Does everybody know what time it is?

Tool Time!

In the course of working on our proton packs I got to learn a few new skills and I thought I’d do a little write-up on some of it. I’ll try to explain what all these tools are useful for in case they’re new to you.

Dixon Reach Marker– This is probably my favorite new tool that I’ve found in a long time. I found out about them when Adam Savage used a similar marker in one of his Tested videos. The one he used was Pica brand but I came across the Dixon brand which I was able to buy at my local Lowe’s for a little over $3. As you can see from the picture this marker has a long thin metal shaft housing the felt tip marker. It’s great for poking down through drilled holes to mark whatever you happen to be attaching something to. Before finding this marker I’d use nails to poke down through the hole and try to make a little scratch to mark the placement. The marker is much quicker and less frustrating. They make them in pencil versions also!

Irwin Countersink Bits– These are for cutting out a cone-shaped recess over a pre-drilled hole. The head of the screw sits down in the cone so that it’s flush with the surface of the wood or whatever you happen to be drilling into. I never really felt like anything I’ve worked on called for countersunk screws so I never bought any bits for it. Then when we were working on the proton pack we realized the v-hook had dimples on the back and would need to be countersunk so it could sit flush against the thrower. I love excuses to buy new tools so we picked up this Irwin set at Lowe’s and soon had a perfectly flush v-hook. Now that I’ve used them I want to countersink all the screws.

General Automatic Center Punch– I can’t say exactly how I came across this but I wish I’d found it years ago. It puts little divots into the material so that your drill bit has a place to catch onto instead of skittering around. It was especially helpful when I had to drill into curved surfaces like the booster tube on the proton pack. I marked where the booster frame needed to be mounted with my handy Dixon marker then I used the center punch to make a little divot in the PVC and I was able to drill without any difficulty. That being said, I do have a tough time triggering the mechanism. It can be adjusted to use more or less force but even on the wimpiest setting I struggled a bit. I think it’s because of the way it has to be held. You have to hold it in a clinched fist and press down. There are other brands that have a bulb or a large flattened area on the end so you can press down with your palm, utilizing a more natural downward force. I think those would probably work better especially if you’re doing a lot of punching. I could try using something like Apoxie Sculpt to make a bulb for the end of mine.

Irwin Hanson Tap Set– Tapping tools are used for cutting threads into drilled holes so screws or bolts can be inserted. Tapping was another thing I just never had a reason to do before working on the proton packs. I was a little intimidated because it seemed like something that’d be easy to mess up but it’s actually really simple. Just go slow and if it feels like it’s getting caught, back it up a little then slowly try again. We had to thread several parts because there was just no other way to attach them so I got lots of practice. Now I can confidently declare “I’d tap that!”.

I Sing the Song of Evernote

I’ve been using Evernote for a few months now and holy crap it makes staying organized so much easier. I started out using it for my sewing patterns. I realized the need for an indexing system after several incidents of bringing home my new patterns only to discover I already purchased some of them the last time they were on sale (99 cent patterns, yo). I like to refer to these as my “patterns so nice I bought ’em twice”. In some cases thrice. So yeah, that was a problem.

My solution was to make an index on my site so I’d have a list along with a photo of all my patterns. I actually did document a bunch of my patterns which, as of this writing, you can still access under my Other heading. I have them organized by type such as: pants, skirts, swimsuits, etc. So some patterns are listed more than once if they have different articles of clothing in the same pattern. I also made note of which box I had them stored in, the pattern company and whether they were for men, women or children. This was just as tedious as it sounds like it’d be. I had to photograph the front and back of each pattern, take them into photoshop and combine them into one image, upload them all and post them to my index. It got tiresome pretty quickly and I never completed it.

I revisited the problem later and laid out what I wanted in my solution:

  1. Ability to search for keywords and pattern numbers
  2. Accessibility from my phone
  3. Large, clear pictures of pattern envelope so I can get yardages

So with my requirements in mind I started Googling how other people manage their pattern hoards. Enter Evernote. I read several reviews and it sounded like what I was looking for but best of all, it was free. I downloaded it and got busy testing it. I uploaded a few patterns and started working out a system. Each pattern company has its own Notebook and each pattern is a single Note. I use the pattern number(s) for the title being sure to include any alternate pattern numbers they may have. For example, the patterns out on displays will have a different number than the ones in the pattern drawer even though it’s the same pattern. Also, some patterns have been re-released under new numbers so I try to account for all that.

Evernote also lets you tag Notes. I tag my patterns for their intended wearers: men, women, children and pets along with more specific tags like design elements or franchise names (GoT, Star Wars etc.). The documentation can be time-consuming but now when I want to pull a pattern with a bubble skirt or look over all my Lord of The Rings patterns I can do it quickly on my computer. It beats spending 20 minutes pawing through a bunch of boxes looking at each pattern until I find the one I want. I also moved my patterns to clear drawers separated by company to compliment the new indexing system. Now since I know exactly what pattern number I’m looking for and what drawer it’ll be in, all I have to do is thumb through until I find the number. Two minutes, tops.

Of course, I still don’t have them all uploaded. When I buy new patterns I make sure to document them before putting them away. When patterns are current the company usually has lots of large, clear images of the pattern envelope and sample garments so it’s just a matter of pasting them in and tagging them. Older patterns can be a chore. Quality images may not be available online so I have to take them myself. Even that isn’t too bad because I can take them with my phone in the Evernote app directly in their Note.

Now for the irksome bits. As you can see in my screenshot, the snippet view panel on the left shows a thumbnail of an image in each Note. You may have noticed that one of the thumbnails is of the back of the envelope instead of the front like the rest. This is because Evernote won’t let you designate a thumbnail image for each Note. Instead, the program selects the largest image and automatically uses that for the thumbnail. So far I haven’t found any way to override this. To try to circumvent it I look for the largest images I can find of the front of the envelope and I crop the image of the back of the envelope via the annotate feature. That brings me to another gripe. Sometimes when I’m using the annotate feature to crop an image it’ll ignore my selection and crop everything except a tiny square in the upper left corner. It works perfectly on some images then it decides to butcher others. They’re all .jpg files so I’m not sure what causes it but it refuses to properly crop certain images no matter how many times I try. Weird.

Lastly, and this isn’t really a complaint but something you want to be aware of, there is a monthly upload limit. I started out with the free version and because I was uploading a lot of large images I hit the 60MB limit pretty quickly. The Premium version is $7.99/month and you get 10GB of monthly uploads. I’ve never managed to hit the limit since I’ve had the Premium version.

Also costuming-related, I have Notes for costumes I plan to make. Evernote can clip from the internet so if I come across a good tutorial or a piece of information about a particular costume I can just put it in Evernote instead of bookmarking it on my browser and eventually forgetting it ever existed. Then when I get ready to make a costume I can just pull up all the research I’ve done and have it in one place. Convenience ftw!

In conclusion, if you’re like me and you make poor life choices such as having a staggering amount of sewing patterns, Evernote will be your best friend.

 

Bookshelves! Woo!

I have such a backlog of stuff I haven’t documented that I don’t know where to start sometimes. How about bookshelves? Okay then! Ken and I finally organized the bookshelves! Look at that sweet, sweet organization. Everything is grouped together by subject and each subject is organized by height. Well, except for my paperback novels. I tried to keep series together and organize by height but the top shelf could still use some re-ordering. The important thing is my reference books on the bottom shelf are no longer leaning over and getting their spines all twisted. It pained me every time I looked at them. Now I have little metal bookends slid between them every so often to provide more support.

We had to part ways with a few books so they could all fit standing up instead of being stacked all over the tops of other books. They were mostly books we’d read already so it wasn’t so bad sending them to the next chapter in their adventure. I should probably pare them down even more (curse you, KonMari!) but I think for now I’ll let them be. They’re pretty to look at so they count as art…right? I’ve probably gone on too long about my books at this point. Whatevs, I used this as my desktop image because bookshelves are the bee’s knees!

TLJ Rey Boots

Ordered my new Rey TLJ boots from Po-Zu. It pains me that they branded them and added a zipper. I wish they had a costume edition that was identical to what was used in the movie. At the same time I understand the practical need for a zipper. Most customers probably wouldn’t buy them if they had to lace them up all the time. We’ve all become so lazy with our fancy modern conveniences like zippers and horseless carriages. Ah, well. The sizing was the same as it was for the Piper V boots so hopefully these will fit the same.

DragonCon Hiatus

DragonCon didn’t go as intended this year. Again. We may skip it in 2018. I’m in school and the start of the Fall semester is always the same week as D*C. That means I might have to put off getting there until Friday evening depending on how my classes fall, which I wouldn’t know until long after I’d already booked the room. Planning classes around the convention isn’t really doable either as the college I’m going to only offers certain classes once per year and in one time slot. Not a lot of flexibility. Then there’s the issue of losing several days of study time during the convention. That part probably wouldn’t be that bad since it’s the first week of classes but I’m paranoid about getting behind.

To add extra anxiety, we also had a cat (Lynx) in kidney failure that had to be boarded at the vet’s while we were gone so she could get her medicine and fluids. I called every morning to check on her and on day two the vet told me she probably wouldn’t last until we got home. Leaving her to die alone and scared in a cage while I was at a convention felt like a really shitty thing to do, so we packed up and left Friday night. We picked her up first thing Saturday morning hoping she’d rally once she was back home. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. She got to spend a few more hours getting lots of pets and lying on her heating pad in her favorite room, the kitchen, before quietly slipping away that evening.

Another cat, Luna, was also acting off when we left. I took her to the vet soon after we got back and found out she had hyperthyroidism. She was on meds for that for a while but she didn’t improve. I took her back to the vet where they took an X-ray that revealed a large tumor. They did surgery to remove it but discovered that it’d grown into her stomach where it was inoperable. She had to be put to sleep.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a sick cat around convention time. I think they pick up on all the chaos/anxiety and it ends up stressing them out. Stress is bad for cats, especially elderly cats which most of mine are. It can trigger health issues that are already lying in wait. I don’t know how to prevent them from getting stressed when we travel. I know they would’ve had these issues anyway and I can’t just stay home indefinitely because of it yet I can’t help but feel guilty.

I knew it.

I got an email from the Marriott early this morning informing me that they’d just noticed that my cc didn’t get charged for the remaining balance on March 1st like it should have. I guess they tried but since the card had expired between making the reservation and paying the remainder it didn’t go through. For some reason my reservation didn’t get booted when the charge couldn’t be completed and it got overlooked. I updated my cc expiration date with them months ago, long before March but the system still tried to charge the old card. I hate years when my cc is about to expire, there is always something that goes wrong. The lady who contacted me was very nice though and she got it sorted out so all’s well that ends well.

I’ve been struggling with my Luke pants for days now switching between bouts of fevered alterations and apathetic inaction when my efforts have failed. I may have to start over on them and I’m not sure I have enough fabric to do that and the shirt. Also, the fabric is now sold out. Things are not progressing as planned. This is what I get for assuming the problems with my mock up would be solved by the stretch of the wool fabric.

Skywalker

My LED bulbs came and saved the day. When I took the incandescent bulb out again to make the switch I finally spotted the loose filament. It had a curly end so it would catch and appear unbroken sometimes like it did the first time I took it out. The intermittent contact it was making with the rest of the filament as the machine vibrated is what was causing the flickering. I always love when sewing machine troubles have simple fixes. Now let’s talk about that LED bulb. Holy crap, that thing is bright. I’m talkin’ the reflection from the slide plate is painful. However, I can clearly see what I’m working on…as soon as the spots fade from my eyes.

I worked on cleaning my glove up today and I’m pretty pleased with the results. As you can see below they were mostly covered in a silver film with occasional solid splotches. The handle of Quistis’ chain whip is silver and I found that when I put a clear coat over the metallic spray paint it lost its metallicyness and just looked grey. So what do I do? Leave it unsealed, of course. Well, with many metallic spray paints they have a film almost like dust that covers the surface. Anything that touches that surface comes away with silver “dust” on it. That was also an issue with the gunblade I made for Squall so these gloves got a double dose of fairy dust. I hung onto them and now their day of salvation is finally at hand. As always, I did my research first and found different suggestions for removing dried paint from leather. I started out with the most innocuous substance, olive oil. Supposedly it loosens the paint with enough rubbing. It didn’t work. Maybe if it were a different type of paint or if the paint hadn’t been on there for years it may have worked ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Next I tried rubbing alcohol (also did nothing), acetone-free nail polish remover (sorta removed some of it plus some dye) and I experimented with mink oil a bit (didn’t work). I finally decided to bust out the good ol’ Winsor and Newton Brush Cleaner & Restorer. I’ve had this stuff for years from my BJD customizing and it’s the bee’s knees for paint removal. I’ve never used it on leather before but nothing else was working so I gave it a shot. It removed the paint almost immediately. Some of the blotches were stubborn but they came off in the end. If it weren’t for the crease marks where the fingers bend they’d almost look new. [Quick pause for a word of caution- it did take some dye off with it so if you try this, test it in an inconspicuous area first.] I still had some olive oil left so I rubbed it down with that after I got all the paint off. I may go back and wipe it down with a damp cloth to try to remove any residue from all the junk I put on it. Then maybe some black shoe polish or mink oil followed by a nice buff with a shoe brush. It took about an hour to get it looking good again but that’s including all the experimentation. The second one should take about half that time whenever I get around to it so I guess the glove situation is handled. I can do this all day, I have no shame.

I finally finished putting the zipper in the pants. I had it up to the point where I was ready to do the topstitching and decided to pull it all out to move the zipper closer to CF. I didn’t do it right in the center seam like ready-to-wear the way I originally planned. I decided I’d rather have it offset a little so I don’t have to worry about the silver zipper teeth peeking out on my all-black costume. I did add a zipper shield though- so fancy! Once that was done I went ahead and sewed the side seams and basted the inseam so I could test the fit before I apply the trim. I don’t really understand pants fitting all that well but I know a diaper butt when I see one. I’m not sure how I’ll go about fixing it. After I got them on I had to see what they looked like with the boots and belt then I decided to bust out the lightsaber. Yeah, I pranced around for a bit. It keeps up morale on tedious projects. So I have to fix the fit issues, draft and attach a waistband, and hem the cuffs and attach stirrups. Then I get to start on the shirt. 19 days left, I can do this.

Ma’am Hands, Rey, Skywalker

I bought a pair of black leather gloves from eBay for my Luke costume but when they arrived Saturday I was disappointed to find that they didn’t fit. I have fairly long fingers for a lady-person but they lack the girth that most male fingers have. This means that most women’s gloves are too short for me and men’s gloves are too baggy. I got a pair of size L women’s gloves from Target many eons ago for my Quistis costume, they’re still the only pair I’ve found that have come close to fitting. They’re covered in silver smudges from Quistis’ chain whip but I think I may have to try cleaning them up for Luke. Well, one of them.

I sewed the two back pieces of my pants together and did the topstitching around the riding seam. I also serged along all my edges like a damn professional. So far I’m pleased with how they look. I got my zipper installed all but the double row of topstitching and inserting the fly shield. While I was working, the light on my sewing machine decided to start wildly flickering when I pushed the pedal which makes for a very “someone is about to pop out of the closet and murder me” sewing experience. Just kidding, my house doesn’t have closets. The obnoxious flickering did cause me to stop working on my pants though. I was in the middle of a seam when it started and I had to prop my phone up on the machine and use its light to finish the seam. The lighting in my house already isn’t good and I’m working on black fabric so the light on my machine is pretty important. I pulled it out to examine it and I didn’t see any broken filament but it may be getting ready to blow. I’ve had the same light in there since I got the machine when I graduated high school. That’s an impressive lifespan for an incandescent bulb. I hope it’s just the bulb, if not then it’s a wiring issue and that would be bad. The dryer was running when the trouble began and my husband thought that might be causing the issue (old house, old wiring). He turned the dryer off and I tried it out and it didn’t flicker. Thinking the trouble was solved I went to sew again only to have it go back to flickering. I got trolled by my sewing machine. So now I’ve got two fancy LED bulbs winging their way here from my lord and savior, Amazon. Hopefully that’ll solve the problem and I can get back to business.

My Rey fabric showed up today. I was really surprised at how light it is. From the pictures I imagined it to be like a mid-weight home decor type fabric but it’s more like an eyelet fabric. I see now why they lined it on her costume. It may not be such a bad thing that I got the white instead of the putty since I’ll have to dye the liner fabric to match. Dyeing them both at the same time will be easier than trying to match the existing putty fabric perfectly.

Not much progress today and tomorrow isn’t looking good either. I’ve got jury duty in the morning but I’m hoping it’ll wrap up quickly and I can get back here, install my new bulb and make headway on the pants. That is if this miserable Southern humidity doesn’t sap all my energy while I’m out driving around in it. My delicate constitution just isn’t suited to global warming.

Skywalker

I got my Luke pants cut out of the wool blend. I sewed the riding seam and it’s looking promising. I still need to do the top stitching. I think I’ll go ahead and sew up the back seam so I can have a nice unbroken topstitch across the riding seam. I also want to try to center the zipper. The way the pattern I’m referencing does it the zipper ends up offset to one side. You can’t tell once the fly covers it but it bugs me. I’ve also been obsessing over the trim down the sides of the pants. The original pair had 1″ mohair trim. Try to find 1″ mohair trim. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Yeah, it isn’t easy. I was able to find companies that make it but they only do large runs. I don’t need 144 yards of mohair trim. I did find 1.5″ mohair trim on eBay so I bought some just so I’d have an example of what the real deal looks like. I thought it might also be possible to fold it under on the sides to 1″. I was able to find 1″ polyester trim that has a similar look but it’s not exact. The mohair fibers are fairly short so they give the trim a fuzzy appearance where the ends stick out, sort of like sweater fuzz. I tried to replicate the look by running some fine grit sandpaper over the polyester trim. It takes some of the shine off and makes it fuzzy but it’s still not quite right. Most people use 1″ elastic to approximate the look which is probably what I should have done instead of fixating on perfection. Either way I’ll have to decide soon because it has to be sewn on before the crotch can be done unless I want to sew it on by hand. Which I don’t. I’m down to less than a month before D*C, time is of the essence. My summer semester finished up yesterday so I’ll have more time for sewing now. I just hope it’s enough.

Here are the photos I took of the different trims, one in natural light and one with flash. I sanded about a 1″ patch at the top of the polyester trim. It’s a little difficult to make out in the pics but it’s there, I assure you. The polyester and the elastic are nearly indistinguishable and both are pretty good substitutes for mohair. No one would even notice the difference. Then why does it matter so much to me? Whyyyyy?! Because science, that’s why.

TFA Rey Boots & TLJ Rey Fabric

My Rey boots came from Po-Zu today! I was afraid they might not fit but they’re friggin’ perfect. Po-Zu put the screen accurate Rey boots on clearance because now they have special Star Wars branded Rey boots. They’re nice but the leather heels have a Star Wars brand stamped in them. Kind of a bummer for costumers. But because of them the originals were half off so I jumped on it. I was dumb and didn’t message them about sizing when I ordered because I was convinced they’d sell out in the interim. Luckily their sizing chart must be pretty spot-on. I measured out at a EUR 38 which is a USA 7. Normally I wear 8 or 8.5 so I was wary of buying the smaller size. I’m so glad I went by the chart instead of what I usually wear. I’d have Rey clown shoes otherwise and they’re sold out of this size now. I’ve been fretting for almost a month (since ordering them) for nothing. I should learn a lesson from that but I won’t.

While I was flippin’ out about my Rey boots I decided to look up the new pair she wears in TLJ. I’m really liking her new costume and was curious to see if any of my peeps had ferreted out the details on the new boots. No match found for them yet but they appear to be custom Po-Zu boots. In my searching I happened across a post about the entirety of her costume and found out that Mood Fabrics carries the exact match for her tunic material. It was already sold out in putty by the time I got there but they also had it in white and it happens to be 100% cotton. Time to practice my dyeing skills. A kind soul on the RPF agreed to send me a scrap of her putty colored fabric so I’d have a reference to dye by.

I said I wouldn’t do a Rey costume and now I have the beginnings of two of them -_-;