Convention Report: Midwest Gaming Classic

There are many things I like: the color purple, unicorns, turtles, wine, fuzzy socks, working in my pjs.  Over the past few months I’ve added two new items to that list: the way women’s faces light up when I tell them the skirts I make have pockets, and when a woman pulls on a skirt, hands me cash, and dances out of the booth, headed for adventure.  I got to experience those Christmas morning grins and twirling happiness many times over this past weekend at the Midwest Gaming Classic.

Held outside of Milwaukee, MGC encompasses a spectrum of gaming: from arcade to console to tabletop.  My booth was in the outdoor tent they erect in the parking lot of the hotel.  That plus the corner stage that saw a rotation of various bands, and the whole event had a flea market, county fair feel where cosplay, jazz renditions of the Mario Brothers theme, and air hockey all came together.  It attracts around 10,000 attendees, and hosts various rooms with arcade games free to play.

The stage part was equal parts fun and annoying.  The booth was right across from the stage and every hour for an hour there was an act.  Most of the time it was loud to the point of headache inducing.  It also made it hard to talk with customers.

And there were lots of customers.  The foot traffic was steady for all of Saturday and most of Sunday.  Men with backpacks, ball caps and shuffled the aisles, their mouths pulled into frowns of concentration as they scanned the boxes of game cartridges, computer parts and vintage ephemera.  Kids and teens skipped from one booth to another, touching everything, all thrown limbs and tripping feet.  The women strolled, weaving their way through the crowd, here dipping into a booth and then lighting out, carrying a plushy, a signed print, or some other prize of geekery.

I shared the booth with Moira of Memento Moria.  By our crafty powers combined we are Awesome Geek Girl Wearables!  Splitting a booth with someone not only helps with keeping costs down, but it means you both will have back up for bathroom breaks and food runs.  I was reminded why this is so important by our booth neighbor: a sweet guy selling anime fan staples like Pocky, along with candy, drinks and bookmarks.  He did steady business, and was on his own for the entire weekend.  We helped out when we could, keeping an eye on things so he could run to the restroom.  By the second day my anxiety was triggered by worry that someone would walk off with something.  Thankfully I had medication with me and I have gotten much better at taking it when I need it, rather than trying to tough the anxiety out.

The only low part came in the morning of Sunday while I was watching our neighbor’s booth.  A man looking at the bookmarks caught my eye, pointed at me, and then beckoned me with his finger.  The gesture was so dismissive, so patronizing, I had the instant urge to bite the digit off.  Instead I just told him curtly that it wasn’t my booth and the owner would be back soon.  Finger Man slithered his way down the aisle, never to be seen again.

Over all, it was a really good convention.  I made a little more than my goal*, handed out lots of business cards, and even had someone follow me on Instagram as we talked in the booth.

And now I am back.  I took Monday off to recuperate, because working conventions is hard work, no matter what my Jerk Brain would have me believe.  And now I am ready to head back into the workshop to work on the commissions I took at the show and to get ready for the next event which will likely be in June.

As for Midwest Gaming Classic, I’ve already made plans to return next year.


*I reworked how I calculated my sales goals this year.  Before I would take the number of expected attendees and multiply that by the amount per person I usually make at similar events.  The problem, though, is that different kinds of events have wildly different amount per person: Anime conventions, for example, tend to bring in a little under a dollar per person, whereas general science fiction conventions is more in the .25-.50 cent range.  This difference made for lots of variation and guesswork, and if an anime convention had a bad year, it cast doubt on the numbers.

Instead, I decided to figure out the number of hours I would be at an event and multiply that by how much per hour I charge for labor.  The resulting number is lower than the previous calculation, however I have hit that goal and exceeded it each time.  At this point I will take a more realistic, if lower, sales goal.

Geeky Skirts with Pockets

Sometimes you get an idea that is so obvious you wonder why you didn’t think of it before.  They’re the kind of ideas that when you tell people they say, “Holy shit, yeah! That’s a great idea!” I don’t think these moments of inspiration really pop up out of the blue.  They might seem that way because the inspirational components are so buried in the background they’re forgotten.

I don’t want to overlook the inspirations for these skirts, so I am going to first give a shout out to the three fairy godmothers of this project.

Justine, a real life mermaid, sparked the idea by asking me about making her some skirts.  Nothing fancy, no bustles or flounces, just some comfy circle skirts.

Shortly afterwards Moira, an artist of Victorian morbidity, mentioned seeing skirts with pockets at an event where she was vending.  They weren’t fandom or SF/Fantasy specific, just simple A-line skirts with pockets.  Women were buying them up in armfuls.

Finally comes Jennifer, a savvy lady who has run vending halls for various events.  While I was at Anime Midwest a couple of weeks ago, I lamented to her about how there was all this awesome, licensed fabric that I wanted to use but I couldn’t because of the fine print on the selvages.  I felt it was unethical to make projects to sell from licensed fabric when the companies wouldn’t get compensation.  And it always bothered me that it seemed so many others didn’t have those same qualms.

“You can use that fabric for projects you sell,” she told me.  After some research I realized that she was right.  The fine print on the selvages was unenforceable by the companies.  But more importantly, the companies got their licensing fees in the first sale of the fabric.  After that First Sale of Doctrine kicks in.  Never have I been so happy to be so wrong.

So skirts + pockets + licensed fabric = geeky clothes for Salt Lake Comic Con.  If it hadn’t been for these three friends I wouldn’t have spent the last four weeks experimenting until I came up with this:

Geeky Skirt with Pockets Star Trek Sigils Edition

I started off with dirndl skirts (rectangles gathered to a wide waistband).  But those really only look good on kids and teens.  I played around with a simple A-line panel pattern which came out looking much more grown up.

I have drafted six sizes from small to 3XL (fitting waists from 22″-59″).  Each one features two interior side pockets and a wide elastic waistband.  I’m spending the next few weeks making up as many as I can for SLCC.  I’ve got an album of what I’ve made so far and the fabrics used over at the Idiorhythmic Designs FB page.  Check it out.

When I’m back from SLCC, I’ll put together a tutorial on how to make one to your own measurements and post it here.

Eighteen Panel Skirt

Stylish Skirts by Sato Watanabe
Stylish Skirts by Sato Watanabe. Look at the prettiness!

I was walking through my local Jo-Ann Fabric store a couple of months ago when was seized with a fiery passion of the sort that overcomes a baron for the new stable boy.   Usually it’s a piece of embroidered linen that stirs my creative lust.  This time it was a skirt.  More specifically, the panel skirt show on the cover of Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure.

Just look at it over there, all stripy and swishy, with french seams!  Now, that skirt is swoon-worthy on its own, but my mind was going off into another direction.  I had, buried in my stash of fabric, several yards of soft, knit fabric in three colors: grey, heathery-purple, and a smokey-blue.  They had been sitting in a cardboard file box for years, waiting for the time when I would get around to making them into something awesome.  Well, their time had come.

It has been years since I’ve made any clothing for myself.  Which is funny as I originally got into sewing for just that reason.  So, it was with a lot of giddiness, trepidation, and wine, that I set out this past weekend to make myself a new skirt.  The skirt started off very close to the original pattern, which is where I ran into the first obstacle.  Stylish Skirts is translated from Japanese, and there are some glitches in the transition. Fortunately there’s the internet, and I wasn’t the first person to run into problems.

Creating the pattern took about half an hour once I figured out the issue.  I didn’t take into account any changes to the pattern with regards to using a knit fabric.  I drafted it to my waist and hip measurements, and drew it much longer than the book calls for.  I like long skirts.  I don’t care if they’re not supposed to look good on short girls.

Skirt Panel Pieces
Skirt panel pieces, assemble!

The actual cutting out of the pieces took an hour or so, due to the fact that I wasn’t working with intact yardage.  At some point in the past I had cut out two one-piece tunic style dresses for Charlotte out of the blue and purple fabrics.  As such I had to take some extra care to get it all cut out.  Even so, I ended up with only four panels of the blue, six of the purple and then ten of the grey.  The original pattern calls for six of each, but I wasn’t going to let a little thing like that stop me.

Sewing the skirt together took a couple of hours.  The original pattern calls for a zipper closure, but because I was using knits my plan was for an elasticized waistband.  Remember how I drafted the pattern as suggested by the book?  That didn’t take into account the need for the waist to fit over my hips with an elastic waist.  So when I sewed the panels together I dropped the seam allowance down to 3/8″ of an inch, which gave me the necessary room.

I gave the hem a rolled edge because I was tired of sewing by then, and also I didn’t want to sacrifice any of the length.  (Did I mention I like long skirts?)  The resulting skirt is soft and swishy.  I have to kick the hem out of the way when I walk, or pull it up—a bonus in my book.  I have been twirling around the house in it for a few days making little noises of happiness and satisfaction.

Skirt Selfie!
And here is the finished skirt! Super soft and comfy and requires me to kick my feet out when walking.
Lounging in my Skirt
Lounging in my comfy skirt.

I’ve already settled on the next skirt I’ll be making from the book. I’ll post pictures and a write up when that happens.  In the meantime, please enjoy the playlist I put together for the skirt:

  1. Not an Addict – K’s Choice
  2. Got You Where I Want You – The Flys
  3. Creep – Radiohead
  4. Linger – The Cranberries
  5. Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
  6. Soul to Squeeze – Red Hot Chili Peppers
  7. Who Will Save Your Soul – Jewel
  8. Building a Mystery – Sarah McLachlan
  9. Celebrity Skin – Hole
  10. Santa Monica – Everclear
  11. I Don’t Need a Hero – Concrete Blonde
  12. Happy Phantom – Tori Amos