Thursday, December 31, 2015

Eowyn's Green Dress

My friend Katie asked me to make her a dress for Dragon Con.  We decided to make Eowyn's green gown, though she wasn't concerned about being super accurate.  I used The Costumer's Guide to Movies as my main resource.
For the pattern, I used Simplicity 4940 (surprise, surprise - the green dress is even on the packaging).  The outer dress is made out of green crushed velvet from Jo-Ann's.

The under dress, which was used for the reverse of the outer dress as well as the lining, was a metallic paisley brocade, also from Jo-Ann's.  I dyed all nine yards with apple green Rit dye.

The original fabric laid over the dyed fabric
It turned out so well!

Attaching the reverse to the sleeves and skirt was a bit annoying, but it worked out.  I ended up sewing down the seams of the outer fabric to tack it down nicely.  The front panel is open, like Eowyn's.

I also added a collar.

The final touch was adding the embroidery along the collar.  I couldn't find anything I liked, and even dyed some cotton trim before deciding it wouldn't work.  I finally ended up using a gold lace.  I tacked it down and hand-stitched it around the entire collar.  I actually ended up straightening it a bit more from what you see in the photo, as I didn't like how uneven it turned out.

The final product ...

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Fiber Etching Silk Velvet (Devore Technique)

For Clara's Robot of Sherwood dress, I had to burn off the pile of silk-backed velvet.  I'm putting these instructions here because even though I followed the directions, they weren't good enough, and I ruined a LOT of fabric, and wasted a LOT of money.  I don't want that to happen to you.  Please note that I've only used the devore technique on silk velvet, so I have no idea if the following directions apply to other fabrics.  As far as how much fiber etch you'll need, I used about 44 ounces for Clara's dress (not including the chemical that I wasted).  There may be better ways to do this, but this is what I did, and it worked pretty well for me.

What You'll Need:

- Silk-backed velvet.  I used the Moroccan Red velvet from SyFabrics.
- Synthrapol, a chemical to prepare the fabric for etching, purchased from Dharma Trading Company
- Fiber Etch, a chemical which you can purchase from Dharma Trading Company.
- Paint brush
- Respirator
- Gloves
- A design or pattern

Note:  Always wear a respirator during every step that involves the chemical.  It's nasty stuff.  I also wore the respirator while scratching off the pile, as you'll end up breathing it in if you don't.  It's essentially dust at that point, and it's also nasty.  Also, PLEASE test a LARGE piece of cloth on each step before you do this.  Trust me.  I practiced on a small piece because I didn't want to waste fabric or fiber etch, and it turned out that my dryer dries unevenly.  The small piece turned out great, but the large panels were unevenly heated, and I tried reheating them, and I ended up burning holes in the fabric.  I had to throw out FOUR of the six panels.  I also had to buy four more yards of fabric, and another 32 ounces of fiber etch.  It was not pretty.  There were tantrums.  But hey, it all worked out in the end.

Step 1: Wash the velvet in HOT water using the Synthrapol, and then tumble dry.  I know this seems scary, but I did a test before I tossed all nine yards in, and it actually works great and removed all of the wrinkles that had set in during shipping.  This is a necessary step because the Synthrapol will remove any impurities that will keep the fiber etch from working properly.

Step 2:  Draw your pattern on.  You can use stencils or free-hand it.  Matt made me a pattern that I drew around using a washable fabric marker (it disappears when you wet it - you don't have to actually wash it out).

Step 3:  Wearing a respirator, SOAK the parts of the velvet that you want to remove with the fiber etch, and I mean SOAK.  I had purchased the 4 oz bottle to test the technique before purchasing more. I found it was easiest to use the squeeze bottle to apply the fiber etch. Because I was doing such a large area, I cut a larger hole in the tip.  Using the paintbrush, really jam all of the fiber etch in.  Brush in all directions to make sure that it's covering all of the pile.  If you think it's soaked enough, soak it some more. When you look at the wrong side of the fabric, you should see that the chemical is completely soaked through.  Please note that the respirator is really important here.  The chemical is really strong, and it can damage your lungs and make you feel dizzy.

Steps 4 and 5: Dry the fabric completely. I hung it on the clothesline in the utility room overnight. When the chemical is dry, the fabric will be stiff. Throw it in the dryer. I put it in with a few towels to tumble it around better, as just the fabric wasn't enough. I had it on high heat set for 30 minutes, but took it out around 15-20 minutes in. This took a lot of trial and error - every dryer will be different.  You'll know when it's done, because the pile will turn black and brittle.  If it has heated unevenly, the directions say that you can put it back in the dryer or iron.  DO NOT put it back in the dryer!  DO NOT attempt to iron.  These are MISTAKES.  You will burn holes in the fabric.  Instead, turn your hair dryer on high and move it back and forth over the unprocessed parts.  You will see them turn black right before your eyes, and so can stop before you over-process.

You can see the right side has been scraped off.

Step 6: Scrape off the pile using the edge of a credit card. Some of the pile will still probably not have processed correctly.  If this happens, heat with the hair dryer again.  If it still doesn't work, then you didn't soak the fabric enough, and you have a new piece to your design. 

You can see in the left side of the photo that the chemical has processed.  The right side of the photo shows what it looks like after being scraped off, leaving the design.

Beware: lots and lots of pile ends up in your house.  It's everywhere right now.  It's like glitter, so try to contain it as much as possible.

Step 7: Wearing gloves and a respirator, soak fabric under cold running water.  Hand wash with liquid soap (I used Dawn dish detergent), lightly rubbing fabric between hands.  Rinse thoroughly.  This will remove the remaining chemical and any remnants of the pile that gets caught in the fabric.  As long as you don't have any holes in the fabric, it's pretty tough.  I didn't have any issues with it.  However, I tested this part of the process on the fabric I'd ruined, and the tiny holes that I had in the fabric absolutely shredded.  So please make sure that your fabric is intact; otherwise, you'll have a real problem.

Step 8:  After washing the fabric, place it between two towels and pat dry, then hang to dry completely.  If it gets wrinkly, you can steam it.  You might be able to tumble dry it, but at this point, I wasn't taking any chances, so I didn't try it.

The Finished Product:

When you've finished all of the steps, this is what you're left with.  As you can see, there are a few mistakes where the velvet didn't process correctly, but for Clara's dress, this adds to the design.  Obviously, if your design needs to be perfectly clean, then practice until you've mastered the technique.


The following photo is what happens when you over-process.  Don't over-process.  Learn from my mistakes!  Even if you have a small hole, it will shred and ruin your entire project.  You can see on the lower right corner that I put some fray check to see what would happen.  It discolored the fabric, making it even worse.

So I ruined four of the six skirt panels this way because I'd already sewn the skirt together (to know where to put the design).  I remade the four panels separately. 

That's how I fiber-etched Clara's skirt.  I may try this technique again in the future, but on a much smaller scale.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chicago TARDIS 2015 Wrap-Up

Thankgiving weekend is always the highlight of a Chicago Whovian's year: Chicago TARDIS!  Every year is better than the last, and this year was no different.  We had the most amazing time, saw a bunch of old friends, and made lots of new ones.  We also did a really bad job of taking photos this time around ...

We'd been planning since January to make Clara and Robin Hood from Robot of Sherwood, but when Jenna Coleman was announced as a guest, we upgraded to Priority memberships and purchased a photo session with her.  However, only a few weeks before the con, she had to cancel due to her filming schedule.  While I was relieved (for some reason, I was ridiculously anxious at the thought of meeting her in our costumes), that meant that we had spent a whole lot of money on nothing.  Even though we'll get a refund for the photo session, we hadn't gotten the upgrade for any other reason.  So, we skipped going to my in-laws' Thanksgiving dinner on Friday night and attended the con together on Friday for the first time.

Dalek Jo
Dalek Ten
One of the other guests was Katy Manning, who played Jo Grant during the Third Doctor's era.  When we watched The Curse of Peladon, I fell in love with her Oh-So-Seventies dress.  Because Katy was going to be a guest, I decided to make the dress.  I also decided to wear it and take part in the Chronological Cavalcade, a costume "parade" of sorts.

Jo and the TARDIS together again ...

After the Cavalcade was over, we stayed for Lobby Con, which is essentially just a big party out in the lobby, with everything from drinking to games going on.  Matt and I played a round of Cards Against Gallifrey, hung out with a bunch of friends from past cons, and met a whole new group as well.

On Saturday, we arrived at 10am dressed as the Clockwork Droid and the Eleventh Doctor.  I lurked for a while in the lobby, and several guests went past and checked me out, and a few complimented the costume.  At one point, an older British gentleman kept trying to talk to me, telling me how great I looked, but I stayed in character and didn't reply.  He then wandered over and struck up a conversation with Matt, who was holding an extra Clockwork mask (I wanted the people at my panel to be able to pick it up and look at it, and not have to touch the mask that had just been on my face.  Yuck.)  It turns out that he was Richard Franklin, also known as Captain Yates from UNIT.  Honestly, I hadn't even realized he was there!  He told Matt how amazing the Clockwork mask was and tried to buy it off of him.  When Matt told me this later, I told him he should have just given it to him!

We then went to the panel that I was hosting with my friends Brandon and Amanda.  It was really well-attended, but I think that next year we need to move past the "beginning" cosplay, as we had few true beginners in the audience, and so the things that we were talking about were a bit more complex than they were ready for.  Apparently, not everyone dives right into sewing!  A lot of the information from that panel can be found here.

After the panel, I met up with my friend Valerie, who cosplays a female Clockwork Droid.  She's an actress, and her movement and portrayal is absolutely brilliant, and I felt a bit intimidated by her.  While I think I do a great job, she's leagues beyond me, and I found myself sometimes just standing and watching her, but not wanting to try it out for myself because I thought I'd look pretty silly.  We wandered around for an hour scaring people.  It was one of the best experiences I've had at any con so far.  There was a large party staying at the hotel that had nothing to do with the con, and they were going around on Friday night and Saturday morning taking photos with people.  There was one family with three or four boys, and the boys were getting their photos taken with me.  A little girl was hiding behind her mother during that time, and when they suggested she also get in the photo, she started WAILING.  I have to admit that it made me laugh.

Matt had entered us Friday morning for Saturday night's Masquerade, and turned in all of our reference and construction photos.  We went to the Masquerade meeting at 3:00, and then went home to have lunch and change.  We were supposed to be back for judging no later than 7:30, and we almost didn't make it.  Apparently, even with giving ourselves more than three hours to get ready, it wasn't enough.  When we got to the green room, the judges were nowhere to be found.  We kept getting updates: they'll be here in 30 minutes!  20 minutes!  And then the updates stopped, so finally I went over and asked where the judges were.  One woman stood up and said she was a judge, and she'd already seen our documentation.  But if there was anything else we wanted to add ... I was a bit confused.  The other two times we've entered, the judges were very thorough, taking photos of our costumes and examining them.  However, she didn't look at anyone else's costumes any more thoroughly than she did ours.  Okay ...

One of the other contestants was a young Robot of Sherwood Clara.  She made her entire costume herself.  I was utterly impressed, and I'm glad that she won an award in the Young Fan category.  I still can't get over what a great job she did.

Two Claras
My friend Stacey was also in the Masquerade in her gorgeous Missy costume.  In fact, one of the best parts of the weekend was that I spent a lot of time with her, and we were even next to each other in the lineup.  Though we live only about 20 minutes from each other, we can't seem to get our acts together to meet up between cons.

Missy loves the Master Minion.

Back to the Masquerade!  We had a great time, and we ended up winning Best in Show - Workmanship.  That was pretty awesome.  After the Masquerade, I changed out of Clara so that I wouldn't ruin the dress, and we joined Lobby Con.  We couldn't stay too long, though, as we were both absolutely exhausted.

Lobby Con, where Clara, Davros, and Leela hang out together.

On Sunday, we suited up as Clara and Robin again in the morning.  After lunch, Matt changed into civvies and I put Jo back on.  We went to the UNIT and Torchwood panel, which consisted of Burn Gorman and the three guests from the Third Doctor era.  As John Levene (Sergeant Benton) got on stage, he asked if anyone had filmed his cabaret panel Friday night.  Well, our friend Alyssa from Space Gypsies had, and so she raised her hand.  He told her he'd like a copy, so after the panel she left her business card with the staff.  That was pretty neat!  I hope that he does contact her and get his copy.

Gotta love Alyssa's K-9 outfit!

Overall, I think the person who enjoyed the con the most was Samual Anderson, who plays Danny Pink.  Every time we saw him, he was having a blast.  By Sunday, he was wearing a poncho and a pink paper crown from a Christmas cracker.

L-R: Richard Franklin, John Levene, Dan Starkey, Sam Anderson

I'm sure I left some stuff out, but we're still recovering from the weekend!  We LOVED seeing everyone, and we can't wait until next year!

Why a spoon, Doctor?
First Doctor Era