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

Saturday, July 4, 2015

LED Mermaid Glimmer Swimming at Night

I had a fantastic fire dancing - and - swimming mermaid gig last weekend and got some wonderful video of Glimmer swimming.  The pool I was in was lit just perfectly -- the footage is really otherworldly and so much fun.  Enjoy!

Ooh and I made a .gif:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Venetian Color Thief LED Costume - Neopixels and Color Sensing Magic

I had the very good fortune of visiting Venice this spring.  Venice.. the city of Carnival, canals, masks, and the Aperol Spritz.  I've heard about Venice for years -- who hasn't?  But nothing quite prepared me for the amazing experience of getting lost in the hundreds of alleyways and ducking into every mask shop and gelateria I found.  It was incredibly inspiring.

Of course, I had to get some masks.  And equally, I had to create a character around them... so here she is: the Venetian Color Thief.

She is a beautifully detailed Venetian costumed character who steals the colors from people around her and displays them in a dazzling light show.

I was inspired by this blog post by Eirebecky, which details how she made a project really similar to this one.  Such a great idea.. I had to steal it!  I did make mine really different, but I'd love to bump into her some day and have a color steal-a-thon.

This costume has around 50-60 neopixels, controlled by Adafruit's Flora and running FastLED Arduino code.  It's got mosaic glass and resin cabochons and lots and lots of rhinestone trim.  It has ostrich feathers and a top hat.  It's got a 3d printed project enclosure and 3d printed neopixel cases, and a color sensor and activator button in the glove.  So many different pieces and skills and crafts came together to make this costume.  I never want to take it off.


Step one was finding the right fabric -- something that would diffuse the LEDs but still remain flowy and light.  I ended up using my old torn aerial tissu -- it's got runs and won't support my weight anymore, so it's been in the back of my closet for ages, but it's made of tricot of the perfect weight and it was 120 inches wide.  Also there was yards and yards of it, which is great because I needed to make the cloak two layers thick -- one for diffusion and one for attaching the LEDs to.   I used a cloak pattern from Simplicity and made the hood much, much larger to create a layered look.  I also added pockets to both sides, so I'd have a good place to keep the electronics.

Next, I prepared the neopixels.  I used individual neopixels and soldered them all together in three different strands -- one for each side of the front and another for the back of the cloak.  This took lots of wire and lots and lots of time and patience, but I got there eventually.  Then I designed and printed snap-on cases with my 3d printer to protect the neopixels and solder joints and to keep everything from shorting if the cloak billowed around me.  Then I sewed all the neopixels onto the outside of the cloak lining so they'd shine through the top cloak layer.

I took a pair of white satin opera gloves and cut the tip of the right index finger off, and set the color sensor in there.  I covered it with a little half-dome of clear acrylic plastic to downplay the look of the color sensor a bit and glued it in place.

Then I took a push-button switch and sewed it in place at the tip of the middle finger.  The way it works is that I can touch my thumb to my middle finger for a moment and that will activate the color sensor, which lights up and glows for about 2 seconds while it reads the color of whatever it's touching.  The sensor sends this data to the Flora, which then tells the LEDs what color to base their animation on.

For the headpiece, I cut a white felt top hat to accommodate the metal filigree of the mask, and added the ostrich feathers then glued all three pieces together.  I added one LED on the back of the mask, shining inwards so it lights my face, and another behind the feathers and one on the roof of the top hat, illuminating the hat and the resin cabochon (filled with Venetian mosaic glass, of course, and set in a 3d printed setting).   It looks lovely.

The hat, cloak, and glove all connect or disconnect with snap-together connectors, so it's fairly easy to get in and out of this costume without help.

I added a matching cabochon to the front of the cloak to use as the clasp and added rhinestones and lace and just generally went overboard decorating the cloak.

For the code, I am using FastLED and the Twinkle code by Mark Kriegsman as a starting place, along with the sensor code by Phil Burgess from the Chameleon Scarf Adafruit guide.  The random placement of the LEDs means that a random twinkling effect looks much better than a "solid on" type of pattern, so the cloak twinkles constantly...  but blinking in the mask would drive me nuts so the hat and mask are running separate code that stays solid and steady but still changes with the sensor.

I also added some code so that a long press on the button resets the LEDs to white, since this code doesn't ever read "white" no matter how white of a thing I touch.  Here's my code if you're interested!

The color sensing doesn't work quite as well as I'd like -- it works maybe 2 out of 3 times, and the rest of the time the color is unexplainably wrong, or somehow the opposite color of whatever I'm touching.  It's interesting to learn what it likes and doesn't like.. fluorescent colors confuse it to no end, as do shiny or sparkly things or very dark colors.  Good solid bright colors seem to work best.

More about Booking her here!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Glowing Glass Mosaic Necklaces

Last week I was in Venice.

If you haven't been to Venice, GO.  It was amazing.  It was more beautiful, gritty, exciting, delicious, and REAL than I could have possibly imagined.  It was Diagon Alley, only full of boats and muggles.  It was inspiring.

One of Venice's main exports is Murano glass.  The Venetians started making glass on Murano island in 1291 and have been going strong ever since.  We saw a boatload of amazing artwork and got to see some glass demonstrations and oooooh it made me want to get my hands dirty.

This, in addition to my visit to the Tiffany glass museum in Orlando last month, is making me want to use glass and light together in exciting ways.

I'm starting simple, with mosaic tiles in resin.  I'm quite liking the way this necklace turned out:

True to myself, I'm using new materials together with the glass.  The setting is 3d printed and then painted silver.  It looks pretty nice.  I'm also playing with methods of finishing 3d printed ABS to make it shinier and smoother and less plasticy-looking, for the future, but I actually quite like the finish of this one.

So of course I had to put lights in.  This is a super simple, one LED solution that runs off two coin cell batteries, which fit nicely into the back of the pendant.  It turned out very mermaid-y.  

I'm also working on a much more elaborate version, with around 25 LEDs and a microcontroller, but this super simple one is really delighting me.  I want to try a few more times with a few more colors.. these are really nice, and I have put this one up for sale in my Etsy shop.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Frozen Queen Elsa Mermaid Tail - How to, Part 2

The construction is all done on my Elsa Mermaid tail, and it's time to make it PRETTY!

I used Jones Tones sparkle paint in about 5 different shades of blue and silver.  Elsa's skirt fabric from the Frozen movie has vertical lines of sparkle on it, so I made the skirt-part of the tail have a similar texture.  

I achieved this by squeezing out a whole bunch of colors of paint all over the tail, and then took a big-toothed comb and broke off the ends (so it was nothing but teeth).  I used the comb to gently blend and comb the paint in long up-and-down strokes until I got the effect I wanted. 

For the bottom of the skirt, I masked the edging with some masking tape before painting, so it would stay white.  I used more of the darker blues to give an gradient effect, similar to Elsa's skirt from the movie.  Earlier, I'd sewn the velcro on the back of these flaps with lots of vertical stitches, which gave the base of the tail a really interesting texture (and hid the fact that I'd sewn velcro on, WIN) and the paint overlay really emphasized this texture.

Doing the front and back was easy, but to get the sides done smoothly I had to stuff the tail full of fabric scraps and whatnot.  It looks like a stuffed squid mermaid on my table!

Once the top was done, I painted a base coat on the fluke with several layers of paint to get it nicely blended.  I wanted the fluke to take after Elsa's cape, so I used lighter blues and a lot more white for this part, but still all sparkle paint.  The edges blend to a dark blue to match the top.  It turned out gorgeous!

Next I used some screen captures of Elsa's snowflake cape pattern I found on the internet to decide how to lay out the snowflakes.  Then I improvised as needed.. it's a totally different shape and having too many snowflakes made it look cluttered.  I really like how it ended up, though I'm considering adding a few more teensy ones here and there.

For the fringe fins at the bottom of the tail, I used plastic shelf liner that I found at the local hardware store and cut it into a pleasing shape.  I really like the effect.. it looks a bit like an ice sheet or icicle at the end of the tail.  

I glued all the icicles in place using Loctite Vinyl Fabric & Plastic glue.  It was slow to dry but they hold VERY well, which is wonderful.

Next, I added the velcro to the fluke, sewing it on first and then putting the two pieces together and trimming the velcro to match where the top overlay wanted to be.

Next, I used my serger to put a rolled edge on the bottom of both sides of the fluke.

Once the whole thing was edged, I added the plastic fins at the end.  I sewed them on just along the edging and then trimmed the inside close to the stitching, so they wouldn't collect water and slow me down.

Once it all looked pretty and there was nothing else to sew on, I put the monofin inside and sewed the fin closed, leaving lots of gaps for drainage.  I didn't use any glue this time -- just stitched it as best I could on the machine and when I couldn't fit it into the machine anymore, by hand.


I used my friend Anna as "mermaid test dummy" to be sure everything lined up in the back and on the front, and made adjustments / added more velcro as needed.

I finished by adding a waistband of sheer blue fabric (similar to Elsa's sleeves).. but it still needs some work so I won't post pictures as of yet.  I did manage to take my first swim in the new tail though!!  It swims like a dream.. so light and fast, with absolutely no drainage problems.  It's really easy to get into and out of too!  Here's a short video.. enjoy!

Next, I need to make a matching top, and decide if I need an actual cape or not and what the hair will be like.  But for now, I'm in love with it.  It's SO SPARKLY!!

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.  :)