Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Every Table Needs a Cloth - Part 4 of Creating our Steampunk Group Promo Table

Greetings all!

This is the final installment in my four-part (long-in-completion) series on tricking out a Steampunk Group Promo table for our local group.  Today's post will be guest-written by Kelsey Silk, who saved me by offering to make the cloth for the table.

Kelsey's generous offer to make the cloth started when I posted, on Facebook, my realization that I needed to more for the Imaginatius Fantasticus Fair beyond just showing up in costume and looking smart.  I did put a shout out on Facebook, asking folks for suggestions.  The conversation between Kelsey and I started there:

Me:  Anyone have any suggestions? I have a 6' x 2/5' table. I need a cool steampunk-feel table cloth, at the least.

Kelsey:  What does a steampunk table cloth feel like? I'm free Sunday to help out.

Me:  I have NO IDEA what a steampunk table cloth feels like ... or looks like ... and I need to wait til payday til I can hit the bargain fabric room at Dressew. I might take you up on that -  I even just need help brainstorming!

Kelsey: If you want to do dressew, I am free tomorrow early-ish

Me: I'd love to but I really need to wait til payday, Tuesday, til I do any shopping. Boy, this running a steampunk group - she's-a-costing me money.

Me:  Well, I have a piece of shimmery gold silky satin, 120x60 inches. Not enough to reach the floor. But good enough for 2/3 or chair length.

This set the whole creation in motion;  and this is where I shall leave the rest of the post to Kelsey!  I'll be back at the very end to add some photos.  Take it away, Kels:

So when the question “what does a steam punk tablecloth feel like?” was raised, I considered several options – appliqué, iron on transfer, quilting, or an existing lace or other antique tablecloth.  Tracey had a piece of champagne coloured satin that was to be the basis of the cloth, but it needed to be extended.   I happen to love the look of a pleated ruffle, so I invested in a dark brown taffeta and some braided, sequined trim with a hint of red, think that the red was a nice festive touch for the Christmas craft fair.  I sat down and calculated the length of ruffle that I would need to go around three sides of the table cloth (thinking of leaving the back side un-ruffled, to allow us easy access to our stuff stashed below the table.  I could wrap my head around how to mitre a pleated ruffle around the corners of the table cloth, so I decided to make a fitted table skirt instead, which eliminated that issue.  At this point, I was aiming to make the cloth de-constructible, so that both fabrics could be re-used.  So I pleated the ruffle, and serged the top edge, so it was self contained.  Then I shaped the table cloth by taking large triangular darts at the four corners.
I had no table as large as the one the tablecloth was to fit, so I had to hope that my measurements were correct.  The ruffle went on, and the braided trim over the seam, and I could’ve stopped there. 

But I didn’t.  When I had first considered appliqué, I searched the internet for images of gears that I could use as patterns.  I came across a tutorial to create gears in a program called “Inkscape”.  Its an open source program similar to Adobe Illustrator.  So I downloaded it, and began playing around with the ‘gear’ tool.  At first I created several different sized and toothed gears, and played around with positioning, but the teeth did not interact, so I went back and created a graphic with several gears with teeth of the same proportions. 
The next step was to go through my fabric stash, and select different fabrics for the different gears.  I traced my pattern onto fusible interfacing, and fused it to the backs of fabrics, as it was easier to see the pattern on the white interfacing, and in an attempt to prevent fraying.  This was successful for the most part, with the exception of the reddish brown ribbed upholstery fabric.  It shrank when I attempted to fuse the interfacing.  So I printed the pattern on a piece of iron on transfer paper (which is what I should’ve done in the first place), ironed that on to a piece of white broad cloth, and used spray adhesive to affix it to the upholstery fabric.  It still frayed terribly, but it was such an interesting texture that I used it anyway.  Cutting out the gears was accomplished surprisingly quickly while watching my boyfriend play Skyrim.  Then began the really tedious part – hand stitching it to the table cloth.

The satin had an unfortunate tendency to run when I used straight pins on it, so I used double sided tape to attach the appliqué temporarily while I stitched.  Despite my best efforts, the two groupings are not quite symmetrical, but other then that I am quite happy with how it turned out. 

Thanks Kelsey!  I am delighted with this cloth, and can't believe the work that went into it.  I couldn't have conceived of or executed the interlocking gears.  Left to my own devices, I likely would have thrown fabric over the table as it was, hemmed if I was lucky.

Here it is in all it's displayed glory:
The final product - the finished table cloth - also showing the display, pamphlets and brochure cabinet!
Left side of the table cloth front
Right side of the table cloth front

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Creating a Steampunk Brochure - Part 3 of Creating our Steampunk Group Promo Table

Forgive me, good people, for the long hiatus.  At long last, I'm back to posting.  Annoying how life interferes in what I really want to do.  Between work and running the local steampunk group, I'm not left with nearly enough time to make things and blog! 

When I realized I had time, I peeked at my drafts folder,and realized I still have two posts left to write regarding the promotional table for the local steampunk group, for Imaginarius Fantasticus, a local fantasy-oriented Christmas fair (which took place four months ago!).

So, here is Part Three: Creating a Brochure!

With a lovely brochure stand all ready (previous post), it was time to actually make the pamphlets to put in it.  Had I ever made a brochure before, you may ask?  Why, no, I hadn't.  This was yet another first. 

Opting to make my life easy as far as design went, I simply hit the Microsoft Office free template site, to search brochure designs and find the one I wanted.  These were my two top choices:
I loved both designs from a graphic standpoint, but I opted for the top template, as it offered me more writing space and image space, inside and out.  So, template selected, now it was time to write it up.  Simple, yes?

No.  This pamphlet was possibly (likely) going to be handed out to people who didn't have a clue what steampunk was.  And who certainly wouldn't have a clue who we were.  

So what did it need to say?   I asked myself, what would *I* want to see if I picked this up from a group table?  

It needed to clearly define who we were and what we did, and what people could expect if they got involved.  It needed to be welcoming.  It needed to define steampunk.  And it needed to do all this in a limited amount of space.  (And if you've seen the masses of controversy and bickering out there about the definition of steampunk, you can imagine that defining steampunk in what amounted to less than the back third of the pamphlet was a challenge.)  Oh, and of course, there had to be pictures, because people need pictures - otherwise, it's all dull dull dull.  And these needed to be pictures I had the rights to use, because I don't like the concept of being sued.

So firstly, I'll tackle, pictures.  Fortunately, the brochure design I selected is, in itself, visually pleasant and lively.  To enhance it and make a statement about our group, I decided to have two different friends who are computer graphics wizards (compared to me) to create two signature images for our group.  I'd had an idea regarding using the Gastown Steam Clock to represent us, so I had made a pencil sketch of it.  
Since my eyesight issues botched the transition from nice pencil sketch to the above messy line drawing, I sent it, and my original photo and gear template, to my friend David, who, after a few variations, came up with this for our group's exclusive use:
I also approached my friend S. Sebastien Smith, with the request of "can you do something with photoshop, the Vancouver skyline and a zeppelin", and for our exclusive use, he came up with a great aerial shot of Vancouver (admittedly circa 1930's-40's), with a zeppelin over Stanley Park / Coal Harbour, taken through the control-room window of an airship.
I also added images I use on Facebook for our regular events, including The Craft Meet image, cobbled together in GIMP, using photos of stuff made at our first craft meet.
It was also very important to me to acknowledge the one sponsor we have, Plush, the shop who so kindly donates their back workroom space to us for use for our craft meets.  So I contacted them, and they sent me an image to use.
Graphics sorted, now I had to describe who we were, what we did, and what folks could expect from us.  Now, keep in mind, at this point, I had only just realized we were a group.  Well, there wasn't even much of a "we" at this point - mostly me holding a couple of craft meets, two other active supportive people, and a couple of additional folks who had come to the two craft meets.  I thought I had just started a craft meet and created a sort of old-school bulletin board Facebook page.  Okay, so I had also just booked our first monthly coffee meet at this stage ... but that was mostly so the online bulletin board people could meet face to face and chat.

So defining my group, when I hadn't quite sussed I was a group ... involves all sorts of quandaries, including the emotional turmoil of "What the he££ do you mean I'm running a group?!"  However, I decided to focus on the more bulletin board aspects of what I'd started, and went with this as the intro to ourselves! 

We are an open group for all locals interested in Steampunk.  We strive to provide a place to share and encourage Steampunk and Steampunk-related activities, events & general information within Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, and in the nearby communities of Vancouver Island and Seattle. Our aim is to ensure that local steamy folks can find one another, and can select from a variety of fun steampunk things to do in our fabulous city and around the Pacific Northwest.

I added the following welcoming note: 

Everyone is welcome to join us, attend events, and participate, whether you’re a well-seasoned steampunk or are newly steam-curious.  Feel free to contact us, ask questions, offer suggestions, start discussions, and get involved! 

I then outlined the types of events we regularly hold, and moved on to the outside of the brochure, the outer part of the trifold, which is all your average walk-by is going to look at if they stop by.

I wanted to keep the front panel simple, taking advantage of the clean attractive design, so I just put our name in the title space, and was delighted when I came up with a catchphrase "motto" to fit the little bubble under the central space:  "Promoting Steampunk Locally".

For the back panel, I did my best to summarize steampunk in 2/3 of a panel, and concluded it with my favourite quote about steampunk, from author Cherie Priest:  "It is lots of fun.  If it isn't lots of fun, you're doing it wrong."

For the final third, which is what you see if you just turn back the front panel, I opted for answering the question most folks will ask themselves, "Why get in touch with us?".  My answer: 

Whether you’re interested in costuming, literature, alternative history, artwork, making things, dressing up for fun, or just want to meet and hanging out with folks with similar interests, we’re the people to get in touch with. 

To get feedback during the writing process, I showed various drafts to the other main two people in the group at various stages, in addition to a few other people whose opinion I valued, and a couple of people who knew absolutely zero about steampunk to see how they received it.  Their feedback was invaluable.  One thing I did learn in general in this creation process ... brevity and clarity are key.  Wordiness isn't always good, and don't be afraid of a little empty space.   If you want to see the final product, I have it as a Google document here: Vancouverites for Steampunk Brochure pdf 

The final step, of course, was having it printed.  Chagrined as I was to have to pay for printing out of my own pocket, I was highly motivated to find the cheapest printing option possible (but fast, since I had also taken the better part of a month to create the pamphlet!).  I strongly advise hunting around, and being open to buying more than you need immediately, as you definitely get a better rate buying more, AND by shopping around.  I was startled by the wide range of prices I was quoted.   I ended up buying a box of 250 unfolded, since that quantity got me the best rate without me having to buy a ton.  It also saves to fold your own, if you have time and handy friends.  
In addition to our pamphlets, I created basic black and white bookmark-sized slips with our name, steamclock graphic and contact information on one side, and a list of the next upcoming events over the next 3 months on the other wide.  I created these in Word, sized to cut four per letter-size sheet.  I printed these myself at virtually no cost.

Thank you for your patience, everyone.  I do hope these posts are helpful!

And I am delighted to be back to my blog.  One more post related to the group table display to follow, and then it's on to entirely new stuff!