Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Science Tidbits: Blood Colors

Most animals have red blood because of the iron content.  As the iron oxidizes, shed blood turns darker.  Horseshoe crabs have blue blood because it contains copper rather than iron.  Presumably, horseshoe crab blood stains turn green as the copper oxidizes.

I think that's just neat.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Yuna's Obi


Yuna wears an outfit plainly derived from kimono and hakama, but a deeply pleated skirt instead of hakama, and her kimono has been cut down to the sleeves and a chest wrap.  She wears her obi in a butterfly knot, the easiest and a fairly secure way to tie an obi in my limited experience. 

Making her obi: A formal occasion obi will be heavy silk, damask or embroidered or appliqued or painted or otherwise embellished, lined with stiff cotton.  Less formal obis are narrower and more flexible, of lighter silks or cotton or other material, patterned or plain.  I wanted something sturdy and as little inclined to sliding as possible, so I used the stiffest, heaviest yellow cotton I could find, painted with fabric paint. 
I used SoSoft brand fabric paint for this, ordered off the internet.  This is really good fabric paint: opaque, goes on smoothly, neither too runny nor too thick, really good colors, dries flexible and without any residual tackiness.
When this picture was taken, with about 1/3 of the obi painted and the fabric stretching out seemingly endlessly, I quite hated this project.  Obis are long.
About this long, in this case.
Finished!  Now I love this obi again.  I painted the central design with a hand-drawn paper stencil.

It took me about 12 episodes of HPpodcraft, the H.P. Lovecraft literary podcast, plus another 3 hours of other internet listening-to stuff, to paint this.   And I even left a section that will not show when the obi is tied unpainted (quite common).   The obi construction cheats somewhat in that I did not line the fabric, nor baste the folded over fabric shut.

Slightly off-topic: One of things I am really proud of myself for is learning to tie my own fukuro obi in a basic taiko knot.  I learned from this good person of the internet.  (Bless the internet!)  For walking around a con all day, a wide, stiff, embroidered obi provides excellent back support and is amazingly comfortable. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Rikku

A while ago I showed you a rainbow of fabric, a potential costume.  That became Rikku:

 Costume tryout! (not the leggings used in performance)

Obvious modifications:
  • no buckles, the belt and side toggles are just fabric
  • Rikku's blue back streamers are drastically shortened and stitched down
  • No weapons, just the basic armbands
  • No bare midriff: that's just begging for friction burns from aerial fabrics.  (Although I could have put in a strip of nude fabric.  I was feeling rushed and didn't want to try, though.)

top front with darts
top back: invisible zipper!  This is the 4th invisible zipper I've put in.  I didn't have to rip out a single stitch this time.
I can hardly believe the fabric store had this lettuce-green with sheer stripes in 4-way stretch.  It's very ugly by itself.  But it saved me a day's work over making the stripes myself!  All I had to do was make an underlayer with the dark green.  I confess I am irresistibly reminded of a watermelon.

Things that worked well:
  • Leotard!  There is a reason leotards are popular with gymnasts and aerialists and other circus artists: they stay put (assuming they fit), they (usually) don't get tangled in your equipment, they stretch with you, they're comfortable, they're sturdy, they protect your skin, they look good, and they can be made amazing with decoration and/or fabulous fabric.  Can you tell how happy I was to be making something I'm familiar with that I knew was going to work structurally?
  • Ruffly leg openings: I stitched my sprout-green chiffon into two long tubes, gathered them to match my leg opening circumference, and stitched them down (with some grief, as I had a lot of ruffle to stuff in, and the leg elastic was already in).  They turned out very ruffly!

Things to improve or correct:
  • front darts are not visible from any distance; topstitch them in black thread?
  • upper torso needs to be about an inch longer, but stretch fabric will stretch, so not a disaster.
  • neckline and collar: I was guessing on how much to heighten the neckline on my pattern.  As you see, I did not raise the back nearly enough.  And the collar is too floppy: I should have put a strip of tearaway stabilizer (is that washable?) or something inside.

I did this costume in 5 days flat, right before our last full rehearsal.  I think our Rikku is adorable!  She is also a very talented aerialist and a kind and responsible person and I will be very sad when she leaves us for Peace Corps.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Mad Person-Who-Stitches: Final Fantasy X Lulu, Finally Done!

Review: I'm making this dress, adapted for an aerialist:

Bodice, trim, skirt and everything else are finally done and I put everything together. The front:

The back:
The fur trim was still to baste on when I took these photos, and then I cut it off again to wash the costume after MomoCon 2016, so no photos with trim today.  I rather regret the fur trim, actually: I prefer the sharp line of the "corset" top without trim.

Overall, Lulu is the most detailed and challenging costume I've put together so far.  I'm very happy with how much of the views from Lulu's screenshots I was able to achieve.

Materials: black 4-way stretch lycra, nude 4-way stretch mesh, matte gray 4-way stretch knit, gray polyester satin with the wrong side out (the shiny side wasn't the right color, the wrong side was), rain-coat fabric both shiny side and inside out, white Tulip 3D fabric paint, metallic gray Tulip 3D fabric paint, invisible zipper, black ribbon (for a drawstring at the ankles), elastic

Time to make: Roughly 3 months.  Maybe half of that, if I'd been working on this all day, every day?  It did go together quickly once I had the detailed sections assembled and stitched and painted, but those took quite some time.

Things that worked well:
  • Leotard as form-fitting bodice, details done in more stretch fabric on the bodice, nude mesh wherever the character shows skin.  I am so doing this with every character who shows lots of skin from now on.
  • The black tab things sticking up from the back of the neck line are loops of my black stretch fabric for holding Lulu's braids.  Long wigs are heavy, and the jerk at the end of a drop means braids will easily pull a wig off your head, even with chin straps.  I snaked each braid through a loop and ran a safety pin through braid and loop.  They stayed put, and it worked for rehearsal (the wig pulled off in performance...ah, well).
  • Not visible in the photos, but there is actually a full leotard underneath the pants.  The pants are sewed to the leotard bottom, leaving a margin of leotard fabric, and then leotard top and bottom are hand-tacked together most of the way around, and the leotard top front is stitched down to the pants at the edge.  The leotard back top is not stitched down to the pants, as the pants have to open up over the hips when putting the costume on or off (there's an invisible zipper in the back waist).  I did try snaps, but the stresses of bending and stretching around for the routine ripped them off, so I left the back open over the pants.  With the leotard bottom inside there are no worries about friction burns or underwear shots.
  • The satin sleeves: I made the bells very small, and they don't fall back around the arms at all, while still giving the bell sleeve effect.

Things that I should correct or do better with next time:
  • I should have made the gray satin portion of the sleeves come higher up the arm, to be at the same body height as the top of the leotard "corset".
  • The pants should really be 3-4 inches longer.  Right now they are the right length when standing on the ground, but pull up a lot when doing splits in the silks.  I also need to cut future versions to taper more from the knee down: my Lulu could barely work around the poof for our fancy starting climb.
  • I did the full mirrored pattern of Lulu's train on each pant leg, which scaled down the height more than I like.  On a redo, do only one half of the pattern on each pant leg.  The fabric paint for the edging did dry flexible.  The flip side is that it remains slightly tacky even when fully dry.  I may try a different brand of 3D paint next time, or switch to SoSoft brand flat fabric paint.
  • Joining "skirt" and "bodice" portions of a costume.  Torso seams get a lot of stress during performance, and while I can repair small sections of broken stitches after each use, I worry for the life of the costume.  Repairing fabric that's shredded from having stitches pull out too many times is out of my league.  And in general, the join between top and bottom is my structural and engineering weak point, and I'd like to feel as confident about it as I do about the top and bottom separately, in general as well as for this particular costume.  And the costume almost has to join, both to maintain the look and to avoid all the hazards of having pieces that can pull apart or pull off while you are swinging around a trapeze or wrapping yourself up in aerial fabrics.  Having longer pants will help, I think.  Beyond that, I'm still thinking.  Gentle reader, if you are a person-who-stitches-for-aerialists and have advice for dealing with this issue, please let me know.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Future Tidbit: Seed Vault

Occasionally a few humans show a glimpse of rational, benevolent, long-term planning on behalf of those who will come after us: in this case, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  It is exactly what it sounds like. 

Edited to add: while I'm on this topic, there are christmas-light recycling programs that you can mail your old light strings to.  Because I am avoiding other work this morning, I finally boxed up my no-longer-lighting old incandescent light strings and will mail them off the next time I pass the post office.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Friday Fabulosity: New Career Goal

Plumed hat, cape, and mask are de rigueur for this job.

Those with a Euro-centric education may discover an eerie similarity to a certain canonical English poem.

New career goal: ├ęclair thief. 

 Find it in a library and read the rest of the story!