Tuesday, September 9, 2014

State of the Baroness, September Edition

I have been neglecting this blog for the last couple of weeks, I know.  I've been dealing with a bad flare of my back condition that left me almost totally incapable of walking for a few days, and then a week of recovery from that, and a new flare this past weekend.

And while typing up posts for a blog would seem like something it'd be easy to do from bed, when I'm in pain it's really difficult to concentrate enough to produce anything worthwhile.  Mostly I just want escapism.

I DO have a mostly complete tutorial to put together, but I'm missing some photos of the finished item, which require me to be mobile at a time when I have someone to take photos of me and the weather cooperates.

I also have been on a break from reading steampunk books.  Every so often I reach a steampunk overload and I get to the point where I can't keep different steampunk novels straight and I'm not enjoying them anymore. I recently have got some sequels to read of first novels I know I enjoyed, but have absolutely no memory of other than possibly, "There was steampunk?"

So I'm reading some traditional sci-fi and fantasy (Lois McMaster Bujold, right now, damn I love her.)

I am also sewing when I can, working on corset commissions and getting stock made for my next vending event.

I have had to pull out of Steampunk Invasion, which is this coming weekend in Dallas.  I was attending and presenting a corsetmaking panel, but I've unfortunately had to cancel for health reasons.  The following weekend I'm vending at Weird West Fest in Giddings, TX and I'm afraid if I push myself to go to the Invasion I will be in bad physical shape for the following weekend's event.

After that my next event is Steampunk November, which is one of the most fun events EVER and it's going to be awesome.  I applied to both vend and present panels at Aetherfest in San Antonio in November, but I was apparently not selected so I'm not certain I'll be able to attend.  Although I have loved that event in the past, I am quite worried by the chaos that seems to be surrounding its planning this year.

So that's me and that's what's going on.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Finds: Steampunk Doc Martens

So, I'm a 90s girl and yes, I love my Docs.  I bought my first pair of purple 8-holes in 1996 in London, and wore them until there was almost no sole at all left.  Since then I've owned several more pair, including shoes and heeled boots.  I finally got my husband addicted to them as well and now it's all he wears.  I recently surfed over to the official site and started browsing and was excited to see several styles I thought were great for steampunk.  Unlike some of the other things I post, I get no commission on these, I'm not an affiliate, I just love them.

Women's Triumph 1914  (Also in black and red)

 Clemency in Copper

Clarissa - I'm not sure if I like this or not...

Aggy Boot

Josefa  (I might be in lust with this one to replace the cheap brown boots I wear now.)



Harrie  (There are shoe versions of this...and they're on SALE.)

Jocelyn - One of my friends fell in love with this one.  Can't blame her.  Plus, sale!

The Men's offerings look pretty boring in comparison.  There are a few metallics, but they're mostly conservative.  Now I just need to win the lottery so I can buy ALL THE DOCS.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

New Steampunk Sewing Patterns from Simplicity and McCall

I was incommunicado last week while preparing for my first Corset Making Workshop.  And now I'm recovering from teaching for two days.  It was an intense experience for me to teach 12 people at once, and I definitely learned some lessons about how to do it better, but the response was great and hopefully attendees will go on to make themselves some awesome corsets.

Meanwhile, there are some new steampunk sewing patterns out there!


Simplicity 1299 - This pattern features a jacket in two lengths, a fairly boring short ruffled skirt, and a mini-bustle.  The coat is the only worthwhile piece, but it's quite nice.

Simplicity 1300 - Simplicity Does Lolita!  I'd have to ask someone more versed in Lolita subculture than myself if this is "true" Lolita, but I personally like it.  The two pattern views are only very slightly different, though, which feels like a bit of a cheat.  Still, a totally fun pattern.

Simplicity 1301 - Victorian Circus Costumes - Apparently Amy Brown has a costume pattern line now.  This pattern includes leggings, boot covers, waist cinchers, blouses, a skirt, a mini-bustle, and a few other small accessories.  On first glance the photos look really good, but looking closer, this really looks to be very costume-y.  The pattern calls for almost all knit or stretch fabrics, and the construction is pretty minimal.  The waist cinchers in the drawings are just straight up and down belts without even individual panels and doesn't sound like they are even boned at all, so there will be no cinching involved.  Overall a bit disappointing.

Simplicity 1294 - This one has three cape lengths with optional hood and ruffles.  I quite like the short versions!


M7025 - This isn't a costume pattern or specifically steampunk, but I adore it, and I think it would work great for steampunk.  (Also I took one of the designers Craftsy classes on pattern fitting and it was good!)

M7036 - This children's pattern falls somewhere between princess and steampunk and lolita.  It's cute, though, and it'd be a fun option for a young steampunk.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Steampunk Shopping at the Military Surplus Store

One of the places you may have been advised to go shopping for steampunk supplies is a military surplus store.  But the truth is that what you may find varies a LOT by the store, your area, and what you are looking for.

This past weekend I made a trip to Galveston, TX and one of my goals was to visit the famous Col. Bubbie's Military Surplus store.  The store claims to have the widest selection of military surplus ANYWHERE.  Unfortunately the Colonel has passed on and the store is closing (I heard probably in late September).  This does mean there is a huge Going Out of Business sale going on.  One of my steampunk friends encouraged me to go while I still can, so I did.

So what kind of items can you find for steampunk in a well-stocked military surplus store?  Well first of all you can find lots and lots of military uniforms.  Col Bubbie's has an amazing supply of uniform pieces from all over the world and all eras.  If you're not concerned with trying to accurately reproduce a certain uniform, a world of possibilities opens.  Combine a Russian jacket with French trousers and a German hat, who cares?  Modern pants, 1950s jacket, Civil War reproduction hat? SURE?  Damn, I love steampunk sometimes.

A nice coat I didn't buy
I had an interesting discussion once with a guy who owned a military surplus business and was vending at a con.  He said they'd been struggling recently because they couldn't get US surplus anymore and their traditional clientele wanted primarily US stuff.  So they were reaching out to costumers and reenactors who don't care mind buying Czech stuff or whatever so long as it looks cool.  Just an interesting side note.

So although a lot of the really good stuff with some age to it was pretty picked over by the time I made it to Col Bubbie's I still got some nice stuff.  Plus there was a ton of nice stuff I didn't get because it I wasn't sure how popular it would be in my specific market.  For example I have a hard time selling coats to people in Texas, and heavy wool military coats would not be flying off my racks most of the year.  But in other places, those might be exactly what you want!  I also was limited by the money I felt I could spend at the time, otherwise, yeah I'd have gotten more.

13 button trousers
So for men's pants, military surplus is a great option.  Even if you only end up with modern cargo pants, they still work fine with steampunk and you can get them at a great price.  But the really cool items are the weird ones.  They had several pairs of real honest-to-bob Johdpurs that I nearly bought except they were very heavy wool and in fairly poor condition.  The pants I couldn't pass up were the 13 button navy trousers.  Still wool, but lighter, and just SO COOL.  I MAY try to take a pattern from these.

It says Made in Germany
I've already mentioned there were tons of military coats.  Hats in pretty much every military style since the Civil War were available.  You can get Garrison caps really cheaply, if you like plain colors.  I picked up an old one that just looked really cool.

One item to definitely look for is leggings/spats/gaiters.  You know, whatever you want to call those things that go over your boots to keep the mud off.  I found three styles at Bubbie's.  Some awesome white vinyl spats that my friend was wearing last time I saw her, but when I got there the only ones left were REALLY dirty and gross.   They had a few of the
Spats with a cat
tall WWII style leggings that my Steampunk Military Spats pattern were based on.  And they had a good number of shorter canvas spats that look to be from the same era.  I bought several of these, and yes, will probably be patterning them as well.

Finally, one thing you can't forget to shop for is pouches.  I love military pouches, whether leather or cloth, and they are so versatile and useful.  Anytime we have these for sale at our booth, they go VERY fast.  So we picked up the coolest ones we could find.  Which meant a lot of these little round leather pouches.  I have no idea what they are, but they are perfect for a steampunk outfit.

Here are a few more pics of things we bought:
A nice pair of sturdy cargo pants

The back of the 13 button pants showing the rear lacing!

A neat bag we bought for fun

Have you done any steampunk shopping at surplus stores?  What was your experience?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: Mirrors and Magic: A Steampunk Fairy Tale

Mirrors and Magic: A Steampunk Fairy Tale

This is the third book in the Clockwork Republic series of (unconnected?) Steampunk retellings of classic fairy tales.  I haven't read either of the other books in the series, but I believe they are all stand alone stories set in the same world.

This book is a steampunk retelling of Snow White.  I always approach "steampunk retellings" with a bit of skepticism because sometimes it's a sign of laziness on the author's behalf.  It doesn't take much imagination to retell a classic story and put a steampunk outfit on the heroine and a brass raygun in the hand of the hero and call it a day.

Luckily, Katina French doesn't seem to suffer from a lack of imagination.  In fact, if I hadn't been told this was a version of Snow White before I started reading it would have taken me a really long time to figure it out.  The story is set in a traveling circus in an alternate steampunk America that seems to consist of small independent republics.  This story takes place in the republic of New Africa, although the nature of the circus means not many of the characters are from there.

The heroine is Neve Bianchi, orphan daughter of the circus' star magician.  The story of the book involves Neve's coming of age within the circus as she seeks to take her father's place.  The role of Evil Queen is played by the current star performer, the aerialist Bella Venezia who jealously guards her position.

I quite enjoyed the beginning of this book as the world of the circus and its characters are introduced to the reader.  But eventually I felt the book started to drag as I waited for something of significance to really happen.  There's so much time spent on seeing the circus from the point of view of all the different characters and catching up on all the events of the last 20 years that it feels like forever before the plot actually starts.

I do wonder if my impressions of the novel are negatively influenced by the fact that I didn't actually read the book myself but listened to the audio version.  When the author offered the audiobook to me I jumped at it because I enjoy listening to audiobooks while I sew.  And while the reader did a serviceable job, I found the pace of the narration to be really slow, which only increased my desire for the plot to get a move on already.   According to Amazon the book is only 180 pages long, which I would have read really quickly, but it felt a LOT longer than that to me.

I would recommend this book primarily to younger readers or adults looking for something to read to their kids.  I felt it was a bit light on plot to really satisfy an adult audience.  It's also fairly light on steampunk elements, although I'm really intrigued by the world Ms. French has created.  The primary focus is on the magical, alchemical elements of the world rather than the technological ones, but I do feel like there's a very interesting steampunk world JUST around the corner from this story.  To be perfectly honest I think I would prefer a non-fairytale story that allowed the reader to see more of the world.  At times this story felt like it was a bit forced into the mold of Snow White and I'm curious what it would have been if it hadn't followed a pre-ordained path.

At any rate, I think the right reader will have a good time with this book, and it shows a lot of promise for the author and the universe.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Finds: The Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk

Today I have a great offer for your from one of my favorite new indie authors.  Get a bunch of steampunk novels for one "set-your-own" price!  I know I'm looking forward to checking out all the books in this bundle.

The Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk
Story Bundle is like Price Line for Books where you choose your own price! It's a great way for readers to discover new authors in a genre they already love. This steampunk story bundle was curated by Susan Kaye Quinn (author of Third Daughter, a steampunk fantasy romance), and she explains what steampunk is all about below.  Hop over to see how you set-your-own-price on these story bundles and scoop it up for yourself (bundle lasts a limited time only)!
The Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk
Curated by Susan Kaye Quinn
The most common question I get about steampunk books is, “What is steampunk?”
The easy answer is that steampunk stories are set in the 19th century Victorian era when steam-driven technology was primary, corsets were tight, and tea was a formal affair. But that’s like saying science fiction is about spaceships… when the genre is much broader, deeper, and more amazing than that. (And yes, steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction.)
With a thriving real-life steampunk culture that is very do-it-yourself in inventing characters, costumes, and gadgets, the real answer is that steampunk can be virtually anything you want it to be. It’s this tremendous devotion to creativity that actually drew me in to writing steampunk in the first place (along with the gorgeous costumes!). In this steampunk bundle, we have an east-Indian fantasy romance, a Asian-flavored pirate love story, a Shakespearean retelling, two stories set in a common world with a floating island, a young adult adventure about a lightning invention, and a story that uses Arcane Science in the modern world. These stories are perfect examples of the truly rich diversity of steampunk stories… while each also portrays a world where steam technology shifts the ground under their character’s feet.
We think of the Victorian era as being somewhat repressed, but it really was a time of tremendous change: class divisions, and the aristocracy it supported, were being challenged by the everyday men and women who were bringing about amazing technological advances. Science was on the rise! And the beautiful costuming and formal traditions of the past were coming into conflict with those first hints of the modern world. Steampunk stories in general resonate with readers not just because of their fun, escapist fantasy—a flight into the past when things were simpler, adventures were fought with sword and gun, and social strictures brought some order to the world—but because the upheaval wrought by technological change still resonates with our real lives today.
What is steampunk? It’s a story like any other story: a chance to escape the world for a few hours, to live in the wilderness of an author’s imagination, to adventure, to fall in love, to die for one’s friends. It’s classic storytelling in a visually rich, emotionally gripping era that still resonates with us today. Plus you get to rollick about in corsets and top hats, inventing gadgets and saving the world from the villains who turn that fantastic steam technology to their own dastardly purposes.
Strap on your goggles and prepare for the ride!
-- Susan Kaye Quinn
The Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, Tweet us at @storybundle, Like us on Facebook, and Plus us on Google Plus. For press inquiries, please email press@storybundle.com.
-- Susan Kaye Quinn
The Bundle of Extraordinary Steampunk
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.
For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, Tweet us at @storybundle, Like us on Facebook, and Plus us on Google Plus. For press inquiries, please email press@storybundle.com.