Thursday, January 02, 2014

Wreck-It Ralph Sugar Rush Candy Decorations

Sugar Rush decorations from Wreck-It Ralph
For Halloween I participated in a Truck or Treat event with some friends. The theme we chose was the Sugar Rush game world from the movie Wreck-It Ralph (I've already done write-ups on my Vanellope costume and wig).

Here's a list of all the decorations we made:
  • Peppermint trees
  • Giant cotton candy
  • Giant lollipops
  • Giant jawbreaker
  • Gumdrop lights
  • Rainbow bridge/finish line
  • Hero and cookie medals
And here's how we made them:

Peppermint Trees: These were made out of scrap wood and painted with pink and white latex paint. There's a hinge on the back of the trunk of each tree that is connected to another piece of wood that helps the trees stand. We were inspired by the trees seen in the Sugar Rush decorations at Kara's Party Ideas.
Giant cotton candy
Giant Cotton Candy: We used this tutorial for fake cotton candy by iViViFiED on deviantart. I started with a small, upside-down trash can. I made a cone out of poster board and taped it to the bottom. I then wrapped packing paper around the trash can to fill it out and taped the paper in place. The "candy" is made of a queen-sized sheet of polyester quilt batting - the cheapest one I could find.

To color the batting, I deviated from the tutorial after the watered-down paint recommended did not work for me. The paint wouldn't dry and it gummed up the spray bottle to the point where it wouldn't work. Instead, I used watered-down red food coloring. I hung the batting outside on a line (very important to do it outside to avoid staining stuff indoors) and filled up a spray bottle with water and red food coloring (I experimented to find the right ratio of water to food color). I sprayed the colored water on both sides of the batting and let it dry. I had to go back over several times to fill in places that got missed. I think I ended up using about a bottle and a half of food coloring.

After the batting dried completely, I tore it into strips and wrapped them around the trash cans, tucking the ends of the strips under each other. The tutorial recommends cutting the batting into strips with scissors but I found it looked more realistic when it was torn. Be aware that the food coloring is not waterproof and it can rub off on your clothes or anything else it touches. I wrapped them in trash bags before putting them in my car to keep the color from rubbing off on the interior.

Giant Lollipops: We used this tutorial. Instead of wrapping paper tubes we used PVC pipe. To keep them standing up on the asphalt, we cut holes in some planks of wood and stuck the PVC pipe in.

Giant jawbreaker
Giant Jawbreaker: This was a $3 plastic ball from Walmart. I painted it with brush-on white latex paint then dabbed on acrylic paint in blue, red and yellow. I made the mistake of trying to use fancy spray paint meant for plastic first - it never dried and ended up gross and sticky. I went over it with the latex paint afterward and it worked beautifully - not sticky at all.

Illuminated gumdrop lights
Gumdrop Lights

I got the idea for the gumdrop lights from The Felted Chicken. Those gumdrops didn't light up, though, so here's how I made ones that did:
IKEA cup
1. I got twelve multicolored children's cups. These were Kalas tumblers from IKEA.

Cut out cirle from craft foam
2. I cut out a circle slightly larger than the mouth of the cup from craft foam in the same color as the cup.

Clip edges of craft foam circle
3. I clipped the edges of the craft foam circle so it would easily fold over the mouth of the cup. I also cut a small "X" in the center of the circle for the light to go through (not shown in the above photo, unfortunately).

Tape circle to cup
4. I taped the circle to the top of the cup.

Cover with plastic wrap
5. I covered the whole thing with plastic wrap, taping at the top. Usually this required covering the "X" in the craft foam, so I had to go back with some scissors and slice through the plastic wrap and tape to make a hole for the light. I did this step because I didn't want to glue the Epsom salts directly to the cup - I wanted the option of reusing the cups afterward. If you don't care about reusing the cups, it would probably work better to glue the salt directly to the cup.

6. I spread Elmer's white glue over the whole thing (except for the hole for the light) then rolled it in Epsom salts. I added more glue and sprinkled on salt in any place that didn't get enough during the rolling stage then let it dry completely.

"Salted" gumdrop
7. I took my gumdrops outside and gave them a thorough spraying with a clear coat spray paint. This helps the Epsom salts stick to the cup a little better, but even with that the salt was constantly falling off. I definitely wouldn't recommend using the lights inside because of the mess the salt makes.
Illuminated gumdrop light
8. I got a short string of holiday lights and stuck one into each hole in the top of the gumdrop then hung up the string and lit them up.

Rainbow Bridge/Finish Line: The rainbow was made from taped-together strips of colored construction paper (the kind that comes on a roll). The finish line was white paper with a grid drawn onto it.

Hero and cookie medals
Hero and Cookie Medals: These were made from craft foam and ribbon. For the hero medal, I used a wood burner (and the proper safety equipment - burning craft foam makes fumes) to burn the star and marks into the craft foam. I used sticky foam letters to write "HERO" and then painted the whole thing gold. The cookie medal is a layer of brown foam and a layer of white foam glued together, with sharpie and paint used to make the icing and sprinkles.

Vanellope von Schweetz Wig

The most time-consuming aspect of making a costume for Wreck-It Ralph's Vanellope von Schweetz was the wig. Just cutting and styling the wig took a week by itself, and making the candy pieces took another! I wish my hair had been long enough to put in a ponytail - pinning the candy into my own hair would've saved so much time. A write-up of how I made the wig is below. Pictures and info on the rest of the costume can be found here; my post on the Sugar Rush decorations is here.

Vanellope Wig - Front
Vanellope Wig - Left
Vanellope Wig - Right
Vanellope Wig - Back

Vanellope Wig - Top
The Wig

As this was a low-budget costume, I did not let myself spend $50+ on a nice wig from one of the many online wig stores that cater to costumers. I've done that before (with my Canal Vorfeed costume) and, while it probably would've been worth the money, I just couldn't justify it this time. Instead, I hit every Halloween store in my area until I found a black ponytail wig for $12 at Target:

"Gladiator Ponytail" wig - $12 at Target
I have no idea what makes this a "gladiator" ponytail. All I know is that, in the five stores I visited, this was the only black ponytail wig I saw.

If you're going to make a Vanellope wig (or a wig of any other character whose hair is in a ponytail), you need to be sure to use a wig that is intended to be pulled up into a ponytail. Most costume wigs are only made to be worn with the hair down, so if you try to pull the hair up into a ponytail you'll find that all the seams, netting, etc. will show.

Here's what the ponytail wig looked like after I took it out of the bag:

Ponytail Wig, just out of the bag
It was horribly tangled and creased, just like any wig will be after being stuffed into the tiny bags they use for Halloween wigs. I carefully brushed it out and straightened the creases with a flat iron on the lowest heat setting. I've used an iron before on cheap costume wigs before and haven't had a problem with melted hair, but I probably wouldn't use heat like that on an expensive wig. Most experienced wigmakers frown on the use of hot irons and there are other, safer methods for straightening wigs, so use irons at your own risk. If it all goes wrong, you could end up with a melted wig and a ruined iron.

After straightening and detangling the wig, the next step was to get it back into a ponytail. I wanted the ponytail to stand up away from the top of the head so it would look poofier. I found pictures of a few other Vanellope cosplayers who somehow used a styrofoam ball to make their ponytails poofy but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how they did it (that is to say, I spent way too much time trying to figure it out so I gave up and improvised!).

Here's how I made the ponytail stand up:

I used part of a hole cover plate (what you'd use if you removed a door knob and didn't want an empty hole in the door) we had sitting around, an empty plastic thread spool, and a washer to create a base to build my ponytail around.

Part of a hole cover plate, empty thread spool, and a washer.
I decided where I wanted the ponytail on my wig, and put the hole cover plate there. The plate was on the inside of the wig with the tube sticking out. I had to cut the mesh a tiny bit to get the tube to fit. To keep it from unraveling, I used some Fray Check on the cut parts. You can really see how cheap this wig is in these pictures - only the hair on the edges of the wig is full length. The hair on the rest of the head is only a few inches long.
Plate hole cover in wig
I used some black string to hold the plate in place:

Plate hole cover held in place with string
I placed the empty thread spool over the tube on the plate hole cover, put a washer on top and then screwed the screw that came with the plate hole cover into the tube to attach it all together.

Thread spool and washer attached to plate hole cover
I used a sharpie to color the spool and washer black so they wouldn't stand out from the hair. I then used a comb and a lot of hair spray to brush the short "under hairs" into position around the ponytail base.

Wig with ponytail base.
Unfortunately at this point I got so busy and frustrated with the wig and my horrible camera (see blurry photo above) that I forgot to take pictures of the next steps. Briefly, here's what I did:
  • Added Wefts: Because there was so little hair on the wig that was full length, there was not enough extra hair for me to leave down for the chunks of hair the hang in front of Vanellope's ears. I went to a beauty supply store and bought a $3 package of black plastic (Kanekalon) hair. I used a tutorial from Katie Bair to turn the hair into wefts that I then sewed in place on the inside of the wig, just over the ears.
  • Portioned out Bangs: I used clips to separate the bangs and the "ear chunks" from the rest of the hair so they would not get caught up in the ponytail.
  • Formed the Ponytail Around the Spool: This was a pain to do - I probably did it half a dozen times and using several different methods before I was happy with it. The method that ended up working best was the one featured in this Youtube video from Elizabeth Schram. So the spool wouldn't show, I used black string to wrap the ponytail around the spool (see photo below) and used some caulk on the top of the spool to glue some of the hair to it.
  • Cut the Bangs: Using a picture of Vanellope as reference, I trimmed the bangs and "ear chunks."
  • Styled the Wig: I used a hair dryer on low and cheap hair spray to style the bangs and curl the ponytail.
String wrapped around ponytail, over the spool

 ***

The Candy

Here are some close-ups of the candy after I attached it to the wig.

Vanellope's hair candy
Vanellope's hair candy
Vanellope's hair candy
I made the candy pieces slightly larger than life-size because I wanted them to show up better on the wig. Here's a list of all the candy pieces, the number of them I ended up using and their colors:
  • Twizzler hair tie (1): red
  • gummy bears (2): green, purple
  • chocolate peppermints (2): green and brown swirled
  • hearts (2): orange, pink
  • stars (3): yellow
  • thin sprinkles (26): red, light blue, dark blue, pink, purple, green, orange
  • round confetti sprinkles (20): green, orange, yellow, pink, light blue, dark blue
The peppermints, stars, sprinkles and confetti were all made of Sculpey baking clay that I painted with acrylic paint and covered with a clear gloss coat. The Twizzler, hearts and gummy bears were made differently so I'll go over them below.
Twizzler hair tie
I made the Twizzler hair tie by rolling out a thick rope of Sculpey and twisting it into shape before cooking it. I placed a wire inside but it didn't end up being necessary and was really more of a hassle than a help. I based my construction on a Vanellope Twizzler hair tie created by uberBellz on Blogger.

Candy heart
I wanted the candy hearts to have the flat, chalky look of those Necco Valentine's Sweetheart candies, so after making them out of Sculpey I painted them with "chalk paint," which is just acrylic paint mixed with plaster and water. Here's a blog post from While They Snooze with a recipe - I used the same ratios but only made a tiny bit of paint in each color. Since Vanellope's hearts don't have messages, it didn't occur to me to put a message on them like on the real Sweetheart candies. I think it would've made them look more realistic so if I was doing this again, I would use some stamp letters to imprint a message in the hearts before I baked them.

Gummy bear made from hot glue
Gummy bear made from hot glue
I wanted my gummy bears to look translucent like the real thing so I decided to use hot glue (aka hot melt adhesive/thermoplastic) instead of Sculpey to make them. Here's how I did it:
Real gummiy bear soaking in water
First, I needed a real gummy bear to make a mold. I bought a package of gummy bears and soaked one in water for about eight hours. Why? Because, as the bear soaked, it absorbed water and became several times larger than it was originally. I wanted all my candy to be larger than life-sized so this was an easy way to get a big gummy bear.

Enlarged gummy bear in plaster mold
After the gummy bear soaked for eight hours, I mixed some plaster in the bottom of a plastic cup and gently pressed the bear into the plaster, face down. Be aware that soaking the bear makes it very soft, only slightly firmer than jelly/jam. Care must be taken to avoid breaking it when moving it from the water to the plaster.

As the plaster dries it sucks the extra water out of the gummy bear, causing it to shrink. That's not a problem though, as the mold retains the original shape of the larger bear. Once the plaster hardened,  I removed the real gummy bear.

Hot glue in gummy bear mold
Next I soaked the hardened plaster mold in water for ten minutes or so (this makes the hot glue cast easier to remove). After removing the mold from the water, I patted it dry and then immediately squeezed hot glue into it. I experimented using high temp and low temp glue to see which worked best. I believe I ended up going with low temp glue because it cooled with less bubbles on the surface than the high temp glue (it's been a while though, so I could be remembering incorrectly).

Before the glue cooled completely, I pulled the gummy bear cast out of the mold (if you leave it until it completely cools, it can be difficult to remove). I let the glue cool the rest of the way and then colored it with a Sharpie marker. After the Sharpie dried, I painted over the fake gummy bear with a clear gloss coat.

Attaching the Candy Pieces

While making my wig, I watched the movie and made a diagram of the kinds of candies and their position on Vanellope's hair. I tried to follow this when attaching them to the wig, but by the time I got to that point I was in a pretty big hurry to finish the dang thing and didn't do a fantastic job. I used hot glue and just glued them on. As you can see from a number of the photos above, I probably rushed too much so it ended up looking a bit messy. Unfortunately with hot glue once it's on the wig hair, it's not coming off so when I mispositioned a piece, it was stuck there. Only after I finished did I realized I put too much candy on the top of the head since Vanellope has most of her candy on the sides, not the top. Oh well! I'm still pretty happy with it. :)

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Vanellope von Schweetz Costume

Vanellope von Schweetz costume and Sugar Rush decorations
 For Halloween this year my friends and I participated in a Trunk-or-Treat event (like the one I dressed up as Puss-In-Boots for a few years ago) and we decided to do a Wreck-It Ralph theme. We decorated the trunk with giant candy from the Sugar Rush world and I made a Vanellope von Schweetz costume. In this post I'll be discussing how I created the costume; I've done separate posts on the Vanellope wig and the Sugar Rush decorations.
Vanellope von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph
Vanellope costume
I did my best to make this a "budget" costume but it still came out at nearly $100. Below is a breakdown - as you can see, even though I used the cheapest options you're likely to find, it still adds up!

White Pullover Hoodie = $13
Rit Dye (Aquamarine and Kelly Green) $3 ea. x 2 = $6
Tulip Soft Matte Fabric Paint (Turquoise, Neon Green and Grape) $2 ea. x 3 = $6
Opaque White Tights = $8
Ponytail Wig = $12
1 lb. Sculpey Clay = $8
Hideous Pink Boots = $15
Brown Broadcloth Fabric 45 in. wide by 3 yd. x $2/yd (on sale) = $6
Lightweight Fusible Interfacing 20 in. wide by 6 yd. x $2.5/yd = $15

That totals out to $89, but once I add in all the little incidentals (thread, gummi bears, elastic, Sharpies, paint-on gloss coat, glue sticks), it was pretty much $100. And I'm not even figuring in all the money I wasted "experimenting," like when I tried to dye the tights instead of painting them or using RIT color remover to take out the first bad dye job I did on the hoodie (it didn't remove squat!). Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and save yourself a little money.

***

Vanellope's hoodie
The Hoodie

Supplies:
  • Fruit of the Loom White Pullover Hoodie (found in Walmart men's department)
  • Rit Dye in Aquamarine and Kelly Green (I used the liquid dye)
  • Mini glue sticks
  • Pink Sharpie
  • craft sticks (aka popsicle sticks)
  • Gloss coat
  • Fray Check
Equipment:
  • Washing Machine (mine is a standard)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors/exacto knife
How I dyed the hoodie:

Originally I tried to dye the hoodie in a bucket and it was a disaster. Even though I followed the instructions on RIT's website, the hoodie ended up splotchy and horrible-looking. There was not enough room in the bucket for the hoodie to get adequately dyed. I tried to remove the color so I could start over by using RIT color remover but it did nothing. I finally had to use bleach and that got most of the color out, though it was still a little yellow.

After that disaster, I decided to use the washing machine (mine is a standard top-loader). I was scared that I would end up coloring a subsequent load of clothes but I just ran a large load with bleach through after dying and I had no problems. Following the instructions from RIT's site, I ran a medium load with hot water on the longest agitate cycle I had (I think I had to turn the dial back a few times so it would agitate for at least 30 minutes as directed). After the hoodie went through the whole wash cycle, it came out looking great and exactly the color I was trying to get.

That leads me to to the big question you probably have: how much of each dye did I use? I'll tell you what I did but please understand that your situation may be different and you may get different results. I urge you to dye some test swatches of your fabric first - that's what I did and I discovered that the color mixture from RIT's site that I thought would be perfect was nowhere near the color I wanted.

I used the liquid dyes, one part RIT Aquamarine to one part RIT Kelly Green (so fifty-fifty, aka half and half). In my medium load in the washing machine, I believe (though I forgot to write it down, so I'm not 100% positive) that I used 4 ounces of each color (1/2 a cup of each) for a total of 8 ounces of dye. However, even if you do everything exactly the same as I did, there are several variables that could cause you to get a different color than the one I got with that mixture:
  1. My hoodie was 60% cotton, 40% polyester. RIT sticks to cotton better than polyester, so because my hoodie was only 60% cotton, that means I probably got a lighter color than I would've gotten had the hoodie been 100% cotton. Different cotton/polyester mixes would also give different results.
  2. How much water is in the "medium" load in your washer. I have no idea how much is in mine; if you have more or less water, your dye would be less diluted/more diluted and you could end up with a different color.
  3. If you use the powdered dye instead of the liquid your results could be different (I don't know what the powdered equivalent of the amount I used is).
So to sum it up, this is what I did to dye my hoodie but your results may vary. Test your dye first if you don't want any surprises.

How I made the drawstrings and stitches:

I struggled until pretty much the last minute trying to figure out how I wanted to make the drawstrings and stitches. When I was in the planning stages of the costume I watched Wreck-It Ralph several times and took screen captures of Vanellope's outfit and it looked to me like her hoodie's drawstrings and stitches were made of a translucent, pink, plastic-like candy. I have no idea what real-world candy would actually look like that - Twizzlers (like in her hair) aren't really that translucent. Anyway, I didn't want to use yarn or cording but I couldn't find ANYTHING clear, flexible, the right size and pink (or capable of being colored pink). I tried making silicone caulk strings, covering pink cord with hot glue, and using a straw as a mold for a string of hot glue (it just glued the straw together). Nothing looked right.

Drawstrings on the hoodie
Finally it occurred to me that the mini sticks of hot glue I had sitting around were nearly the right size, if only they could be stretched a little bit longer and a little bit thinner. I tried various ways of heating them up and finally settled on dunking them in hot water (if you do this, be very careful not to burn yourself!), taking them out and gently stretching them and then dunking them in cold water for a few moments (while still stretching them) until.they held their shape. I repeated the process until I got the length and thickness I wanted, being careful to avoid over-stretching which results in uneven thickness.

Stitches on the hoodie
For the gluesticks that were to become the two ends of the drawstring, I tied a knot in one end of each before they completely cooled. Once they cooled, I untied the knots to make coloring easier. For the gluesticks that were to be the stitches, after cooling I cut them to size. I then colored them all with a pink Sharpie. After letting that dry, I retied the knots in the drawstrings and then painted a gloss coat over them all. I recommend a waterproof/water resistant gloss coat - the gloss I used wasn't, and I had some issues with the pink from the stitches rubbing off on my hoodie. I'm not sure if a paint-on waterproof gloss coat exists - you may have to use a spray-on one.

Attaching the drawstrings and stitches:

The drawstrings don't actually go all the way through the hoodie, they just stick out at ends. I hot glued them into the holes meant for the drawstring (I removed the drawstring that came with the hoodie before dying it). For the stitches, I cut holes in the hoodie where they belonged, touch up the holes with Fray check, let it dry (I didn't on the first hole and that's why some pink rubbed off on the hoodie) and ran the ends of the stitches through the holes. I hot glued each stitch to opposite ends of a popsicle stick (cut to about 2 inches long) on the inside of the hoodie. I did this so the stitches would appear curved on the outside of the hoodie.

How the stitches are attached on the inside
If I had thought about it, I would've made the drawstrings and stitches removable so I could wash the hoodie. Since I didn't use waterproof gloss coat and since they're not removable, I'm pretty sure the pink would run if I got it wet and it would be ruined. Not smart!

***

Vanellope's skirt
The Skirt

Supplies:
  • ~3 yd. Symphony Broadcloth in Dark Chocolate (35 in. wide, from Joann's)
  • ~6 yd. Pellon lightweight fusible interfacing (probably didn't use this much but I can't remember)
  • Brown thread
  • Elastic, ribbon or cord for waistband
Equipment:
  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
  • Scissors
  • Starch (optional, helps make pleats stiffer)
How I made the skirt:

Vanellope's skirt looks like two Reece's Peanut Butter Cup wrappers, layered on top of one another. I thought about using a shiny fabric to make the skirt look glossy like in the film, but I was concerned that the fabric would be damaged by the iron when I went to make the accordion pleats. Instead I used the cheapest fabric I could find - it was a 65% polyester, 35% cotton mix that I found in the quilting section.

I used the Circle Skirt Tutorial from danamadeit.com to find the right size for the skirt, to make a pattern for a 1/4 of the skirt and to cut out the skirt (I did not make the same kind of waistband as in the tutorial). I made the skirt short enough that I could cut the longer layer out from one piece of 45 inch fabric, instead of having to piece it together. The shorter layer was also cut from one piece of fabric, I just made it 4 inches shorter than the longer layer.

After cutting out my two giant circles, I followed AntiAiChan's tutorial on Youtube for making accordion pleats for a Vanellope skirt. I made my pleats wider than the ones in the video (I counted how many Vanellope's skirt had and aimed for a similar number). Bonus: larger pleats means less ironing!

I drew my pleats on the 1/4 skirt pattern which I then used to cut out pieces of interfacing (4 for each layer of skirt). The biggest time-saving tip I can tell you is to get a pencil or Sharpie and transfer the marking for your pleats from the pattern onto the non-sticky side of each piece of interfacing. This way you don't have to go back and do it after you iron it to the brown fabric.

I ironed the interfacing on to the inside of each layer of the skirt. The pieces didn't match up 100%, but it was close enough. I hemmed the lower edge of both layers and ran an overlock stitch over the top edge of them as well (but did not hem them). Still follower AntiAiChan's instructions, I ironed in all the pleats. I used spray starch while I was ironing but I'm not sure it made much of a difference. The weight of the interfacing is really what keeps the pleats sharp - don't use the featherweight stuff (I did for part of it and it did not hold the pleats as well). AntiAiChan used Pellon's Decor-Bond fusible interfacing so that may be the best way to go.

Drawstring waistband on skirt
So at this point I had two layers of accordion-pleated skirt and nothing to keep it up around my waist. I didn't want to use the wide band of elastic as recommended in the circle skirt tutorial because it involves trying to stretch the elastic with the fabric as you sew and that sounded like something I would probably mess up (I don't like sewing elastic!). I decided that making a cinch/drawstring waistband would be better. First, I basted together the two layers of the skirt. I then cut out a long piece of fabric that was wide enough to enclose my elastic cord with a 1/4 inch seam. I folded the fabric over to make a tube and pinned it to the basted skirt, with both short ends of the tube open and meeting at the front of the skirt. I sewed the waistband to the skirt and then ran my elastic through the tube, tying the loose ends together.

***

Vanellope's tights
The Candy-Striped Tights

Supplies:
  • White opaque tights
  • Tulip Soft Matte Fabric Paint in Turquoise, Neon Green and Grape
  • Painter's tape
  • Cardboard mailing tube or duct tape leg
  • Paintbrushes
  • Dressmaker's chalk 
  • Ruler
How I made the tights:

The tights were the very last thing I made and they were nearly a disaster. When I dyed the hoodie, I experimented with using RIT dye on tights and I got a result that, though a bit light-colored, was okay. Unfortunately in the month that passed between when I did the test and when I sat down to do the tights (the day before the event), I completely forgot how I had applied the dye, how long I left it, how much I had diluted it...pretty much everything. But I thought I could figure out what I did and wasted most of the day experimenting. Everything I tried was a failure - the dye ran under the painters tape and most of it washed out afterward.

So lesson learned, RIT dye is not the best method for making striped tights. The next best thing I could come up with at the last minute was fabric paint. I had dismissed fabric paint earlier because I thought it might end up looking "crusty" or splotchy, but since I was running out of time I didn't have much choice. Luckily it turned out better that I thought. Though the paint was a little splotchy, it wasn't really noticeable once the tights were on.

I used this "Vanellope's tights" tutorial from pixiesizedprincess.tumblr.com as a starting point. The first thing I did was use a Sharpie to right "R" and "L" at the waistband of the tights so I wouldn't get them mixed up when I made my chalk markings while looking in the mirror. Vanellope's right leg has angled green and white stripes while her left leg has horizontal green, white and purple bands. I put on the tights, my skirt and boots and lightly marked where I thought the stripes should go with blue dressmaker's chalk. I took off the tights, stretched each leg over a cardboard mailing tube (one at a time) and used a ruler to redraw my marking so they were evenly spaced.

When I was ready to paint, I used painter's tape to mask off the parts I wanted to stay white. I used the Grape paint as-is and  mixed together the Turquoise and Neon Green fabric paint to get the green color I wanted (no clue about the exact proportions - all I can say is that I used most of the bottle of Neon Green and not as much of the Turquoise). Contrary to what the tutorial said, I watered the paint down a little because it wasn't spreading like I wanted. That did result in a little bit of running, though, so it might not have been a good idea. After letting the first leg dry completely, I repeated everything on the other leg.

Vanellope's tights
Even though the tights turned out alright in the end, there are a few things I'd have done differently if I could:
  • Obviously I wish I hadn't wasted a day trying to make the RIT dye work!
  • I wish I had had time to make a duct tape model of my leg like in the tutorial and had to use a cardboard mailing tube. The fabric paint dries very stiff and the tights end up stretched to the width of whatever you had them on when you painted them. Since I used the mailing tube, this meant that my tights were baggy in the ankle and so-tight-I-could-barely-get-them-up around the thigh. In the end they still worked, but a duct tape leg would've solved those problems.
  • The paint stuck to the cardboard when it dried, so when I tried to peel it off the mailing tube I ended up with little pieces of paper stuck to the inside of my tights! It was a giant pain to clean up. Possibly something slick underneath liked waxed paper (or duct tape) might've stopped that, but I didn't have time to experiment and was worried that a slick surface under the tights might make the paint bleeding worse.
  • The Neon Green Tulip Soft Matte Fabric Paint had glitter in it. It was the only shade of green at the store that was anywhere near what I needed so I used it anyway, but the glitter rubbed off on everything and made a mess. A non-glitter paint would've been better.
 ***

Boot altered to look like Vanellope's (original boot in the background)
Boots

Vanellope's boots are shiny, black, laceless boots with red licorice stuck to the soles. I had a hard time finding something that looked anything like that for under $20. Eventually I got lucky and found a hideous pair of black slippers with pink bows, pink faux-fur lining and pink soles at Walmart for $15. I removed the bows and I carefully detached the fur lining from the top of the boot so it could be tucked inside. I didn't remove it completely because it was attached to the rest of the interior lining and without it the boots would've been uncomfortable to wear. I used a black Sharpie to draw over the pink stitching on the boots and a red Sharpie to color in the edges of the pink soles so they would look like the red licorice. I wish yet again that I had thought to use a waterproof gloss coat over the red Sharpie because I discovered afterward that some of it had rubbed off on my tights (I guess when I accidentally touched them with the edge of the boot).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

DunderMifflinInfinity.com: How a Fake Paper Company Changed My Life

The cast of The Office

My History with The Office

When the US version of The Office premiered in the spring of 2005, I wasn't sure that I would like it. I was a fan of the UK version and so I gave the US version a chance but I was worried that remaking the show would ruin it. The first season was only six episodes and, though for the most part they were good, I wasn't sure that the show would make it through another season.

That summer Steve Carrell starred in The 40 Year Old Virgin and suddenly everyone knew who he was. I think that really helped The Office gain an audience. The second season was a vast improvement on the first as they stopped trying to copy the UK version and let the US Office become its own show.

For the first few seasons, I was only a casual fan of the show. I'd watch it (though usually not live) and I bought the DVDs but that was about it. Then near the beginning of season 4 (2007-2008), NBC launched the online game/social networking site DunderMifflinInfinity.com to coincide with the second episode of that season, titled "Dunder Mifflin Infinity." NBC aired ads for DunderMifflinInfinity.com (I'll call it DMI for short) during several episodes. I saw one of the ads, thought it sounded fun and went online to join.

The Start of DMI

The way DMI worked was that you signed up, created a username, then applied to join one of around 200 (later downsized to 100) virtual branches set up in locations all over the world. Each branch was run by a Regional Manager (RM), a volunteer nominated for the position. Originally I applied to the Flagstaff, AZ branch because that what the closest branch to me in real life. That didn't work out, however, because the RM had to approve your application before you could join. After a day or two of waiting without being let in, I started searching the NBC forums for more information. I came across a post from the RM for the Ypsilanti, MI branch promising to approve any and all applications so I applied there and got in.
DMI Ypsilanti's colorful logo, designed by employee michigankathleen.
Once in the Ypsilanti branch, we got to know our fellow branch members via online forums and competed with other branches on tasks given to us by NBC, which usually revolved around that week's episode. We would earn fake money called Schrutebucks for completing tasks and winning competitions. The goal was to earn the most Schrutebucks, both individually and as a branch.

It was fun for a very short while and then in November of 2007, the Writer's Guild Strike happened. There were no new episodes from November 15, 2007 to April 10, 2008 and many people lost interest and drifted away from DMI, including Ypsilanti's RM.

When the show finally came back in spring 2008, there were still a few people in our branch but we had no active RM. That issue came to a head with the April Fool's Day task, which was to create a fake version of NBC's Office website to replace the real one on April 1st. The task required the branch to work together as a group to make the fake site and our non-existent RM was the only one who could submit our work to NBC. Luckily we weren't the only branch with a missing RM so together we were able to ask the higher-ups to let the branches with inactive RMs choose new ones. I don't really remember exactly how it went down, but I think I got the job because I was already organizing the April Fool's Day task and was the only one willing to volunteer.

My Office shrine, circa season 6

Being Regional Manager of DMI Ypsilanti

This may sound crazy to most people, but I took my fake job very seriously. I spent the next four years with the equivalent of a part time job. If only I had gotten paid!

What did I do? I moderated the forum. I organized our own in-branch competition that ran alongside the main one. I created games, challenges, puzzles and trivia contests for my "employees." I learned how to Photoshop stuff and how to make animated gifs for profile photos and forum signatures.

At the end of every Office season, I held a video awards ceremony for my branch. I organized summer games to keep everyone interested during the months with no new episodes. I used my own money to buy prizes for my employees.
The Ypsi, DMI Ypsilanti's version of the Dundie. Based on Ypsilanti's famously phallic water tower.
I don't know how many times I turned down going out on a Thursday night so I could stay in and chat with my DMI friends before a new episode. When my husband scheduled a work dinner during chat time that I was required to go to, I used my phone to chat under the table and in the bathroom at the restaurant! 

I traveled to Michigan twice to meet up with members of my branch. I made t-shirts for us. I organized a party for the premiere of season 6, calling every bar and restaurant in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor until I found one that would let us reserve a room with a TV. Then when I called to confirm two days before the premiere, they told me that they couldn't let us watch it because all their TVs had to be tuned to the same channel, which had to be sports (damn you sports!). Thankfully one of our employees came through and let us have the party at her house.  Yes, I went to the house of a stranger I met on the internet. I met a lot of internet strangers during my time at DMI, many of whom are still my friends, online and off.

The Office and Crafting

My time at DMI and my love for The Office inspired me creatively. We had to be creative for the tasks and I had to be creative as regional manager. Here are just a few of the crafty things that resulted:

- Making a stick figure puppet music video for a task:


- Cowriting, directing and animating a twelve minute Office fan movie starring myself and my coworkers:


- Making paper dolls - and desks! - of several Office characters.


- Creating a Marshmallow Peep diorama of Michael Scott and David Wallace in a hot tub for a contest. I won and even got a compliment from Andy Buckley, the actor who plays David Wallace.

The Peepified version of the "Hot Tub Wallace" scene from the episode "Sabre"

- Creating probably the most disgusting Jello shot ever, the PB&J. Named after The Office's favorite couple, Pam Beesley and Jim, it was a grape jello shot topped with peanut butter-flavored whipped cream.

PB&J Jello Shots

The End of DMI

From the start, DMI was plagued with problems. The site never worked quite right and there were ALWAYS glitches. At times it was frustrating and many people quit because they were unable to participate thanks to the bugs. It didn't help that NBC was always trying to change things up just when we thought we had it all figured out. In the fall of 2010 at the start of season 7, they decided that the old DMI site wasn't doing it for them and moved us all to a new site, Dunder Mifflin Sabre. The new site came with all-new glitches. That began the slow steady decline of DMI (now DMS, but I'm going to keep calling it DMI).

At the end of season 7 participation was down but there was still a good number of active people. We kept ourselves amused over the summer while we waited for our fifth year of DMI to start in the fall. As the beginning of season 8 neared and we heard nothing from NBC, we grew worried. Our worst fears were realized when there was a note from "Corporate" on the home page saying that they were no longer supporting the site and that all branches were being dissolved.

The forums were left open so we could still talk to one another, but all the tasks and Schrutebucks were gone. NBC tried to get us to switch over to their new game "fanit" (which was for all their shows, not just The Office) and was even glitchier than DMI (it's now defunct too).

The Ypsilanti branch valiantly tried to keep things going by continuing our mini-tasks and forum competition but by January of 2012 only a handful of people from Ypsilanti were still logging on. By the start of the ninth and final season of The Office, there were only three or four people regularly logging into any of the DMI forums. By the end of season 9 NBC has completely shut down the forums.

The End of The Office

Throughout all of this, a core group of four or five of us continued to chat every Thursday before a new episode. It's all coming to an end tonight, when the last episode of The Office airs. It's sad that it's ending, but I think the time is right for us to move on to other things.

Sometimes I find myself thinking, "Why did you waste five years of your life on a silly game?" But then I think back to all the things I never would've done if it hadn't been for DMI. I never would've animated a movie. I never would've gotten a compliment from Andy Buckley. I never would've learned about geocaching. I never would've parkoured at an apple orchard or seen the famously phallic Ypsilanti watertower. I never would've made the amazing friends I've made. None of it was a waste.

I do wish I could somehow turn all those years of "work" experience into a real job. It's too bad there aren't any real jobs as fun and rewarding as being the manager of a fake paper company.

Related Posts with Thumbnails