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The Steel City and Steam

There’s a movement that is slowly emerging from the underground into the mainstream culture. It’s doing it through movies like “Sherlock Holmes” and “Hugo” that capture our imagination in soot lined London streets, oil stained elegance and gleaming clockwork. It’s bones are steel I-beams forged from the voices of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft… It carries with it a doctrine of ingenuity, creativity and the belief in mankind’s ability to handcraft the future. It steps from the century old pages of history and proclaims loudly that the world can be remade any way we choose. And it won’t be sterile white and gleaming chrome…

In towns like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles it’s already a known entity and even people not involved with the culture are fascinated by it. It’s been featured in such television series as “NCIS” and “Castle” to much acclaim. The movement I’m expounding upon, is called Steampunk. And it is a counter culture that’s gaining popularity around the world. When I say ‘counter culture’ I mean so in the way that “goth” or “punk” are counter cultures. Though they are by no means related. Steampunk attracts individuals with it’s extravagant costumes, ingenious creations,  vintage design and open acceptance of people of quite literally every age. Those who follow the movement and participate range in age from one to one hundred.  Now I know a few of you may have just connected the dots there and are picturing your seventy something grandfather walking around in a costume all day, but it’s not as outrageous as that. ((Okay, in some cases it is, but he’s your grandfather, not mine…))

It’s not about shock value, but a return to conservative values.  A belief that we shouldn’t have to need a translator to understand our own native language and common curtesy should not fall under the heading of “chivalry is dead.”  A belief that women should dress like women and men should dress like men. ((No one wants to see your bum hanging out of your waistband! We’ve been over this several times already! Gents, your boxers have skid marks and ladies,  your exposed thong ‘T’ is not reminiscent of a Brazilian underwear model’s. Pull your bloody pants up!))

Wikepedia defines steampunk as “… A sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. [It] involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain or “Wild West”-era United States—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. […] Other examples of steampunk contain alternative history-style presentations of such technology as lighter-than-air airships, analog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace’s Analytical engine.

And that’s just the beginning! I could go on for endless pages on the philosophy and history behind the movement and literature that it’s based off of! But what’s the point? Where am I going with this?

My point dear readers is that this culture is huge in Chicago and NYC and LA and is barely a footnote in the city where it should be!

The heart of Steampunk is the Industrial Revolution and the Victorian age… And where was the heart of the Industrial Revolution during the Victorian age? It was here.

Right here in our home town of Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Three rivers for transportation, abundant coal and oil, and resources… An investment community that would attract and bet on a twenty-two year old kid named George Westinghouse who had an idea for an air brake. For more than fifty years, this city birthed industrial empires- many of which still exist today! We made steel. We invented  the steam turbines for maritime propulsion!! Out History Center and the Museums built by Andrew Carnegie are some of the best in the WORLD!!

Steampunks should flock to this city like pilgrims to the holy land!! So why aren’t they? Where are they?

What were you expecting an answer? Sorry. I don’t have one.

Look! A review!

So now is the time for me to post once more, my own oppinions about the world as part of some vainglorious illusion that people actually care what I have to say… 

Today’s topic? Dresses! Or more specifically, dress patterns and the pattern makers who make them… 

Sewing has become a new hobby of mine, especially on a grandiose scale. well… Moderately grandiose.  No, I will not mend your jeans, but I will happily spend days making tiered bustle skirts and tailed bodices to wear as I feel like it. Despite my assumptions that it wouldn’t, my steampunk style really leans into the neo-victorian end of things… I can’t help it! I love pretty dresses! And spending $100 on fabric and fasteners is a lot cheaper than $1200 on premade items. Of course, when I started all this a year ago, my last sewing lesson had been in the eighth grade, so it’s been a bumpy ride training myself to do most everything all over again. Thankfully I’ve had the help and advice from my Aunts, Linda and Tina, and  plenty of forum suggestions. As well as my own “try it and see what happens” attitude. The results, while not always clean and professional- have been usable, pretty, and I’ve been able to feel a sense of pride in their completion. As I go- naturally I want to take on bigger and bigger projects.

Now… I tell you that story to tell you this one….

For Christmas this year, My Aunt Linda gifted me several patterns ((corsets, and skirts)) as well as a $50 gift certificate to Ageless Patterns.  I was estatic! And naturally, had to log onto the website the very next day to spend the $50. 

Ageless Patterns- seems like a nice little shop. They have an excellent array of designs and patterns- litterally hundreds of them- all different styles, by different companies, good prices… Until you go to buy them. Here is where this woman REALLY needs to get with the times. There is no shopping cart as we’ve all grown accustomed to… you have to fill out a digital order form similar to what you’d find in a magazine. She doesn’t accept paypal or google transactions. You have to email her your credit card number if you want to pay that way ((again- no typical shopping cart fill-in blanks))  or payments must be check or money order- post mailed. No cash. Okay… that’s just annoying, but not a big deal. I can tolerate antiquated payment methods. But god help you if you order the wrong thing. No returns. No exchanges. No exceptions. The reason I was given: “It would just turn into an inventory nightmare…” Excuse me? What the hell kind of inventory system do you have that would be thrown off it’s little spindle if you were to do returns or exchanges? Returns- okay fine. I can understand not wanting people to buy the pattern, copy it, then try to return the original. But no exchanges? Seriously? Even me, with my pathetic little jewelry shop and inability to figure out how to do returns with etsy- will at least do exchanges!! What happens if somebody gets a pattern that they already have as a birthday gift or something? They’re stuck with 2 of the same pattern? How is that any use to any one? Again- definitely an antiquated system- and since the owner as much as confesses she’s as old as her system ((she sends a disclaimer in each order that her arthritis some times cause the lines to not be striaght)) she really needs her grandkid to come over and show her how to at least set up a paypal account! 

But, oh, I’m not done yet. 

So with my gift card and a few extra dollars of my own, I ordered 5 patterns- a mix of “Ageless” and “Truly Victorian” designs that I felt I could really be creative with. They were all basic design that would be really versatile- which is important for me because I don’t have a great deal of money and need to be able to mix and match pieces that I create into different outfits.  

My first project was a “Truly Victorian” summer wash skirt. Made out of some kind of crepe type material with a velvet floral pattern, black on black. The pattern came in 6 different sizes and came with a 2 page instruction packet- complete with little drawn diagrams to show you exactly what you were doing. Simple, fun, I busted that bad boy out in about 4 hours. It was really cute, fit well over and under a corset and was the perfect skirt for the Eli August show. 

Emboldened by my success- my next project was an “Ageless pattern” 1887 Cheviot dress. Bought the material I needed and dove right in. Now… I know the real, professional seamstresses, and costume makers out there will be horrified to learn this- but I never make muslin mock ups. Why? because I can’t afford the $30 for muslin when I’m already spending $70 for the fabric itself. That’s $100 when the $30 for muslin could buy me lunch for two weeks. I also don’t have that kind of attention span.  I know myself well enough to know that I only want to do things once. I would make that dress out of muslin and then never make the actual dress. Why? Because I already made it. It’s just a crappy material and I can’t wear it. The project would be put on permanent hiatus as I got bored and moved on. So I just don’t do it.

Back to the dress- I chose a purple gray material that looks and feels like the acrylics used on most prom dresses out there. Not the best stuff- I know- but the good stuff is all $15/yd+ And I can’t afford that at this point in my life. Besides- it was a pretty color and it was a solid color… You will not believe how hard it is to find solid colors.  But that’s a rant for another time…  So I cut the pattern, and began stitching, and was half way through when a niggling doubt began to eat at my brain. Something I couldn’t put my finger on but made me think there was something important I was missing about this particular pattern… Anywho. I stitched all the easily discernible “sew me and me together” stitches, then went to the instructions to check my work and see where to go from there.  Big mistake.  I was doing better before looking at said instructions… Remember how I said earlier that the Truly Victorian patterns “came with a 2 page instruction packet- complete with little drawn diagrams to show you exactly what you were doing.” Yeah… Not Ageless.

All this dress– a FAR more complicated dress– had was 3/4ths a page, block of text that had been copied verbatim from the Haper’s Bizarre catalogue. Okay… It’s not the year 1887. Alot of the terminology has changed since then and oh, by the way- I’m not a modiste!!  I have NO IDEA what the hell you are talking about! Especially when you tell me to connect * to ?? and the symbol ?? WAS NEVER ON THE PATTERN!! “??” is not there. No where. I have no idea where you’re asking me to connect “*”.  Eventually I gave up- threw the dress down and steamed for a few days. I mean, I know I’m a novice and I’m taking on projects that are incredibly advanced for my level, but bloody, buggering hell, would  it kill you to try and make your product some kind of user friendly?! She didn’t even separate anything! It was literally a BLOCK of text. A swear I read it 10 times and still kept loosing my place and probably skipping over things. I mean, I know reinactors can get a bit fussy with making sure things are authentic and period accurate, but I didn’t think they were so clickish that couldn’t let novices have a crack at these things. Was I supposed to spend 5 years sewing petticoats to earn my way into the higher level patterns? 

I took a break and went on to work on a boned bustle petticoat that would give shape to my dresses and pelisses. This I did make out of Muslin and was a “Truly Victorian” pattern. Again, the pattern was drawn for 6 different sizes, and came with easy to read, numbered instructions with lots of little diagrams drawn in the margins. The designer’s website even sold precut lengths of boning so you didn’t have to worry about cutting it yourself. I took this time to check out Truly Victorian’s website and it was about equal to “Ageless” in my opinion.  Still rather plain and out dated in appearance- they had about half the selection of “Ageless patterns”.  ((Namely because half of Ageless’s inventory of patterns were all Truly Victorian patterns… So there was still a good variety.)) And OMG… They take paypal! Woo for them. Busted out that petticoat in 8 hours while chilling at a friend’s house. It wasn’t real pretty as I didn’t bother to add all the ruffles the pattern asked for, ((It’s a petticoat! No one’s gonna see it!)) but it was functional and come summer time I’ll sew pockets into it as a friend showed me to do. ((large pockets in petticoats+ frozen water bottles= instant air conditioning!))

Finally, after about a week or so, I calmed down enough to take another look at the Cheviot dress. Except this time the instructions were cast into oblivion and I began looking at it as “If I were going to make a bustle, how would I gather the fabric?” this technique worked much better, and with a few tries, I’d successfully bustled the back of the skirt into a pleasing and artful waterfall of fabric. Proud of myself for my ingenuity, I then tried the thing on.  

Remember that niggling little sense of something not being right that I couldn’t put my finger on it? Well, I figured it out. Unlike the Truly Victorian Patterns, Ageless patterns only come in one size. And what would posess anyone to think that size was automatically theirs? And yet that was the size I cut…

In a well laced corset, I do indeed have the waist line expected of a proper victorian lady. ((They weren’t into size 0 skeletons back then…)) however… I am a lot more busty then the ladies back then, apparently, were… Definitely a bigger ribcage. 

So after calling myself every type of idiot out there, my inner artist, still rolling her eyes, climbed up out of the dark and dank depths of my psyche that she takes to lurking in each winter, pointed out that it was an easy fix, and handed me a few options to consider. I finally had a reason to use a little of the super fine silk jacquard I bought on accident a few months back… Problem solved, decorations added, and the dress was complete.

So in summation…

Ageless patterns is a lovely collection of outfits and dresses- but are clearly only for people who actually know what they’re doing. I don’t recommend them to anyone who doesn’t rank “advanced” in their skill set. For those of you using the seamstress scale- that’s 5 years of petticoats and three years of 5 gore skirts…  If you think you qualify, you can find their products here:

My ultimate recommendation for everyone else out there- go with Truly Victorian as your pattern maker of choice. They’re user friendly, similarly priced, and have a equally good selection. You can find their shop here:

Good luck, and happy stitching!

Sweet bloody hell I am bad at this.  Almost 3 months since my last update. Me and my blogs/journals/diaries/ect… we just can’t keep up with each other.

So here’s what you’ve missed the last few months….


My first ever experience with a steampunk convention. A 10 hour drive from Pittsburgh to Madison WI… I won the tickets about 2 weeks before the convention, couldn’t find a soul willing to go with me and– if not share the driving then– keep me company. I feel awful that one of those tickets went to waste. Thankfully- blessedly- given my work schedule and all the insanity entailed in a last minute weekend trip, I was able to bum a ride from a friend of mine ((A Mr. Zebulon Vitruvius Pike)) and his friend ((Maximilian Staffel von Dreibach)). We left at midnight and poor Zeb drove the entire thing all on his own. Max and I passed out some time around 4am I think and after a quick breakfast around 6 or 7ish I still dozed off the rest of the trip… ((I’m such a horrible traveling companion…)) When we got there, Zeb grabbed a much needed nap while Max and I wandered the hotel. Saturday morning I volenteered to model in the fashion show, which was fun- and G&B was proud to exclusively bedeck and accessorize all the designers’ creations. I was so wonderful to see how versatile our jewelry could be. The trip as a whole was a lot of fun and I connected with a whole bunch of people that I am happy to consider acquaintances and friends. I can only hope future events will be equally enjoyable…

Highlights:: The IAPS ((LOVE this group)), Scarring Party, Litening to the whole of H.G.Wells “war of the world’s” audio book on the way home.

Smoke and Mirror Absinthe Party:

I think this was officially our most attended and enjoyed event we’ve ever hosted. I was mildly worried because a week before our party, the guest list ((capped at 15 as there’s not a great deal of room at the manor)) was only half full. I sent out a general message to those attending to confirm reservations and received 150 replies!! Turns out, on facebook, if you send a general message and one of those attending is not really an individual but a group or fan page, it sends the message to all that group’s memembers.  The Bridge City Bombshells had RSVP’ed and so all their fans were suddenly clamoring to attend. We filled up our guest list and had a waiting list of another 15 people. I had to cut off reservations after that… Only two or three people off the original list dropped out and each space was immediately filled. I made pasta for dinner, A chipotle alfredo with chicken and broccoli, Rob made dessert ((I don’t remember what is was but it had an orange glaze that was worth killing babies for)) and Jim ((Rob and Mike’s rommie)) brought chicken florentine and mashed potatoes. Everyone loved the food and we had a fabulous bartender who did an excellent job distributing libations. Three differant absinthe’s were available to try ((a French, a Swiss and a German)) as well as Mr. ARM’s basement green concoction which I would rank in potency at the same level as an intergalactic gargle blaster ((don’t drink more than 2 unless you are a 6 ton mega-elephant with bronchial pneumonia)) and would have to say tasted like fermaldihyde and pinesol. ((okay- it wasn’t that bad- but I have to rile him about it, just because)) All in all… Fabulous party. There’s something truly enchanting about good company, unique surroundings, and reflections of a bygone age to really draw you into the moment…  Personally, I can’t wait to plan another…

Highlights:: That dessert… oh god that dessert!!

What’s a Scarring Party?::

So the Scarring Party finally made it back to town and sadly they weren’t flying under our banner this time. But that was fine by me. It meant we could all hang out without me and the crew having to run around like chickens with our heads cut off. Even the elusive Jim made it out to the show. ((My Russian yeti boyfriend)) We all chilled and listened to the other bands… Which was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Aside from the guys who went on just before SP and did all instrumental stuff ((really quite good, but needed vocals)) the line up was simple atrocious. Hell the one group didn’t even take the time to memorize the lyrics!! The girls stood on stage sharing a notebook and reading the words- words to a cover of a song that wasn’t even theirs!! It was like karaoke night at the dive bar! Awful! I remember sharing a look of absolute, disbelief/horror with Isa- SP’s tuba player.  Then the Scarring party took the stage and– naturally blew everyone out of the water! How the hell do you compare a nationally recognized and toured band with a couple of local garage kids? ((Again- that last instrumental duo right before SP being the exclusion… I wish I knew who they were. The right singer and they would be a force to be reckoned with)) We stood right up front and had an absolute blast joking with them between songs, heckling Will, and generally enjoying the music. It was wonderful to meet and hang with them and I can’t wait til they come back to Pittsburgh to play with us. I think the show will be a much bigger hit. Really, this was a poorly planned line up and the audience was all wrong for the type of people SP would normally draw. The crowd should’ve been a lot bigger for that show and the only excuse I can find is that the announcement wasn’t going where it needed to.

Highlights: leaving random terrifying doodles in their mailing list book…

Those Dolls from Baltimore:

December 11th heralded our second major event- the Midwinter’s Ball. Originally planned to be in conjunction with Zomburgh: Zombie Outreach Preparedness Program- the partnership fell through due to miscommunication and bad financial planning. Or broken down- They never returned our calls when we started asking them how much money they were going to help pour into this thing. So in the end they got their byline on our fliers but that was about it… I’m not sure any of them even showed up for the show. :\ We invited The Clockwork Dolls for our main headliner and were ecstatic when they accepted. Saturday morning saw me outside Belvedere’s getting some really quality glares by angry drivers as I steadfastly refused to relinquish the parking space out front so our band could unload. The bar was having repairs made to their heating system- so we couldn’t do too much set up as was since the workers had commandeered the stage. So a quick unload where we set up some vending tables- talked to the bar tender about our set up plans and then we all adjourned to the Churchworks Brewery for lunch. Getting to know our guests was a blast as we traded stories about Pittsburgh versus Baltimore, our favorite music/movies, the conventions past and future, and the more notable faces in the steampunk scene. Afterward we all collapsed at the house for a bit. Then it was time for everyone to dress, pile into the vehicles and get to Belv’s to set up. In typical “opening show” fashion… nothing seemed to be going right at first. The bar tender- whom I’d told our plans to- hadn’t passed them on to anyone else and the two other vendors who arrived before me had been told to set their stuff up next to the door. Poor choice as we wanted people to come into the venue and nothing draws in a crowd like stuff for sale. So I had to make them dismantle their half set tables and move them over to the other side of the room. Then I was told by the owner that where I set up my vendor table and the band’s merch booth- the same place I saw people set up during a Prometheis Burning show- was not allowed to be blocked by tables. ((Oh sure- they can get away with it, but not us? *insert familiar “bird” hand gesture here*)) So we had to reset our own tables as well, and readjust what had been a rather well designed set up. There were some minor conflict between Dave ((The dolls professional and experience sound tech)) and Belvedere’s own part time sound guy. I won’t go into it… but regardless we got everything up, running and it was all downhill from there. Mr. ARM and Velda even showed up, looking suitably creepy and elegant. The Bombshells were amazing as always, Patricia was spectacular and as much fun as I remembered, The Douglases were fantastic and entertaining…. And the Clockwork Dolls… What can I say? There’s just nothing like hearing one of your favorite bands perform live for the first time. I was more geeked out than an anime kid in japan!  Their show was amazing that’s all there was to it! The next day saw us all meeting at Primanti’s for a traditional Pittsburgh brunch and then a jaunt over to the Monroeville Mall to feed Dave’s zombie/Romero obsession. It was a wonderful afternoon and we were all sad when they had to be on their way. Definitely a group of people reserved on my “Call first” list. I can’t wait for them to all come back.

Highlights: Trying to politely explain to the random drunk sorority girl that no, she can’t ask the band to stop playing and hold still so she could take a picture with her cell phone. Oh wait… that’s not a highlight.

Parlor music:

After taking a short hiatus to deal with the holidays and all that they entail, we were back in action with a parlor show for Eli August. You want to talk about a great evening? This was a fantastic, relaxing show! Rob donated his house ((again)) and we lit the entire downstairs with candles and lanterns, served up the liquor we had on hand- to include one of the rare and elusive cases of Babbage’s brown ale- a mico brew salvaged from a friend’s basement where it had been made. Everyone had a great time! There was pizza, drinks, fun and charming guests and great music! I had heard Eli at Teslacon and knew what to expect, but the whole show had this entirely new element to it because of the intimacy of the space. There were oil lamps to set the scene and…. well, what can I say? It was a fantastic show!

Highlights: figuring out that I could use the cat tree and a pencil to get the perfect recording angle with my camera.

So… yeah. I think that sums up all the pivital moments. We’ll see when I manage to get to the next installment….


Have become a tinkerer. Sadly, its not of the entertaining creative variety…. No. I am now a cyber tinkerer. A severely over worked and out dated UV printer that I never dreamed I’d have to do anything more than change the ink in, has been my tutor and the baine of my exsistance… Hence why it has taken me so long to update anything about SCS… I work 12 hours a day tearing my hair out and huffing MEK/ UVink fumes while I teach myself electrical engineering… Honestly, coming to work on acid and staring at my screensaver, giggling at things that aren’t there, would probably be less counterintuitive than my current project… ((And before you ask, yes, we’ve already called someone- I know more about the printer than they do, no, we can’t get a new one because corporate doesn’t want to cough up $175k. Although they’ll give our marketing division $1.7mil to beta test a new printer. I know, sucks, huh?)) 

But getting back to my little pet project and all that keeps me teetering on the edge of sane, we’ve had quite a bit going on that’s worth a mention and I’m only now getting the opportunity to tell everyone about it. 

First and formost was the fortuitous discovery of Miss Brewer and additional steampunk clubs across the city, via the aforementioned Miss Brewer’s lovely little monthly socials.  I was delighted to see I’m not the only game in town, just the loudest. My hope is that all these other groups will work with us, and allow us to work with them to plan more events and things to do…  For those of us who have to make the steampunk lifestyle  a weekend affair, those weekends without it seem horribly empty and mundane. 😦 I’m excited to see what new adventures our new friends come up with. 

Business with G&B has been going well… Apparently while no one can find our stuff on Etsy ((no thanks to people who abuse it’s resources like EDM designs -but, that’s a rant for another time)) anyone who sees our stuff anywhere else usually buys it immediately. I’m really proud of this fact.  Aside from that we had a couple minor flops over the summer. Bound to happen sooner or later, so I’m not real worried. We learn… 

Still we sallie forth onto the next adventure…This being our big steampunk night. WHICH WAS AWESOME!!!  If you weren’t there, let me take this moment to cry, “YOU FOOL! YOU FOOLISH FOOL!!” Seriously, you missed a hell of a party. ((srsly? srsly!)) Anywho… yeah. As one of the planners it was ridiculously nerve wracking… I was trying to shake a cold, and keep ontop of everything that was going on… ((I had a minor heart attack when one of our performers showed up late.)) And because some communication got scrambled between myself, Schiney and the vendor who was supposed to be watching my table as well as her own, there was no one to watch G&B for most of the night. No harm done, but it was harrowing none the less.  

Here’s where I pledge my undying devotion to all our performers and friends that night.  Josh, you’re awesome and you need to come back to pgh at least once a year!!  Isa, you were beautiful- absolutely fantastic. Patricia you were amazing- your music was a joy to listen to. Sean & Co – You guys were fabulous! Seriously, I can’t wait to see you again. Andrew, you were so awesome. I loveyour sound and will definately be purchasing CD’s at the earliest financial possibility. And last but certainly not least, Kelly and Courtney, you guys are my heroes! For real. I love you guys. 

This isn’t shameless flattery… this is serious. You guys made the show and more than made it, you made it unbelievable.  It really gives me hope that we’ll be able to throw even bigger bashes in the future… Which of course, we will… I’m already looking forwards to the Winter solstice ball in December and a few more fundraiser events in the mean while. More tea at Trundle Manor anyone?

Also looking towards the future… I’m thinking of making a web series… Still need that wonderful little device called a camera, ((preferably something with manual focus and white balance… and a tripod… A tripod would be nice…)) but hell my BA is in animation an visual arts… Why the hell aren’t I putting it to use for my own ends? Still putzing with a script… my issue is definitely going to be comedy. People tend to watch shows that are funny if they’re web series… I’m really not funny… at all. Still this city has so much culture and so many victorian elements at its disposal it seems like a shame to waste the opportunity… Now if only I can find a camera, or someone with a camera…

So often enough alot of people hear me bitch about things that are not sp, but what about the things that are? I’ve compiled a list and short review on some of the more prominant names out there and what I think of them… Feel free to agree or disagree, heck go ahead and argue with me bout them, but this is my oppion…

First on the list is Enlightened Platypus. Don’t let the colors distract you. As a straight style, these deeply hooded, patchwork jackets look as though they emerged from the seedy underground of the forgotten alleys. You can request them in more steamy colors ((such as metal hues and nuetrals)) or be wildly adventurous and go for the whole rainbow effect. These comfy looking hoodies go for a pretty penny, the cheapest I’ve seen going for $288, but I’ll admit it can’t be quick or easy sewing that many scraps of fabric together… If you’ve got the cash, I say go for it. If you’re one of our club members, and mention so when purchasing, EP gives a 10% discount. 

Visit her shop here

Next up is my personal love Damsel in This Dress. Damsel creates a wide range of stunning corsets for both renaissance and steampunk stylings. Unique and hand tailored, they’ll have that five year old princess in you squeeling with glee. All her corsets are made of heavy duty materials, that are guaranteed to last that week long festival in the woods. I own one myself and I can say my first thought when I put it on, aside from “Holy fuck this is FABULOUS!!” was “I think I’ll be able to pass this onto my grandchildren.” They really are some of the most stunning pieces of workmanship I’ve seen in corsetry and reasonably priced too.  Simple underbust corsets can start as low as $99 and full belled-sleeved, deep hooded “jacket” corsets with skirttails can go for upwards of $500. The owner, though, is very friendly and willing to work with you to get things just right. She’s even open to custom fabrics. 

Check out her shop here

Next up is the fabulously unique watch workings of Marrianne Handcrafted Watch Studio. The makers harken from South Korea, but the craftsmanship looks to be a far higher quality. The Price is also far higher than you’d expect. Their cheapest actual watch came in at an eyebrow raising $138. Having not seen one in real life or been able to test the quality, I’m going to mark this crafter under “Overpriced” but if you want them that badly and have got the money to back you up, these are deffinately some stunning and eye catching time pieces. I know if I did have the money I’d be eyeing up the two specimins pictured here, regardless of the markup. 

You can check out their shop here

Another great Etsy find are “Ties that Don’t Suck” by Toybreaker. Okay, yeah, not all of them are really all that steamy, but lets face it… In a world where all the ties you ever see are stripes, repetitive patterns or goofy nonsense, it’s nice to see someone putting their screen printer to good use. Ties that don’t Suck, don’t suck. They’re interesting, colorful and they’ll be happy to make items for your whole wedding party. They’re also pretty nicely priced at around $40 a pop. About the same as that Jerry Garcia you’ve been eyeing up in Macy’s. These ties are a great way to show off your Steampunk pride during those occasions when showing up in a cravat and waistcoat just aren’t appropriate. 

Pittsburgh locals can pick up Ties That Don’t Suck from the Vamp’s Boutique in Bloomfield, and everyone can purchase them from Toybreaker’s etsy shop, here

 Are you one of those ladies who just cannot sew a stitch but are dying for a bustle skirt of your own? Look no further than Lovechild’s Boudoir! Lovechild makes fantastically simple bustles for ever occasion! and the best part? THEY TIE ON! Honestly! This is a great thing! Ties mean they’ll fit any hip and waist size, and can be swapped out to go with any outfit! Lovechild offers a variety of colors and patterns and while they sit just a little higher than the “Over Priced” cut off, if you can’t sew, you’re going to have to pay for your pleasures. These bustles sit at the $70 mark, but with a wide ranging versatility, they’re sure to pay for themselves with time.

You can check out Lovechild’s bustles and other lovely creations here

Here at the foundry where I work, I commissioned one of my coworkers- whose also a Leather artisan- to make me a belt pouch. I used a similar pattern to one I found for Sale on Etsy for $130 and he said he’d only charge me the cost of materials. This came out to be $40. Similar belt… $90 cheaper.  People over charge WAY too much for leather. And they get away with it because people think “Oh! Leather! That’s hard to work with! And it’s expensive t make, so it must be expensive to buy!” No. It’s not expensive to make. You’ve just fooled yourselves into thinking it’s okay to pay that much. 

Still, seeing the unique products created by Mann & Co and after flinching at the prices, I really do have to include his stuff. It’s beautiful. Plain and simple. Unique designs and items people don’t always think about. The hats are a particular favorite. So since you’re all resigned to pay exorbinant amounts for hand stiched leather items, you won’t be surprised to see ErihMann’s items selling for between $80 – $180 and I’m not going to put him in the “Over Priced” category either. At the end of the day at least he’s not charging $130 for a belt pouch. 

You can see the wide range of his unique items here

 Who doesn’t love tophats? I mean really! And what we love, Gypsy Lady Hats provides. Stunningly designed, expertly crafted hats of all varieties! From the lady’s mini to the gentleman’s full, with lots of persona variances in between. These lovely hats are sure to provide the perfect touch no matter the occasion! Despite my favorite creation ((The Mensware mini tophat with clasp, bow and tails)) coming in at a flinchingly steep $90, I can’t put this shop in the “Over Priced” category.  Good hats are just expensive… What can I say?

Checkout Gypsy Lady Hats for yourself here

That’s all for this first installment! Stay tuned for future artisans, updates on featured crafters and more wonderful creators that you should be supporting in the Steampunk Community!

And as always, show some love for our guild by supporting our resident artisans: Gwillim and Black

Digital Housekeeping

Not so much an entry as just making information available.  I spent most of yesterday on a useful little site building SCS a flash website. All basically point-click-change type nonsense but it makes a snazzy web page for free.  Check it out –>  Website

Also for those of you who don’t already know, here too is our facebook group where most of the goings on… uh… go… on…  SCS Guild

Today was spent designing a logo and putting together business cards. Business cards I can’t afford at the moment because my paycheck doesn’t come in til tomorrow and even still I need to pay bills first before I see what’s left over. *sigh* At any rate… All that remains to do is set up SCS as an LLC and get a bank account going through Gwillim and Black’s to help keep track of the finances… I’m thinking a checking account for G&B for all our etsy/paypal nonsense and a savings account just to dump fundraiser money into until we need it for something. ((Like business cards… And liquor… Lots of liquor…)) It’s really kinda mind boggling how much there is to do and take care of when running something like this. It’s not just a little get-together with a few friends. We’re literally in the middle of becoming an organization.  I’ve become aware of legality issues I’ve never before needed to contemplate. Copywrite, liability, tax information… It’s absolutely nuts!

Anywho… The steamnight preparations appear to be in full swing. Ideas for the photoshoot corner are starting to come together and we’ve ((Brandon and Rob that is)) found a set designer willing to help us make it. The theme idea is going to be the Nautilus and I need to get off my ass and do some research to see how we’re going to achieve this. I’m also a little worried about how cramped Howler’s is going to be. Still kicking myself up one side and down the other for not choosing Belvedere’s… This thing is turning into a WAY bigger event then I’d originally planned.  I just hope we don’t loose any more performers and can find someone to replace the one group we did loose. So far we have 2 confirmed, one unconfirmed and another who was confirmed but now won’t get back to me to make it all official… On the plus side, our attempts to find other bands to play for Sept, 18th has led us to get some interested groups willing to play our Winter Solstice Ball in December. ((Clockwork dolls say what?! Aw yeah!!)) Thanks again to Norm Davis for asking us to work with him on this event and for renting Belevedere’s for the night. In return we’ll do our best to get him some good acts, lots of people to fill the bar, and turn this shin-dig into a regular hoedown. I’m hoping after Steam Night and the Solstice Ball, we’ll be able to make big to-do’s like this a quarterly event. And hell maybe one day it’ll even lead to a full on convention. 

In the meanwhile though, I’ve got to do my part to keep us law friendly.

“Little red cookbook. Little red cookbook!”

So yeah, now That I’ve gotten the basics out of the way I can start regaling people with our crazy expolits of randomness. Todays excusion was into The Trundle Manor- Home of the Secret Society of Odd Aqusitions. If you like the strange, and you’ve not been there… Uh…. Get off your ass. Trundle Manor runs out of the home of Mr. Arm and Wunder Vixen, Velda von Minx. It’s availible to view by appointment only, and houses a fantastic collection of strange things in jars, animals that shouldn’t exsist, rayguns and even a mysterious display that can only be viewed for $.10. Seriously. fork over the dime, because you’re not seeing it otherwise. I have no idea what it is, I didn’t have a dime. The place operates strictly on donations, whatever you’d like to offer, the museum is appreciative of. And if you’re generous in your donations, you may earn yourself a tiny piece of the manor to take home with you. ((An octopus tentacle in a jar… G&B jewelry will soon follow….)) The Place is mainly just the four downstairs rooms, ((Parlor, dinning room, entry way and kitchen)) but still houses a great collection. There’s so much to see that you’re head and eyes are going to be constantly moving around like a paranoid schizophrenic on a caffeine high. 

I wax enthusiastic on this spectacular home because I was only recently enlightened to it’s existence, and experienced it for the first time yesterday when the Steel City Steam guild hosted our Tea Party fundraiser there.  This was truly an event I’m looking forward to repeating!

Starting Saturday I began making about three dozen itty bitty tea cakes that I got a really awesome brownie pan for. Seriously. I love this thing. I plan to go home after work today an make brownies with it. It’s basically a cilacone ice try with about 30, one inch by one inch squares. Perfect for little bite sized treats. Given the amount of cookies and what not I make during christmas, and the number of events we still plan to hold, I see this thing as being a great investment.  For $14 I made over 3 dozen tea cakes that would have cost me more than $40 from a bakery. I iced everything ((something that’s absurdly difficult to do on a 90 degree day when you have no air conditioning.))
and even drew little victorian designs on top with black icing. ((White cakes with a black flower design… yeah, eat your heart out Martha Stewart.)) I also picked up a mini muffin tray and make and extra couple dozen chocolate cupcakes that i smeared with the remaining icing and decorated with these awesome little sugar pearls my Aunt Linda gave me a while back for christmas cookies. ((They looked so cute!!)) 

I also picked up the ingredients for a couple different tea sandwich recipes I got online.  Smoked Salmon with cilantro and wasabi cream cheese, Watercress with jalapeno and lime butter, and Cucumber with mint butter/ cream cheese. I personally wasn’t a fan of the watercress, and didn’t get to try the Cucumber, but everyone else loved them- especially the salmon which tasted like sushi on bread. ((I ate three of them, they were so good!)) 

All the Officers brought tea, and Rob even produced some awesome little cinna-biscuits for dunking that he made at 3am that morning… ((The man’s a saint, I swear.)) I know he made them that late, because we were both out seeing Prometheus Burning play at Belvedere’s until 1am the night before. XD


People started dropping in about 2 with Skot bringing his own awesome cast iron tea kettle and some loose tea blends. We didn’t get around to trying the Jasmine, but the Russian blend he brought was drool worthy. Mallory and Cyko Mike brought mimosas because they’re are clearly superior to me in the awesome department.  Seriously. It was a nice day, but it was still pretty warm and the drinks were a great break from hot tea. 

Pretty much it was just a nice little get together to chill and hang out. Several of our members donated their own contributions to the Manor itself in addition to paying for their ticket and if any of them are reading this, you cannot know how much I appreciate that! We also donated a portion of our ticket sales to them as well as my “thing in a jar” as a thank you for having us. All in all we made a great portion of the funds needed to pay for Steam Night expenses. Enough so that any money we make on door sales or fundraisers in the future can go to pay for other future events such as the Liquor tasting we’re planning for October and the Winter ball in December where we’ll be working with Norm Davis and his group to throw another big Steam Bash. 

It feels really nice when everything comes together and it’s better than you ever expected it to be. Lovely food, an amazing atmosphere, and fantastic people… I really look forward to hosting another event with Mr. Arm and von Minx at their spectacular home in the future. 

To learn more about Trundle Manor or to schedule a viewing of your own, check out their website and blog:

And so, confident that SCSG won’t just be a passing fad, a blip on the radar that’s never seen again, we get into the bigest problem I’ve found with building a subculture.


Literally everything you do in this god-forsaken country requires a boatload of it. A great example would be our picnic held for our second event. There were a ton of little hidden expenses I didn’t take into consideration at the begining.  The picnic was supposed to be a pot luck and everyone was to bring a dish, but it was a couple days before the event when I realized we had no drinks! It was going to be 90 degrees that day and nearly everyone would be in multiple layers of clothing and we had no hydration! Blessedly, my amazingly generous plant manager let me take several 5 gal. water cooler jugs home with me to fill with water and lemonade, but that was still $5 for the lemonade mix at a time when my bank account was hovering around $16.  ((Being an art grad sucks so much…)) There there were plastic cups and utensils, and paper plates, ice…. All things I couldn’t ask my members to bring because… well that would just make me feel like a bitch. Asking your guests to provide things that you as the host should be taking care of?

And the costs never seem to go away! Infact they just get more expensive. $80 performers. $180 for a hotel room. $80 in gas money, $300 for plane tickets…  My friend’s from the UK told me that the first Steampunk festivale they hosted ((3 days where they basically took over a town)) cost them ₤10,000 out of pocket!! Now I believe they made a good deal of that back and probably then some, but imagine… $10k?! I could erase a chunk of my student loans with that much money! ((Not much of a chunk, but a chunk!)) And to have to pay that out of your own pocket to fund an event? What if no one had shown up?!

We keep coming up with more ideas for things to do, but always the dampening effect seems to be the green stuff. It’s gotten to the point were we’ve decided to start hosting fundraisers with the group to see if we can recoup some of our finances, but I’m worried about how well that’s going to go over. It’s my belief that our members like us and what we do enough to help us out, but you never know with people…. And it seems even fund raisers cost money! Tea for tea parties. Wine for wine tastings. Absinthe for green fairy parties… It never ends!

I’ve proposed to hand out special awards for people who donate an above and beyond the amount of time and money to aid our cause, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about having to ask in the first place.

Venues really just don’t seem at all interested in cutting any slack for a fledgling group. But the show must go on… So I really try to make myself see it as a challenge and not a hassle to find people willing to work with us. I’m always exceptionally grateful to those who will, can, and do- but those angels are few and far between.

Okay, so now that you all know a little about me ((sort of)) and have been subjected to one of my less venomous rants I think I can start in a little on the meat and potaoes…. 

I started the Steel City Steam Guild ((SCSG)) on April 16th 2010. A mere 3 months ago. At the time I had really begun immersing myself into the steampunk culture. I had always hovered at the fringes as one of those people that always dressed a little victorian with random industrial accents, but didn’t really even realize there was a culture for it until a random stranger asked me if I was, in fact, a steampunk.  I had no idea what they were talking about and immediately went home and googled the term. Low and behold, I found a whole new realm of aesthetics and culture to explore. For about a month I studied up on everything steampunk and after that time, I determined that this was something i seriously wanted to explore and take an active part in. 

My first reaction was to find others of a similar mindset. The only problem was, I didn’t know anyone in my social network who was steampunk, nor did I even know how to find any in my area. A couple of queries on Brass Goggles introduced me to people in the region, but most of them were in Philadelphia which was apparently where the bulk of the Pa. scene was. 

Well, of course not everyone in the world is on Brass Goggles, so I knew there was a pretty good chance there were steampunks around Pittsburgh. I just needed to find them. So, I skipped over to the one website I knew almost everyone in the world was on, and after making sure there was nothing already there, made a group on Facebook for Pittsburgh steampunks.  I figured i’d get maybe half a dozen members in addition to friends I already knew.  A modest “society” ((as I had originally called it)) where we could meet for teas and such…

I was NOT expecting us to jump to 64 members our first week. 

Then my friend Schieny mentioned that once a week, Altar Bar held a steampunk night with no cover. It was on a Monday night- not at all convenient- but having just completed my first full scale outfit ((before this I was usually just in a corset and jeans)) I wanted a chance to show off.  My best friend of the past 15 years, Suzn, said she could use a night out, and having also caught the steampunk bug, was excited to get a good taste of the scene. So we made plans to all meet and party. I figured if it was a good night, it might be worth the massive energy drain and hangover at work on Tuesday mornings and I could make it a regular thing and promote it to my fledgling club as a possible meeting night for us all. 

Suzn and I arrived a couple minutes before things were set to begin, grabbed a couple drinks and found a spot to sit and talk costumes while we waited for others to arrive. Schieny appeared with a few of her friends about a half hour in and it was about that time I began to realize that the 12 other people in the building might be all that would be coming. Listening in on the gothic industrial trance that was playing, and realizing I was the most- and best- dressed person there the first thought that went through me heads was: “This can’t be right. No. No, this ISN’T right! This is definitely wrong!” Everything I’d learned about steampunk in the last month had me listening to Abney Park and Ghost Fire while drinking tea by gas lamp! I liked Abney Park and tea and gas lamps! I liked those things about steampunk and I wanted more of those! I didn’t want this overplayed trance-goth! Even as inexperienced as I was I could see that this whole party was decidedly NOT steampunk. 

More out of insulted outrage than anything, I looked at Schieny and Suzn and declared, “We could do this so much better!” I like to think their heads were in about the same place because they both agreed. And that’s when the pieces really began to fall into place. Yes. We could do better. We had 64 people who weren’t here, but were behind us in the society. Between Suzn’s knowledge of promotional design, my own experiences with event planning and visual development and Schieny’s massive music and cultural nightlife network, we could conceivably make this a real society with events and road trips…  A loot at the society the next day ((then up to 73 members)) confirmed my decision. 

While resolute in my newfound determination, I can tell you I still felt like I was standing on a beach with a mason jar, staring at an 80ft wave and going “Well now, how the hell am I gonna pull this one off?” I was going to catch water in the jar, but there was a good chance of drowning in the process.

I’ve been antisocial, shy and generally uncomfortable in groups since the emotional trauma that was middle school. Now I was making myself a social director for a lot of people that I didn’t even know. Worse! I have no money to do it with. Literally none. Having just purchased our first home, My boyfriend’s company had waited until the week after we’d closed to inform him his services were no longer necessary. FML…

So sitting down with a cup of tea, Abney park in the background and no lamps because it was the middle of the afternoon,  I went to thinking.  All I really wanted to do was create a place for people of a like mined nature to get together and have fun. If someone else could do so better than me, I would yield to their expertise, but as no one else was forthcoming, I would lead this ramshackle group of mechanical miscreants and out of place time travelers. Next I started thinking, if I had joined a club, ((someone else’s club as a bottom rung member)) what would I like to do in said club? Well for one I didn’t want to feel compelled to be at EVERY event they hosted. None of that “if you don’t show, you’re not really a member” shit you find in the girlscouts or cheerleading. This wasn’t a cult. Everyone would be free to come and go as they pleased. Next, I would want inexpensive events and outlets where I could meet with people like me to hang out, converse and just be friendly. Well we already had one event forthcoming, but the plan was we were going to need alot more planning on that one, so what to do in the meanwhile?

I finally hit upon a little idea. It would let me test the waters to see how many people would be interested, be mostly free, and fun for everyone. I took a good long look at my steampunk costume and realized I really needed some nice pictures of me in it. I’d spent a lot of time working to put it together, and was quite proud of it… And something told me that if I was so proud of my costume, no doubt others were as well. So I decided our first event would be a photoshoot. Everyone could bring cameras and come dressed to the nines… We’d migrate around a few of the more interesting places in the city, and play around. It’d give everyone something to do other than stand around, it would cost little, we could use the photography to promote the club, and anytime anyone sees a bunch of people wandering around town in costume, they usually have to go ask what its all about. 

All in all a good idea. So I set things in motion, promoted it as best I could, and then spent a week fretting that no one was going to show up. Or that a ton of models would show up and no photographers. Or a dozen photographers and no models! Or what if it rained? What would we do if they didn’t let us take pictures? What about food? Was I starting things too early? Too late? What props did I have to help break the ice and add interesting elements? What props could I make in 3 days time?

Then to add to my terror, A friend of mine mentioned that two rather prominent members of the Steampunk culture in England would be staying with a friend near Pittsburgh that weekend.  Naturally, I extended an invite, and was shocked when they accepted.  I was elated to have three well known people coming whom I could bounce questions off of and learn from, but I was also terrified to realize they were coming for my first ever event. I had little to no idea what I was doing and if things were a complete flop I’d feel humiliated. 

So, naturally, by the morning of I was a complete wreck. I dressed, stuffed myself into my little lancer and made it to our designated meeting point a few minutes early… It was raining, of course, but as people trickled in and I made introductions and greeted everyone, I realized we had collected a nice little crowd of about 12 people. Not a huge gathering, but with four photographers and eight models in my first ever event, I felt this was a fantastic turn out. We spent several hours in the cathedral of learning, everyone getting really into things, went and got lunch, then migrated and took more pictures outdoors as the rain had stopped and the sun appeared… 

Eventually a lot of people headed home, but a few of us decided to grab coffee. We made it to a little cafe in East Liberty with minutes to spare before the cloud reopened and a deluge dropped onto the city. We spent the rain storm chatting more, and when it cleared up we gave a fond fairwell to our guests from England, and headed home.

A couple weeks later, I planned out our next event- a picnic in Schenley Park. By now we’d been joined by our newest partner, Rob, who was full of tons of great ideas. We put together the picnic-myself again freaking out over food, cost, and turnout while Rob informed me I needed to chill out- and while the turnout wasn’t quite as big, the smaller group proved itself the perfect company for the gathering. Everyone brought fun snacks and food, and one guest even brought a ukulele and played for us. It was the perfect laid back afternoon, and even though the day was hot, we all kept fairly cool and comfortable on our shaded veranda. 

Eventually everyone took their leave, and not a moment too soon. I wasn’t fifteen minutes from the park when once more the clouds opened for one of Pittsburgh’s infamous afternoon summer thunderstorms. 

Still I was grinning all the way home. SCSG was on its way to becoming an established group for steampunks. Perhaps it was time to step things up a bit….