Friday, November 12, 2010


I've heard about steampunk, watched a few steampunk homemade series online, seen some steampunk jewelry books, etc, but it's taken me a while to make sense of it in my head. It's not exactly from any specific time period, except maybe Victorian. I sort of get the concept that it's what the world would be if everything was still cogs and steam instead of computers, but my mind still wants to classify it neatly somewhere in history. But you can't, because it's an imaginary reality. So what is it really?

Well, one of our gaming buddies just went to a steampunk convention and posted photos on Facebook. So, of course there are pictures of guys in suits with antique looking hats (well, let's face it, unless it's a ballcap or ski mask or some such thing, men don't tend to wear hats much anymore so anything remotely civilian-formal looking seems old-fashioned, at least), girls in anything from corselettes and modern corduroy pants to lace and panniers and anything in between. Oh, and lots of gadgets--humongous robotic hands, ghost-buster type steam-powered power packes, delicate little pocket watches and other gizmos, anything these people can think up. So, it's a hodgepodge of anything these people wanted to incorporate, and there are very few rules. The sensible, historical-accuracy seeking part of my brain, upon seeing all these photos, said, "hey, you can't do that!" But then, some other part piped up and said, "well, why not?" Long story short, I've got an idea for a steampunk outfit, and I've started putting it together.

Going by the lovely pictures in my head, it's going to be inspired from late Victorian or early Edwardian costume. What I want is a long gored skirt, slightly full in the back but not requiring a bustle or hoop, maybe just a full petticoat. Over that I want a frilly pintucked blouse with lots of lace and a high collar, probably with a little cameo at the neck, and a little fitted jacket with a long 2 piece sleeve, pointed in front and with ruffles at the base of the back. Haven't decided if it will have collar and lapels or no. And I have just the fabric for the jacket and skirt. I just hope there's enough of it. As part of the getup, I want to have a long, full apron of white twill or canvas with lots of pockets for tools. I also want to make myself one of those freakishly large hats like they had at the turn of the century, with lots of plumes on it (just not from endangered species, thank you), and one of those umbrellas like you get at where the center stick lights up. And I can wear my white ankle boots with it! Yay! I have been trying to think of a good use for those for years, but I can't get rid of them because they are so uncommon.

Sorry, I know you can't see the pictures in my head. This is just a teaser. I have to go make this now, but I'll be back next week to let you know what I'm doing. Ta-tah!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beating a dead horse... Again!

If you don't know what this is all about, go ahead and read the post previous to this. Go ahead, I'll wait....

Finished now? Good.

Well, it's finished, in all it's gutsy glory;

As you can see, I added some grey fleece to the bottom of each leg, just to make it a little more proportional, as well as adding the hooves. I didn't have the time to do all of the fun things I wanted to do to it, but it's complete in itself as a comedic device. It ended up being about 5 feet long from nose to end, not counting the tail. I was kind of worried at first that it would be too ridiculously big, but I managed to fit it in a big black trash bag anyway and toss it in the trunk.

I brought it to game tonight, and it gave people a good laugh, including the guy who asked the question in the first place, so I guess I can call it a success. Hm... What crazy project will I get myself into next? Well, someone did just ask me if I could make a peacoat out of red and black fur... And someone else asked if I could make a WWII jacket... Lots to think about....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse

About a month ago, a friend of ours walked into game night and asked me "Can you make me a dead horse?" Apparently, a particular topic keeps coming up in meetings on which nobody is able or willing to make any headway. This is, understandably, quite frustrating. So, he requested a plushy, cartoony dead horse he can throw on the table and proceed to beat with something, but would still be soft and cuddly. He specified something between 3 and 4 feet long, complete with X's for eyes and yarn hair. Ok, I thought. Sounds entertaining, anyway.

I figured, ok, I don't have to get terribly fancy, I just have to shoot for recognizable. So if you break it down, you can make the body and legs from cylindars, the muzzle and neck out of tilted cone shapes. The tricky bit is getting the proportions right, and this is where chance threw me a bone.
My boss came upon a fairly realistic looking horse toy in the trash one day. It was one of the things that has a rebar skeleton inside so a small child can sit on and ride it. The batteries in the sound device had worn out, and the neck seam was torn open, with the stuffing coming out. So, knowing I had this project in mind, she picked it up and tossed it in her trunk. This is it:

It's only about 24 inches tall. I had thought about pulling the rebar and stuffing out, washing him and restuffing him in a comedic way and make my life generally easier. But come on; it's two feet tall, and not even remotely ridiculous looking, and I just couldn't do enough twisted things to it to satisfy my twisted creativity. So I went to the fabric store. $42 later I had lots of fleece pieces of varying colors and lengths, two packages of large ric-rac, and a 5 pound box of stuffing.

I got out my measuring tape and started measuring various dimensions of the existing horse and writing them down on my various scribbled diagrams on cut-up paper bags, expressing the dimensions in terms of X so I could scale the horse up as desired. Then I got to measuring out and cutting various big rectangles of fleece based on those calculations, and sewing them together.

In general, the horse turned out quite a bit bigger than expected, so I suppose I got something wrong in the length of the body and the head. The legs are also woefully short, but I can solve that by sewing in socks (or pasterns, or fetlocks, I'm not sure what the classifications are anymore, merely that they exist to describe the length of the white area on a horse's legs down to its hooves. And no, I don't feel like looking them up on Wikipedia just now, either). His tail is also a bit short, but we can just say it's been docked. and yes, in this pic his legs are still unfinished, but you get the idea.

I wanted it to be clear that the horse was dead, probably by several different means. I also wanted it to be interactive, because that's more fun and twisted. So, I figured it would be pretty easy to have the horse die of hanging (just need to make the noose), disease, or broken heart. If I have the time and wherewithall, I might even work in some alien spawn and some gunshot wounds. Some of these methods show up externally, some internally. This means I needed an organ sac. I whipped up some plush intestinal tract and a heart and sewed them into a rectangular red piece of fleece.

I hope to get ahold of a little cthonid or alien to stick in there. I suppose I could also have put a small red throw blanket in there, either for a pool of blood or for a quick nap.

Our friend had wanted the cartoony X eyes. Sounds like fun, but can I take it a step further? I thought it might be fun to have an eye coming out, but to have it be detachable to help keep things easy. So, the eyespots are the loop side of velcro to keep the entire body soft, with a small bit of the hooks to keep the eye on. I made the eye by covering a styrofoam ball with a layer of muslin, then a scrap of china silk, then painting on the details with fabric paint.

I wanted the tongue to loll out of the mouth, and possibly be something to pull on. I made it from a few long pieces of lime-green fleece, and then threaded a wide piece of elastic into it and gather-stitched it down to make the back of the tongue stretchy. I extended the red of the inside of the mouth into a long pocket on the inside and stitched the tongue into the end. I then tethered the back of the pocket to the corner of the organ sac so that the tongue would hopefully retract somewhat into the body, keep itself free of the stuffing inside, and help keep the organ sac in place. I painted the tongue with some red and black bumps to make it look particularly nasty.

So that's what I've got so far. I still need to make the socks and the hooves, make a noose, and make a few other bits and pieces if time permits. For now, this is what I've got, and it's an interesting romp!