The Art of Darkness

Corset Leggings

April 2nd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Corset LeggingsThis is one of those posts inspired by mild outrage at the price of a commercial version of a product vs. the materials and effort actually involved in making it. The product in question are Poizen Industries’ Vixxsin corset leggings, which are lovely but could be made a teensy bit cheaper than $50.

All you’d need is an inexpensive pair of leggings, a couple strips of contrasting fabric for the inner panel, some ribbon, and some grommet tape.* Sew the contrast fabric to the sides of the leggings. Sew the grommet tape along the sides of the fabric, hiding the raw edges. Lace with ribbon. Boom; done. Maybe an hour’s worth of work.

The leggings are nice because they stretch, so it isn’t difficult to maneuver them through a sewing machine. You could try the same technique with trousers made of other material, but it might be harder to keep the fabric from bunching up. If you’re making the clothing from scratch, just apply the contrast fabric and grommet tape before sewing up the inner seams.

The same technique can be used for other articles of clothing, such as jacket sleeves or the sides of a dress. Instead of appliqueing contrast fabric and tape on top of the article, you can also cut it and apply the tape to the raw edges. There’s a tutorial at Trash to Couture showing that method. (There’s an even simpler method at Aliennation which doesn’t even use the tape.)

This is an inexpensive, easy way to add a little pop to clothing, and a great way of giving a makeover to an item you’re bored with.

*Grommet tape (also called lacing tape) can be found at fabric stores or corset-supply retailers like Farthingales and Corset Making, where they’ll also have long laces if you’d prefer something sturdier than ribbon.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

Mourning Parlor Domes

March 27th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Parlor DomeMan, the Victorians just beat us hollow where creative mourning is concerned. Parlor Domes–bell jar-type glass display cases–were a hugely popular part of Victorian decor. Also hugely popular was any kind of memento mori woe-is-us sentiment. Put ‘em together and you get gorgeous pieces like this French cemetery scene, containing hair from the deceased.

They put me in mind somewhat of the desktop cemeteries I did a couple of years ago, but I think I might like these even better; the view of the interior is clearer and I love the way the tree fills the dome.

Something like this–with or without the hair–would be relatively straightforward to make. Glass display domes are available at craft stores and trophy shops. Miniature trees and other landscaping details are widely used in model railroad layouts, so there’s a large variety, in several scales, to choose from (this weeping willow and this dead maple are nice). Tombstones, crypts, iron gates, and other cemetery accessories are available for both model railroads and dollhouses; ditto the ground cover and materials used for building up the substrate.

The finished dome would be a lovely addition to a desktop or mantel. If anybody accuses you of being morbid, inform them that such displays have a long historical precedent, so there.

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DIY Steampunk Medals

March 20th, 2014 by Cobwebs

MedalsA lot of steampunk costumes have a military bent, making a chestful of medals de rigeur. They’re a popular DIY item, so tutorials are abundant, but most of the ones I’ve seen either start with a premade ribbon (which limits your decorative options) or require you to go through way too many steps to achieve the desired effect. I’ve done a (hopefully simpler) take on the technique. I gothed things up a bit with my choice of pendants, so you can wear these and sneer, “That’s Admiral Frankenstein to you.”

These go together really fast, so after you fill your uniform with them, you can make extras for personalized party favors or just to award randomly to friends and co-workers (“For meritorious service in clearing the copier jam, I present you this medal of honor”).

All the gory details are right here.

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Penne Dreadful

March 12th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Pasta IngredientsI was being a smartass on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and commented, “There needs to be a goth pasta dish called Penne Dreadful.” I chortled quietly to myself and thought that would be the end of it, but I forgot who my friends are: A dozen people immediately started suggesting ways to make this happen.

Tanya suggested squid-ink pasta (an excellent choice), and said that a cream sauce made with purple cauliflower would make a lovely contrast. xJane noted that with food dye, all things are possible. Then JaniceMars showed up and waxed rhapsodic about the dark puttanesca sauce one could make with purple tomatoes, red onions, and black olives.

And then she went one better and actually made the damn thing.

Her wonderful, appropriately violent recipe can be found on her site, Prodigal Sock. She uses green (spinach) penne, which is nicely creepy and readily available, but if you want to go all the way and use black penne, you can find it here (they have black spaghetti too).

A fun garnish would be these “eyeballs” made from cherry tomatoes and mini-mozzarella balls.

Thanks, JaniceMars! You’re awesome.

(Bonus link: Whilst I was looking for squid-ink pasta sources, I ran across these gorgeous zebra-striped bow ties. There’s apparently an even-Halloweenier black and orange version, but I can’t seem to find an online source for that.)

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 4 Comments »

Altoid Tin Dioramas

March 6th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Altoid 221BTerribly Messy Maker Nichola “Knickertwist” Battilana decided to express her love of Sherlock Holmes by re-creating 221B Baker Street inside an Altoid Tin (she’s since made several additional versions, shown here).

I think these are simply adorable; I love the notion of a whole little world that you can carry in your pocket. It’s like dollhouses taken to the next level of twee.

I’m apparently really late to the party in being surprised by Altoid-tin art, however: Nichola has done other awesome designs like this Halloween vignette, and googling “altoid tin diorama” turns up a ridiculous number of amazing designs.

Artfully Musing did a Mini Apothecary. Miss Lorna Rose did a neat Nosferatu version. The Uniconoclast does neat Halloween ones.

Sabrina of Split Coast Stampers made a creepy Halloween tin. Jabauer did a zombie-themed one.

Jim Doran combines the tins with carefully-cut paper to create a whole series of “miniature worlds.”

If you like Altoids anyway, you suddenly have a whole new reason to buy them. The dioramas would make really interesting party favors. You can create personalized scenes for all of your friends. And after you’ve gifted everybody you know with a teensy diorama, you can squeeze out a few more tins with an Altoid Advent calendar like the steampunk version done by Over the Crescent Moon.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

Mail a Slice of Cake

February 19th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Cake PostcardThis isn’t precisely goth, but it’s such a brilliant idea that I have no choice but to share it. Over at She Knows there’s a splendid tutorial for making a mailable slice of cake.

It’s a wonderful trompe-l’oeil whose main ingredients are a sponge and some caulk. The result is apparently quite durable and is certainly a memorable way to send a postcard. There’s a related pumpkin pie postcard tutorial which could also be repurposed as a cheesecake.

Either of these would be a really unique party or wedding invitation. You could up the Goth Quotient a little by making the cake “red velvet” with black icing; since caulk is usually available in only a few colors you could either carefully tape the “cake” and paint the “icing” after it’s applied and dried or custom-color it before application.

If you aren’t feeling up to making these yourself, there’s an Etsy shop which sells them pre-made. A bit pricey if you want to send a lot of them, but reasonable for a one-off where you really want to make a splash.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

Sugar Scrub Cubes

February 13th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Sugar Scrub CubesI shared a recipe for sugar scrub recently, but there’s another variation on the theme which takes only a little more time and effort: Sugar scrub cubes.

Their qualities are slightly different: Regular sugar scrub is made with oil, so it’s great for dry, chapped skin. The cubes are made with a soap base, providing the same exfoliating sugar without being quite as, y’know…oily. They’re molded into little single-serving chunks, making them easy to use (and easy to package as a gift); they can also be molded into other shapes for visual interest.

There are two main methods for making the cubes, one with a melt-and-pour soap base (available at many craft stores, online soap-supply retailers, or Amazon) and one using a grated bar of soap. The latter method uses only materials you probably already have around the house, but the former doesn’t require you to grate a bar of soap, so use whichever strikes you as easiest.

Method 1

  • 1/4 C mild, skin-safe oil: Olive, almond, avocado, grapeseed, jojoba, coconut, etc. You can also use cocoa butter if you prefer, although it’ll give the finished product a slight chocolate scent so bear that in mind if you decide to add scented essential oil.
  • 1/2 C shredded or grated soap (plain, unscented soap like Ivory will give the most uniform results)
  • A few drops of skin-safe essential oil (optional)
  • 1-2 drops Vitamin E oil (optional)
  • 3/4 C sugar: Granulated sugar, raw sugar, or a combination.

Mix the oil and soap in a glass bowl and microwave in 15-second bursts, stirring in between, until the soap is melted and everything is thoroughly combined. You can also do this in a double boiler if you prefer. Stir in a few drops of essential oil and Vitamin E oil, if using. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Pour into molds (see below) and cool. Note that the mixture will set up very quickly once the sugar is added, so be sure your molds are ready in advance.

Method 2

  • 6 oz melt-and-pour soap base
  • 4 oz mild, skin-safe oil
  • A few drops of skin-safe essential oil (optional)
  • 1-2 drops Vitamin E oil (optional)
  • 18 oz sugar

Cut the soap base into small chunks and melt according to manufacturer directions. Stir in the oil, essential oil, and Vitamin E oil if using. Add the sugar and mix thoroughly. Pour into molds (see below) and cool.

A mold can be as simple as a metal baking pan lined with plastic wrap: Once cool, turn the block of scrub out and cut into cubes of the desired size. You can also use ice cube trays: Either spray them with cooking spray or use a silicon mold to ensure they’re easy to turn out.

You can also get a little more creative and use candy molds. The texture of the scrub is a little too rough to show fine detail, but bats, pumpkins, or maybe even spiders

There’s a lot of room for variation in both of these methods: You can add a few tablespoons of dried herbs like mint or lavender for both scent and visual interest. You can use colored soap (especially easy with melt-and-pour) and match the color to the scent: Scarlet with a rose scent or orange with a spicy cinnamon-vanilla fragrance–especially nice in a pumpkin-shaped mold. If you’re really feeling fancy, you can pour the scrub in layers and use a different color for each; this is easiest to do in a large mold and then cut into individual cubes later.

To give as a gift, pile several in a pretty box, tin, or jar. Include instructions to not let the cubes get too warm (lest they melt); they should last up to a year.

(Photo from Rustic Escentuals)

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Ramen Ho-Tep, the Cheap Mummy

February 11th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Muslin MummyA couple of summers ago the Shadow family vacationed at the beach, and one day we wandered into the year-’round Christmas shop that all beach towns are apparently required by law to have.* The store had a small Halloween section which I automatically gravitated toward, and one of the display items was a little bendable fabric-wrapped mummy…for $45.

I thought, “That appears to be a wire armature covered with muslin, which is about $2 worth of materials. I bet I could make that.” And the other day I finally got around to it. So this is my cheap knockoff version (hence his name).

Mummy 1

You only need two materials: Bendy wire and fabric. (Click the thumbnails for larger images.)

I had some plastic-coated wire left over from another project; it was a bit thin so I doubled it. If you have a thicker-gauge wire, you can just use one strand. Bend a long piece of wire in half; this is the head, body and one leg. Wrap the middle of a shorter length around the “body” up near the head for arms. Wrap one end of a second piece a bit lower for the second leg. Bend the tips of the arms and legs at a 90-ish degree angle for hands and feet.

Mummy 2

Cut or tear some fabric into thin strips. I used some plain white cotton that I had lying around, which tears nice and straight; just make little cuts along the edge and then tear from that point. The strips I used were around 1/2″, but you can use larger or smaller depending upon the size of your finished mummy.

Tie the end of one strip to the wire armature somewhere and start wrapping. When you get to the end of one strip, knot on another one and wrap over the knotted spot.

Finished Mummy

When done, stick the final loose end under the wrapping. If desired, secure it with a touch of fabric glue. That’s all there is to it.

I made the torso on mine a trifle long, but since these take around 20 minutes to put together (and you can always unwrap it if you really hate it), it’s easy to experiment.

Zen Mummy

Since they’re bendy, you can change their pose as the mood strikes you.


Fun! Super-easy! Make a whole army of these guys and let them lurk around the house. They’re also a really great make-your-own favor project for kids’ parties, and since they can be bent to hold signs they’d be a fun placecard at dinner parties.

*No, really. There is some bizarre symbiotic relationship between beach tourist destinations and Christmas shops. I have yet to encounter one without the other.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 3 Comments »

Bustle Bar

January 29th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Bustle BarThis is completely marvelous.

Mieljolie of All Things Crafty likes to do steampunk cosplay, and she got to thinking that it would be nice to not have to tote beverage containers that detracted from her costume. Thus was born the Bustle Bar, a “rum-dispensing bum” which puts her beverages where her bustle should be.

Her initial design concealed everything but the pump, but in the spirit of steampunk she rejiggered all of the working parts to be exposed on a custom leather belt. The rig holds three 1.75-liter tanks which are dispensed via a trigger on her hip. It’s a gorgeous unit, and although she doesn’t include exact build directions, there are good photos to use as a jumping-off point.

She also discusses the costume she wears with the bustle, and describes how it all goes together. It’s really a great idea.

Be sure to check out the rest of her blog as well; there’s not only a wealth of other steampunk tutorials, she does awesome Witch BOO’ts and other cool stuff.

Posted in Doom It Yourself | 2 Comments »

DIY Hand of Glory Prop

January 23rd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Hand of GloryI’ve been fascinated by Hands of Glory ever since I first read about them in The House with a Clock in its Walls, and when Dave Lowe posted a prop he’d made, that was the motivation to try my hand (har!) at something similar.

A Hand of Glory is the mummified (sometimes pickled) hand of a hanged criminal; it’s often specified as being the left (“sinister”) hand, or if he were hanged for murder, the hand that “did the deed.” It’s topped with a candle made from his fat mixed with virgin beeswax; in some traditions his hair is used as a wick. It is variously described as making its holder invisible, rendering anyone who sees it motionless, or causing the residents of a house to remain asleep as long as it’s present inside; sometimes it’s also credited with the power to unlock doors. Such a device would, obviously, be of great use to burglars or others who wish to remain undetected.

I wanted to make my hand a little less cartoony-looking than Lowe’s version, but I quite liked his notion of crudely lashing the forearm to a candlestick; it looks just like the sort of jury-rigging born of convenience.

I used the same pantyhose-and-glue method as for my mummified fairy, and I’m quite pleased with the result. If you’d like to try it yourself, I’ve posted a full tutorial here.

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