Before I can properly introduce the project, I do need to say a few words about myself. I am a mother, college student, and part time worker at the bookstore of my school. In my spare time, I like to geek out and work on other projects that interest me. When I become impassioned about a project I can work on it until my mind turns to mush!
I am absolutely in love with the Victorian Era. I have been dying to own my own authentic gowns, but I’ve never had the money to buy them. They are very expensive and rightly so. I discovered a love for sewing and conquered my fear of the sewing machine, so I’m putting together this project so I can finally own a Victorian Era gown.
Influences and Goals
Other than the fact that I love the Victorian Era, the other major influence for choosing a Victorian gown is the fact that it can be broken down into these six smaller projects. As a beginning seamstress, it’s very important not to rush anything and bite off more than you can chew. This allows for skills to be built slowly over the course of the entire project. That comes out to be one fine achievement!
In my personal opinion, this is also a great way to build the skills you need to create other dresses, regardless of if they’re from past eras or the modern era. Before selecting this project, I was very set on sewing a wedding dress by hand, but had no idea where to start and I realized a wedding dress may not be the best project to start out on. The Victorian Gown, in theory, would help me build the skills I need to be able to tackle the wedding gown later.
Decisions, decisions, decisions…
For this first project, I have decided to make a basic walking dress. A walking dress, as the name implies, was designed for walking around town mostly to run errands. Because I also have a daughter, I have decided that I will center my decisions around that. My dress must be hardy and resistant to children above all. If you do not have children, the only factor I do advise to take into account is the weather and practicality. If this is going to be a Halloween Costume or something to wear once a year, you’ll want to tailor your choices to that. For example, if it’s really hot even in the fall you’ll want to choose lighter fabrics, perhaps an off-the-shoulder bodice and skip Continue reading Victorian Project Introduction→
Like most of this project, I had yet to decide how the shoulder cap and back would actually connect. Having reached a satisfied point with the front, I knew that the strap in the back would be essential for not only continuing the quality of the costume, but also providing necessary support to the structure in the front, and before finishing or even adding to the front, I knew I would have to resolve the back. I started by simply creating a 2 row chain of scalemail, hoping that this would be a quick solution for attaching the back pieces together. When I did this however, the angle that I needed to support the front caused the new strap to twist and stick out instead of staying flat, in addition to simply not looking great. So, the next solution was to go thicker and strengthen the connectors underneath to prevent it from twisting. To accomplish this, Stefan created a mock strap with extra scalemail with a 4 in 1 weave method, (found in Danny Ace’s PDF entitled, “A Brief Tutorial to Crafting Armor from the Ring Lord’s Scales”), which naturally expanded the strap to 3 rows. This strap wasn’t absolutely atrocious, and certainly was a more logical solution than the thinner strap. However, this method used significantly more resources than I was prepared to use, needing at least 4-5 extra scalemail per side, plus additional scalemail to blend the strap into the back to make it Continue reading Dragon Queen Bodice Construction Intermission- Back strap exploration→
This post discusses the construction of the front bodice scalemail plate, and work on contractions. Please note, that the current scalemail plate is being held together with giant rings as it has been more convenient for testing, modeling, and fitting.
I knew from the start of my project that I did not want a clunky, unfit bodice as I feared it would look sloppy and unfinished, in addition, I also wanted the bodice to be more like “skin” and less like armor. A tighter fit, I reasoned, would not only look more attractive, but by staying closer to my body, and even resting on my hips, it would possibly help with weight distribution to the top. During my initial research as to when to implement tailoring, I came across several forums (listed below in resources) which discussed the process of tailoring through contraction, but there was no definitive conclusion on the best time to implement contractions. Some comments pointed out that if you know where the contractions would be, it is easier to put contractions in as you went, while others recognized that it wasn’t much harder to include contractions after the piece had already been created. There seems to be a difference, however, in large scalemail and small scalemail, and there seems to be more repercussions for post construction contractions with the small scale.
During the college years I did manage to find some time to throw together some costumes. The following are a few of the costumes that were finished enough to see the dark of night during a Halloween gathering.
The Red Shirt That Survived
This costume came into being because I had just bought Sara a new sewing machine and figured I should tackle a project to see what I could do with the new toy. I purchased a Star Trek the Original Series pattern from Katarra8 on Etsy since it was said to be the easier to follow pattern according to a few posts I found on a great Star Trek costumes forum starfleet1701st.yuku.com/.
Fabric was purchased from Micheal’s, a cutting wheel was added to the project (Those things are amazing) and I had played with the sewing machine enough that I felt confident in sewing both straight and curving lines.
I am not naturally gifted in the ways of fabric. Its confusing. All the straight lines make perfect sense until you hit a curve, like those that connect the shoulder sections to the chest and suddenly you’ve sewn a section in a manner that had one section of fabric come up 3 inches short and you sitting there just playing WTF on repeat in your head. Knowing how to fit curves and add tension to the fabric at the right time is something that will definitely plague me for the next few projects. I’m a super newbie to this craft so I try not to get to discouraged but after you’ve ripped a seam for the 3rd time it makes it hard not to throw it into the fire pit and roast a couple of marshmallows off of it.
In the end I was mostly triumphant as we can see in my super proud surviving Redshirt pose
Since I was playing off of the idea that I was a Redshirt that was sent of in one of the more active away missions I wanted to play around with a little bit of fight effects makeup. I went to my local costume shop and picked up some of the better quality makeups they had.
Makeup shopping list:
-Ben Nye: EW-4 Master Bruise Wheel-Ben Nye: Final Seal Spray
-Initial face prep powder
I got my start by watching a few videos on Youtube to get an idea of the right products to buy and proper blending techniques, like THIS video.
I know I did well at this because during lunch at my companies Halloween gathering I found out that there was a rumor that most of the people outside of my team thought I had gotten into a car accident the evening before.
After having just thoroughly enjoyed the game Portal and being a back in the day fan of Halflife I wanted to pay tribute to the hard working scientists from Aperture Science. This was a pretty simple task, buy a lab coat, obtain a company logo, get a custom security badge made, some random props and accessories and look smart. Check and check.
I was super pleased with the badge I got custom made from Etsy:
The final assembly
Likely my all time most rushed costume ever was a simple makeup application so I would look like a skeleton in a low lit room. Got the cheapest junk Halloween $1 makeup from my local grocery store. Found some Dia De Muertos face paint images but figured I wouldn’t have time to get those right so i just found a couple of skull images on my laptop, got some cotton swaps and sat in front of the mirror until I figured it out. It did take two attempts to figure it out at about one hour minimum per attempt.
Here’s Trial one where I was still figuring out the layout before dealing with blending and details.
There was this manga called I Luv Halloween created by Benjamin Roman. I really like the main character’s, Finch, look so I figured I’d see if I could try my hand at clay modeling and mold making. This was one of my more ambitious projects that I only gave myself a few weeks to throw together. That amount of time was far from what I needed. The mask came together well enough. The clay I selected was one that would harden nicely in the oven. The idea that I would have the time or money to make a mold from this while juggling college was no well thought out. The mold never happened and I was left with a very heavy mask that I had to make a wire mesh helmet to hold the weight. Its was heavy and overall very uncomfortable. On top of that I was never able to locate the orange wig to complete the look. On the plus side somehow Benjamin Roman found my post of this mask on DeviantArt and gave me props for my work, small world.
Sadly since the mask was made so thin it had a little accident and cracked so I made lemonade out of the situation by painting it and mounting it to an old frame and now its a nice piece of wall art.
Since our full scalemail order arrived in the mail, I have temporarily suspended work on the horns, and began construction the bodice for my costume. Although excitement is the primary reason for temporarily leaving work on the horns, equally to blame is the fact that the scalemail is much cleaner (in terms of workspace upkeep) and easier to work on at a moment’s notice, in addition to the fact that I might have to create a replacement for the horn I botched during sculpting, and I’m possibly delaying the inevitable. Although seemingly more straight forward, the scalemail has been equally challenging in its own medium, and there are an equal amount of assembly questions to address in the near future.
For now, however, I have been simply creating basic shapes that presented themselves during my initial diamond (100 scalemail) trial. Pleased by the diamond shape on the shoulders, I decided to incorporate dual diamond shoulder sleeves/ caps, into my design. This section would not only be the easiest to complete first, as there was no technical skill involved in creating the shapes, but it was also a necessary step for transitioning into the chest/ breast area, which Continue reading Dragon Queen Scalemail Shoulders→
When someone asks you what you did over the weekend probably one of the most nerdy responses you could muster would be “I made chainmail!”.
To have a connection in our costume theme both Sara and I are incorporating scalemail. I chose the larger sized tempered high carbon steel scales from The Ring Lord. I wanted a more worn look “Authentic battle Damage!”, which I felt would be a good contrasting look when compare to the cleaner look Sara’s scalemail dress will have, which would more reflect a guy who’s been out in the world gaining his experience points and getting beat up from time to time. The pattern is the basic one also shown on the websites tutorial videos. The process is surprisingly easy but rather time intensive. I found that using a towel as a work surface keeps the area clean but most importantly it as a bit a friction so that all the scales you just assembled aren’t constantly shifting and slipping around while your working. I use two mini cheap pliers simultaneously to handle all the ring bending and scale handling. I find the smaller pliers allow me to still use my free fingers to grab stuff while not having to constant set them down.
After a couple of after work assembly sessions I got most of a full sheet done.
From the back side of the sheet of scales the ring pattern that holds the scales together:
And the result of all those hours hunched over a pair of pliers:
At this point I just need to repeat this process to get one more strip of scales. The next big step is to work through the best method of attaching the two together and the system that the final assembly will attach to so that this can be worn. Attaching the scalemail to your body is usually fairly straight forward; you make a enough scalemail until you have a shirt shape then you just throw it on and bind up whatever side you left open since this stuff allows no stretch. For my plan I’m only applying scalemail to the lower torso, between the sternum and hipbones as you can see in my concept sketch.
I need to design some kind of suspenders system or have it mount to the interior of the future leather chest plate
When I was first browsing the web (more notably Pinterest) conceptualizing the design of my costume, I was instantly drawn to the idea of using scalemail within the design, as the scale would be perfect for portraying the idea of a dragon. I was particularly inspired by a variety of bodice designs that appeared on the runway and in couture fashion, as I imagined the dragon being regal, majestic, and very queen like. Although it took me quite a long time to identify the medium, it did not take long to find a distributor. Although Etsy would like you to believe that you should spend an exorbitant amount on 10 individual scalemails, I found that The Ring Lord was a better retailer where you could by bulk cases of scalemail, connectors, and patterns if your heart desires. In addition to being one of the cheapest, the colors available leave little limitation to achieve the design I most desire, even though I still had yet to determine what that is.
Instantly I recognized that I did not want a purely dark bodice, as I feared it wouldn’t show well in photographs, or the scalemail detail would be lost. So I decided to stay away from black altogether, and instead actually stick with brighter colors, primarily towards the stomach region which is traditionally depicted as being lighter if not Continue reading Scalemail Torso & Bodice- Purchase→
For the horn construction, we used 7- 5” wide x 12” long (.5” thick) construction foam that we had in the house from a previous project. In retrospect, I would absolutely recommend a thicker foam, as the more parts you have to glue together, the more that might come apart when pulling and prying pieces off. For the adhesive, we tried four types of house adhesive (because we had a lot around and it wouldn’t cost us more money) to see what held the best, which included Hot Glue, Tack Glue, Elmer’s Glue, and Rubber cements. During our initial glue tests, we were looking for good strength in the bonding, the ease in which our tools cut through the glue, and the rate at which glue dried (the sooner the better for us). For our initial tests, we glued together 4 small planks of construction foam, and actually found hot glue held surprisingly well, was capable of being cut through relatively easily, and was ready to be cut within minutes. We were initially concerned with the hot glue melting the Continue reading Dragon Queen Horn Construction Pt 1→
My custom aluminum pommel needed a bit more texture and something was needed to cover the preexisting hole in its side so I decided to design a little dragon emblem. 22 gauge aluminum sheet metal was cut using a Jeweler’s Saw fit with a 2/0 blade. I original gathered all my sheet metal tools in prep for my next project of steel gauntlets which is still in the design phase. I knew I’d need some sheet metal shears but I discovered the jewelers saw and how it could create the small details I wanted without distorting the sheet metal in the way that snips tend to. One of resources that helped guide me was from Rings & Things: Tips for sawing sheet metal with a jeweler’s saw.
A great help came from Polly in the comments section when I got confused about which blade size of the dozen or so sizes would work best for my different applications:
Forme d’Art blades: Size #0 – 53.5 teeth per inch – Use with 18g to 22g metal Size #1 – 51 teeth per inch – Use with 18g to 22g metal Size #2 – 43 teeth per inch – Use with 16g to 18g metal Size #2/0 – 56 teeth per inch – Use with 20g to 22g metal Size #3/0 – 61 teeth per inch – Use with 22g metal Size #4/0 – 66 teeth per inch – Use with 22g metal Size #6/0 – 76 teeth per inch – Use with 24g metal
In both brands, more teeth = finer blade. So if you’re doing fancy cuts with lots of wiggles and switchbacks, get the finer blade that’s recommended for your preferred sheet gauge. But if you’re doing simple straight cuts, the more generic size #0, #1 or #2 blade works fine.
After drawing up a pattern and gluing it to the sheet I got right to cutting.
After a bit of fussing with the saw to figure how sharp of and angle I could cut with the saw it turned into a simple task of keeping my sawing motions smooth as to not break the blade.
The Result after adding a indent for the eye mark:
Iwanted the brand new emblem to not look so new to better match the age of the sword at whole so I used a bit of acrylic paint and some dry brushing to add a bit a real life experience to it after I filed down and rounded the edges.
I am now the proud owner of my very own two handed sword. No more running around the back yard with a red sheet secured to my back with two stick lashed together as my mighty Excalibur.
I was able to take this off the hands of an local individual on Craigslist for a low $25. Its a bit beaten up, the blade is spotted with rust, mini nicks, and the metal has dulled from sitting unused and un-oiled for some extended period of time. Time to put a bit of life into it!
Since this is a cheaper stage prop sword it is assembled with a top screw so disassembling it was rather simple. After about 2 hours of sanding, buffing and polishing the blade to return its clean shine the first thing that needed a change was the handle. Holding this thing feels like I’m holding a baseball bat at the wrong end so the handle diameter needs to be reduced so I can later add a nice leather wrap to it. This will be a job for my Dremel since my dreams of a lathe have yet to be fully realized.
After reassembling it I feel that the pommel was also oversized and a bit odd looking. I cant just modify this piece since its a hollow bronze cast object that can be ruduced in size by removing material. I do have some extra 2″ diameter aluminum bar stock from another project around that I can hack saw my way through and see if it work aesthetically.
After an upgrade from a coping saw to a proper hack saw and a bit of machine oil to prevent the blade from binding I was able to remove an piece of the aluminum bar stock to become my new pommel. Unfortunately the end that i cut off the larger stock which had a diameter previously reduced, which I felt was a better size, had a hole in the center which I will need to find a way to hide later. The next step is to drill a hole through to accept the blades threaded end. This will be done with a hand drill as I’m yet to find room or funds for a drill press at the time.