Weaponized Parasols

Welcome to what I hope shall the the birth of a wonderful, nerdy, DIY little back alley of the internet!  Kiki and the Brain is a joint blog between two folks that were told repeatedly that we should have one of these puppies, but neither of us actually wanted to quit making stuff long enough to do this.  Mid way through the following project a coworker of mine convinced me that I should take the time.  I should probably mention up front that I’m working backward on this one and in order to copy my work for your own cosplay, you should be versed in sewing, and general craftiness.  We’re talking the ability to use hot glue guns without burning yourself and minimal familiarity with multiple mediums.  One day I’ll come up with a scale for this but today… let’s just say this weren’t easy.
Begin at the beginning, as they say.
Many moons ago I was fangirling over the series The Parasol Protectorate with a good friend of mine when she confessed that she wants to cosplay as Alexia, and wants me to cosplay as Alexia’s best friend Ivy.  Truth be told, she would make a fantastic Alexia.  I couldn’t get the idea out of my head.  Then I thought: without the proper parasol, how will anyone differentiate Alexia from any other steampunk lady?  The solution was obvious.  My friend needed that parasol.  So I spent days scouring the internet for someone that had made the weaponized parasol from the book.  I found nothing.  That’s not to say that no one else has made this, but I couldn’t find one example.
Coming up short on the search to copy what others had done I went back to the original text. That’s right sports fans, I re-read the entire Parasol Protectorate.  I started considering Alexia’s first parasol, but it is less well known and pretty much just a hefty thing that doubles as a club.  The second parasol had the features I was looking for (her third parasol had the features but lacked aesthetic appeal).  Time to make some lists!!
The parasol is generally described as an ornate brass affair with a chubby pineapple like end hiding buttons for the various features and is richly decorated with a pull chord.  The tip was a spring loaded affair with wooden and silver spikes as well as an egg-shaped magnetic disruptor, and a hinged tip that opens to shoot darts.  The canopy is slate grey with a thick cream ruffle that hides the inner pockets containing mostly comestibles and under the canopy there is a poison mist spray system.  I have of course left out a few details, but I’ve already listed far more than I was reasonably going to fit in this baby to begin with.
I thought function.  I thought cost.  I thought about having to carry around 30 lbs of brass weaponized parasol all day.  I looked into making the parasol from scratch so that it could function also as a blow gun.  Frankly I think I could have done that, but it was too much trouble.  I thought about an actual mist system in the canopy.  The concept already exists so I was fairly confident that Brain could have worked out the details and as opposed to misting poison, we could have set it up to mist water for cooling purposes as we live in a subtropic spot.  Then I thought “how much water would one need to effectively make a misting parasol, and how much would that weigh?”  Again, I cut awesome possible function in favor of weight… sacrifices must be made! I was also kinda concerned with getting this done on time.  As any maker knows, more features = more time.  MOVING ON.  The magnetic resonator got dumped eventually because frankly I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do there.  At first I thought sound, then I thought light, then I had a minor space issues with incorporating it into the design and still having a decent sized spike and a cane length object… Yeah… at some point I decided it would be a good idea to make it function well as a cane.  Made it less awkward to haul around.
So I’ve talked a lot about what I decided not to do with this bad boy and I’m sure you’re all wondering by now what the hell I did do.  Well…  I started by purchasing an umbrella similar to this for $7 at T.J. Max


I totally bought this with my friend standing right there and she never suspected a thing! I’m a genius, crazy genius *dances around the living room* No? okay maybe it wasn’t that impressive. I guess no one really looks at their friend buying an umbrella and thinks “that’s probably for me”.  I felt cool anyway. Added benefit; this umbrella had the serendipitous defect: the handle was loose. Pulled right off. I threw it in the pit of despair because I didn’t want a curvy handle anyway. Not part of the plan! BTW I think I’m going to call my trash can the pit of despair from now on. It is after all, where I put things to forget about them.
My next purchase was a 1/2″ x 12″ cutoff riser by orbit and an orbit 8 port manifold {which I thought would make for a fine poison mist sprayer) for $6 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore

That’s right baby! Sprinkler parts! They fit together perfectly (although it’s really hard to see from the tiny image of the riser) and naturally when one looks at a sprinkler system they think: This would be so much better if only it sprayed poison. So yes, the mister came back into the design. What can I say, I was struck by inspirational hardware. Not the first time, not the last. So you see that little screw at the top of the picture of the manifold there? I unscrewed it, et voila, the manifold fit nicely over the handle of the umbrella. If you don’t get what I’m saying now don’t worry, I think the later pictures show it well. Remember, this is still the part of the project where I was never going to have a blog.
Next I went to a local art store and purchased Smooth-On Free Form Sculpt for ($28) which is an epoxy dough. I did this because after much thought and searching, I knew that I would have to sculpt the handle to get anything close to what I wanted. I also knew that I couldn’t put this into an oven and thus couldn’t use sculpey but I wanted the same general effect (hard, paintable, sculptable, and permanent). FYI I’m told Apoxie Sculpt is the same thing.

The next few steps were fairly simple. I deconstructed the umbrella. All you need for that is a seam ripper or scissors, and depending on the type of umbrella, a flat head screwdriver and a pair of needle nosed pliers.  I’ve done this step twice now and although all companies make them slightly differently, they all seem made to come apart pretty easily. Then I screwed the riser into the spray manifold and used the Smooth-On to attach the manifold to the umbrella. This had the added benefit of  permanently adhering all three parts together.

handle 1
See? Plastic riser screws in to manifold, manifold fits on umbrella! I accidentally lost one of those plastic tops you can see in the earlier picture that sits on each manifold spray nozzle and decided I like it better that way, so I took them all off and saved a few in case I wanted buttons in the handle later. SPOILER I didn’t. They all wound up in the pit of despair. IMPORTANT NOTES: 1) if you start getting all sticky and gunky with the Smooth-On, use water. I kept a bowl of it next to me the whole time. Is very helpful. 2) This as with any following step involving the Smooth-On LET IT DRY OVER NIGHT. Very important that.
This is where I started to feel like I was making real progress. It is also the point in the project where I was convinced to create a chronicle of my madness. I began covering the handle in Smooth-On

Handle 2
This base layer later served as the basic shape for the sculpting that will happen to make it look fancy. I finished covering the handle and made a sort of basic fluted handle top. I’m not sure I had really decided what to do with the handle until I was doing it, and I don’t know that I would do the same thing again. Either way, the shape was made and I was a bit relieved that this stuff dries so hard. No backing down now!
While I considered my options for the finer features of the sculpted handle, I deconstructed the original cover. I took off all the plastic tips that hold it on the metal frame, and took one panel off the canopy.

This wedge I used as a pattern for the new canopy. Now may be a good time to mention that I have something of a craft hoarding addiction. So if you ask me where I got the fabric for the new canopy, or indeed where I got the fabric for any of my projects, odds are good that I will say “my stash”. Same applies if you ask what it’s made of. So from my stash I found a dark grey striped and a bit stretchy panne velvet that I thought would do nicely. I also found a cream sateen that was probably an unholy blend of unnatural fibers but was made to look like a raw silk. I took the grey and cut out the canopy panels (since it had stripes I also tried to get them moving in the same general direction). I also cut out two squares and two rectangles of the fabric that will later serve as the hidden pockets. The fabric is so dark that it’s difficult to see details.  The center of the new canopy came to a bit of a peak.  That’s good though.

I cut strips of velcro as wide as the tops of the rectangles and squares to serve as closures for the hidden pockets. In the picture there are additional triangles that appear to have notions of being part of the hidden pocket. I quickly discovered that added depth in the pocket was unnecessary due to the stretchiness of the fabric. Ignore that bit.
I then cut a strip of my cream sateen that was 4″ wide by about twice as long as the circumference of the umbrella. I know, I know. There are better ways to make ruffles. It was a decision I didn’t consider overly hard. Also my serger is dangerously in need of a tuneup and that sateen frays like a bitch. I wanted a pretty edge to my ruffle and I was in no mood to make matching bias tape. So I took that strip of fabric, folded it in half lengthwise, stay stitched it in place, and added some gathering stitches. I’m not a ruffles kinda girl. I own I was in foreign territory here. This is what we had at this point:

After a tragic accident with a glass of wine (fortunately white), I had to wash all the ruffles. I think this was a good thing in the end as it made the fabric crinkle up in satisfying way. I would rather have finished the whole canopy and THEN wash it, but it’s all good in the end.
At this point I went back to concentrating on the handle. I had been avoiding this part. I’m not confident enough in my sculpting skills. I was trying to come up with a way to texturize the surface in a stamped metal sort of way. I pulled a few vintage metal buttons I liked… from my stash, and grabbed some Poly Clay. I made myself some texturing stamps. Both my stamps were double ended as at this point I hadn’t decided which stamp the use and I liked all 4 results. Making them was easy. I simply rolled out two small logs of Poly Clay and pressed one button in each end and bake.

I then covered the handle of the parasol with more Smooth-On, did some minimal shaping of the top and stamped the hell out of it. I generally used one stamp and then swapped to another toward the top. I also used one final stamp around the top that looked like it would fit small gems in the divots to double as buttons. Let dry overnight.
The next day I gave the whole handle 1 coat of copper paint. Let dry for a couple hours, and followed up with a coat of rub-n-buff. This was the first time I had ever used rub-n-buff and I’ve learned a lot. Like your base coat really ought to be the darker aged oxidized color. Live and learn. Once I was confident that everything was dry I gave the whole handle one coat of glaze.

The glaze did cloud the brass color a bit. Next time I’ll use a different finishing coat.  Close up the glaze doesn’t look so bad, but from a few feet away I’m not a fan of the effect. I also like this shot because you can see the stamping and how “I stamped the hell out of it” is accurate. The nozzles of the spray manifold poison mist system still move too 🙂 I don’t why that makes me happy.
After that I used a little E-6000 and some beads I had in, guess what? MY STASH!

Handle bling
This shows off the bling that can pass for buttons (if you have a good imagination). It also highlights exactly why I didn’t have a huge level of confidence in my sculpting abilities.
With the handle finally finished I had to go back to the canopy. I pinned the ruffles in place around the outside edge of the canopy and basted in place. Then I pinned the bias tape in place and sewed the bias tape to finished the edges. In an odd sort of fashion I sewed the bias tape to the outside of the ruffles, and then folded the other edge over and sewed the bias tape flat to the canopy… does that make any sense? The aim was to have the seam flat against the canopy.  I also hand stitched the post pins (the plastic bit on the tip of the umbrella) back into the corner seams of the canopy.

caps on canopy
At this point I felt the end approaching.  This is always the hardest part of a project for me.  I start to see what it will look like if I do finish it, so emotionally, I’m done.  Unfortunately birthday presents don’t go over well if they’re incomplete.  I installed the hidden pockets in the center of every other panel. This wasn’t that complicated since the canopy fabric I used doesn’t fray so I just stitched around the edges. The velcro is then sewed to the pocket and sewed to the canopy in the corresponding place.

pocket installed 2
Time to assemble.  I slipped the cover back on the umbrella guts. The plastic posts went on the tips. I did a quick hand stitch midway up each seam to keep things in place and hand stitched around the top several times and tightened it down to keep the center hole from stretching out. In the case of this umbrella, there was a small metal cap that covered this hole to keep the rain out that I put back on and crimped down with pliers. Done!
WAIT!!! I forgot the spiked tip!!!! This will not do! I can’t present a weaponized parasol to my dearest Alexia sans weapons! But egads, her birthday is tomorrow! I couldn’t come up with a magnetic disruptor in such short time. I couldn’t make spring loaded spikes. I settled for what I could do; what I had on hand. I dug out an old wallpaper sample sheet covered in a wood grain pattern. I carefully cut out and glued the wood wallpaper to 1/2 of the parasol tip lengthwise. The other 1/2 of the tip I painted silver. Et Voila! A silver and wooden tipped parasol of slate grey with a thick cream ruffle, hidden pockets, brass handle, and a poison mist system. Top it all off with a large tasseled curtain tie to serve as both “pull chord” and closure tie and she was ready to go.
Honestly, I should have been writing out these instructions instead of coming back to this project months after it was gifted and trying to remember exactly what I did. Bad Kiki! I took notes… well, an outline… well, a few key words and some pictures. The point is, I’ll do a better job on the step by step instructions in Weaponized Parasols Part 2: Ivy’s Ruffled Atrocity! One day I will start on a similar parasol for my Ivy cosplay. This is based on the fact that there is one line in the book where Ivy orders a matching parasol to Alexia’s, only in yellow and black ruffles.


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