Saturday, October 27, 2012

One Little Spark of Inspiration

Last night we went to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, where John debuted his Dreamfinder costume. The weather and some logistical issues prevented me from wearing my Figment costume (the Hurricane's winds would have ripped my wings off), but I promise I'll still post pics of it as soon as I take some decent ones. (And yes, I'll get some with John in costume, too!)

In the Dreamfinder:

This costume definitely separated the Dizgeeks from the casual Disney fans; people either shrieked for joy or just stared in puzzlement. (Most tragic was the cast member who kept calling him - not the plush - "Figment." Stab me in the heart, why don't you.) Throughout the night he was also called Dream Weaver, Dream Catcher, Abraham Lincoln (??), and Mr. Monopoly. Heh.

The Party is so dark and crowded that it's hard to see all the costumes, so it wasn't until we were waiting in the Castle forecourt for a friend that John actually drew a small crowd. They all wanted a picture with him, as opposed to just *of* him, which I loved, and I was glad to be out of costume so I could take their pictures. "This is my childhood, right here," one woman enthused, while another began ranting about how terrible the new ride is. (Ha!) I think as many guys wanted pics with John as gals, though, and working cast members everywhere pointed and gave him a thumbs up - even ones in the parade. One survey-taker chased John down by the train station just to shake his hand, and even though the CMs couldn't come out and say it, most gave him a grave nod that said, "Yes, we miss him, too."

Great, now I'm getting all misty over here.

Quick, more pictures!!

To recap: the costume was my idea, but that's about all the credit I can take. John was immediately on board with it, and within about a week he'd sewn the entire suit from scratch. (Since I can't sew a straight line to save my life, I stuck to just cutting out all the fabric pieces for him.)

This was the first item of clothing John's ever sewn, btw, proving yet again my man can do anything. :)

Since it's probably been a while since you've seen the original Dreamfinder, here are two of the reference photos we worked from:

 It seemed every photo I found of DF had him with slightly different beards and hats, so we just did our best to make what we had work. (The curly beard would have been impossible, so we went with the straighter version.)

We found a thrift-store suit jacket to use for a template - cutting the front and back to make the tails - and then spent a few days searching fabric stores for the best vest option.

Of course we included the bright pink lining. It's just about standards, you know?

I found the spats, gloves, and bow tie all online, along with the vintage Figment plush. (You would not BELIEVE how much nicer the original Figment dolls were than the ones they sell now. Or, ok, maybe you would.)

The cheap top hat we originally purchased at a costume shop was way too small once we got the wig on John. It perched on top of his head and looked like someone had attacked it briefly with a shrink ray. So John made a new one.

The process is deceptively simple: just roll a piece of posterboard (ours is a specialty plastic, but it's the same thickness) into a tube, and then sew a slipcover for it from felt:

The brim is more plastic posterboard, rolled to give it a curve and cut into a donut shape, covered with more felt:

To connect the two, cut slits in the felt all around the brim interior and glue them inside the hat:

Here are the two hats side-by-side - you can see how much larger John's had to be:

The beard and wig were the hardest part, if you can believe it. We tried a couple of different wigs before settling on a mullet style that already had the feathered portion in the front, so I just had to trim the back. The beard was a steal at only $15 with shipping (here's the link), but it took about a gallon of hairspray to wrangle it into shape. I even made curly ends for the mustache, although they don't show up very well.

They don't make ginger beards at all - or at least not that I could find - and wigs were impossibly rare, too, so I bought both in blonde and we dyed them with alcohol inks.

The only thing left was penciling in John's non-existent eyebrows with some auburn powder, and Dreamfinder was complete!

This has been such a fun process, and it was sweet waking up this morning to see one or two Disney people already talking about the "awesome Dreamfinder" at MNSSHP last night. I know it's a very select group of people who can and will appreciate our labor of love, so I'm glad I get to share it here with you guys!

Stay tuned for more pics from the Party, plus my Figment costume!

Friday, October 26, 2012

DIY Dragon Horns & Wings, Part 2!

Now it's time to show you how to make some easy light-weight wings to go with your clay horns!

All you'll need other than typical supplies like scissors, pencils, and glue are two sheets of craft foam (three to be safe) and some thin elastic cord.

Here's the foam I used:

You can find this at any craft store - or even Wal-Mart, I believe - for less than a dollar a sheet.

First sketch out your wing shape on the foam using chalk or a white pencil:
It's not easy to erase marks off of the foam, so use something light and be careful with your lines. If you do need to erase something, try rubbing the foam with a Magic Eraser or a damp wash cloth.

Once you're happy with your shape, cut it out:

[Side note: cutting foam with scissors is my new favorite thing. I can't explain why, but it's ridiculously fun. Something about the smooth texture, I think. :D]

Now use that wing as a template to trace the second one:

To give them some rigidity and support, next we're going to cut out two top spines for each wing, for a total of four:

You can see that I'd already sketched this shape into my original wing. To get the shape onto the foam I traced the top edge of the wing and then free-handed the lower edge, comparing it frequently to my wing to get the shape right. 

Just like with the wing, once I had the first spine cut out I used it as a template for the next three.

Next sandwich your wings between the spines. I used plain white craft glue, but I'm sure hot glue or most other adhesives would work just as well, if not better. Weight your wing sandwich down with a heavy book or two and allow them to dry.

Once your spines are dry it's time to add some smaller "finger" spines. I experimented with straight edges before realizing a curved line looked much more organic:

All of these pieces came from the same two sheets of craft foam, by the way, so I'm just using scraps here to form the extra spines. Play around with the curves until it looks right to you, and then trace and cut the shapes so you have a total of four of each.

Glue everything down and allow them to dry.

Now it's time to join your wings together and attach the elastic bands that will allow you to wear them. (Woot!)

First, check your wingspan by having someone hold the wings up behind you. Mine were a bit too wide/long, so I trimmed off about three inches from the interior edge on each wing.

When you're happy with the wingspan, lay your wings down on a hard surface with the two interior edges butted together. Cut out a large square that will overlap the center of both wings from your scraps of craft foam, and slip it beneath the two wings. Trace the upper and lower curves of the wings onto your new square, and then trim it so no extra foam sticks out from beneath the wings.

Ug, that was confusing, wasn't it? Sorry - I forget to take a process picture. Here it is finished to show you what I mean:

That's my foam square on top - I used yet another scrap of craft foam for this piece, which is why it's a funky shape. This is the side that will be against your back, though, so don't worry about making it too pretty; it just needs to be functional.

As you can see, my piece overlaps both wings. BEFORE YOU GLUE THE SQUARE DOWN, attach your elastic cords with staples. Make sure you staple through the cord, and not just around it like I did. (Mine would probably pull out if I yanked hard enough.) You can also add a dab of glue to the cords for extra strength.

Once your cords are securely attached, go ahead and glue the center foam piece down over both wings. Weight it down and let it dry.

 Next, carefully flip your wings over and staple down the joined seam:
Yes, a standard stapler *will* go through four layers of craft foam without any problem. :)

To cover the seam and staples, glue down yet another strip of foam, wrapping it around the edges and securing it to the reverse side:

This is the finished front side of the wings - or the side that goes against your back.

And here's the finished back!


And you're done!

To hide my elastic cords I fed them through two tiny holes in my costume's top - which required me to go back and add jewelry clasps to the cords so I can unclip them. Just use crimp clasps and lobster claws if you want to do the same thing.

At this point you can add paint or glitter or gems to jazz up your wings, or just leave them as-is. Because I'm wearing mine at night I wanted to emphasize the spines a little more, so I added a shaded outline on the spine edges:

I used a bright reddish-orange eyeliner for this, believe it or not - the creamy texture allowed me to smudge the line and fade it in a bit. (Sorry it doesn't photograph well; the orange really messes with my camera!)

Here's the full wingspan with my shaded outline:

I haven't shaded the backside of the wings because I'm lazy, and this is the only side that will be photographed, anyway. :)

I hope you enjoyed, and that this inspires a bunch of dragon/fairy/bat/devil costumes out there!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIY Dragon Horns & Wings

If you're looking for last-minute Halloween accessories, nothing beats a cute pair of horns and light-weight wings to jazz up an outfit. Make 'em in red for a devilish look, black for bats, or any color of the rainbow for dragons, dark fairies, and the like.

I needed my own horns and wings for a certain purple dragon [winkwinknudgenudge], and because he sports orange ones, I had to make my own. (Otherwise I'd have taken the lazy route and snagged some off Etsy.) If you also need a custom color, or are stuck with no time to order your own - OR you just want to save money by DIY'ing (together they cost less than $10 in materials), read on!

The horns will be made of clay, so grab some of your favorite brand in your color of choice. I used polymer clay I had left over from those infamous carrot jockey necklaces, and because I made really large horns I used two small squares of it. I think you could almost get by with half that amount, though, since most costume horns are quite small.

Start by kneading your clay to soften it:


Next form it into a roundish lump with a flat bottom like this:

Now start twisting and pulling the clay upward into a spiral:

Keep going, and if you make larger horns like mine you'll want to angle them back a bit, too, until you end up with something like this:

Smaller horns can just stick straight up, of course - it's up to you - but I think a little curve makes them look more natural. You also don't have to make the spiral twisty pattern; I just thought it looked cool. (Even if it does look like a crescent roll.)

I later went back and trimmed my horns down by about a third, so I wouldn't recommend making your own horns quite this big; they're a tad too heavy and unwieldy.

[UPDATE: Some commenters have pointed out you can use a wad of tin foil inside the horn to cut down on the weight and the amount of clay. Great tip! Thanks, guys!]

I propped the horns up on each other to keep them from drooping in the oven:

Looks like two earthworms kissing. :)

Once the horns were baked I realized I'd made them too big, so I had John cut them down with a hack saw. I also asked him to cut at an angle so they'd point back further on my head. You shouldn't have that problem, though, so once your clay is baked all that's left to do is drill holes in the bases of your horns to feed an elastic strap through:

You can see the right horn chipped a little from drilling, so be careful and drill slowly.

[Edit: Or, if you don't have a drill, poke holes in your clay before baking. It will deform the horns a bit, but you should be able to reshape them again before popping them in the oven.]

This strap is a little wider than necessary, but it's what I had on hand. I've also seen people use shoe laces or non-stretchy cord for the band - just tie knots on either side of each horn to keep them in place. If you have it, though, elastic really is the most secure/comfortable.

Now here's a little trick for hiding the elastic band when you wear your new horns: grab a bit of fabric you can tie around your head like a headband (stretchy t-shirt fabric is ideal), cut two tiny holes, and then push your horns through:

To wear it, put the horns' elastic cord over your head first, slide it up like a regular headband, and then tie the fabric in a knot over the cord at the base of your neck.

When you're done, it should look something like this:

Cute, right?

And you can really see how large my horns are here, so again, scale down your own creations if you want a smaller, subtler look. For what it's worth, though, this size is perfectly comfortable to wear - so much so that I actually forgot I had them on the other day, and ended up wearing them most of the afternoon. :D

I think I'm going to leave you with that mental image and break this post into two parts, since the wings will require a lot more pictures. Check back tonight for part 2!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Better Hip Bag Mod

Within a week or so of making my last hip bag I was on the hunt for another purse I could modify. That first one was ok, but since it sat so high on my waist it kept getting in the way of all the long over shirts I like to wear. I was determined to make a version that hung lower on my hip and was easier to access.

Happily my new bag is more comfortable and even easier to DIY - plus I think it looks a lot better. A triple threat!

 At first glance this looks like a normal purse; you'd never know it was actually hanging from my hip!

All you need for this mod are two sets of heavy-duty snaps, a pair of purse clips (mine cost about $3 at JoAnn's), and a small purse with side straps like this:

 This is actually a little girl's purse from Limited, Too. I found it at a local thrift store for two dollars.

Cut the purse strap so you have two straps around 7 or 8 inches long each:

Now fold each strap in half and attach your anorak snaps. Then you can slip your purse clips on like so:

You could also just sew or rivet the straps down, but using snaps gives you the option of removing the purse clips and then wearing the bag threaded through a belt, as opposed to just hanging from the clips.

And where do you hang the clips, you ask? Why, from your belt loops, of course! I found the spacing on mine is perfect for the first two belt loops on my side.

Oh, and another tip: it turns out a Crop-A-Dial (a gadget I almost never use) is great for punching holes in heavy canvas. That saved me a lot of time and aggravation hammering in the holes for my anorak snaps.

I have to tell you, guys: I love how versatile this bag design is. Not only can you wear it from either your belt or your belt loops, you can also clip the two straps together again and carry it like a regular purse:
This is really handy for the times when we go through the bag checks at Disney.

The only other change I made was to remove the metal Limited, Too zipper pulls and replace them with an old key and vintage jewelry doo-dad:

You'll probably want to wear a belt while wearing a hip bag like this, since heavier bags will tend to drag your pants or skirt down on the side. If you don't carry much in your purse, though, or if you don't wear your pants and skirts as loose as I do, this shouldn't be an issue. 

And here's how the bag looks with a typical Jen outfit:

These are the neon white legs of a hermit blogger, my friends.

I've been using this bag almost exclusively for the past few weeks, and I can honestly say it's the most comfortable I've ever had. No more straps slipping off my shoulder, or cutting across my chest obscuring my geeky t-shirt designs! And no more back pain! (Ok, so most of you don't have that issue...) Plus the bag is literally at my fingertips while I'm walking, so it's easy to access on the fly. Am I raving? I think I'm raving. Sorry. I just really love this bag, you guys. I don't think I can ever go back to a regular purse again!

Well, I hope this inspires some more purse modifications out there! And for my next trick: perhaps something with a leg holster? :D

Sunday, October 21, 2012

And Now, a Dose Of Halloween Cute

Oh, how I love crafty geek parents and the Halloween costumes they make for their kids!

Case in point: Here's Epbot reader Danniey's son Calvin as Max from Where the Wild Things Are:



That was two years ago.

Last year she turned Calvin into Russel from UP:

Check out his little back pack!

 (Process pictures & a video of little Calvin clanking around in his backpack here)

And this year Danniey has outfitted Calvin as Willy Wonka, with his brother going as the cutest little Oompa Loompa:

Danniey made everything herself - the hat even started as a cardboard shipping box! - and each costume only cost her about $15 in materials. Amazing! Head over to her blog for more pictures and process-shots.

Next up, here's little Kara as Indiana Jones two years ago:

And then as Mickey Mouse last year:

Her mom Suzanne tells me Kara was quite adamant about being MICKEY, too, and not Minnie. Ha! (I'm with you, Kara; Mickey's my favorite, too!)

And finally, Epbot reader Sandy D. made costumes for her 7-year-old twins that will have Browncoats everywhere squealing with glee:

Mini-Mal & Mini-Kaylee! 
Cute AND shiny. :D

(More pictures and details here, and photo credit goes to Peter Verrant.)

Thanks for sharing the cute, everyone!