January 8, 2014

Dice Pouch Project

The challenge was to make several pouches for an assortment of board game dice. The pouches would be given away as tokens to fellow gamer friends. The options for the material to use were paper, netting, suede, felt, or any kind of fabric that would serve the purpose. Nothing too fancy; after all, the pouch just needed to hold seven regular-sized dice.

After pulling out a number of drawers of materials I could use, I remembered that I had scrap leather from an old jacket I bought at a garage sale. It’s genuine leather that has natural wear and distress. And even though the scrap pieces are relatively small sections, they would be just fine for the size of the pouches. This was what I had been waiting for -- the chance to recycle/repurpose that old leather jacket!

I went ahead and made a prototype – two sewn-together panels with holes for a pair of drawstrings. It came out really nice!

Dice Pouch Prototype

Leather Dice Pouch Prototype

Because the scrap leather had been in storage, I decided to give each section a good cleaning. We keep a bottle of leather cleaning and polishing solution for our boots, bags, and other leather goods – I put it to really good use!

After the clean-up and polish, I traced the pouch panel pattern on the leather. Because the leather’s wear patterns were not uniform, I made sure that the paired panels came from the same swatch or were at least similar in discoloration. While scissors were good for the panels, the rotary cutter was most efficient for cutting the drawstrings.

Leather dice pouch pattern

Punching the holes was next.

Leather dice pouch punching holes

Then I just sewed the panels together, smooth side in, and pushed the seam to flip the panels smooth side out. It’s with projects like this that I’m glad I have a heavy duty sewing machine.

Leather dice pouch sewing

What I like about leather is you don’t need to worry about the edges fraying -- construction of the pouches was quick and trouble-free.

What took the most time was threading the drawstrings. A crochet hook would help, but I discovered that a pair of tweezers made the job pretty easy.

And here are the leather pouches, ready to be filled with dice. Mission accomplished.


Leather dice pouch batch

December 11, 2013

Hobbit Costuming for Desolation of Smaug Premiere in Manila

All the hard work crafting the Hobbit-themed costumes come down to this: the Manila premiere screenings (Dec 9 & 10, 2013) of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. I present the attires and costume elements that passed through my production worktables. [Click on the images for higher resolution.]

Lord Elrond's full costume worn by my son, Dante.

Lord Elrond costume for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

Lord Elrond costume for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

These next photos were taken at the advance screening for the New Zealand Embassy in Manila.

Bilbo, Elrond, Thranduil, Legolas, Tauriel

Middle Earth company of dwarves, elves, hobbit, and human.

Here are the costumes that incorporate my contributions: Thorin's scalemail armor, belt buckle, and toecaps; Fili's leather vest; and Kili's accent (collar/vambrace/baldric) scales.

Thorin Oakenshield, Kili, Fili

My bragging rights:

Lord Elrond, Fili, Kili, Thorin Oakenshield




September 26, 2013

Worbla Thermoplastic Freddy Krueger Glove

This project was totally spontaneous. It cropped up when Mike saw a Freddy Krueger rubber mask at the CVS store and decided to wear it for Halloween. When he tried it on at home, he put on his cowboy hat to complete the look. I said that if he really wants to complete the look, he needs to wear a striped sweater and the Freddy Krueger glove! Thus, the project was born.

Freddy Krueger Project materials

Stock photo of Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street

I scavenged through our closet for what I could retrofit into the Krueger sweater. Nothing. Then I remembered that we had set aside some garments for donation to the Salvation Army, and that’s where I found two old long-sleeved shirts -- one brownish, one dark-reddish. Jackpot! This project is looking very promising.

Now for the glove. I knew that Mike had leather work gloves that were perfect for the prop. I asked him if he could give up the right glove for the project (it will be totally appropriated for the costume so he will need to get new gloves to have a viable pair). He had no choice, actually. Hah!

Next was research. I had to look for actual photos of the Krueger glove because all I remember is there are four sharp knives protruding from the fingertips. Luckily, someone had already done this project (in fact, a lot of people have already done this!) and generously posted a pattern that could be printed on regular bond paper. Very helpful – thank you!

At this point I had to make a decision. Will I follow the pattern and use copper and aluminum sheets as well as actual knives? I figured that since a ton of awesome folks have already recreated this prop using authentic materials, I prefer to do my own thing with non-lethal substitutes. My substitute of choice was Worbla thermoplastic sheets.

Freddy Krueger glove pattern available online

The Worbla is easy to cut and can be formed and manipulated using heat (hot water, steam, oven, heat gun, hot iron, flat iron). The material becomes soft, like clay, and hardens at it cools. When cool it's hard as, well, hard plastic. This was my first time to work with it so this was a learning process for me.

I started with the knives. Two layers gave the knife form the necessary heft. But the thermoplastic material made them not rigid enough to easily pierce through flesh, nor sharp enough to cut through anything. As long as they ended up looking like knives, they’re fine by me.

Freddy Krueger knives made from Worbla

Then I cut the rest of the patterns and copied them onto the Worbla sheets.

Freddy Krueger glove pattern

Using a heat gun and a metal pipe, I formed the finger plates one by one. I used the back of a ballpeen hammer for rounding the fingertips, and a hot iron with a pointed tip to make the holes for the rivets.

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

I attached temporary rivets to check the alignment of the finger segments. So far, so good.

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

The next step was to attach the knives to the fingertip sections. I was surprised at how easy it was to “glue” them together. The Worbla sheet is integrated with a kind of adhesive, making it very simple to connect pieces to one another.

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

To make the attachment points of the knives and the fingertip sections look like the original metalwork, I had to add scrap pieces along the joints to resemble solder marks. It’s interesting that using Worbla, you won’t need any soldering, but because the glove has to look like the movie prop, I had to simulate the solder joints.

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

Then there are the loops across the curved segments to keep the contraption in place and give the user the ability to control the angle of the knives. Just heat the tips of the strips and press them into place.

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

Forming Freddy Krueger glove parts with Worbla

Painting is next. Some silver here, some bronze there, some dark smudges here and there. Done!

Painting Freddy Krueger glove parts

I had to run to Michaels for another pack of rivets because I had used up all the small ones for my Lord Elrond costume.  

Included in the assembly is punching holes through the back of the hand of Mike’s work glove to coincide with the holes on the main plate (following the printed pattern). The rivets on the back of the hand went through the finger appliance, the main plate, and the leather glove. 

Assembling Freddy Krueger Worbla glove

Assembling Freddy Krueger Worbla glove

As a finishing touch, I added a few more dark smudges on the Worbla pieces as well as the leather glove. 

Last step: I asked Mike to do a final fitting, and yes, it works!

Finished Freddy Krueger Worbla glove

Finished Freddy Krueger Worbla glove

Someone suggested that I add scratches and scuff marks, and make the leather glove scruffier to make it look more realistically worn and weathered. Will do!

We’re just about ready for Halloween! Next up, the Freddy Krueger sweater.

September 6, 2013

The Hobbit: Thorin Oakenshield Boot Caps

Another Thorin Oakenshield costume accessory I determined I could also do was his boot caps. Fortunately, there’s a good image of them available online.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps from promotional photos

Because I would again be making these accessories for Oneal, who’s several thousand miles away, I asked him to take comprehensive measurements of his boots to where the caps would attach. He was quick to illustrate his numbers.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps measurements

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps measurements

Based on Oneal’s measurements, I came up with a paper pattern of what I figured would be the best way to execute the angular forms of the toe tips. There would be a two-section top panel, and a four-section side-to-side panel with tabs to glue the top panel on.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

The caps would be made out of a type of cardboard called chipboard – the kind used as backing for sketch pads. I’ll cut the dwarven designs from craft foam, glue them onto the chipboard, and paint the caps to look just like in the movie. It was relatively straightforward.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

I added a tiny strip of foam along the outer edges and gave the chipboard a base paint of light brown. Then I superglued the cutouts in place.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

This is how the caps looked on my husband’s biker boots (two sizes bigger than Oneal’s) before the painting phase.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam

I used a combination of gold, silver, bronze, and black acrylic paints to give the caps the semi-metallic weathered look.

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam - painted

Thorin Oakenshield boot caps cardboard and foam - painted


Not bad. I’m a little uncomfortable though, at how the caps look a little too shiny compared to the movie version. I told Oneal to maybe add another layer of matte brown and some more weathering (maybe beat them up some) to make them not look like they came from Lord Elrond.

September 4, 2013

The Hobbit: Thorin Oakenshield Belt Buckle


It only made sense that after building Thorin’s armor vest for Oneal, as well as the scales that decorated his massive belt, I should also make the belt buckle. It shouldn’t be difficult. Or so I thought.

Thorin buckle photo from The Hobbit

Because I used polymer clay in building the scale mail, I decided to also use clay in building the buckle. Just make it look like metal, just like the scales.

So, I asked Oneal (from halfway across the planet), to give me the width of his belt, which would be the basis for my design dimensions for the buckle. And this is what I came up with.

Thorin buckle design sketch.

Following the design, I formed and cut my metallic silver clay. It was looking good but I had a tough time keeping the clay’s sharp corners. Every time I add something, my fingers nudge what’s already in place and I have to go back and do damage control.

Thorin buckle - polymer clay

Thorin buckle - polymer clay

Thorin buckle - polymer clay

Then I tried to make the clay surface look rough by texturing with a crochet doily. It worked to some extent.

Thorin buckle - polymer clay

I guess I was too excited to put the whole thing together, including the jewels, that it was only after I had baked the clay that I noticed that the entire thing was off-kilter. The angles were wrong, the depths were wrong, everything was wrong! And crooked! And it was just horrendous! It looked like an Autobot emblem that melted under the sun. I junked it.

Thorin buckle - polymer clay *FAIL*

Thorin buckle - polymer clay *FAIL*

Not to be discouraged, I thought of using a different medium. The clay was just too malleable. I needed a medium that keeps its shape. Cork!

Thorin buckle - cork

I adjusted the design a little bit, incorporated the backing, and used a 45-degree cutter (tool for picture frame matting) to make the sharp-edged shapes in the center of the buckle. It took a bit of practice (and a lot of cork) to perfect the triangular-edge forms.

Thorin buckle - cork

Next, the jewels. I didn’t like how the clay ones came out -- even after I tried to make them shine with a couple of coats of Mod Podge.

Thorin buckle - cork

It was time to employ my resin casting skills! I cut the jewel shapes on hard (black) foam, then I pressed each one on a silicone mold. When the mold cured, I poured some resin, which I tried to color with blue food color. The food color didn’t blend well with the resin because there are tiny blue spots in the cast, but it turned blue enough to pass for Thorin's buckle's precious jewels (you won’t see the spots unless you look really close).

Thorin buckle - resin jewels

My next challenge was to design a way for Oneal to attach the buckle to the belt that he has out there, twelve time zones away. I thought of suggesting superglue (he won’t really have to remove the buckle from the belt, right?). But what if he wants to change the buckle to one that says “Elvis”? So I thought of just screwing an aluminum sheet plate to the back of the cork buckle, with tabs that he can bend and fold around his belt for a perfect fit. (Note that I had to insert/glue onto the cork a set of dowels to screw the plate on.)

Thorin buckle - cork

Thorin buckle - cork

Adding a few shades of metallic silver acrylic paint made the cork look very close to the movie version Thorin buckle. Glue the jewels on and… done! Now doesn't that look so much better than my clay *fail* attempt? But hey, you never know until you try.

Thorin Oakenshield Belt Buckle

Thorin Oakenshield Belt Buckle

Yes, I know, it's still not an exact match to the movie version, but I bet if I try a third time, I'll get it just right!