Empire and Old Lace : A how-to

40 years ago today Star Wars: A New Hope premiered, though it was simply called Star Wars back then. So today seems as good a time as any to post a geeky craft project I came up with.

Lace Stormtroopers!

Queue the “oohs and ahs.” Feel free also to admire my terrible selfie taking skills.

This all started when I picked up a lace tee shirt at a clothing swap with the intent of using it for crafts. The problem was I had no clue what kind of craft. But eventually the idea to make stormtrooper helmets in lace came to me and I could not get it out of my head.

Here is a step by step should anyone want to try it for themselves. Unfortunately, when I was making these, I didn’t plan on creating a how-to, so I didn’t take pictures of every step. And of the pictures I did take, some have errors. So if you do want to make a lace stormtrooper of your own I advise reading the whole post before starting.

You’ll need:

White lace (one size L shirt produced two medium sized trooper helmets and one mini, with scrap leftover. Or you can purchase the lace of your choice by the yard.) The shirt I used was stretch material, but it caused some difficulties when sewing, so I would use a nonelastic fabric next time.

Black fabric of your choice. I used an old black shirt from my scrap bag.

Black thread.

White thread.

Optional dark gray fabric for some of the helmet details. The black will work fine for this but I had dark gray fabric in my scrap bag so I used it for the nose piece.

A shirt, jacket, hat, etc. to sew it on to.

Sewing machine optional. This can all be done by hand, but I did most of it on the machine. Go with whichever method you’re most comfortable with.

A printout of a trooper helmet to use as a template.

Step 1

Cut a decent sized square of lace. Pin the template to the lace and cut the fabric into an approximation of the helmet shape.

You’ll notice that when I cut the printed helmet, I left space around the outline.

Once cut, it’ll look like this,

Unpin the template (but don’t throw it away) and you’ll have this,

Viola, you’re done. Enjoy your lace trooper! Kidding. This is the bottom layer of your helmet. The details get sewn onto this.

Step 2

Pin the template to another square of lace and cut out just the visor portion of the helmet. You will want to cut the paper template with the fabric this time. Cut the remaining white sections of the helmet.

I forgot to take pictures of them laid out individually, but that is the visor piece, and the jaw and nose piece laid on top of the piece that you cut in step 1. Don’t worry if the pieces don’t fit together perfectly.

Alternately you can skip this step and sew all the detail pieces directly on the base and end up with a nice looking lace stormtrooper. I did that for the mini, but I chose this layered method for the larger ones to create an illusion of depth. And don’t we all want the illusion of depth?

Step 3

Cut out the helmet details on the black fabric. You can use the template to cut them out, but I freehanded them. If you do want to use the template for this part I recommend printing a second copy. You need two black triangles for the eye lenses. Two long thin rectangles for the side vents. One very thin strip for the top of the visor. Two half circles, with a middle point for the cheek details. Two short rectangles rounded at one end for the jaw camera-like pieces and one wacky shape (sorry, I can’t describe it any better than that) for the mouthpiece. You will also need a long V shape with ridges cut on top edge for the nose piece. That is the one piece that I used the dark gray fabric for, but you can use black for it as well.

Once cut out, pin the pieces as seen above. Sew them using black thread onto the lace pieces. You should end up with three separate pieces: the base with most of the black pieces, the jaw with the nose and mouth pieces.  And the visor with the two pointed half circles. (Note that in the picture I pinned them to the base piece, but that is wrong. They should be on the visor just to the side and slightly below the where the eye lenses will be.) (Other note the eye lenses are placed correctly in the photo. They do get sewn to the base).

Step 4

I didn’t really take pictures of this step, so I’ll do my best to describe it. You’ll be adding more detail to the sewn on details here.

On the mouth piece, to create the vent effect, cut several lines lengthwise, being sure not to start the cut below the top of the piece and ending just before the bottom of the piece. You want the shape to remain intact. (It may be easier to cut the lines before you sew it to jaw piece, but I didn’t. It’s your call.) Cut two rounded triangles in the visor for the lens pieces. You do want to pay attention to your template or reference photo for these. You can play fast and loose with the other details, but if the eye lenses are off it won’t look like a stormtrooper.

Cut out ten or so slits on each side of the jaw piece over where the long black rectangles are sewn to the base. I made my slits too thin, so they can hardly be seen, You can make them a little thicker. Or you can skip this altogether because it’s a minute detail. (If you do skip this part then you can leave out the long rectangles from step 3.

Cut out spaces on the jaw piece where the two jaw camera pieces are on the base.

Step 5

Time to sew the three separate pieces into one almost completed helmet.

Pin together and sew with white thread.

The above picture has all the pieces in the correct spots but was taken before I had sewn the details to the separate pieces. Don’t try to sew the whole piece together before you’ve done step 3. It’ll end in tears.

I don’t have a picture of this step.

Step 5.5

Cut two little circle of white lace and sew them to the jaw cameras, for jaw camera lenses, as seen in the step 5 picture. (I sewed these by hand because my sewing machine could not deal with such small stretchy pieces.) Now your helmet is complete.

Step 6

Sew your helmet onto the item of your choice. I chose a tee shirt. This is where the stretchy fabric really caused problems for me. It tended to bunch and warp as I sewed and I had to start over a few times before I was satisfied. And even then it ended up a little crooked.

And there you go!

I’ve worn this shirt a couple of times and it always makes me happy. Once I’d recovered a bit from my first attempt, I made two more with even better results.

The larger one went onto another tee shirt for a good friend who once hand-knitted me a Yoda doll. The little one I sewed onto a hat for my niece.

If anyone does follow these somewhat vague and amateurish instructions, please share the results with me. I’d love to see more lace stormtroopers in the world.

Be on the lookout for a part 2. I’m not done with lace stormtroopers yet.

Crafty Corner

I have a special place in my heart for crafts. My mother had a whole room devoted to crafts (It was twice the size of the bedroom her two daughters shared. Priorities!). Anytime my sister or I complained of boredom, out would come the glue and pipe cleaners.
Despite my fondness for crafts, I rarely do them anymore. I enjoy browsing Pinterest and Etsy for craft ideas. And when I find one that I like, I pin it or bookmark it, and think, “that’s neat, I may do that someday.” And then I don’t.
For some reason the only time I’m driven to start a craft project is if I came up with the idea on my own. If there’s already a set of directions and examples of finished product, as much as I appreciate the result, I don’t feel compelled to recreate it. It has to be my own creation. I’m not sure what that says about me.
My latest craft project was inspired by the fact that I have a lot of necklaces, and no proper way to store them. I have a jewelry box that has a couple of hooks for necklaces. But the problem was twofold, there weren’t enough hooks, and the hanging space was too short. Anytime I tried to pull out a necklace, I’d come away with a tangle of chain and ribbons. So I came up with a solution, a necklace board.
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The final result
It was incredibly easy to make, and just in case anyone out there isn’t like me, and does like craft projects with simple to follow directions, I thought I’d write up a tutorial to make one of your own.
What you’ll need:
A foam board, any size you like. A piece of corrugated cardboard will probably do as well.
A nice piece of fabric. (I got a half yard of batiked cotton off of Etsy)
A glue gun.
A cord or ribbon.
A needle and thread.
Straight pins.
A tangle of necklaces.
IMG_1784
Step one
Cut the fabric to roughly the size of the board. Be sure to add an inch or two all around.
Step two
Lay the fabric face down on a flat surface. Center the board on the fabric. Put a line of hot glue on one side of the board. Fold the fabric over the glue. Repeat until the fabric is smoothly glued to the board.
 IMG_1787
Step three
Sew the cord or ribbon to the fabric on the top backside of the board.
IMG_1788
Step four
Place pins in the board. Don’t let them pierce all the way through to the back, or you have very sharp and pointy end product.
Step five
Hang the board from a doorknob or nail.
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Step six
Untangle the necklaces and hang them from the pins.
The tangle
You can do steps four through six in whatever order works for you.
Happy crafting!