Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Star Wars Mandalorian Breastplate Armor Tutorial by Matt Ragan

Originally posted as "Kuu's 'Darts' Method Legacy Armor Tutorial" on the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club forums, by Matt Ragan.

This is a tutorial that describes how I created these two Legacy armor breastplates using 3mm Sintra (Closed Cell Foam PVC, a heat-formable pvc plastic), for ladies that have anatomy that requires the build materials to yield very compound curves.

... i.e. "big boobs"

The Yellow Armor (Maelie)

The Silver Armor (Jaelie)

Create/Customize Pattern

Tools Needed for this Section
1 ) Your undergarments, and armor vest
2 ) Pen or Permanent Marker
3 ) Masking Tape
4 ) Poster Board
5 ) Measuring Tape

Steps for Method 1
1 ) Put on all your supporting garments and vest.
2 ) Use masking tape to cover 1/2 of your torso area where you will want the breastplate to be.

3 ) Use a marker to draw a centerline, and then trace the outer line of your desired armor.
4 ) Go in and mark where the darts will be with a single line.

5 ) Remove masking tape carefully
6 ) Cut "dart" lines and lay the pattern flat on posterboard or scrap paper

7 ) widen your darts by a few milimeters (if using 3mm sintra, add 1-2 mm to the dart width).

8 ) Redraw the pattern on posterboard (smoothing out your lines/cleaning up).

Steps for Method 2

1 ) Put on all your supporting garments and vest.
2 ) Measurement A is across the point of the bust and goes back towards the armpit however far as you want the armor plus about 1 inch for slop (I cut off about that much to even everything up later)
3 ) Measurement B is from the "A" line (point of bust) down to wherever you want the bottom to be. In Maelie's case it was basically back to the ribcage. Don't curve "up" (i.e. that place from whence boobsweat originates, the area under your breast/up against your ribcage - it's not a bra or bikini) with your measuring tape, if anything curve down to go with the flow of the armor plate (when you're done the goal is a graceful-ish line from your chest into your belly plates). No need to add anything to the measurement here.
4 ) Measurement C is across the top of the main breast mass, armpit to armpit. No need to add any extra inches here as you'll be sanding/cutting away anyway.
5 ) Measurement D is from top of shoulder (wherever you want the top of the armor to be) down to point of bust.
6 ) I then just kinda drew a freehand curvy line to connect those points. I only made half the pattern (i.e. the center is a straight vertical line), I then flipped it and traced it again to make the armor itself.
7 ) Then go in and draw triangular "darts" - I just eyeballed it - the point of the triangle should be just on the other side of the point of your bust (i.e. closer to your sternum than armpit)
8 ) The Purple E - is just where I discovered that, after forming the other "fingers" (as Maelie called them) I had to cut that one basically to a nub to get it to fit.
9 ) I made a pattern half, so I divided all the horizontal measurements (A & C) in half. If you don't want to do math, do the full thing.

Cut Out

Tools Needed for this Section
1 ) 3mm Sintra (or whatever you're using)
2 ) Pen or Permanent Marker
3 ) Something to cut whatever you're using

1 ) Take your pattern and trace it on to the Sintra (I found 3mm to be SO much easier to work with).
2 ) if you did a half pattern, Flip on the vertical line and draw the other half. I found that by doing it this way, I get it more symmetrical.
3 ) Cut out your Sintra however you prefer and sand the edges lightly. I used a band saw for everything except the center diamond, for that I used a hobby knife (just go over your lines several times, pushing lightly and it'll come out. The Sintra is soft)

Positive Forms

Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Ehm... a credit card and access to Amazon?
2 ) Clear Plastic Fillable Ornaments

I used fillable Christmas Ornaments as my positive forms. Take a ruler to your most comfortable Underwire Bra and get a ballpark diameter of the wire itself, this is the diameter ball that you'll need.

For Maelie I used 120mm ornament (she wears a 34G US/34H UK), for Jaelie 100mm (34E US/34F UK). It can be small by an inch or more as the "mono-boob" (aka "sports bra") style will give you some flex with your measurements. Get close, but don't stress it if it's not exactly the same size as your underwire.

NOTE: Depending on how hot you like to get your Sintra, you may want to reinforce your positive mold. The colder you prefer to leave your Sintra, the stronger you'll need the form to be. I just poured Plaster of Paris into one of mine... now I have a weapon. If you are willing to run hotter Sintra (and wear a glove or whatever) you won't need this kind of reinforcement. If you use 6mm Sintra, reinforce your spheres.

Basic Forming of The "Fingers" (between the darts) using Heat Gun

Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Heat Gun
2 ) Gloves
3 ) Your positive form
4 ) Your cut out armor
5 ) Your clothing on... ignore whatever your significant other says. You'll need to put the Sintra up to your body from time to time to check and it can still be uncomfortably warm.

Imagine each of these ornament halves flat side down on a table. This picture just gives you a general idea of how it'll look.

1 ) Heat up a single triangular "Finger" section (I went from the bottom, up to the armpit)
2 ) Form it over your positive form. Push down on all the corners and whatnot to try and get as smooth as shape as you can.
3 ) Repeat for all "Fingers" going around the spherical positive form.

~ ) When all your Darts are finished, form your shoulders and the rest of the breastplate as best you can. I preferred a straight plane down to the point of bust, but it's up to you really.

Fine Tuning Using Spacers

Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Superglue
2 ) Little snips and scraps of Sintra
3 ) Masking tape
4 ) A friend you trust and/or like a lot...

You will notice that the individual "fingers" (Maelie's term) formed by the curved darts are springy and will not hold to your individual shape.

1 ) Get a friend you like well enough to let them play around near your chest (very up close and personal operation this... you can do it yourself, but it's harder).
2 ) Cut small rectangles of Sintra.
3 ) You'll need to insert those Sintra "spacers" in and around the edges of the "fingers" until the structure starts to stabilize. Use tape to hold them down.
4 ) When all the spacers are in, use a drop of superglue to "lock" each one in place.

The breastplate is starting to get rigid now/less springy.

Fiberglass and Resin

Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Fiberglass Resin and Resin Hardening Drops (i.e. found in a Bondo Repair Kit or can be purchased separately)
2 ) Scissors
3 ) Cheap crappy paintbrush you're okay with destroying
4 ) Plastic cup you're going to throw away afterwards

1 ) Purchase a Bondo automotive repair kit.
2 ) Cut long strips of fiberglass the width of your gaps.
3 ) Put a single drop of superglue somewhere on the Sintra and "lock" the strip of Fiberglass in place. You just need it to not float around until you can pour the resin.
4 ) Mix up the Resin (I've found you don't need to be all that precise with ratios.... just remember, the more Drops of Hardener, the faster you need to work
5 ) Slather the resin onto your Fiberglass strips with the old paintbrush. You don't need to be precise, just slather it on there and get a good coating in place.

NOTE - Optionally you can follow the Bondo directions (mix resin, dip strip of fiberglass in resin, put strip in place) but I found it was very messy and wasted a tremendous amount of resin.

Now go away for an hour or two. Even better come back tomorrow. No really.

After the resin cures, it'll look a bit like this.

If you've got pokey bits on the inside (maybe the superglue hardened the fiberglass into a sharp pokey bit) just cut them off with a razor blade. If it's still pokey you can cover all this with Duct Tape when you're done. Maelie used Pink Duct Tape. It's pretty epic.


Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Something to mix the Bondo on (Silicone cookie sheet, foil, whatever) - a big flat surface is best.
2 ) 1 1/2" wide paint scraper (metal blade is best)
3 ) Something to scoop Bondo with (plastic spoon is fine... don't touch raw Bondo with anything else. It'll contaminate it and cause it to harden prematurely. Only scoop bondo with this spoon.)
4 ) Bondo "Body Filler" (not Putty or whatever else, basic red label Bondo Body Filler) and Red Cream Hardening Paste (both come in a Bondo Repair kit or can be purchased separately)
5 ) Good air circulation... or do this outside is best.

1 ) Scoop out the raw Bondo and drop it on your mixing surface (flat is best)
2 ) Squirt in some Red Cream Hardening agent (so the label tells you the ratio is this or that... piffle. Just remember "the pinker your Bondo the faster it hardens" ... that's it. A nice Salmon paste color hardens in just under 10 minutes so be quick.)
3 ) Mix it fast using your paint scraper. Smoosh it all around and get it mixed up. Pretend it's toxic cake icing.
4 ) Use the paint scraper to shove it into the holes.
5 ) Try to get it "smooth" ... but don't worry overmuch. You'll be sanding it anyway.

This is what it looks like from the resin side.

Now let it dry. No really, I know it's cool and you want to poke at it... leave it the heck alone for like 2 hours or more. Go watch one of the Star Wars movies or something. Best would be overnight. Bondo is hard on the outside after an hour or two, but chances are very good it's still uncured towards the center.


Tools Needed For This Section
1 ) Palm Sander or whatever (you'll need both a "course" 80 or so grit and a "fine" 120-200 or so grit)
2 ) Patience
3 ) a sheet of 400 grit sandpaper

So you just sand it. You're going for no major ridges or high spots with the course sandpaper... then switch to the fine and do the rest.

You'll get it close and realize there are gaps and ridges and whatnot that you missed somehow (and you'll be certain you had gotten them all... right up until another gap pops up, like a weed). Like this:

So... Bondo again. Rinse and repeat.

Eventually you'll get fed up or be happy with the results (or both). If you have it you can switch to 400 grit sandpaper and finish up by hand... use sandpaper on your bare hand so its organic. Any gaps or pits at this point will become battle damage when you paint it so don't stress.

At this point, you have enough fiberglass and bondo on your armor that I call them "Fenders" ... Front Fenders to be exact, over near your headlights you see? Oh come on, you're making a breastplate... boob jokes are mandatory. Too serious and it all becomes a terrible chore... either that or I sniffed too much Bondo.


Tools Needed For This Step
1 ) Saw or Dremel

Now even up the edges to where you're happy with it.

That's more or less it really. Enjoy.

I attached the collar bit and the lames (horizontal belly bits) to the breastplate. You can use whatever pattern you like for those.

Maelie (black & yellow), Little Mando, Luke, Leia, and Jaelie (silver & black):

Jaelie's breastplate, after painting:

These same techniques could be used to construct fantasy armor, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Cowl pattern review, by Dawni Callahan

I'd seen these cowls/neck corsets around and had fallen in love, but had no idea where to start. Well, where else to find something not found in the books at Joann's, but on Etsy. I found this pattern and it looked about my learning level (Beginner). I was thrilled when this arrived, until I opened the package, all of the sewing instructions, meager though they were, were all in French. I made my first one (option B) following what instructions I understood and cut the pattern pieces as drawn, but soon realized it was going to fit a small child, not an adult. I was glad I'd been using scraps leftover from another project.  Dang, this meant there was going to be some math involved in making this, dang. I measured my neck (right under my chin(s), mid throat and close to my collar bone), to get an average of what was needed to get around my throat. I then measured each piece of the pattern across the center, added the totals, subtracting for the seam allowances and found the difference. I divided this by the number of pieces in the pattern (x2). It ended up being about 1/2" per piece. I traced off the pattern, split it along the grain line, taped the split pieces to another piece of tracing paper, adding the 1/2" to the center of each piece. The pattern, itself, was super simple to put together, really intuitive, you just have to keep up with what pattern number is next. I used a mid weight velvet that was fairly stiff, so I didn't feel the need to add stays. You may want to use stays if making either collar out of a lace or a light weight fabric, like silk. Inlue of stays, I suspect a stiff trim would work as well, sewn to cover the seams and it would add a lovely detail.

Lessons Learned: I'd never used feather trim before and didn't realize, until it was MUCH too late, it needed to be hand stitched to the cowl. The glue holding the feathers inside of the ribbon base gummed up my needle something fierce, causing all kinds of problems. Again, I'm glad I was using scraps, because this was a lesson in doing a mock-up first before committing to an expensive fabric. I did not use grommets for the closure, but instead used snap tape. I did change the closure from the back to the front. I wanted to be able to get in and out of this with as little hassle or outside assistance as possible. I think hook-n-eye tape would also be an excellent option.

I'm going to wear this the the Dallas Central Library's Edgar Allen Poe Victorian Halloween event, in October. I can either be a representation of the "Raven" or just very witchy looking. It has a very elegant look and I'm excited to try this again with other fabrics. I'd be interested in incorporating it into a jacket pattern. But, maybe next time...no feathers

Thursday, May 1, 2014

DFWCG 2014 Fantasy Frolic Picnic

On April 26th, the Dallas Ft Worth Costumers Guild (DFWCG) held their fantasy-themed picnic.

The year before was the first time they tried this event, and although weather caused them to create two separate dates so those who missed it the first time could join in the fun, it definitely seemed to be a potential "keeper" for the group.

This time, a new location was chosen since the previous one was in a small garden that was a little crowded. The Colleyville Nature Center offered many different spots to choose from, in a very quiet and secluded area. There are trails, little bridges, open areas with ponds... so many choices for relaxing in the shade, playing games, or posing for photographs.

The day was very windy and sunny (not to mention a little warmer than some of us might have expected), so we picked a shaded place where tall trees would help block most of the wind and a little sun. We followed a trail to an area set up with wooden benches and what could be used as a stage -- perhaps some talented fairies and pixies might consider entertaining the picnic-goers next time? That was a nice way to set up our food and have a seat for some light refreshment and conversation! The breeze blowing through the trees seemed almost magical and soothing, making it the most relaxing time.

Due to the wind, many opted for simpler garments, and this event is perfect for anyone interested in seeing what the DFWCG has to offer. The theme is fantasy, and the sky is the limit with interpreting the possibilities!

We had an elf and a fairy, but we also had steampunk-inspired fairy hunters and explorers, and even a Neverland pirate! Many of the members were quite busy with so many projects, and they found the chance to wear costumes they had not worn in so long, as well as create new outfits from the various selections in their wardrobes.

Of course, photos were taken and you may view them in any of the following albums:

 Needless to say, picnics are a wonderful way to have a very relaxing and enjoyable time -- they are fast-becoming a favorite with many of the DFWCG members, and it is quite a fun time to see just "who" will join us for this particularly magical Fantasy Frolic!

Here are a few glimpses from that day:

We hope we "catch" you at this fun event next year! ;)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Event recap - Jazz Age Sunday Social

I have spent many years daydreaming about the fabulous 1920s and 30s parties held in other parts of the US, like the Jazz Age Lawn Party in New York and the Gatsby Summer Afternoon in Oakland. So I was absolutely thrilled when I learned that the Art Deco Society of Dallas had gotten together with Dallas Heritage Village to host the first ever Jazz Age Sunday Social. A number of members from the DFWCG had originally planned on meeting at the social to picnic and enjoy the festivities together, but unfortunately, many of our members ended up having conflicts and couldn't make it this year. However, this event was such a huge success that they have already decided to host it again next year, so I wanted to share some photos and a little recap of the activities so you can plan ahead and start making your own deco attire for 2015!

The turnout for this event was amazing, and it was such a charming scene around the bandstand as the musicians played and people danced, picnicked, and strolled around with their kids, dogs and wonderful antique bicycles.  

There was a costume contest in the afternoon, and I thought everybody did a great job of pulling together vintage looks from a variety of modern and antique pieces.  The winning couple had complimented their clothing with old bicycles, which was such a fun touch!

We also were able to tour many of the homes and the downtown buildings at Dallas Heritage Village, including the saloon where you can enjoy an ice cold root beer and relax while you play a round of cards or checkers. 

There were a variety of fun booths and displays set up along the street, so you could shop, peruse some deco-inspired artwork, make crafts with your kids, or check out the lovely antique phonographs.  

We also had a great time playing croquet.  There was a very nice (and patient!) gentleman there who taught us the rules of the game and some general tips for strategy.  It was a lot harder than I thought it would be, but so much fun!

But my favorite part about the Jazz Age Social was definitely the antique cars! There were some real beauties there, and it was so much fun taking photos of them and with them. The owners were super friendly too, and they were happy to answer questions, show off the engines, and several kind souls even allowed us to sit in their amazing vehicles. The cars ranged from the 1910s to the 1930s and they made the PERFECT accessory for our jazz age outfits.  

One of the concerns that I heard from many of our costume guild members in the weeks leading up to the event is that they didn't have any 1920's costumes, or they weren't a big fan of that style. But one thing that stood out for me at this event is that 1910s and 1930s costumes would be equally appropriate, so there is really a wide variety of styles that we can all choose from.  The cars, music, buildings, and activities all fit perfectly with both Edwardian costumes AND Deco fashions, and I know that the people at the social would welcome any variety of early 20th c. costume with open arms.  

You can see more photos from our outing on my flickr, and I hope that seeing this will inspire you to start making plans for next year.  The first Jazz Age Sunday Social was a ton of fun, and I know it will grow to be even bigger and better in 2015.  Hats off to the organizers of this wonderful inaugural event!