Tag: crafts

Harley Quinn’s Mallet for Raks al Assaya

IMG_2040-Edit
Photo courtesy Douglas Klettke

Con season is upon us again, although there’s never a bad time to cosplay. In December Bad Weather Burlesque had a FAN-tastic theme show, wherein I did a Saidi-inspired Harley Quinn number. I had just taken a Saidi workshop from Jasmin Jahal and I LOVED it! When you love two things they often have a lot of crossover. If you’d like to see the whole costume you can check out how I made it here.

The great thing about this method is that it is pretty easy to build, the materials are easy to find, and if you whack someone in the head they will only be mildly irritated rather than concussed. It’s also pretty light, so carrying it around won’t be taxing.

Want to make a mallet of your own? Here’s what you need:

  • 1 wooden dowel, 3/4″ diameter (depending on the size of your hand), approx $2
  • 1 roll bubble wrap, large bubbles, approx $16
  • 1 roll red duct tape, $6
  • 1 roll black duct tape, $6
  • 2 sheets red duct tape, $2 each
  • 2 sheets black duct tape, $2 each
  • Hot glue and gun
  • Scissors
  • Saw (for cutting down the dowel)

 

Materials
Materials

 

My first concern was that for Saidi Raks al Assaya (dancing with a cane) my prop has to be light enough to swing it around and still control it. I also needed to make sure the head of the mallet did not whack me in the leg while I was spinning it. So I checked the clearance between my swing radius and my leg, both with length and diameter. The weight can shift so that the mallet turns sideways. If you are not dancing with this prop you may disregard this note and make it as big or small as you like.

Don't hit yourself in the leg
Don’t hit yourself in the leg

Apologies here, as I did not take a lot of pics during the process. At this point I secured the roll with a couple of pieces of red duct tape to keep everything in place while I did the ends. Learn from my mistakes here, as the ends will be very bumpy if you do not put something flat under your sheet of tape. Cut a circle from something that is at least the thickness of cardstock and put that underneath your sheet as you stick it to the end. If your mallet is larger than the sheet of duct tape you may need to use multiple pieces, or just use the tape from the roll. I do the ends first so that the edges of the duct sheet can be covered and secured by the tape. At this point wrap the red tape around and around and around the roll to cover the whole thing. Be careful to overlap so no bubble wrap can be seen.

Bumpy
Bumpy
Not bumpy
Not bumpy
Add a stripe!
Add a stripe!

At this point you should have what looks like a red cylinder. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHICH END IS UP, because we are going to affix our harlequin shapes to the ends. You want to make sure it looks good when you are posing with it so the harlequins shouldn’t be all kittywampus with respect to the handle, or each other. This is where duct sheets are extra handy. Draw out your pattern on the back side of the duct sheet, cut them out, and carefully stick them on. I actually just cut squares from the grid pattern and turned them sideways. If you want further embellishment wrap around a line of black duct tape near each end.

If you prefer, you can skip down to the handle part first and then come back to the decorations. Doesn’t really matter.

Lots of little pieces of tape
Lots of little pieces of tape

Now we are going to add our handle. If you are actually using this to dance Raks al Assaya, measure from the ground to about 2-3 inches below your navel if you keep your elbow in when swinging and cut the dowel to that length; or if you raise up your elbow then cut to whatever length is comfortable. Wrap the dowel in duct tape, alternating red and black. I made it striped by cutting a lot of small pieces and wrapping them around one at a time. If you want to try to wrap it at an angle, best of luck to you. That did not work for me with alternating colors. Important to note: if your hands get sweaty the duct tape can get slippery. Alternately you can wrap the handle in ribbon and just glue it down with craft glue. Make sure to cover the end too so it looks finished!

Finesse the handle in
Finesse the handle in

At this point that whole “which end is up” thing becomes important. Find the bottom center of your mallet head and mark it. Then get a pair of long scissors or a long thin knife and stab it a bunch of times to make a hole for the dowel to go in. Keep your movements straight up and down and be careful not to stab through the other side of the mallet head. Test the depth by sticking the dowel in the hole you’ve made. If it is too tall, keep stabbing. Or you might have to re-cut your dowel. This part requires some finessing. Once you are happy with the connection get out your hot glue gun, set to high, squeeze some glue into the stabby hole, then quickly stick the dowel into the hole. The high temp should cause the bubble wrap to melt a bit and you’ll have a really secure hold.

Give it a twirl, you’re done!

 

 

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Steampunk Softies – Craft Project and Book Review

Steampunk Softies
Steampunk Softies

Well, of course I had to pick up this book when I saw it in the store! Those craft retailers know the trends, and our weaknesses. Steampunk Softies is a new book by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman. Many of you may be familiar with Sarah Skeate from her book Zombie Felties, which I also reviewed here. This book contains eight different characters/patterns, and includes very detailed instructions. The authors also include tips for how to modify some of the materials to make them look more authentic.
The first thing that you have to accept is that you will never, ever find the exact elements to perfectly recreate these dolls. And they tell you upfront in the introduction that you will have to make substitutions. This was actually a great exercise in creativity and making the doll your own. I was skeptical at first, but ultimately this was a lot of fun. I really had to look at craft items in a new way to achieve the look I wanted.
I chose to make Marveletta O’Houlihan. This decision was based mostly on the fact that she appeared to be the easiest doll to make. The materials and equipment list was very daunting, and to be honest I balked at it a bit. There are 37 individual items listed, including 4 different kinds of adhesive. Personally, I think E-6000 is the only adhesive I need, and it was the only thing I used. As a craft hoarder, I used this project as a personal challenge to purchase as little as possible and to just use what I had on hand. I’m sure you could easily spend $50 trying to assemble everything you needed. I say this because you can’t buy single bugle beads or 4 square inches of fabric at a time. So if you do one of these projects, try to work with what you’ve already got.

Constructing Marveletta
Constructing Marveletta

The body is assembled first, then the head piece is sewn on, and the collar covers the seam where they meet up. For the main body you are supposed to use a suiting fabric with a narrow pinstripe. The only appropriate fabric I had was brown, and I sewed pin stripes onto it, which they also recommend in the book if you can’t find what you need in the store. They are helpful with recommending substitutions here. For the hair they recommend a stretch woolen fabric. I did not have anything of that sort in my fabric collection, but I did have a fuzzy sweater with a hole in it that I planned to throw away. Lucky break there. I found working with the stretchy sweater really difficult, especially because the pattern has a lot of unusual curves that just didn’t keep their detail. But that’s just what I chose; another type of fabric may work better. I used muslin for the face and that worked out just fine. The face detail is drawn on with a marker, so I recommend that you do a test with the fabric and marker you choose before you do it for real on the final product. You have to hand-sew the stretchy hair fabric around the face in a kidney-shape with a blind stitch and that was probably the most difficult part of the whole project.

Opera Glasses
Opera Glasses

The next bit is the one that can either be really frustrating or really fantastic. Here you have to assemble her opera glasses and handbag. The body of the glasses is supposed to be a funnel-shaped metal blind pull weight, or similarly shaped bead. The handle is part of a handle to a tea strainer. Obviously I’m not going to go around town looking for a single blind pull weight, and if I hacksawed our tea strainer my husband would be a bit miffed because it is actually in active use at our house. Besides, those things are kind of expensive, at least too expensive to buy just so you can cut them apart. This is the point where I had to muster my creative energies and figure out how to make this work. My secret weapon: Sara Cura. Whenever I get to the Twin Cities area I stop by a little bellydance shop called Sara Cura, which is located in Dinkytown. The proprietor frequents estate sales for vintage jewelry and buys it in lots. These lots often contain broken and mismatched jewelry, which she sells in little bags for $4. Finally, this has paid off for me. I constructed the glasses from two funnel-shaped beads (purchased especially for this project), and two pearlescent beads from a broken necklace. For the handle I dug out an old bangle bracelet that I didn’t like, cut it and straightened it. I liked the texture of it and thought it would work here. All of this had to be glued together.
The handbag consists of beads and a charm I already had in my stash, and it is connected to the opera glasses with a chain from another broken necklace. The handbag is supposed to be attached to the body with a round-end safety pin, but I couldn’t find any. Instead I used a dangle earring finding. Her hair jewelry is an earring that had no mate.

Marveletta - both versionsMarveletta – both versions
Marveletta close up
Marveletta close up

As far as my review of the book, the instructions were very detailed and there are lots of drawings and photos to help you figure it out. I think that the patterns could be very adaptable to different kinds of dolls for whatever occasion. This could be a lot of fun for  a craft hoarder, but if you have not amassed a ridiculous amount of oddball craft items over the years it could be particularly difficult or expensive to pull this together. Ultimately, the only things I purchased especially for the project were plastic pellets (for fill) and the funnel-shaped beads. With the massive supply list at the beginning I did go into this project thinking that there was no way it was practical. But it really forced me to use my brain, and that’s always a good thing. I genuinely feel inspired by the project and I look forward to doing another in my spare time.

Zombie Felties – Craft Project and Book Review

Zombie Felties Book
Zombie Felties

A few weeks ago I was in Barnes & Noble, wandering toward the photography section, when I spied an interesting new craft book on an end cap display: Zombie Felties by Nicola Tedman and Sarah Skeate. I had recently pared down my list of hobbies but since I still sew I rationalized the purchased. Plus: ZOMBIES! How could I resist? Luckily, Dawn’s birthday was coming up so I got to delve into one of the projects right away.

The felties turn out really small, which is OK except that means the felt pieces are also really, really small and somewhat hard to cut out and handle. I was able to manage, although the bandages were a bit of a challenge. I suppose you could enlarge the pattern when photocopying it so that can be fixed if you find the small size too difficult to work with. They are pretty adorable in their tiny form though. The instructions are easy to follow and they even give a brief lesson on types of stitches in the front of the book.

If you get this book you should be prepared to make substitutions on the projects. The authors list specific colors of felt and types of beads. I was surprised by my inability to locate white bugle beads and various colors of sequins. And there are only about 8 colors of felt to be found anywhere. This zombie was supposed to have a dark gray body and a light gray head, but I used the only color of gray available. If you don’t already have a craft stash you will find yourself with a LOT of leftovers. You just can’t buy a single black sequin anywhere!

Classic Zombie in a Coffin
Classic Zombie in a Coffin

All together it was pretty easy. I’d say it took about 2 hours but I was interrupted a few times so the actual time was less, I’m sure. And he’s just cute as a button! To complete the theme the authors have a template for a coffin in the end of the book. I made a color photocopy on cardstock and Paul glued it together for me. I am pretty happy with how the whole thing turned out so I’d have to say I would recommend this book if you are looking for a special gift for your zombie-loving friend.

I am also working on another super-secret project that I will reveal at a later date, once I have more spare time.

Update – additional Zombie Felties projects here.

Scrapbooking on Saturday

This weekend was very busy but I didn’t get as much accomplished as I would normally like.

During the week I work as a shipping clerk. This means a lot of filing and reports. The same ones day after day. If I’m doing my job right nobody will know. A good day is an empty in-box. I feel like Sysiphus rolling that boulder up the hill, just to have it slip from my hands and roll to the bottom again. So in my spare time I feel the need to create something tangible. I need to be able to see, hear, feel or taste my accomplishment, whatever it may be. I need some evidence of my endeavors.

This weekend that was in the form of scrapbooking. I didn’t get as much time in as the other gals. They had all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I just showed up Saturday until about 4pm. I did manage to make entries for both CONvergence 2009 and 2010, as well as a henna party put on by my bellydance class. My designs are pretty minimalist compared to those of my cohorts. My sister in particular did some stellar work with photos from our trip to New Zealand. I just want it to look a little nicer than just sticking pictures in plastic sleeves.

Scrapbook of CONvergence 2010
Scrapbook of CONvergence 2010

Pictured is CONvergence 2010. On the 2009 page, not pictured, I used a little robot cut out made with a Cricut. Annette picked up a cartridge that was all robots. How cool is that? I had to use at least one. The paper I used is from the Rockstar collection. An odd twist, as I had also brought pictures from two concerts but did not have time to scrapbook them. I must confess I have a ridiculous amount of paper considering how infrequently I get around to actually using it.

Apart from that, I met with Eric regarding a photo narrative project we are collaborating on. For those in the comic book know, it is called “sequential art.” But I find anything that I draw without reference looks like a Gary Larson cartoon, and that is why I am a photographer. I got the idea from a photographer on jpgmag.com. She told her story about how she would tell her friends she wanted to make a movie but couldn’t afford it. One day a friend got tired of her whinging on about it and told her to just find a way to do it or shut up. So she decided to tell her story in still photos. An excellent idea! In another lifetime (ending 11 years ago last week actually) I worked in the world of broadcasting. My BA is in speech communications with special emphasis in film and telecommunication arts. I later went back to my alma mater for art classes. In other words, I actually do know what I’m doing. On Eric’s part, he is an excellent artist, costume maker, and all around creative guy. Also, he came up with the story idea.

But I will be posting updates on that project in my spare time.

Steampunk bag project

Costumed at CONvergence
Eric, Karen and Erica

This is my very first blog post!

My latest spare-time project revolves around CONvergence. If you are unfamiliar with this annual affair, it is a huge genre convention held at the Bloomington, MN Sheraton Hotel. It regularly draws 3000-5000 people. Last year was my and Paul’s first year and we loved it! I went in costume so I am going to explain how this costume was put together for your edification.
The easy part was the actual costume. I have fallen in love with the steampunk style so I worked with that idea this year (and last year as well!). The ensemble is composed of a cream-colored frilly blouse that I found at a thrift store, a pair of vintage goggles I found online (I think I paid $20), an altered skirt from Old Navy, boots from JC Penney, and the key piece was a lovely green corset that I bought at the CON. I had planned on that purchase this year because I just don’t have the knowledge or patience to sew a corset. Maybe I will someday, but today is not that day.

Skirt from Old Navy
From Boring to Steam

It took very little time to alter the skirt. I just gathered it in strategic places and added vintage-looking buttons from JoAnn Fabrics. My main accessory to this whole thing was a rather snappy-looking messenger bag. I found this bag in Mills Fleet Farm’s army surplus section for $15. When I showed my husband he decided he should get one because it is perfect for carrying the Netbook. I also showed it to my friends Karen and Eric, who each ended up buying one, and I just found out my dad bought one after I showed him mine on Father’s Day. It’s just too good a deal. So I went to work turning it into a steampunk-style bag. I called on a very knowledgeable friend for advice on leatherwork. He was able to hook me up with what I needed.

Before and after
Finished bag and original

I got a 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of leather, mahogany dye, sealant, screws for leather, and a really cool dragonfly adornment that is also for leather specifically. My first step was to make a stencil from brushes I downloaded from obsidiandawn.com. She has some gear brushes for Photoshop that worked perfectly. I printed off a design and cut it out of the leather with a box cutter. I then burned the edges with a soldering iron to give it a more finished look. It worked OK . I would have liked it darker, but I was under some time constraints, as usual. I then stained the leather. It ended up being streaky, so I had to stain it twice. Since I was using a water-based stain it took 24 hours for each pass to dry, leaving me with even less time. After I finally got the sealant on it looked somewhat distressed and very dark, but I think it worked pretty well. Next I glued some pewter-colored fabric (half-price remnant) to the back side of the leather piece so it would show through as gears. I used the screws to hold the cut-out pieces to the bag. That got to be hard, because the hole puncher only reaches about 1 1/2 inches. Paul ended up helping me drill holes through the bag. Then the screw for the dragonfly decoration was shorter than the other screws and I couldn’t get it to go through all of the layers. I ended up having to hot glue one corner of the main piece to the bag and also the gear decoration that covers the clasp on the bottom. I would have used E-6000, but I had reached my last night and I didn’t have time for the adhesive to set. My final detail was to hang a chain between the dragonfly and the screw in the top gear. I was pretty happy with how it had turned out.

It turns out I should have started earlier and used the E-6000. The one corner came loose and my gear ripped off almost immediately. I managed to locate some crazy glue, but ultimately that would not save my gear. It is probably somewhere in the dealers’ room. The jump rings I used to connect the chain to the screws kept pulling apart and I eventually had to just pull it off entirely. Ultimately, for a woman this turned out to be a very bad bag. It was difficult to access and didn’t work for girly things like a makeup kit and hairbrush. If I were transporting documents it would have worked just fine. The part that made this realization difficult was that I was getting compliments on the bag, so it still looked great in spite of everything – it just isn’t functional.

I am already plotting a more lady-friendly bag for next-year. And a more elaborate costume. But I’ll have to do that in my spare time.