Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Making a Baby Hat

This is Matty:
We picked him up at the church rummage sale for 50 cents. At the time, he was grungy and wearing a little cap, so I had no idea that when I cleaned him up, he could easily be mistaken for this:

People stop us all the time and ask us if he's a Chucky doll. This isn't always bad. A few people have asked if they can buy him from us, since having your own murder doll is apparently a thing. This really upsets Amelia, who wants the world to know that Matty's a nice doll who would never hurt anyone and is definitely not for sale. It's gotten so bad that she's started insisting that he needs to wear a hat whenever he's outside. 
I sunburn easily. Also, I look evil.
Because she's entering a fashion-conscious, baby-doll-loving phase, Amelia wants Matty to wear different hats every day, to match his outfits and his mood. As a result, I've learned to make a quick baby hat in about 20 minutes without a commercial pattern. Here's how:

First, you need to measure your baby's head from the forehead to the nape of the neck and around the circumference of the head where a hat would sit. (If you're making hats for a gift and don't have a baby handy, or if you have a wiggly baby who doesn't like being measured, Matty wears a newborn-sized cap and his head measures 16" around and 12" top to bottom).
Next you'll need to make your pattern. Fold a piece of tissue paper in half and mark half the measurement of your baby's head from top to bottom and 1/4 of the measurement around. Add a quarter inch or so to each side to give your baby a little room in his cap and add an inch or so to the bottom if you'd like to fold the hat over when you're done with it. So, for Matty's hat, I've measured 7" top to bottom and 4.5" across: 

Next, draw an arc from the top measurement out to the farthest circumference measurement and draw a straight line from the farthest circumference measurement to the bottom: 

Outside of those lines, draw 5/8" inches all the way around for your seam allowance: 

Turn the tissue paper to the other side and trace your lines, so you have a full hat pattern when you open up the paper: 
Cut four of these out on a piece of stretchy knit fabric. (I used one print here, but you can use a coordinating print for the lining). 
Match two of these pieces up, right sides together for the outside of the hat. Do the same with the remaining two pieces for the lining. Stitch together, using a 5/8" seam allowance. Trim the seam allowance and clip the curved part of the hat to the seam allowance. Turn the hat right side out and keep the lining inside out. 
Put the lining inside the hat, right sides together. Stitch the hat and lining together along the bottom of the hat, leaving a few inches open to turn: 

Turn the hat right-side out through the opening and slip-stitch the opening together. Turn up the bottom of the hat and it's ready to wear!

Now, Matty has a wardrobe full of hats, and Amelia's very happy! I've made these in fleece for warmer months, and I've started experimenting with embroidering them and stitching on flowers for Amelia's girlier dolls, too. 

Nature and Nurture

From the time I was in high school until Amelia was born, I spent every Halloween building haunted houses for charity. I have severe claustrophobia issues, so I don't actually enjoy walking through a haunted house, but I like building them. I like horror movies, and I'm crafty, so it was the perfect project for me. Then, we adopted Amelia, and I got to trick-or-treat again instead of building haunted houses, and that was fun, too.
Not pictured: A pillowcase full of Twix.
As Amelia's gotten older, it's been fun to see which traits she's picked up from me, and which traits are naturally a part of her. Lately, it seems that she's more herself than she is me. She is extroverted where I'm introverted. She loves the outdoors where I'm bookish. She has more interest in building with blocks than drawing with markers. I adore superheroes and she prefers My Little Pony.

That's okay. I've always encouraged her to be herself. In fact, as she's gotten older, we've been getting along better because we're not the same. I can wheedle her out of a bad mood. She can wake me up on a slow morning. Still, I've always selfishly hoped that she'll take something from me.

Then, today, I walked into my bedroom and found this taped to the closet:

Behind that door was a little girl yelling "Boo" with all her might.

"Was I scary?" she asked.

"Yes," I told her. "You were terrifying."

I was lying. I wasn't frightened. I was proud.

 If this is the only way she ever takes after me, I'll consider motherhood a job well done.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Making Lady Ash and Necronomicon Costumes

As you know, I went a little crazy for Comic-Con this year and made Lady Ash and Necronomicon Costumes:

There are lots of great tutorials online for making Ash costumes, Necronomicon costumes, book costumes, and zombie hunter costumes. I drew from those while making ours. So, this is less of a how-to than it is a breakdown of what I did right, what I did wrong, and what I'd do differently next time. 

My costume started as a plain blue shirt from Kohl's. I ripped off the left sleeve with a seam ripper (I didn't want to be too neat and tidy - it needed to look like it was torn off by demons), and let it sit in a bowl of very strong tea overnight to stain it a bit: 

After it had dried somewhat (I never put it in the dryer because I didn't want it to look too fresh), I splashed it with a generous amount of red acrylic paint that I had mixed with a bit of brown and thinned with a generous amount of water. This gave the shirt a "blood-soaked" look. 
Once that paint had dried, I wet a paintbrush with undiluted red paint and splattered it again to give it a look of thick, fresh blood stains. I then did the same thing with brown paint to give it a look of dried blood stains. 

I made the gun holster out of strips of brown vinyl stitched to a fashion ring. (It's the same kind of ring that's used to add interest to swimsuits and women's shirts. They sell them in packs of two at JoAnn's Fabrics). 

I bought my sawed-off shotgun online from Rubie's Costume Company. Once it arrived, I measured a holster and stitched it together. 

Both the gun and the holster were dry-brushed with black and brown paint to give them an aged look. I dry brush by dipping my paintbrush in undiluted paint, brushing it against newspaper until it's almost dry and then brushing it against the gun and the holster. It really brought out some of the wood grain details on the gun. 

My skirt was a simple knit skirt pattern that I stitched before cutting the hem at a jagged angle and staining it with more red paint. I didn't tea-dye the skirt because it was already brown. 

My chainsaw started life as a jug of Target-brand orange juice. I ripped off the label and spray-painted it silver before painting it with a thin layer of red. Then, I dry-brushed it with black. The blade and details were cut off of a toy chainsaw with a heat knife and glued onto the jug with E-6000. I dry-brushed them, too before giving everything a healthy, sloppy coat of red mixed with just a touch of brown. 

The fake blood that I used on my face and arm is a mixture of peanut butter, Hershey's syrup, corn syrup and lots and lots of red food coloring with just a few drops of blue. It looked realistic, clotted just like real blood, and could be sculpted into fairly convincing "wounds."

After that, my female Ash costume was pretty much finished. Pete's costume took a little more work. My first attempt at a Necronomicon did not go well. I duct-taped two tri-fold boards (the type of board that's usually used for school projects) together and duct-taped another piece of cardboard over the front as a cover: 

This was a great idea until I sculpted the facial details on the front cover with cellu-clay: 
The book of the dead is bound in human flesh, and Cellu-clay was a great medium that gave the book cover a lumpy, skin-like look, but it was very heavy when it dried. It also shrank as it dried and curved the book cover away from the book, which was not a good effect. I'd use cellu-clay again if I was making a small book as a prop, but it wasn't good for this project. I started again, using a piece of foam core as the book cover. This was much lighter and sturdier. This time, I "sculpted" the facial features out of masking tape before covering them with a very thin layer of paper mache: 

I only filled in some of the smaller details around the eyes, nose, and mouth with the cellu-clay. The teeth are just triangles cut out of cardboard and stuck into the clay. Once everything had dried (about 24 hours), I gave it all a nice coat of gesso for texture before painting it brown and filling in the eyes, nose, and mouth with black. Then, I dry-brushed the whole thing with black paint, gave it some lighter brown highlights, and painted the teeth ivory (bright white just wouldn't do). I covered everything with a thick coat of Modge Podge to really make it shine. 

I kept the paper mache clear of the book's spine so that it would really open. On the inside, I glued a piece of ivory poster board (I started with white poster board and painted it ivory, as the fancy artist's poster board was quite expensive). It took a couple of attempts, but I finally sketched a fairly convincing demon on the "front page."

The Necronomicon is inked in blood, but I sketched the demon out of brown artist pastels. I used an awl to poke two small holes in the front cover and ran a bit of elastic through. I also used used an awl to poke two holes in the back cover through which I stitched a hook. The elastic attached to the hook to keep the book closed while Pete was walking around. 

The straps are brown duct tape, which looked like leather from a distance. I ran them through holes on the front and back covers. The book stayed on Pete's shoulders through two days of Comic-Con and only needed a little bit of duct tape repair by the end of the second day. 

And, that's how I made the Comic-Con costumes. I was really excited about this project, and it's given me some great ideas for Halloween this year. Amelia's already got some costume suggestions, and I'm looking forward to working with cardboard and paper mache again. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Best Stuff From Comic-Con 2013

I made the unfortunate decision to walk around Comic-Con with my right hand in  a chainsaw this year, so I didn't get to take as many pictures as I would have liked. I still got some shots of great costumes and goodies, though. Here's what I managed to photograph on the rare moments I had my right hand free.

I'm a big fan of the '66 Batman series, so it was really cool to see this Batman walking around on the convention floor: 

 Hot Toys was also debuting these lifelike action figures of Burt Ward and Adam West: 

Also from Hot Toys was this 1/6 scale '89 Batmobile. Who needs the Barbie convertible when you've got this?

This Aquaman was possibly the best costume we saw on Thursday:

This cosplayer had Tony Stark's look down perfectly: 

I loved the goggles on this Dr. Horrible costume. Next year, I might have to borrow this idea:

Amelia was very excited to have her picture taken with all of the Power Rangers: 

A typical scene from outside the convention center on Sunday:

The Walking Dead was hosting a chance to walk through the zombie-infested prison and visit the governor's man cave: 

We didn't see as many steampunk goodies this year, but this girl added a bit of steam to her awesomely gorgeous Black Cat costume:

This intricately detailed 10" Batman figure in a black metallic Batsuit was a Play Arts Comic-Con exclusive: 

More Comic-Con 2013 exclusives - Hasbro's Glitter 'n Gold Jem and Mattel's 1966 Catwoman: 

Amelia's favorite cosplay was this Vanellope from Wreck-It-Ralph. I have a feeling that I'll be making her a similar costume for Halloween this year. 

Another Amelia favorite was this Funko exclusive My Little Pony:

And, that's it for Comic-Con. Next year, I'm going to make a costume that gives me full use of my camera hand! I'm still regretting all of the pictures I didn't get.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Best Laid Plans...

Yesterday, things did not go exactly as planned.

My first idea for our "family day" at Comic-Con was to wear our 2012 Halloween costumes. We went as Batman, Robin, and Catwoman last year and, while Amelia's costume was looking a little worse for wear after nine months of superhero dress-up, I knew that we'd have fun.
Well, two of us would have fun. Pete would be sweating like crazy in the batmask. 
Then, Amelia finally saw The Avengers (I'd deemed it inappropriate last year when she was six, but she's seven now, and a little less easy to scare). She fell in love with the Black Widow, and wanted to go to Comic-Con in a spy costume. With no time left to make another costume, I bought a Black Widow costume online. I figured that she'd go in costume to Comic-Con, and Pete and I would wear jeans and T-shirts and spend the day taking pictures of her.

Then, on Wednesday, with only 12 hours to spare, Amelia started to feel shy about wearing a costume in public and asked if we could all wear matching costumes. I had two options - throw together Hulk and Captain America costumes overnight, or figure out a way for her to take part in our Evil Dead themed cosplay. Since I was two hours away from my sewing machine and had less than half a day to work, I chose the second option.

Amelia hasn't seen the first two Evil Dead films, and she hasn't seen the reboot. She hasn't even seen Army of Darkness in its entirety. What she has seen is a brief scene in the middle of the film where Ash is tormented by several tiny, evil versions of himself. They tie him up and stab him with a fork in a scene that's reminiscent of both Gulliver's Travels and the Three Stooges. It's very funny, and Amelia loves it. So, we decided that she would go as one of the little Ashes.

You can see the tiny Ashes on the left, poking Ash with a fork.

I ran to Wal-Mart at 10:00 P.M. and grabbed a boy's dress shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. I tore the sleeve off of the shirt and, working in the bathtub of the Super 8 San Diego, splashed it with a bit of red paint. I also made her a holster out of brown duct tape. Fortunately, the tiny Ashes don't have guns or chainsaws, so I didn't have to worry about too many props, but I did cut a fork out of foam core that I painted silver. It wasn't a perfect costume, but it was what I could do with so little time.

We walked to Comic-Con together on Sunday, and fellow fans were approaching us before we even reached the convention center. Amelia was tickled to receive the attention and have a chance to talk about the "funny part of the movie." She wasn't shy about being in costume and had a great time hopping around all of the booths at the convention and catching previews of her favorite cartoons.

Amelia spent today talking about what she wanted to dress up as next year. (I'm just crossing my fingers that I can snag tickets for next year). I think I have a little Comic-Con fan on my hands, and I couldn't be happier.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Day One of Comic- Con: My Costume Experience

In 1997, I went through a terrible breakup. Out of spite and a desire to never see my ex again, I kept his VHS tapes. One of those tapes was Army of Darkness, the final film in the Evil Dead trilogy.

Trapped in Time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas.
Best. Tagline. Ever.

I was going through a difficult time with the breakup and trying to find a job after college, and I started watching Army of Darkness almost constantly. Oddly enough, it made me feel better. It's a hilarious, almost cartoonish send-up of a medieval horror/action flick, and it's impossible to have a bad day on a day you've watched it.

Eventually, I found a job and met my husband, but I didn't stop watching Army of Darkness at least a couple of times a month. In fact, when I got my first DVD player in 1998, I ran out immediately and bought the entire Evil Dead series.

There are not enough words to express how much I love these movies. I've memorized most of the lines. I have named my embroidery machine and my car Ash, after the films' chainsaw-armed hero played by Bruce Campbell. (One of my other sewing machines is named Bruce). I watch the entire trilogy every Christmas Eve, the way some people watch It's a Wonderful Life. I own every version of the DVD and at least five Ash/Bruce Campbell action figures are prominently displayed in my office. 

These are my go-to movies for when I'm feeling down and, this year, I've been watching them a lot. When I was diagnosed with pneumonia in January, reading Army of Darkness comics helped me deal with the pain of my illness and loneliness of hospitalization. I saw the reboot of Evil Dead right after having throat surgery in May and, for the two hour duration of the film, I was completely out of my agony.

Evil Dead: A post-surgery alternative to Vicodin.

Recently, on a day when I was wearing an Army of Darkness T-shirt, Pete suggested that I go all-out and make an Evil Dead costume for Comic-Con this year. He was half-joking, but I thought it was a wonderful idea. I normally don't dress up for conventions and I'm not very comfortable with public attention, but I really loved the idea of paying tribute to a series of movies that has meant so much. I grabbed my sewing machine - the one named Ash - and got started.

There are a lot of female characters in the Evil Dead series of films. There are so many that one of my DVDs has a special feature titled "The Women of Evil Dead," and (SPOILER ALERT) the hero of the new reboot is a woman. However I really wanted to dress up as Ash.

Obviously, I'd need to make a few modifications to the costume.

Along the way, we decided that Pete should dress up, too. Since I was going as Ash, my first idea was that he should go as Evil Ash, but he suggested that he go as the Necronomicon, the book of the dead that awakens the films' demons.

It took a couple of weeks of work and a few book-building mishaps, but I completed our costumes on Wednesday, just in time for Comic-Con yesterday.

I'm usually watching the Evil Dead flicks in a bit of a vacuum, as they're not that popular with too many of my friends. So, I was really surprised by the positive reaction to our costumes. We were approached for photos by other fans, some of whom were wearing Evil Dead T-shirts, and so many people shared stories about how they love these movies. I even met a few more Ashes:
This Ash had a passing resemblance to Bruce Campbell and his costume was spot-on accurate.
This fan was dressed as S-Mart Ash, one of my favorite costumes from the films.
Overall, the experience was wonderful. It was great to see that these movies have touched so many people the way they've touched me. As a fan, it was so affirming. It's one of the great things that happen at Comic-Con.
I've become a convert to wearing a costume to Comic-Con. It's something very special to share your love for a film and find other fans. I don't know what I'm going to wear next year, but I'm already thinking.
Of course, I'll have more pictures of Comic-Con later and details on how I made the costumes. In the meantime, we're going back on Sunday in plainclothes. It will be Amelia's turn to wear a costume, and I hope she has the same great experience I did.