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Portal Gun – Electronics

The circuitry of the gun was by far the hard part and most complicated. However, it doesn’t need anything more complicated than a basic knowledge of secondary/high school electronics/physics. Trust me, YOU CAN DO THIS.

Let’s get the important theory out of the way first – using LEDs with batteries you need resistors. A good resistor calculator is available here. You’re after the calculated resistance value. You’ll find that resistors aren’t always available in the exact value you need, so round UP. You get slightly more resistance and you don’t risk burning out the LED.

but if you like knowing the maths, read this instructable about how it’s calculated. I like knowing, and did my own calculations (on paper no less!) before buying my resistors. If you’re buying more than one value, learn which are which before you start so you don’t confuse them, they have colour coded rings to show you.

I added my LEDs and resistors in parallel with a resistor for each LED, hoping that if one failed I wouldn’t lose all my lights.

Ok, let’s talk supplies. For your wiring you will need:

LEDs in Blue and Orange. I bought 20 of each as they were cheap.
Resistors for your LEDs
Cat 5 cable – this has 5 pairs of colour coded cable so you know what you’re wiring, it’s fab stuff.
A switch (more on that later)
Battery case and attachment
Soldering Iron (ebay, £7 for mine) and solder
Electrical tape in black and white
Wire strippers.

Here’s my box of bits and pieces, I am quite proud of it!

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You want to wire up each LED in parallel, otherwise all your calculations are for nothing! I’ve read you can wire them up in series, but you then need to compensate with a much higher input voltage from the batteries, which will take up space inside the gun. You do then only need one resistor, but if you break it, the whole circuit can burnout. I was also connecting three different numbers of LEDs to one power source, so by connecting in parallel the values are all the same and it doesn’t go squiffy. I started with the operational end of the device, and started by wiring individual LEDs. You want a positive wire, then the resistor, then the positive leg of the LED. this is indicated by it being the longer lead. then to the shorter leg you want to attach your negative wire. for this part you can leave the negative wire off for now as it will get in the way in this piece. 5mm LEDs fit almost perfectly into a normal office hole punch hole, which is handy for placement. I cut a circle of card to fit the lid end of the black tube (operational end), and tried to evenly space a circle of 16 holes, as I decided 8 LEDs made a good circle of light, and you need orange and blue in there.

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In the second picture you can see the positive wires (branching out, they’re orange but the joins are covered with electrical tape to prevent short circuits, so you can’t see much orange this close up!), the tiny blue resistors, the back of the LEDs, and the negative wires joining in the centre to be soldered to one negative wire to go back up the gun.

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Here you can see the mess of the blue LEDs (the resistors got covered on these too) with the blue positive wires and blue/white striped negative wires. Then there’s the neat(ish) end plate with the LEDs in place. They wouldn’t sit nice and flat, which is part of the reason I decided to cover the end with a plastic cover, to make it look a bit more finished. Once you’ve connected all the positive wires together and negative wires together for each colour you have to cover all the wiring in the back, without leaving any bare wires that might touch each other. In the end I did a layer of electrical tape over the orange wiring before putting the blue in, and then an extra layer of card on to help hold things in, and more tape.

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Here you can see the + and – wires for blue and orange. Make sure you leave it long enough to reach back to your batteries.

Next, the core. I was going to try to make some kind of diagram to show you the parallel connections for this one but good old google to the rescue:

ledparaYou can add as many LEDs as you like this way. I went for 7 of each colour in separate circuits, and then I used a glue gun to put them in the recesses on the plunger handle. Again, lots of electrical tape to insulate.

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Excuse the awful lap shot, it was daytime and that was the only darkish place to see the light. You can see the battery case and wires there too, which at the end cal simply be connected.

IMG_4738These pairs of LEDs are for the indicator light. They were the easiest bit, just connect in parallel again (don’t forget your resistors) and connect in. Because it’s all in parallel and calculated for the same battery power, I was able to run it off one source, using one switch for simplicity. The switch I used was a on-off-on, double pole double throw switch. If you’re lost, don’t worry! It’s much easier to use than it seems. You can see it in the pictures below, it’s quite small! technically you don’t need double pole (the poles are where you connect the wires underneath) but there was so much getting connected it was nice to have extra bits. You can connect the wires to each other first and then to the switch, so it’s all neat and tidy.

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Double throw – this means you can have the switch on to one part of the circuit and not the other. This means you can connect the orange circuit to one side and blue to the other, so when the switch is in the centre, all is off. switch to one side and it’s orange on, switch to the other side and it’s blue on. Hence it’s on-off-on description. This meant it was easy for Ethan to operate without him having to faff about and look at it! It sounds more complicated than it is! I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of the next bit as I was so busy getting it actually done I forgot. But it’s easy! The positive wire from the power source connects to the central pole(s) of the switch. The positive blue wire for the blue circuits attaches to the pole(s) on one end, and orange positive wire on the other. The negative wires from both circuits simply connect back to the negative wire to the battery. Now you have one circuit, that can be switched on and off at one point. Ta-Da! The battery holder case I bought came with a connector so I can disconnect the batteries and replace if needed. Let’s see the innards:

IMG_4918Ok. You can see the red switch. The green wire is the positive lead to the batteries, with positive orange and blue wires on each side. If you look at the left you can see at the black electrical tape where the blue and orange wires split off for different things. Up at the top is the indicator light, in the centre of the black tube is the core/plunger handle, and at the bottom of the black tube right by my hand you can just see where the wires for the operational end. They go in there, and between the two black tubes down to the end unseen. On the right you can see where I’ve condensed the negative wires down to one orange/white striped wire going off to the batteries. Once everything was connected I could glue/tape it all in place and make a bodged housing for the battery from some foam so it wasn’t knocking about but still able to get the batteries out.

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You can also see the handle I put in there and that the switch is glue gunned into a place near his fingers so he can flick it easily. Handily, the glue also insulates the poles so the wires can’t create a short. With the batteries in you can also see the red positive wire from the battery connector, this connects to the green one mentioned above as they are only short ones. And that’s your lot, electronically. I had an absolute blast making it and learning new skills, I’m itching to try something else now! If you follow the Aperture Science or Portal tags on the bottom of this post, you can see the rest if you’ve not found it yet. Thanks for reading! Any questions I’d be happy to help with, comments below 🙂

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The Portal Gun

Or to give it it’s full name, the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. Here’s a reference picture of it:

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And here’s ours!

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Let me start by saying I would have got absolutely nowhere without these two instructables: Build your own Aperture Science Portal Gun and Budget Portal Gun from Recycled Materials. These were fantastic and I would definitely recommend checking them out before you start.

Obviously we took a little artistic license, but we’re both really pleased with how it turned out!

Let’s start with the tube-y part with the lights in. I’ll do a separate post on the electronics side of it, so if you want to make it with the lights, don’t glue it all together before you plan out your circuits. I used two of these tubes from Lush for the central black part. tubesI think these actually might have been the most expensive part. Anyway, the top and bottom pop off, and the tube opens up flat. I sketched out the shape of the hole I wanted and cut it out of both. I slid one inside the other to strengthen it, make it black both sides, and to leave a space to insert the ‘glass’ cover and run cables back to the hand end from the ‘operational end of the device’. To make one slide into the other, the inner one had to be opened out flat and trimmed down, with also meant I had to make new slots for the tabs to fit, but it worked. a bit of electrical tape over the tabs to secure the join and it was done. I also taped the join on the outer tube to give a clean finish on the outside. I had to trim the ends of the inner tube down too to get the lids back on, but the plastic was easy enough to cut with scissors

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For the glass I tried to find a similar width drinks bottle or something. I actually had one at home that I had in mind to use, but as soon as I wanted it, it disappeared! I couldn’t find a suitable replacement until I realised a cut down 2 litre pop bottle would do the job. It has a ridge in the middle, but I at least made it straight so it looked like it was supposed to be there! It was two wide so I cut a section out and wedged it between the two black tubes, for now. It can be glued in place later after you use it to hide the wiring.

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The central core was a clear plastic handle from a plunger. I really lucked out actually on this as it was cheap from ebay and had two brilliant recesses where I was able to stuff the LEDs rather than trying to light it up from the ends as I saw on instructables, which looked way harder! I sanded the plastic so the lights would be diffused better. It also just happened to be almost the perfect length. For the operational end, I cut through the lid of the tube and used cardboard and craft foam to hold the LEDs in place. The lids are very thick plastic so I had to use a heated needle to punch lots of holes and then sand off the mess. for the back end of the tube I just put a small hole in the lid to fee the wires through, and a hole in the middle to hold the handle/lightstick.

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To bulk up the end I found some guttering parts at B&Q (hardware shop). I think they were kind of brackets. I removed the fixtures and seals and they just about fit right. I decided to cover the LEDs with a thin piece of plastic and foam so it’d look a bit neater.

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The front white piece is the side of a large conditioner bottle, cut down to size and shape. The bottom edge should really have been curved but again we went for time and money saved. The claws I cut from the plastic left over from the black tubes, and glued together with a small piece of craft foam to cover the join and look like a bracket, two on the white part, and one on the top of the black end. I did the same when gluing on the cables, as they’re not functional. In fact I actually glued them into the same bits of craft foam on the claws.

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The back end was two large bleach bottles. I could only find ones with handles so I had to cut those out and overlap the two (hence the big hole!), and cut the top off to fit the black tube in. After it’s all been glued in place, you can use black and white electrical tape to give really nice clean edges. As you can see there’s a whole mess of wiring to figure out too! I put a length of pvc pipe in for a handle so Ethan could easily hold it and still flip the switch.  You can see on the top of the inside of the bottle where the wires lead to the indicator light (the second picture). The indicator was just a small circle cut into the bottle, and I found a curved piece of plastic to cover it, that I stuck in from the inside for neatness. I think it was from a vending machine pod, with a little toy in. I put the tape on for a stripe and then covered the extra glow through the plastic with an aperture logo. This is a visual change I didn’t love to be honest, but it had to be covered or as you can see the glow looked ridiculous. We consoled ourselves by deciding that Ethan was a test subject from before the big GLaDOS meltdown, so the gun was a slightly earlier model than Chell’s!

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You can also see where I used black tape between the bottle and the black tube to neaten it up.

I used the bottom of one of the bottles to give the end a cleaner look, so it wasn’t just the cut off end of the bottle, and cut a hand hole into the bottom for access. A bit of white electrical tape around the edge stopped it being scratchy and looking messy. I also used white tape to cover the joins of the two bottles and neaten it all up.

And there you have it for the physical build! Check out the second post for information about the wiring side of it. Any questions are more than welcome, if I seem to have skipped any steps or you want clarity, comments would be great 🙂

 

 

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Aperture Science: We do what we must, because we can.

 

In November, Ethan went to his first Convention. He was really excited and decided he wanted to cosplay, and chose to be an Aperture Science Test Subject from Portal. So I started to look at how to make him a costume and gun, and drumroll please…..

Ta-Da!

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For reference, here’s the main character from the game, Chell.

chellVia the half-life wikia

We made it all, bar actually sewing the jumpsuit. I tried looking for an orange one to buy, but while there are plenty of American prison-style ones for adults, there aren’t many for kids. In the end I found a white one online (Amazon have it) and dyed it. Fun tip – check your fabric content. That suit is a poly/cotton mix, which need two different kinds of dye. I ended up having to do it twice. I’d try to get one that’s full cotton if you can find it, as polyester needs to be boil dyed too, and it stinks!

After that we used this site to print the aperture logo as an iron on transfer to add a little detail to the suit:

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We also did the same for the full Aperture Science logo to go on the T-shirt he wore underneath.

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With it being November, he couldn’t be barefoot like in the original Portal, so we also made him some ‘Long-fall boots’. With him being 6 I didn’t know if he’d have the patience to walk with some kind of bent bar of whatever I could come up with behind his leg, so we simplified. I bought him some white sneakers (super bargain, only £6.50 in the sale from Sports Direct):IMG_5049and made the back of the boot like a kind of reverse shin pad:

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I did these the night before the con so they could absolutely be neater! It’s craft foam cut to shape and size, with elastic cuffs on the front. The stripe on the back is electrical tape for a nice neat line. The ‘bolts’ holding in the straps are just craft brads I had in my mending box. I continued the line on the back of the sneakers with another strip of tape, bonus, it peeled off really easily after and left no marks. IMG_5050

And that’s the outfit really. He kept the top half of the suit up most of the time as it was freezing, but he loves his T-shirt and wore it to school for non-uniform day this week. We also made the Portal Gun, but that is going to be picture heavy so I’ll stick it in a new post.

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Weeping Angel – Mask, Wig and Sleeves

Hopefully this one will be a little shorter!

The mask. I wanted to sculpt it myself like Penwiper and Kilayi but ultimately I ran out of time. I ordered one on amazon that looked like this.

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It’s a vacuform one, so thin moulded plastic, with an elastic strap. The eyes are covered with a quite open weave mesh material, sort of like tights. I took it out, because it lay flat across the holes and there wasn’t any room for my eyelashes and it was irritating. The mask was also a little too big for my face – too wide, and too high at the top. Thankfully this kind of plastic needs only a small amount of heat to re-mould, so all I did was hold it over the gas hob for a very short time and then squeeze it thinner, and wait for it to cool. If you’re leaving the eye coverings in, be really careful, because they will melt too. At this point it’s a good idea to add breathing holes too. I used a hot pin to open up the nostrils a little, and poked half a dozen tiny pin holes around the mouth. I still had to whip it off now and then to get a few breaths in, but I think it was better than it would have been.

For the height, I trimmed it down to the ribbon part, which was enough as it then sat nicely against the wig. It’s painted in the same way as the wings and dress – dark grey, mid grey highlights, then light grey highlights. Again, I’d prepare everything and paint all at the same time to be sure of matching colours.

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Under my mask for the eyes I used Snazaroo Dark Grey face paint. This way, for pictures all I needed to do was close my eyes to give the full stone effect, but I kept perfect visibility for moving around. It was a little tricky as when your eyes are closed you don’t know when the picture is done. I was listening out for shutter noises, or waiting for flash, but I probably held my pose a little longer than necessary but whatever.

The Wig.

I started off with this (fairly awful) wig from ebay.

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When it came it looked quite thin and I was worried it’d be no good, but it worked out ok. First I pinned it to a polystyrene head covered in cling film. Then I sectioned off the front part, and tied the rest in a low ponytail. I tried to make a small bun out of it but it was tiny, so I wrapped half an old sock around the pony tail to bulk it out, then wrapped the pony tail around. Securing it was a nightmare, so at this point I added a bunch of glue and the headband. It was just a strip of fabric with the ends turned under, and I wrapped it over the top and the ends wrapped around the bun, with the front bits still hanging loose. Then I added more glue. I pretty much just spread superglue all over. The front pieces now come in – I took one side, draped it round the back, over the bun, around and under. Loads of glue. Then the same with the other side. Glue everything, and stick down any stray hairs.

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Then it’s more painting again.

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The sleeves. Another Penwiper/Kilayi idea – you take a pair of tights, and cut a hole in the crotch. This is the neck hole, and the legs become sleeves. With your hands in the ends, you pin between the fingers so you know where to cut. Then use whipstitch to make the fingers or the gloves. It will take a long time and be careful to only get the edges, or it’ll be too tight on your fingers. Put them back on, and if they fit nicely, use nail varnish to seal the seams. make a tuck at the wrists so they’re nice and tight, then turn them inside out and put them on. Add false nails to the end. Be sure to liberally put lotion or oil on your own nails so you don’t end up with everything fused to yourself. Then while wearing them, paint them and let them dry. This way they stay big enough to wear. If you want to have more stretch, you can use fabric paint, but I wasn’t going to spend the money on it.

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Creepy right?

Kilayi and Penwiper also made a hood out of tights to cover the neck, and I made one, but it was so hot, I knew I’d never cope with it for long. So before putting anything on I used more of the Snazarro Dark Grey to cover my neck, around the edge of my face, and up halfway on my ears. The wig or mask covers the rest. After a tip online I sprayed all the face paint with hairspray to help it keep, and most of it did until walking back to the car in a light rain. Not bad for water based.

And that’s it really! I recommend wearing a vest top underneath to prevent any rubbing, then the tight/sleeves, then the harness, then the dress. Here you’ll need help – someone to put your wings in and zip you up. They go through the holes in the dress and into the harness. Then do the dress up. The mask goes on next, then the wig so the strap is hidden, but I actually had the wig fit under the top of the mask, so you still get the fringe bits on the mask visible as I couldn’t for the life of me think how to make the wig behave that way.

Done! Thanks for reading, it was loads of fun to do, and wearing it was amazing.

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Weeping Angel – The Wings and Harness

If you’re interested, dress instructions are here.

On to the wings. The wings are tricky. The front and back are different, and you need a way for them to attach, while looking like everything is one piece of stone. I combined ideas from Kilayi’s post and Penwiper’s TheRPF thread.

What you need for the wings:
About 2m of pvc pipe. I used 22mm wide.
45° pipe joints (4)
90° pipe joints (2)
T pipe joints (2)
large foamcore board (2) – this is a light foam with paper glued either side to keep it rigid.
A LOT of 6mm EVA foam – I used 2 cheap yoga mats and a handful of A4 sheets when I ran out!
SO MUCH GLUE. Glue guns are your friend, or failing that a fast acting superglue.
You’ll really want a craft knife too for the foamcore, help yourself out and buy a cheap one. I managed with scissors but it was a bit nightmarish.

This picture I printed from Kilayi – the plan was to use her PVC boning system, combined with Penwiper’s foamcore centre layer to make them solid.

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As you can see, I kind of divided up lengths and stuff and figured out a ratio to use to blow it up to the right size. I’m 5 ft 6, and decided on just over 3 feet long. I looked for photos of a full wing from the actual show to use, but I couldn’t find one that clearly showed a whole wing, so I am hugely indebted to Kilayi for this one! All in all I spent about 2-3 hours one evening calculating the dimensions and transferring a version of it to some scrap wallpaper for a template for the foam core.

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Remember, this is going to be hidden by the foam, so you don’t need the individual feather shaping at the bottom, but it helps to remember where things will be. You’ll also want the feathers to overlap and meet at the edges, so allow for that when cutting them out later.

Next you want to arrange the pipe into this kind of construction. The horizontal sections are very slightly bent to help get up into that raised part at the top. It takes very little heat to do this, I held mine over my gas kitchen hob for a few seconds and then quickly stuck it in the joint and bent it. It will need glue in that joint, and the melt changes the shape enough that it’s not tight. I glued all my joints, just to be safe!

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In that picture you can see that the pipes are sunk into the foam core. I traced around them onto the wing and cut out the section. This way, after you add the foam you’re not left with a flat side and a side with a big bulge (cheeky!) and you get a bit of thickness to the top of your wing on both sides. after fitting them in, I punched tiny holes in the foam core with my small scissors either side of the pipe and secured it that way.

Next, plan out your feathers. You’ll need a few pictures of the front and back of the wings – google images is good, or you can use the finished wing images lower in this post. Be sure to look at how and where they overlap, and leave enough extra on them to do it. Start cutting out the feathers, and before long, your ‘workspace’ (ie, my front room) will look like this…

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Don’t start to glue anything down until it’s all cut out and planned, or you’ll get gaps or mistakes. I didn’t get pictures of individual feathers, but you’ll see below that they have score marks down the centre and uneven notches to look a bit more like feathers. Begin gluing…now.  Glue to the foam, or the bone pipes, but NOT the vertical pipe that will attach to your harness. It needs to be totally clear so it can be hidden within the dress and attach easily to the harness. After a long time and several mild burns (if using hot glue), or sticking of yourself to who knows what (superglue), or both, you’ll arrive at this point.

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This is where I’ll point out – get foam as close to grey as possible. I couldn’t find sheets of grey cheap enough to justify it, but definitely look, because it is SUCH a pain in the butt getting paint right in all the nooks and crannies. on the fronts with the grey parts I didn’t have to be quite so careful to get every speck.

And the paint job, the same as the dress – dark grey all over – two coats here to fully cover the foam – then a mid grey of highlights, then a light grey of smaller highlights. you can also do a wash of thinned down black in the creases where you apply and wipe off quickly so just the crevices are nice and grimy. I think it’s a great way to age stuff, but I left it off of this project as I think it might have been too much. Leave it to dry and you’re done!

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The only addition I made after this was adding a small amount of fabric to the wing base to hide where it will be joining the dress, hiding any gaps. I just made a loop of fabric and glued it on to the feathers (not the pipe) and let it hang over the pipe. Paint it with the rest, or if you add it after like me, just match the best you can. The highlights help disguise it anyway if it’s not spot on.

On to the harness.

You’ll need:
a cheap/old backpack, or strapping with its assorted clippy bits.
A small amount of scrap fabric
a small piece of wood or similar material
Off cut of EVA foam to line the back
4 pipe clips – matching size to your pipe
Sewing paraphernalia

Start with the wood. You want a small rectangle (mine is rounded at the top like a grave stone shape, because that was the shape backpack I had) that will comfortably fit your back. Attach the pipe clips with the screws. I also drilled small holes either side of the clips and cable tied them on too, because I used two layers of thin plyboard because that’s what I had, and on removing the pipes from the clip, the screws were less than secure.  Glue foam to the back of the wood for comfort.

Use the scrap fabric to sew a well-fitting envelope for the wood, with holes with strengthening stitching for the pipeclips. This needs sewing to the back pack if using or straps attaching to it. I had a small backpack spare as it had a hole in the front, so I cut off all of the front and sides, and sewed the envelope directly to the back. Originally I was going to detach the straps and sew them back on to the envelope, but I thought why mess with something that’s worked fine!

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You have to sew all around the wood, so it doesn’t flop about in the envelope. I sewed it with the wood piece in it for the whole time, but you could leave it out until you have to sew in the top. That would be easier, but you’re more likely to go in too close and be unable to get it in position. I painted the straps as they were bright red and a tiny section was visible. Tiny, but bright red on a grey costume. No good. I also used a ribbon to tie the straps together at the front, holding everything in place a bit more securely.

The harness goes under the dress, and two small slits are made in the back of the dress, just above the top pipe clip. The wing pipe slides in the hole, and just pops straight onto the clips. This way, the wings can rotate so they point back, or out to the side, or in between, but they also stay pretty well where you put them. This also means that if they get a bit knocked by the crowd, they will simply move rather than snap off.  It was also useful for a brief sit down to eat at lunchtime. I wasn’t able to fully sit, but I did manage a short perch on the edge of a chair 🙂

That’s it for wings, not too hard on the face of it, but lots of planning involved.

Next, the wig, mask and gloves, and then we’re done!

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Weeping Angel – The Dress

I’ve had a few work in progress requests, so are you ready? here we go!

For the dress I’m afraid I don’t have a huge amount of detailed pictures, as I was sort of fumbling through it. Let me start by saying a huge thank you to Kilayi and Penwiper who came way before me and without whom I wouldn’t have had a clue where to start. Also an enormous thank you to Jen at EPBOT where I think I first found a link to Penwiper’s The RPF thread, and where I found the courage to 1) find and go to a Con and 2) go in costume. I’m fairly introverted and not a huge fan of crowds (and yet Comic Con I hear you ask? I know. It was a big step. More on it later though) but seeing that other people with similar (and more chronic) anxieties could do it, I committed myself to do it.

Right, the juicy bits.

The dress is made up of an inner and an outer dress. The inner dress I originally planned to use an old maxi dress that I wasn’t wearing anymore, until I realised that it was jersey and so would stretch with the weight of the outer layer, ruining any kind of fit work that I had done, so I had to start from scratch. Luckily, a simple shift dress that is ultimately totally unseen, is relatively easy.

for this part you need:

any cheap fabric. I made my under dress out of an old bed sheet and pillowcase, so not that much.
sewing machine and thread.
A long zip. Mine was 20 inches. The longer it is, the easier it is to get in and out of.

I started with the skirt half. Measure your waist, divide by four, and add seam allowance. I added about 2 or 3cm to each piece, that way it would be nice and loose without being baggy. Next, measure the circumference of the hoop for the bottom. Divide that by 4 and add seam allowance again. The hoop holds the skirt out and makes it easier to walk and cooler on the legs. It doesn’t need to be huge, mine was about 125cm. For ease of putting it into the dress, try to get one that opens easily. Luckily, cheap ones tend to!  For length, you want your waist to the floor, plus a few cm to create the tube to hold the hoop. Ideally you want it to juuust skim the floor so it doesn’t drag.

You’ll want those measurements to make 4 pieces like this –

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(Again, huge thanks to Kilayi for this way of explaining. Words aren’t great!)

Match up 2 pairs, pin, and sew down the straight edges. then open them up and line the now two pieces up, and pin and sew down the diagonal edges. Fold up the bottom wide enough to fit your hoop in, and sew, leaving a small gap to insert it. Test that the hoop fits, but take it back out if you can – I couldn’t – as sewing is easier without it in. Once the dress is finished, push it in and through, then join up the ends again. Mine stayed back together fine, but no one’s going to see if you need to glue or tape it.

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Tada! My front piece doesn’t have the strait seam as I managed to make it fit so it was one less seam to do! You might be able to see at the bottom that my seams are all on the outside. I did it on purpose – that way I don’t get irritating seams rubbing.

The top half I’m afraid I didn’t take pictures of, but I basically used an existing dress as a template to make essentially a tank top, and sewed it to the skirt. This next part is my favourite cheat. You might have noticed that with the tank top sewed on method, there’s no opening to attach the zip. I HATE inserting zips properly because it’s a nightmare. So, I pinned the closed zip on the outside of the back of the dress, and sewed it on. You will have to fiddle the zip up and down a little to get the machine foot past it, but it’s much easier than doing it properly, and it’s unseen.

But wait, you say. This zip doesn’t open anything! Open the zip, and then cut down the fabric between it. perfect zip placement, no zip irritating your back! You might find that loose threads catch on the zip, but they pull out easily enough.

Now the outer dress. You’ll need –

A huge amount of light grey fabric. I used more than recommended, I think I bought 5 metres, and used it all.
grey thread, and your machine.A large-ish needle and a contrasting colour thread for gathering. The colour makes it easier to pick out once you’re done.

Essentially, you want a large tube. The length needs to be from just under your arms to the floor plus a few cms to account for the angle, seams, and tuck under at the bottom. You then need an extra bit (I went for 10cm) for the tuck at the waist. Sew together the full width of the fabric to make one very, very wide piece, don’t turn it into a tube yet. Measure yourself around under the armpits, this will give you how wide it needs to be once gathered. using the contrast thread, sew long stitch across the top, with a knot in one end. Hold the thread tight, and push the fabric up evenly until it reaches the measurement you took. You can tie it off and leave it there until you are ready to sew it to the top part, but I did a run of machine stitch over it to hold it all in place.IMG_3973

For the top part you don’t need much. The front is an inverted bridge shape. Again I used and existing top to measure, and went a little larger to make sure, then trimmed it down. The back is two pieces, measured from a top and given a generous overlap for the zip. curved edges are tricky, so snip the edges to help with the bend. The back and front are only attached at the shoulder, this gives a generous armhole to allow movement.

Find the centre of the large skirty bit and line it up to the centre of the top, pin and sew. Keep the overlap in the back, and line it up too, pin and sew.

You can see above on the left where the front is attached but the back isn’t. If you line it up with the centre at the back you should be left with more than enough width in the armholes. I can’t stress enough though, try it on before you permanently sew it (mind the pins), because unpicking is slow, tedious, and irritating! Once it’s attached, you get this:

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Crazy long dress 🙂

Put on the underdress and then the outer dress. That way you can see exactly where to pin it for the fold, and leave enough for the bottom. Pin directly to the underdress.

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Please excuse the mess – sewing with three children has it’s downsides! Once it’s pinned take it off carefully and sew under where the fold will be, so it’s hidden. All that’s left is to sew the back up, and sew the bottom under. The bottom is easy enough, just tuck it under and pin and sew once the back is finished. For the back sew up to the bottom of the zip in a normal seam. for the rest, tuck under and sew close to the zip. Where the gathers are it will meet together easily and cover the join, but at the top you’ll want a fairly large overlap to cover it.

Then it’s time to paint! You want the dress upright really to paint it so you can see what you’re doing and get in all the creases, not to mention to stop it sticking together. The problem with this is that dressmakers dummies are ridiculously expensive, so I fashioned something that would do. I stuck a broomstick handle (a piece of dowel or something might be better, ideally you want it as tall as you or a little taller) into a christmas tree holder and glued a large hanger on top. Obviously it’s no good for actual dress making but it’s useful for this, or hemming I’d imagine.

For the paint, I was absolutely not buying that much fabric paint, and so I bought a tub of cheap matt white emulsion and a small tub of blacks. Start with a total covering of dark grey. Once it’s dry, add in a little white for mid-grey highlights, and use a sponge to add it to prominent areas. I did this again adding more white again for a few more highlights. I’d save the painting until you’ve made everything though, so the shades all match.

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And you’re done!

More coming on the wings, mask and wig.

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Comic Con 2014

Sorry for the neglect, every spare second of the last few weeks has been channeled into making my costume for Comic Con, and I was seriously worried it wouldn’t get done. But it did!

The first photos taken were done at 10pm last night :/ because that was when it was done! so here it is, a weeping angel!

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A little rumpled and dark but it was only the final check. The wings were closed to get out the door and I forgot to re-open them once out. What can I say, I was exhausted!

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You blinked!

I was really nervous to go to Comic Con this morning, it was my first con and first ever cosplay, but it was fantastic! I absolutely loved it. In what was an amazing compliment, I was asked for my photo many times! such a boost to my worried mind about the costume. I saw loads of amazing costumes too, but I didn’t have my phone most of the time (gloves made it impossible) and Rich was taking care of Henry. I did get a few later on after I changed though so let’s go!

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Not entirely sure who this guy is, but he was enormous and a brilliant costume.

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With Captain Jack Sparrow, who was completely in character, weaving his way around the stalls and slurring ‘Don’t blink’ at me when I was in costume. The other guy is “The Orange box”! super cool easy idea, and everyone laughed. For non-gamers: The Orange Box is a compilation of different games made by Valve, and it comes in, you guessed it, an orange box.

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Jack Frost and Chell from Portal. She’d made the Portal gun herself, and it was fab!

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Mind-bogglingly good Warmachine, and a storm trooper from The UK Garrison. He kind of ambushed me, I took a picture of him and his partner and he walked after me to get one with me too!

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Chell the 2nd, who let me play with her portal gun (lights and sounds!) and had made her own Longfall boots. Also Cersei Lannister, who turned and posed perfectly when I asked for a picture!

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Fantastic Lady Loki – she had such a beautiful delicate wire headdress thingy instead of a helmet, but it was so fine that it didn’t show up in the picture. And last but not least, Batman and the most adorable robin ever! Look at that face! I also saw many brilliant Doctors, Doctor Horrible, Pokemon, a cross-played Rita Skeeter, and loads more. My favourite one that I didn’t get a picture of though was a Mass Effect Soldier. His suit was amazing, he’d used different textures of foam to make the different pieces and it must have taken him so much time and meticulous attention to detail. unfortunately he was powering off in one direction and Rich was headed in the other.

And here’s some better lighted pictures of my costume thanks to, you know, daylight.

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Still not fab pictures, (forgot to adjust my wings again!) but I’m hoping to find some better ones online that were taken by people more talented behind a camera!

If anyone is interested, I’ll be putting up some kind of instructions for the costume at a later date, but right now I’m actually shattered. I sat down once for about 20 minutes (wings are not helpful for sitting!) to eat lunch and the rest of the day was on my feet. Still, worth it!

Just one more, because you can’t go to ComicCon and not buy anything –

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Teeny tiny TARDIS!

I had such a fantastic day, everyone was super lovely, polite and patient, and I kept forgetting that the mask hid my face and expressions so I hope I came off the same way.

And now, time for bed, as I am shattered!

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