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Level 7:2 – Upgrade Footwear

13 Jun

Eleanor Lamb Back of Boots

Last time, on Co-Op Campaign, we had assembled Eleanor Lamb‘s boots. Just as a reminder, when talking about her boots were also talking about leg braces and knee pads. This will be a pretty brief post since were only dealing with the final steps in the crafting of this particular element. Yay!

Daniel did a quick paint job by taping off the cloth parts of the boots and spray painting the soles and tops with Antique Brass spray paint. If you’re interested in the painting saga, you can check it out here. Once they were dry we had a fine-looking pair of metallic shoes. Now it was time to add some details.

 

Eleanor Lamb Boot referenceFirst up, we needed to add the last of the gazillion leather straps.  Luckily these were not going to be functional straps so we could just slap them on and only worry about the aesthetic. According to the reference photo, we needed three straps but when we started laying them out on our boot, it looked a little excessive so we decided on two straps.

Boot with Strap Close

Eleanor Lamb Boot DetailFor Eleanor’s boots, we decided to use some upholstery tacks to both secure the leather straps and complete the bolt detailing you can see in the reference. Since the soles of the boots were so darn thick, just like the washers for the leg braces, we could just tap those tacks directly into the shoe.

Lastly, as with all the other pieces of this cosplay, we weathered it using the technique described in our Weathered Metal Tutorial which you can check out here.

Now that the piece is complete, let’s discuss the actual process of putting them on.

Eleanor Lamb's Boot Weathered Boot Covers

We’re working with two separate pieces, the boot with the leg brace and attached knee pad and then the boot covers with all the functional buckles. Because of the way that the knee pads are attached to the bars and the way that the straps from the boot covers have to go out and around the bars, I realized that there was no way I could easily put them on myself.

I wish we had captured this on film but let me try to describe the process of putting on the boots. Before I even put the boots on, we ensured that the bars were rotated forward toward the toe of the shoe and, as I tugged the boots on, we made sure that I didn’t bend the plastic bars or twist them in such a way as to pull the bolts from the shoes.

Once I had them on, we put the leather tongue in place and, as I stood, I held the boot cover up to my calf, all the while trying to keep my leg as straight as possible while Daniel, kneeling in front of me, pulled the leather straps out and around the bars to buckle and tighten them.

Then, once the buckles were fastened, I had to straighten up while Daniel Velcro’d the knee pads shut behind my knee. Quite a production if I do say so myself. But the great thing about having those bars attached functionally to my knee was how it effected my movement. It forced me into this incredibly accurate lumbering walk. The only problem with that is when the cosplay contest stage has narrow stairs to climb to get to the stage!

 Eleanor Lamb's Boots Before and After

Thanks for following along as we finish up yet another element’s worth of blog posts! Any feedback or suggestions for how we might have executed this better or just want to tell us how awesome it looks? Leave us a comment! — TCG

 

 

Side Quest Unlocked: Apply Color

12 Jun

IMG_0727Paint!!!

Finally, finally, FINALLY – we got to paint!!!

That meant we were so close to completing our first Cosplay project!!!

Ideally, we would have liked to have built our pieces and then painted them as we went. However, we didn’t (and still don’t)  have a dedicated work space which made that a little hard. Plus, we waited a little too long and, when the time came to paint a few pieces, the weather had turned. So in an attempt to wait it out, we kept building and planned to paint everything at once. With no more building to do, it was time to put some color on ‘em! Time to transform them from foam and paper into convincing, hard metal objects.

We had two options when it came to painting. We could hand paint everything in the relative comfort of our apartment or spray paint our pieces in one of the common areas of our apartment building.

Hand painting would have let us paint whenever we liked as long as we laid something down to catch the paint and opened the windows with fans for ventilation. However, we thought it would have taken a long time to paint everything; especially if we wanted nice, smooth, streak-free finishes. I figured spray painting would eliminate that concern. Plus, I’d had more experience with a spray can. So, we chose to do the majority of work with spray paint but for some detail work, touch-ups and distressing done by hand.

Now, the first problem with spray painting in Chicago is that it’s illegal to sell spray paint within the city limits. We’d only been living in the city for three years at this point and who would have guessed that this was an actual law!? It exists to combat graffiti and tagging within the city; but, if you’ve ever spent a day in Chicago… lots and lots of graffiti… So the only thing this stupid law really does, it make it very difficult and annoying to procure spray paint. The nearest place for us to get some was at a  Home Depot on the border of Chicago inside Evanston’s city limits. That’s a 45 minute train ride, plus a 25 minute bus ride… Through out the course of the this project I had to make three separate trips to the suburbs for paint.

Oh well. On our first trip, we made the trek and the paints we decided to use were: Antique Brass for the base tone of the brass pieces, an Antique gold for the highlights on the brass pieces, Dark Steel for the steel pieces, and a Leather Brown for painting some of the rubber pieces to appear leather. “What about the primer,” you ask? Well, as much as I would have liked to have given everything a nice primer base coat we were very limited on time and I didn’t want to have to do any more spraying of harsh chemicals then need be in an apartment complex. So, we decided to skip it.

Paint in hand, it was time to… well, paint. Wouldn’t you know it? This was one of the harshest winters in recent US history and Chicago was hit pretty hard. Ever heard of a Polar Vortex? Here we were, well into March, and the temperatures were still right at or just below freezing. With C2E2 just around the corner we had to paint or we risked not having the costumes ready in time. So we decided to do the worst thing imaginable… spray paint indoors.

I know, I know… don’t get me started. We all know how this ends.

Spray Painting Inside?We decided to set up a small, make-shift painting room in the kitchen. We laid painting tarps on the floor, hung some from the walls, opened the kitchen window, and used a floor fan for ventilation. Surely, this would be sufficient.

Eleanor Lamb's Harpoon Pre-paint

 

We started off with a couple of small test pieces and everything seemed to be working okay. First, we sealed all of the foam with Elmer’s glue. We do this so that the Shellac won’t eat into it. Next we hit the pieces with at least three layers of Shellac and allowed it to dry completely before moving on to the paint. I sprayed in light layers in very short sessions. The open window and fan did the trick for adequately getting rid of the paint fumes; however, after a couple of hours, I noticed that it was not so efficient for getting rid of the residual paint particles that did not adhere to the cosplay pieces. Instead, it was falling in a fine layer of dust all over everything… :/

 A couple of hours of cleaning later and only a small percentage of Cosplay pieces painted – it was back to the drawing board.

C2E2 was creeping up faster and faster and still we had constant snow fall and below freezing temperatures, painting outside was still out of the question. We were so desperate that it forced us to be creative. So, after a late night of — social hydration — I decided to use our common laundry room as a new paint studio and to knock out all of the spray painting in a few marathon sessions. It was the only indoor common area that was anywhere near warm enough and had proper ventilation.

Subject Delta's HelmetEleanor Lamb Syringe Eleanor Lamb's Helmet

I didn’t want to piss off the neighbors or get the land lord called so I waited until 2 or 3 am before beginning. I crept as quietly as possible down three flights of stairs to the basement where the laundry room is located. I laid out my painting tarps over a couple of tables and lined up as many pieces as I could that were going to be painted the same base color. I did this every other night or so for a couple of weeks until all pieces were painted with their base coats.  I even spent time after each painting session wiping down any surfaces that might have collected residue; including but not limited to the washing machines and bikes stored there.

Subject Delta's Drill

Seeing everything in living color was really really cool. No really. Really cool. It was amazing to see everything in it’s intended color. They looked real for the first time and I could tell that we’d really done good work. Really. I had a day off work when I did all the big major pieces and I sent Sara so many texts with pictures because it was so exciting. Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb were really coming together.

Eleanor Lamb and Subject Delta Helmets

We did all of our touch ups with acrylic paint. It wasn’t an exact match, which was frustrating. Luckily, we were going to distress everything so that would help. Plus, the differences in color can give the impression that something has gotten dinged in battle and been patched up. Even though it all worked out, next time we’re going to try to avoid the spray paint.

Subject Delta's Air TanksThere were a couple of pieces that we painted by hand that turned out looking really good, which also served to sway me toward hand painting in the future. Included in this category was the trim of both Subject Delta and Eleanor Lamb’s helmets, the tanks for Subject Delta’s pack and Eleanor Lamb’s arm guards. And for weathering, we used black acrylic paint and the process outlined in our Weathered Metal Effect tutorial which you can find here.

Despite some major stress, sleepless nights and a whole lotta time in transit, we got everything painted and it looked amazing. We were so close to finishing that we could taste it! C2E2 was under a month away at this point, so we were beyond happy to have gotten to this point.

Thank you for following along as we learned a thing or two about spray painting and Chicago winters! — TCG

Level 7:1 – Construct Leg Support

6 May

Hello Co-Op Campaign fans! Thank you so much for checking in with us. C2E2 was an amazing success and our costumes went over so amazingly well! We were received so warmly and enthusiastically, all of the months of work were worth it. You may have noticed a change in the layout of the site. Since we’ve surpassed the original goal of C2E2 it made more sense to organize our posts by cosplay piece rather than chronologically. Let us know what you think in the comments section!

I’m going to bring you up to speed on some hardcore footwear: Eleanor Lamb’s boots.

Eleanor Lamb screen shot

Big sisters have brittle bones. This is due to the amount of ADAM they ingested while acting as little sisters roaming the tunnels and corridors of Rapture. Also as a result of the ADAM, their bones heal unnaturally fast so if they break a leg and aren’t able to set it immediately, the leg will heal crooked and have to be broken again so that it could be properly set. Ouch. Because of all of this, Big Sisters have metal bars that run along the sides of their boots and are secured at the knees. Since Eleanor’s getup is compiled of bits and pieces of big sister armor, she’ll have to deal with the braces.

When we talk about Eleanor Lamb’s boots, we’re also talking about boot covers and knee pads. But before there can be shin guards and knee pads, there must be boots. Daniel and I spent a very long time looking for the perfect boots. We looked through many websites and stopped into many stores without finding exactly what we needed. We came very close to buying some steam punk inspired boots for around $60 but something told me to wait. And I was certainly glad I did.

Base for Eleanor Lamb Boots Perfection! We found these at a thrift store for $8. With these shoes as the base, we could start shaping Eleanor Lamb’s boots. The first thing we had to do was stretch them out. While the left shoe fit like a dream, the right shoe was like torture to get into. So I took some old socks and soaked them in water until they were completely saturated. Once they were saturated I rolled them together and shoved them into the shoes. The water makes the socks expand and so it will stretch the shoe while wet.

Next, we stripped all the tan from the cloth part of the boots. It looks like it had been painted on once before since it started flaking off the first time I tried to pull them on. So rather than try to repaint them that tan color again, we decided to strip it all off. All it took was some vigorous finger scrapping and it flaked right off. I”m still finding bits of flaked off shoe in the living room.

Before I could start planning the metal parts of the boots, I needed to see how the bars would lay. Just as we did with Subject Delta’s drill, we used plastic hangar strip to craft the bars and then we used a set of washers, one large and one small, to highlight the spot where the bars connected to the shoes. Since the soles are so thick, we were able to drill right into them and then secure the washers and bars.

Boot with Washer Heel

Once I knew where the bars would hit the shoes, I could start working on the shoe covers. I knew that I wanted to work with layers of craft foam and that I would need to incorporate all the buckles in the world. So I started by cutting all the layers that I wanted out of butcher paper. I was then able to pin them to the boots so I could see how they would lay. Note the rolled up towels I used to fill out the shoes.

Boot with Cover PatternThen, once I had the dimensions I wanted, I pinned each piece of butcher paper to craft foam and cut them out. I knew that I wanted the base piece to look like leather, but I didn’t want to use the same leather we’d been using for the straps. So I poked around and found this amazing tutorial for using an iron and shoe polish to make brown craft foam look like leather. You can view the tutorial here.

Here’s how we did it. We used brown 5 mm craft foam, Kiwi brown shoe polish and an iron.

Set your iron to the highest setting.

1. Set your iron to the highest setting.

After running the iron over the foam, note the color difference.

2. After running the iron over the foam, note the color difference.

After pressing the foam, here's what it will look like from the side.

3. After pressing the foam, here’s what it will look like from the side.

The foam on the left has the shoe polish applied to it. Note the difference from the normal color of the foam on the right.

4. The foam on the left has the shoe polish applied to it. Note the difference from the normal color of the foam on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BC Unpainted

 

 

 

 

Next, I arranged the other pattern pieces I’d cut out of 2 mm craft foam on the back of the 5 mm craft foam. I slapped on the thin cross-bar and the two circular “cap nuts’ so create some more visual interest. Then I sealed it with Elmer’s glue, added a couple of layers of Shellac and then Daniel hit it with some silver spray paint.  We used Rust-Oleum Dark Steel which looked great! Once it had thoroughly dried, I hot glued it to my pressed foam base.

Before I started the process of constructing the boot covers, I had cut and started stitching the straps I would need to wrap around the boots. Now that I had everything ready to construct, I could cut the straps and finish stitching them. I also added backing to the tips of the straps so that they wouldn’t curl up after being buckled. A tip for you: get a thimble if you don’t have strong nails. If I hadn’t had a strong, thick thumb nail, I would have destroyed my fingers trying to push the needle through this material.

Boot Strap Backing

Through a lot of trial and error and tape, I figured out where to position my straps and buckles. I was just a few hot-glue sticks away from finishing my boot covers!

Back Boot Covers FoamAll that was left to do was the knee pad for the metal bars to attach to. I cut them out of leather. At first, thought that I could cut it out of a simple rectangle but the shape didn’t work with my knee. There was just too much gaping. So I went back and tapered it around the knee cap.

Once I was pleased with the shape, I added a small square of 5 mm craft foam to the sides so that I could attach the bars with a screw and washer to connect them to the shoes. I covered the foam in more leather which I stitched into place. Then I cut out a little hole so that I could drill the screw in place without twisting the leather. I used strips of velcro along the ends to close them.

Knee Pad Cut with Foam

 

Here’s what I ended up with!

Eleanor Lamb Front of Boots Eleanor Lamb Back of Boots

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll notice the drooping in the knee pads. This is because the wide shape of them wouldn’t follow the contours of my knee. I tried trimming even more from the leather to try to mimic the round shape of the knee and then the skinny back of the knee but it just wouldn’t lay flat.

Finally, I decided that I needed to try working with elastic. This was particularly scary since I haven’t worked with elastic since making pajama pants in my first costuming class and I don’t remember those turning out well at all. But I bit the bullet and started working.

Knee Pad Working on Elastic

I wound up anchoring two pieces of elastic to the inside of the knee pad. Then I attached Velcro to the end of the elastic. Next, I attached the other part of the Velcro on the inside of the knee pad. This would allow me to raise the bars on the shoes and close the knee pad around my knee. So. Much. Hand-stitching.

Knee Pad Elestic BackHere’s what it looked like on. For the last step, I trimmed the flaps of fabric a bit and then used Velcro to cover the strips of elastic with a flap of leather. I felt like such a craftsman when I finished working on these. If you’re questioning whether or not you should try to sew something, just remember how I did this through trial and error. You can do it!!

This gets us caught up to the painting of the boots and then the weathering step which I’ll leave for next time. Thanks for checking in and I hope you found this helpful! — TCG