CA Community Theatre website contribution

In July I wrote a 2 part “how to get organized” article for the CA Community Theatre web site.  Simple things to do to keep your shop and lighting area clean and organized!  You can check out the site at 

Tree Table and Mushroom Stools

I created a tree table with 3 mushroom stools for my nephew’s playroom. The tree base comes off so the table can collapse for easier storage and transportation. The mushrooms have hinged tops for the boys to store toys. This project can be pretty cheap, especially if you have some scrap wood and fabric around the house/shop. Let’s start with the tools and supplies needed:
  • Pen
  • Straight edge/ruler
  • Scissors
  • Utility blade
  • 1/2″ plywood
  • 1″x3″ stick on lumber (I used 3 @ 8′ long)
  • Luaun
  • Foam
  • Staple gun with 1/4″ staples
  • Circular saw
  • Hammer
  • Screws (I used 1″)
  • Screw gun
  • Jig Saw
  • Pad Sander or sand paper
  • Fabric
  • Concrete form (I used 10″ diameter)
  • Paint
  • Hinge (I used 2″)
Note: Always use safety protection. Such as gloves and goggles. It’s also best to have someone else around when cutting to help hold things steady. Here is a picture of most the tools I used. 1. Decide how call and how many mushroom stools you want. I have 3 nephews, so there are 3 stools. Use a ruler to make a line around the Concrete Form at 12″. Use the Circular saw to cut the Form. I Jug Saw can also be used, but will not get as straight a line around. You can see the concrete form standing in the back right of the picture above. 2. Cut 3 pieces of the 1×3 at 1′ each. Or whatever height the stools were cut to. 3. Screw the 1×3’s to the inside of the concrete form. I used 2 screws each. Space them out. This will add extra support for the stool to be sat on. And give you something to screw the top and base into.

4. Place the concrete form on the piece of luaun. Trace the outside of the form. Cut it out with the jig saw. Sand the sides to get rid of any splinters. 5. Place the luaun circle on top of the concrete form. You should know where the 1×3’s are, due to the screws in the side. Screw the piece of luaun to the concrete form. Make sure the screws are sunk in so they don’t rip the fabric cover later. 6. Time to wrap the bottom of the mushroom! Choose a fabric, preferable something thinner since there will be a lot of gathering. Lay it on a flat surface. Now time to calculate how large of a circle you will need. You can do this the math way, or the visual way. Math way: diameter of concrete form + (2*(height of the form)) + 6″ = Diameter of fabric. Visual way: lay concrete form on fabric edge, roll to stand it up on end, roll to lay it on other side, add the width of your hand. Kind of like wrapping a present. 7. Draw a circle. Again, you can estimate it, or you can take the radium (1/2 the diameter) and find a middle point, tie a pen to a string at the length of your diameter, and draw a perfect circle that way. It is not important that it is perfect. That is why there are 6″ extra to fold into the top. I had a table almost exactly the size I needed, so I used the table as a measure, and cut the fabric around the table. 8. Place the concrete form (solid side down) in the middle of your circle. Gather all of the fabric and shove it in the concrete form. 9. Start one one section, gather the fabric in the area, use the stapler and staple it down. Then go to the opposite side, pull tight against the staple, and staple again. This will keep the fabric from moving around too much on you. Work around the inside of the form and staple it down. I put a staple every inch or so. If the fabric is too thick, you might need longer staples. If the fabric is really thin, get smaller staples. 10. The base can be finished at this point. I knew kids were going to be playing with it, so I created a bag out of cotton fabric that I sewed to the inside of the concrete form. This made the inside look cleaner and kept splinters and staples away from the kids hands. 11. Time for the top of the mushroom. Get the concrete form (or base of the mushroom) and the piece of plywood. Draw a circle on the plywood that is about 2-3″ wider than the mushroom base. Cut out the plywood with the jig saw. Sand the sides to keep splinter down. 12. Lay the plywood circle on the piece of foam. Again, draw a circle about 2-3″ wider than the plywood. Use the utility blade to cut out the foam. 13. Lay the fabric down, lay the foam on top, draw a circle about 4-5″ larger than the foam. Cut out the fabric. 14. Back to the staple gun. Grab a piece of the fabric and pull it towards the middle of the plywood. Use your staple gun, and staple it down. Turn the mushroom top 1/2 way around, and do the same to the other side. Make sure you pull hard against the staple. This will keep the plywood and foam in place while you work your way around the circle. Always pulling tight and stapling.

If your fabric does not go all the way to the middle, good. If your fabric is too long, and bunching up too much in the middle, take the scissors and cut it back. 15. Another circle! Lay the scrap cloth over the bottom (staple) side of the mushroom seat. Draw a circle that does not go to the edge of your seat, but covers all the staples. Cut out this circle. Lay the circle back on the seat and staple it around all the edges. Make sure to turn under the outside edge of the circle. You don’t want to see the raw fabric.

16. Time to attach the two pieces. Get a hinge, no larger than the 1×3 used inside the form. Screw one side of the hinge into one of the 1×3’s in the form. Place the seat on its face, so the plywood is facing up. Place the bottom of the mushroom on the seat. Try to make it as centered as possible. Slowly lean back the base so you can get your hand under it and find the hing and hold it into place. Screw the hinge to the mushroom seat.

17. Paint circles on top of the seat. I went with Mario Brother’s colors. 18. Scotch guard everything! There is no way to easily clean these, so I put a few layers of Scotch guard on everything to try to keep them as clean as possible. 19. Table time. Much easier! Lets start with a base. Choose anything! I used a 1/2″ rectangle piece of plywood. Because I had that in my shop and was tired of circles. Sand all the edges so there are no sharp areas. 20. Choose a fabric or to paint it. I chose fabric because I loved the texture of this fabric and thought kids would like to touch it too. Lay the fabric face down and put the wood on top. Use the staple gun to attach. Again, pull tight and use plenty of staples. If any of the staples do not go in enough, use a hammer. This is sitting on the floor, so need to ruin the floor with a staple sticking out. 21. Decide the height of the table. I chose 2′ since my stools are 1′ (not taking into account the plywood and foam, but that is ok). Cut 5 pieces of 1×3 and 1 piece of the concrete form at that height. 22. Take the concrete form and cut it in 1/2 up the long way. When you are done, you will have two half pipes. I used a circular saw to make it as straight as possible. Sorry, I forgot the take pictures of most of this process. 23. Screw the 1/3’s to the concrete for so they line up with the edges. Meaning when you put the concrete form back together, the pieces of wood will be touching. 24. Choose a side. Screw a hinge to the top and another to the bottom of the form 1/2s on the outside. The plywood is there to give the form strength for the hinges. You want the concrete form to be open so you can see the inside, and close, to hide the support for the table. 25. Choose a fabric for the tree trunk. I went with a dark brown crushed velvet. This time it does not need to be a circle. Get a piece that is a rectangle, about 2 times longer than the circumference (around the outside of the circle), and about 6″ taller than the form. 26. Find the middle of fabric staple it to the hinge section of the form. Both at the top and the bottom. 27. Get the end of the fabric, wrap it about 1″ around the cut section of the form, and staple it down. Both the top and the bottom. 28. Finish gathering and stapling the fabric around the form. 29. The table top. I had one in stock from an old project. But if you don’t, decide how large you want the table to be, draw a circle (direction on # 7), cut out with a jig saw, and sand all sides. 30. Take the remaining 1×3 and attach a hinge to both sides. Make sure they go opposite ways. The plan is that it will fold up on itself if it does not have the concrete form around it. See picture above if this is confusing. 31. Find the middle of the base and the middle of the table top. Attach the other 1/2 of the hinges. This part is probably easier to do with 2 people since its hard to hold up a table and 1/3 while trying to sink a screw in. 32. Open the tree trunk, and slide it around the 1×3. Close the tree trunk. Now the table will stand on its own. 33. Paint your table top! I rolled on a medium green paint. Then sponged on a darker and lighter paint to give it texture. Again, since kids were going to be playing with it, I added 3 coats of a clear varnish to seal everything and make it easier to clean.

Satele Shan Cosplay

In 2015 I created my Satele Shan cosplay. Satele is a Jedi of old from the Knights of the Old Republic games. I had a few pictures and screen shots from the game to work off of. Image I kept on my phone for months.

I started with the fabric clothing. I borrowed a mannequin from the Long Beach Playhouse, got a large cheap piece of muslin, scissors and pins. This was my first time working on a mannequin and I fell in LOVE! So much easier than trying to pin it on myself. And a lot less pokes. The pattern was not pretty. There were many sections pinned together and folded. But it was cut out to fit my body and to match the pieces I saw in the original picture. I bought fabric that matched as close as possible to the original picture, with out being custom made. I bought plenty extra just in case I messed up. I used my pattern to cut out the final fabric, then pinned it all together to make sure it still worked and hung right. This was my final chance to make it fit or lay any different. Notice the pieces overlay each other instead of the normal “front to front” sewing. This is required for the next step. Satele’s outfit has yellow/gold lines around it. For this I used tri fold bias tape. Matching the color as best I could. The tricky part about the sewing was wrapping the bias tape around the edge of one piece, and over lay the first piece with the 2nd piece. That way I only needed one seam to hold it all together. This made it cleaner looking. I used the same color thread as the bias tape. The white piece around the hip was created the same way as the other pieces. The bottom of the white is not sewn on to anything. This helped look like things were layered instead of all one piece. It also helped my legs move better. I did not take a good picture, but the front has a zipper that I built in, to make it easier to get on and off. There is a front piece that goes over my shoulders and down my front. That will hide the zipper.
The top neck pieces is a whole separate piece. I thought I was going to have to add support or stiffeners on the shoulders, but the fabric was stiff enough to hold shape on its own. The right side of the front folds over the left side. This made it easy to get on and off. To keep it closes, I used self attaching Velcro. I did not want to see the thread. I used the Velcro on 2 spots on the back as well, to keep it from slipping around. The bottom of the front did not need to be attached. The belt would hold that part in place. The main sewing part if done!

The armor is all made out of sheets of foam, the stuff you can buy at Michael’s Craft Store, and an amazing invention called Wonderflex. We will get to that in a minute. I looked at all the armor pieces in the Satele picture. These should be thicker and non bendable. But I didn’t want to weigh 100lbs either. SD Comic Con is in the spring/summer time. I used different thicknesses of the foam and plain white glue to hold them together. Not all of the pieces I made are exactly like the picture because my body is not the same. So I could not get as many lines on the shins or straps around my arms. I focused more on the spacing and look, and not every line. Make sure the gaps you leave between the pieces are larger than you think they need to be. This will be important when you work with the Wonderflex.
Wonderflex! The next best thing to the manaquin. This stuff is a thin piece of plastic that become very bendable (like fabric) as a fairly low temperature. It will mold around anything. Once it cools it is as hard as any other plastic. It can be reheated as many times as you need. Cuts with a knife or scissors. Can be sanded and painted. One side of the sheet is a little more rough than the other. This is the sticky side. It helps adhere to whatever you put it on, especially itself. Cut out 2 pieces of the Wonderflex to be slightly larger than you need for the foam pieces you have created. Heat it up using a heat gun. These look like hair dryers that you can find at a hardware store for under $20. Lay the foam piece on top of the Wonderflex and press down. Make sure you wear gloves! I have burnt my fingers a new times. Next warm up the other piece and put it on top. Work from the middle out to make sure you can bend it and get in all the gaps and shapes. Then press it down all around the edge. Not just to iteself, but also to the foam. This will take some time to get use to, since it takes a lot of reheating and messing with. Once you are happy, set it aside and wait for it to cool. It takes maybe 5 minutes. Then use scissors to cit around as close as you can to the foam. It will leave a little edge around the foam piece. Again, warm up the Wonderflex and smooth out that piece. Makeing sure it is all pressed together and sealed around the foam. In the end, it will just look like a solid piece of plastic. Now you can shape the piece. To do this, I made sure I had pant, or a shirt on that I didn’t mind would get a little messed up from the Wonderflex. I warmed up the piece, on both sides, and formed it around the body part it would be on. Using my hands to hold it there till it cooled. The pieces now need to be primered, sanded a few times (to make as smooth and metal like as possible) and then painted. Regular primer and spray paint work great. Especially the metallic spray paints. Make sure to do this outside as it will get everywhere and smell. Not all of the pieces are painted, some looked like the clothing. I used the extra pieces of fabric to cover these. Since Wonderflex can be sticky, I used that to my advantage. I warmed up the piece and stretched the fabric over it, getting it as tight as possible. Once it cooled, it helped to hold the fabric still. Then all of the edges were glued down with a hot glue gun. Again being held as tight as possible to the Wonderflex/foam piece. To create pieces that needed to wrap around my arms, I used a larger piece of fabric to attach the armor to both sides, then pieces of Velcrow to attach to each other. This made it a LOT easier to get in and out of costume. I used the self adhesive Velcrow, but it did start to pull off after wearing it all day. I recommend Barges Glue. This has to be ordered on line. But is amazing. As you can tell, my corgi Sir Doggington helps me on all my projects. Shoes. No outfit is complete with out them. There are many tutorials on line on how to made boots. The fastest and most comfortable way, is to buy slip on shoes that you can easily walk in for hours. Get that fabric back out and lay your leg out. With your foot at a 90 deg angle, as if you were standing. Now trace the outside of your leg and foot. Leaving LOTS of space. Cut this out and pin the front and back together, leaving the bottom of your toot and leg hold open. Put your show on and put this cover over it. Does it fit? I had to do this a few times, each time moving pins around to make it more form fitting to my leg and the show. You want it tight. Otherwise it will not say up on your leg. Especially for this outfit which goes above the knee. After you are happy with all your pins, made sure to add a zipper. Otherwise how will you get your foot in and out. A longer zipper is best. I could have used 3 more inches to make it easier. Once the zipper is in and it is sewn, try it on again! Trust me, seams are easier to rip than taking clue off of shoes or starting over. Now that it all fits, attach the bottom part of the fabric to the shoe. I used hot glue and did it all the way around the fabric part of the shoe, but left the black rubber part. For the armor on top of the shoe, I used the trusted hot glue gun. The armor on my shins and knees were strapped on with fabric straps and safety pins. I know, safety pins are not the best, but I was running out of time! Now for the final touches! You will need some braid in your hair, a lightsaber and some pouches (i got these at the army surplus store). Trust me, you need somewhere to carry your money and cell phone. Purses and backpacks just are not convenient for all the pictures that people will wont to take of you! Myself, our nephew (Anakin Skywalker from Episode II), and my husband Willis (Darth Raven). All made by Willis and I.