Handmade hoodies, one-of-a-kind clothing and costumes, fit for a faerie or stylish human.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Frozen Queen Elsa Swimming Mermaid Neoprene Tail, and the Making of Same -- Part 1

I got it into my head that I must have yet another swimming mermaid tail.  I will not repeat the folly of taking on another Glimmer LED Swimming Mermaid project, but I did want to use tech, and I want something that will be loved and requested and used at parties, and not just trotted out for the occasional photo shoot.

Disney's Frozen movie is still raging in popularity, and I have to admit, Queen Elsa is my favorite character to play at kid's parties.  And having a Frozen mermaid tail has been nagging in the back of my mind for over a year now... I decided it was time.

Mermaid tail sketches

Step 1 was coming up with the design.  I did some fairly rough sketches, and decided:

  1. Two-piece separating tail, so I don't have to choose between being carried or being naked
  2. "Skirt" piece will be reminiscent of Elsa's skirt (duh) and fluke will reflect her cape design
  3. I want it sparkly.
  4. 3d printed snowflakes all over the fluke!  Yay, I get to use tech.  :)
Then I spent a week away from home and my craft room, which forced me to refine and hammer out all the little details on paper or in my head before getting started.  This was good for me.. I tend to want to just jump in before I know what's what, for most projects, but this design phase is super valuable.  

I also had time to order supplies online, and when I got home it was all waiting for me in neat little boxes.

Cutting the Fluke

I am using a competitor monofin inside the fluke.  I drew a pleasing shape with a silver sharpie, and cut the fluke with a dremel.  This was much easier than I thought it would be.

Glimmer's twin!

For the body of the tail I'm using 2mm neoprene from Seattle Fabrics.  It comes by the sheet, and I ordered one sheet, which worked out to be just the right amount.  

This isn't my first rodeo mermaid tail, so I got Glimmer out and laid her down on the fabric, and just traced around her.  (The first time I did this, I had someone help and trace ME).  I left the bottom as long as possible, and cut it to shape later.

Fluke me.

With the rest of the neoprene, I was a little worried that I'd come up short -- the heels of the monofin are hanging off a bit, what if there's not enough, OH NOES.  Then I came up with this brilliant little idea:
Heels out!

I cut the fluke on the fold and just let the heels stick out through a couple holes.  This will hold the fabric right over the monofin, neatly and tidily.  Sometimes I'm really smart.

Yep.  It's a mermaid!

Next I basted the front and back together and tried it on.   A bit loose in the knees and ankles, but with a little pinning and fitting I got it snug.  Then I cut the bottom of the skirt into a nice icicle-type shape to go over the fluke.

Velcro & texture

I used some 3" velcro on the back of all the points to hold the tail together when it's on.  I added some texture lines with my sewing maching, to hide the stitching of the velcro and add a bit of interest to the points.


Then I edged the bottom with my serger using a rolled edge.  Metallic silver thread FTW!

test paint: SO SHINY

I am using Jones Tones Paints again for this tail, because they are seriously the best Mermaid tail paints I've ever found, by far.  I'd only used the metallic paints in the past, for my Ariel tail, but for Elsa I wanted glittery sparkle, so I tried the glitter paints.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  SO SHINY.  And just so so so so shiny! 

messy?  yes.  Fun?  Oh yeah.

First I squeezed and slopped a whole bunch of paint on there in different shades of blue and silver.  Wheee!

after smoothing

Then I smoothed it out with a brush.  ZOMG

With Texture

 Then I squeezed on another layer of paint and took an old loose-toothed comb and carefully raked the comb through the paint,  to create texture lines all up and down the tail.  I just. can't. even.  I wish the photos did it justice! 


While waiting for the paint to dry, I looked around online for 3d printable snowflake designs, and didn't find much that I really liked.  Then I found this supercool snowflake vector generator.  I can click around and make my own snowflake design (very satisfying in its own right) and then with a little fiddling, turn it into a 3d printable graphic and then print it.   I'm uploading all the snowflake designs to my Thingiverse account in case you wanna print one too. 

3d printing snowflakes

I'm patterning them as closely as I can from the ones on Elsa's cape.  Hello.  My name is Erin and I am a Cosplay Geek.  

So that's how far I've gotten.. I will update more as I progress.  Thanks for reading!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tentacles, Robots, and Princesses

For some reason, I always seem to lose my focus and motivation in the spring time.  Maybe it's the weather.. spring fever is running rampant and California's spring sunshine is beckoning.  Maybe it's because I often get sick when the seasons change, and this last cold had me in bed for two full days, which is pretty much unheard of for me.

Anyway, I've been trying to get myself back on track with a couple easy silly projects which I will share here.

1. Workstation Reconfiguration

My electronics workstation was cobbled together from bits & bobs and had completely run out of storage.  I got some new drawers.  I had way too much fun with spray paint and my label maker.  Now my workstation is beautiful and organized with extra room for new stuff and ideas.  

Before, I couldn't do any work because my tabletop was too messy.  Now, I can't do any work because my tabletop is TOO CLEAN.

Also I can't stop playing rock band.

2. Octopus Tentacle Cup

With the brand new beautiful tabletop looking so nice, I needed some new accessories.. mostly a little catch-all trash cup for resistor legs and wire ends and bits of hot glue.  I wanted something with style.  A few minutes in Tinkercad and a few hours with my 3D Printer and .. check it.

Mind the Kraken

It's got tentacles.  I'm convinced that when I add the correct combination of mishmash to the cup that the tentacles will come alive and suck all my trash down into the Deeps.  Here's the file on Thingiverse if you wanna print one yourself.    Really, this photo doesn't do it justice.

3. Tinkerplay Mermaid Robot
Do y'all know about Tinkerplay?  It's very cool.  Tinkerplay is an app wherein you can drag bits and pieces together to create your own superhero robot creature.  They have MERMAID PARTS.  Naturally I had to make one.

She turned out sort of like a dragonfly mermaid superhero goddess creature.  I printed the purple bits in purple, and printed the rest in white and painted it.  I love her.

Hanging with Robotica

4. New Cinderella Dress

Princess parties continue to consume my weekends, but that just gave me a lovely excuse to go see the new Cinderella movie.  And then of course I had to modify an old Cinderella dress to match the new look.  

I didn't go overboard.. left the skirt alone, just replaced the sleeves and added butterflies (with magnets!  Rare earth magnets!  I'm such a geek).  I wore it to a party where all the guests had just been to the movie earlier that morning.  They immediately recognized me as the Cinderella from the movie they'd just seen, but complained that my hair wasn't in a bun and I wasn't wearing gloves like the "Real" Cinderella.  "You mean the cartoon?" I asked.  "Well, YEAH, she's the Real Cinderella, not you," they replied.  

Ah well.  It was fun to fix up the dress anyway.

So while it feels like I've done nothing of note in the last month or so, I suppose maybe I have.  Soon I hope to be back on track coming up with fun new stuff to make.  :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LED Arc Reactor for SuperHope

My favorite kind of project is the kind of project that makes me happy and also makes someone else's day. 

Recently I was asked to contribute to a superhero costume for Super Hope.  Super Hope is an awesome organization that works with kids who have cancer, and partners with local designers and artists to create superhero costumes for these kids, giving them the vision and motivation to kick cancer's butt.

I wanted to make an arc reactor a-la Iron Man.  I was working with Luma (Myth and Magic) to create a design done by an 11 year old girl battling leukemia and the LEDs really made it come to life.
I started by 3d printing a design I found online of an arc reactor, modified slightly.

I took a neopixel ring wired it up, then cast it in easy cast resin (with lots of glitter!) so the light would diffuse nicely and sparkle a bit, and also so that the electronic connections would be protected.  Kids are hard on electronics!

Then I wired the neopixels up to a gemma microcontroller and tried out a few different code samples to make the lights flash and blink in various patterns.  After putting a bunch of work into this I realized that Adafruit's neopixel strandtest code (for testing pixel strips) worked incredibly well and so I ended up just using that code as-is.  It cycles through ranbow colors, pulses, blinks, and generally does lots of fun stuff right "out of the box".  Win.

I added a 3AAA battery case and hot glued the whole contraption into the 3d printed arc reactor case.  It looked SO great with the spandex yellow and purple costume that Luma made.   And our amazing superheroine was delighted.  :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

DotStar LED Belly Dance Fans Tutorial

The new DotStar LEDs from Adafruit.com just arrived a couple weeks ago and I am the lucky lucky duck who got to play with them.

The cool thing about DotStars as opposed to NeoPixels (Adafruit's older LED type, and what I used for Glimmer the LED Mermaid and my Isis Wings) is that they are faster.

What does it mean for an LED to be fast?  Aren't they all just light speed?

Well, I'm not really sure.  But I think how it works is this: LEDs aren't just solidly "on".  RGB LEDs like NeoPixels and DotStars have 3 teensy little lights inside, a red, green, and blue.  They blink super fast and are able to create loads of different colors.. but even though they look solid to your eyeball, they are blinking slowly enough that when the LED moves quickly through space, you see it as a series of blips rather than a solid line of light.

DotStars fix this.  You see a solid line of light.  To wit:


So anyway.  Me being a light-spinner-type I had to create some LED fans.  LED fans are rather hard to come by in the high-end toy world.  Everyone is making hula hoops, poi, and staff toys but I've only seen one type of LED fan for sale (and I wasn't that nuts about it).

These, however, I am nuts about.

I've written a tutorial and posted it over at Adafruit.com so all you crafty types can make your own LED fans too.  It's got instructions and links and code and stuff.  

These fans have 3 modes with the code I uploaded to Adafruit.  My personal fans, of course, have far more modes than that.. there is loads of space on the arduino chip for adding more, adding choreo modes where the modes change automatically or at a certain time point, or just picking different colors.  The DotStar pixels are so fast that you get a persistence-of-vision effect when you swing the fans fast, with some modes.. I'm currently exploring some of the different stuff they'll do.  

If people want, I may post more elaborate code with more modes etc here at some point.   :)

Here's a video and a slideshow.  Yay LED Fans!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

LED 3D Printed Mermaid Necklaces

I just got back from NCMerFest in North Carolina.  I am a Mermaid performer and this is the best Mermaid convention I've ever been to -- I had a whole year's worth of fun and it's only January 7.

I've got some tremendously great Mermaid friends who I don't see nearly often enough.  When I got my 3D Printer for Christmas last year I decided I wanted to make some mermaid gifts for my pod-mates to give them at MerFest.  Since I'm so new to 3D printing, I wanted to keep it pretty simple, so I built on some of the other artwork I've been making recently and created custom mermaid LED necklaces for my 4 favorite mermaids.

I'd just finished making this Cosmic Turtle necklace for a friend as a Christmas gift.  For the mermaid necklaces I used the same basic electronics inside, with a slightly different LED configuration -- I wanted lights placed in specific spots for my designs, and also I was out of Neopixel rings with no time to order more, so I used individual Neopixels in place of the rings.

I've tried giving LED necklaces and costume pieces as gifts before, but the breakabilty and difficulty of use has stopped me.  Most handmade electronics require removing a battery to charge it, and the connections can be so delicate that even a gentle hand can break it pretty easily.  This new design includes an onboard battery charger that plugs into a USB cable, which makes it a wonderful gift for someone who's not ready to fix things with a soldering iron.

This was also my first crack at creating custom 3D images.  I looked all over Thingiverse and several other 3D image file source sites, and there just aren't many mermaid shapes available.  I wanted these necklaces to be extra special and personalized, so I decided to use an image of each of the Mermaids herself as the basis for the glowing cutout in the necklace.   The shell design was one I found on Tinkercad, and the pendant part is made of simple shapes so I was able to create that directly in Tinkercad as well.   I also embossed their names on the backs of the necklaces.

They turned out absolutely stunning.

I chose an iconic photo of each mermaid, taken by the incredible Chris Crumley and Robert Minnick, to immortalize in 3D printed plastic, then painted the pendants with metallic enamel and chose LED light colors in the programming to match each mermaid's tail colors.  The clasp is a magnet, which also doubles as an on/off switch by completing the circuit to the battery inside the pendant.

The Mermaid Atlantis
Mermaid Iara

Mermaid Malena

Mermaid Rachel (Dive Bar Sacramento)

I have the coolest friends.  I think they liked them.  :)  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cosmic Turtle Adafruit Learning Center Guide

My second Adafruit tutorial post is live!  Cosmic Turtle Loves you.  Check it out!

I made this for my brother's girlfriend as a Christmas gift and I loved it so much that I wanted to make myself one too.. but then I realized that this turtle pendant appears to be discontinued.  :(  Ah well, that means I'll have to get creative.  Oh darn.  

I got a 3D printer for Christmas, because my Dad is awesome, and I made a 3D printable turtle enclosure that fits these components perfectly.  You can download it free from Tinkercad, or if your dad is not as awesome as my dad and you didn't get a 3D printer for christmas, you can order one from Shapeways


Friday, December 26, 2014

Making ABS 3d-Printed Plastic Look Like Gold -- Paint Testing

I'm having a blast with my new 3D Printer, and the first thing I'm printing is jewelry.  Tiaras, necklaces, pendants, LED jewelry enclosures.. all the perfectly sized things I've always wanted but haven't been able to make until now.

There's just one problem... this printer prints ABS plastic.  White plastic jewelry is just... not... quite what I'm going for.  There are lots of colors available but they all look like plastic.  I want them to glisten and gleam like gold or sparkle and shine like silver.

I tried 5 different kinds of paint on this stuff to see what results I liked best.

Rustoleum Metallic Gold Spray Paint:  This is shiny.  It's super uber shiny.  It shows a lot of detail-- the texture of the model really comes through.  However, it's spray paint.. there is no carefully painting just part of the model without a lot of tedious masking.  And, well, it looks like gold spray paint.  BUT IT IS SHINY!

Liquid Leaf Renaissance Gold:  I had high hopes for this one.  It's thick and opaque and dries fast.  It's impossible to clean up if you spill or get it on you.  But the color turned out.. well, sort of dull and orangey.  It looks like painted plastic.  Not really worth it.

Testors Copper Enamel:  This was my favorite of the lot.  It's shiny but not SO shiny that it looks completely fake.  It's easy to apply (I used a q-tip since I don't want to bother with turpentine) and I can cover just the top layer of printing while leaving the lower layer blank for texture.  It's cheap too.  This is made for painting model cars so I guess they know how to make plastic look like metal.  Win.

Liquitex Bronze Acrylic:  I didn't have high hopes for the acrylic, and therefore it did not disappoint me.  To be fair, this is a bronze rather than a gold but I've never really had a great gold acrylic.  Acrylic paint is easy to use, easy to clean up, but just doesn't pack a lot of punch.

Rub n'Buff Antique Gold:  This is a wax based rub that is supposed to make wood and other porous materials gleam like gold.  ABS isn't really porous, but I rubbed n' buffed n' rubbed n'buffed and it turned out about like the Liquid Leaf.  Not my favorite, and with all that rubbin' n' buffin' it's hard to be precise.

Vitrail Gold Glass Paint:  I tried this one because I like putting LEDs inside my pendants and I wanted to test out something translucent.  This paint is translucent all right.  It's really thin and kind of runny and looks like gold paint, and not like metal at all.  I could see using this as an undercoat on the lower layers of ABS, to let the light through, but then covering the rest of the pendant in enamel or something else.  Didn't blow me away.

I didn't bother with oil paint or watercolors since they're really not made to be metallic.  End result: I like the enamel the best, and it's also the cheapest so that's a win.  It's easy to get and comes in thousands of colors.  For big jobs the metallic spray paint works great, but for most stuff I'll probably be using enamel.