wondering how such a device would work. Could you make something that actually functioned like that, and what sorts of science would have to be changed just for that one piece to work. It could just be my years of being facinated with sci-fi and robots and ray guns and all that stuff that makes me worry more about ‘what would look interesting’ rather than ‘what makes sense for the characters and setting’. Not that you can just ignore setting or characterization if you’re trying to make a coherent world.


This is Lucas Warren. He’s my steampunk character and is something of an amoral businessman. He’s high class and does everything he can to keep it that way. Lucas knows all the right parties to attend, the right people to impress, and the good business sense to press an advantage when he has one. He has his prejudices, but they’re mostly to those he would find useless to his goals. If you provide him with an advantage, he has little qualms with what else you do. If you become a hinderance, he will not hesitate to cut you off and cast you aside. If you have something he requires, he will find every way to relieve you of it, and it will all be done with business deals and subordinates.

Lucas is a very particular character with a set of goals, characterizations, traits, and themes and while I’d love to give him something like a steampunk crossbow or some sort of mechanical display that hangs from his hat, I wouldn’t because it doesn’t fit his character. I think it would be cool, but it would just clash with everything that the character presents. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some interesting additions to the props later (mostly once I get a bit more time) but anything he has needs to fit his character and theme. You have to strike a balance between ‘what looks interesting’ and ‘what fits the character’. It helps with making pieces that ‘fit’ a character rather than making a prop and trying to jam a character around it.

Ultimatly, it comes down to the goal of a prop. I think that if it’s something that’s supposed to go with a character, you need to keep the prop within the bounds of what the character would carry around. If you’re making a prop to just go ‘hey, that’s an interesting idea’ then I’d say the sky is the limit. Let your imagination run wild and see what sort of contraptions you could make.

I’d like to welcome anyone to give me their take on the topic. Do you think that props have to be bound to a specific set of rules or can they be completely unbound from any one interpretation of Steampunk? Do you think it can be both? Do you want to just share some ideas you might have on props you are/would like to make? Go ahead and leave a comment with your ideas and here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed my little introduction to my side of the group.

Dec 012013

So this year, we’re moving literally the week of Christmas and New Year’s: we take possession of our new place December 22, and we’re promising to be out of the old place by January 1. In light of this, we’re not doing a tree this year 🙁

Instead, we’ve agreed to a compromise: we’re going to make a few smaller decorations, such as a fake wreath we can re-use next year, and maybe some garlands. So this post is where I’ve been collecting some inspiration 🙂

First off, of course, there’s Jen from EPBOT’s steampunk wreath:

Click to view the walkthrough and details

While I like the gold embellishments, I’m not sure I want a green wreath like that. If I do go green, I’d want the items to be more tree-themed, like little clockwork birds or squirrels or brass pinecones or something, so it feels thematically together.

I found this one on Pinterest:

I believe this is by Megan Crandall Cooper, click for her facebook

I like the idea of this better, it feels more thematically solid, but it seems a bit skimpy and flat compared to a proper wreath. So as you can see, I am a fickle person and cannot make up my mind on anything 🙂

This one’s from Etsy, available for purchase if it tickles your fancy:

Listing is for a totally custom work by splendidcolors, click for her store

It feels very solid thematically, with being made entirely of gears. And it’s definitely more full than the previous one. But it’s still very flat, because gears are flat.

Here’s the mistress of crafts, Martha Stewart:

Martha Stewart. Click for tutorial

This could be a nice alternative to green, I think, but I’d want to avoid making it too one-note probably. Maybe. I don’t know. Hmm.

Here’s one from a blog called Crafts n Coffee:

Crafts n Coffee. Click for tutorial.

I don’t like this style at all — too flat and silver — but I love some of the embellishments. That bird on top is gorgeous, as is the dragonfly and those cute little Victorian flowers.


So now I’ve got some solid ideas; I try not to let anything be too firm in my mind before I go to the craft store because, as I learned with Nettie’s Hats, it’s often the spur-of-the-moment inspiration at the store that helps really make the idea come together.

Sep 032013

Hello and welcome to Chaos Theory. It’s a little segment I’ll be doing from time to time about steam punk and the interesting things behind it. Today I’ll be talking about the Steam Engine. I’ll also be as scientifically accurate as I can be…hopefully. At least I’ll try to stay on topic. So let’s start this how all good scientific talks start….with slides!



This is a steam engine. It uses the princi- …What, that isn’t the first one? But I thought that I sho- Fine, hold on. Sorry about that. Apparently there’s a discrepency.



Alright, THIS is-

Oh what is it NOW! I put up the-

…it’s HOW old?!

From WHERE?! Huh.

Ok, I’ll start there.  Sorry, folks. Looks like I’ll have to go back a bit further.



(looks around expectantly)

Alright, I think we’re good now. This is an aeolipile. It’s said to be the earliest model of a steam ‘engine’ in so much that it uses steam to do mechanical work. It was designed in 1st century Roman Egypt by the Hero of Alexandria. He’s pretty famous for some of his other designs, like a wind-powered organ and the first vending machine.  “But Chaos, wasn’t the steam engine not widely used until many centuries later?” you say. Well…yes. You see, the aeolipile might be the first steam engine, but it wasn’t really able to do much work. I don’t mean that it didn’t move, but that the amount of force it was able to generate wasn’t really able to do much. Basically it was a proof of concept and a cool looking toy. It wouldn’t be until 1680 before cylinders were even added.



The next design they had were more steam pumps than engines. They used boiling water with release valves to move a pump down and the resulting vacuum from the cooling steam to pull the pump back up. It was actually a very ingenious design that used techniques from earlier models to improve the efficiency of the engine. This was the design used until the 18th century, where the need for smaller, high pressure engines for factories become higher.

Now, why did I bore you with all those facts about steam engines? Well, where do you think Steampunk started? It was the idea that, after the industrial revolution, these sorts of engines remained the standard and were improved far beyond what they normally were. In fact, Steampunk didn’t really ‘happen’ until the 1980’s. I realize that movies like Metropolis and early tv shows like Wild, Wild West helped pave the way, but the term didn’t appear until after their creation.

Original version. Personally, I like the later version done in the Astro Boy style, but that's for another time.

Original version. Personally, I like the later version done in the Astro Boy style, but that’s for another time.

Now, the big question I had when I first started looking into Steampunk was ‘Why?’ Why would someone imagine a world where the steam engine was the dominate technology instead of petrol? Why have a world of glass tubes and electricity rather than the world of gravity wells, teleporters, and all the trappings of science fiction as I had grown to know it. Well, my theory is…that some people just thought it would be interesting. I mean, that’s the reason far future science fiction is what it is now. People looked at what we had and said “Wow, I wonder what they’ll do in the future?” People like Jules Vern and William Gibson looked at the past and said “I wonder what would have happened if THAT stuck around?” It’s really just a different way of looking at things. It’s a creativity that I respect and only wish I had a fraction of. Well…that and I like seeing how people bend and stretch current figures and technology to fit with the aesthetic.

Well, I hope I didn’t bore anyone to tears with my information. I hope even more that some of you found it entertaining. Now, if you think I glossed over anything important, want to add your own theory, or just wanna discuss a bit with others just comment below. Now that we’ve done the steam engine, hopefully you come back next time for another major inspiration for Steampunk. We’ll be seeing how all of this ‘ticks’ inside with Clockwork.

Mar 092013

The following post was originally posted on Yamikuronue’s blog Raven Wings on Feb 12, 2012. It is highly out of date, but contains interesting information. 

Let’s talk about Steampunk.

One of the things I enjoyed most when studying Theater was costume design and creation. I did almost all my practicum work in the costume shop, and picked up a lot of technique and even more ideas. I’ve been doing thrifty cosplay for years; only recently, however, have I had the means and the time to start working on costumes I’ve been designing in my head for years. So, naturally, I’m diving headfirst into steampunk.

This costume trio is based off 1840s fashion (I find when doing historically-based costumes it helps to have a specific decade in mind as a basis, even though I’m dealing with an alternate future setting for this specific design). I’ve designed their outfits off a specific adventure in their lives, one that brings these three disparate people together in much the same way as a roleplaying campaign would bring PCs together: one part chance to two parts “fate” (aka player fiat).

When I make costumes, however, it activates the same parts of my brain that have had years of practice making characters, both for roleplay and for creative writing. Therefore, I almost can’t help but ascribe personality and lives to the characters being portrayed, as though there was going to be a whole performance rather than just a costume. So I figure, what better place to showcase the backstories than my blog?

I’ll put up more pictures as I complete the costumes.

Sir Lucas Warren was born in London, the son of a highly wealthy entrepreneur whose early and wise investments in shipping and exported goods helped him rise from poverty in the Cape Colony to wealth, though not prestige, in the British Empire. His mother was a noblewoman who taught him to compensate for his dark skin with impeccable manners and a ruthless ambition for business. With the discovery of gold in the American Colonies, he was in a ripe position to expand his shipping business even further, hoping it would someday become the equal of the famed East India Company. However, a number of violent uprisings by those pesky Seperationists, still bitter about their country’s failed revolution, have recently disrupted his profits. Knowing that the best way to understand a problem is to see it firsthand, and with a taste for adventure inherited from his father, Lucas boarded an airship and headed for the Western Coast.

Costume notes: Lucas is a gentleman, upstanding, with fine clothing and even finer goods. Bright colors and dandy influences would show off his vanity and ego, while not stepping too far outside the bounds of polite society. I’m toying with the idea of adding an accident resulting in a replacement hand to give him something extra to compensate for and myself some cool design ideas.

Erika Smith is an engineer under the employ of Warren. She lives for her work; even when not on the job, she’s constantly coming up with ideas and sketching out blueprints. Warren snatched her up years ago in the hopes that she could improve the efficiency of his airships, and while she’s done well with that, she’s also invented some pretty nifty gadgets along the way. When Warren needed to ensure that his particular airship would not be sabotaged or suffer from malfunctions with him on it, he refused to settle for less than his best engineer at his side. Constantly.

Costume notes: This one’s proving to be a real challenge for me because most 1840s costume references focus on the upper-crust, white-collar or gentleman. What did working-class people wear? Depends on the job. What did engineers wear? Bloody hell if I know. My original design has overalls, but I suspect cotton pants with suspenders would be more period-appropriate. The costume itself will likely be fairly plain, but I get to go crazy with gadgets, goggles, and other accessories.

Robert Lee Owens doesn’t work for Mr Warren. Point of fact, he doesn’t work for anyone but himself. He’s a hired gun, plain and simple; one of the best, plus he knows the territory real well. He spends most of his income on his guns. He likes guns. He likes guns real fine. Warren hired him as a bodyguard, so for the moment he’s dedicated to the man’s survival; after this, someone else could hire him to kill Warren and he’d do it without a second thought. For the moment, though, the man’s safe: Bob never breaks a contract. That just wouldn’t be sporting.

Costume notes: This is where the American influence comes in. Bob’s a steampunk cowboy/gunslinger, with high-tech weapons being the main futuristic influence on these designs. My initial build for him let me down severely, however, as it turned out the coat I ordered was simply horrendous. I might end up making one myself rather than fall for misleading catalog images again; it’d be a lot of work, especially given I only have weekends to do it in, but it might be worth it.

This is the first take on the costumes; they’re still a work in progress, as I don’t have all the pieces I wanted. We wore these at Ohayoucon 2012 😀 I plan to improve them for the Steampunk Empire Symposium in April.

Image of the Lucas costume

Image of Erika costume

Image of the Bob costume