Portal 2 Chell WIP: Working Heel Springs!

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Sedulous Studios

Active Member
I decided that if I don't start a thread on this, I probably won't manage to take in-progress photos. And since I'd quite like to remember to take some progress photos...

I'm planning to go to DragonCon for the first time this year. So that's my deadline for this project. There are a number of parts to the costume: two shirts, leggings/pants, jumpsuit, gun, and boots. Some things are easy, some are hard...

My biggest goal with this is to make a pair of accurate (looking) Long Fall Boots. I haven't yet seen anyone do a wearable pair that I think really look good--and that's because it's really, really difficult to do.

For references, I have the game itself, the model viewer (very, very helpful), and a few promo pictures/videos (Long Fall Boots video). If they disagree I'm using the model viewer as my ultimate source in general.
 
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Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

The first piece that I acquired for this was the Aperture Laboratories tank top. That was easy, as it was/is available in the Valve store and was even on sale when I bought it. Unfortunately it has a number of issues that means it will need modification. It's the wrong style, being high at the back neckline rather than lowcut. It's far too long (which I expected--a shirt as short as the one in the game would be a bit hard to wear around). And, as they only had large when I purchased it, it's a good bit too big. Luckily I can sew, and I can fix the issues. I've already cut the neckline down, which also fixed the way the straps sit on my shoulders--they were too close to my neck before. I need to re-sew the edging and then that will be fixed. After that I need to take it in at the sides (easy) and shorten it (also easy). I'll need to sew on a black or dark grey narrow edging around the bottom as well, and I have some scrap fabric I'll use for that.

The under tank is a light blue racerback, tight fitting and normal length. I found some $5 white nylon tanks, which are the perfect shape/fit, being quite tight. I bought several and so far have dyed one the correct color with acid dyes that I already have. I messed one up and dyed it too dark, but I think I have like 2-3 more which I will also dye. It turns out it takes VERY little dye to get that light color. The flash washed it out some in the picture, and I'm just holding the other one tight as it's not done being modded yet.
 
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Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

Chell wears a pair of grey leggings or shorts, so those were next on my
list. I bought a couple of pairs of grey leggings (again, at $5 a pair--if they don't work out for this I'll wear them around regularly). Unfortunately upon further consideration her leggings look much thicker than mine, which are more like tights. But given comfort considerations I'm not sure I want a thick pair as well as the jumpsuit. It may depend on whether I can find something I like before D*C. If not, I have these leggings. If I stick with the leggings I need to find a way to reproduce the center seam on them, as mine are seamless. It would probably be better to find something a bit thicker, but I've had a hard time finding non-heathered grey shorts or pants with the right seams.
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

The jumpsuit should be pretty easy. I'm not bad at sewing, and as I'm making it from scratch I don't need to work around someone else's seams, etc. I bought fabric--3 yards of orange cotton twill, 5 yards of unbleached cotton muslin, and 1/8 yard of orange cotton canvas. The pants part of the jumpsuit has an unusual number of seams, 7 on each leg as opposed to the normal two. But happily, unlike the Portal version, the Portal 2 version does not have piping. Just the off-white stripes on the arms and off-white lining, which my unbleached muslin matches very well.

Since the legs have all those odd seams, I decided to make my pattern using a thrift store pair of capris. I drew the seamlines on while wearing them, then cut the pants up along those lines and added seam allowances. So far I've only done the pants out of muslin. They need to be taken in a bit on the lower leg but fit very well up higher, which is great. I'm going to make the entire thing out of muslin then pick it apart and use it as a pattern for the orange outer version. Then I'll have to sew the muslin back together and use it as the lining.

The upper part looks very simple--as far as I can tell, the complex seaming only extends to the waist. Above that it looks to be one piece for the back and presumably two for the front. As it's worn tied around the waist it just needs to hang right.

I nee to figure out what kind of sleeves it has. I think they have to be 3/4 or full length (unlike the short sleeves in Portal) to tie properly. But I'm not sure how they're set in, either, and I always find sleeves a bit difficult.

I haven't been able to figure out yet what kind of closure the jumpsuit would have if it was worn done up. Zipper? Buttons? Nothing is visible as far as I've seen, and I'm not sure that I'll bother putting anything in. I'm concerned that if I put in a zipper the exposed teeth will end up rubbing against my arms etc. and I don't need that.
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

The gun (ASHPD) was relatively easy, as it's the only part I'm not making myself. I pre-ordered the licensed replica from NECA. So here's hoping that is satisfactory and comes in a reasonable time (though I have plenty of time before D*C).

I did start making a pepakura version of the gun, before I knew about the replica. I got as far as purchasing materials, printing it out, and cutting a few parts out. I've never done pep before and it's a very neat idea. I just don't know that this was the right project to use it on. The portal device is just too complex, and I estimated it would have taken me a week of work to get it done--and that wouldn't have included any electronics. Better to buy it this time.
 

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Kestre

Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

I've wanted to make a no-heel version. I think a blacksmith could make the brace with a way to strap around the calf. It makes sense in my head but I haven't found a local blacksmith with the time for the project. The best solution would be a carbon fiber brace like a kangaroo shoe or handicap foot.
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

So that brings me to the most difficult part of this whole thing by far. The Boots (and I think they deserve the capital B).

I've considered several possibilities for the Boots. My first plan was to make the support piece (which is what I'm considering the white part that forms the upper leg and stirrup-like portion) out of fiberglass or possibly carbon fiber. This would have the advantage of a stiff support and a rigid mounting point for the heel spring. Unfortunately, the stirrup area is simply too narrow to fit a foot through if the support is rigid. I did a test out of plaster cloth, and I thought it could be done with some modification. The back area (black) would have to cut a bit higher to be able to fit the foot through the stirrup. However further testing showed that this just doesn't work, not for my foot at least!

My second thought was a high durometer rubber/silicone. However I'm concerned about my ability to produce a smooth, glossy, bubble-free white piece, as well as the cost. And it might not really deal with the ultimate problem of attaching that heel spring to the back of my leg.

After much consideration, I decided that my best plan right now is to make the support piece out of vegetable tanned leather. This has several advantages: it's quite strong, it can be wet molded to the appropriate shape, it can be heat hardened, and I'm already familiar with it--and I already have a couple of suitable hides. I tested painting a scrap and I can make it glossy white without difficulty. There's a visible seam on the Boot between the main part of the support piece and the stirrup, so that should give me a perfect place to join two separate pieces of leather.

Now, the heel springs. Again, I went through several possible plans on these. Similar pieces have been made as running prosthetics--those are carbon fiber. There are also jumping stilts, which have a large fiberglass spring. However... I've never really used fiberglass or carbon fiber. A broken heel spring could be rather dangerous, especially if I was, say, walking down stairs at the time. And I found a video of someone who made herself a pair of functional heel springs out of steel! At least if steel fails it will fail gradually by bending, rather than in a brittle failure mode. Plus, steel is available locally.

I purchased a 4' piece of steel bar stock, 1.5" wide by 3/16" thick. My brother helped me bend it to the appropriate shape for the two springs. With that done it was just a matter of figuring out how to attach them to my legs. In game, they attach to the boots with three bolts. That seemed reasonable enough, but they need something to bolt into on the other side.

I designed a simple plate which follows the curve of my calf. It has three countersunk holes for the bolts and four loops. The loops align with the straps, such that the straps can be passed through them (though I'm not certain that's how I'll end up attaching the straps, we'll see!). That way I will be able to get that plate attached to the leather part mechanically, rather than attempting to somehow glue it in. I had a local steel fabricator produce the two plates for me as I have no welding equipment or experience.

I will need to cut off the bolts eventually as they're much too long. I have washers as spacers, as the springs should be mounted not quite flush to the leg. I'll fill in the space between with Apoxie Sculpt as well, once I'm certain how much space it should be.

And...that's where I am so far! Further updates as events warrant...
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell

I've wanted to make a no-heel version. I think a blacksmith could make the brace with a way to strap around the calf. It makes sense in my head but I haven't found a local blacksmith with the time for the project. The best solution would be a carbon fiber brace like a kangaroo shoe or handicap foot.
That's exactly what I figured. It turns out that just strapping it around the calf (without support going down under the foot) requires really strong Velcro or some alternate, as well as very very very tight straps. I haven't managed to find something ideal there, although I do have some suitably strong Velcro. It can on my Aircast when I injured my ankle. I intend to find some that doesn't involve destroying the Aircast, if I can. I'm hesitant to order any online without being able to test its strength.
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Re: Portal 2 Chell WIP

I've got the structure for one of the Long Fall Boots made (other one is almost there, but I ran out of strapping material)! I need to do some adjustments (still need to sew down one strap and need to adjust where the upper strap is sewn down). But--they work. I'm almost in disbelief over it, somehow I didn't expect it to actually work. It holds my weight, flexes just the right amount (and springs back), and I can walk in it, though it will be better when I get some proper rubber on the bottom of the spring for grip and for not ruining floors with steel.

I ended up finding some really strong velcro at the hardware shop. It's sticky backed, which actually works out OK, though I think I'm going to try and sew through it as well since I often don't trust adhesives that much.

There's some foreshortening in these photos, but:



The ankle strap is heavy-duty velcro and will eventually be attached permanently.

You can see how the leather wants to bulge out in the photo below, that's because I sewed the top strap to the leather just a bit too high, so as it pulls down it pushes the leather out.



This one is with all my weight on that foot/the spring:



From the inside, the topmost strap I haven't sewn down yet. I padded the straps with craft foam, which works great for just a bit of cushioning.



And the back:



Obviously I still need to make the outer shell of the boot. I've sewn a zip-on fabric inner liner to build the outside shell on top of. I have vinyl, craft foam, and leather handy to work with as I make the visible boot part. I'm thinking it will attach with velcro or something like that. It just needs to look good, as all the structure is coming from the part I already made and the fabric liner.

I bought a pair of cheap flip-flops to cut up for a thick sole/platform for the front of the foot; we'll see if I go with those or with something grippier and sturdier. I'm definitely going to need something sturdier for the foot pads on the heel springs. I also need to hit the bottom of the springs with a grinder to get the right shape on the ends.

I also received my ASHPD and am quite pleased with it.
 

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Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Yeah, sorry about the slow progress. I've been incredibly busy with my "real" work (I'm a full time artist) and it's been hard to find time to work on fun stuff!
 

Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Ok, progress has happened. I'm finished with the internal structure and about to move on to the outside pretty layer. The boots are totally wearable and, while I wouldn't say that they're the most comfortable things I've ever worn, they're tolerable. I'm lining them with foamies right now which helps a lot.



Above shows the inside of the right boot. The white is some of the foam padding.



This is the back of the right boot. This one closes at the heel with velcro. The left one has a zipper at the heel. Both work, but the velcro was a lot easier to do. My zipper on the right one broke (my fault, not because it wasn't strong) and I couldn't get it fixed and got frustrated and removed it.



It actually looks like a proper long fall boot here, I think! Note the built-up sole in front. This makes them SO much easier to walk in. It's foam from flip-flops, hot glued together and with a strap around the whole thing for extra security.



With straps closed.





And this is the inside (of the left one, see the zipper on the left). Steel down the center, and the leather strips at each side (top and bottom in this photo) cover two pieces of fish tape/hard steel wire. That provides extra support by distributing the pressure from the straps over a bit more area and also keeps the sides from bowing out so much.

I'm going to try and take a video of walking in them if I can get any of my cameras to do such a thing.

I've also got the jumpsuit 75% finished. Just need to finish the cuffs, neck, and add details.
 

drknotter

Active Member
These are so, so cool! I can't wait to see how they turn out! And thanks for all the progress pictures, I might just try to make a pair for my wife sometime in the future. :)
 

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Sedulous Studios

Active Member
Thanks guys! I had to do a quick patch on the left ankle where some of the stitching was nearly pulling through the leather. I added patches on both sides of that ankle and it should be fine. I sewed the right ankle slightly differently so it should be fine still.

Very cool, but are they comfortable to walk in at all?
Well, "comfortable" is a moving target. They're not too bad. I plan to try and get a bit of practice in on them before wearing them at DragonCon. When I wore them for a few minutes today my right ankle started hurting a bit, but since it's hurt more or less continuously for four months (very bad sprain) that's not surprising. Other than that--well, we'll see.

I'm looking forward to getting some rubber on the bottoms of the springs so I can walk on non-carpeted floors without scratching them.
 

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