Some of you who were reading last year will remember my Eight Days of Santacraft series, which featured some of the custom santa suits I've made over the years for the annual Santacon extravaganza/parade/crawl/rampage - including some of the earliest major craft projects I've undertaken.
Sadly, this year Santacon definitely didn't happen at all.
But even though it didn't happen, I decided to do a little work to round out my current santa costume.
I was relatively happy with the final form of my Cthulhu Claus suit last year - it was comfortable, durable, weatherproof, it did a pretty good job of saying "Cthulhu"...but even with the fur, the hat, the boots, it was a little lacking in iconic Santaness.
The part of the traditional santa suit that's always been a hangup for me is the beard. They're uncomfortable, awkward, make it hard to talk (or drink), and I usually end up ditching them almost immediately.
Last year I'd grown my real beard out a bit and bought some white hair colour to dye it, but I ended up staying overnight at a friend's with a very early departure and didn't want to be A: Covering their sheets with white hair dye or B: Trying to colour my beard in an unfamiliar bathroom at 7 in the morning.
But this year I decided that for my suit to really say "Santa" it needed finishing up with a beard. And it must be a beard worthy of Cthulhu himself - actually the beard I originally conceived and rejected for my very first Santacon - with the tentacles woven into the hair.
With nothing else to spend on, I could justify the (still moderate) cost of a better quality beard, with a strong fabric backing and decent elastic.
I cut an initial tentacle shape out of dark green felt and experimented with weaving it into the beard, but quickly concluded that I wanted something more 3D.
I've made a tonne of stuff like this and it's the easiest way to make something solid out of fabric - if you haven't had a go at sewing but would like to give a try I highly recommend it. Just cut out a shape in two layers, overstitch the edges (the needle goes through felt effortlessly) and poke some stuffing into it with a pen if it's too narrow to get your fingers in. This tentacle took less than 5 minutes to finish. The felt even expands a little around the stitches, mostly hiding them (which is particularly good as I had no dark green thread).
The wide mesh of the beard backing fabric made it easy to stitch each tentacle on...
And after the first I gave each one a "spine" of soldering wire (pipecleaners would be better) to allow them to be positioned and shaped.
With all the tentacles attached, I experimented with posing them until I had a good "writhing" effect.
I'm pretty pleased with the final effect! An unexpected bonus is that it kind of looks like the tentacles are emerging from fog or sea foam...very appropriate for the Dread Lord.
Afternote: After roughly 20 minutes of wearing it, the beard went in a bin in Covent Garden because it was itchy as hell and the hairs kept getting up my nose. The struggle continues.
I'm aiming to do one more post before Christmas, then take a break until the new year. Things are pleasantly busy at the moment - I've been able to spend more time in the workshop developing my new pouches and some new notebooks, and I've had some custom leatherwork orders too; business is looking good.
Before I finish this week, I'd like to say a quick thank you to the lovely Ronan from Dublin, who shared his own experience of taking control and fixing his own stuff, with a particularly ingenious clamping bodge...
"I had to fire you an email. Once I had read your post on Quick Fixes which mentioned the cracked freezer drawer I decided I had to give that a go. I bought the exact same Bulgarian glue and then went at it.
The first attempt was a failure because the broken sides of the drawer were too far apart and even when I heavily weighted it with mason jars filled with pasta I couldn't quite get the edges to meet.
So I left it for a few days, wasn't sure what I was going to do and thought... "there has to be a way to put sufficient pressure on it to keep the edges together."
And then last night I had a Eureka moment. Our kitchen table expands, so you can pull the sides apart and pop out a central section to make it bigger. So I opened the table and improvised a vice by closing the heavy pull out parts of the table on the drawer and wedged them with chairs to stop them from moving.
Adding in a few tins to weight down a section and better align the edges and I was able to paint the crack. I woke up this morning and it worked! I'm chuffed. I am the last person to do any DIY so thanks for the inspiration!!"
It may seem like a small thing, but as I said to Ronan, I really believe developing the confidence to just try these things for yourself makes you feel more capable and ownership of your stuff in general - particularly that crucial point where you get stuck but push through anyway and find a solution. Proud of you Ronan, and I'm glad my article provided that little bit of inspiration :)
See you soon!