Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Super Mario Brothers Cosplay & Question Mark Boxes

We have eclectic cosplay tastes here in my little circle. What could be more poignant, I ask you, than a vintage Mario & Luigi cosplay for the upcoming Rose City Comic Con?

In an attempt to be ironic, or iconic if you will, we designed an epic prop to pay tribute to a game I know most of the 30-somethings will appreciate from their childhood Nintendo memories: the Question Mark Box. Filled with coins, mushrooms, or stars of invincibility to assist you on your journey through Mario Land, the bright yellow boxes were the ripe cherries of loot just waiting to be picked. 

These costumes were budget-friendly and super fun to wear. We used real work overalls, and essential part of life in the forest if you don't appreciate blackberry scratches or crawling under a house in normal clothes. The hats, shirts, moustaches & gloves were purchased for a song from various sources such as Goodwill, Ebay & Party City's Halloween selection.

The construction of the Question Mark Boxes began with a simple square cardboard box from Uhaul. They sell book boxes which are perfect squares. We removed the top flaps and glued the bottom flaps securely shut. After applying several base coats of white paint and caulking, the construction of a wooden dowel internal frame began. 

After the dowels were inserted in the bottom center & reinforced with hot glue around the holes, a criss-crossed frame was zip-tied in place and glued to the box at each corner. I padded my plastic mesh star with some crumpled paper to add a 3-D element and prevent collapse of the shape. The dowel ran up the middle.

 The mushroom was heavier, so my friend added structural supports all the way around his box to brace the framework. His dowels actually passed through the plastic mushroom shape we had formed out of fence mesh and zip ties. This was the most lightweight, flexible material we had on hand to form the star and mushroom shapes.

At this stage we went on to print out a Question Mark template from the computer (found easily on Google Images) and traced it onto the four sides of the boxes. We added yellow paint around the designs, leaving the question marks white. The upper insides of the boxes were shadowed black, as well as any exposed dowel material. The star and mushroom shapes were padded with batting before being covered in fabric scraps from my extensive collection of costume remnants.

The fabric was hot-glued to the star, since it was a rubbery shower curtain material. Polar fleece eyes were also hot-glued on.

The mushroom top required a little more work. I had to "sew" the red fabric on using flexible craft wire, poking it through the fabric and plastic mesh with large stitches. The white fabric and eyes were glued on just like the star.

After completion, we took these little accessories all around the Con, resting the dowel ends in our pockets to alleviate the pressure of having to hold them all day. The star was considerably lighter than the mushroom of course. 

The positive response at the Con was overwhelming! Plus we finally found Peach! LOL
We even had the opportunity to share our cosplay at the contest.

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial and can find time to make your own version for future fun!
For more epic costumes, join me at Isles of Day on Facebook & ETSY.

Keep Calm & Cosplay ON!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Magnetic Paint Projects

I have been hearing about these specialty paints for some time... chalkboard paint, magnetic paint, whiteboard paint, etc.

My Dear Daughter likes to shove her magnets under the fridge and dishwasher, the only two magnetic surfaces in the house. Time to make a magnet board somewhere else! Save the magnets!

The trick to making a  magnetic surface is to find a base that is perfectly FLAT. In this project, I covered a smooth flat panel of laminate, partial surfaces of several doors in the house, and the inside of two cupboard doors. That toasted a whole can of the magnetic paint.

After covering my work surface with plastic, I cracked the magnetic paint. The smell was overwhelming! Ventilate well. Looking in the jar reminded me of peanut butter separating in the jar... a big lump of paint surrounded by greasy liquid. It took quite a bit of stirring to make the consistency smooth and even. I poured the whole jar in the paint tray and continued stirring during use as the directions suggested.

For this project, the object of the game was SMOOTH. I purchased a special smooth foam roller to apply the material without lines or texture. Each swipe of the roller did not spread out far. I was careful to smooth any lines that appeared on the surface before they dried.

The jar suggested 3 thin layers, applied at intervals of a half hour. I followed the directions very carefully since I had never used it before.

First, I made sure I had enough to cover DD's magnet board.

Next, I picked a couple of cupboard doors to paint. I wanted to get some of the clutter off the fridge.

Last, I picked a few flat bedroom doors to paint, making a spot to leave people notes. I also covered the top half of a closet door in my craft room to house my magnetic poetry.

The great part about this magnetic paint is that you can paint a topcoat over it. This white door will look better after a second coat! For DD's magnet board, I used a color to blend with the wall. The final result is a big area of magnetized play space, far away from the appliances! 

This project was easy and a lot of fun. I finished all these steps in one afternoon, and had the magnets up the same evening. 

Thank you for following, see you on the next one!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Big Bad Water Heater Replacement & Laundry Room Renovation

Once in a while, a project comes along...

I have allergies. I mean, BAD allergies which keep me in a state of perpetual sickness at certain times of year, sinus clogging, sneezing, itching...

I blame it on the dog fur, the dusty bookshelves, the pollen in the air, the dry heat of the wood stove... I clean and vacuum constantly, but it never seems to make a difference in my health level, but recently we discovered a more sinister culprit - MOLD.

That's right, a silent stealthy sickener which was breeding in my windowsills, bathrooms, and more importantly IN THE FLOOR & WALLS surrounding my old, leaky water heater which was seriously about to rust right through. And where, you ask, is that moldy mess located in my house? You guessed it, about 4 feet from the air intake of my electric heating system! So the moldy air was getting pumped through my home every time the heat kicked on. No wonder I was getting sick.


Step 1 - Remove the build-out surrounding the leaky water heater, and all damaged drywall with visible mold in the area. Look inside the walls! Remove all mold.

Yes, I noticed my laundry room is a truly heinous yellow. Yes, I painted it that unacceptable color. It was a $5 bargain "oops" paint from Home Depot, and I can see why they returned it. Somehow I thought it was better than the dingy white I had when we moved in. Don't worry, I used this opportunity to upgrade to some MOLD RESISTANT PAINT in a lovely lavender. Funny thing, the first can they made me was in the wrong paint type (I wanted paint & primer in one) so they had to make my first can of pretty purple an "oops" paint... someone will get that for $5 later and be so happy. Paying it forward!

Drywall removal is hard, dusty work that made my arm hurt. We covered everything in the room (shelves, laundry machines) with plastic to help with the drywall dust, and wore masks with ventilators. I still felt like I had a dry cough for a few hours after working on it. Serious stuff... be careful! Pieces of drywall were flying everywhere. Use eye protection.

Step 2 - Remove the old water heater & open up the floor to remove mold.

Yes, that leaky old rust pile had been slowly seeping onto our floor for years, and the linoleum just didn't hold up or keep it from soaking the subfloor. So, there was mold there too. It was an old water heater, and we were naive about the lifespan of these things. It probably should have been replaced years ago, but who knew? Whoops! LOL

We used a combination of circular and reciprocating saws (Skil saw and Sawzall for you laymen) to make the cuts in our studs and flooring. We were very careful to set the depth of the saw for the flooring so we didn't accidentally cut wiring or pipes. To cut the drywall, a box knife is useful. As you can see, we had to cut out some of the stud bottoms on the back of the wall to remove some serious black mold.

Ventilation was important with all this mold and dusty construction. We kept the door open as much as possible and used an air purifier when not working to detox the room.

Step 3 - Plumbing the new water heater and cleaning all moldy areas while the floor and walls were open.

Because of the overwhelming costs related to hiring a plumber (they need special permits and homeowners don't) we decided to plumb this ourselves using a modern product called Pex piping, and Shark Bite connectors. There are countless videos on the internet about how to use these two products and replace your own plumbing. So we learned something new on this project which may help a lot in the future when we have to re-plumb the whole house!

Cleaning the mold was a multi-step process. We sprayed with special mold sprays which are supposed to attack the roots of the mold and prevent re-growth. Then we sprayed a 50-50 mixture of water and bleach, and let me tell you it was AMAZING! Within an hour the black mold on my windowsills and above my shower had DISAPPEARED completely, where repeated scrubbings had failed with my other cleaning products in the past. If you are having mold problems, bleach is your friend. 

Step 4 - Repair the floor and walls!

Time to close the wound... so we cut new subfloor out of plywood, added new "sister" studs in the floor and walls to repair the damaged wood inside, cut new drywall, taped & mudded, sprayed texture, AND added new Allure flooring (which looks like wood laminate but is actually RUBBER - so simple to install with a box knife & straight edge). Did I mention that the walls behind the old water heater were completely unfinished? That probably allowed the mold to creep in even more easily. This step was more like an elaborate dance with many twists and turns, but as you can see we got it all done in time to (fanfare please) INSTALL the WATER HEATER!

Step 5 - Hook it all up and pray.

Well, it doesn't look great yet in this shot, but it's in and it works. Everybody got a nice hot shower to wash the drywall dust off, and 50 gallons gives much longer showers than our old rusted 40 gallon ever could. Having it out in the open may be unattractive, but we can keep a good eye on it this time and be aware of leaks. 

So, slap some paint on the wall and I'm good to go, right? WRONG!!! LOL

Step 6 - Finish the floor and walls.

Did I mention I had to move the washer & dryer in order to finish the floor? It definitely also helped with the painting. I chose to paint behind the units white because I had one gallon of the lavender paint. Good thing I did, because in the end I had just enough to lavender to cover the yellow on  the walls and ceiling. The room was looking great, water-proof floors in place. But as long as I had the machines moved out...

Step 7 - Build a platform for my front-loading laundry machines so I can quit hurting my back doing loads.

$35 of lumber and 2 hours later... I used a Skil saw to make the carefully measured cuts, nailed the frame together like a sturdy wall, and screwed the supports and the frame into studs all the way around. It took five 8 foot 2x6 boards. I had a piece of plywood pressboard lying around which fit the top perfectly.

I painted the shelf white, leaving most of the wood beneath unpainted so the green lumber can dry out properly. The guys lifted the washer and dryer back up for me and hooked them up to the power & water. Time to do some dusty, nasty workwear laundry!

Incidentally, the space under the machines is perfect for my laundry baskets. Other good uses: recycling bin storage, sports equipment baskets, dirty work & play shoes.

The finished room!

Well, I've added shelving and cleaned off the top of the washer since this pic was taken, but you can see the finished paint job pretty well here. I love the lavender much more than the yellow, that's for sure! But mostly I love how NOT ONE DAY since the mold was removed have I been sick, even with all the dust of the renovation floating around, and the dog & wood stove in full effect. I feel great! 

The last little step was replacing the filter in our furnace intake. We didn't want to turn it back on and release old mold spores into the house. Now I am enjoying a crackling wood stove fire, good health, extra long showers and easy-to-reach laundry machines. What more could a soul want? LOL 

Peace to you and all you love.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

DIY Curio Shelf Revival

In all my sorting and organizing of family heirlooms and weeding of clutter, I have discovered many small figurines and trinkets which I have no room to display. While browsing a local antique store, I acquired this beat up old curio shelf for $20. Yay, project!

After giving it a thorough wipe-down, I broke out the electric sander. Using a heavier, paint-removal grit helped speed the process of stripping the old paint.

In addition to paint removal, I also took the time to round each edge on the front of the shelf unit to give it a more professional finish.

Because I planned to re-paint, I did not bother to remove all the black paint. I just focused on making a nice clean surface on the front of the unit, and roughed up the surfaces on the rest to accept paint more readily.

The fun part was deciding how to paint the shelf!

I normally like a bit of contrast, but a few of the shelves were imperfectly level. Painting it white and slapping it on a dark wall would only serve to highlight the imperfections of the piece rather than the items on display.

Since my walls are dark blue and green in the room I chose, I painted the shelf navy blue. I had some Official Seahawks Navy left over from my bathroom renovation, and a shelf this size barely made a dent in the can, even with 2 coats!

Finally, the second coat was dry and ready to hang. I like to give pieces a full 24 hours to dry hard before setting objects on the shelves, so there is less chance of the items sticking to the fresh paint job. Now all that remains is to add the trinkets!

Yes, my bedroom has a big mural around the whole thing, a tree skyline with a dark sky above filled with glowing stars. I have a problem with insomnia. Being in a dark serene place with stars is so peaceful. 

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

How To: Leafy Gown Tutorial

Making your own leafy garment can be a fun, simple way to create a magical costume or unique accessory. Hot glue, silk leaves and a lot of patience are the main ingredients, along with a little planning and a high burn tolerance (LOL).

In this tutorial, I will explain the process of planning and executing a leafy garment of your own design.

Many countless hours go into the making of the larger ball gown or tunic designs. Leave yourself plenty of time to plan and place leaves. This is not a good one for the hotel room at the Con! LOL

The first step is planning a color scheme. Do you want to be a green man character? Are you looking for an Ice Queen frosted winter theme or an Autumn array of reds, oranges and gold? Do you want a skirt bursting with spring flowers? You need a lot of leaves to cover the underlying material. I tend to buy them on clearance when the seasons change and strip them off the plastic vines or bunches by hand. Sort them by type if possible so you can distribute them purposefully through the pattern later.

It helps to choose a gown or garment which does not need a lot of adjustment in the fit, and is not a stretchy fabric. I like to work with firm, medium weight fabric with some texture  to create a solid bond with the hot glue. Sometimes I cover bridesmaid or prom dresses. You can built directly onto a hoopskirt and bra top. I suggest you start at the bottom and work your way up, overlapping the leaves like scales.

I use a glue gun and sticks of multi temp hot glue, simple tools which can be found at the craft store. I like to set the heat to high. Wearing a protective glove over my leafing hand has saved me many burns (but not all...).

For the hoopskirt gown, I pre-drew a pattern directly onto the hoopskirt fabric with a sharpie so the front insert of flowers would be evenly spaced and symmetrical. In other cases, a more random pattern is desired and the real trick is to try and maintain variety and not run out of interesting leaf options. This is where the pre-sorted piles of leaves come in handy, so you can see what you are running out of and adjust.

While gluing the leaves, I try to initially only glue the top half so I can tuck further leaves under the edges later. You can go back at the end and tack down with more glue the leaves that stick out oddly. It is better to have those jagged edges for the realism than to have a perfectly flat, glued down slab of leaves which lacks dimension.

Be patient, have fun, and go slow. If you are getting fatigued, STOP! Breaks are important. It can be tempting to try and rush a project like this, burns happen when you are getting sloppy and moving quick. Take time to step back and look at your progress frequently so you can catch anything that looks out of place before it is surrounded.

I wish you much joy in your future art, and hope to see you in a leafy creation someday! Feel free to post pics of your leafy garments here. I want to see them!

Don't feel like making one? Allow me! Visit to custom order a leafy gown today.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DIY Bookshelf Revival

I came across a local garage sale find... a bookcase handmade in oak by a resident of my own town of Kalama. It was in questionable shape, having spent some time in an unheated garage. As any renovation junkie can tell you, it's all to easy to buy a potential project only to have it sit in a corner awaiting it's turn indefinitely. But when you are a 7 and a half foot long bookshelf sitting in the middle of my dining room, well Baby you just made the top of my list! I am not tripping over this monstrosity for the next (insert number of procrastination weeks here).

Original shelf in the Nice Lady's garage.
The first thing I did was tear off the soiled backing (a thin sheet of faux wood wall panel) and scrub her down with a dry brush. Once the debris was removed, I attacked the discolored and dinged wood surface with a medium grit sandpaper on the electric sander.

Now this picture above makes the sanding job look really good, like maybe I can stain that wood. Deceptive! The truth was more like this...

Some of the wood must have been different types because I could see they were not going to stain the same. Hence the next important decision: Paint!

I've really been digging the navy and white combo lately, and my living room already happens to have a blue wall. Official Seahawks blue... Go Hawks!

So... I chose white. I think it will be striking against the dark blue of the wall, and a cheerful addition to the room. As time continues, I would like to add more white accents to the room.

Primer coat complete, waiting for it to dry (and to do a second coat).
I let the paint dry overnight and moved it into location in the morning. 

Finished bookshelf in place and ready to play!

Thanks for joining me on all my journeys through life, decorating, and renovations!
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Monday, February 3, 2014

Feathered Collar How-To

Sharing costume knowledge is an awesome part of being a crafter and cosplayer!

Check out my video blog or follow the step-by-step photo directions below to create your own amazing feathered collar.

Evil Queen, Dark Fae, Vampire, Bird or Owl Costumes look great with a feathered collar.

YouTube Video Blog Costume Tutorial of How To Make a Feathered Collar
By Isles of Day,

Let's begin the step-by-step picture tutorial:

Step One - Create a base.
I like to cut out a yoke of black polar fleece (soft!) on which you glue the whole feathered mess. None of the yoke will show when you are done, but if you are doing white feathers I would use a white fleece just to avoid a dirty shadowed look. Make sure as you place feathers and trim on the yoke that you leave a little fleece hanging out at the FRONT of the collar to later sew on the necklace clips.

Step Two - Cut and place your base feathers.
I like to use a yard of Rooster saddle feathers pre-strung, which you can find online from most feather distributors in various price ranges according to thickness and quality. I cut the strip into 6 equal pieces (3 for each shoulder). Use the hot glue gun set to high heat to glue the feather strips onto the base in layers. Focus the glue on the base of the feathers, where they are pre-strung. Turn the feathers on the bottom strip DOWN, turn the other two strips on that side UP when you glue for the winged look shown here.

Step Three - Add any embellishment feathers.
Sometimes I want a few natural colored feathers on top to add texture. Glue these in next individually, putting a little glue on the base of the accent feather and tucking it in as desired. In this model I placed a few additional brown feathers in between the layers as well.

Step Four - Add the trims.
I like to start with a feathery, torn-thread trim that blends the feathers to the neckline. Glue it carefully along the edge of the feathers and exposed yoke at the back of the neck, go slowly and just glue a few inches at a time for accuracy. I layer on a more decorative trim over the frayed layer to add a little sparkle.

Step Five - Add the necklace chain and pendant.
I like to sew on two necklace clips so you can attach the chain and pendant however you like or even replace it when reusing the item with a different costume.

Finished Product: A beautiful, unique accessory!

Thank you for joining me and for experiencing this art together...

More amazing costume art can be found at
or visit my ETSY shop, Isles of Day @