D*C Hotel Woes and Young Skywalker

I had an atypical experience booking the Marriott last October. Usually I just sit there trembling like a chihuahua for about half an hour waiting for the rooms to drop then I get one with no trouble. This time was different. The site was being sluggish, as usual, but then it froze on me. When it came back up a few seconds later all the rooms were gone. I went numb with panic (I know, first world problems) and started hitting refresh as though my life depended on it. Finally, I accepted defeat and reserved myself to scrounging through the virtual dumpster for cast-off rooms in the coming months. It was almost an hour later when I decided to try again just for giggles. Holy crap, it went through! I got a confirmation number and everything…but did I really? I kept going back and checking it to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. I still log in and check that the reservation is there every few weeks. I’ve read accounts of people having their reservations dropped without notice so my paranoia isn’t unfounded in this case. Also, they were supposed to take the rest of the balance in March but the charge never showed up. I learned via FB D*C Hotel groups that other people had been charged so that just adds fuel to my paranoia fire, yay!

Now for some more up-to-date notes so that I don’t forget details.

I’m working on a female version of Luke Skywalker’s “death star duel” costume from Return of the Jedi. The only real changes I’m making are hairstyle and fitting the costume to a lady. The hair won’t be anything fancy as she’d be a farmgirl and not inclined toward Padmé levels of ridiculousness. Something along the lines of Qui Gon Ginn’s hair, maybe. Through my research I found that the fabric was likely a wool gabardine so I found a stretch wool gabardine from Mood Fabrics. The stretch should help the pants fit better as they are pretty form-fitting even on Mark Hamill. For the bib (the gray/white flap that folds down), I got a linen hopsack fabric in pale gray from Jo-Ann Fabrics- Item # 15468820 for the curious. 

Progress has been slow due, in part, to being back in school- I’m working on a second Bachelor’s. I’ve done 4 classes so far counting the one summer course I’m currently enrolled in. The going is slow because I already have nearly all the gen. ed. classes I need and my core curriculum (Computer Science) is only offered at certain times of the year. I’ll get there.

More updates coming soon. Unless I’m tired or I forget or just don’t want to do it.

 

The Invisible (Wo)man

So I’ve been MIA for almost two years now, as is my way. I’ve been doing projects in that time but I’m really forgetful/lazy about documentation. I’m going to attempt to pick back up where I left off and fill in the gap with what I worked on.

We finally got a pretty nice headcast done in June of 2016. Ditching the alginate for silicone was what made the difference. Alginate is great, you can get nice detail from it and it’s affordable but the short pot life just isn’t conducive to a one-person operation. The silicone allowed Ken to take his time with the details since it’s able to be applied in layers. We shot a video of the entire process, I have a couple screenshots from it below. Unfortunately, the video appears to have been sacrificed to the gods of media since it’s now nowhere to be found on my computer. Also below is a shot of the first cast I got from this fancy silicone mold. The ears didn’t survive but other than that it turned out nicely and since the mold is indefinitely reusable I can do another pull later if I need one with intact ears. This was intended to sculpt a Catwoman cowl on so the ears were fated to be removed anyway. I still haven’t cleaned up the little blobs and whatnot on it, she just sits on my desk behind my laptop closing her eyes in exasperation at my laziness.

Fun Fact: When the silicone mold was being removed, it bruised my nose near the corner of my eye. My duplicate essentially gave me a black eye. There’s a lesson to be learned here.

 

Marriott

Got our room booked for the Marriott! I’m still shaking, I think I’m good on adrenaline for the entire week. They released the rooms about two minutes early so I jumped on it and had the booking done in less than a minute. Bless you, auto fill. It was surprisingly easy. Maybe too easy. It’s now about 10 minutes after booking opened and people on the D*C Rooms FB page are reporting that the hotel is sold out. Some are saying it sold out in 3 minutes and others are saying they were told by Marriott reps the rooms sold out in 30 seconds. I don’t know if we’ve just been lucky every year or if the difficulty in booking is just overblown. *shrug*

Now I just have to remember to cancel our room at the Ellis.

My First Worbla/EVA Foam Project

I needed a very particular 1950s football helmet but the only existing ones I could find were youth sized. Hoping that I could somehow make it fit, I went ahead and bought one off eBay. Upon its arrival it was clear that there was no way I’d ever get my head in there. Having watched some of Evil Ted Smith‘s videos on YouTube I felt vaguely confident that I could make an adult sized copy. I already had some EVA foam on hand that I’d picked up at Harbor Freight for my husband’s vault suit so I only needed to buy some Barge Cement and a Kershaw blade sharpener.

Using Evil Ted’s techniques I covered the football helmet in aluminum foil and then covered the foil in duct tape. I transferred design details such as the placement of the holes onto the duct tape. I also drew the lines where I’d be cutting the pattern into its various pieces along with hash marks to help line them back up later. I chose the side I thought looked best and used it for my master. I cut it apart with scissors and added slashes in the side piece to flatten it out. I then traced them onto brown paper to make my final pattern pieces.

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I used straight pins to hold the pattern in place while I drew on the foam. Next time I might try double sided tape instead to avoid putting unnecessary holes in the foam. I wasn’t confident I could keep my knife at a 90° angle with all those curves so I used my scroll saw to make most of my cuts. I heated my foam with a heat gun and started shaping it.

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Once my pieces were shaped I started to assemble them. It was about this time that I realized I hadn’t enlarged the pattern. Instead of panicking I just figured “eh, practice piece” but it actually turned out to be a perfect fit. Totally on purpose. Yup. Unfortunately I didn’t think to take a picture while wearing it at this stage despite how often I wore it around the house. Oh well. I tried to fill the seams in with caulk but it didn’t really smooth out to my liking. I think the gaps were bigger than they should have been because of the rougher cut of the scroll saw. I did try to smooth the edges out a bit but it was nowhere close to as smooth as a what a straight blade cut would have been.

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I shaped my ear pieces on the belt sander and glued them in place. With the base completed I started cutting out Worbla pieces for what I thought would be my finished surface. I layered the Worbla directly onto the foam and it seemed like everything would go as planned.

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I put the second piece on and was gently kneading the two center pieces together with my fingers when I had a great idea “I should use something as a rolling pin to make this faster and get a smoother surface!”. I located an empty vitamin bottle, heated the seam back up and started to roll the bottle across the seam. Except it didn’t roll. It immediately stuck to the Worbla and when I pulled the bottle off a big hunk of Worbla came with it. Panic ensued. I tried to put the blob back in place but the damage was done. I smoothed it out the best I could and moved on to the other pieces intending to come back later and work it down some more. I did one side piece and it was pretty much a disaster as well. The Worbla stretched out of shape around the slashes when I picked it up causing it to not line up properly so I had some overlapping and general mayhem. The stretched parts were thin and rougher in texture. For the next side piece I cut it into three pieces and placed them individually. This worked much better. For the ear piece I shaped it over the actual helmet with the intent of just heating up the edges and sticking it on my copy. That didn’t go well. The heat travelled onto the ear shape and basically caved it in. It was looking pretty grim at this stage. I decided on a new approach to the ear pieces and ripped off my first try along with the foam ear pieces I had glued on. I shaped some Worbla over the original helmet just like before but this time I backed it with Loctite Repair Putty so it’d hopefully hold its shape through the heating process.

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This approach worked much better but was not without flaws. I had to use Worbla scraps as clay and fill in gaps where the Loctite and the foam transitioned. I tried skimming wood filler over where the pieces met to help smooth it out but I wasn’t really satisfied with the results. Reheating caused big air bubbles to form under the Worbla which had to be pierced with a pin so the air could be released. At this stage I got a bit hung up on fiddling with it trying to get it as smooth as possible.

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I finally acknowledged the fact that I wasn’t making much headway smoothing the Worbla so I decided to bust out the Bondo. I did a layer of Gesso first to get a uniform color then I started layering on the Bondo. Once I got my first layer on I went over everything with my sander and brushed away all the Bondo dust. Then I just repeated the Bondo, sand, dust process until I was reasonably happy with the surface of my helmet. I sprayed it with white primer near the end of the process to better see the areas that needed to be filled in.

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I evened out the edge of the helmet by smoothing Apoxie Sculpt over it. I used more Bondo to smooth the edges of the Apoxie into the helmet. I did a couple layers of triple thick glaze to help fill in some of the tiny imperfections and I cut a 1/8″ strip of 2mm foam to trim the edge. I glued it on with super glue and sealed it with white glue to protect it from the spray paint. I used a grinding bit on the Dremel to open the holes in the top and a sanding drum to clear the foam away from the ear holes. Everything got a few layers of primer and was ready to be painted.

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I painted it all red and painted my hardware silver. I used the same 2mm craft foam for the white stripe and glued everything on. I decided to paint the stitches on and called it done since my convention was fast approaching. Now that I’m no longer in a rush I think I’m going to make some improvements. I’ll probably replace the foam strips with styrene. I’ll paint the middle stripe red and use white tape for the stripe as in the original. I’d also like to find smaller snaps as the ones I got are a little large. I’ll replace the googly eye rivets with something that will sit lower to the surface of the helmet. The Apoxie Sculpt also cracks when I have to bend the helmet to get it on. It’s only visible when the helmet is being bent but it bugs me. I’m thinking of sanding the AS off and replacing it with Sugru but I’ll have to order some first and see how it handles. I also need to add in a little leather-looking edge. I may Dremel off the inside edge entirely and replace it with leather. Lastly, I’d like to replace the painted stitches with real ones. For now, this is how it looks compared to the original.

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In other news, I finally broke down and got Body Double to make my headcast with. The plan is to get it done over Thanksgiving weekend.

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Lastly, my husband advised me that my menu settings were a bit confusing to navigate so I added buttons to the drop-down menus in addition to the top button also being a link.

Dragon Con No Go

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend Dragon Con this year. One of my elderly kitties, Blaze, got sick and was hospitalized and I couldn’t handle the guilt of leaving him. He’s a delicate little lotus blossom who only shows himself to me and my husband. If anyone else is in the house he visits Narnia via the kitchen cabinets until a couple hours after our company has left when he’s sure the coast is clear. I was afraid the stress of being picked up and cared for over the long weekend by someone other than myself or my husband might worsen his condition. There was also the possibility of having to give him meds once he was discharged so we opted to stay home this year to tend to my little mama’s boy.

Blaze got better and he sat in my lap contentedly as I pouted and pored over the deluge of posts on Dragon Con’s FaceBook page. Since I was following the page so diligently I was able to buy our tickets for next year as soon as they became available. I also made a reservation at the Ellis based on intel saying they were working on a convention rate for 2016. According to what I’ve read since, it seems negotiations either fell through or it was a ruse from the start. Fortunately, they allow you to cancel your reservation without penalty. Guess I’ll be competing in the 2016 D*C Host Hotel Hunger Games after all. Yay?

Even though I didn’t get to go this year I prepared and packed like a pro. I used this list as a starting point and customized it to my specifics resulting in a glorious packing manifesto. When I realized I wouldn’t be going after all I got to work making a fancy schmancy version on the ‘puter. List-making can be quite therapeutic. I haven’t stopped revising it since I made it that weekend but the bulk of it is satisfactory now. No specific costume items are listed here, only general undergarments and such that I use for most things so that I can use the list every year. I have a separate list for the specific costumes I’ll bring which includes any special repair items I might need.

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The cooler was always a pain to haul to and from the hotel room so this year I got a rolling cooler to alleviate some of our travel woes. To the same end, I also purchased a Versacart to house any odd-shaped costume items or other what nots that wouldn’t travel well in a suitcase. I’m a huge proponent of putting wheels on everything, it just makes life easier. Before next D*C I think I’ll upgrade our luggage to hardside spinners as seen here to prevent any unfortunate costume squishing.

The Return of Supergirl Boots

After my cat shredded my nearly completed Supergirl boots right before DragonCon it was a long time before I even wanted to look at them let alone repair them. Now that I’ve had a couple years to mourn I realize that my cat may have been on to something. I wanted to test out some vinyl repair compound I’d purchased before using it on the boots so I grabbed a scrap of the vinyl and used a staple to simulate the damage. It was then that I realized just how easy it was to mar the surface of the vinyl. I was even able to do permanent damage with just my fingernail. So why would I spend hours crafting footwear out of fabric that really isn’t suited for the rigors of walking around, even if it is only for costuming? Duly noted, Rogue.

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I had tried the vinyl repair compound soon after the damage was done hoping to rehab them in time for DragonCon but the results were disappointing. It didn’t really do much to hide the claw marks and as soon as they were stretched any improvements it made were undone. That was when I knew the boots were toast so I tucked them away for a while. Fast forward two years and here we are. I pulled them back out and they didn’t make me feel nearly as nauseated as they had before. Yay!

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My first thought was to purchase a second pair of base shoes but I was unable to find another pair that had that distinctive 80s shape. With no other acceptable alternative I’ve begun the task of pulling the ruined uppers off their base. I used Shoe Goo to attach them so removing them has been a chore. What seems to work best is grabbing an edge of the glue/fabric with forceps then rolling it to peel the upper off. It’s tedious and slow but it works, I already have one shoe free and ready for a new upper.

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Now I just had to decide on the new material. I had some leather in my stash which I considered but there didn’t seem to be enough unblemished area to get two boots out of it. However, it had the same amount of stretch if not more than the stretch vinyl and it is far tougher. My search for garment grade leather commenced. I looked at a lot of expensive possibilities but eventually settled on this Perfection Fused Leather from Fabric.com. I ordered a sample in Ivory and a bottle of Angelus acrylic leather paint in Red to possibly paint it with. My materials arrived and I gave them a test run. I also tested the Dye-Na-Flow that I had on hand just out of curiosity. As you can see it didn’t quite take. The Angelus paint, on the other hand, looks pretty good. It has some streaks but I may be able to avoid that with practice. The bottle mentions that it can be used in an airbrush so I’ll consider that possibility as well.

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I made a short video showing how well the Angelus paint holds up to stretching. Pardon the video quality, it’s my first video and I have lots of room for improvement.

It held up to my abuse remarkably well. No more Krylon Fusion or craft paint for my costume shoes! I also have a can of Nu-Life Color Spray that I bought for my Harley Quinn boot that I have yet to use. I may test it out on my scrap as well before I make my final decision on the finish.

I built a thing

My granny wanted a storage bin for her gardening tools (of which she has many) and I ended up getting the job. She has scads of scrap lumber so the only thing we had to buy were the casters. I used this write-up as a starting point and modified it according to her needs. The finished piece is 6′ x 2′ with dividers placed at every foot mark except for the center which was left open 2′ to accommodate larger tools. I suggested the casters because she wanted to keep the bin up off the floor in case water leaks in. Plus I just like putting casters on things.

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Excalibur- Saber from Fate/stay night

I’ve filled in the little imperfections with the first round of Bondo on the blade. The cross-guard had some substantial boo-boos that had to be corrected with Bondo as well. I had to cut it out with…wait for it…a saber saw, so it went a little wonky on the back side. I’ll fix it up on the belt sander then drill a hole down the middle for it to be fitted onto the threaded rod that forms the backbone of Excalibur. I’m hoping to get a lathe soon to turn the handle but it may have to wait until after DragonCon.

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I’m being extremely productive. Yep.

I Am A: True Neutral Human Ranger (4th Level)

Ability Scores:

Strength-11

Dexterity-12

Constitution-12

Intelligence-13

Wisdom-16

Charisma-11

Alignment:
True Neutral A true neutral character does what seems to be a good idea. He doesn’t feel strongly one way or the other when it comes to good vs. evil or law vs. chaos. Most true neutral characters exhibit a lack of conviction or bias rather than a commitment to neutrality. Such a character thinks of good as better than evil after all, he would rather have good neighbors and rulers than evil ones. Still, he’s not personally committed to upholding good in any abstract or universal way. Some true neutral characters, on the other hand, commit themselves philosophically to neutrality. They see good, evil, law, and chaos as prejudices and dangerous extremes. They advocate the middle way of neutrality as the best, most balanced road in the long run. True neutral is the best alignment you can be because it means you act naturally, without prejudice or compulsion. However, true neutral can be a dangerous alignment when it represents apathy, indifference, and a lack of conviction.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter’s dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)