Earth Day and Costuming

Earth Day isn’t something I’ve participated in a whole lot in recent years. Not because I don’t recognize it as an important event. I’m all for Earth Day. Back in my high school days I was the president of the Science Club (oh come now, you haven’t realized before now that I’m a nerd?) and we always made plans for Earth Day. I haven’t done stuff for Earth Day lately because I’ve forgotten when the actual day has rolled around. By the time someone mentions “Oh hey, today is Earth Day” the day has already passed by.

This year, I managed to get out and do something Earth Day-related. First, I dropped some old electronics off over on campus. The school had set up a recycling center to collect old tvs, computers, stereo equipment, sewing machines, etc. so they could be disposed of or recycled in an environmentally sound manner. We had two broken televisions, an old computer monitor and Mom’s old Singer to drop off. I was a bit sad about handing over the sewing machine – I’ve got a lot of memories from it – but it was just sitting around the house and needed to leave.

After the run to campus I stopped by my sister’s house to pick up her cloak. I had made it for her as a Christmas present a few years ago but it was entirely too long. We’re heading up to the Spoutwood Fairie Festival this coming weekend (first weekend in May) and it’s usually a bit cool while we’re up there so I figured it would be a good idea to get everything ready ahead of time. It didn’t take all that long to trim and re-hem the whole thing. It’s hanging on my body form as I write this, waiting for my sister to pick it up.

I had originally intended to work outside in the yard this weekend but the weather wasn’t as sunny and cheery as I wanted it to be. I was worried about rain starting up while I was in the middle of ripping stuff out of the backyard, so I decided to continue working on costumes.

First, I decided to start working on a new jacket for Tesla. I’ve been thinking more about her character and elements of her look. As I’ve mentioned before, the Victorian-style, rather feminine jacket I originally made works better with

No more collar!

Maggie’s outfit. Tesla’s look needed to be a bit rougher. I’ve been admiring things like welder’s jackets and the like and I think they go along with Tesla’s character more than anything else. I obviously don’t have the money to drop on an actual welder’s jacket (and I like the challenge of making something) so I’ve been thinking of ways I could create my own. I took an old faux-leather jacket out of the closet upstairs and started deconstructing it. The collar of the jacket had worn out long ago. It was all cracked and split, which I didn’t even realize fake leather could do. Most of the rest of the coat was still in good shape, although there were a few places here and there that were definitely showing some wear and tear.

I went ahead and just followed the actual construction lines of the original jacket for the deconstruction. The jacket

The front of the newly cropped jacket, which will be used as a pattern for the real thing.

 had a yoke on the top and I just went ahead and cut off everything below that. The sleeves took a little fiddling with before they finally came off. I took some pictures of the basic look of the new jacket before I started taking it apart to use as a pattern. The first mock-up of the new jacket isn’t 100% finished yet, but I hope to have the sleeves done and added to the rest by tomorrow.

I decided to set work on the jacket aside for a bit and start work on the Big Project. Yes, I’m using capitalized letters where they’re not really needed. That should give you an idea of how big this project is.

What is this Big Project, you ask? Well, friends and readers, I am starting construction on the head for my Kowl costume. I’ve got until the first weekend in September to finish the whole thing but I really don’t want to have it go on for that long. Ideally I would have the whole thing finished by June, if not mid-May. The biggest problem so far has actually not been the construction of the head. That seems to be going along swimmingly so far. Well, aside from the deep slash in one finger from a literal run-in with some of the wire and the slew of burns from the high-temp glue gun that I was using originally. I’ve since switched to the low-temp one. It actually works with the foam better and means I don’t have to wait as long for the dang glue to cool.

As with many of my larger costume builds, part of the head is made with old wire hangers.They’re honestly one of the most useful items in a poor costumer’s arsenal. Hot glue, wire hangers, cardboard and a little masking tape = awesome stuff. So far Maggie and I have used wire hangers in the Blink Angel costumes, my Toad costue, several hoop skirts, Maggie’s Pan costume (I think) and our Potter Puppet Pal heads. Kowl certainly seems to have good company in the wire hanger club.

I knew I didn’t have enough wire hangers to build the whole head so I made a quick run out to A.C. Moore to see what they had in the way of floral supplies that I could use. I found a lovely spool of thick wire (covered in something that’s kind of like raffia but isn’t) that is working very nicely. The first step was to create the top part of the cage that forms the bones of the head. Since the wire hanger is a good deal sturdier than the floral wire, I used it as the base and wove the floral wire around and over it. After I made the basic cap, I started building the section of the head that would sit down over my ears. I tried to keep most of the “bones” of the head out of the way of my vision. Back when I made my Harry Potter puppet head I wound up with a major part of the inner construction obstructing the place I really wanted to be able to see out of. I didn’t want to worry about my vision the same way this time around, which meant a little creative manipulation of the wires.

The half-finished head and the tools on my work table

The wire base of the main part of the head (the lower jaw is going to be separate) is finished and I’ve already started adding the foam overtop the “bones.” I need to bring the foam on the back of the head down just a bit more, to cover more of the back of my neck, but otherwise it’s coming along quite nicely. I’m going to be adding on a little more foam on the top and sides of the head. The forehead needs to be a little taller and flatter in order for the eyes to sit right and Kowl kind of has jowls. After I add another layer of foam on top of the basic layer, I’ll be able to use a pair of scissors to provide a more exact shape. After the foam layer is finished, it’ll be time to start covering the head with the fabric/fake fur.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find enough fabric of the right color soon.

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