Because of the camera addition high on the neck, I decided to include a series of dark "gemstone" accents down the center scales of the chest and neck. Browsing the hobby and craft stores, I failed to find anything that exactly matched what I had in mind. Possible items I was looking for included black spangles (or giant sequins), black "onyx" acrylic gems, black glass beads, or faceted black buttons.
The largest black faceted acrylic gems I could find were 5mm round, about 1/4 of an inch in diameter - too small, although I got a couple of packages with the thought of clustering them together to create a larger shape. No large black spangles at all, unless they were mixed into a jumbo bag of assorted shapes colors and sizes - no guarantee that there would be enough for multiple repetition down the neck. No black buttons that were suitable. No black glass beads (iridescent black would have been sharp.) What I settled for was a bag of transparent yellow glass beads with an iridescent coating. To make these darker, and make them easier to glue on, I created glass "doublets". First, I sorted out some of the more colorful ones, holding them against a black card. I took the selected beads and ground the back flat on a 220-grit diamond wheel. This frosts the glass and makes a rough surface for gluing. I then mixed up a batch of 5-minute epoxy, stirred in some powdered charcoal to blacken the glue, then glued each bead to a black card. Once the glue had set, I peeled the beads off the card, and trimmed the excess glue and paper from around the edge of each bead. The result is a dark, iridescent glass bead, with a paper covered back that will bond securely with hot glue (as will the fabric it will be attached to.) The dark backing, sets off the iridescent coloring of the bead, and should produce an appearance much like the coated camera lens.
Iridescent yellow glass beads are ground flat, then glued to black cards with epoxy. When the beads are pealed off the card, and trimmed, the resulting glass doublet will look similar to the "DragonCam" lens.
A sketch of belly scales using red spangles and black glass beads for finishing accents. The large plates on either side will be red metallic lamé fabric.
Two pieces of fabric are stitched inside out, like a small pillow. The top edge is left open to inset the piece of foam.
|The belly scales are made like little pillows. The foam shapes are cut out of
1/2" foam sheet, with a scissors-cut tapered edge. A black knit fabric is used for
the back of the scale, and metallic red for the front. These are stitched together leaving
the top edge open. Once the foam has been placed inside the pocket, the top edge is
stitched shut. Appearance is not critical, since the top edges should be concealed by the
overlap of the scales.
Rows of metallic red spangles are stitched into place on the center scale. The center scale is then stitched to the larger belly scale along the top edge and at the point.
After the spangles have been added, the center scale is stitched to the belly scale. The resulting double scale is hand-stitched into position on the neck.
|Center scale ready to have the foam insert added.
Belly scales are made in two pieces. Here the size of the center scale is checked against the wide belly scale. A central oval is made with a tight zig-zag stitch to form a place for the glass beads.
Spangle detail on the belly scales.
|Scales cut from 1/2" foam are positioned on the neck, then black spandex is used
to cover them, hand-stitching around each. The scales continue around the neck, leaving a
gap down the center front for the red metallic belly scales.
Foam inserts were made and stitched into place under black spandex on the neck. The front of the neck was left uncovered where the red metallic scales will cover. Black spandex and black sparkle fabric have a different sheen, as seen in this image.
Red belly scales have been added, then black sparkle stretch fabric is used for loose scales down the back of the neck. Once these scales have been run down to the bottom edge, spikes will be stitched into place behind the head and down the neck.
Black sparkle stretch fabric was used on the face, then continued as loose scales down the back of the neck. Spikes are formed from firm foam rubber then covered in a sheath of black spandex.
|Spikes for the back of the neck are created from a firm
foam rubber, then covered with black spandex.
Even before covering the neck, I positioned several spikes to get an idea of how they might look.
Once the tail tubing was covered with thin foam sheet, I could begin to apply fabric. Since the tail tends to change diameter somewhat abruptly between the different diameter hose sections, I made scales either by cutting into the surface foam, or adding small foam scale inserts under the fabric. This approach allows me to make the taper more gradual. The process of pulling the fabric tight, and quilting around the foam scales compresses the foam and reduces the tail diameter as well. In one section, a second layer of fabric and foam scales had to be added over what I had done to even out the tail. The very end of the tail was covered last by making a tapered tube of spandex fabric pulled over the end, and attached by stitching the forward fabric to the tube. The final scales are simply quilted by pulling the fabric tight, overlapping it in the direction of the scales, and stitching it through the foam.
At this point, only the quilted scales have been completed; a section was left without the quilting down the middle top. Loose scales will be stitched over this, once the body covering is done. This will allow me to match and transition the scale sizes running from the body to the tail. And make overlapping scales at the connection, to conceal the joint. Red belly scales may also be added if additional covering is required on the side or bottom of the tail.
|The tail has been covered and quilted scales added, similar to the neck and shoulder scales. Back and belly scales still need to be added.|
|Disguising the joint:
Because the scales are stitched to the body and the tail, the joint where the two connect is very apparent. First I tried to overlap a few scales beyond the attachment point, but hand stitched scales tend to crumple up when they are not lying flat. After removing these messy ones, I formed a large tube out of 1/2" foam sheet. The foam became the pattern used to cut out the spandex fabric, then a plain knit back panel.
Both panels were sewn together, then deep notches were cut along the bottom edge. Each tooth would become a single scale that can be attached to the tail section if necessary. The smooth tube was sewn closed, then attached to the body.
Each of the triangular teeth is converted into diamond-shaped scales by hand stitching. Hand stitching is required to match the scale pattern on the rest of the neck and body. The rest of the tub is then quilted into the scale pattern to merge with the pattern on the body scales.
A fabric tube extends the scale pattern and covers the joint between the body and the tail.
Scales are cut from 1/2" foam then placed under the fabric before stitching to the body. Although the foam is glued in place, the fabric provides additional support and reinforcement for the arms and legs. Extra stitching and regular knots are used in areas that will be under stress. This includes the shoulder joints, ankles, and thighs where foam is thin, but motion is greatest.
The tail fabric is not quite the same as the black spandex used over the rest of the body. Although it appears black, it is actually a very dark brown, and although it too is a spandex blend, it is heavier than the black spandex material. Under certain lighting, this is very apparent. To make the transition appear to be deliberate, the heavier brown material is extended up the base of the tail to the lower back, and in between the legs to where it meets the red belly scales. Shiny black scales are extended completely down the back and on the top of the tail. Black spandex-covered spikes are then spaced in the scales at about 12" intervals. The black scales and spikes also help with the continuity between the fabric change.
To conceal the junction between the tail stub and the tail itself, a tube of brown fabric-covered foam is made and attached to the body. Scales are quilted into the foam, and the trailing edge forms a series of triangular scale points. The sleeve also helps to keep the tail from sagging or snagging into a strange position.
Stacks of scales are sorted by size before attaching them to the back and tail. Scales get progressively larger in the center of the back then smaller in size as you work down the length of the tail.
"It's a miracle, I can see!"
My original design calls for gaps in the belly scales to allow me to see out, and to provide additional ventilation. What I did not consider was the position of the control panel on the frame. I managed to position this down below head level, but directly in the way of viewing out any gaps. Although the dragon-cam can provide some idea of what I am pointing at, the screen size is too small to be of much use for navigation.
The final solution was to modify the design slightly to allow viewing out through the metallic red fabric. Although the viewing is not totally unobstructed, it is more than adequate for moving around and seeing obstacles.
A box of foam scales ready to be placed under the fabric.
Scales and spikes extend down the back and onto the tail. A tube of the tail fabric conceals the tail joint.
|In my Tick costume, no viewing holes were made, I used the semi-transparent spandex of
the neck area for viewing out. As the head is held up, the fabric stretches and allows
some air movement and viewing to occur.
Since there is no simple way to stretch the metallic fabric, I created two curved plastic belly scales from 1/8" plastic. Blowing hot air from a heatgun while flexing the plastic imparted a "permanent" curve. The red metallic fabric was cut about 3" larger than the plastic scale. The edge was folded over and stitched with a length of elastic cord inside the pocket. Once the edge was stitched most of the way around, the excess cord was pulled tight and knotted, making a stretchable slipcover for the scales. The center scale was made the conventional way using foam and fabric. This was stitched to the top and bottom edge of the cover. The scales were then stitched into place at the top of the body.
Another problem appeared once the belly scales were attached to the body. Because of the shape of the opening, and the stresses that are transmitted to the large flat surfaces, the scales tend to bulge and distort in various places. The scales also tend to be pulled flat, stretching between either side of the body. Some distortion would match the appearance of the scales on the upper neck, but the resulting shape was not at all what I had in mind. Either I had to replace all of the scales with rigid scales (like the plastic ones), or I had to reinforce the foam scales in some way.
The plastic scales do not have the same appearance as the foam ones, and if the entire body were covered with this type, it would not match the neck. This meant that some sort of reinforcement was the better solution. I started by placing small fabric-covered plastic sheets behind the center of the scales, but not enough surface area was altered by this approach. Pulling these back out, I prepared to create larger plastic scales to back the foam ones. What I noticed was how heavy the plastic sheet was before I cut it, more than what I wanted to add to the already massive costume. A piece of pierced aluminum sheet weighs much less, and can be shaped in more directions than the plastic easily can. Two large aluminum scales were made, then covered with black fabric (not because it was black, but as a way to attach the aluminum sheet to the back of the foam scale.)
Fabric-covered aluminum sheet for reinforcement of the belly scales.
|One of the plastic belly scales with the metallic red
The top two scales on the body are fabric-covered plastic. The rest of the scales are all made with fabric-covered foam. The three scales below the plastic ones had to be reinforced by placing aluminum sheet behind them.
With most of the costume finished, I started on the details. Small foil-backed acrylic jewels were hot glued to the nose ridge on the head. This added a bit of glitter, and concealed the clear faceted stud of the light sensor that closes the eyes. At the same time, Iridescent glass beads were hot glued to the stitched circles on the belly scales.
Red metallic "icicles" were stitched into place between some of the back scales. The metallic streamers added a touch of red to the back, and added detail to the overall effect.
Small clear foil-backed jewels are glued to the nose ridge to conceal the light sensor (between the eyebrows.)
|Follow-up Notes: Transporting the costume home from Marcon, one of
the plastic scales broke. This had to be replaced.
The sheet metal used in the lower belly scales became deformed during all of the moving as well as when I was crawling in and out of the costume. The perforated metal started to crack, and the little sharp edges poked through the fabric. When I was done, I had small scratches all over both arms, and the scales no longer held their shape.
Assembly of the costume was done on a heavy 2" PVC tube frame. I had to hold the costume up while removing this frame, then turn around inside of the costume to face forward. After this, I still had to hold the costume up while I put my feet down into the legs and those nasty elevated feet. All this effort exhausted me before I even started, and caused me to fog up the plastic scales too.
As a result, all of the belly scales came off, and were replaced with smaller three-scale combinations. The Upper scales were still plastic, but cut into smaller scales. I used hot glue to attach a fabric bead around the edge of the plastic scale. The metallic red fabric was stretched over the plastic, and hot glued to the back bead and scale. The fabric-covered scales were then stitched into place over the foam scales and to the body. Center scales with the spangles and black gems were salvaged and re-used when possible.
Two heavy-duty tripod legs were attached to the internal frame just below the battery and control panel. The tripod legs can be extended down between gaps left between the scales to support the front of the costume. Now, to enter the costume, all I do is crawl under the body and stand up. Once standing, I can release the tripod legs, and pull the lower extensions up into the body until I am ready to get out.
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