How to make a Borg faerie

At long last, I took some pictures of the costume components. I haven’t been able to track down my stunt double to get photos of someone wearing it all (and haven’t gotten the photos taken at Arisia yet, either), but this is more or less how it all looked when put together:

Green dress + black Borg parts + Borg parrot

The various pieces:

Feather ears and false eyelashes

The eyelashes were purchased at Boston Costume, which also had false eyelashes made from real feathers, but they were brown, and not quite as immensely long and swoopy. Moving on:

Borg torso piece

I reused parts of last year’s Borg pirate. Here you can see that the structure of this piece is cardboard from a cereal box (or maybe that’s an oatmeal box; I used a variety). You can also see that it won’t hang straight down, on account of having hardly any material on the right side. Oh, gravity, why must you ruin my pictures?? Next:

Shiny green prom dress

This came from the Garment District during one of their wonderful “50% off everything” sales. I would totally have paid the full $16 for it! I don’t have many excuses to wear it, but fortunately I came up with the idea to combine it with the Borg pieces. Now I need more ideas. But that’s not all:

Green half-shirt over black turtleneck

I had to wear a black turtleneck for the Borg part, but I didn’t want my right arm all black, and I like that turtleneck a lot so I didn’t want to cut it up. I went hunting for a cheap source of appropriate green material, and found a nice little green skirt in a thrift store which got turned it into just enough shirt to cover my right arm and chest. I left the rip there intentionally; being partially assimilated can leave a mark, you know!

Shirt layered under dress, with Borg part over everything

The main parts of the costume layered properly. I then added a Borg piece to my upper arm, plus Frankie, plus a black glove. I didn’t worry about my shoes, because the dress is so long (I did wear my favorite black boots, which are more Borgish than Faerieish). Maybe some day I will get some real photos, showing all the pieces together. I haven’t actually seen them myself.

The story I gave people about my costume was that the Borg tried to assimilate Faery, but their technology had a difficult time coping with a magic-based world, and so they weren’t very successful. (This gave me cover for not wearing a Borg eyepiece or other head covering; I tested out the look of wearing last year’s eye piece with the costume, and didn’t like it. Also rejected: wearing the feather headpiece from many years ago. The faerie effect was best with my hair all down, with just the feather ears and eyelashes, and some gold lipstick.)

Belated post-mortem on the Borg pirate

I really should have written this up right away after Arisia, so that I would have good notes on What Not to Do for a future iteration of the costume. Assuming there will be another. Which there might. Or at least there might be a future prosthetic arm, perhaps in a steampunk style rather than Borg.


Cables: A cable that runs from the forearm all the way to the chest is Not Good. It meant I had to take off the upper arm piece, and disconnect the cable from the battery pack, in order to remove the forearm. Having a cable that can plug in at either the battery OR the forearm would be much better. I think having the cable attached to the upper arm, and then running from that in both directions, would work much better. (Or, put the power source for the arm activator -in- the arm, and reduce the number of cables. Though in this case, more cables was good, because Borg have lots of cables dripping off them.)

Arm activator: The pager motor worked fairly well for something thrown together in the last couple nights. But something that did something more interesting than spinning around and going VVVRRRRRR! would be nice. Something that moved in a grabby sort of manner, perhaps?

Weight: The leg was heavy. Actually, it was the foot that was heavy. The Borg foot (which just fit right over a normal boot, like an immense spat) was heavy and made walking difficult. For the future, making a foot/lower leg assembly out of paper mache, and then covering that with leather, would be better than chopping up a heavy pair of rubber boots and sticking them together with duct tape.

Leg awkwardness: The upper and lower parts of the leg armor got hung up on each other at times and made walking a bit tricky. And stairs VERY tricky (esp. with the big, heavy foot). Adding some hinge-looking bits to the outer knee would have been a nice touch aesthetically. The cable ends came loose a number of times, too.

Cable attachments: Cables were firmly fixed at one end with duct tape (or Gorilla tape), but shoved into a loop of tape/leather at the other. Some of the cable ends stayed in place pretty well with that arrangement, but a lot of the leg cables pulled out of their tape/leather end. Should look for some sort of easy-release clip or something. Perhaps some sort of clip that is designed for cables/tubing – which could be hidden inside a leather shell so that it doesn’t look like audio cable, but like it penetrates into my body. The cable that I wanted to run from my head to my torso didn’t work at all because I didn’t have a good way to keep the body end of it from pulling free.

More fiddly bits: Could have done with more LEDs and mechanical pieces. Matter of time, by which I mean I should have started more like 6 weeks, minimum, in advance instead of 4. Tritium keyring things would be a great way to get a nice glow without having to worry about a power source.

Eye prosthesis: It looked great, was pretty comfortable, and the visibility wasn’t terrible (though I really missed having peripheral vision on that side!). However, it would have been great fun if I’d had it hooked up to the shutter thingy. I need a longer remote shutter release for that, and a good way to connect that cable to the headpiece and the rest of the body armor, so that it will stay in place, and not be too likely to get hung up on things in the environment. Perhaps adding some LEDs to that (which I could turn on and off – don’t want them on ALL the time, thank you), or an other layer of lenses or something that could be rotated into place from time to time . . . So many possibly variations and so little time!

The pirate bits worked pretty well. The kerchief was unbelievably slippery and I had to clip it to my hair, and the shredded shoulder made it a real pain to get Frankie attached to my shoulder cables, but since I probably won’t redo the pirate part (or even the pirate Borg combo), that’s not something I’m much worried about.

People pretty well “got” the pirate aspect of the costume. I think. I heard several comments like, “Oh, there’s someone doing that steampunk/cyberpunk combo” or just plain “steampunk;” about as many people understood that I was (partially) a Borg as did NOT understand, but whether that was due to lack of familiarity on their part with Star Trek, or due to my failure to make something that was obviously Borg, I do not know. I got a lot of compliments, it was fun to make and fun too wear, and not too terribly tiring (though a day and a half was a bit long, see:weight issues), and really that was the point.

I need to get a bunch of photos of the pieces, since I didn’t document the process well (too busy building to stop and photograph), after which this will all make more sense to people who are not me.

Background notes about Frankie

For a while now, I’ve thought it would be fun to make some kind of stuffed or robotic parrot that I could wear on my shoulder as part of a costume, or just for fun, at events like Arisia.

One of the problems with perching a fake bird on your shoulder (as opposed to a fake cat or dragon or other long quadruped, which can drape over your shoulder and look natural) is that it won’t balance the way a real bird will. If it isn’t anchored properly, and stiffened in the right places, it will bob back and forth in a ridiculous manner. And I have simply too much dignity to put up with that.

Finally it dawned on me that if the feet/legs of the bird were firmly fastened to some kind of shoulder armour, that would provide a sturdy, rigid enough base that the bird wouldn’t bobble around and look ridiculous. Plus, if I were making a cyborg kind of parrot, then having a cyborg kind of shoulder on me would look perfectly natural and not at all ridiculous (at Arisia of course, I’m not going to wear this to go buy lettuce).

While talking this over with a friend, one of us thought about the parrot issue and said, “Oh, pirate!” and the other thought about the cyborg issue and said, “Oh, Borg!” and then we both said, “BORG PIRATE!!!” Because after all, pirates are kind of like primitive Borg – replace the Borg arm prosthesis with a hook, and the Borg eye enhancement with an eyepatch, and leg prosthetics with a peg-leg, and there you go.

Not to mention they’re both known for terrorizing other sea (or space) faring folk, boarding them, killing or enslaving their victims, and making off with all their neat toys.

So most of a year went by with me thinking I really ought to get going on this costume, because it would take a lot of time. And I really wasn’t sure how to go about making the parrot.

And then, out of the blue, someone on the parrot_lovers community on Livejournal posted a link to this sun conure pattern at Silver Seams, which is free, and Open Source, and really quite excellent all round.

So I used that to build Frankie, only I made his primaries and tail out of silver paper instead of felt, and I augmented him with an LED eye (wiring and associated electronics done by a friend who had time and soldering experience that I did not), and made his feet out of aircraft cable (NOT recommended; that stuff is a real pain to work with – it doesn’t want to bend the way -you- want it to bend) so that he could grip the cables and tubing on my assimilated shoulder.

Frankie’s avian side.

Frankie’s assimilated side.

Original pattern copyright 2006 Silver Seams, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0

Unsatisfyingly short work session

I have a pile of wood to use for the automata kit. Some of it needs to be milled to the right thickness, but there were plenty of pieces that are nice rectangles that want to be the thickness of the wood I’ve got.

So I went down to the basement to use the kind of sketchy bandsaw and do that. And it went really fast.

Too fast.

I want to cut more wood up, but first I have to get to the shop where the planer and drum sander live, so that I can mill down the remaining wood. That can’t happen until tomorrow evening at the earliest, and I want to do more stuff NOW.

Instead I will have to settle for uploading pictures of Frankie, the Borg parrot, to Flickr.

Like so: Borg parrot.