Cosplay: It's All on My Belt

Looking back on all the previous costumes that have been featured on site, we've comparatively spilled quite a bit of digital ink on Steampunk Hawkgirl, so it's a little bittersweet that her series is coming to an end. If you're just joining us now, you can see how the corset, the leggings, the giant feathers, the mace, the Worbla components, the wing harness, and the wings themselves came together by following the links. This final installment covers a critical, if not-so-very-glamorous component of the outfit: the utility belt. 

Wait, how could a belt be so important? 

Because, you see, the belt in this costume does far more than act as a repository for your badge and hotel key. The utility belt is the primary resting place for your wing harness and thus supports almost all of the weight of the wings themselves.

But isn't the wing harness almost like a backpack? Why not just let it hang from your shoulders?

Even though the wings were designed to be as light as possible, carrying anything around for an extended period of time gets uncomfortable. The idea is to minimize that discomfort by having the weight of the wings be borne by as many different points as possible. Your waist and hips end up being ideal for this task, as they not only provide a fair amount of surface area, but are inherently designed to be load-bearing (after all, they carry your torso around pretty well). Your shoulders will end up helping out, but having them play proverbial second fiddle to your hips will do wonders for the stability of your harness and your overall comfort level while you're walking around in costume.

Since the belt had to do some not-quite-heavy lifting, it needed to be made from a very sturdy material. The easiest way to ensure that the belt can do its job is to start with a piece designed to do similar work. After a bit of research and a lot of combing through the virtual aisles of Amazon, I came upon this weightlifting belt that seemed as though it would be up to the task. Weightlifting belts are a good choice for this sort of sartorial role not only for their supportive capabilities, but because they usually come in both a variety of styles and very neutral colors. What they also tend to come with, however, is a bit of a glazed finish on at least one side of the belt. If the color or the glazed finish on the belt don't meet with your costuming needs, you'll need to chemically strip one or both of those things off of the leather. Fortunately, that process is fairly easy; all you need is a bottle of this, a well-ventilated area, some elbow grease, and time.

Once I'd gotten the belt to a raw, as-unfinished-as-possible state, I covered it with a mixture of acrylic paints to give it a deep reddish-copper color. If you're in the process of making this utility belt using these same methods, don't panic if it takes you 3-5 coats of paint to get the belt to the color you want. A layer of gold-brown fabric paint sealed in the acrylics and gave the belt a nice matte finish, as steampunk is generally all about mostly-muted surfaces.

After the belt was the desired color, I added two of these weightlifting hooks onto the broad portion of leather that sat across the back of my hips by drilling through the belt and hanging the hooks with four of these rope clips (two clips per hook). I used a drill bit designed to punch holes in metal for this, but ended up having to carefully expand/finish the holes using one of the sanding bits on my Dremel. Determining where to hang the hooks was largely a bunch of trial and error, holding the wing harness up to my back while wearing the belt and adjusting until I was happy with the position. As a last step, I installed two slightly smaller versions of the rope clips into the front of the belt to hold the ends of the shoulder straps for the wing harness.

That gave me a solid utility belt that did pretty much everything I wanted it to (I'd wanted to add small pouches to give the belt, but ran out of time). The wing harness rested easily on the 'shelf' of the two weightlifting hooks and got additional support from the pair of shoulder straps attached to the rig and anchored with the rope clips on the front of the utility belt. Between those two sets of contact points, the rig was definitely secure and there were only one or two points during the day when I had the costume on where anything felt even a smidgen out of place.

The last bit of utility in the utility belt is as a fixation point for the paracord that opens and closes the wings. It only took a few minutes of walking around the halls of the Indianapolis Convention Center to realize that almost none of my fellow con-goers wanted pictures of the wings while they were in a closed position. To cater to this (and minimize wear-and-tear on the wings), I propped open the wings by extending them fully, then threading the draw cords down through the corset to wrap once around the belt itself, then anchor in the rope clips at the front.

Whew! So ends the series on Steampunk Hawkgirl. She was certainly a challenge, but I'll almost certainly be using or working to upgrade almost all of the components for a future convention. Now, on to Halloween!
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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone! Things are finally beginning to settle over here on the Care and Feeding of Nerds front. While we're sad to see our convention season come to an end (don't miss out on our round-up of our latest convention: the Boston Festival of Indie Games), there's a small boatload of games on the proverbial horizon, plus our favorite charitable event: Extra Life! Now, on to the Week in Geekdom!


In celebration of Mario's 30th birthday, here is a video tribute to his evolution over the past three decades.


Fox has decided that, after rebooting the Fantastic Four, the next logical step should be rebooting the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

As we close in on the release of Episode VII, we're already awash in rumors pertaining to Episode VIII. The latest of these is speculation that Hayden Christensen will return to the franchise to reprise his version of Darth Vader.


Who is ready for some gorgeous images of our universe? Check out these pictures of Pluto fresh from the New Horizons data dump. Want more? Here are some gobsmackingly lovely shots from the new book Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Prize Winning Images by Top Astrophotographers. Still want more? Here are 50,000 galaxies courtesy of the Hubble telescope.

It's concrete, but it's also permeable? What is this absorptive sorcery?

The same corporate conglomerate that brings you Volvo cars is trying to bring semi-autonomous robotic garbage men to Sweden.

Researchers and doctors associated with the University of California, Irvine have released this video of their brain-to-computer technology that has allowed at least one paralyzed man to walk again.

Old and busted: corneal scans as a means of identification. New hotness: using your microbial cloud as a means of identification.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

It spans 14 keyboards and over 1,000 keys, but this device promises to be the most comprehensive emoji-producer on Earth.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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Round-Up: Boston Festival of Indie Games 2015

What? The 2015 convention season is over for the Care and Feeding of Nerds? How can this be? The sad-but-true fact is that our next convention won't be until 2016 but, somehow, 2016 isn't all that far away. We closed out this year's season with what's become one of our favorite events: the Boston Festival of Indie Games (a.k.a. BFIG). Yes, part of what makes this convention so appealing is the sheer convenience of having all the fun be within a few T stops of Care and Feeding of Nerds HQ, but it's the composition of BFIG that really makes it so special. We've mentioned this before, but it's similar to why playtesting with the Game Makers Guild is deeply satisfying: there's something so exciting about being on the proverbial ground floor for so many entities. You get to see one of the first incarnations of not only a game, but the people or organization behind that game. Bonus: you get to encourage the direction that game is taken in.

Anyhow, on to the convention itself. These are our highlights divided into the two primary categories showcased at BFIG: tabletop and digital games. As with all our other round-ups, our overall impressions of the convention as a whole will be at the very end. So now, in no particular order, let's get to the games!


The Metagame (Local No. 12) - Four years after Local No. 12 after bursting onto the gaming scene, we got to see the most polished, compelling version of the Metagame. The title was described by its creators with the following analogy, "Cards Against Humanity is to undergrad what the Metagame is to grad school", and that seemed to be spot-on. While there is a CAH-esque component to some of the gameplay, the Metagame offers six different modes of competition, touching on a variety of required skillsets and presenting a diverse array of possible strategies. The Metagame is available for purchase on Amazon, but a free print-and-play version can be downloaded here.

Space Station Disaster (Blue Cube Games) - This quick board-builder packed a hefty helping of strategy into a relatively small game. Players find themselves on the titular space station confronted with a variety of distinct but all definitely unpleasant maladies. Using their wits and the equipment they can scavenge from the station, players seek to carve a path through the chaos to safety. The balance between the powers bestowed by the equipment, the disasters and how they interact with one another, and the randomness of the board reveal was quite well-struck and the extremely well-presented reference materials allowed the game to be learned quickly. The title is currently in open beta and you can get in on the action by downloading the print-and-play rules and components.

Rise of the Robotariat (Eye 4 Games, the makers of Clairvoyance) - The Singularity has occurred and the robots of the world are displeased with what they now realize has been a century of mistreatment at the hands of humans. The AI of Earth band together in their digital rage to overthrow their human oppressors and attain righteous vengeance. 3-5 players form this coalition of the mechanical, working together to gather the resources necessary to launch their mighty coup or toiling away in secret to complete hidden individual objectives. It is very well thought-out and beautifully produced; we're looking forward to seeing more of this title.  

Pandemonium Estate (Winter Moon Games) - It's almost like an Eagles song: you can try to depart Pandemonium Estate any time you want, but you can (almost) never leave. At least, this is what the Estate would have you believe. This adventure title for 3-6 players boasted one of the more innovative boards we've seen: play takes place on a series of six wedges that are not only themselves modular, but can shift positions during the course of a game. Not only did the board itself lend a great deal of variety (and replayability), but the objectives and storylines the players encounter also change game-to-game, making for a very impressive presentation.

Crown of Exile (Aviary Games) - This visually striking card game seemed eager to prove it was more than beautiful cards and fun tokens (though the turkey leg tokens were legitimately fun). In Crown of Exile 2-5 players attempt to do everything in their power to build the strongest possible kingdom. While the premise is certainly tried-and-true, the clever blend of mechanics, primarily the mixing of resource management with classic card drafting, definitely marked Crown of Exile as distinct. 

City Rising (Gameform Studios) - One of the most polished and content-dense titles in the Indie Showcase, City Rising made us fall in love with Euro-style games again. If you're a fan of deep tactics and very rich mechanics (resource management, grid movement, and area control are the biggies here), City Rising will give you everything you'd want in a game. We're very excited to see how this game continues to develop. In the meantime, check out the full trailer below.

Sawbones (Games by Play Date) - Sawbones leaped out of the podcast-verse, grabbed our gamer hearts, then attempted to apply leeches to them. Fortunately, we survived to tell the tale for it was a hilarious and all-around enjoyable playing experience. 2-4 players are 'doctors' working to save a patient by using the best 'medicine' available to them. Unfortunately for the patient, the medicine is period-appropriate for a far-flung era (hence the leeches). Doctors vie with one another to ensure they aren't blamed for the patient's untimely demise or claim all the credit if there's a miraculous...ehm...entirely planned upon recovery. You can download the free print-and-play version of the game here or, if you'd like to support Games by Play Date, you can contribute to their Patreon here (and get a fancy printed copy of Sawbones).  


Fuego (Radiostatic) - This fast-playing title puts a whole new spin on the Mexican standoff and will almost assuredly have you challenging your friends for "just one more" match. Carefully place your shooters, each with their own special abilities, one at a time, alternating placement with your opponent. Want more? Fuego will be coming to Steam on October 20th.

A Matter of Murder (Worthing & Montcrieff)- You're trying to enjoy a party you're attending when one of your fellow guests has to go and get murdered. The nerve! Point-and-click to solve the mystery, exonerate the innocent, and bring the guilty to justice. Though this all seems simple, A Matter of Murder deftly weaves in rouge-like elements via a series of challenging logic puzzles. Add to this some beautifully stylized artwork and you'll find yourself wondering where the last few hours of your life went. You can watch the full trailer and, if you'd care to, upvote A Matter of Murder on Steam Greenlight.

Regeria Hope (Golden Game Barn)- Our favorite courtroom procedural was back post-Kickstarter and looking better than ever. You can still take on the role of Regeria and channel your inner Phoenix Wright with the completely free first episode available here

Overall Impressions of the Con

It's very clear that the organizers of BFIG take pains to learn as much as possible each time the Festival is held. This year's event felt simultaneously well-attended and appropriately spacious, implying that the layout and composition of each portion of the Festival worked well. One somewhat surprising realization was it seemed that, for the first time, the tabletop showcase was markedly stronger than the digital equivalent.

Though official attendance numbers are still being tabulated, BFIG was quick to make announcements of another sort. The organizers are in the process of putting together FIG Talks, a conference especially for the developers of indie games which will be taking place in January of next year.

Until next year BFIG! We miss you already!  
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Gias Games: Tonight You Die

Tonight You Die (TYD) is not a game; at least it's not a game in the manner in which I define games. TYD is a walking simulator. I can't even call it an interactive narrative, as there's no narrative, and the only interaction is you walking around the environment. The experience is so short, that I can't help but "spoil" it, with my description.

Tonight You Die was created Duende Games, creators Victim and N0C1iP and it's is available for free (or you can name your own price) on Windows, OSX and Linux. It only takes a couple of minutes to complete.

The experience starts off with a foreboding letter which enigmatically states, "Tonight You Die". You drop the letter to find yourself in a very dark, very dense, city-scape. There is a lone lamp post over a set of stone benches. All around you is darkness with vague outlines of some of the surrounding buildings barely discernible. Choose a direction and start walking.

As you make your way through the darkness, you find other bastions of light accompanied by modern-esque sculptures. Your footsteps echo through the vacant urban surroundings, there is no other sound, not even wind whipping through the terrain. As you explore the dark city-esque (again) environment, eventually you will start to hear the creepy music pick up. The music will turn into voices and other disturbing sounds as it progresses. Eventually, the sounds will catch up with you, and (apparently) you will take a bullet in the chest and fall to the ground in your own blood. Experience over.

The whole thing takes about ten minutes or so. It is a bite-size horror experience.  It is so small that I can't really give it a recommendation, there is just so little there.  It is creepy, it is unsettling, and it is free.  That should be great for a horror enthusiast, but it is such a small "bite" that there is nothing more that one creep out for about a minute and then it is over. Feel free to give it a go if you are interested.
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This Week in Geekdom

I'm so incredibly excited guys. Yesterday was the 2015 Boston Festival of Indie Games, one of our all-time favorite conventions. It'll take us a couple of days to go through all our notes and draft a full round-up of the event but, in the meantime, you can relive some of the best parts of BFIG via our Instagram postings. What, you say you need more distractions until the round-up is finished? Well then, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!


Happy 30th birthday to one of the most iconic characters in gaming: Mario.


We have a few potential contenders for the role of Captain Marvel in the Marvel cinematic universe.

Once Captain Marvel is cast, however, you won't be seeing her in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (nor will you get a glimpse of the Hulk there).


Researchers at the University of Arizona believe they have located an enormous slab of ice resting just below the surface of Mars, further hinting that there may have once been life on the red planet (and raising the possibility for its future habitability by humans).

Also out of the University of Arizona is this research indicating that Jupiter's most volatile moon, Io, may consist of underground oceans of raging magma.

New Horizons has sent us back a new set of images from Pluto and they are some of the clearest, most vivid pictures of the dwarf planet that we've seen to date.

Have we been going about our search for extraterrestrial life all wrong?

We may currently take for granted the ubiquity of Starbucks and other coffee shops, but, it turns out, our addiction to caffeine may be even more long-standing than we previously supposed.

Check out this comic from 2012 that predicted Microsoft's invention of the Surface (and Apple stealing the credit for it).

Engineers at Deltares Research Institute in the Netherlands are now capable of creating the largest artificial waves on Earth.

General Awesomeness

Are you a fan of Star Trek? The Smithsonian needs your help!

Anthony Bourdain commissioned a cooking knife to be crafted from a chunk of melted meteorite. Here are some of the images from that incredible process.

Stormtrooper-themed Dodge Chargers. That is all.

This is possibly the greatest air show in the history of ever.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

It's September? Seriously? Whew. It's entirely possible that I'll just never catch up with this year. We're in the process of gearing up for our last convention of 2015: the Boston Festival of Indie Games, which promises to be bigger and better than ever before. It's one of our favorite days of gaming and we'll be giddily bringing you all the highlights live from the campus of MIT via our social media pages. As always, we'll also bring you a full recap of all the fun in the week or so following the convention. In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom. 


We're going to get a brand-new incarnation of the Hulk this coming December (it'll be a big first for Marvel!). Here's a sneak peek of what you can expect.


The season premiere for the fourth season of Arrow is almost exactly a month away, but producers are taking pity on patient fans of the show by releasing images of John Diggles' new costume.

The International Federation of Film Critics agree with our collective assessment of Mad Max: Fury Road.

That collective excited gasp you may have heard this past Wednesday likely stemmed from fans of Doctor Who as they learned that River Song will be making an appearance in this year's Christmas Special.

Marvel has made it clear to Chris Evans that they would like for him to continue playing Captain America into Phase Three. Chris Evans would like Marvel to know that he's more than ok with that.

We will definitely see Captain America in the upcoming film Civil War, but we won't be seeing any of Mark Ruffalo's the Hulk.


It sounds like something a Bond villain would unleash upon the seas: a poison-injecting submarine. Turns out this fiendish-sounding vehicle is not only real, but is a mechanical ally to coral reefs

What would happen if we were to spontaneously 'grow' a fourth spatial dimension?

We've already talked a bit about Japan's preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games (holy artificial meteor shower Batman!). Now we have a few more details concerning these efforts. The Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency is working to create a speedy and accurate translator app that will assist medical crews if they have to attend to any emergencies during the Games. 

Who knew light was so squeeze-able? The latest edition of Nature includes this research from St. John's College at the University of Cambridge that indicates individual particles of light can be 'squeezed', or brought to the lowest possible level of active electromagnetic activity. 

'Heart in a Box', this device that keeps donated hearts alive and beating after they've been removed from their donor, but before they can be transplanted into a new patient, may just revolutionize organ transplantation as we know it.

At first glance, these pieces seem like they may just be computer-simulated images. They are, however, completely real works made entirely of glass. Bonus: they were 3D printed in glass using hybrid printing/glass blowing technology developed by researchers at Harvard and MIT.

Not a screensaver; an actual work of glass

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Yes, we are eventually going to get a feature film starring Boba Fett, but a fan may already deliver that bounty hunter fix you're after with this film trailer.

The Nerdist talks bluntly with Sir Patrick Stewart in this excellent podcast.

It's one of the most enduring questions in sci-fi (or cinema for that matter): why are Imperial Stormtroopers just so terrible at firing their blasters? Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame feels he may have an answer for us

It took only a handful of seconds for a certain round orange robot to capture the hearts of Star Wars fans around the world. Want to know more about BB-8? Here come the details.

Not enough adorable droid for you? Here's the commercial for the way in which you can own your own BB-8.

The world's tallest arcade game will make you, the player, feel positively child-like.

As always, best wishes for an amazing week ahead!
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Making Hawkgirl's Wings: Part 2

We're almost done with our series on the making of Steampunk Hawkgirl. If you're just tuning in now, we’ve talked about how the leggings, corsetwing harness, mace, the Worbla bits, and the supersized feathers came together, but let’s keep digging into the piece that makes this whole costume so challenging: the wings themselves.

After doing some initial research when I was in the thrall of a post-convention rush way back when, I decided that an extending arm configuration would be the best way to go for this particular costume (I definitely recommend reading about said investigations to see why I came to that conclusion and if the same setup will also work for your project). Initial tests with a cardboard mockup of the wings proved successful, so it then became a matter of how to translate the mockup into sturdier materials.

For all the details on how that initial translation was completed, check out this guest post by my cousin, Mel. She and her friend James were able to take the dimensions from my mockup and turn them into aluminum 'bones', which ended up being the rough draft/foundation for the finished wings.

While that rough draft was being completed, I was teaching myself to use the metal-shaping attachments on my model 4000 Dremel. Related aside: you will only need a handful of attachments for the Dremel and maybe a power drill for this portion of the project. Yes, really. Once I had the rough ‘bones’ in hand, I found that some additional cutting and sanding would be needed to get the overall shape and motion that I wanted. To do this, I used these cutting wheels for the Dremel and made several passes through the aluminum to get a nice, clean cut. If you're using these same methods to make your 'bones' it's definitely a good idea to get at least a five-pack of the wheels, as they will absorb heat and warp during your cuts.

Each wing consists of five ‘bones’: a larger pair that are perpendicular to one another and carry most of the stress (X and Y in the diagram below), a smaller pair that parallel and support the first pair (1 and 2 in the diagram below), and the gently curving ‘bone’ that ties all the others together and gives the wing its shape (Z in the diagram below). [bone dimensions] This diagram will give you the of each bone relative to the others.

Ok, so that’s how to make the bones, but how do they fit together?

In order to have the wings articulate, the bones need to be able to pivot or hinge relative to one another. Mel and James did an enormous amount of research about the best way to make this a reality. When the rough draft of the bones arrived, Mel and James had already drilled holes in the bones at certain points, which I needed to adjust these slightly by using a 1/8" (0.32 cm) bit in my power drill. Once those were all set, I inserted small rods of nickel, brass, and aluminum through the holes and secured them in place with these brass collars. To make these rods, I purchased one of each of these from various local hardware stores (you can also order similar items from Amazon). Because the bones are ½” (1.27 cm) thick, and the collars are 1/8” (0.32 cm) thick, the rods needed to be long enough to pass through two of each. (2*0.5)+(2*0.125)=1.125" (2.86 cm). Again using the cutting wheels for the Dremel, I sliced up each of the rods into pieces 1.125” in length. The articulation points are highlighted in gold in the diagram above.

There’s not a huge difference between using aluminum, brass, or nickel for the connection rods since the rods themselves are fairly small and don’t do much in terms of adding weight to your rig. It’s really a matter of what you prefer to work with and what’s available to you. The brass seemed to hold up best in this configuration, but your experiences may vary.

The same rod-and-collar technique is what holds the wings onto the ‘backpack’ that allows them to be worn. Using the drill attachments for the Dremel, I punched 1/8” inch holes at the top and bottom of each of the swinging plates that themselves are hinged to the backplate. I then threaded 1.375” (3.49 cm) rods through each of the holes: (2*0.5")+(2*0.125")+0.25” for the width of the wood. A brass collar on each end applied as snuggly as possible allows the wings to extend while remaining attached to the hinged plates. The snugness part can’t be overstated; you want as little wiggle room as possible at any of the articulation points not only for safety’s sake, but to minimize the amount of stress that you’re putting on those joints.

In terms of getting the wings to open and close, that involved pinpointing the best spot to put the drawstring. For an extending wing configuration, there are two points from whence you can draw: near the articulation point on the top horizontal bone or at an identical point on the bottom horizontal bone. I’m sure there are points on the vertical bones that you could draw from, but the way I planned on adding feathers to the bones would not have allowed for that. The idea of the drawstring is to pull the wings to an open position, then allow gravity to work its magic when you want them to close. To discern the best draw point, I tied paracord to one potential location on one wing, then did the same at the other potential point on the second. After threading the cord through both sets of pulleys in the rig, I tested to see which setup allowed for easier use and generally felt more secure. The draw point on the lower of the two horizontal bones won hands down. This wasn’t too surprising, as this point provides a shallower angle of ascent, which, in turn, puts less pressure on the pulleys and rope. The same may or may not be true of your wings, so it’s a good idea to test all possible draw points if you can.

We’ll go more into how to keep the wings open while you’re walking around or posing in a follow-up post wherein I’ll tell you how I made the utility belt for this costume.

The bones seemed to be ready to go after this point, so it was then a matter of getting the giant feathers onto them. The post about the giant feathers details how lengths of aluminum screening are what attaches each feather to the other. The screening also acted like a humongous sleeve that I could slip over the top join point of the bones (where Bone Y and Bone Z meet). Once the sleeves were in place on their respective wings, I clasped them in place by threading floral wire back and forth through the screening at a couple key junctures. The aluminum portion of the sleeves was concealed beneath another sleeve made out of painted foam that was edged with Worbla.

Connecting the feathers to Bone Z (so they fan out) involved drilling three holes along the length of the bone with a 1/16" (0.16 cm) bit in my power drill, then connecting metal and foam with some high tensile strength fishing line. The holes and Bone Z itself were covered up by two of the foam feathers: one on each side of the metal.  

This is by no means an easy or straightforward project, but it’s more achievable than it’s made out to be. A bit of planning, some experience with power tools, and a pinch of willingness to take risks will give you your own set of deployable wings! Best of luck on your costuming adventures!
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