Fabric Stamps with Worbla

Elemental Photography and Design shared this quick tutorial on how she created simple fabric stamps from Worbla and 6mm Foam.

Stamp2

The plan is to create this costume using only fabric from my stash, but I don’t have something with these pronnounced circle spirals… painting that many would be time consuming by hand and I have a tight deadline so: 6mm foam pictured left, 2 circles cut out and glued together. On the right, one circle and one spiral cut by hand and then gently sanded by hand, glued together.

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The foam shapes are covered with Worbla’s Finest Art. WFA has better stretch which was important for the spiral (and they were what scraps I had handy). For the spiral, I heated the Worbla and then pressed around the raised foam working from the inside out. This is important to let the Worbla stretch without tearing, though you can see it’s quite thin at the lowest points.
I wrapped the Worbla around the back and made simple handles.

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I used normal acrylic paint for this. Top, I applied the paint with a roller used for lino-printing, which gave a very fingerprint effect.
Bottom, the paint was spread out on a flat plastic palette and the stamp was dipped in the paint.

The results aren’t perfectly opaque or even, its a bit rustic or grunge, but for a mad hatter costume the effect will work well.

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Top left: Attempting to apply paint to the stamp with a paintbrush. Not suggested.
The rest: All dipped into paint spread in a thin layer on wax paper.

stamp4

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Tip: Make sure your paint isn’t too thick on the surface of the stamp, or it will create a ‘ring; around the edge of thicker paint lines (shown top)
I usually work the paint onto my stamp, then dab off the excess onto paper before applying to fabric.

Stamp6

You don’t have to use Worbla for this – you could probably use just foam if you only needed to do it once or twice, but i wanted something that would be easy to apply pressure to evenly/lift up without making a mess and also be durable enough for 40+ uses.

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Squaring Up Edges


“…And Sewing is Half the Battle!” shared this great tip for getting cleaner, squared edges on Worbla armor and designs!

One drawback of hand-forming costume accessories is that they can sometimes come out looking bumpy or uneven, an appearance that persists no matter how many layers of coating agent or primer you add. An easy way to make your pieces look more “finished” and professional is to clean up the edges!

Here, I’m using Worbla’s Finest Art to make a piece of armor that has a raised edge. I built this edge by rolling a Worbla snake and sticking it on top of the flat base, then blending over the seam with another thin strip of Worbla. However, even after carefully blending the pieces, it still looks lumpy:
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And I would like it to look more like this:
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So we’re going to square the edge!
During this process, keep the Worbla warm (just enough to remain pliable, not sticky). If necessary, give it a few more passes of the heat gun from time to time.
First, press the top of the rolled edge flat. You can use fingers for this, or use a rolling pin or glass bottle if you have a large area to cover.
Next, keep pressure on the flattened top while pressing against the side with a smooth, flat object (in this case, the smooth back side of a plastic pencil sharpener that was conveniently lying nearby). Make sure whatever you’re pressing into the Worbla won’t stick to the warm plastic!
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(Pretend my right hand is holding the pencil sharpener, instead of taking the photo.)
For curved or complex forms, you can use any smooth object of the right shape and size. Drinking glasses and spice containers are convenient cylinders for inside curves:
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Work progressively along the side of your piece until you have a neat, even corner running along the outer edge. You can also use a large cylinder such as a glass and roll it along the outside edge to even out lumpy areas.
If you’re forming small designs that you can’t easily square by hand, you can use a flat-sided tool for those hard-to-reach areas. Here I’m using a dental spatula, but you could also try a butter knife or a metal nail file.
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…And that’s it! It’s an easy step to make your pieces look cleaner and more finished. Give it a try on your next project. Happy crafting!

Adding a Zipper to Worbla

Cat’s Cosplay Kingdom has created some really impressive work, but I’ll admit I was so excited to see they came up with a way to securely attach a zipper to Worbla, for their conical underskirt!

Take a look at the process below:

Working from their template, they covered craft foam with Worbla to create the base skirt.
Working from their template, they covered craft foam with Worbla to create the base skirt.
What you will need: A Zipper (we suggest heavy duty), thumbtacks, and glue.
What you will need: A Zipper (we suggest heavy duty), thumbtacks, and glue.
Glue your zipper down, then press the thumbtacks into both zipper and worbla to anchor it. If the points come through the other side, cut them off with wire cutters.
Glue your zipper down, then press the thumbtacks into both zipper and worbla to anchor it. If the points come through the other side, cut them off with wire cutters.
Heat up another strip of Worbla and cover the edge of the zipper and thumbtacks with it, pressing firmly.
Heat up another strip of Worbla and cover the edge of the zipper and thumbtacks with it, pressing firmly.
There you have your fully anchored zipper!
There you have your fully anchored zipper!
Reheated to better fit the shape of her hips...
Reheated to better fit the shape of her hips…
The final shape is absolutely fantastic, don't you think?
The final shape is absolutely fantastic, don’t you think?

Using a Die Cut Machine with Worbla

Darth Cleavage did some tests for us about running Worbla through a Sizzix die cut machine, and shared her results below!

Sizzix Saves the Day!

I find that taking on a massively detailed commission just a few months prior to a major convention often leads to these amazing, “Holy crap! Why didn’t I think of that before?” kind of moments. Crazy, yes. But crazy inspirational, too!

After realizing I was going to spend a few hours hand cutting fabric into detailed leaf motifs, I suddenly recalled those few years I spent dealing ink and paper to the scrapbooking crowd and remembered how quickly I was able to churn out identical designs with my die cutting machine. Once again, my Amazon Prime membership proved it’s worth and I had a new Sizzix Big Shot on my doorstep in less than 24 hours.

Then I started thinking (a dangerous pastime, I know) if this machine could cut through marine vinyl, what other materials could be used? Well, thanks to Worbla, I recently got the opportunity to try it out with their full line products and now I get to share the results with you!
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The Machine

Sizzix has a wide range of machines that meet a variety of applications, but I ultimately opted for the Big Shot because I felt it covered all my bases. You can use just about all of the cutting and embossing tools with this machine, the exception being the extra large dies.

There are many other die cutters out there, but I was familiar with this brand and there are tons of “how to videos” available. For that reason and the sake of brevity, I’m not going to go into detail about how I used the machine. I mean, why read my description when you can go watch the experts show you how to do it?

The Tools

If you head over to the Sizzix site you can look through the entire product line. As much as I would have loved the excuse to stock the shop with one of everything, they do a great job of pointing out the material that each product is most suited to. My own experience with the machine and with Worbla led me to narrow it down to four distinct products that I thought would have the best chance of success in my experiment. As for the specific pieces I chose, I went with designs I thought I’d actually use in the future.

Frameworks Die
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Think of this type of die as a metal cookie cutter encased in foam. When you run it through the machine, the die is pressed down into the material and cuts through it. The foam helps keep the material from getting stuck in the cutting mechanism.

Sizzlits
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These work the same way as the Frameworks Die, but are substantially thinner.

Framelits
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Working much like the Sizzlets, these free floating pieces are thin and allow you to add even more detail into your cutting. You can pair them up with other dies to create custom designs.

Embossing Folder
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Unlike the previous three products, this simply impresses a design on your material rather than cutting it.

The Test

I was able to use all four of the current offerings from Worbla: Finest Art, Black Art, Mesh Art, and TranspArt. I’ve only ever used Finest Art so I was excited to get my greedy little hands on the other options and had formed some hypotheses about how this would go.

Here’s one thing I learned immediately: Everything worked better when the Worbla is heated. You want your pieces warm and slightly pliable but not too hot. The Black Art and TranspArt were the easiest to work with in that I could get them pliable without them getting sticky. I had to walk a finer line with the Mesh Art and Finest art. The good news is that if they do adhere to your cutting tool you can just let them cool down and they’ll pop right off!

Another thing to note is that I used Sizzix’s recommendations for running all of the pieces through the machine. Each product comes with a blurb explaining what materials you need for the given task, the multipurpose platform also has diagrams pointing these out, and you can always head over to their YouTube Channel for videos.

I started off with the Frameworks Die because I had already done a test with one of these babies and knew it would work. Guaranteed success sounded like a good start to me, and all four materials cut as easily as I expected. I rightfully suspected the TranspArt would offer up the least resistance and wondered if the Mesh Art backing would cause an issue, but it didn’t seem to be a problem at all.
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Following on the success of the first die, I decided to go with the Sizzlets next. This was clearly not as successful as I only managed the get the barest of impressions on the TranspArt and Black Art. There’s almost no indication of an impression on the other two which I think can be attributed to both the thinness of the die and the grainier texture of these two types of Worbla. However, if you are looking for something that gives an etched appearance, this could work. I’d just be cautious with your heat application.

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The Framelits were even less successful than the Sizzlets and barely left an impression on the Worbla. With the Finest Art and Black Art I tried both sides of the material to see if there was a difference. Nope.
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After the meh results of the two of my four options I didn’t have much hope for the embossing folders, but ended up really pleasantly surprised. Here they are in order of the highest to lowest quality of embossing: Black Art, TranspArt, Mesh Art, Finest Art.

There is a major caveat to keep in mind, though: If you reheat and stretch the material, you will alter or possibly lose some of the design. Since you’ll have to run all your pieces through the machine before you apply them, this is realllllllllly important to keep in mind.
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Customizing

One of the cool things I discovered along the way is that there are a number of companies that will make custom dies from your designs. If you were going to mass produce a piece for sale or even if a small investment would save you a great deal of time on one costume, it may be worth the price. Unfortunately, they don’t provide general price ranges for the designs so you’ll have to submit a quote request to get detailed information.

Results

As with any experiment, you often learn as much from your failures as your successes and I’m perfectly OK stating that my expectations weren’t 100% on. I can see myself trying out the embossing folders provided that I did some experimentation with the design to make sure I could heat it up without too much distortion. I am also very happy with the results of the large format dies and can see using some of them for future projects.

What’s Next?

I started doing some searching to see if anyone has attempted to use their vinyl cutter on any of the Worbla products and have come up empty, but it seems like a viable option given that my Silhouette Cameo is supposed to be able to handle craft metal and thick cardstock. I’ll let you know once I give it a try!I

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out. I’ve benefited greatly from others who have shared their experiences and am happy to pay it forward.

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With thanks again to Darth Cleavage for sharing her results with us!

Where to use each type of Worbla

Not sure what type of Worbla to use where? Alice in Cosplayland created this infographic guideline on making a breastplate with Worbla’s Finest, Mesh, Black and TranspArt. (Click to enlarge)
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Of course, you can mix and match Worbla’s Thermoplastics and find which type suits your needs and style best – there’s no hard ‘rules’ for what to use where! Experiment, and use this as a guideline if you’re getting started or stuck on a project!

Removing Air Bubbles

Tiff shared with us this great way of dealing with the air bubbles you get from sandwiching Worbla.

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If I had a dime for every air bubble I made using the Worbla and craft foam sandwich method, I’d be retired by now. Worbla is a wonderful material to work with, but it’s so easy to form air bubbles even when you think you’re being really careful. Have no fear, there’s a really simple way to get rid of it by using just a needle!

  1. Make sure to use a heat gun to warm the air bubbles so it’s nice and soft.
  2. While it’s malleable,  use a needle to poke a single hole in the annoying air bubble. You must poke it at an angle (see picture #2) so it can open the hole. Poking straight down wouldn’t be as effective I’ve noticed.
  3. After poking the hole, use your finger to pat it down so the air gets released.
  4. It should be a lot smoother and less bumpy. Sure, you can see subtle holes on the surface but it’ll disappear when you fill it with gesso or wood glue.

Thanks again to Tiff for sharing with us. Check out her tutorial on folding Worbla as an alternative to sandwiching it.

Recycling Worbla Scraps

Every bit of Worbla can be used, so make sure to never throw your scraps out! Below are a few ways to repurpose your Worbla scraps.

FC Cosplay gave us this quick tutorial on forming your scraps back into sheets with help from a pasta roller.

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The Process:
Scrap Worbla: I keep everything from larger pieces that don’t fit smaller pieces to shavings that come off cleaning up edges.. Anything I can’t immediately reuse gets cut down and tossed in a plastic bag while I work.

Pasta Maker: Choose a pasta maker that is intended for actual regular use in a kitchen. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you don’t need extra attachments. Initially, I used a pasta maker packaged for use with polymer clay, but it turned out to be flimsy and a crucial part (that adjusts the thickness) wore out quickly. You can also get a far greater variance in thicknesses with kitchen-ready pasta makers.

    1) Attach your pasta maker securely on a stationary table or counter.

    2) On a heat-resistant surface (aluminum foil, cardboard), lay your scrap Worbla out flat but slightly overlapping so you have one big piece that would fit the horizontal limit of your pasta-maker. Avoid laying the scraps down too thick – i would say no more than 3 layers.

    3) Heat the Worbla as per normal (it should have a fruit-roll-up tackiness to it) and run the Worbla through at a relatively thick setting (this varies from machine to machine – i’d say anywhere between 2-3mm thick is fine). It’s ok if there are holes; just reheat the sheet and fold the Worbla over, running it through again until you’re happy with the consistency.

    4) Adjust the pasta maker to produce successively thinner pieces as needed.
    This process may create some wrinkling in your sheets of scrap Worbla, but this can be mostly fixed by reheating where necessary. A bag of roughly 1-1.5kg in scrap tends to generate maybe five or six long strips of 1mm Worbla. If you use permanent marker on your Worbla like I do, you’ll probably also notice some streaking. This is normal and doesn’t affect use of the material at all.

We also have a video from Rachelle Cosplay showing the process using small scraps and a clay roller. (We do suggest a pasta roller for this method if available, as we have heard from folks clay rollers break down quickly when used with Worbla!)

 
 

Kamui uses her scraps to make sculptural elements, and things like bracelets.
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To help keep your fingers from getting burned while working with heated Worbla, try working with gloves, or dipping your fingers in water before handling the Worbla.
 
 

Raven Wei shows how she used scraps for her Lumina’s delicate heel and shoulder embellishments. Heat your scraps (carefully) and you can mold them together into a putty that can be wrapped around forms, carved, shaped and sanded.



 
 
Atashi Cosplay shared this video showing the process of recycling her scraps.

 
 

Valerei shared this method of making new Worbla sheets without needing a pasta roller.
step 1:
take all those scrap pieces you have, remember to never throw away even small pieces, because they can always be used for other things!
step 2:
Put them together in a way that they cover a big area and doesn’t have any gaps between them.
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step 3:
put some wax paper both over and under the worbla(I used paper that you cut out patterns with, but I think wax paper is the right choice here), and then get your iron.
Try out what temperature works the best with your iron, I had to use the warmest setting on our iron.
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step 4:
iron it heavily, make sure to also turn it over so you iron on both sides
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step 5:
now get out that rolling pin of yours and start rolling!
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Step 6:
Repeat step 4 and 5 until you get a result that you are pleased with. This might take some time depending on how picky you are with the result.
step 7:
let it cool down a bit, then remove the paper and VOILA! a kinda flat piece of worbla!
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it IS more flat than it looks here, I promise!