Staff Challenge Steampunk Quilt

Remember when I said I’d been really really really really busy? Right, this is ANOTHER part of that busy. It is once again that time of year for the Spoonflower Staff Challenge. Every week, spoonflower holds a contest open to anyone to design fabric based on whatever the theme of the week is. Once a year, they hold a contest where the EMPLOYEES have to design a fabric, and the rest of the world gets to judge and vote on us. We also have to make something out of the fabric. Last year, I was in a team with a guy named Jaysen, and we reupholstered a chair that had been in his wife’s family for generations. Here’s that blog post.

Last year, the theme was open to anything we wanted to make. Since we have so many more employees (and since teams last year took it to some pretty CRAZY EXTREMES) they decided to try to contain our creativity just a bit, and actually give us a theme: quilts. We can make whatever we want, as long as its a quilt. Haha.

I’m with a pretty awesome team, two lovely people named Lindy and Deron. You know how cool they are? It wasn’t even MY idea to do steampunk, it was theirs. Yep, they’re that cool.

Anyways, right, so we’re doing a Steampunk Chessboard Quilt. That’s right, we’re so awesome our quilt is more than a quilt. Its also a chessboard (or checkers.) Its a game of life and death, between two mad scientists and their clockwork army, and a mysterious Kraken of the deep ocean, who also happens to be possessing half the nobility of London. Royal squid zombies.

Lovely Lindy has a background in graphic design, and since neither Deron nor I can draw very well, she’s doing all the difficult design work. She drew the game board, that awesome image of a squid attacking an airship is all hers. And she’s working on making unique designs for all the chess pieces, which are, of course, squids versus gears.

For the quilt back, I thought it’d be fun and silly to have a faux newspaper article. Especially since that doesn’t require me to draw anything. (Yes, that article title says “SCIENTIST’S DISCOVERY: QUEEN VICKY IS A ZOMBIE”)

Did you also know that YOU could make this quilt yourself? We made it that easy! We uploaded a cut-n-sew version to spoonflower right here. All you have to do is buy two yards of fabric, cut out the pieces, and follow our easy instructions for how to make your very own steampunk chess quilt. Astound your friends and family!

Don’t like chess? Just buy one yard and play CHECKERS! (which we all know is the superior game anyways…)

final-front

Girl Genius Comparison ★★★

Well well, where to begin? Begin here. If you’ve never been introduced to the multiple Hugo Award-winning online web comic/graphic novel of Girl Genius then your life has been emptier than you knew. And its about to be more full and colorful and steampunk-adventure-filled than you could ever guess. I apologize in advance, its going to become difficult to leave your computer for the next few days. Possible side-effects when you reach the last page include symptoms of intense withdrawl, possible temporary depression followed by strange desires to build clock-work friends. And in one rare, but well documented case, plans to kidnap the writers with giant laser cannons and force them to write at gunpoint.

If you’ve read Girl Genius before, then you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been through the crushing defeat of hitting the “next page” button and having nothing happen. Of realizing you’re reading the most recent page, and nothing you can do can make the next chapter appear. Three pages a week just isn’t going to cut it, and life is never going to be the same again. Luckily, you can go back to the beginning and start all over again with Agatha H and the Airship City. Yes, thats right, the creators of Girl Genius have decided to go back and create a novelization of the story from the very beginning. Agatha H covers the first three volumes of Girl Genius.

Girl Genius tells the story of a girl named Agatha, and the desperate adventure she’s thrown into. Agatha’s world is one full of chaos, conflicting rulers, harsh empires, and complicated politics. A few people every year are born with “the spark.” This appears to be an intense drive, impossible to resist, to use mad science to create life from machinery. Sparks are often called “madboys” by the normal people, because while they have the brilliance to create, they don’t often have the will to control their creations. Most of them end up dead at the hands of their constructs, or at the hands of the locals when the constructs destroy whatever village it was born in. The few that aren’t killed locally are usually taken out by a neighboring Spark who feels their territory is being threatened.

Years ago, the populace was helped and saved by a group of heros and adventurers who happened to be some of the few sane sparks. They were led by a pair of brothers known as the Heterodyne Boys. The only problem is, the boys disappeared sixteen years ago when their home and families were destroyed by an unknown villain called merely “The Other.” Since then, most of the lands and smaller kingdoms have come under the control of the tyrant Baron Wulfenbach.

Agatha is a quiet girl, raised by her parents and uncle in the smaller but less anarchic city of Beetleburg. Her uncle left them 10 years ago, and since she came of age Agatha has been studying at the local Transylvania Polygnostic University. The only problem is, she’s not very good. Everything she builds just falls apart, and on the unlucky days does it with a ball of fire and smoke. She’s only merely an unrespected lab assistant on the day the Baron comes to inspect Beetleburg. Before she even really knows whats happening, the Baron has killed her teacher and protector, taken over the city, and her parents are missing. Mostly by accident, she is taken aboard the giant flying airship of Castle Wulfenbach, and only then does she really begin to learn about her family, and the world outside Beetleburg.

The original webcomic of Girl Genius is brightly colored and expertly drawn. (They publish high-quality physical volumes of them now, and they are well worth owning, even though you can read it for free online.) Its highly imaginative, filled with images of strange clockwork devices, expressive characters, and expansive cities and landscapes. The plot instantly draws you in with romance, and wonder, and silly science, and hilarious creatures. Agatha is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, especially in a graphic novel. Comics have been written for boys for so long that its about damn time someone wrote a female character that is not a side kick, or a love interest, or helpless, or just there to look good. She’s smart and smoking hot, and can kick all the boys butts with her use of science and her plain stubborn will-power. And they know it, and adore her for it.

If I have one problem with the Girl Genius comics its just that they are too complex and involved to read in a page-a-day format. I actually have to force myself to stop reading and checking up on it on a daily or even weekly basis. I enjoy the story much more when I actually ignore the website and every six months or so go read the newest volume. And sometimes I can’t help but reread the whole thing from the very beginning.

It was during this most recent reread that I found out they’d actually published a novelization of the first three volumes. Oh the wonder, oh the glory! Same loved story, but new and different and exciting format!

Well, I can’t possibly say I didn’t like it, because the Girl Genius story was there, and was just as good in its basic elements. But I feel like they didn’t utilize the power of the novel as well as they could have. The written version definitely has some of the back story explained that isn’t in the graphic novel. But I don’t feel that they translated the scenes from the comic very well. It was written very… descriptively. It felt more like they were just trying to describe everything they’d drawn, but copied over the dialogue nearly verbatim. It fell into the classic problem of telling the reader everything instead of showing us and letting us imagine some for ourselves.

I think if they had just accepted that capturing the visualization of the graphic novel was going to be impossible, and instead fleshed out the power of the words more it would have gone better. A book is just so different than a comic, you shouldn’t try to make them similar. Just work to the strengths of each of them. I would rather have seen more of the emotional changes in Agatha and gotten a glimpse inside her head as her life is being turned upside down, than just read another pale description of a room in the castle that I’ve already seen drawn in full technicolor. They could have gone so much more into the motivations and true personalities of all the characters, and instead spent time just describing everything around the characters.

The authors have mastered the creation of a brilliant plot and lovable characters, they’ve excelled at witty dialogue, their imagination is broader and more colorful than we could ever believe… But this novel is merely a “good first try.” I fully hope that they’ll keep trying, and that they realize there is room for improvment, because right now their writing style outside of the speach bubbles is rather juvenile. Keep trying guys, I know you can get there!

View all my reviews

Adventures in Steampunk

Yes, I know, its not as cool now that everyone knows about it. Still, there’s something about it that draws my heart… I think its the idea of pure adventure. So many people have so many different ideas about what steampunk “means,” but there’s always the common tie of good old fashioned romantic ADVENTURE. Not romantic as is gooey romance, but romantic as in fanciful, unrealistic, idealistic, completely and utterly impractical (I mean really, people flying zeppelins in corsets and bustles and top hats, that must be the best example of impractical anyone could ever come up with).

So anyways, even though “everyone’s doing it now” I still love steampunk. The problem is, I don’t have a properly amazing steampunk costume. Also, due to my incredible good fortune of befriending a certain someone in highschool, I have a free ride to GenCon in Indianapolis this year. So I need a good steampunk costume. A properly impressive people compliment me on my awesomeness as I walk down the hall steampunk costume.

The pictures you see here are just the beginning elements. I haven’t even decided what direction I’m going to go in yet, I just went to my closet/fabric bucket, and picked out anything remotely steampunk-esque. Most of it is just fabric draped over a mannequin at the moment, I don’t even know what I’ll end up using in the end.

Obviously, the leather buckled corset is a necessity (www.ribbonsandrivets.com I actually know these people and have worked with them, they’re pretty awesome).

I haven’t decided yet if I want to keep the circular hoop skirt and go with a romantic style, or work without it and do more of a bustled victorian look.

Also, I would love to create some sort of awesome jacket to go with the whole thing, but that would cover up the buckles in the back of the corset, which is pretty much the main feature of the top…

The hot air balloon fabric is just awesome, but probably too busy for clothing. I just can’t think of a way to incorporate it without looking gimmicky…

Choices choices, what will I do? (Life is just awesome)

This is a crappy picture of a very cute bolero I decided to make for the steampunk costume. Short in the back to show off the buckles of the corset, and looks good buttoned or unbuttoned. I used the Butterick 5232 pattern, technically, and then altered the sleeves to fit what I wanted. I might change them again, just because they don’t leave me with a good range of motion, but it looks pretty good on, so I’ll have to decide.

I wrote a review for this pattern here: Butterick Bolero B5232 ★★★★

These are the final pictures of the steam punk outfit. Sort of. They’re not great pictures, because its night and I couldn’t get good lighting with my dining room chandelier, lol. Also, I’ll probably still wear the red corset, but the blouse shows the details of the jacket better in photographs. Anyways, I ended up making the lace detachable, because I still couldn’t decide which way looked better, now I can change my mind as much as I want. Also, I can raise and lower the rouching at will, in four places.

Gen con was a great success. There were beautiful costumes, fun games, much drinking and partying! And a life-size TARDIS of course!