Fairy House, Part II: Stone Floor

fairy-house-stone.jpg

The first thing I did to try to make the glass-and-metal house look more natural was to add a stone floor. Not a real stone floor, of course (though I did briefly consider trying to find some pebbles and mortar), but an amazingly realistic faux-stone floor made of a material I never would have thought of on my own… egg cartons.

Cardboard egg cartons are really perfect for this application– they’re smooth on the front, but the back side has a great texture to mimic stone, and they’re already this grayish-brownish color that works really well, particularly once coated in glue. Apparently miniature artists use egg cartons (and those cardboard coffee-cup holders that hold multiple cups at once, they have an even more textured surface) all the time to make faux stone surfaces, and I can see why!

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My Fair Lady Ballgown, Part XII: Sequins Redux

As I said in my earlier post, I had just finished the sequined swags on the sides of the gown (which took a few tweaks to get right), and was about to start embellishing the center panel when I realized that I had a problem. While some of the movie stills quite clearly show that the center panel is covered in sequins, other shots make it look like there are far fewer sequins, and still others imply that any sequins aren’t really that prominent at all.

For example:

Here, there are tons of sequins visible, all looking the same color silver as the side swags:

3336dcac13ebcbcef1ceb4e8cef3f2271

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Belle Epoque Wisteria Gown, Part IV: Tea/Coffee Dyed Lace

tea-lace-L-to-R

Part of my design for this gown included some frothy lace at the shoulders and bust, so I purchased a 25-yard length of lace on eBay for a really low price. Unfortunately, when it arrived it was blindingly white– something needed to be done. Well, something needed to be done to about 5 yards of it, anyway– I couldn’t imagine that I’d ever need more than that for the neckline of a dress…

I decided to tea-dye the lace to take the edge off of the white. I’ve never tea-dyed anything made from synthetic fibers before– only cotton– so to figure out how to dye my nylon lace I did some internet research first. I ended up following this tutorial by Cation Designs, which seemed to be exactly what I was looking for.

First I used Darjeeling tea, which seemed to be an appropriate color when brewed, but when I’d followed the dyeing process and rinsed the dyed lace, it looked awfully dark and orange. Like, rust-colored. I didn’t have any confidence that it would dry significantly lighter, so as long as I had all of my supplies out I tried another option– coffee. I basically followed the same steps as for tea, but using instant coffee instead. I didn’t let the lace sit in the coffee mixture for as long, removing it after only about 3 minutes, and it ended up not only lighter, but less orange-y in color.

Side by side of the wet lace (Tea on left, coffee on right):

tea-lace-dark

 

It was around this point when I started regretting not having done any test swatches– I decided to try again, this time starting with a relatively mild coffee solution (the equivalent of one cup of brewed coffee diluted with about 6 cups of water) as opposed to the full-strength coffee I’d been using before. Instead of adding the vinegar at the end I soaked the lace in a water-vinegar solution ahead of time, per this tutorial. Then I dipped it for a bare 30 seconds into the diluted coffee before removing it and rinsing it in cold water. A decent amount of the color came out in the rinse, but it still looked somewhat creamier in color than the original white lace, so I decided to dry it and see how it turned out.

tea-lace-wet

Much better! Perfect, in fact. So I’ve learned my lesson– for just a hint of creaminess, dip the lace quickly and get it OUT of the tea/coffee solution before it picks up too much color. This totally goes against my experience in dyeing the seam binding for the ribbon embroidery– the only thing I can think of is that the seam binding was almost sheer, so just wetting it made it look a lot darker. Unlike the lace, which has pretty opaque threads that look much the same dry as they do wet. Or maybe it’s just one of those things that I need to chalk up to experience.

In any case, I now have five yards of light ivory lace to use on my ballgown. Let’s go!

 

 

Blue Velvet Tabard, Part III: Blinging it Up

tabard-bling-done

I can never let well enough alone, it seems, and so while I had a perfectly serviceable tabard I knew I’d need something to make it more visually interesting– more “royal,” in other words. As usual, a simple idea (adding silver trim to the hems) quickly ballooned out of control with the idea of getting several different kinds of silver iron-on trims and constructing a faux chain of office to go across the chest, and it wasn’t until I discovered that my chosen trim was unavailable in silver AND realized that it was probably not a good idea to count on ironing velvet (risk of crushing), that I came back down to a relatively sensible level of planning and decided to just make a real chain of office for my husband to wear over his tabard.

Yeah, you read that right. For some reason I thought that constructing a chain of office– which would eventually require several dozen metal bits and pieces, rhinestones, epoxies, and a few different kinds of pliers– would be the more sensible route.

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Flashback: The Great Hat Undertaking

table con web

Going to Anime Boston this year reminded me that I haven’t told you all about my hat project. THE hat project. The big one. The mother of all projects. The project that spanned years, involved international commerce, and still has remnants floating around my house. And it all started with a single hat. Or, the lack of one.

A few years back, as the steampunk trend was just on the upswing, I decided to make myself a steampunk costume for Anime Boston. It would have a tweed skirt, a brocade bustier, some interesting leather doodads and brass thingies, and of course a miniature top hat. The problem was, I couldn’t find a hat that I liked– the pre-decorated ones were insanely expensive and the craft-store felt ones were really cheap looking, being more like flocked plastic than real felt and too small for what I had in mind. I did try to place an order for the largest available cheap felt hat from an online supply store, but they were out of stock. That, I think, was the turning point in the whole endeavor, because I had to think outside of the box. (why I didn’t just make a hat out of cardboard and cover it in fabric, I have no idea…)

As you know, if you do an in-depth search for an item on eBay the regular results eventually give way to hits for overseas wholesalers who will sell you bulk quantities of said item. While I personally had no need for huge numbers of tiny hats, it occurred to me that if I was having a problem locating a reasonably priced, decent-quality mini top hat, other people might be having the same problem. Pretty soon I had an email conversation going with a hat company in China that could ship me 150 black felt mini top hats for what worked out to be just under $4.00 a hat, including shipping (which was the most expensive part).

Sparing you the logistics, eventually I ended up with two giant cardboard boxes of hats and about 3 months in which to prepare them for sale at an Artist’s Alley table at Anime Boston.

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Vanessa/Ursula Costume, Bonus: Butterfly Bubble

I was trying to figure out fun poses for pictures in the Ursula/Vanessa dress, and decided to make an extra prop to use– the butterfly sphere.

Okay, so maybe you don’t instantly recognize the reference, but in the movie, when Ursula decides to “take matters into her own tentacles” and transform into Vanessa, one of the things she puts into her transformation potion is a bubble with a live butterfly in it.

ursula butterfly movie

I remembered that I already had some clear glass Christmas ornaments, and thought they’d be perfect for this application. At first I tried to use a 3″ feather butterfly that I had in my craft closet, but the wings were too rigid and it fell apart as I tried to cram it into the top opening. Instead, I decided to use some gold paper to make one. I cut two butterfly shapes and sandwiched some thin wire between them, first taping it down and then gluing the butterflies together, right sides out. Then I took some gold and brown paint and did a little texturing on the paper to make the butterfly look slightly more realistic. It still looks a little clunky, but it’s close enough.

I rolled the wings up and inserted the wired butterfly into the glass ornament, then used my fingers and a chopstick to unroll the wings. I ran the wire through the holes in the top of the ornament cap and twisted it to keep things securely in place. I also piped on some hot glue as extra insurance..

ursula butterfly process

I turned the whole thing upside down and presto– instant butterfly bubble!

ursula butterfly done

Stay tuned for photos from the convention!