How To: Faux Brick Walls

The Giant and I bought a house.  Which is exciting and weird to think about at the same time.  Since the lease on our apartment doesn’t end until the end of May, we are taking the time to get the interior painted before we move in.  Plus, as we discovered yesterday, it’ll be handy to have access to the apartment laundry until we can buy new appliances during Memorial Day.

Because The Giant and I are… geeks… we’ve decided to really play up our geekdom in our home.  In particular we wanted a Steampunk basement.  The basement walls were painted cinder block and we took a while to decide how we wanted to finish them.  At first we thought about using paneling from Lowes and following the lead from Epbot.  Since we had a lot of area to cover the price tag seemed daunting at $26 per sheet.  The Giant suggested we paint the blocks to look like bricks and at first I was totally not on board.

Then I was looking through Pinterest at Steampunk rooms and had a flashback to the Historic Preservation class I took in college in which I learned SO MUCH about architecture and retained very little.  But what I did retain was a basic understanding of how masonry was used way back when.  So I started taping out historic brick patterns:

From top left to right: English Bond, Running Board, Herringbone, Common Bond, Flemish Bond

From top left to right: English Bond, Running Board, Herringbone, Common Bond, Flemish Bond

The Giant wanted Running Board, I wanted English Bond in order to avoid having the lines created by the original cinder blocks to appear in the middle of a brick.  We compromised and went with Common Bond.  Lines do appear in the middle of bricks, but I’ve made peace with it.

From there we spent four hours taping:

So. Much. Taping

This is a gazillion times easier with lines already on the walls.  I’d imagine if you were trying to do this on a flat wall there would be a lot more measuring and probably a lot more swearing.  We started with all the horizontals.  First we taped the outlines of the existing blocks and then we bisected them.  We used tape that was approximately 3/4″.  We ended up using about 5 rolls.

We picked out three colors of paint: A brick red, a slightly darker brick red, and a dark brown.  This is where we took a little direction from Epbot, since Jen suggested using two colors about 2 shades apart followed up with a dark brown or black to dirty it up.

To start, we painted the town  wall red with the lighter shade:



Then we pulled out a random number generator and had it pick a number between 1 and 7.  Starting in the upper left corner we counted out that number of bricks and that was the one we painted with the darker red.  Then we did that a thousand more times.  It weirded The Giant out when two or more bricks adjoined.  I informed him this was the random part of it.  If you are not like me and can actually do chaos without forming some sort of pattern, by all means skip the Random Number Generator.  Here’s what it looked like before we pulled the tape off:

Aaaaand here’s what it looked like after:

Apologies for the changes in color–different camera–it’s not nearly that orange in person.

So, that looks cool, right?  But it also kind of looks like a video game and not exactly like brick.  That’s where the brown comes into play.  The brown really makes the natural texture in the wall stand out.  I’d imagine if you were doing this on a flat wall, you’d want to add some sort of texture to your first coat of paint in order to make it look more “brick like”.

We spent about six hours dry brushing brown paint onto the walls.  In the Epbot tutorial they dry rolled paint on, but I wanted more control over it because I’m a freak.  First layer looked like this:

On the left: No brown. On the right: Teensy bit of brown.

Definitely better, but WAY too subtle.  After a lot more dry brushing we discovered that you really need to paint the center of the brick darker to give it the necessary dimension.  So, we set out to paint every. Single. Brick.  If it sounds like a pain in the ass, it was.  But?  Totally worth it.

What’s the final result?


Is it perfect?  No.  Are we happy with it?  YOU BETCHA!

My parents stopped by while we were putting the shading on.  They hadn’t seen any of the painting we’d done in the house since they were out of town, but they had seen the “before”.  The first thing my dad said was “Whoa!  It’s brick!”  Then he got about two feet from the wall before he could tell it was really just paint.  I’ll call that a win.  Especially for two people who were only pretending to know what they were doing.

And this wall? Pretty much a testament to who we are.  Two crazy people who can actually accomplish quite a bit when we’re egging each other on.  I do not consider if merely coincidence that my costuming game has really been upped since we met.



And Then That Happened…

One of the biggest things I lament in my lame attempt at calling myself a writer is that nothing ever happens to me.  I don’t have a wild youth.  I’ve never really gotten in trouble or had much in the way of adventures.

Except for that one time I was a clown.

Photo by James P. Jordan, just like the watermark says.

Let’s back up.

Clowns give me the heebie-jeebies.  If a man carrying a chainsaw was walking down one side of the street, and a clown was walking down the other, I’d probably side with the chainsaw.  I don’t trust people whose faces I can’t see, and clowns and mascots are at the top of that list (I initially said “a man wearing a mask and carrying a chainsaw”, but I had to change it because the mask would freak me out as much as the clown).

So when a friend of mine said she really wanted to make a Steampunk Clown costume, I was all, “You’re crazy nutso.”  And when she asked if I’d do them embroidery, I was all “Of course, but you’re still crazy nutso.”  You already got to see some of the embroidery, so obviously I obliged.  And really, the embroidery was awesome.

And then I dropped the embroidery off at her house.

And she roped me into even more embroidery, which was fine, because it was even more awesomer.  But while I was there, she somehow managed to talk me in to modeling the costume for a photoshoot.  Hindsight tells me that when she said “Oh, if only someone in our group were my size” what she was really thinking was “If we just pad out the chest a little, DK will be perfect.”  I’m on to her.

So because I’m the very best friend in the world–and because despite the fact it was a clown, I knew this costume would be amazing beyond belief–I agreed to model.  Which was silly, because I’m almost as uncomfortable in front of a camera as I am in front of a clown.  Thank god I didn’t actually have to look at myself the whole time, or I would have been downright terrified.

We met Jim, photographer to the peeps in the know out at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, at Starbucks at about 9 Saturday morning.  I got myself a green tea latte (because they’re awesome), and we hit the road for a nearly two hour journey to the wilds of Mantorville, MN where we would find ourselves at the Mantorville Opera House.  Once there, I spent 78 hours having my hair and makeup done and then another 46 hours putting the costume on (give or take).  The dear, sweet women who met us at the Opera House to do hair and makeup were phenomenal, but none of us really had any idea it would take so long.  Poor Jim.

124 hours later, I was on stage.  Literally.  Under stage lights and in front of photographer’s lights, with a man on a ladder telling me to be a clown.  Have I mentioned I don’t like clowns?

I tried to research how clowns emote and how they act, but I ran short on time.  Getting ready took so long, I really had no chance to practice looks before going in front of the camera.  The makeup was very unique, and I really wasn’t sure what it would look like if I did certain things on camera.  I know I shouldn’t have cared, and I should have just done anything, but I’m a self-conscious person in general; putting things on camera makes it that much more permanent (though, really, almost everything is digital now, I should relax about that sort of thing).

Once I loosened up a bit, and once people started shouting out suggestions, it became a little less weird.  And honestly, despite my unease, I had a freaking blast.  And as I look back on it a bit (and as I see the interwebs growing more and more enamored with the project), I realize it’s one of those things that few people can say have happened to them.  Maybe it’s not a story I’ll tell at parties, and maybe I don’t have a very promising future in modeling or being a clown, but it’s still unique.

You really should read all about the project on Laura’s blog.  The work she did was incredible.  Honestly, the embroidery I did for the project, and even modeling the costume, are small potatoes compared to the vision she constructed.

Photo by James P. Jordan, possibly the world’s most patient man.

Urban Threads is My New Favorite Thing

Ever.  For realsies.  For April Fools they came up with this great infographic about how machine embroidery is made.  You can view the awesomeness here.

In that infographic, they came up with quite possibly the best design ever.  Behold:

And then, because they are rad, they created the digitized files for it.

AND THEN (and then), they decided to offer it for free.  From now to April 29, you can get your bacon covered steampunk paws on this design.  Because they are awesome.

Now, if only I could get a copy of that infographic in poster form…

As promised

So, I made a costume, and it is fab, although a little restrictive…

The shirt is a too-small, very see-through button-up top found at Value Village (when I tried it on, I said “Well, if I’m wearing a corset anyway……).  The corset is Simplicity 2966.  The skirt is from the amazing learningtofly whose blog is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs of all time.  The hat is from Humble Bumble B‘s tutorial on Threadbangers.  Jewelry is original.

The costume can be worn with this fab leather jacket, also found at Value Village…

My “purse” for the costume is an old Brownie camera that The Hippy found, probably at his place of employment.  He wasn’t too thrilled with me using it, since he didn’t remember me saying “I’m using a Brownie as part of my costume.”

It can also be worn with a short brown coat… ALSO… from a thrift store.

The short coat shows off the skirt better, though this picture doesn’t have the brown coat…

I have finally–I think–come up with my Steampunk persona.  She’s a writer, bumbling, obsessed with grammar, quirky tastes.  She is, perhaps, a slightly more successful version of myself.  In the future I plan to tweak my costume to reflect this.

The nice thing about this costume is that, sans corset, I can wear most of it for everyday life.  For example, going to a Christmas concert:

Mirror shot because I didn't feel like doing the tripod thing.

Instead of the corset/button-up, I wore a sweater.  Instead of plain black cabled tights, I wore Christmas tights in homage of the brave men we were going to see:

This video is from last year’s Tonic Sol Fa Christmas concert.  Most years Greg–the first dancing man–dances alone in tights.  Last year they had the audience choose between three pairs of tights: red stripes, green stripes, blue starry night type.  Then Greg came out wearing tights with one green-stripe leg and one red-stripe leg and explained that it had been a tie.  I probably need not explain more, since that is in the video.

With luck, I will do a post later on my jewelry with close-ups.

Dipping my foot into Steampunk

And when I say, “Dipping my foot,” I, of course, mean jumping in at full speed a la the Polar Bear Plunge.  I know I mentioned a skirt in my last post, but I’m not ready for the world to see the skirt yet.  I do, however, have one of my steampunk shirts to share with y’all (yes, “one,” as in, I couldn’t decide on just one look, so I’m making at least two).

I started with much of my inspiration from this video from Threadbanger (at least, the lady-clothes section at the end).  If you haven’t heard of Threadbanger, and you’re of a crafty nature, then you’d better get with it.  So many great tutorials to drool over.  Not one to intentionally make my rear end look any bigger than it already is, I’ve decided to forgo the bustle, and stick with the shirt and hat from the video.  The hat will come later.  I make no promises as to the date, because I don’t have much time these days.

After a trip to Value Village, I had my shirt ready to mod.  I watched this video on shirring, and consulted a few blogs, and I was on my way.  The end result was thus:

I am a terrible model and a pain in the ass to work with...

Not too shabby… The majority will be covered with a corset that I will be making with Larue‘s help over the next two days.  The torso of the shirt isn’t terribly important, and neither is the fact that it’s a little sheer.  Let’s look at the details, shall we?

Three layers of shirring on the collar (can it be called a collar that low? Let’s go with head hole), as I was getting awfully close to the next button, and two layers of shirring on the sleeve.  My cutting was a whole lot of guessing and a little bit slap-dash, no measuring whatsoever.  But I’m pleased with the results.  The only thing I can’t tell if I’m pleased with is the collar…  It’s a little Playboy Bunny for me…

See what I mean?  I feel like I should be getting Heff a cigar….

The black thread was the result, honest to god, of not wanting to rethread my serger.   In my defense, it wouldn’t have just been one rethreading since I’ll need the black again to finish my skirt.  I like the black and think it might look intentional, though I probably shouldn’t have used it on the “head hole.”  It was a complete afterthought.  I had originally hemmed it, and my serger blade doesn’t care for thick layers, so there are a few sections that are not very well serged.  I also would recommend any serging or hemming pre-shirring.  Live and learn.

But, really, it’s a costume.  If people are going to snark on my bad serging, then they are petty losers who can’t find it in them to be nice about anything.  And they know who they are.  I’m in this to have fun, spend time with my awesome sauce friends, and have something new to sew.  I’m not in it to be perfect, so perfection can bite me.

ETA: After I took it off, I noticed that serging the “head hole” cut some of the top row of shirring.  Looks like I’ll be fixing that later, so they whole first row doesn’t come undone.