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Here's where the magic happens. I'll be posting about all of my experiences and experiments (both failed and successful ones), introducing you to my costumes, sharing fun stories, linking tutorials and useful products, and who knows what else!


Filtering by Tag: tutorial

Caffeine Pt. 2

Michael MacWolff

Hey folks! So I had an inquiry to get some more details on how I put together Coco's gatling gun, specifically the drum portion, so I thought I'd share it with everyone! We all know I'm not always great at giving thorough explanations on how I make stuff, so please keep asking questions and it'll help me get better, and it'll help make things easier for all of you guys who want to know how I make this junk! So ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS! It'll be good for all of us!

I did make this piece a while ago, and as such I can't go back in time and take additional photos of the construction process, but I do have some. And, fortunately, I currently have the gun back to do some repairs/touch ups so I can take a few more close-up detail shots for you guys.

So for the construction of the large drum, I used several layers of foamcore board, as well as a thick piece of styrofoam (2" or 3" thick), all of which I cut into circles. You can see the pieces in this photo:

Sorry it's a bit blurry, but it's the only photo I have. You can see the thick styrofoam piece on the left, and the other foamcore circles to the right of it. If you look at the foamcore pieces in the center, you can see I have the exhaust slits (or whatever those black striped parts are supposed to be) cut out of the very top layer of foamcore board. Photo for reference on the black bits that are on the front of the drum:

There are also the indentations on the outside of the drum, which you can see more clearly in this gif. I carved those into the outside of the thick styrofoam piece using a dremel tool (you can see the indentations in the top photo).

Once I had all of the pieces cut out, I then made a large round hole in the top center of each layer, which is where the barrels would be sticking out of. I used a straight 3" PVC connector piece to hold the gun barrels, so the hole needed to be that size to fit the PVC piece into. You can see the hole/PVC piece in the next photo:

You can also see from this photo, that this is the point where I glued all of the layers together: the front layers of foamcore board with the exhaust slits on them, the thick piece of styrofoam with the indentations on the side, and a few more layers of foamcore on the back, to make for a smooth back face on the drum.

Once that was all glued together, I globbed on a bunch of spackling paste over all of the exposed foam (including all of the exposed parts on the styrofoam as well as the edges of all of the foamcore board. The point of that is so that when the spackling paste dries, it can be sanded to a smooth surface, which you don't get so much with the texture of the foam. It also helps protect the foam, which doesn't stand up well to abuse on it's own, and can melt if you spray paint it, so it's a really good idea to do this step! This next photo shows what it looks like after the spackling & sanding (though this was taken after I added a bunch more stuff).

You can also see all of the other bits attached at this point to. The piece that it sticking ctraight up in this photo and has the trigger button on it is a thin piece of wood. The handle and the panel that the handle is attached to are both also made of wood. You can see the little silver bolts on the wood panel. That's what keeps all of those pieces firmly in place. I drilled two holes into the wood panel, as well as the thin piece that the trigger is attached to, and drilled holes to match into the top part of the drum, straight through the large PVC piece that's set into it. The bolts go in the top, through both layers of wood, and all the way through the drum and stick out on the inside of the PVC piece. There's nuts that tighten onto them on that side, and they keep everything sturdily together.

As for the trigger piece itself, it's 4-5 layers of foamcore stacked together, with the same spackling paste added before sanding.

In addition, I used more PVC fittings for the cylindrical part that sticks out of the back of the drum. There's another straight connector piece, and then an end cap, all glued together (I think I used E-6000 for that) and lined up directly over the opening of the PVC fitting set into the drum, so that the hole continues through the extra PVC pieces (that's so the gun barrels can slide all the way back into the extra PVC fittings).

So the extra PVC pieces fit on like this.

So the extra PVC pieces fit on like this.

Now for the other pieces that stick out on the back of the drum, I improvised a bit so I apologize for the weird materials list/methodology here.

The larger weird round bit to the right is a 16oz. Mod Podge container that I cut the top part (the top part being where the lid is normally screwed on) off of and glued to the back, next to the PVC protrusion. The smaller piece that sticks further out from there is a small plastic paint container (akin to these) which was glued to the top of the mod podge continer.

Next, to fill in the gap between the two cylindrical parts, I cut a long rectangle of paperboard (from a cereal box) and attached it to the PVC protrusion, wrapped it around the Mod Podge container, and then to the other side of the PVC protrusion. I hot glued and mod podged around all of the areas where the paperboard piece connected to the base of the drum so that the area inside the paperboard piece was essentially water-tight. I then stuffed a bunch of aluminum foil in the empty space, mixed up some liquid plastic, and poured it into the wells with the aluminum foil to make a solid surface.

The blank white spot is where the little PVC elbow went (and as you can see, is one of the bits I need to repair). Here's the little elbow piece.

As you can see it's pretty much just a PVC joint with a small piece of PVC pipe in the one end. It's also one that has a femail screw end, so the other side has a male screw cap. The one side was glued onto the long thin wooden board directly below the trigger piece, and the other side was glued to the back of the drum portion on the PVC protrusion (where the blank spot in the paint job is).

And I believe that's about it. I hope that was helpful, but certainly if there's more any of you need information on, don't be shy!!

All Sparkly Glowy

Michael MacWolff

Hey folks, as promised, I wanted to show you the construction of one of my recently finished commissions, a staff for the Crystal Maiden of Dota 2! For those of you who don't know what that looks like, here:

So where to begin? Well, I started with the request that the staff be potentially modular, and ultimately that it be easy to ship to Canada, as well as transport to & from cons. So I started with a flagpole. I've tried taking dowels and trying to use dowel screws to allow you to screw & unscrew the rods together, but I don't have a machine that lines things up perfectly for me, so that's never turned out particularly well. The additional benefit of the flagpole is that I could have both the crystalline topper as well as the bottom embellishments on the staff both be removable from the center rod.

Construction started on opposite ends, using cardboard to create the gold portion of the topper that would serve as the base for the crystal. Why cardboard, you ask? Well, first of all I needed to have something I could carve the middle out of as I layered it together, because the crystal needed to light up, so I had to hide the battery pack(s) somewhere. Also, my intention was to cover the gold part of the topper with worbla, and while you can cover foamcore with worbla, the heat tends to make the foam expand and makes it a bit more difficult to work with. On the opposite end, however, I did actually use my standard foamcore layering method to create the foot of the staff.

The next bit was probably the most time-consuming: patterning out & making the crystal. Thankfully I did pretty well in high school geometry so putting the pattern together wasn't too painful. I also had some help from this lovely tutorial by Kohalu Cosplay, which gave me some good pointers and helpful methods & supply ideas to use. I didn't follow it quite to the letter as I needed a bit more flex to my crystal, but it's definitely a great tutorial to look at if you're needing a place to start on something like this.

As I always recommend (do I always recommend it? I should because you should always do it, so I will recommend it henceforth), pattern your things out on paper first. Well, cardstock in this case so it actually has enough oomph to keep its 3D shape when you tape it together. Also, once you have the flat shapes made, actually assemble them. I realize that's probably an unnecessary note because you are all brilliant people out there, but testing this part by putting it together with some masking tape can save you a lot of headaches later when you're using your actual materials.

And speaking of said materials, you're probably wondering what I used for the actual crystal. I used these lovely translucent report covers, found at my local Office Depot. They're pretty much the same thing I used for Scarlet Flandres's wings if you remember those go look in the "Prop Gallery" for the big wings with the rainbow of glowing crystals). I even colored them the same way: with lots of Sharpie.

Once you transfer the pattern to your translucent plastic sheets, you'll want to score the fold lines with something; I used the dull side of an exacto knife... just be careful if you do the same, I went a little too deep in a couple of spots and cut all the way through the plastic. A ball-point pen might be a better idea to avoid that issue. After all of your pieces are cut out & scored, sharpie away!

Now, before I actually constructed this monstrosity, I put together an understructure to build the crystal around, so that the twinkle lights that would provide illumination had something to hold them in place, and because once the crystal was built, I wouldn't be able to manipulate anything on the inside. I simply used another piece of the translucent plastic with long tines sticking out to wrap the light strand around.

Now that the lights were in place, I needed something to diffuse the light a bit more evenly in the crystal, so now I got to cut up some white plastic grocery bags (yes, like the kind they put your stuff in when you go to the store... any store) and wrap them around the lights, using a bit of packing tape here or there to secure them.

Voila! Our light has now been diffused a bit, and thankfully the translucent colored plastic will help diffuse it more. Which brings us to the actual crystal construction. This thing is actually constructed and held together using packing tape. Seriously, that's the extent of what's holding this crystal together (Ok, I did use some E-6000 on the edges of the smaller crystal offshoots to help hold them in place, but it's mostly the packing tape).

**A note about this step: put the side you sharpied the hell out of to the INSIDE.

Now you'll notice all of the glare and unevenness from the tape. That's just a hazard of the wierd shapes of this particular crystal. If you're making a more geometric shape (like the smaller crystals on top), that happens a lot less. But you can also help remedy that and make it look more crystal-y by now sharpie-ing the entire outside of the crystal (that's what I did... and you'll want to buy at least two sharpies of the color you need, I killed one and a half in the process of making this). Once the outside layer was covered in an even coat of sharpie, I shellacked the entire crystal. I used this spray shellac for this step, and sprayed about 5 coats on to make sure it was even & well-covered.

See how much nicer that looks? You'll also notice I've already put the worbla over the base at this point too. Now for the last bit, the round parts on the bottom of the staff. I actually should make a little tutorial on how I did this because it was kinda wonky, but I used cardstock & masking tape to make the... I don't even know what shape to call that... round, sharp-edged protrusion. Then once the base was down I slathered it in spackling paste, let it dry, then sanded. Rinse, repeat several times until it was smooth enough for me to be happy.

The only thing left to make now are the round gems the go on the staff head, and then to start painting! With the crystal on top, I couldn't really spray on a base coat without the risk of ruining the crystal, so I brush painted everything. Don't forget my rule of undercoating your metallics! I used a honey brown color under all of that gold and it turned out lovely.

Here's the gem, it's just blue sculpey, but I did use the sharpie on it as well to give it the same tone as the crystal, then I sprayed it with the shellac to make it nice and shiny!

Here's the gem, it's just blue sculpey, but I did use the sharpie on it as well to give it the same tone as the crystal, then I sprayed it with the shellac to make it nice and shiny!

Here's the majority of the paint job, on all of the pieces.

Here's the majority of the paint job, on all of the pieces.

The very last part was taking some fur (it was actually come of the leftover trim from Ashnard's cape) to make the little fluffballs that hang from the branches on the staff head. So here you can see the finished product!

I'm very pleased to say that I've already heard back from the customer and it sounds like everything arrived safely and she loves it. I'm hoping in the next week or so that she'll send me some photos of the whole costume put together that I can share with all of you, but until then, cheers!

Tutorial... Thursday?

Michael MacWolff

Ok so it's usually Tutorial Tuesday cause you get better alliteration that way but I was still working on constructing this thing on Tuesday to we're changing things up a tad. Deal with it.
Heck, at least there's actually a post this week, considering Ohayo starts tomorrow. Which on that note you can expect a flood of photos again once the weekend is over with. Now, on to what we're actually making.

So remember that Evangelion Unit 01 I made for my lovely husband for christmas? Well I was getting jealous so I put myself together a Unit 02 and took a bunch of photos so I could put together a tutorial. You all know how I am with those, so I apologize in advance. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, it's this:

So where to begin? My intention is for this to work well with helping you make any sort of similar ensemble, not just an Evangelion Unit. Also, the focus is going to be more on getting the designs on there and less about the actual construction of the garment. There are lots of other great tutorials out there to help with that part... and I didn't take pictures of half of the actual construction. Anyway, let's start with materials & tools; here's generally what you'll need:

  • Bases for your Pattern: Go to the thrift store and find a zip-up hoodie that fits the way you want them to. It doesn't matter what color they are or what's on them, as long as they fit the way you like, because we'll just be ripping them apart to make our pattern.
  • Fleece - I prefer anti-pill fleece to blizzard fleece, but they're pretty comparable, and sometimes you can only find the color you need in one or the other. As for how much, that's going to depend a lot on your sizing, but generally speaking you'll need about 1.5 yards for the hoodie. If you're going to make the pants too (which I'm not talking about much in this tutorial) you'll probable need about 1-1.5 yards more, depending on how tall you are. And don't forget to pick up the other colors you'll need for all of the designs/decorations. You'l have to estimate how much you'll need of those yourself, but thankfully Joann fabrics usually has a bunch of fleece remnants up to 1.5yds so you can usually pick up most of what you need for cheap!
  • Zipper - The one I used was about 22," and I actually used the zipper I pulled off of the pattern hoodie for Unit 01 cause it was a good color. Reduce/Reuse/Recycle!
  • Thread - You will need an assload of black thread for this. Buy the biggest spool you can find. Hell, maybe buy 2 or 3. I literally exhausted my supply of black thread on these two projects, I'm not just being facetious.
  • Scissors & Thread Snips - You'll want a good pair of scissors to cut fleece or you will end up giving yourself arthritis. You'll also want a pair of Microtip scissors, or a small pair that you can get into tight corners for when we're doing the applique portion.
  • Sewing Machine - That should be fairly obvious. You can try hand-sewing this if you want, let me know how it turns out in 40 years when you're finished.
  • Sharpie - I don't have any snarky comments for this one, sorry.
  • Reference pictures
  • Pins
  • Seam ripper (optional)


Ok, now that we have all that, it's time to get started! Step 1 is to pull apart your thrift store finds. Try to be careful as you're doing this because we'll be using the pieces to create our pattern. You can either carefully cut along the seams or rip all of the seams with your seam-riper/thread snips, cutting is faster but you're more likely to mess up your pattern.

These are (almost) all of the ipmortant bits from the hoodie. The sleeve, front panel, and back. You'll also want the hood, I just forgot to put it in the photo.

These are (almost) all of the ipmortant bits from the hoodie. The sleeve, front panel, and back. You'll also want the hood, I just forgot to put it in the photo.

Now we're going to lay out the pattern pieces on our fleece and trace around the outside with the sharpie, then cut around the shape, being sure to leave a decent amount of seam allowance.

Once you have your pattern pieces marked and cut, it's time to mark out your designs. Use your reference images to see where different parts should go and do your best to draw them on your pattern piece. For this step, we're only going to draw the designs on one of our two matching pieces. For example, we're only going to put the pattern on one of the two sleeve pieces, and one of the front panels instead of both. The reason for this is that I have a trick to help in duplicating the designs so it turns out a little more symmetrical. If you're good at free-handing your designs and copying your work onto both sides evenly, then be my guest, I bow to a skill far greater than my own.

Here's the sleeve for Unit 02 with all of the designs marked.

Here's the sleeve for Unit 02 with all of the designs marked.

Now comes the fun part, actually adding your designs! What you need to do is take a smaller piece of fleece that matches the color of the design you're adding, and pinning it to the opposite side from where your markings are. This can be tricky and you'll have to feel for it, but you want to make sure the piece is bigger than the area of the design, and that it is lined up directly with where the design is going to be; also, you need to make sure everything is flat or you'll get weird wrinkles in your design. Don't worry, after you've done it a few times you'll get a feel for it.

Here's what it looks like from the side you'll be working from. Notice how all of the pins are to the outside of the design, so we know there's plenty of extra fleece on the other side to have our design fully covered.

Here's what it looks like from the side you'll be working from. Notice how all of the pins are to the outside of the design, so we know there's plenty of extra fleece on the other side to have our design fully covered.

Here's that same piece from the other side.

Here's that same piece from the other side.

Now we're ready to start sewing! You'll be sewing directly on the sharpie lines you've marked, and you'll want to complete the shape all the way around. To sew, you'll be using a tight zig-zag stitch on your machine. You'll want your stitch length to be just above 0 and your width to be around 2 or 3 (this is for my machine, on other machines you might need to use a different width; hopefully you know your machine well enough to figure it out). If all is set properly, your stitching will go slowly because you're taking a lot of small stitches stacked next to each other as you go around. You'll have to be careful though, because with these settings you can easily catch your stitches from underneath and end up with a big ball of thread in the middle of your design, so you'll have to watch closely to make sure your fabric is still moving along, even though it'll only be moving a little bit at a time.

 Here you can see the bold line of stitching (sorry it's not super in focus). You'll also notice that when a design goes "off the edge" that is to say, it ends on a seam, you'll want to carry your stitches over the edge line and you can just use a longer straight stitch so you won't use up quite as much time and thread.

 Here you can see the bold line of stitching (sorry it's not super in focus). You'll also notice that when a design goes "off the edge" that is to say, it ends on a seam, you'll want to carry your stitches over the edge line and you can just use a longer straight stitch so you won't use up quite as much time and thread.

Now, you'll want to flip your piece over and use your small scissors to clip the extra fleece off around the outside of your design. You'll want to get as close to your stitches as possible, just be careful not to snip the thread itself!

Ok now it's not even the same part of the hoodie god I'm so bad a this.

Ok now it's not even the same part of the hoodie god I'm so bad a this.

Now rinse and repeat for the rest of the designs! Here's a progression on the hood:

2016-01-13 08.35.25.jpg

Now we have some awesome pattern pieces! Now we need to transfer out designs to the other side so that they're nice and symmetrical. First, take your finished piece and set it down with the right side (the side with all the stuff you just added) facing up. Now put your unmarked piece right-side down, so that the outline you drew of the pattern piece is facing up. Now we need to line up all of the edges. Start with the corners, and send a pin through right on the line of your as-yet unmarked piece, then find the same corner on the finished side such that is't sticking straight through the same spot. Once you line up all of the corners, you can add a few extra pins to make sure the edges are lined up properly too. Of course I'm a dummy and didn't take a photo of the pins, but hopefully that all made sense. The next part is making your designs on this side. You can feel the seems through the fabric with your fingers and follow them to essentially trace your designs onto the new piece.

Now you're ready to repeat the process for the other side! It's a time-consuming process, but it looks really cool when you're done! Once all of your pieces have their proper designs on them, it's time to construct your hoodie! I think you can probably handle that much if you were ambitious enough to try the rest of this, but if you need help with putting the pieces together, I'm sure you can find someone much better at tutorials than I am to help you with that.