Tag Archives: dragon con

The truth about Adam Baldwin.

When I mentioned the opportunity I had to get Adam Baldwin’s autograph at Dragon Con, I left out one significant detail:

I didn’t pay for it.

[Read the full story here.]

Advertisements

Dragon Con 2014: Sunday & Monday.

My Dragon Con 2014: Sunday & Monday post is up!  And don’t forget to check out my geeky necklace giveaway in my previous post! 🙂


Dragon Con 2014: Friday.

Finally got my first Dragon Con post up on the new blog!  You can check it out here.


Freezer paper t-shirt stenciling.

My husband is not as geeky as I am.  Fortunately, he loves me enough to not only put up with my geekiness, but to also engage in it.  Last year, he watched Kaylie all weekend so I could take Wil with me to Dragon*Con, and this year, since my recently-retired parents are in town and can watch the kids, he’s actually coming with me!  Yay for having a con buddy this year! 🙂

I’ve introduced him to quite a few of my favorite shows over the years.  He liked “Firefly” (my personal favorite) enough that both our kids share names with main characters, but his favorite Whedon show is actually “Dollhouse” (which is also an awesome show!).  So after I’d mentioned to him that maybe I ought to look into getting him some geeky tees to wear to Dragon*Con, he came to me with an idea for a “Dollhouse”-inspired shirt.  Cue new craft project!

Freezer paper t-shirt stenciling.

Freezer paper t-shirt stenciling.

This turned out to be a surprisingly easy project.  I found this tutorial very helpful in getting started.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Plus foam brushes, which I forgot to grab for this picture....

Plus foam brushes, which I forgot to grab for this picture….

  • T-shirt, prewashed
  • Freezer paper
  • X-acto knife
  • Cutting mat
  • Iron
  • Piece of cardboard
  • Fabric paint
  • Foam brushes (one for each paint color)

The first step is to sketch out your design.  My hubby’s idea was a minimalistic design with three flowers in a vase, all white but for the third flower, which would be green.  (If you’ve seen “Dollhouse”, you’ll remember the phrase “There are three flowers in a vase.  The third flower is green.”  It was one of those “HOLY CRAP DID THAT REALLY JUST HAPPEN OH MY GOSH THIS SHOW IS AWESOME” moments.  If you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will instruct you to quit web-surfing right now to go watch it, immediately.)  Anyway, I sketched out a few ideas for the shape of the vase and the type of flowers on a scrap of paper, and once Casey picked what he liked best, I sketched it out onto the non-shiny side of the freezer paper (forgot to take a picture), and then cut it out with the X-acto knife on the cutting mat.

02

It’s a stencil, so the paint will go in the negative space.  Cut accordingly.

03

Next, you’ll iron your stencil onto your shirt, shiny side down (against the fabric).

04

I used a ruler to center my stencil.  Make sure when you iron it that all the little edges are firmly pressed down with the iron, so that the paint won’t seep under the paper.  I used my iron’s cotton setting, without steam.

Next, you’ll need a piece of cardboard bigger than your to-be-painted area.

05

Insert the cardboard into the shirt, between the front and back layers of fabric, so that the paint won’t soak through.

Then you get to paint!

06

Not much instruction here; just paint.

07

Finish one coat of one color and move on to the next.

08

I let it dry for about 45 minutes before applying a second coat of both colors.  Follow the directions on your fabric paint; mine said to apply 1-2 coats, let dry 4 hours, and then hold a hot iron on a steam setting 1/2″ above the paint to texture it, so after my second coat, I set the shirt aside for a few hours before removing the stencil.

09

Once the paint is thoroughly dry, peel back the freezer paper carefully.

10

I found it worked best to hold the shirt down with my fingers on the painted area right next to the edge of freezer paper I was peeling up; that way, I didn’t run the risk of the paint not separating at the edge, and pulling off with the paper.

11

I was very pleased by how well the freezer paper worked–no bleeding at all!

12

Final design, pre-steaming with the iron.

13

And after steaming….you can see that it made the painted sections curl a bit.  Not really sure what the point of this step was, and I kind of preferred the way it looked before this step, but I was following the directions on my paint.

14

I thought it turned out well!  We’ll see how it holds up to washing, but just to be safe, I won’t wash it before Dragon*Con! 😛

I made him let me take a picture.

I made him let me take a picture.

“There are three flowers in a vase.  The third flower is green.”

Counting down the days till Dragon*Con!


Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

By the time we moved to Atlanta, home of Dragon*Con, I’d been itching to go to a con for years.  When we were living in middle-of-cornfields-Indiana, it wasn’t really an option, considering all the travel expenses it would have entailed, so I was thrilled at the prospect of living in the home city of one of the country’s largest conventions.

Of course, by the time we moved to Atlanta, I was also pregnant with our second kid, and due two and half months before Dragon*Con.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Doing Dragon*Con with a baby.

Extreme introvert + first con ever + baby = terrifying (especially since I’d be going with Wil alone–my husband would stay home with our two-year-old).  But…there was still a part of me that still really, really wanted to go (largely due to some of the posts about cons on my favorite blog).  And I was afraid that if I let something get in the way this year, I’d do the same next year, and maybe the next.

I did my research first.  I read some helpful blog posts on Dragon*Con tips (this one and this one were the ones I found most helpful), but I couldn’t find much online about handling a large con with an infant in tow.  I began wondering if people even really do that, or if I’d be breaking some unspoken rule of etiquette by dragging a baby along with me.  So I called the phone number on the Dragon*Con contact page with a list of questions, and to get a general feeling for whether or not I’d be welcome with a baby.  The guy I spoke with was super nice and very helpful, and left me feeling like this definitely could be done!  So I bought my membership and began planning.

I’m still a newbie at the whole con thing, but I thought I’d chime in with my own tips on doing Dragon*Con with a baby, since I wasn’t able to find much help online myself.  So here are a few things I’d recommend thinking about before attempting a con with a baby in tow.

1. Plan out what gear to pack in advance.

Unless you’re staying in one of the hotels where the con is being held, you’re going to need to bring a lot of gear to keep your bases covered.  Babies need a lot of crap.

Wil was two months old when we did Dragon*Con, so I was exclusively breastfeeding.  A lot of people will tell you that breastfeeding is the easiest and simplest way to feed, because you’ll already be bringing your breasts, right?  But breastfeeding was a challenge for us.  There were a couple times that I was able to breastfeed him under a cover while sitting in line for a panel, but most of the time, he preferred to be bottle-fed pumped breastmilk (which meant I also needed to pump during the day).  So I brought:

  • a nursing cover (made from this tutorial–great because it covered my back, so I could sit anywhere while I breastfed or pumped)
  • a battery-operated pump (and extra batteries)
  • two small coolers with icepacks
  • plenty of bottles and nipples (I used these bottles, which I’d gotten in a sample bag at the hospital where I delivered–they worked with my pump, and fit four nicely in each cooler)
  • a bottle brush and a travel-size bottle of dish soap (in case I needed to wash bottles, though I always ended up packing enough that I didn’t need to)
  • burp cloths

Every morning, I packed one cooler with six to eight ounces of refrigerated breastmilk to start the day with, and filled the other cooler with empty bottles to pump milk into during the day.  I also kept a couple of those pre-mixed formula samples (along with a disposable nipple) in the bottom of my diaper bag, just in case (never a bad idea to have those on hand in case of emergency!).  Even if you are breastfeeding (or planning to breastfeed), be prepared for there to be times that it won’t go smoothly, especially if your baby hasn’t experienced much chaos and commotion during feedings.  Have a contingency plan, whether that’s pumping and bottle-feeding, using formula, or going home early.

I know it’s becoming more acceptable to breastfeed in public, but I was still worried about attempting it (even by kid #2).  I used a cover every time (I’m a very private person), and no one ever gave me a hard time or even looked at me funny (or at least I never noticed).  The guy I spoke with on the phone ahead of time assured me that if anyone hassled me for it, I could go to one of the volunteer staff and they’d back me up.  Most of the time, I was able to breastfeed or pump in the hotel lobby between panels.

You’ll also need all the standard baby stuff:

  • diapers (bring extras!)
  • wipes
  • changing mat
  • change of clothes
  • blankets (one for the floor, and one to cover baby–hotels are air-conditioned!)
  • toys (quiet ones for during panels)
  • gas drops (especially if bottle-feeding)
  • …and whatever else you usually pack in your diaper bag,
  • plus, a STROLLER (bring one you like, with lots of storage space)

You’ll also need stuff for you:

  • water bottle (there are usually water stations to get a cup of water near the line for the panel, but there were quite a few times that the water jugs were empty)
  • snacks (it’s hard to fit meals in; don’t count on being able to get to the con suite–where there are supposedly free snacks–with a stroller)
  • tylenol
  • book to read (I got through quite a chunk of Wheel of Time: Memory of Light while pumping during an extra-long nap Wil took)
  • badge and lanyard for it (I used a ribbon)
  • pocket program (unless you have a smart phone and can access the app)
  • …and whatever else you think you might need

Think about what you’ll need to pack weeks before the con, in case you need to buy or make anything (like coolers or a nursing cover).  Make a detailed list, and add to it as you learn your baby’s routine in the weeks leading up to the con.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Chewbacca, waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

2. Plan your panels.

You can find panel schedules for each track on the Dragon*Con website (or linked) ahead of time.  Look through the schedules for each track you’re interested in and make a list of panels you might want to attend.  Figure out which ones conflict, and which ones you must attend.  Don’t plan for more than three panels in a day, and try to avoid back-to-back panels (especially if they’re in different hotels).

Schedules may change as the con approaches, so if you start planning a couple weeks out, don’t forget to check your schedule for changes in the days leading up to the con.

I’d also recommend planning to end your days on the early side.  One of the things the guy on the phone told me when I called ahead of time was that con-goers tend to get rowdier in the evening, as the drinking starts.  Since most of the panels I was interested in were morning and afternoon panels anyway, it worked well for me to leave sometime in the afternoon or early evening every day.  That way, I could also spend a little time with my two-year-old at home, get Wil to bed on time, and take a shower before going to bed at a decent hour, too.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" panel.

Nicholas Brendon (Xander Harris), Kristine Sutherland (Joyce Summers), and James Marsters (Spike) at the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” panel.

3. Pick up your badge and pocket program on Thursday.

If you can pick up your badge on Thursday (Dragon*Con starts Friday), do it.  The lines were awful on Friday morning, and I talked to a number of people in line who had friends missing panels because they were still waiting to get their badges.  Also, picking it up the night before the con starts gives you the opportunity to explore the con hotels, which I highly recommend doing.  Glance through the pocket program to see which hotels will be holding your must-see panels.  Your pocket program will also have maps of each hotel; I recommend highlighting elevators, bathrooms, and bridges between hotels.

Walk through each hotel, while you’re not fighting through hordes of people with a stroller, and familiarize yourself with the places you expect to spend your time.  Find the elevators and the bathrooms, figure out which levels the bridges connect on (Hyatt to Mariott to Hilton), and look for good places to breastfeed and/or pump.  (The Mariott is crazy.  Most of my panels were in the Westin, and there were plenty of seating options in the lobby for me to find a place to breastfeed and/or pump without drawing attention to myself.)  If you’ll be attending panels in different hotels, or if you’re using MARTA, walk the outdoor routes between hotels (and MARTA)  so you won’t be digging out your map while being shoved along the crowded streets the next day.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his "Allons-y" onesie on the day we went to the "Torchwood" panel.

Baby Whovian: Wil sports his “Allons-y” onesie on the day we went to the “Torchwood” panel.

4. Get in line for panels early.

Most of the panels I attended were the ones with stars from my favorite shows, and famous people tend to draw a crowd.  You’ll want to get in line as early as possible for two reasons: 1) you’ll want to make sure you get a good seat (on an end for a quick exit if necessary, but not so far back that you’re missing all the action–and panels do often fill up to capacity); and 2) depending on the layout of the hotel, lines often extend up or down stairs (not possible with a stroller) or outside (in extreme heat).  Panels are scheduled an hour and a half apart; lines queue for one panel as soon as the line from the previous panel as cleared.  So, try to be there to get in line a full hour and a half before your panel.

Once you’re safely in line, you can sit on the floor, spread a blanket out for baby, breastfeed, etc., and relax while you wait.  It’s not so bad spending time in line–you’re surrounded by people interested in the same thing you are, so you’re likely to make some friends to pass the time.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

Baby Captain Hammer naps in my arms after a snack waiting in line for a Whedonverse panel.

5. Avoid the vendor halls and all basements.

The vendor halls are ridiculously overcrowded.  Don’t expect to be able to navigate them well with a stroller.  In fact, I had to haul my stroller down a few stairs to even get to the elevators in that building (AmericasMart).  It’s just not worth it.

And basements…when you are dependent on using the elevators, it is unfortunately very easy to get stranded.  I got stuck on the bottom floor of one hotel for half an hour, as dozens of elevators came down full of people who had gotten on on floors above me intending to ride down to go up.  Eventually a hotel manager happened to walk by, and he offered to let me use an employee elevator to get back to street level.  Another time, I was stuck for a good twenty minutes or so, along with a lady in a wheelchair, as we watched elevator after full elevator go by, until we were finally able to squeeze onto a couple less-packed ones.  It’s ridiculous.  Don’t go below street level unless you’re really, really interested in what’s down there, and you have time to get stuck.

We braved the crazy Mariott for the "Torchwood" panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

We braved the crazy Mariott for the “Torchwood” panel with Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), and Burn Gorman (Owen Harper).

6. If you have questions, ask.

The volunteer staff are amazing.  I cannot rave about them enough.  The guy on the phone was very nice, helpful, and welcoming.  I stopped by the help desk after registration to ask some of the same questions, just to make sure I was okay, and they were very helpful.  When I arrived to get in line for my first panel, I asked one of the volunteers about bringing a baby in with me, and if there was anywhere in particular I should sit, and he was super nice and helpful.  On the one hellish day I attended a panel in the Mariott (SO. CROWDED.), I planned ahead and arrived two and a half hours before my panel, so I could try to find a way to get in the front of the line when it began forming an hour later; apparently I wasn’t the only one with that idea, though, so in the end, it was going to be a free-for-all once they started letting the next line queue.  I’d heard the line would extend onto stairs as well as outside in the extreme Georgia summer heat, so I spoke with a couple volunteers, who hooked me up with some other volunteers, and someone found me a place to sit with Wil near the head of the line, and they even let me in early (after the disabled, but before everyone else) to find a good seat on an end near an exit.

Follow the rules, listen to instructions, and don’t make yourself a special case unless you have to.  Be respectful and polite to the staff–they work hard, and unfortunately take a lot of crap–and you’ll find that they’ll usually be more than willing to help you in any way they can.  (Point in case: Most of the panels I attended were in the Westin, in the same ballroom every time, so I’d interacted with a few of the volunteers there several times.  There was a panel on the last day that I wanted to attend that was immediately after another panel I wanted to see.  It was in the same room, but by the time the first let out, the line for the next had already extended up multiple flights of stairs.  I asked one of the staff, when they weren’t too busy, if there was somewhere on that level where I could wait to join the end of the line once it started moving.  He pointed me to an out-of-the-way spot, and I waited for half an hour for the queued people to be allowed into the room.  It was a packed panel, but in the end, when they determined it was full and the staff were turning newcomers away, one of the staff quietly told me to stick around for a few minutes.  They found an empty seat on the end of a back row, and let me in anyway.  I’m convinced it was because I’d spent all weekend following the rules, being nice to the staff, and responsibly arriving early–and also because the staff are genuinely very nice people!)

Also, most of your fellow con-goers are good people who are happy to help you out if you have a quick question about where something is or how something works.  There are going to be a few people who seem to think you brought your baby and stroller just to inconvenience them personally, but on the whole, I found the other attendees to be very nice.  (With the exception of hogging the elevators.  But then there were other times, while waiting for an elevator on a main level, that someone would see me and shout “Let the stroller on first!” so I could actually get on one before everyone else made the mad dash to load first.)

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the "Torchwood" panel.

Gandalf visited us in line as we waited for the “Torchwood” panel.

7. BE CONSIDERATE.

Yes, you paid to attend, and you deserve to enjoy it.  But so did/does everyone else.  Don’t let your decision to bring your baby get in the way of others enjoying their con experience.  Be prepared to leave panels early if you need to.  Get a seat on an end, know the route to the exit, and keep your stuff as packed together as possible, so if your baby freaks out and you need to get out fast, you can.  If you need to give your baby toys to keep him happy, give him quiet ones.  If you need to stand and rock him to keep him calm, make sure you’re not blocking anyone else’s view of the stage.

Wait your turn, follow the flow of traffic, and do your very best not to run over people’s toes.  Apologize when you should, and say “excuse me” a lot.  Use your manners!  Other people are going to be in your way, but you’ll be in theirs, too.  Be pleasant, and most people will be pleasant back.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl "Helo" Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the "Dollhouse" panel.

Miracle Laurie (Mellie/November), Tahmoh Penikett (Paul Ballard; he was also Karl “Helo” Agathon in BSG), and Eliza Dushku (Echo/Caroline) at the “Dollhouse” panel.

8. Remember that your baby is more important than your con experience.

Wil was the perfect baby to take to a con.  At two months, he was still sleeping a ton, he could sleep anywhere, and he was perfectly content to just chill in the stroller or on a blanket on the floor, and be held during panels.  He was the sort of rare baby that only cried when something was wrong, too, so as long as I was keeping him fed and in a clean diaper, he almost never cried.  We managed to make it through the whole con without ever having to leave a panel early!

But…I was prepared to leave a panel if I had to.  And I would have.  And there was one day I headed home before I panel I’d hoped to see, because it had been a long day already and I felt like it would be better for him to get home early.  Listen to your baby’s cues, and cut your own fun short when that’s what’s best for him.  If you don’t, he will make you miserable for it anyway, so you might as well enjoy what he lets you and let go of what he won’t!  Be flexible (if this is your first baby, that’s a lesson you’ll have to learn eventually anyway; if it’s not your first, then you already know that).

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his "Harry Potter" onesie.

Managing that mischief, hanging out in line in his “Harry Potter” onesie.

If you’re thinking about trying to attend a con with a baby in tow, be assured that it can be done.  But temper your expectations: you will not have the freedom to get the full con experience.  As long as that’s okay with you, then I’d encourage you to do it!  I did see a few other parents with babies and children tagging along, so you won’t be alone.

Baby Browncoat.  This was our "extra" onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

Baby Browncoat. This was our “extra” onesie, which I kept in the diaper bag just in case he needed a change of clothes, but we never broke it out during the con!

(By the way, I made all of Wil’s onesies for the con, since I didn’t really feel much like dressing up myself at two months post-partem.  I also made him a couple ribbon tag blankets–one “Firefly” and one Star Wars–which are similar to what I now sell in my Etsy shop.)

My little dragonslayers.

My little dragonslayers.

If you do it, I wish you the best of luck!  And if I run into you, I’ll give up my spot on the elevator and hold the door for you. 🙂


Dragon*Con onesies, part II: Embellishing.

Once I finished dyeing my onesies brown and black, I set about embellishing them.

I bought a pack of iron-on letters (I bought them in-store, but I think they were these ones) for my first two onesies.  After counting how many of each letter I had so I knew what I had to work with, I played around with various quotes/words from different fandoms and settled on “mischief managed” from Harry Potter and my favorite Doctor’s catchphrase from Doctor Who.

From the Marauder's Map, introduced in HP3.

From the Marauder’s Map, introduced in HP3.

I cut out my letters and followed the package’s directions for application.  By the way, lining the letters up in a perfectly straight, perfectly spaced line is about the hardest way to do it….hence me doing it for only one line of the two.  Plus, I felt like it made “mischief” look more mischievous this way…

My "Harry Potter" onesie.

My “Harry Potter” onesie.

Next came my tribute to my favorite Doctor:

"Allons-y!"

“Allons-y!”

My letters did not come with any punctuation, so that hyphen was actually cut out from a “Q” I wasn’t going to use.

My "Doctor Who" onesie.

My “Doctor Who” onesie.

Next came the more labor-intensive designs.  For the next two, I bought a few sheets of felt.

Felt.

Felt.

First came a Captain Hammer onesie, from Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.  I googled a few pictures to get it right, like this one:

Original here

Original here.

Then I sketched a basic hammer design onto a piece of paper, cut it out, traced it onto the felt, and cut out my pieces.

"Stand back, everyone, nothing here to see--just imminent danger; in the middle of it, me!"

“Stand back, everyone, nothing here to see–just imminent danger; in the middle of it, me!”

I hand-sewed the hammer pieces to the yellow backing…

"Yes, Captain Hammer's here, hair blowing in the breeze--the day needs my saving expertiiiiiise!"

“Yes, Captain Hammer’s here, hair blowing in the breeze–the day needs my saving expertiiiiiise!”

…then hand-sewed the whole thing onto a black onesie.

Captain Hammer onesie.

My Captain Hammer onesie.

Next, I planned a minimalist Chewbacca design.  Here’s Chewie, in case it’s been a while:

"Aaauuurwwch!"

“Aaauuurwwch!” Original here.

Here are the felt pieces, cut out and pinned together:

Chewbacca bandolier pieces.

Chewbacca bandolier pieces.

I pinned them all together, then hand-stitched the sides of each grey piece, and all along both edges of the middle brown piece.

Chewie bandolier.

Chewie bandolier.

Then I sewed the whole bandolier across the onesie, trimming the ends at angles to fit.

DCO 11

The bandolier ends at the seam.

DCO 12

I decided to stitch the top end under the shoulder flap of the onesie, so it wouldn’t interfere with the mechanics of wrestling a onesie over a wiggling baby’s head.

My "Star Wars" Chewbacca onesie.

My Chewbacca onesie.

That gave me four onesies, for all four days of Dragon*Con.  But I had extra onesies, and babies do occasionally need a change of clothes while out and about (after public spit-up fests and diaper blowouts)…so I made one more.

Using this fabric, I cut out the Firefly “Serenity” symbol, leaving a small border that I could hand-stitch under before sewing it onto the onesie.

Serenity symbol.

Serenity symbol.

It would have been nice to find a version with the English text over it the way it’s painted on the ship, to be more recognizable, but I figure any true fan would know it in a heartbeat anyway. 🙂

My "Firefly"/"Serenity" onesie.

My “Firefly”/”Serenity” onesie.

And that concludes the making of my son’s Dragon*Con onesies!

Here’s the full batch:

My son's homemade Dragon*Con onesies.

My son’s homemade Dragon*Con onesies.

And with the two ribbon tag blankets I made for him (the grey one is Star Wars, with this fabric, and the brown one is Firefly, with this fabric):

My two-month-old son's homemade Dragon*Con gear.

My two-month-old son’s homemade Dragon*Con gear.

The Firefly crew background, by the way, is the minky-backed blanket I made for him.  It came in very handy in the air-conditioned hotels during the con!

These were really fun to make, and Wil got lots of “awww”s and a few pictures taken, but I do want to note that these were not the most durable after the con.  The felt began pilling after the first washing, and a few of the letters began to peel a little at the edges, so if you’re thinking about making anything like this for regular wear, you may want to consider using a different type of fabric for the sewn on bits and maybe a fabric pen or fabric paint and stencils for lettering.  Whatever.  Since I made them specifially for a one-time event, it wasn’t a problem that they didn’t hold up as well after.  They served their purpose–letting me “dress up” for Dragon*Con even though, at two months post-partem, I didn’t want to spend much on dressing up myself (got by with a couple oversized Star Wars t-shirts).  It was worth it!