Gears, Beards, and Beers

GB and B 2
(Image belongs to the Facebook Capitol Steam group)

Good times do not get better than this. I had such a wonderful time last night! Here’s a highlight moment: As I was pausing in a doorway, just soaking up the eye candy, a young, cute wisp of a girl skittered up to me and laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. She said, “You are wonderful and adorable and awesome!” and then she skipped off. In a nutshell, this is My Steampunk. Happy, open, welcoming, creative people of all backgrounds and ages with one common dream. I can’t resist it.

At some point, I was tapped on the shoulder by a roving costume contest judge and told I was being entered in the contest. Didn’t win at any level, but as they say at the Academy Awards, it was an honor just to be nominated!  For the record, I was wearing my crocheted Gibson Girl wig, sorta matching crocheted bootwarmer-spats over utilitarian black biker boots, a black and silver corset from Corset Story (You gotta love Corset Story. Really. You must), a long sleeved scoop neck shirt, lots of flashy silvery jewelry, and a black western dance hall  style above the knee skirt, with black leggings beneath. And as usual, I had that little item that 98.5% of steampunks own, a jeweler’s loupe. Seriously, under $10 buys your glasses some steam-cred. And I know I can’t live without my glasses. Can you? I scribbled all over the metal on my loupe with a blood red marking pen. Love the effect. It will rub off so I’m careful, but it’s not that hard to avoid.

Yes, I am a very low budget steampunk. It’s more fun to warp items from my closet than to buy off the rack ‘looks’. Though I do spring for good corsets, cause…. CORSETS.

Hopefully pics will be forthcoming. I don’t know what’s out there but I will share as I find.

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE LINKS! Explore and get to know these groups. They are each and every one wonderful.  Kudos and thank you to all!

 – My favorite set of pics from the evening.

Fantastic pics at

Mid Michigan Magnificent Steamy Sponsor!  Capitol Steam (Lansing area Steampunks Facebook Group)

Hirsute Hunks that Sponsored.  I love these guys! Jackson Beard and Moustache Club

Proceeds Benefiting! Cascades Humane Society

Venue! The Grand River Brewery in Jackson, Michigan. Perfect setting and extremely brave and tolerant waitstaff.

Vendors & Artists! Look for these places online – try – and support steampunk artistry.

Poison Ivy Designs
Steampunk Eddie
Errant Knight Photography
Detroit Beard Collective
The Spectra Nova
Spooky’s Geek Boutique formerly known as Spooky Designs
Off the Beaten Path Books
K3 Creations Artworks
Lush Lapel

I dropped a bit of cash at FiendishWear, as their items were too good to miss. I’ve needed something to hold my needfuls. I’ve been using a clutch purse made from 1920’s fabrics, and it’s fun, but I get tired of the clutching. So now I have a leather accessory hip case to hold what I need on a belt slung around my waist, and to keep it company and increase the collective coolness factor, I snapped up a 6″ brass extendable telescope with leather holster. It works, very nicely. Good for examining beards close-up.

And lastly but not leastly, our musical inspiration. Raven Song sounded so great, and yes, I sang along with “Whiskey In The Jar”. Here’s a random tune from Youtube so you can catch a bit of their sound:


If you’ve dreamed of owning Jess Nevins Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana but weren’t willing to take out a second mortgage to get the collectors edition (or your landlord nixed the idea), or if your floorboards couldn’t handle the sheer weight of that tome… good news! It’s now light as a feather in Kindle format, and cheaper than lunch at Applebees.

My review of the hardcover copy (now a decade out of print, very expensive, and let’s face it, big enough to require a wheelbarrow to de-shelve), is reads thusly:

“This book is big. Really big. Vastly and hugely big. You may think it’s a long way down to the chemists, but that’s peanuts compared to The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana. I’ve looked up so many entries and each time I do, I find myself wandering about to other random entries. Cracking into this book requires time (and a wheelbarrow), but it’s time well spent. Rather like wandering through an information maze and finding little prizes at the end of the dead-stops throughout. Jess knows his stuff, and now thanks to his encyclopedia, so do I.”

The official description is probably more helpful.

“This enormous volume is the first comprehensive encyclopedia of fantastic literature of the nineteenth century. From detective fiction to historical novels, from well-known authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, to Russian newspaper serials and Chinese martial arts novels, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASTIC VICTORIANA is a truly exhaustive look at every aspect of fantastic literature in the days of Queen Victoria.”

Steampunk Crocheted Wig Report #4 – Done!

Crochet Steampunk Wig Progress - Small Curls added

Apologies for the delay in the rest of this tutorial!  Life was happening in abundance these past weeks.  But the wig IS now completely finished!  I’ll catch up first with pics taken a while ago, and then we can marvel at the shinies and the end result, which I wore on Saturday at the Up In The Aether Steampunk Convention in Dearborn, Michigan.

At this stage, I removed the braid that had been pinned around the crown, as I wasn’t sure I liked it there. This sort of waffling is a great reason to get a styrofoam head and some long hatpins. Play with all the pieces till you get what you like.   I started adding shorter curls to the sides (these were 15 chain stitches long to start, rather than the 50 stitches I’d used for the longest curls.)

You can see my fingertips holding the edge of the styrofoam head – the wig is getting HEAVY, and you’ll need to secure the form as you work.  My form had a small ledge where my fingers are; I often used a stack of books to keep it from falling over.

You can also see that the swept-up hair is starting to get messy.  It’s easy to catch it on something and pull a strand loose. After pondering that, I decided to put the braid back on, as it gave definition AND helped anchor the hair it laid over.

And that’s where the in-progress pictures end.  Moving ahead, you’ll be looking at the final wig.  I’ll describe all the finishing touches (and mention my mistakes) so we can all learn together! Continue reading “Steampunk Crocheted Wig Report #4 – Done!”

Of Weddings and Apprentices

“Blessed is the generation in which the old listen to the young; and doubly blessed is the generation in which the young listen to the old”  — Anonymous (the wisest person on the planet, apparently)

We have now toddled back home from Up In The Aether: The Steampunk Convention, and are settling back in and re-acclimating to life in modern times.  It’s raining lightly, Ken’s STILL in the yard taking care of the vegetable garden details  (I came in an hour ago, I am not a lunatic) and I’m baking up some waffles for a breakfast-dinner if the addle-brained one ever comes inside and dries off.  Meantime, I wanted to share two anecdotes from the Con that may help explain WHY I like being a part of the Steampunk Community, and why I love, love, love going to a local con. Sure the outfits are purdy – but I’m not a cosplayer. And it’s fun to make up a character, but my roleplay days are behind me. And honestly?  I’m not really a con-person, this really is the only con of the year I attend.  But there’s one rock-solid reason I’m grateful for the Steampunk community at large, and why I align myself with it – strongly.

Steampunk – at it’s finest – respects and honors the past. Steampunk is armed with enough smarts and imagination to revel in it whimsically and perhaps a touch brilliantly, while setting an example for that wide-eyed, soaking-it-all-up generation of children that will take our place when we are gone.

This was the first year for Up In The Aether (it’s predecessor, World Steam Expo, ended last year), and it carried a challenge to form it’s own unique identity. We certainly don’t want to forever think of it as “that con that filled the hole World Steam Expo left.”  Personally, what set UITH apart for me this year was the extra focus given to Making.  The DIY sessions were exemplary.  I now know how to pickle copper for cheapsies, properly clean tools from last century, what sort of vile diseases may linger on some long forgotten hinge, and exactly what that doohickey really was that resembled Lucifer’s Tuning Fork. And more. Oh, and there were sessions for us FOODIES!  We learned about Victorian era cooking from a local steampunk/chef, who along with his longsuffering sidekick, cooked up a whirlwind for us – we were fed tomato and celery salad (better than it sounds after he whomped up a good vinaigrette dressing that the Victorians NEVER heard of), chicken croquettes (needed parsley) and raspberry shrub (INSTANT ADDICTION.)

Oh right. I mentioned two anecdotes.  I get sidetracked so easily!

Anecdote The First – The Wedding. 

Our hotel had also booked a wedding for Saturday afternoon. Apparently the wedding party had booked another venue, canceled when they found a better place, but unfortunately that place fell through.  Three weeks before their wedding, they booked the Double Tree in Dearborn. Now, this wedding wasn’t in some back room, it was RIGHT IN THE LOBBY. The same lobby that was the hub of all our activity, the same lobby we had to walk around all sides of to get to our event rooms.

Recipe for disaster?  Nope.  At some point, the wedding guests began to arrive, and a strange blend of Urban Detroit wedding-formal began mingling with all sorts of Steampunk. I personally saw respect offered from both camps, smiles and nods passed between folk, polite words were offered at every opportunity.  Some of the wedding guests inquired about who ‘all these well dressed folks in the hotel’ were. They were given friendly explanations, and a few of them even ventured out to browse the dealer’s rooms. During the actual wedding, the con-goers moved quietly around the perimeter, and spoke in hushed tones.  I LOVED the juxtapositioning of the converging special days for so many people.  Many of the steampunks offered good wishes and congratulations to the bridal party.  (Later, I learned that the bride hadn’t been given an advance clue about our con, and was less than thrilled  – I pity the wedding planner that forgot to tell her, but ah, what can we do?)

Amusingly, I recall the second year of World Steam Expo (our previous con) shared the hotel with both a wedding reception AND a Japanese convention. Somewhere, in some dust-gathering wedding album, is a family portrait of a very traditional, upright family, but that picture also includes a lady in a pith helmet, alligator skin corset and wielding a butterfly net. Thanks, elderly grandpa, for hauling me into the photo and snuggling up against me!

Anecdote the Second – The Master and the Apprentice

We attended as many DIY workshops as possible. Among those were a couple of REALLY good sessions run by Steve Brook. From the UITA website:

Steampunk Fabricators is a Detroit based Art, Design and Engineering guild specializing in one of a kind Museum quality art projects. Steampunk Fabricators Art Projects have enjoyed global recognition and have been shown in Museums, Galleries, Television, Video, and Fine Photography. The mission of the guild is to rescue and combine vintage turn of the century period objects in a modern way to create historic tribute to the craftsmen of the industrial age. Founder Steve Brook, a veteran Automotive Design Engineer, states: “Until recent times Art and Engineering were always two sides of the same coin. The art of Leonardo De Vinci is an example of the harmony between the two. Our goal is to restore the balance of art and engineering while celebrating the aesthetic qualities of the Victorian age.”

These were wonderful sessions. Steve has a respect and reverence for handcrafted objects (especially workshop tools) from the past. He spoke about how objects back then were created individually, by hand, for a specific purpose, by their builders.  And the fact that we can hold those objects today, and they are still strong and sound, and in many cases, still working perfectly, speaks so highly of the skill and dedication that went into the objects.  Steve is apparently an empath too, he feels about tools and crafted objects the way I feel about older buildings.  The energy and soul of the builders gets into the items they build.  He mentioned that he loves working with older shop tools, as the ‘mojo’ of those from the past that either crafted the items or worked hard with them over the years gets into the tools. He likes that extra boost to his own projects that comes from working in harmony with the past.

During both sessions we attended (“Rescue, Restore and use Vintage Tools” and “Working with Vintage Materials: The Good, The Bad, The Beautiful”), we shared the front row with a small boy who listened intently, did not fidget, and seemed as into the concepts as any adult in the room.  At the end of the first session, Steve turned his attention fully to the kid.  He asked him his name (Jeffery) and told him he had a present for him. Steve gave Jeffery a very, very old screwdriver set – those kind that are like nesting dolls, where you keep unscrewing them and there’s a smaller one, unscrew that and there’s another smaller one, all the way down to a tiny screwdriver perfect for repairing glasses. And this was no knockoff screwdriver set. It’s not like he had a bucket of them in the back to appease the kiddos.  This was a well made, vintage, quality item. He described it to Jeffery and then presented it to him.  Jeffrey took it gratefully, and dammit, I couldn’t see for a minute after that for the tears in my eyes. It was just one of THOSE moments.

The next session we attended, guess who was in the front row again?  Yep, Jeffery!  We learned a lot about the dangers and delights of working with old icebox handles and other wacky bits of hardware from days gone by.  Steve had a scrap box filled with intriguing goodies he used for his demonstrations.  At the end of that session, he targeted Jeffery once again, and told him he could choose anything he wanted out of the scrap box to keep. Jeffery chose a very intricate looking whatsamathing. Steve told him “you can’t just use it like that! Take it all apart and make a lot of cool things.”  By now, you could sense the bond between the man and the boy.

I like knowing that the world I live in has a Jeffery in it, who’s possibly using that vintage screwdriver right now to make a few cool things out of that thingermabobber.  Who knows what Jeffery may offer up to the world as he grows, learns, and experiments?


















Steampunk Crocheted Wig Progress Report #2

It’s getting a bit more difficult to show and tell what I’ve been doing with the wig.  In order to give the hair a bit of ‘puff’ around the hairline, I crocheted a long tube and stuffed it with some green netting I had lying about being useless, then attached it firmly all around the edge of the cap. You can see a bit of the netting peeking through the stitches here, but it won’t matter in the long run.

Continue reading “Steampunk Crocheted Wig Progress Report #2”

Flipping my Wig

A few months back, I stumbled on a blog entry at “Rocking the Frock”, showing how a circus clown wig was made. Take a look – she did a wonderful job of it!

This inspired me to try making a crocheted wig of my own, since I love to crochet and am always looking for new projects. And of course, my brain being odd, I decided to attempt to incorporate the wig into full costume for Up in the Aether in May. Now, I haven’t been 20-something for a long time and really can’t do cutsey skimpy costumes (I sure would if I still had my long-ago waistline), so I started thinking about costumes for more mature women.  Since the wig will look constructed rather than natural, why not make all of me look constructed? And really, what proper Steampunk home wouldn’t benefit from the presence of a Clockwork Housekeeper?  I’m not talk French Maid here. Housekeeper. Roundy, dressed in a simple gown, metal legs peering out below the hem, metal hands to hold a feather duster, shiny metal face.  The notion appeals to me.

Continue reading “Flipping my Wig”

The Busiest Two Weeks Of The Year

Today may have been my peak day in the seasonal cycle of Spring, which masqueraded as Summer today, being in the 90’s. As usual, the yard and gardens have turned into a jungle. Michigan likes to dump endless rainstorms, laced between heat waves in the Spring. This is very annoying to gardeners, but the plants sure seem to like it. A little too much if you ask me.

This weekend has been a good one for taming the growing beasts. And of course, since I am lucky enough to have not just a First life, but a Second life too, there’s a huge convergence of activity all across both Terra, and the Grid.

Next weekend brings World Steam Expo. We’ve enjoyed both previous years of this con and are *definitely* looking forward to round three! I am not by nature a con-person. I am not blase about these things, I don’t go to heaps of them, I don’t know con protocol… I’m the happy clueless steampunk who just loves going down to Dearborn and soaking up the fun with people that feel ‘right’ to me. The first year, I threw together random bits of clothing and just bumbled along. It didn’t matter, I wasn’t looking for a best-dressed honor. I got to meet some Second Lifers and I had a great time. Last year my costuming skills grew a bit, I wore an actual Serious Corset (fake alligator skin, brutal boning, loved it anyway), a pith helmet, crafted a skirt and a butterfly net and SteamEarthMomma’d my way through the con.

This year I’m aiming for a ‘casual steamish pirate’ look. I handmade my corset (yep, the entire thing, it’s doubled thick yarn single crocheted to be very firm, thick cord X-lacings up the sides and spine, seven sweet little metal cloak-clasps attempting to tame my belly), acquired shiny accessories, such as my brass compass which I cannot stop playing with and a silly little pirate gun – and of course a battered old tricornered hat. My logic was that I love corsets, but driving 90 miles in one is not very fun, nor is trying to sit for long spells with boning jamming my thighs. So we will see how this goes. Life is an experiment!

Anyway… with Expo coming, and lots of crafting and plans for that – and the Annual Yard Explosion – and a need to be out of town on the coming Tuesday – there’s a lot to do. It’s been one heck of a weekend and it’s nowhere near done yet. I’m just taking a little breather (insert mandatory dwarf joke here) with a cool drink and thought I’d babble a bit.

I noted SEVEN, yes SEVEN events in Second Life I would have loved to attend today. The Home and Garden Expo is underway and you REALLY need to go enjoy that – especially Prim Perfect’s sim, which I’ve been lucky enough to help a bit with from behind the scenes. Go see! It’s lovely, and based on a wonderful conceptual binding theme. I am very proud of everyone involved! We’re hosting a full series of “Meet the Designers” talks all week long. Some of your favorite designers will be there and you know you want a chance to meet them and hear them speak their minds. Follow the Prim Perfect Blog for all the details through this amazing week of the Home and Garden Expo.

Well, there’s a bit of sunlight left and I shouldn’t waste it. But here’s a little view into what sort of gifts Spring gives me, and why I am happy to sweat and ache and burn the calories every spring, out here in some very beautiful countryside – and also why I’m happy the internet reaches out into little cowtowns like mine.

Fresh rocket lettuce to compliment tonight’s crab and pasta salad
A HUGE bundle of fresh spearmint stalks, tied and hanging from my herb-hooks in the kitchen to dry. Smells amazing.
A bundle of catnip stalks up on the hooks. Have I mentioned I grow my own teas?
Chamomile flowers in bloom, which I will go pick as soon as I post this.

Kitchen Therapy:
Crab, Pasta and Veggie salad
Brownie Bites (mini muffin pan FTW)
Fresh strawberries sliced and sweetened to go over brownies
From-scratch lemon-limeaide (did I mention it’s 90 degrees out?)
Lemon Poppyseed muffins
Huge breakfast yesterday of cheesy eggs, sausage, and from-scratch hashbrowns

Second Life:
I have snuck around the Expo under cover of darkness. And I love love love it.
Am very gratified by the success of Armada’s Treasure Hunt. Tis just a handful of stops, maybe a dozen? – you can do that! And you’ll enjoy getting to know our city built on the bones of boats. The hunt runs till the end of the month.
I plan to watch the lanterns for peace be released one night this coming week. You should too. Read this amazing, touching explaination by Alchemy Immortalis to see what it’s all about.

Crafty Therapy:
Finished the pirate corset since my cloak-clasps arrived in the mail yesterday
Experimental crocheted boot-cuffs. May be a Fail. Maybe not. Will see.

And off I go again…. dinner will be late, as  sunlight is precious and must not be squandered.  I’m going to seem very scarce through next weekend, but be assured I’m not really very far away.  And with any luck I smell like mint. 🙂   Or gunpowder, arrrgh.