Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker

My friend Ann at WonderStrange did a Living with Art for the Holidays contest last year, which involved altering or creating a holiday-themed item for the holidays.

I decided to alter a Nutcracker from the dollar bin at Target for this challenge.  I think he actually cost $2.

Nutcracker Front - Before

The first step was deciding on a design.  I took a photo and did a quick sketch over the top using DrawPad.  Originally I wanted to do Groot with fireflies around him like a Madonna.  Then I realized the drum would be perfect for a baby Groot plant and the front of his chest reminded me of a certain someone, so I changed the concept to Rocket Raccoon.

Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Mockup


Next step was to take off all the miscellaneous parts, sand them down, and start modifying!

Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker In Pieces Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Pieces Gesso

I used Apoxie Sculpt to make the face more Rocket-Like…

Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Front Face Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Side View

… AND to make the baby Groot!  His base is one of the drum sticks drilled and glued into the top of the drum head 🙂

I AM (baby) GROOT!

After everything was sculpted and sanded, I painted on a couple coats of Gesso before starting the paint job.  I used random crappy acrylics from the craft store (like the Americana brand), as well as some other slightly nicer stuff in tubes (probably Liquitex basics).

Here he is almost finished.  Excuse his protuberance.. he’s just happy to see you!

Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Almost Complete

And the final look!  Originally I was going to use the white hair that came on the Nutcracker, but then I remembered I had a scrap of fur laying around, so I used that instead.  The styling is meant to mimic the sides of a raccoon face when it is fluffed just right.

Rocket Raccoon Nutcracker Finished FrontRocket Raccoon Nutcracker Finished Right

Photo Dec 12, 11 28 05 PMRocket Raccoon Nutcracker Finished Left



Things I would change and design elements I considered but left out

Overall I am very happy with how this turned out.  Originally I wanted to glue hair to the arms and legs, but it just wasn’t working.  The paint job in general is lacking.  The drum sticks out.. I wanted to keep the shape of the drum but didn’t want to paint it all white like the movie.  I might sculpt a white pot eventually. Another idea that got left on the cutting room floor was to make his gun and glue it to the nutcracker flap.  I just didn’t have time for this, plus it would interfere with the hair, which I think came out awesome.  The other thing I wanted to do was paint the Guardians of the Galaxy symbol on the helmet.  I ended up leaving this out because I didn’t think the logo was that recognizable.  The hat could still use a little something.  Just goes to show that when everything doesn’t work out the way you want it, you can still end up with something cool!

Pro Tip: Measure Twice, Cut Once, Redo None-ce

My current project is a Captain America Belt based on the original The Avengers movie.  This belt has eight pouches (though I am only making six of them).  To save time and hopefully make them all consistent, I decided to mass produce them, doing each step six times before moving to the next one.

Sounds great, right?  Not if you’re me!

Incorrect Side Pieces

The observant reader will notice that the left (correct) piece is larger than the piece on the right.  Somehow for the sides of the belt pouches I mixed up the size, cutting the original pattern piece instead of my modded, larger one.  Not only did I cut out TWELVE of these fuckers (a pouch has two sides, after all), I also sewed them down onto 12 pieces of the fabric.  It was only when things didn’t line up as I was trying to fit everything together that I noticed.  AAUGH!!


There are a number of ways this could have been avoided.  In order for some good to come out of this, here are my tips for preventing this in the future.

  • Clearly mark pattern pieces and/or destroy unneeded ones
  • Double check the fit after the first piece was sewn, rather than the 12th
  • Notice that the seam allowance on the top and bottom were larger than the sides (I did notice this), and then DON’T excuse it as something that I must have done on purpose (it was not on purpose)
  • Keep better notes on an in progress project, so when you pick it up again a few weeks later you know things like dimensions, whether a pattern piece was modified, and what step you stopped on.

There you go, a lesson in Common Sense 101!

Red Sonja – Bikini Straps

The chainmail bikini that my client bought for her Red Sonja cosplay originally had suede cord as the fasteners.  Unfortunately when she was tightening the knots at a con, they snapped!  So after that con she got back in touch with me to replace the strings with something more substantial.

Rich actually ended up doing all the work on this one because he is the leatherworker.  All of the cord was replaced with leather straps and D rings.  This makes it infinitely adjustable, but still secure enough to wear for a full day.

Red Sonja Straps Finished

Here are some detail shots.  The straps are not completely symmetrical because we used scraps that were already cut from other projects.  The hardware all came from Tandy (and probaby the leather, too!)

Red Sonja Back Strap Red Sonja Bottoms Strap Detail Red Sonja Bottoms Strap Red Sonja Strap

Red Sonja – Leg Bands

The Red Sonja leg bands were constructed out of Worbla(*) , craft foam, elastic, and some leather trim. This was my first experience working with worbla and it was a lot of fun. Definitely understand why everyone loves this stuff! 

The bands ended up being about 1.5″ x 15″, enough to wrap almost the entire way around the client’s leg, but not quite. The pattern was free handed and roughly based on the cosplay reference I found on Deviant Art. I was going for a sort of hammered steel look.  The core is two layers of 3mm craft foam.  The bottom layer is solid, and the top layer has the cut outs.  I glued them together using regular PVA (elmer’s) glue and then covered them in Worbla.

Red Sonja Leg Band Pattern Red Sonja Leg Band Foam and Worbla

Actually wrapping the bands was a learning experience.  Worbla actually “stretches” a little, because once it is malleable it can be pulled.  I found that it was best to cut the worbla slightly smaller than necessary so that once it was warm I could kind of bring the edges together to seal them.  If there is too much overlap or you do not cut enough darts out on curves, you end up with lumpy bits that are difficult to smooth.

I used a darice embossing heatgun(*) that I picked up at Joann to heat the worbla.  To protect my floor, I used a 12×12 inch tile that was leftover from the house.  As the worbla heats, it will darken a little.  If you heat it up too much in a small area it can start to bubble.  After a while you learn the right amount and surface area to heat.

After doing a rough wrap with the worbla, I continued to soften it and work it into the depressions created by the foam. The round head of a pin worked surprisingly well to help squish it into the edges.  It was also useful to poke a hole in the worbla and let air out if bubbles did form.

Red Sonja Leg Band Wrapped

Then I added D rings using worbla scraps as fasteners. The rings move freely once the worbla cooled down. Then I heated and bent the band into the shape I wanted

Red Sonja Leg Band D Ring Attachment Red Sonja Leg Band Bent

After the bands completely cooled and hardened, I covered the front and backs with PVA glue to smooth out the surface a little bit.  Then came painting. First I brushed on a layer of black acrylic, followed by a metallic silver spray paint from Krylon.  After that dried, I dry brushed some black back in before finishing with a gloss clear coat.  The look I was going for was more cartoon/comic than realistic, so I wasn’t super detailed.  I just wanted there to be some high and low tones to make the pattern pop a little more.

Red Sonja Leg Band Black Base Coat Red Sonja Leg Band Silver 1 Red Sonja Leg Band Silver 3

To fasten them to the legs, I decided to go with an elastic/velcro contraption, which was covered by a silver leather scrap I found at Joann.  I actually wish I had done this differently.  I wanted something that looked like it was “one” piece and didn’t want any elastic or modern hardware showing. The silver piece is meant to be trimmed and lie flat once the elastic is taught against the skin, to make the transition between the band and elastic more seamless.  This didn’t work out as well as I hoped it would, and I wish I had gone with a more traditional method, or used some leather scraps and a D ring.  

Red Sonja Leg Band Attachment Red Sonja Leg Band Leather

And here is the final product!

Red Sonja Leg Band Finished


(*) affiliate link

Red Sonja – Gloves

The first thing that I worked on for Red Sonja was the gloves.  I’ve never made gloves before, so I did a lot of googling before deciding on an approach. Originally I wanted to use a heavily interfaced stretch pleather, but I couldn’t find the right thing at the store, and my samples came in too slow from Spandex House. Plus after making a mockup in some spare pleather I had laying around I decided it would be much too hot. 

Instead, I ended up with a coffee colored pigskinsuede split from Tandy, thinking it would breathe more. According to the site it is a 1 – 1.5 oz hide and approximately 6 sq feet, although I feel like mine was closer to 4. For the pattern I used Butterick5695 because it was laying around in my stash. I knew all those 99 cent pattern sales I hoard would come in handy for something!

The first thing I did was create a mockup of the glove using some old pleather that I had left over from my batman-inspired dress.  At the end I had something that actually looked like a glove!  It was pretty cool.

First Glove Prototype Back

Red Sonja’s gloves have a pretty distinct flare to them, as well as a cutout.  The total flare of the cuff was determined by slashing and spreading the prototype, then filling in the space with masking tape.  The total circumference ended up being just shy of 15 inches.

First Glove Prototype Cuff

The only other modification I made to the Butterick pattern was to shorten the thumbs by 1/4″.

When laying out the pattern I was trying to lay the fourchettes on the thinnest part and the cuffs/gauntlets on the thickest.  This might have make a small difference, but to be honest the whole hide is pretty thick so it was still difficult to sew.

Red Sonja Glove Layout

Even with glove needles sewing the fourchettes in was very very tough. I was able to do machine sewing on some of it, but the corners and finger tips had to be hand sewed.  Even using a three-sided glove needle and thimble, this took forever!

Red Sonja Glove Fingers

I’m really pleased with the way the cutouts came out.  For the cuffs, I used fusible interfacing on the lining (which was a polyester whatever from Joann), then reinforced the cutout with another piece of interfacing after I folded the edges in. The Lining was sewn to the top edge after the rest of the glove was constructed, then turned to the inside.  I sewed around the cutout to keep the lining and outer cuff together, then very carefully trimmed the leather on the outside.

Red Sonja Glove Cuff - Lining Cutout CloseupRed Sonja Glove - Lining Cutout Interfacing CloseupRed Sonja Glove Cuff - Lining Cutout FinishedRed Sonja Glove Cuff Lining

Overall I’m pleased with how they came out. The fingers are not as even as I would like them to be, but once they are on the flaws don’t show as much. I mean.. I made GLOVES! For some reason that is so much more satisfying than the normal things I make.

The “glove stand” is just a piece of foam board with a cut up pool noodle from the dollar store hot glued to it.

Red Sonja Glove Finished Back Red Sonja Glove Fist Red Sonja Glove Inside Cuff Red Sonja Gloves Finished Back

Red Sonja – References

My friend commissioned me to make the accessories (gloves, leg bands, sword) for a Red Sonja costume.  This will be his girlfriend’s very first cosplay.  They are going as Red Sonja and Conan for Wondercon 2015.

The astute reader may notice that this is posting after Wondercon 2015.  You would be correct.  I’m going to break the build into three posts anyway: References, Gloves, and Bands.

We were going for the Comic Book look, rather than the Brigitte Nielson movie.  There… isn’t much to it, but I got to learn some new techniques and do things I’ve never done before, and the whole costume turned out great!

Here are the main references I used:

Red_Sonja_001 red_sonja_005_by_malcolmflowers-d5x7eb8 rs52-pr a4_213978_0_RedSonjaSheDevilWithaSword44A


If I had kept up with blogging when I created my first one, I’d have been “a blogger” for over 15 years now.  Instead, the last decade and a half has been full of fits and starts, internal drama over branding before I even understood branding as a term (Do I use my real name?  Do I use my online name?  Do I keep one theme?  Do I write about everything in one place?  Should I use WordPress or Joomla?), and general laziness.  Case in point, I purchased this domain in May of 2013.  This post you are reading was first created as a test post in Feb 2014, and in October of 2014 I finally wrote the words you are reading now.  Expect my first content post sometime in early 2015!


I strongly believe that an idea is worth nothing.  The value is in the execution.  It’s time for me to start practicing what I preach, and thus this domain will be home for a while.  Its purpose is to document all of my crafting endeavors.. the late night, last minute inspirations along with the more thoughtful and detailed builds.


The idea of “eleventh hour” has a couple different meanings.  First, I find that much of my creativity comes at the last minute.  It forces me to get over my analysis paralysis and just start cutting, already.  Second, I’m in my early 30s and sometimes feel like it’s too “late” for me to claim my little corner of the interwebs.  This is of course a ridiculous notion, and what the self-help gurus would call a limiting belief.  And so I am forging ahead, focusing on action and not giving a damn if anyone actually notices.


This one is for me.  And for you… but… mostly me.