Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hogwart's Party Part Three - Classes

If you missed them, my last two post were of our Harry Potter themed birthday party for my daughter.  Now, I'd like to share our day of classes at Hogwart's.  They went something like this:

After a breakfast of french toast, bacon and pumpkin juice in the Great Hall, classes started bright and early at 9am with Charms where students practiced wand-waving.

Charms - We sat down in the Great Hall to learn how to levitate a feather using the Wingardium Leviosa spell practicing our "swish and flick".  The video above shows the daughter demonstrating what we learned.  This was a wonderful idea that we came up with out of the blue.  If you've ever owned a "Squirmle", or magic worm, then you'll understand the basic of how this works.  (As professor, when I got to using the words with the movements I said it a few times and gave a queue for the daughter, who was in on it, to start levitating.)

Divination - After Charms we were led to the incense laden Divination class where we had tea and foretold the future using tea leaves.  The more gruesome and depressing the better, of course! We gave extra house points for those who could name as many other forms of fortune telling as they could.  We also enjoyed some sandwiches and cookies with our tea before heading to Potions class.

Potions - In Potions (or the kitchen) we played a couple different games.  The daughter put together Snape's logic riddle from the forbidden corridor.  She put out seven different sized/colored bottles filled with different concoctions.  The group had to distinguish which bottles were poison (tap water), nettle wine (grape juice) and the potion to go forward and back (both were peppermint flavored water) based on the riddle below.  First to solve the puzzle, and those who helped, received house points accordingly.

"Danger lies before you, while safety lies behind,
Two of us will help you, whichever you would find,
One among us seven will let you move ahead,
Another will transport the drinker back instead,
Two among our number hold only nettle wine,
Three of us are killers, waiting hidden in line.
Choose, unless you wish to stay here forevermore,
To help you in your choice, we give you these clues four:
First, however slyly the poison tries to hide
You will always find some on nettle wine’s left side;
Second, different are those who stand at either end,
But if you would move onward, neither is your friend;
Third, as you see clearly, all are different size,
Neither dwarf nor giant holds death in their insides;
Fourth, the second left and the second on the right
Are twins once you taste them, though different at first sight."

Can you guess the right bottles?

We also played a guessing game Slughorn-style with mystery filled test tubes.  Each contained an ordinary edible and safe substance from the potion stores (in the pantry).  12 were liquids and 6 were powders.  Each person got to examine, smell, and taste each before passing it on.  Then, they would write there guess on a piece of paper.  Some lost house points for guessing out loud (even when wrong), and others tried to finish off a tube or two before others got to it (ie.  powdered sugar and pancake syrup).  Surprisingly, no one got a perfect score.  Though we had one who was very close only missing a couple. Bonus points were offered to those who were extra specific with their answers.  Afterward, we let the kids make their own concoctions with the leftover ingredients from the test tubes while we prepared more food.  I was even brave enough to taste a few.  Lime Kool-aid/Honey/Lemon Juice/Ovaltine?!  Eww!!  (As you can see in this pic above, we were using "Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey" for our Fire Whiskey.  We were serving the shots out of the same test tubes in the evenings. I liked the label so much, I didn't bother to cover it.)

Lastly, we sampled some Polyjuice Potion (more about this in future post) and demonstrated the magical "Repelio Charm" (not pictured, but you can find it at using milk, dish soap and food coloring on a plate) before heading to DADA.

Defense Against the Dark Arts - We held a Dueling Club Practice where Student were furnished with school wands sporting red or green crepe streamers on the business end.  (Imagine those ribbons on sticks that gymnasts use for floor routines.)  We let the students practice waving the wands so that the stream didn't tangle in knots.  This class was probably the highlight for our younger students.  They dueled to see who could disarm their opponent by deliberately tangling with each others "spell" streams and pulling the wand out of their opponent's hand.  Seems the winner was the duelist with the longest streamer left at the end.  :)  I really wish I'd gotten a video of the shenanigans..

Later, the kids put together a pop quiz over various Hogwarts related trivia as we waited for the award ceremony and feast.  They picked some tough questions!  We had planned to use quills and parchment for the DADA pop quiz, but alas, I ran out of time getting things ready.  We did have ink for our quills.  Did you know you can use inkjet printer ink?  You can buy the refill bottles.  And, why not mix the colors to get blood red or emerald green.

End of Term Feast/House Cup Award - After classes we ushered our exhausted students back into the Great Hall for the House Cup Award Ceremony and End of Term Feast of Turkey and all the fixings.  We tallied up the house points to find that Gryfinndor just barely beat Ravenclaw with Hufflepuff close behind, leaving Slytherin in last place.  (But, I was determine to award extra house points to the birthday girl until her house, Ravenclaw, won.)

There were many more things we'd planned for that didn't happen that I wish had:

Wand Making - Since our event was cut short we were a bit crunched for time, we had to eliminate Wand Making that was supposed to be held before Charms.  But, there are wonderful tutorials online for making all sorts of different wands from paper and hot glue, sticks, chopsticks, dowel rods, etc...

Broom Making/Flying Lesson/Quidditch - Weather didn't permit us having our Broom Making/Flying Lesson/Quidditch Match.  Otherwise we had limbs that were cut from our overgrown trees and and acres full of knee high potential straw.  I had some string and hose clamps for bundling options.  We'd planned to tie an invisible string to one of the brooms as a setup.  "Now hold your right hand over your broom and say, 'UP'."  Our class clown was going to hit themselves in the face as Ron had done in the movie.  Quidditch would also have been fun.  My sis had even made us this wonderful Quidditch trunk above.

Care of Magical Creatures (Nifflers) - I ran out of time on Care of Magical Creatures class.  We were going to set up our yurt as Hagrids Hut.  And, I wanted to make a few stuffed nifflers that could hold coins in a pouch.  Then, I would bring in an empty box with a hole chewed out of it and tell the students to find them in the yard.  The nifflers would each have muggle money in various amounts.  Winner would be the one who found the most talented niffler.

Death Day Party - We had also planned a "Death Day" party for our over forty birthday girl, but had a bit of a mishap with the tombstone shaped cake.  (Left it in a glass pan on the stove top when a burner was accidentally turned on.  POP!! Glass shards went flying everywhere.  Darn pesky pixies! But, she got to enjoy some fungus peanuts (caramel popcorn and peanuts with milk and while chocolate drizzled over it), jello worms and deviled eyeballs during our end of term feast....and the heart attack that almost ensued when we heard the noise of the exploding glass cake pan!

Next up I'll share a little about some of the recipes we used and what we think of them.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Hogwart's Party Part Two - Start of Term Sorting Ceremony and Feast

Our first evening at Hogwart's went a little like this:  

First thing after all the guest arrived and we got their luggage situated in the entrance hall to be taken to their sleeping quarters after the feast.  (The House Elves were really slipping this year.  Many of the students had to carry their own bags.)

When all guests had arrived we ushered them into the "Great Hall" (aka. the Family/Game Room). We lined all the students up to be sorted into their houses by the Sorting Hat. (You can see the sorting hat is sitting on the four legged stool to the right of the "staff table".  In this pic you can also barely see our house point jars (test tubes) on the staff table in front of Hagrid's tankard.)   House points would be awarded to their house for achievements throughout their stay, and a House Cup ceremony was planned for our final dinner together.  Each jewel was worth 10 points.  We also had smaller half jewels for 5 points.  

Of course we had the obligatory floating candles (thanks to tutorials by mizerella (  I cut my paper towel tubes in half to make them a little shorter and have more of them.  I also went a step farther by painting the tubes with UV reactive white paint and a coat of glow-in-the-dark over that.  We had a fluorescent blacklight mounted behind the staff table that gave them a more convincing candle glow.)

The Sorting Hat spoke just loud enough for the room of students to hear it as it sang the first year hat song and announced each student's house.  (To do this we inserted a speaker into the top of my witch hat that was plugged into a hidden computer behind the staff table.  One person would hold the hat over the students head while another either chose to play a prerecorded sound or talk into a mic from another room.  We had presorted the students secretly so that it would be even for teams throughout the assorted games and things planned, as well as keep people in the same house for sleeping arrangements as much as possible.)(BTW, I made this hat many years ago during a time when I didn't have access to a sewing machine...or needle and thread for that matter.  It is all constructed using liquid stitch or something similar, basically glue!)

Once sorted we passed out badges and had our start of term feast of glazed ham and all the works.  After dinner, we explained the sleeping arrangement which was by house.  Each house's common room/dorm had a colored banner on the door and students were given direction on how to enter.  If they failed to do so correctly (and were caught), they would lose 5 house points. I should also mention that the "Forbidden Corridor" (aka. the craft room), or what jokingly became the Room of Requirement because of all the stuff I had to hide in there, was off limits "to those who do not wish to die a most painful death".  (They also lose 50 house points!)

Everyone pretty much went to bed early due to the long drive.  But, some of us stayed up to have a little butter beer and "fire whiskey".  We also had many treat from Honeydukes including chocolate frogs, Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans, Pumpkin Pasties, Droobles and other assorted treats.  (I'll be sharing about the food and drink in a later post.)

Mr. Sam and I were staying in Gryffindor where our password was "birthday bash".  Hufflepuffs were in the bedroom by the kitchen where they had to knock on a knot in a barrel in the rhythm of "Helga Hufflepuff" on the still life mounted to their dorm door.  And, Ravenclaws had to use an eagle door knocker and were supposed to answer a riddle.

Since we had no dungeon (or basement even), it was decided that the Slytherin's common room should be in the bathroom (the closest thing we had to a dungeon).  But, for some reason the students opted to sleep in the divination classroom (aka the living room).  Can't understand why.  ;)  Maybe their hesitation was because of Moaning Myrtle in the toilet (thanks to the daughter's drawing.)  Who knows.

Unfortunately, seems another heir opened the Chamber of Secrets during our stay.  Snakes managed to infest the entire bathroom while spiders were fleeing for their lives.  (We gave it that eerie green glow from the lake with a couple light bulb replacements.  Oh, and that's red lipstick on the mirror.  It took more than I had imagined, so had to shorten it a bit.)

Well, at least they also had convenient transport to the Ministry if they needed it.  Someone has to keep those sneaky Slytherins in line!

I'll be posting about our full day of Hogwart's classes next up.  So, stayed tuned! (If you want to.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hogwart's Party Part One - The Master Plan

"It's not everyday your young man girl turns eleven, now, is it?" - Hagrid  

Being huge fans of the Harry Potter books and movies, we had to throw our aspiring witch a themed party.  Her eleventh birthday was in November. And, since we had Thanksgiving and another November birthday to celebrate, we decided to combine all these celebrations into one big overnight weekend party with family members.  We had so many ideas that we had no trouble creating an elaborate schedule for possible three day event!  After all, we didn't want to run out of fun magical things to do.  But, unfortunately, we had a nonexistent budget and unpredictable Texas weather to contend with. 

Our plan was to have a start of term feast with sorting ceremony when all guests had arrived.  Then, first thing the next morning we would start some scheduled classes throughout the day and have a second end of term feast with house cup award ceremony and possible Yule Ball.  Since our guests were to stay possibly three nights, we also planned for an optional second day of classes.  We also planned for some classes to be outdoors, but you never know what the weather will bring.  The schedule looked something like this:

Day One:
  4:00 pm -   6:00 pm Sorting Ceremony
  6:00 pm -   8:00 pm Start of Term Feast
  8:00 pm - 10:00 pm Adjourn to Common Rooms/Dormitories
10:00 pm - 12:00 am optional "Hogmeade" for drinks

Day Two:
  9:00 am - 10:30 am  Broom Making 101 (outside)
10:30 am - 12:00 am  Flying Lesson (outside)
12:15 pm -  2:00 pm Divination - tea leaves (Lunch)
  2:15 pm -  3:15 pm Care of Magical Creatures (outside)
  3:30 pm -  5:45 pm Potions
  6:00 pm -  8:00 pm Dinner in the Great Hall
  8:30 pm - 10:00 pm Yule Ball (masquerade as character)
10:00 pm - 12:00 am Adjourn to Common Rooms/Dormitories or "Hogmeade"

Day Three:
  9:00 am - 10:30 am  Wand Making 101
10:30 am - 12:00 am DADA (Pop Quiz and Dueling Practice)
12:15 am -   2:00 am Divination - (Lunch)
  2:15 pm -   3:30 pm Quidditch (outside)
  3:45 pm -   5:45 pm Charms - Levitation
  6:00 pm -   8:30 pm House Cup Ceremony/End of Term Feast
10:00 pm - 12:00 am Adjourn to Common Rooms/Dormitories or "Hogmeade"

I know it seems like a lot to put into a weekend, but this is just a rough guide for time to keep us on track.  Due to the bad weather, some guests arrived a couple days late and still others had to postpone until Thanksgiving day.  We ended up with two separate parties, but it all worked out okay.  We had to do a bit of juggling and sacrifice to make it work, and had to cancel outdoor classes completely. (Yes, I know.  "You CAN'T cancel Quidditch!"  But, we did.) We ended up rearranging for one day of classes something like this:

Day One:
  4:00 pm -   6:00 pm Sorting Ceremony
  6:00 pm -   8:00 pm Start of Term Feast
  8:00 pm - 10:00 pm Adjourn to Common Rooms/Dormitories
10:00 pm - 12:00 am optional "Hogmeade" for drinks

Day Two:
  9:00 am - 10:30 am  Charms - Levitation
10:30 am - 12:00 am Dueling Practice
12:15 pm -  2:00 pm Divination - tea leaves (Lunch)
  2:15 pm -  3:15 pm Potions
  3:30 pm -  5:45 pm DADA (Pop Quiz)
  6:00 pm -  8:00 pm House Cup Ceremony
  8:30 pm - 10:00 pm End of Term Feast
10:00 pm - 12:00 am Adjourn to Common Rooms/Dormitories or "Hogmeade"

We don't host a great deal of parties at our place, especially this elaborate.  There would prove to be challenges in the sleeping arrangements, money and time for decorations and food and overall hosting.  I would like to stress the that the utmost importance when hosting a party like this, is to have a mix of activities including a few that require minimal supervision so you can prepare for the next "class" and keep your guest fed and happy and not wear yourself out.  Keeping folks entertained so that they don't get bored and wander off to watch football was quite a challenge.  With limited time and energy, you have to remember that you can't be three places doing twenty things at once.  Many guests and even our birthday girl all helped entertain as well as prepare each activity and the food.

All in all, it was a really fun time.  Everyone was a good sport and participated.  Daughter said they enjoyed the dueling and potions class the best.  And, it was her favorite birthday ever.  (YES!!  SUCCESS!!! )  And, she wants us to host another Hogwart's party next year.  (Oh dear.  I guess we have future plans for an outside event when it's warmer out.)   But, besides the overwhelming amount of leftover sweets from this party, I think it was pretty great.  And, the best news it that we still have a little money left for Christmas.  ;)  

In the next few days I plan to share a few more detailed posts on our decorations, food recipes and games in case you need inspiration for your own wizard/witch's party.  This will actually be the first time any significant amount of our humble abode will be pictured on my blog.  It's kinda embarrassing.  She's no castle or even a looker any means.  But, we did our best to make it Hogwart's as much as we could.   :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Anyone wondering what I've been up to?

Well, I'm currently tearing up and rearranging our entire house in order to make it resemble Hogwarts as much as one more week and no budget.  :o

Where has this month gone?!  The last one was pretty crazy.  Hopefully you'll hear from me and see pics of my efforts after it's all over.  :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Witch BOO't Update: Really Bad News

Do you ever feel that the more effort you put into something, the more hopeless it's outcome becomes?  I seem to have underestimated how busy I would be and how much time these would take to paint.  Even after starting in July, it's not looking like I will have any boots/shoes finished in time for Halloween.  And, I refuse to rush and sacrifice detail and quality.  I'm just not going to do that. However, I'm very disappointed.  I sincerely appreciate that some of you have been waiting so patiently.  And, I feel really bad letting you down.  I've been trying to fit them in between other projects.  But, I've just had very little time and too much distraction to sit down to enjoy painting.  I'm very close on a couple, but fear they won't be completely ready for sale until it is too close to Halloween.

That being said, here is where I'm at on a couple of them:

The 1st one I'v been working on is a high-heeled vampire shoe/boot.  Not sure if it's a shoe or boot?  But, it's been a fun one that has taken quite some time to create.  I've redone the toe a few times.


I still need to clean up some lines.  Also, I'd like to add some handles to the sides, but I might have to cut into the bottom to secure them.  I've got an idea for a poem about a vampire's shopping trip, but haven't started it.

This 2nd is a very long shoe with buckle.  I'm still working on the fence details and cleaning up some things.


I'd also like to play with the grass and pumpkin stem details a bit more.  I'm also halfway through a poem for it about a "Party in a Pumpkin Patch".

I have a few others in the works that are not as far along.  There are a pair of small boots with a scarecrow scene.  I may show some pics of them later, but I've got an event coming up that is going to keep me away from the blog for a bit.  With any luck, or a miracle, I may have at least one of these shoe available before the end of the month.  Again, I'm so sorry.  I'm going to be really busy this month with events.  On top of that, I'm starting to organize the daughter's 11th birthday for next month.  We're going all out on a small Harry Potter themed party.  After all, "It's not everyday your young man (daughter) turns eleven". I've got a ton of stuff to do for that I hope to post here.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Halloween Painting Tutorial on

Ever wondered how I paint my Witch BOO'ts? Or, have you wanted to paint Halloween scenes on something, but too intimidated to try?  After many requests, I've put a tutorial together that is full to the brim with ideas and techniques to help you decorate your own projects.  And, these techniques can be used on a variety of projects and different surfaces.

This follows up on the Paper Mache Witch BOO't tutorial starts with the priming and preparation of the sculpted boot and continues through to sealing with varnish.  It includes tips at every step in the process, as well as 10 techniques for copying and transferring images with suggestions on which to use for different purposes.

Also included as a bonus are 4 complete Halloween scenes and some various elements to use in them.  I've included images of how they might work on one of my witch boots and recommendations for how to apply them.

Each scenes is separated out to make it easier to alter and apply to your project.  And, each are totally different, so you have a variety of inspiration to work with.

Plus, I've included 2 pages of elements including witches, cats, skeletons, tombstones, trees, JOL's, and much more.  These elements can be used with the scenes or on their own.

Hope you like the new tutorial.  You can find it here:  If you try it, I'd love to hear how it works for you!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Going to great lengths for crafting supplies

I never seem to have enough binding.  Of course I could always cut my own, but I'm always looking for ways to avoid that. Then, I came across a shoe box full of tape measures at the swap meet this past weekend.  This was a total impulse buy.  Not sure it will actually work for a binding.  Being pretty stiff and not cut on the bias, they will most likely be difficult to maneuver around tight corners.  So, now I turn to my crafty friends to help me make use of them.

There are two different styles.  One one the numbers are vertical, while on the other they are horizontal.  And, they are oddly folded over and stitched so that it's double-sided.

I've been wanting to sew a corset for some time now, and I originally thought this would be great to bind the edge.  But, maybe it would be better suited to trim a skirt hem?  Guess I'd know the exact yardage of a 20 yard skirt.  :)  Whatcha think?

Any other ideas what to use them for??  I've got WAY more than I can use.  There's about 100 yard long tapes in the box.  I don't think there is any way I can use them all, even if I tried.  Please help a crazy crafter out.  I'd love to hear any thoughts.   :)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

For a Rum Dispensing the Bustle Bar

The Bustle Bar - "Peeling flowers off walls since 2010"  

I thought I'd share a little more detail about the workings of the Bustle Bar.  If you are new to my blog, I've mentioned this drink dispensing bustle contraption in many costuming posts.  We came up with the idea mostly for faires and other outings where we wanted to bring our own beverages, but not have to push or carry cumbersome containers around that would detract from our costumes.  So what we came up with consists of three rounded tanks concealed under my bustle in back.  Each tank holds 1.75 liters of liquid that is dispensed in the front. In the beginning it was all concealed, including the tubing.  The only parts that were showing were the cut-offs in the front of my corset and the pump on my hip.  If you want to see the early stages, I've posted about it here.


However, Mr Sam thought it would be more "steampunk" to expose the working parts.  He was sweet enough to redesign it for me so that everything was conveniently on a custom leather belt. In the pic above you can see the pump on the right and cut-offs on the left, along with the tubing.  Now, we just have to attach the tubes to the tanks and it's ready to dispense.


I really like what he did in the middle, which kinda resembles a bug on my back.  This is where all the hoses intersect.  He used lamp parts to support the tubing.

I've already discussed a little of the construction of the outfit I wear with my Bustle Bar here.  It's a bit of a complicated process to put the whole costume on and take off.  There is a particular order to it that goes a little like this:

  • First, I put on my under clothes including skirt and top and a belt with the three tanks attached.  (I'm hoping to eventually replace this belt with something custom, as well.)  I wear the tanks from left to right Red, Green Blue = RGB (It helps me remember which is which.).  I used colored water balloons as o-rings to seal the connectors better and also to color code the tubes and tanks.  So the water balloons match the colors of the tanks.    
  • After positioning the tanks in back,  I put on the first layer which is the reworked dress.  In this pic you can see the "parasol pockets", which were the sleeves of the old dress.  They're almost 2 feet deep!  I also cut three holes in the back for the tank openings.  
  • I then put my black bustle skirt over this to add some fluff.  Since I wear my bustle skirt with other outfits, I didn't want to put holes in it, so it just wraps around behind the tank openings and ties in front.
  • Recently, I added an additional ruffle that also has slits for the tank openings.  You can see everything is now concealed except the connectors on the top of the tanks.
  • Once the skirt layers are all situated, I lace on my underbust tabistry corset.  You can read more about that here.
  • Lastly, I put on my jacket and the bustle bar belt.  Then, we attach the six color-coded hoses.  


If you're perplexed about how this contraption actually dispenses drinks, I've tried to illustrate it below exposing the working parts without the layers:

It basically works by displacement.  You push air into the desired tanks to push the liquid out.  I have to be sure I've selected the appropriate valves for whatever beverage I desire and closed of the others.  I can also mix drinks on the fly by opening two valves at one time and adjusting the flow.  I normally fill the middle with water and the other are wine and rum, but I occasionally put mixers in one for the rum.

If anyone has any questions, or wants to attempt one of their own, I'm happy to answer the best I can.  Hope you've enjoyed reading about the Bustle Bar.  If you see me out it in, I'd be glad to offer you a drink!  There's usually more than enough.  :)  Cheers!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Steampunk Blog Linkup

Steam Ingenious has started a blog link up.

If the script above isn't playing nicely on my blog, click the image below to be taken to the Steam Ingenious site to view the links:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quick, Simple and Inexpensive Facelift for Leather Items

As I've said before, Steampunk fashion doesn't have to be expensive or difficult.  And, owning/creating unique leather accessories is not as intimidating or as costly as one might have you believe it has to be.  You really don't need to spend a fortune on tools and specialty products.  With a little black permanent marker, a few products around the house and a few minutes of time, these old boots renewed and transformed.  

I found this pair of leather boots at the thrift store awhile back for like $2.  I was drawn to the side embellishment that reminded me of the buttons on Victorian spats.  But, my new-to-me boots were a bit abused.  It looked like a kitten had climbed up one leg and used it for a scratching post.  There were tiny scratches all up one side of one boot.  They weren't deep, just deep enough to damage the finish, so I gave the boots a chance.   (The steps I go though below were to clean and repair, and decorate my used/damaged boots.  Some of these steps can be skipped, if you find boots that are in varying condition.)

Leather Cleaning - When I got home the first thing I did was clean the boots with Saddle Soap and replace the insoles.  I just happened to have the leather soap around.  It's not terribly expensive and can be found at leather and possibly feed stores.  This stuff is just a soapy substance with oils in it to prevent the leather from drying out.  You can use any other leather or shoe cleaner or even Murphy's Oil Soap.  Note though, if you chose Murphy's, you may not want to use it regularly to clean your leather items unless you intend to oils them as well.  It may dry out the leather.  

Once the boots were clean, I could better see what the damage was.  I sanded down the scratches.  There were also some small stains and scuffs.

Removing the Finish - I wanted to get the old finish off as best I could, which would also help remove the appearance of stains and other surface damage. Plus, the surface would better accept whatever I decided to do to it (This step is not necessary for permanent markers).  The Saddle Soap is great for removing dirt and grime, but I wanted a nice even, non-oily surface to draw on.  I did some quick research online and found out that most of what they sell as "dye prep" or "deglazer" is actually just stuff you can get over-the-counter at any discount or grocery store for way less.  You can safely use acetone (nail polish remover), non-acetone nail polish remover, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol or even pretty much a mixture of any of these to "deglaze", or prepare, leather for dying or in my case drawing.  All these fancy words mean is taking the finish off of the leather to restain or refinish it.  (Yes, these chemicals can also remove the oils in the leather, so use sparingly and with caution.)  After stripping the leather, you'll want to wipe off any residue with a damp cloth.  You'll know the stripper is working if water penetrates the leather quickly.  I wiped my boots off thoroughly and let completely dry.

Permanent Markers - After the boots were dry, I colored the black portions with a fat tipped black Sharpie marker and let it dry.  I've also used fabric dye, water colors, acrylic paint, etc... to decorate leather.  But, markers are another inexpensive and less messy way to add color and interest to plain objects.  It may take a few markers to cover large areas.  And, you may need to go over them a couple times, preferably in different directions to avoid streaks and stroke marks.  You can also use finer tipped markers to get in tight spaces.  (Beware that black markers can vary in color slightly, even within the same brand.  Test your markers before using on your project.)

Conditioners and Sealers - The last step I chose was mink oil.  Again, I conveniently had this around.  You can use any other finish or sealer for leather or shoes.  Just be mindful not to smear the marker with your choice of sealer.  The mink oil didn't seem to affect the marker in any way.  It's always best to test it out in an inconspicuous place first.  You can also seal with acrylic sealer from the craft store, but I didn't want my boots, being used and older, to crack at the ankle.  Eventually, I may recolor and seal with acrylic, as well.  But, the good news is, since I used a marker to decorate these boots, I can use the marker to touch them up if they gets scuffed or worn off, too.

So, now I have a unique pair of boots to wear with my steampunk outfits that cost me less than $10 including the supplies!  Hope this will inspire you to see the potential in plain ordinary items.  Until my next post, be crafty!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Another Cowboy Hat into Steampunk Top Hat

Found another lonely cowboy hat at the flea market a few weekends back for five bucks.  So, I thought I'd put together a bit more info on how I reshape them into top hats for those who want to try it. 


This hat was in pretty dingy dusty shape.  But, it was a smaller sized hat that would fit me, which seems rare in the cowboy hats I find.  We tend to only find them in larger sizes. 


This project will require a felt hat (beaver felt is the best choice), scissors, a ruler, a contrasting color of pencil, a sink filled with water, and a towel.  You may also want a sauce pan lid or drinking glass for shaping and a seam ripper for removing stitches.

Remove Decoration - In this case, the decoration was simply a ribbon hat band.  Used a seam ripper to remove the few stitches holding it on.

Pull Out Lining - I removed the satin lining from the inside.  The lining is usually just tacked in with a little glue.  This one had an internal leather hatband that was surprisingly still in really good shape. So, I decided to just leave it in. If it was rotting or worn, I would remove it all.  Might take a seam ripper to get the old band out.  They can be replaced with a simply piece of bias tape. 
Clean Off Loose Dust and Lint - I was intending to cut this hat for an experiment, but it was actually in a lot better condition than I imagined before cleaning it up.  So, I decided to just reshape it.  Being a used hat, I took it outside and dusted and brushed off loose dirt and lint.  I push out the dents and straighten the brim  to make this easier.  Scrub off any stubborn spots.  At this point it's easier to see any damage that needs to be taken care of, like moth holes or stains.  If the damge isn't something that can be repaired, I may decide to try a different style that will eliminate the damage all together.  But small holes can be plugged and felted with scraps from the brim. 

Trim the Brim - Next, I measured how wide I wanted the brim.  I went with 1 1/2" wide all around.  I made small marks with a light colored pencil and a ruler about 1/4" apart.  I trimmed to the marks with a sharp pair of scissors and sanded off any rough crooked areas or bumps with sandpaper.(You could also do the trimming step after shaping.  Especially with a hat that may stretch or shrink while cleaning and shaping.  But, since I was dying my hat, cutting off the excess would conserve dye.) 

Dying (optional) - The hat wasn't a very flattering brown on me, so I decided to try some red fabric dye, but it didn't hold as well as hair dye did on one of my previous experiments.  But, it gave it just enough color to make it more flattering to my complection.  I prepared the dye according to the package and painted on the dye with a paintbrush, let it dry completely in the sun and then washed it off in our stainless steel sink.  In the future, I think I may try henna on one of these hats just to see what happens.  If I wasn't dying the hat, I would just dunk it in a sink full of room temperature water until it was completely soaked.  If the hat is dirty, as with this one, scrub it gently with soap and perhaps a toothbrush.  Don't agitate it too much or it could shrink and distort.

Shaping - After dying the hat will be wet.  I use a towel to blot dry as much of the excess water as I can remove.  Then, set the damp hat on a dry towel to reshape.  I wanted a top hat, so I needed to stretch the top out more.  I used a small sauce pan lid to enlarge the top the the size I wanted.  I push the lid into the inside of the hat (handle out) until it is even all around.  I keep pulling the hat down over the lid until I get the wrinkles out of the top the best I could.  Once it is even, I carefully pull the lid out and fix any distortion with my hands.  (Note that when stretching the top, you will lose some height and make the hat shorter.)  Laying the hat upside down, I push the center of the top back out in a slight dome.  You can used a drinking glass to smooth this out along the inside.  I also curl up the sides using a round pencil and shape til I'm happy with it.

Drying - Lastly, I just wait for it to dry.  Setting it on something will help to keep it from getting flat spots on the brim.  If you decide you don't like the style or it is crooked, just redunk the hat in water and try again.

Final Touches - Once I had a style I liked and it was completely dry, I rummaged through my stash to decorate it.  You can use ribbon, scarves, feathers, pins, goggles, patches...just about anything you want.

I tried a few different scarves.  And, narrowed it down to a long black net scarf with the ends hanging down in back. Also, added a couple feathers and stole the goggles off one of my other hats. 

As always, if you try one, I'd love to see your results!  It's a really easy and rewarding project.  Next, I hope to get a post up with some pics of the Bustle Bar.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Henna Hair Dye and a Couple Quick "Tips"

PLEASE NOTE:  I did NOT use any henna from Alibaba or Keo Henna, and can not endorse their products.  They "borrowed" my pic for their listing.  I have used henna from Henna Hut or EathDye for many years since I posted this.  And, I get nothing from either henna supplier if you decide to try their wonderful henna.

Tried Henna on my hair for the first time about a five weeks ago.  I was so excited, I shared my results on Facebook as soon as I did it.  But, I'd like to share a few more things I learned. 

I've only altered my hair color a few times in my life.  But, as I've gotten older my hair sorta changed to a drab dark blonde and starting to get random grays popping up.  So, I wanted to try a new color.  I tried going dark brown and then almost black for a short time.  I didn't like the price of salon upkeep or the the chemical smell and constant fading of the home coloring kits.  When I became interested in tribal belly dancing, I'd started reading a lot of good things about henna.  I really wanted to try it.  People have been using henna to dye hair and skin for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.  But, alas, I couldn't find anyone that did it or anywhere to buy it near me.  It just never caught on in the US.  A couple years ago someone I met told me of a place online, but I'd totally forgotten all about it 'til now.  (Actually, I was kinda intimidated to do it myself.)  Finally, on a whim I took the plunge. 

Pure henna is more of an orange color and is most associated with Lucille Ball from "I Love Lucy" fame.  But, there are now mixes available for many color variations from red-orange to burgundy to brown to even black that uses a flowering plant called indigo, as well.

On the left of the pic above, it shows the day after I used a red mix on my hair.  (I didn't style my hair at all.  That's my natural curl.)  The right is a week later after a couple washings with regular store bought shampoo (and I got around to straightening it).  It was so easy to do.  Just add warm water, mix, apply, wait, and wash out.  I had my man, Mr Sam, help me with mine.  I knew that if he missed any spots, I could always reapply. 

Henna works with your own hair color and highlights, so the color varys a lot.  And, you can't go lighter, only darker.  The smell is pleasant enough.  But, most surprisingly, it really does seem to make your hair softer and healthier looking.  I think this is due to the shine it gives it.  It realy glows in the sun.  The "red" color I chose looked like chocolate pudding going on, but was more like mud when dried after the hour I left it on. There are no harsh chemicals, so you can apply it as much or as many times as you like without harm to your hair.  You can pretty much use it anywhere, too! Even on pets and kids, if you wanted.  I tried dying my eyebrows with it!  (Boy, did I look funny while I waited!  I looked like Groucho Marx!)  It will dye your skin temporarily, but if you apply it late in an evening, it will wear off your hair line by the next day.  Hands will take longer, especially fingernails!
You may be wondering why I took so long to share this info on my henna experience.  (What am I saying?!  It always takes me forever to post things!)  But, I've waited until I had completed a touch up to the roots, just to see how much success I would have with it.  They recommend touching up the roots about once every three weeks or so.  I waited just over a month.  But, it turned out just as well as when I first dyed my hair.  The color on my ends is really holding up to the washing.  But, it IS a permanent dye.  My mom has been using home kits for some time now.  And, they fade well before a month has passed.  After seeing my results, she decided to try henna as well, so I helped her a couple of weeks ago.  She bought the "burgundy" color, but since she already had a dark burgundy color on her hair, I thought it best we just try doing the roots and see where it goes.  We could always reapply to all of her hair.  It ended up about the same color as mine, which was a wee bit disappointing...well, maybe a tad darker.  But, it blended with her faded old color quite well. 

When doing my mom's roots, I didn't opt to purchase the application kit.  Instead, I tried a suggestion of just clipping the corner off of a ziplock bag.  However, the hole in the bag began to get larger and larger as I worked. And, I couldn't set it down or it leaked everywhere. So, I though, "there has to be a better way!".

And, looky here! There was a better way. And, it's an "upcycled" way!  So, here's a quick "tip" for those who want to try henna themselves and don't want to purchase the application kit.  Just make your own applicator tip.  Believe me, it works!

I was inspired by my dollar store pastry bag with interchangable screw on tips.  But, I wanted to recreate the idea using the tip off of an old bottle to apply the henna.  I couldn't just pour the mix in the bottle.  For one, the neck is too small to be practical.  But, also, I don't like when I get air bubbles and splatter mess everywhere.

I looked through my stash of bottles and decided on cutting the top off of an empty school glue bottle. They previously had non-toxic contents and have a nice narrow tip.  With a daughter in elementary school and all the crafting we do, I get a lot of these bottles. So, I cleaned one up really good with soap and water.  You could probably use other containers, like those for fabric paint or even a ketchup dispenser.  The flat design of the glue bottle is rather handy, though.  I left the shoulders of the bottle on to have somethinge to hold on to when twisting the cap on and off. 


After preparing the bottle, I cut the tip off of the ziplock bag as usual.  (It doesn't take a big hole.)  Then, I unscrewed the applicator cap off of the bottle and dropped the shoulder portion of the bottle into the bag.  Then, I just screwed the cap back on over the bag on the outside.  That's pretty much it!  You're ready to get dying.  Just open and close the top as needed to apply the henna like icing a cake with a pastry bag. I suppose you could do this with regualr henna for applying mehndi designs, too.  Or heck, ice a cake with it!
But, here's another tip:


One of the videos from the website suggested putting your bags over a cup to fill them.  Just pour the mix of henna powder and warm water into the bag over the cup.  (It took 1 1/2 bags that are 100 gram each to cover my long thick hair.  But, when reapplying only on the roots, I would say it only took about 1/4 of the bag.  I mixed 1/3 and had way too much left.)  Push out the air and seal up the bag.  You can use a rubber band around a large bag to keep it more manageable.  That made it really easy. 

I'm wondering if it would be possible to just mix the henna right in the bag?  Whatcha think?  I think I'd have to use a gallon-sized bag and mix it to the opposite corner of the applicator tip.  I may try a small batch next time and see how it works.

Yay!  Now, I'm a red head!  And, being so easy to keep up with, I think I'll stay this way for awhile.  I've found that it ends up costing me much less than the store bought home kits in the long run.  I can use one bag to do at least 4 touch-ups.  If you're interested, I got my henna "red" color from Henna Hut (  They're a family run business near Houston Texas.  But, I believe their business is done strictly online.  The website is full of useful info and testimonials.  They were great about getting it to me right away.  And, they're conveniently on Facebook to answer any questions.  Hope you give it a try.  If you do, let us know how your results turn out!