Current Projects

Monday, October 9, 2017

Hamilton - King George Crown / Collar Part IV + Star Part II

It’s been an age since I’ve had proper time to work on this (Labyrinth Masquerade was AWESOME, but then school started the week after).  But I saw the show at the Pantages last weekend (IT WAS INCREDIBLE) so I’ve been desperate to make some progress. (I also now have two potential events to wear this costume to next year - Costume College's Gala, and Labyrinth Masquerade - which means I have to get back to working on it regularly.)

I finished the filigrees on the crown.  There should be an extra one on each vertical strip right at the top of the curve, but I when I ordered the filigrees I had only figured on 24 total (2 per vertical strip and 16 for the horizontal band) rather than 28, so I came up short.  The ones around the band seemed more important and were easier to secure, so I did the full 16 there and skipped the last set on the vertical strips. 

I’ve also been playing with paint some more.  I still love the Liquid Leaf, but on some of the materials it was giving me a better shine than on others so the lack of consistency was starting to bother me.  I also haven’t figured out a way to get a reliably smooth finish over large areas yet.  So on the collar pieces I went over the Liquid Leaf with a DecoColor Premium paint marker.  The gold tone is a little more white/pink than the yellow/brass I wanted, but the shine is stronger. And the crown color varies a bit in photos anyway. So I’ve made peace with the compromise for now.  There’s still one more alternative/test I’m considering for the crown, so we’ll see.

In the meantime, I sprayed the crown with a sandable filler primer to fill in some scratches, then a black primer to give the gold a good base.

And I’m still picking away at the embroidered star badge.  I’m about halfway through the little starburst lines. I was initially going to stitch ALL the starburst lines the same way I did the edge and the lines at each point, but it was extremely time consuming and tedious, and looking at more reference images I realized the starburst was a bit more solid than I had assumed. So I left each point line of the starburst, but now I’m filling in the rest of it with single stitches/lines, and I actually really like the effect. Because the cross in the center is so small and fiddly, I’ll probably do single lines of thread there too.

After seeing the show and now knowing how key the scepter is to the costume, I’ve decided I definitely have to make it. But now that I’m in the home stretch with the crown, I’m waiting until that’s totally done. And again looking at more reference images, I was reminded that the garter is a separate piece from the pants, so I’m back to the original plan of making the garter as its own thing.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hamilton - King George Crown / Collar Part III

Some severely backdated progress on King George's accoutrements, but I've been super busy with costumes for the upcoming Labyrinth Masquerade at the end of the month (more on that soon).

I’ve been putting off this part of the crown for a long time, but I finally found the right gold paint which made me realize that the end of this thing is actually kind of in sight. So I sat down and hashed out the actual foundation of the crown. Sorry there aren’t many photos, but I was kind of making things up as I went and didn't think to stop.

The hat base is a cheap velour bowler from a Halloween store.

The brim was wider than I needed, so I had earlier cut it down by half. It ended up being too small compared to the diameter of the crown, but luckily I had saved the cut-off brim piece (pays to be a hoarder), so I glued and stitched it back on. Putting the crown over the brim, I marked where the crown sat, and then cut the brim back down along that line with about 1/2” of allowance. From there I did a bunch of measuring and marked where the center top ball/cross piece will sit and punched a hole for that.

I had also earlier cut the red velvet cover for the top, so that was technically ready to go. But I made another dumb whoopsie and had to fix it first. I cut the circle down by an inch thinking it was too large/full, but after gathering the edge and testing it with the hat and crown, I realized the velvet was too tight and the gathers weren’t doing much. Which made it too flat and low compared to the height of the crosses and fleur-de-lis around the edge, and the fullness didn’t match the reference photos. It needed padding underneath for support, which meant the velvet was now too small and I needed that extra inch back. I do have more of the velvet, but I didn’t want to throw away the piece I was already using, so I repeated the hat fix and sewed/glued the strip of fabric back on. This was really unnecessary, but it did work and it made me feel good about not wasting materials I guess.

In the meantime, I glued very thin and semi-flat pieces of poly fill to the very top edge of the hat like a halo.
I built it up slowly, testing it with the velvet and crown, and ended up with two thin layers. I regathered the velvet and put it on, then put the crown over that, and voila! It looked like it was supposed to. I marked where I wanted the velvet to sit (a little higher than level with the brim so I’d get yet more more fullness on the top) and glued it down, shaping the gathers as I went. I gathered it a little too tightly in the front so I ran out of gathers towards the end and the back is kind of flat, but it should be disguised well enough by everything else.

It’s a small step, but I also made the slot in the ball for the top cross piece.

And then it was starting to look like a real thing!

I finally got some new gold paint - Plaid Liquid Leaf in brass - and repainted the collar pieces.
This paint is kind of a miracle. I’m still trying to figure out how to get a smooth enough application for the large crown pieces, but the color and shine are close to exactly what I wanted for everything. Leagues better than any acrylic or spray I’ve ever used. 

I also got some of the right color acrylic for the collar cross and repainted that (I don’t think I took any photos of it before, but I initially used a random medium blue I already had, and I didn’t like it at all). The blue was sealed with a heavy coat of Crystal Clear to make it look more enameled, and then the gold was redone with the Liquid Leaf and the stones were glued on.

All the other pieces got their red stones after repainting too.

Biggest progress was on the actual construction of the crown pieces. I ultimately decided on zip ties as the best/easiest way to connect the strips securely. I cut a square of the same plastic rent sign everything else was made from and cut/sanded a hole on each side and a slit in the middle, and cut matching holes in one end of each strip.

After a few tests with scrap strips, I zip-tied the actual strips to the square so the thick end of the tie was hidden underneath the square. Then I glued the other ends of the strips to the inside back of each cross along the base (I was originally going to zip tie the base of the strips too, but I realized the fur doesn’t cover enough of the bottom of the crown so any holes in that horizontal cross/fleur-de-lis strip would show). The ball was then glued into the slit in the middle of the square.

To attach the ball to the top of the hat, I marked the placement of the ball then removed the whole plastic crown piece. I cut a small hole in the center top of the hat base and velvet cover and stitched the velvet to the hat around that hole.

The whole thing was covered with a few layers of plastic bags to protect it during painting, then I slipped the crown piece back on and pushed the ball and square down to rest against the top of the hat and into the hole. I glued the peg from the ball into the hole pretty liberally and used a little heavy-duty thread and a piece of wire on the inside to reinforce it (the wire was glued over as well).

Once the strips and top were secure, I glued on the ball chain trim and started on the filigree squares.
And tada! Actual crown finally!

In the meantime I've scrapped the idea of making the garter separate from the pants. I wanted it separate so I could get another piece done, but it's just so much easier to sew the rhinestone trim directly on the pants. I've also decided I need to make the scepter too, so now that the crown is coming along I might start researching that. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

HSM 2017: #4 Circles, Squares, and Rectangles - Pirate Shirt

The challenge: #4 Circles, Squares, and Rectangles

Material: 100% cotton

Pattern: Simplicity 4923 View E

Year: Nonspecific 18th century, but it’s intended for a costume based on the early 18th century c. 1720s-1740s

Notions: thread

How historically accurate is it?: Maybe 50/50, but the accurate half is pretty decent.  I’ve heard good things about the pattern from people who know more about it, and the material is a natural fiber.  The thread was poly though, and it was all machine sewn except for handstitching the inside edges of the collar and cuff.

Hours to complete: I didn’t really keep track (bad habit), but I worked on it intermittently for a few days.

First worn: Pirate Invasion 2017

Total cost: The fabric was a sheet that I think was $2-3, and I got the pattern on sale a few years ago.


First step towards piracy is shirts.

It’s pretty basic, and having a pattern to follow made it even easier.  I did do a few alterations though.  It was cut in size small, and the torso front and back were shortened about 3” and the sleeves shortened by 1.25”.  I initially did collar interfacing as instructed, but it made the collar kind of wonky (it felt too stiff and puffy, and didn’t lay right).  So I ripped the interfacing out and skipped it on both the collar and cuffs.  I didn’t think about the length of the neckline slit before I marked and cut it, so it ended up way too deep for me and I whipstitched the bottom 4” closed.  I also did some extra topstitching just because.

Despite being so simple, or maybe because of that, this is actually one of my favorite things I've sewn in a long time, and it's refreshing to finish something that I don't see a million flaws in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - Grail Diary Part I

I've had the materials for this for months, but never got around to starting it because it's new crafting territory and I'm chicken.  With a few other prop projects on hold and not in the mood to sew, last weekend was a good time to finally get to it.

The plan is to do one “batch” of more or less the correct pages, and then instead of repeating those pages, create my own in the same style using other medieval history and Grail lore to fill up the rest of the book.

I started with a hardcover unlined sketchbook, about 4x6”, 220 pages, so a pretty close match for size (or close enough for my purposes).

I sanded the cover, then peeled off the endpapers and removed the pages from the inside.

From there I followed this Instructable for the new leather cover, jumping ahead to step 7. I was surprised how fun and easy it was, and I wish I hadn't put it off for so long.

Once the cover was on and everything was reassembled, I took a little leather polish to the cover to bring some of the color back. (The weird stripes are from the light coming through blinds, not part of the leather.)

Now just waiting on endpaper which hopefully will be here in a week or so. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hamilton - King George Crown / Collar Part II

I did a bit more work on the crown last week (and now that the semester is over I'm hoping to have more time to devote to this regularly, even with other projects).  The two-piece plastic ball I bought for the top came with the wrong pieces (both sides had the solid edge, instead of one side solid and one side recessed so they fit together), so I glued a strip of felt to the inside of one half and then glued and smooshed (technical term) the other side on, plus added a little extra glue around the loop piece.  There’s a strip of trim that eventually goes on the outside that’ll help reinforce it too.

I figured out an assembly method and process for the cross at the top, so I finally put together all the little bits that go into that.  I traced one of the cross prongs onto a scrap piece of the same plastic and cut it out with an extended section running out of the bottom.  That little extension will eventually go into a slot in the plastic ball to secure them together.  For the beads I measured out two pieces of wire: one to run horizontally with the side beads and pearls, and one to run vertically with the top bead.
The extension piece and wires are glued between the front and back cross pieces.  I still need to sand down some of the edges so they’re all even, and if I need to I’ll fill in any gaps between them with more glue later.  Fun fact: if you’re too cheap/lazy/busy to get clamps like I was (or I guess if you’re just working on something really small), bobby pins work really well.

There ended up being a weird little soft spot on one side where the glue warped the plastic, but it’s not too noticeable and everything else seems fine, so I’ll probably just fill it in with a little Bondo.

Around the brim, to help disguise the extension pieces I cut and glued a little piece in to the gap.

Then I glued the ball chain trim onto the back of the plain horizontal strip and started gluing the plain horizontal strip to the cross strip.  But I ran into some trouble at that point.

I had tested the plain strip around the cross strip earlier pre-trim and it sat correctly, but I hadn’t thought about the extra bulk the trim’s tape would add between the layers.  The tape is about 1/2” wide so it only covers half of the plain plastic strip, so gluing the trim tape flush on the cross strip made a gap between the strips at the base.  Trying to force that gap closed made the plain strip shift or ripple, and the whole thing just didn’t want to go together.  By then the trim was starting to peel off - I used hot glue for speed/ease, but the trim’s tape didn’t like it - so I pulled the strip off the crown and the trim off the strip, chucked the strip, and started over.

I glued the trim to a new strip, with E6000 this time like I should have done in the first place, and then glued the strip back to the crown, only making the back of the trim tape flush with the crown and leaving a gap at the base of the strips.
It seems to be holding okay so far, so I haven’t decided what if anything to fill in the gap with (any kind of glue that’s working on the plastic and worth using is too thick to get into the gap easily on its own, so I’m currently considering some glue-coated chipboard coated that can just slide in and hold the glue against the plastic while it sets).

In the meantime, I finished the collar bows and started painting those, the star, and the medallions.  I did a primer/base with Krylon Dual Superbond in black, a light coat of Ace Metallic in mirrored gold, a top coat of Krylon Premium Metallic in 18kt gold, and sealed with Krylon Crystal Clear.

I’m not happy with the finished result - the tone of the color is decent but it’s not as bright or shiny as I want - so I’m looking at some liquid leaf paints and waiting to do any more work on these until I can get the right bright brassy yellow gold.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hamilton - King George Star Part I

I’ve been working on the crown and livery collar since about January, but it’s a long haul.  So I figured I’d also work on something smaller and easier that I could finish in the meantime: the star badge thing on the suit.

The star looks to be about palm-sized (3” for me), stitched all in silver except for four little squares in gold, and in the center a stone to match the ones on the livery collar (for my purposes, an 11mm red cabochon in a gold high-wall setting).

Because it worked well last time, I’m reusing the basic process from the chest star on my TFA Rescue Cap.  This'll just be a little more challenging since it's stitching *on* tiny lines instead of filling in large gaps between lines.  I did some layout sketches and notes to get an idea of the design, and then cut out a round of felt (for the base) and fabric (for the top) just big enough to fit the embroidery hoop. 
Ideally I would have used red fabric, but I didn’t have any in my stash.  What I *did* have was red fabric paint and cotton scraps so I just used that instead.  Once that was dry and heat set, I drew on the design (partly traced from the collar’s similar eight-point star piece) and popped it in the hoop. 
Some of the stitches, especially on the smaller inner star, look like *actual* embroidery stitches like a chain stitch, but I’m just doing a very basic in-an-out stitch for the sake of ease.

Hopefully I'll start embroidering in the next few days.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pirate Shenanigans - Planning for Pirate Invasion 2017

Plans for the upcoming Pirate Invasion this summer are getting me through finals right now.  We're a little pirate (and generally 18th century) obsessed so attending is a must, and of course we have to put together some pirate get-ups for the occasion.  We're planning to do Jack Sparrow and Norrington costumes someday, so we'll be using this as an excuse to get parts of that done.  Until we do those actual costumes, we can use the pieces for pirate characters inspired by (but not necessarily specifically accurate to) Pirates of the Caribbean, with a little inspiration from Black Sails thrown in for good measure.

I don't really do character identities/backgrounds for costumes - I rarely need them as I usually recreate existing characters/costumes instead of making original ones.  But in this case, coming up with a character has been helpful for establishing a direction to take the design in.  I ended up with partly a genderbent Rule 63 Norrington circa Dead Man's Chest, and partly Norrington's theoretical lady-pirate nemesis inspired by the officer-pirate relationship in Kate Beaton's hilarious "Nemesis" comics.  I'll be attempting Norrington's "Scruffington" vest and breeches from Dead Man's Chest (pending time and the right fabric), plus making his formal cocked hat from Curse of the Black Pearl (using last year's HSM cocked hat as a base, which is really appropriate thematically), a Norrington mini portrait like the ones I did of Marie Antoinette, and a "nemesis" mini portrait based on the one in Beaton's comic.  I'm also in the process of modifying some Pirates-themed checkers pieces into the Aztec coins from Curse of the Black Pearl.

My friend is making a Davy Jones-inspired cocked hat, along with her requisite Jack Sparrow pieces - namely some combination of the bandana, belts, rings, and sash for now.

Other than that, we'll both be doing the general pirate-y shirts, breeches (or improvised pajama pants patterns), boots, sashes, bandanas, and a ton of jewelry.

So far it's been a fun experiment in picking away at planned costumes, doing some original designing, and getting to dabble in historical costuming again.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hamilton - King George Crown / Livery Collar Part I

Starting a little recap on the work finished so far on King George III.

The very first thing I bought was a large plastic “for rent” sign for the crown.  I don’t remember the total dimensions, but the long edge was 24”.  I wanted strength and flexibility, without the cost/hassle/weight of metal.  To make a pattern, I found some decently high-res photos that allowed me to zoom in to about life-size (which I gauged by roughly comparing my eye measurements to his in the photo), and from there I measured EVERYTHING: widths, heights, angles, distances between pieces, etc.  Using the measurements and the same photo references I drew a pattern for all the pieces and cut them from the plastic sign.  After I tested them on my base hat, I realized the sheet wasn’t quite long enough for the length of the horizontal sections that go around the head, so I went back and cut some extensions for those pieces.
Crown pieces

I ended up with a bunch of 1” strips (two for the arched vertical strips, one for the horizontal strip, a shorter horizontal extension, and extras), the horizontal cross/fleur strip plus extension, and two 2.25” crosses for the top of the crown.

All the edges and surfaces were sanded to remove burs and prep for glue/paint.

I've also ordered a TON of various beads and filigrees and gems and rhinestones that go all over the crown - 17 different kinds so far.  As they've been arriving I've been doing some mockups on the pattern pieces to test sizing and get an idea of how it'll look.  I'll go into more detail once I have them all and start gluing them on. 
Crown top cross
Crown band cross
Testing various things and figuring out the logistics of assembly (mostly in what order) took a while, but last week I finally glued the cross extension in to the horizontal cross/fleur section with E6000.

I’ve also finally figured out assembly on the cross and pearls for the top, so that’ll probably be next.

For most of the collar it was easy to find various metal jewelry-making pieces, but the eight-point star and Maltese cross in the center were more particular so I had to do those partly from scratch.  I patterned and cut them the same way and at the same time I did the crown pieces.
Collar star pieces
I did manage to find a die cut paper star that was the right size and shape, so I bought that as both a pattern to cut the plastic from and a top layer to add in the detail (saving me the trouble of etching the plastic; essentially the plastic is just a thick reinforced backing).  I didn’t take a photo of the star before I started assembling, but this is the seller’s photo of the whole sheet (I used the bottom left).  It’s neat stuff.
The small little bits in the center were just guesstimated and improvised from the shapes in the reference photos, and those were glued to the cross with E6000.  The paper star, plastic star, and cross were all attached with either hot glue or E6000 (had them both out at the time, and now I don’t remember which I used for that).  The cross has a slightly raised edge, which I did with puff paint.

The medallions on his collar look sort of tiered, so I planned to buy large flat settings for the base, medium raised/detailed settings to go over that, and small settings for the red stones in the center.  The first large settings I bought didn’t work (they were solid so punching holes for rings was a hassle), so I bought replacements that had looped edges and better surface for gluing.
Top left: original 38mm setting.  Top right: new 38mm setting.  Bottom: 30mm detail setting.
30mm detailed settings, 38mm flat looped settings, 11mm cabochons, 11mm cab settings.
The large and medium settings were glued together, and the stones were glued into their settings, all with E6000.  I’m still deciding whether or not to paint the settings gold to match the bows I’m making/painting, so for now the large/medium pieces are partly taped over and separate from the stones.
Red cabs glued into their settings, and 30mm settings glued to the 38mm.

The bows were shaped by hand from twisted picture-hanging wire (the kind that comes in the little packages with screws and stuff).  I did more measurements from the same zoomed-in crown/collar photo and drew out a pattern, and I laid the wire over that pattern as I shaped it.  The loops and upper tails are one piece and the center tails are a separate piece, attached to each other with thin wire for now.  Once they’re all done I’ll remove the wire, glue the pieces with E6000, and then rewire a little more neatly/lightly.
Painting on everything (both crown and collar) is just waiting on getting a clear coat and testing it with the paint I already have.