Plus-Size Steampunk

Maximum Fabulous – Minimum Budget
November 27th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Curtains: 1912 Evening Gown–to Sew or Not to Sew

Front view of no-sew 1912 dress

Start with what you have and then see what you can make with it.  I found some lovely items while on my last thrifting trip: a wedding dress with train and veil, a gold sheer curtain panel, and a white brocade curtain with valance and lace sheer.  I dyed the wedding dress except for the sleeves, but found another use for them, which will be featured as a later project.  The items are pictured below along with some other fabric I had, because as I draped and played with the curtain pieces I came to a dillemma: To SEW or NOT to SEW?


$15 thrifted wedding dress with train and veil, pearls and lace Curtains, veil, antique satin and random cloth

Curtain panel with lace sheer, brocade and scalloped edges

I have these two curtains, one of which is a lovely golden striped panel and the other is ivory with a lily design in brocade and scalloped edges. I draped them over my dress form and saw how lovely they looked together, and almost figured to make a string-tie, no sewing dress, but then I wanted it to look a bit more fabulous than that. Then I found a pattern (Simplicity 1517) and decided to do more research. It’s  close  enough for steampunk, but I like doing research, as you can see below. For one thing, my verson looks much heavier than the pattern.


Front view of no-sew 1912 dressSide-view of no-sew 1912 dressSimplicity 1517 Lady Mary pattern from Downton Abbey c. 1912simplicty-1517-detail

Fashion Gallery ca. 1912, the year the Titanic sank. Click thumbnails to see larger images.

So I’m still deciding about sewing a dress–not a difficult project–or making it with safety pins and and string. I suppose I could do it both ways–first with the string, as shown above, and then cut and sewn. I’ll have to cut the fabric either way, and that is what is stopping me. I can’t go back and get more if I screw it up.

So, dear Steampunk Reader, you can see that I have the same trepidations as anyone else.

sketch of no-sew dress.

Here’s a sketch of how it would work with string and safety pins, along with a brooch or two to keep the shoulders together. The gold panel will have to be cut the short way to go around me–I’m not wearing horizontal stripes! But it could be pinned together to make a tube, and then use stitch witchery to make a hem and a channel for a string to tie it over my boobs.

I’d have to cut a hole of some kind in the veil for my head. I would either leave that just open and ragged, or glue some lace or even seam tape to it.


One panel of the brocade curtain will be split lengthwise so that both pieces will have an outside scalloped border and the design will be right-side-up on both sides. I would cut it across the short side as well, making four pieces, and then fuse the raw edges together at the shoulders.  I would also use stitch witchery to fuse a hem on the non-scalloped side to make a nice finish.

Then I would take the short panel of the curtain, or use a coordinating fabric,  and tie it just under my boobs for an empire look. The “sleeves” of the veil and the overdress, would just be caught up in the belt, and the veil would then hang over the gold curtain, under the crossed brocade curtain pieces. I would arrange the scalloped pieces across my belly front and back, and voila! A new dress.

I’m not sure how I would make it if I decided to sew it. I like the Lamaonva dress above as well as the Hollander. Which one do you like?

Would you prefer tips on sewing or on non-sewing projects?

November 22nd, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Review of Steampunk Accessories

Upgrade your skillset and create new accessories for your next con. Not only are the projects very well done, but the DIY pages are illustrated with clear drawings, and the finished products are photographed to advantage on models. A short but good section is included on thrifting, including what to look for, how to decide if it is more valuable as it is or deconstructed, and how to clean and age the pieces. Basic jewelry and leather tips are part of the instructions.

Most of the projects are not size-constrained, but measuring instructions are included where needed to make a piece personal. The goggles on the cover, in particular, are very impressive, though crafted mostly of recycled plastic. The techniques used are applicable to other projects, so if you don’t need a glasses case, you might use the same ideas to mod a corset or top hat. Some of the ideas, such as a place to stash your earbuds, are ingenious and not something you might think of yourself. Others are well described and presented.

No clothing is discussed here, except for gloves and a belt, but accessorizing your existing costume, adds the steamy spice to what might otherwise be a bit mundane.

The book is well worth the USD $18.95, as includes traceable patterns and copy-capable textures and images for typewriter keys, numbers and textures, if you wish to make your things look exactly like the projects pictured.

The Amazon link to the right is an affiliate link. Buy a book and I get a nickel.

Tedman & Skeate. (2013). Steampunk accessories: 20 projects to help you nail the style from goggles to cellphone cases, gauntlets and jewelry. Haupage, NY, USA: Ivy Press.

November 17th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

5 Questions to Ascertain your SQ: Steampunk Quotient

Marla-RobertsonYou already know what steampunk is, or you wouldn’t be here.
But you are still lacking confidence in your claim to steamcred, or you wouldn’t still be here.

Here’s some questions for you to analyze your inner neo-Victorian-HG-Wellsingtonian-JulesVernocity.

1. Are you intelligent? (Not as in if you are so smart, why are you not rich?)

Dumb people don’t get steampunk. √ Check.

2. Do you often ask why, why not and how come about things that other folks take for granted?

You don’t take things for granted and often feel that there must be a better way, or that if history had followed another track, things would be more fun. Or if we pretended that history was different…? Bonus points if you actually know some history.    √ Check.

3. Do you love the intricate, the layered, and the sparkly?

You find minimalism boring, being not only post-modern, but post-retro, post-vintage, post-Diesel, and post-Edwardian, and you are completely ready for the return of baroque-rocco. The Renaissance just didn’t have enough technology, though the clothes were awesome. Bouns points if you have boxes of fiddly bits, cloths, bling, plumbing and wiring for just in case.  √ Check.

4. Are you impressed by craftsmanship and engineering?

You know that design should be both functional and esthetically pleasing, (see #3.) and a little extra brass never hurt anything. Makers are awesome, and you have always liked to get your hands dirty. Bonus points if you can think of lots of things that need to be invented, even if you can’t personally invent them today.  √ Check.

5. Are you working on an alternative history/timeline/world narrative (novel, manga, screenplay, graphic novel, anime, song cycle, video,???) ?

You are exploring that alternate narrative, that sense of how the layers of the tesseract should have unfolded differently, and as that radiates in the æther  of your semiconscious mind, you are capturing it in some form. (Did we say anything about publication? No. )   √ Check.


If you are still reading, you know you are a Certified Steampunk. Gear up and crank on.

November 15th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Review of Steampunk Emporium

Fairies like Gears too! Not only does this book look lovely with its antique book design and full-color, sepia-tone pages, but it tells a story to go along with each of the 20 jewelry projects. The articles are cute and feature images of clockwork fairy models wearing the projects.

Since story-telling is a large part of character design in Steampunk, this aspect will help you design your character and make up a story about why you have each of your accoutrements. Several necklaces, broaches, medals, charms, absinth class charms, and a hatpin are included as projects. An index of projects and stories completes the book, along with a listing of resources and Steampunk groups.

The instructions are photographed well, and described clearly. A 22-page section of general jewelry and crafting tips is included in the back, also illustrated with photographs. Jewelry findings, polymer clay techniques and mixed media offer many design ideas for the gears between your ears to start turning. At USD $27.99, it’s a good deal if you don’t already know about making jewelry.

The Amazon link to the right is an affiliate link. Buy a book and I get a nickel.

Hewitt, J. (2011). Steampunk emporium: Creating fantastical jewelry, devices and oddments from assorted cogs, gears and curios. Cincinnati, OH: Northlight books.

November 8th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Review of Elegantly Frugal Costumes

While not a Steampunk costume book, this little black-and-white gem has many practical ideas for making what you have become what you want. After a section on authenticity and appearance, the writer includes sections on each time period that costumers for plays might need, including a section on the 1800s. The illustrations are line drawings, and indicate more how to see the costume in the mundane dress than how to make the changes.

Some patterns are sketched out, just enough to get you thinking:  a diagram for a wire bustle on p. 54, several Steampunk era hats on p. 74, and leggings on p. 87. This is not a picture book, however, but has good discussions on how to make the changes. It does assume you already know some sewing.

The primary benefit is the sketches that show how to look at a dress from the 1950s and make it look like the 1850s. Other time periods are included and described, Biblical, Renaissance, American Colonial, and the Roaring 20s. I bought this as a used library book, and so only paid about USD $5 for it, but it was money well spent. Street price is USD $17.00 For 125 pages, a lot of information is included. I’m glad I bought it.
The Amazon link to the right is an affiliate link. Buy a book and I get a nickel.

November 1st, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Review of Steampunk Your Wardrobe by Callista Taylor

Callista Tayor, gaslight romance writer and seamstress extraordinaire, has a fabulous book on not only repurposing your own or thrifted clothing for Steampunk, but also has a great leather waist-cincher design, jewelry, a mini-top hat from cardboard and 15 other projects that will get you steamed up on the cheap and fabulous.  The one thing missing from this book is a list of places to find the fiddly bits, but you already know how to search Amazon and other craft emporia.  You already have almost anything she mentions, if you do any crafting at all.

Her sewing techniques are simple enough for novices, and she has a 6-page section of general instructions to get you started, including how to measure to make things fit you.  Color photographs illustrate each process, and some extra photos are included for inspiring your own ideas.

The section on the leathercraft to make the waist cincher is especially good, and I plan to try that for myself. Her pattern is based on your own measurements, so you can be sure to make it your size. A waist cincher is easier to wear than a full corset, and so might be a good first project for that western look that you’ve been considering.

I also want to try the capelet she made from a thrifted coat, if I can find one in a usable size and fabric. She basically cuts off the bottom of the coat above the elbow and works the sleeves into the seams. The wool coat she uses would be too warm for me, unless I were in an outside venue in the winter, but a lightweight coat might work very well inside.

For an all-you-need-to-know-to-get started book, this one is very reasonable at USD $19.99.

The Amazon link to the right is an affiliate link. Buy a book and I get a nickel.

Taylor, C. (2013) Steampunk your wardrobe: Easy projects to add Victorian flair to everyday fashions.  East Petersburg, PA: Design Originals.

October 25th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Review of 1000 Steampunk Creations by Dr.Grymm

If you need inspiration that sets the bar for what is Steampunk, this is your book. It’s a lush pictorial archive of the art and fashion of Steampunk ca. 2011. The book itself is beautifully designed, from its pierced cover to seven sections of steamy goodness.  There are few words, and each image is worth at least a thousand of them.

Nearly 300 pages portray one to eight images of clothing, art objects, jewelry, weapons, home décor,  and things both indescribable and unimaginable. Bring your own napkin because you will DROOL with desire. Some of these images have escaped onto Pinterest or other websites, but there will be much you have not seen before.

Each image is captioned with a number, the creator’s name and the country of origin.  A nice directory of images is included.  While not a how-to book, many of the images show the exquisite craftsmanship of each item and offer visual hints of how it might have been achieved.

Don’t let that craftsmanship keep you from making your own goodies, however. Give yourself a high goal for aspiration and aim your talents for the stars.

Take it in slowly, not all at once, for like a child with only a dollar in a candy store, you will find more than enough brilliant ideas to inebriate the imagination.

You might check your local library if your wallet is thin, as the sticker price is USD $25, but the value is there.
The Amazon link to the right is an affiliate link. Buy a book and I get a nickel.

Grymm, & Saint John. (2011). 1000 Steampunk creations: Neo-Victorian fashion, gear and art. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books.

October 24th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Armor is the New Black

Armor by Pink Absinthe on

Armor by Pink Absinthe on

A post from Amy Ratcliff on Fashionably Geek offers much in the way of ideas of steampunk, of fat acceptance, of corsetry and of what armor to wear with baby blue.  Read it here:

First, go and look at the pictures. Take a tissue because you will drool! Note the lace and beading on the bodice–that could be aded to any corset or as in this case, plastice-boned bodice.  The blue ribbon lacing definitely adds a princess look, with great contrast to the shoulder armor.

Another view of armor with feathered satin dress

Another view of armor with feathered satin dress

Then take a look at the armor itself. It might be possible to make something similar with foam, straps and rivets, if you are not into leatherwork. It’s the piercing and the shaded silver painting that makes this design fabulous and yet feminine.

Note the feathered top of the silver satin dress. It’s just a halter top with a pleated skirt. The feathers appear to be a separate piece connected to the neck with the lovely silver filigree. Feathers aren’t washable, so making them another layer makes sense.

Analyse what you see and think in terms of the parts that add up to the whole. I think I’ll give this look a  try, not that mine will turn out like Pink Absinthe’s, but I do like the looks of it. She also has an armored sleeve of light blue slubbed silk with lace and silver, and an amazing silver lace choker.

Now, think of how you can co-opt some of those ideas for your own pretties. If you want to purchase said armor, contact Pink Absinthe ( on message her  to get $20 discount + $10 delivery discount from )  Her shop is Most Droolworthy!

What I don’t recommend is your reading the comments on this article, which quickly degenerate into a flame toss of accusations. We’re bigger than that.


October 9th, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Fabulouso Cake Design at Craftsy

Vintage Cake Design Sculpting and Stencilling

Vintage Cake Design Sculpting and Stencilling

If you are going to host high tea, you need something as stunning as you are to serve…though you may not let them cut this cake. has a tutorial on how to use stencilling and colors to make an incredible–and edible–vintage cake.  The designer, Lindy Smith, shows you how to carve the cake layers, then cover them with royal icing, and then antique with layers of food coloring.

The techniques themselves are good to know for any kind of crafting.  You get downloadable instructions, exclusive recipes, a list of materials needed, and unlimited views of the eight videos to show you how to do it.  The class is only $39.99, and you can ask questions online from the instructor and from other students.

Do at least take a look at the page, because you can get some ideas just from the sample pictures, like the one at the left. If you are into baking, this might open up a new world of sdesign ideas for you. Check  it out.

Vintage Cake Design: Sculpting and Stenciling with Lindy Smith

This link is an affiliate link. If you sign up for the class, I will get a kickback. Gotta pay for that new corset somehow.

October 3rd, 2013 by Charlotte Babb

Thrifting can be Hazardous…ah but the Bargains!

Back from the Clearance saleTwo weeks ago I saw a notice on facebook that the local Dritz sewing notions manufacturing plant was having a big clearance sale…can you say 75% off?  Ah the joys of living in the manufacturing part of the South! For 11 am on a Saturday, the place was not as packed as I expected. The workers were well prepared, handing me a large plastic bag, the kind that king-size comforters come in, and I p roceeded to fill it up.

First up, Gimp Braid, whole spools of it, though the spools were broken. I got 30 yards at least, maybe more. It took me half an hour just to untangle and wrap it up.  Then there were jeweled buckles, overall buckles, grommets, d-rings, sewing kits, hem tape, oven cleaner ( how did they know?) and well….see for yourself.  I had to stand in line for half an hour just to be checked out. Lucky for me they had good wi-fi, and I spent the time doing research on my phone.

straw into gold

The braid was particularly nice, ranging from a 1/2 inch to nearly 1-1/2 inch wide, with pure gold and gold and black. I also got TEN YARDS of 4-inch Black Fringe . Wesley Snipes (To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar) got nothing on what I’m going to do with that!  IF I had only stopped there. But as you can see, I got into the spirit of the thing.

The “craze” for curtains hung from rings has apparently died, as there were dozens of the rings lying about. I though thtey might make some kind of interesting connector or punch-through hole for something.  I’m sure I’ll eventually do something with all this stuff, but what will most likely happen is that I’ll take it for a swap–one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure. This would have been a budget buster, had it not been for the clearance sale. Next time I’ll take someone with me so that I don’t bring home so much junk. Still, it was fun.

Lesson for next time: if you can’t tell what you are going to do with it, leave it there. Now I have to find somewhere to put all this stuff until I can craft it.