Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Who Knew? A Steampunk Cheshire Cat Is Kinda Creepy

Ok, you've seen my costume for this year's Dragon Con, so now it's John's turn!

John initially planned to cosplay as Gepetto, but when our Steampunk Disney group's Cheshire Cat dropped out, I jumped at the chance to have John in a coordinating Wonderland costume. "We'll be a matched set!" I said. "Only one that totally clashes."

Here's my first scribbled sketch, which I used to sell John on the idea:

I figured it would end up pretty creepy, to be honest, but the creep-factor still took John by surprise when he finally put everything on. Ha! At least he's a really bright-and-cheerful kind of creepy, though:

 "We're all mad here
In a dapper, gentlemanly-type fashion."

John made almost everything you see, including the top hat, vest, ascot, and pants. (We found the shirt online.) For the vest he even had to make his own striped fabric, so you can see he's still the superior sewing wizard. I made the half-mask, which is leather with fiber optic whiskers (woot!), plus his leather pouch (since neither of us have pockets), and his hat band decoration and pin. Oh, and I painted his vest buttons. :)

Less than two weeks out from DC John decided he wanted a flamingo cane. I told him we had PLENTY to do still and to stop being ridiculous. So he went out to the garage ... and carved himself a flamingo cane.

I was so impressed that of course I couldn't say no when he asked me to paint it. I've never painted anything like this before, but then, he'd never carved anything, either, so it was fun new ground for both of us. Quick, too, since it was done in less than two days, including all the drying time.

Plus, look how fabulous:

John's ears were a convention purchase - from a convention I'll have to fill you guys in on later, since it was during my Sabbatical - but the fur was so long that they looked like giant purple tribbles. So I trimmed them way down and used hairspray to sculpt them into shape: 

 (John's mask started out a bit wider on the sides; I went back and trimmed it after this photo.)
The ears don't show up too well on his black hat, but I really love them with the colorful gear-and-springs decoration I added on the side. (Those gears are yet another gift from Sharyn, who cut them for us special with her embossing machine.) I plan to make another hat stand so we can display this  later in John's man cave/game room.

I had so much fun making that hat band piece that I made a second one for John to wear as a pin:

 It's made from an old Disney button, spray-painted black with a hole drilled through the middle. I added the gears and stuck a bunch of wire springs and curly Qs through the hole, securing them on the back with packing tape.

Another detail you can't really see here (but that should look great in the dark rooms of Dragon Con) are John's purple fiber optic whiskers:

They were a pain and a half to install, but work pretty well. I used a $5 fiber optic hair clip-in, which has a battery case small enough (once we dremeled off the clip part) to fit under the mask against John's chin.

I'd like to do a tutorial on John's leather satchel soon, since it was surprisingly easy and only took me a few hours to finish, just making things up as I went along. It's a perfect first project for anyone interested in leather working, and useful, too, since I get a new belt pouch out of it:

We singed it a little in the oven, so the stain is a bit grungier than intended, but I really did throw this together in about three hours, so I'm looking forward to making another one. John's going to wear it mostly behind him and out of sight since it doesn't quite "go" with his outfit, but we do need some kind of carrier for our phones and IDs.

And there you have it!

Hope you enjoyed John's creepy Cheshire! Again, look for us at the Mechanical Masquerade at Dragon Con this Sunday night, or just keep watching here for my gads of DC coverage, coming soon!

Monday, August 26, 2013

My White Rabbit Reveal!

Approximately 10 months in the making (but mostly this last one), I give you...

... my steampunk White Rabbit cosplay!

[trumpet fanfare]
[confetti drop]
[symbol crash]

 Oh, and hi.

Been a while, huh? As nice as my first-ever Sabbatical was, I gotta say: it is GOOD to be back. Almost as good as being done with this monstrously complex cosplay, in fact. (Oooh, did you see that segue action there? DID YOU?)

 I promise I DID try to remember to smile. And look at the camera. Most of the time I succeeded at at least one of those. (at-at? Yes. AT-AT.)

When I chose this cosplay last year my goal was to learn a little leather working. I've still only dipped my toes in the pool that is leather craft, but I'm happy to say I made my leather arm bracers entirely on my own. The mask you've already seen (though now it has a brighter gold and an enameled red heart), and the leather corset was mostly John's work, though I did the design, carving, and painting.

This costume represents a staggering amount of time and effort, with more stops and do-overs then I care to remember, so I won't bore you with a zillion process shots. I actually sewed nearly everything you see (I know! Me! SEWING!), from two $10 skirts that looked like this:

...and a massively too-big jacket I found at a thrift store for a few dollars. Here's the jacket once I finished it the first time:

At this point I'd disassembled the jacket and sewn it back together to fit me, changed the lapels, added buttons, and pieced together the extra length to form a ruffle around the waist. But it didn't look right; the waist was too high.

So I took a deep breath and hacked it in half:


 What you see here is actually a cropped jacket and separate tie-on bustle; the corset just gives it the illusion of being one solid piece.

I made the neck ruff and wrist cuffs from the extra skirt's gauzy lining. There's not a straight seam anywhere, and I made everything up as I went along, but in the end I guess I'm a little less terrified of the sewing machine. (So. Many. Ruffles.)

My "wig" is actually three separate yarn falls, assembled mostly from a fun yarn that looks a bit like dreadlocks. I mixed in a bunch of white-and-gold braids and rope strands for texture, but those don't show much in the photos.

You're supposed to wear pony falls by wrapping them around your own hair twisted into buns, but I just couldn't get mine to work that way. (I think my hair may be too long/thick.) So instead, I attached the falls to large plastic hair clips, which work like a dream.

Oh, and I also made a wide cotton headband with more yarn attached to cover my hairline. It's all quite soft and comfy, if a bit warm:

Let's see, what else? The leather corset is an unusually boxy design which reminded me of a clock case - perfect for the clock face I'd been saving just for this costume. We made a pendulum out of a metal bar and a drawer pull, and John rigged it so it actually swings from side-to-side as I walk:

Because the corset is more of a box than a tube, you can't tighten it too much, lest the curved side panels pop out of shape. As a result it's snug enough to be comfortable, but not restricting. (John cut and hand-stitched that in a single night, btw. It took me longer to decorate it!)  It laces up the back with a wide red satin ribbon.

Attached to the corset are my over-sized pocket watch, a chain of "Drink Me" potion bottles, and a small brass horn with a painted rose wound through it:

Let's see how many people at Dragon Con notice and "get" the painted rose. ;)

 I had a lot of fun with my bottle chain. My favorite is the green one, an actual antique that I decorated with a vintage pin and brass wire loop:

The red bottle has my not-so-hidden Mickey - a brass charm I bent into shape - since my inspiration was Disney's White Rabbit. There are brass card suite charms on the chain, and did you notice even my chain clasps have little hearts on them? I am a total detail freak, you guys.

Speaking of which, those brass charms have a slightly raised edge, so I was able to "enamel" them with red and black nail polish for my potion bracer and mask, like so:

Pretty, huh? 
(The excess on the edges just scratches off after it dries.)

And here they are on my potion bracer:

I had to bend each charm to fit the curve of the leather; good thing nail polish is flexible! Oh, and I'm proud to say there's no glue holding the bottles in; the leather straps fit them that perfectly. (Now watch one fall out and break at DC, since I just bragged about it...)

And here are both bracers together:
The watch bracer was an insane amount of work, since each piece is attached with either a leather strap, riveted in place, or by brass wire threaded through the leather. (The four largest watches are new, but everything else is from my vintage stash.) I painted and aged the leather, so I would have a mix of whites - you can see they match my vintage leather gloves.

In my mind the White Rabbit is both the official Time Keeper and Potion Master of Wonderland, pressed reluctantly into service by the Queen. That's why there's a bracer for each, and why the corset and potion bracer represent all four card suites, not just hearts.  I like to think the heart on the cheek and neck pin were later additions which the Queen forced Rabbit to wear.

Speaking of which:

Another fun piece that John berated me over because no one will ever notice but *I* know it's there: the shield pin was a vintage find, and everything else came from my "gift stash" from you readers and Sharyn, my friend and CW co-writer. The bottle is filled with gears and tiny copper shavings left over from my Lady Vadore cane. I can't explain it, but carrying that little bit of history over from my last cosplay just makes me happy. :)

Moving down to my legs, the tights are hand-painted cotton leggings (thanks for the tip, Sharyn; stripes DO look better!) and the boots are my oh-so-comfy favorites straight out of my closet.

I'm, uh, smiling on the inside.

I've breezed though it all here, but every piece of this costume was an uphill battle, and I'm over the moon to finally have it finished. I loved most of the process, but there were many times when I lost sight of the end of the cosplay tunnel!

If you'd like to see my White Rabbit in person, you'll have to be quick; I only plan to wear it for a few hours Sunday night at Dragon Con, during the Mechanical Masquerade. Look for me between roughly 7 and 11pm at and around the Westin, where the Masquerade is held, and the Marriott, where everyone goes to mingle. I'll be at the Masquerade promptly at 9:30pm, but beyond that, I'll probably be wandering. You can't miss me, though; I'll be in the group with a day-glo steampunk Cheshire Cat (John) and a monocle-sporting Queen of Hearts (my mom.) Hee!

As for the rest of Dragon Con, look for my tweets to help you hunt us down, or you can find me and John at the Star Trek and/or Two Doctors panel, or around the art whenever I have down time. I'll have my usual stash of bribery pins, too, in case just saying hi isn't enough incentive for you. :)

Thanks for being so patient during my time away, everyone, and for the massive amount of support for my return. Stay tuned for pics of John's costume, then my marathon posts of Dragon Con coverage. Then - THEN - I can start catching you up on all the fun stuff that happened during my sabbatical. (CANNOT. WAIT.)

Hope to see some of you soon!

Monday, August 12, 2013


That's right, my friends; the end of my self-imposed sabbatical... IS NIGH.

[And there was MUCH rejoicing... I hope?]

This post is not my official return, but I wanted to check in to assure you all that I am well - very, very well, in fact - and this little break has been everything I'd hoped for and more.

John and I have used this time to take on some monster projects, so I've actually been busier than ever during my "down time" - but in a good way. I'm looking forward to showing you all our accomplishments, along with step-by-step DIY tutorials for a few of the ones I'm most proud of.

It's been my unofficial goal to resume posting here in time for Dragon Con, assuming I was ready and finished with everything I wanted to do, and so far we're right on track. I hope to debut my finished costume (which I am frantically working on now) within the next two weeks, just before DC, and you can expect my usual marathon posts during and after the con with all my official coverage. (Who's excited? THIS GIRL.) After that, at the beginning of next month, I'm hoping life and posting here on Epbot will be back to normal - only better.

Thank you all for being so patient and supportive during my time away. I admit I haven't read your comments on my last post yet, and I've been completely ignoring e-mail (sorry!) - but from the snippets I've seen over on Cake Wrecks and Facebook and Twitter, I'm going to be a sobby sob-fest when I go catch up. Between those and the snail-mailed notes and little surprise gifts and the occasional e-mail John makes me read, I've been reminded many times these past weeks why the Epbot community has been my joy and passion online from the start, and that I could never stay away for long.

SO, just a little while longer, k? And then we're gonna par-TAY. Promise. ;)

'Til then,

- Jen