Mechanicsburg Vest, Part 2

I decided to line the Mechanicsburg vest in the same fabric as the shirt. Cue more rolling…not really. The fraying bits are all tucked into the middle of the fabric sandwich. Getting there was a process though. I used the vest itself as a pattern again and may have neglected that little thing called seam allowances. I was also using the pillowcase from the sheet set, and didn’t want to add more fabric. Well, once I got my armholes set in (one at a time, unlike when I was working on the kimono/vest), the front right and left were decidedly short on coverage! So I got some more strips from the top hem of the top sheet, and tacked them on, and got my top, bottom, and side seams set.

For decoration/fastening, we decided on some cute little blue buttons to go on both left and right, which we’d ultimately like to connect with some brass chain. So there’s a bit yet to go on this piece, but it’s pretty close to done.

Mechanicsburg Shirt

Unlike replicating the trousers, making another renaissance shirt (once again taking some of the bagginess out) was an experience with a smooth flow from step to step with a very hard to work with fabric. It was slippery and it wanted to shred. Constantly. I rolled every seam under and stitched them down to keep tiny magenta bits from floating around everywhere. Needless to say, there were still many tiny magenta bits floating just about everywhere.

Look at that shimmer!

Oh! I did have to go shopping for this fabric, to complement the vest-in-progress. We ended up selecting a set of sheets at Goodwill. So the collar and cuffs are from the top hem, meaning I had less fiddly sewing, holding and pinning to do to get them in place. Though I did somehow forget how I wanted to handle that part of the process, meaning the collar might sit a bit oddly. I still need to add a hook and eye at the collar, and buttons at the cuffs. NOT FUNCTIONAL BUTTONS. Not with this fabric’s propensity to shred. But I do have some pseudo-Roman coin buttons that will be perfect.

 

Mechanicsburg Vest

So I started on the vest for Jeff’s original character in the Girl Genius universe: a Mechanicsburg reporter. Spoiler: the pattern for this vest is the same as Sherlock’s, minus the flipped over collar. I’d kept out a couple of pattern pieces with the precut fabric (apparently to check on the darts? except they were already chalked) but not the directions, so I worked mostly from memory with a quick glance at Sherlock for reference on the pockets. It went pretty well! I think the top of the pocket liners weren’t attached quite right, but no one will be able to tell, and the outside looks very nice.

Much to his chagrin, I did have to put the vest on Jeff inside out to find out what else had to be done to snug up the fit. Luckily, I put it on inside out to begin with, so the pins were on the correct side. It ended up coming to an interesting point in the center back which almost makes it look like it’s made from a total of five pieces of fabric instead of three.

A Different Queen

And then I got my first commission! By which I mean a friend was looking for someone to make something for their daughter, and I volunteered.

Do you know about tutu dresses? I didn’t. I saw the inspiration picture of a Queen of Hearts tutu dress, had a brief moment of panic when I thought I would have to call up the lady who graciously provided most of my stash to say “help! how I can I get layers and layers of tulle to behave in the sewing machine?!” (she is an experienced tutu maker as well), and then realized that somehow those strips were knotted on.

Luckily the internet is an expert in tutu dresses. I used this lovely blogger’s work as a loose guide (and somewhat regret not following the recommendation to get a crochet top to use as the base, having instead raided my stash for a strip of trim that could be coaxed into a similar configuration). For anyone familiar with latch-hooking yarn rugs, you may be interested to know that the process is about the same, but with giant strips of tulle, larger holes (ideally), and, if you’re smart and/or multi-crafty, a crochet hook.

Tulle is not something I have in my stash, and the friend was perfectly happy to pay for materials, so off I went to JoAnn Fabrics. I happened to hit the store at sale time, so I was able to get the narrow spools of tulle cheaper than buying a giant rectangle of fabric and cutting the strips out myself. Thank goodness. On the other hand, I carefully obeyed the request for “sparkly” and as I latch-hooked the skirt I ended up subjecting my house to an infestation of glitter. (Friend, of course, already has an irremovable colony and was not in the least perturbed.)

The other instruction was “grow with her” which I took as my biggest design feature. The bodice basically is an apron top draped on my (adult size) dress form. The hearts are glitter paper and velcro on, so they can shift up/down if needed. There’s lots of extra strap on the shoulder, designed to be let down an inch at a time. The back heart just kind of hangs, depending on gravity to sit where it’s supposed to (and is even more adjustable with its velcro). There’s a ribbon at the waist that  will tie in front for now and can shift to tying in back as she grows.

Other materials details: the black ribbons for border and waistband are from my stash, as is the white lace on the shoulder, and both exterior and interior of the “apron” bodice. The wearer will always have a t-shirt and leggings on underneath (and the tulle still tangles, so adding an underskirt might be a good choice). The crown and wand were more glitter paper (the gold very stiff and almost plasticky), a dowel, and a headband also from JoAnn. The part I got most excited about (having innovated a bit) is making the wand double as a “croquet mallet” (not actually good for hitting anything, but the shape is right, since I used one of the tulle spools).

 

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The front view.
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The back view (gold inside hidden by wearer of course).

 

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The wand and crown!

A New Shirt for Sherlock

So in reality it is now December. Jeff read through the archives this week and sheepishly came downstairs to tell me that he enjoyed it and he’d really like me to write more. He’s even set it up for RSS, apparently. Therefore, using the magic of publishing dates (break? what break?), I plan to flood his feed. *evil grin*

Fittingly enough, this first post is about him. Er, his clothes. That new shirt for Sherlock we were planning on (which will also be part of the base for Jaime) was ready in time for him to wear to the local ComicCon (marathon-made the night before, of course).

Honestly it’s been so long I’ve almost forgotten the exact details of how I made it…and it doesn’t seem to be in the costume closet, so I can’t check seams. Because I couldn’t possibly go upstairs right now. Nope.

So I started with a big piece of white fabric from my stash – the only one that we felt was really the right texture to translate to Jaime. I’d planned to use the renaissance shirt pattern again, but despite being a lot of fabric, it wasn’t enough fabric. So I draped it.

By which I mean I folded it over itself, cut a T for the neckline, and shoved it over Jeff’s head. (I did ask first!) I made him stick his arms out and pinned the bottom seam of the sleeve in place – with a few adjustments for desired elbow motion. Then we discovered it sat funny at the shoulders, so I ended up cutting the original arms out and shifting the rough outline of the torso lower so I could put in proper shoulder seams.

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The finished Sherlock look!

I think I did some pretty good 3-D thinking, building a lining into the neckline (which is rounded in back and has a straight line opening
down the center front). By which I mean none of it ended up attached to the “right” side of the fabric. Hooray!

I got to use a massive cheat on the cuffs – they were right on the selvage. And then we cut into them to add cufflinks… If I ever upgrade the piece at all, adding detachable cuffs so it looks more formal for Sherlock is item #1.

Sewing Cersei

I’m about five and a half hours into sewing Cersei (general intentions are here, if you missed them), and it’s been an adventure. No major disasters, but so many little things have gone wrong:

– Staystitch side edge of front above waist. Well great, I didn’t mark the waist. Guess I’m eyeballing it. (No ill effects obvious to date.)

– Stitch upper side front to lower side front. Um…you’ve got an outie and an innie…how do I sew those together? Incorrectly, the first time. (The intermediate step of staystitching the lower edge of the upper side front [the innie] means you can stretch it along the outie for stitching and then afterwards it sort of flexes back into place.)

– Stitch side front to front. The hems line up wrong, and not the way I planned. So much for the brilliant curtain hem intentions. It’ll all turn out fine when I put in the final hem.

– Basically repeat the above for the back and side back. I should probably mention here I’m too lazy to use pins, except for really tricky spots. The bigger mistake is keep forgetting to reverse the stitch at the beginning and end of my seams, to lock them in place…

– As mentioned, I’m skipping the ties.

– Stitch front to back. It finally starts to look like a thing! It’s not super fitted, so I could take in some seams if I wanted, but I think it looks okay. I’ll just have to be very specific about the hemming the front flap so it doesn’t spill over into the contrast section.

– The facing is really where it started getting weird. I hemmed the lower edge of the front, but I typically don’t press, so I missed turning in the seam allowance. And the hem of the back facing is atrocious – another outie, so it’s all wrinkled and overlapped. Stitched front to back okay, but then:

– I added the improvised collar when I stitched the facing to the dress. That step was mostly fine, but when I understitched the facing, I caught a bunch of extra fabric in several different spot and had to rip it out and re-stitch piecemeal (if I did the whole seam over again, it would probably just be worse.)

– Then, it didn’t actually say to, but I slipstitched the lining hem (instead of the armhole facing. And I had it on the dress form by this point. And the slipstitch went through the incredibly thin fabric covering the dress form. So I had to do that over.

– Finally, it was sleeve time! I got all the giant pieces together just fine, but then I started adding the sleeve band and my extra piece of darker contrast. As a single seam, they went on fine. But then I had to slipstitch both the band and the rest of the darker contrast. And I caught lots of bits of the outer sleeve fabric…that was folded under from another part of the sleeve. So I had to fix that, too. I finally got the first sleeve done and am hoping to avoid that problem when I pick up on finishing the second sleeve.

Ermagerd, a progress shot! And a sneak peek of the Steampunk Basement Craft Area series.

Normally the next step after this would be attaching sleeves to dress, but I am going to have a lot of quiet down time away from home next week, so I think I’ll work on embroidering the sleeves (which even though voluminous are smaller than the dress) before I attach them.

 

Game of Thrones Plan and Cutting Cersei

There’s one more big project I want to get done before Comic Con: a pair of Game of Thrones costumes. Needless to say, it’s incredibly daunting because the costuming on that show is simply gorgeous. I don’t have the right fabrics in my stash, and let’s be honest the publicly available designs are kind of a hack. But I’m going to try. (Full disclosure, I’m making full use of some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey … stuff, here: I actually wrote this post in late September! So I’m not as hugely time crunched as you might think. EDIT: once we decided on only one day at Comic Con, though, this became a “work at your own pace” project – for good or ill, only time will tell.)

So for our first pair (yes, there’s at least one more coming at a later date), Jeff and I are going to go as Jaime and Cersei and loiter in corners and hopefully really amuse people. Starting with Cersei:

McCall’s 6940

I would have loved to do one of her high collared brocade dresses but my stash doesn’t even come close. Even the blue or pink wrap dress would be a little less popular, and I don’t really like following the crowd. But reds I’ve got, so red it is. (McCall’s 6940, of course.) The base red from my stash is actually a bit deeper, and the fabric a bit thicker, than the reference photos I’ve seen suggest. In terms of quantity, I’m limited to just the body – bodice and center front and center back – out of the deep red, which might be a silk. It’s got a lovely visual texture to it (though probably not so nice on the skin, and the bright spots that pop from those pin lines match a gauzy, slightly shiny red curtain I thrifted that I’ll be using for the sleeves. (I did manage to save some of the deep red for the peekaboo on the inside of Jaime’s collar, so that’ll be a fun touch!) I’ve also decided to forgo the recommended ties, since you can’t see them in screenshots, and will probably use more of the stick on velcro dots in my stash. I also don’t actually have any red thread, so am thinking I will try to make do with brown; it’s fairly light and shiny, so shouldn’t be that far off.

I’m satisficing on the contrast color, too. Again, from reference photos, it looks like a lighter and darker gold (but not shiny) brocade, whereas I’ll be using the “inside” of a pair of gold satiny curtains for the side fronts and backs, bodice lining, and the sleeve lining and trim. The pattern doesn’t call for it, but I’m using it for a collar as well, plus scraps from my gold bridesmaid’s dress as a darker contrast at the outside edge of the sleeve lining. I do at least have beige thread for places where that matters.

I refuse to use the enclosed lion appliqué as intended (and the fact that I’m out of dark red actually doesn’t have anything to do with it!); I’m determined to simply use the shape to mark the space in which to embroider them (as well as the sleeve hems and neckline). I’ve done a decent amount of cross-stitch and some needlepoint (though all very slowly), so I think it’s at least doable, if not in the time allotted. I did find a photo of one cosplayer who appears to have used puff paint for her sleeves, which I think is very clever, and if timing does become an issue I may go that route for some of my detailing.

I’m not intending to use the pattern at all for the belt. I have some dark gold trim that I think might be an okay substitute for the back of it (since I don’t have any gold chainmail lying around); I’m not sure how I’ll handle the leather or metal buckle yet. Maybe painted cardboard? At least there are some really nice reference photos.

So, caveats made, I can report that I have cut out all of the fabric for Cersei (making strategic use of the curtains’ hems for side front, side back and sleeves). I’ve probably set myself up for more of the trouble I had with the Sherlock vest and renaissance man‘s doublet, since I cut to the largest size but am once again going to be fitting different sections to different sizes. At least I have a dress form (should probably go spin the dials to match my current measurements…) and of course 100% access to putting the thing on my own body as I go.

I did order a $5 replica of Cersei’s lion necklace off eBay, because with all of the embroidery plans, and my lack of carving/molding skills, that seems like the best way to make sure I actually have one. I’m not sure whether she should have a signet ring in this costume or not. I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

The Doctors Who

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My last iteration of the Tenth Doctor.

Next up Jeff and I will probably be headed to Grand Rapids Comic Con. We’ll reprise Sherlock and Irene, of course (ideally with the vest snugged up and somewhere to hang the pipe). And we’ll spend some time running around – if they allow running – as a pair of Tens. Um, that’s the Tenth Doctor, from Doctor Who, in case you couldn’t guess from the title.

Edit: We’re only going to spend one day at Comic Con. So the Doctors will have to wait for Halloween. But since it’s basically Halloween party season already, it won’t be a long wait.

Anyway, to get back to your regularly scheduled post: These costumes are completely thrifted.

– Thrifted blue suits (pinstripe, for him)
– Thrifted dress shirts (actually, mine might be a leftover from choir)
– Thrifted ties (mine’s a clip-on!)
– Thrifted Converse (of course)
– Thrifted trench coats
– Thrifted khaki headband (for me, because what does a female Doctor do with her hair?)
– Thrifted pair of K-9 slippers (which we randomly ran into and how could we not?!)

And I lied. Mostly thrifted. We bought the sonic screwdrivers. Plus a couple of items of forgotten provenance:

– Psychic paper (I think it was a tiny wallet, once upon a time)
– Brainy specs (for him. My eyes suck so I have glasses all the time)

1_854723854536_619378964_nStill. Not much sewing here. (Even the WWII coat I hacked together for a Jack Harkness cosplay from a lady’s jacket didn’t have much – adjust the collar here, cut off the cuff straps there, sew them onto the shoulders for rank insignia instead… And paint the buttons gold. That was a pretty fun project, but Jeff wants to pick up a vortex manipulator before we bring it out again.)

Steampunk Irene Adler

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So Irene. Irene was a bit of a hang-er on, but I like couples’ costumes. So with steampunk Sherlock Holmes on the docket, what else was I supposed to do?

(I did actually end up thinking of a fun little narrative that blended real life and our personas: Irene’s supposedly given up her wicked ways and turned tailor to Sherlock. Of course it’s all just a ploy to get close enough to slip him something nefarious. *turn to look at him* “You didn’t hear that dear, just go on and investigate that odd thing over there.” Etc.)

Most of the outfit was already made. The skirt was actually the second version of that set I had made, since I sewed (except for the hem) a shiny brown version for my friend’s wedding outfit (which she combined with a lacy white shirt and beige corset to look amazing). Here’s the best part: it’s a mash up: bolero skirt (without loopy trim) from McCall’s 7071 and train from McCall’s 6097. My skirt was a dull green covered in black velvety flowers with a dark green velvet waistband (from the stash!), and my train was a darker shinier green (which I may have purchased). The only thing I actually had to do for the ren fair was add buttons to attach the train to the skirt. So…repeat semi-freehand note from Sherlock’s vest.

The top I’ve had for a long time; it was a hand-me-down from my mom. I searched antique shops for a cheap cameo for a long time, and the result has been hanging from the top button hole for quite a while as well.

I could’ve just used the good black leather boots I’ve owned since high school, but I ran into a pair at the thrift store with silver buttons on the side just before the ren fair and couldn’t resist. This. Was. A. Giant. Mistake. They were way too big and I had enormous blisters starting on the balls of my feet before we even got into the ren fair because we parked at the back of beyond. I thought about buying shoes from a vendor, but they were ridiculously expensive. So I begged a wad of napkins off a pickle vendor and stuffed them into my shoes. It helped enough that we could move around a little, and kept the blisters from getting worse. But I’ll be cleaning the mud off those shoes and sending them back to the thrift store. Lesson: always, always walk around in your shoes. *sigh*

How how else did I dress it up? I bought half a yard of cheap black velour and built a steampunk hat and fingerless gloves (McCall’s 6975 again) and a cummerbund or waist corset (patternless!). The hat turned out to be good practice for Sherlock, and the gloves…I had to think hard about those gloves – which side was up, which hand was which. I ended up pulling some shiny black fabric from my stash to line the thumb and wrist, and to make a flat version of what was supposed to be a crinkled connector to pin the palm side shut. And I did all three in an afternoon! The amazing thing about the hat is once I pinned it on top of my head, I completely forgot it was there.

We also borrowed a parasol from the theatre props in our basement, but didn’t end up using it. I think eventually I might like to build her a matching one with a more period-appropriate profile. And I’ll admit I saw a poison ring at the same antique shop where we picked up Sherlock’s stick pin that was quite tempting.

I keep wanting to transition from costumes to historical clothing, though, and having the costume contest judge say it was only “kind of” 1890s really drove that home. I read on a historical clothing blog that the important thing is starting with the right undergarments to build the silhouette. I can improve this costume while setting the stage for future outfits simultaneously. I’ve got a pattern for chemise, drawers, and corset already, and clearly it also needs couple of petticoats and possibly a bustle. So we’ll see where that gets it.

Steampunk Sherlock Holmes

Basically the minute I knew that the very first ren fair Jeff and I were going to was going to be having “Wonders of the World” weekend (Steampunk, Doctor Who), I realized that I needed some kind of character hook for our steampunk-y outfits. And what better than to do a steampunk Sherlock Holmes? (I’ll cover the accessories I made to augment my previously built 1890s/1900s outfit into a steampunk Irene Adler in the next post – which now exists: click here!)

At about the same time, I found myself helping build four identical wedding dresses for the final scene of Much Ado About Nothing. The experience was intensely motivating since I hadn’t done a sewing project in a while, and it reminded me of my skills and stamina. I also garnered some rather useful thoughts about fitting clothes on other people – which was much appreciated because I’d really only sewn for myself, one other skirt aside! I also took the opportunity to commandeer the theatre’s fabric cutting table on a couple of occasions, which helped me bypass the perpetual “help” offered by the cat when I work on the floor at home.

I started with a very comprehensive list for each part of the outfit and its accessories. I’ll talk about the materials and construction (if applicable) for each of them in their own section below. But first, a shout out to my sister for coming fabric (er, mostly button) shopping with me – I hope you’re enjoying your adult coloring book reward!

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– Deerstalker Cap: thick brown/orange/beige plaid wool which I purchased specifically for the outer layer, yellow/orange liner from my stash for the inner layer and the ribbons, brown thread from my stash, and a couple of bits of cardboard from a granola bar box. I have to say I was really proud of this piece – I am a habitual pattern user, and I made it without a pattern! I looked at some reference photos, and determined that I needed to cut ten identical rectangles of the fancy fabric, then round them off on the short side for the six sections of the actual hat and the two double sided ear flaps, plus two more longer, thinner ones rounded on the long side for the front and back brims. (And liner for everything except the double sided ear flaps, of course!) I measured the circumference of Jeff’s head, did some division, added seams allowances, and voila! I actually made this piece close to last, so I was getting used to working from the inside out, turning the liner to the inside, and then hand finishing. The only catch with this one was that the liner didn’t sew in evenly, so I had to piece in an extra section to match the circumference of the outer layer. Overall, a successful piece! It really helped the whole outfit be readily recognizable as a specific character.

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– Vest: wild steampunk-y print from my stash for the main body of the vest, orange velvet from my stash for the collar, six amazing “knit” buttons my sister picked out at Field’s Fabric, Simplicity Pattern 2895 from my stash, and brown thread from my stash. This was my first try at independently fitting a garment to someone else, and it worked moderately well. I cheated and didn’t include a liner, since we’re expecting to have to take it in a bit in the future, which made the piece a bit floppier than preferred. I’m also not entirely comfortable with the buttonhole foot on my sewing machine, so I put it on buttonhole settings but controlled the spacing myself, with mixed results. But! I made my first pocket, and it’s perfect for holding prop #1:

– Pocket watch: a little gold number we already own. We found out to our surprise at the ren fair that it actually works!

– Cravat: more of the yellow/orange liner I used for the cap, again using Simplicity Pattern 2895. I took some shortcuts on the folds since it was more of a last minute addition, but it eventually became home to accessory #1:

– Stick pin: we didn’t find this until we visited an antique shop after the ren fair, but we now have a gold stick pin with a color-coordinated orange stone. Under it all, of course, there’s a foundational garment:

– White dress shirt: a quick thrift store find. The collar isn’t quite right with the rest of what’s going on, so we’ll be upgrading eventually to a frill-less version of Simplicity 4095 (since it’s already in my stash). Most of the bottom of the costume is similarly basic:

– Brown pants: a more effortful thrift store find. Why are clothes that are ostensibly the same size always widely variable in their fit?!

– Brown shoes: Jeff’s every day pair of slip ons (no laces, no nothing – nice and smooth) which we expected to be a perfect base for:

– Spats: some really neat black flower outlines on brown pleather I found at Field’s, plus brown thread from my stash and McCall’s 6975 from my stash. I was really excited to find some random stick-on velcro dots in my stash to secure them. Sadly they didn’t sit quite right and we had to leave this piece out! However, moving back up to the waist, I also made:

– Cargo belt: more of the pleather from Field’s, brown thread from the stash, a pair of steampunk cuff links we already owned, and McCall’s 6975 from the stash. I reduced the width of the top layer, and I think I had to add more pleather backing on the straps than the pattern actually called for. I also had to run out and buy four D rings since I hadn’t realized I’d need them. One of the pockets took two tries to sew it into the right shape. I stuffed the pockets with tissues and sealed them shut with the cufflinks – not a functional prop holder, there. We also didn’t end up using props #2 and #3:

– Pipe: we bought a cheap costume pipe from a local costume shop. The bowl was white (maybe they thought it looked like ivory?) so I painted it to look like wood (thanks, theatrical set painting practice) with the green, orange, and white left in my acrylic paint set (thanks, painting party at Bamboo studio). We need to make it possible to hang it from the belt.

– Magnifying glass: we’ve had this magnifying glass around for a while, and I got out my gold enamel paint to change the silver rim to gold. This beauty’ll need to hang from the belt for future uses, too. And the last item we didn’t use was:

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– Great coat: thrifted brown curtain(!) that I was honestly hoping to use later for Littlefinger, more brown thread from the stash, and a couple of amazing bronze gear buttons my sister found at Field’s. Plus of course once again Simplicity 2895. I thought I had a great cheat since the curtain was lined, but I cut and sewed the coat and liner simultaneously leaving the seams on the inside, and this white stuff frayed like crazy. I turned in as many of the seams as possible, but I’m probably going to have to re-line it with more of the yellow/orange from the stash, if there’s enough. I had the same issue with the pockets as on the vest. I skipped the second set of pockets on the top half – I love that the main pockets are right on the line between the … can I call it a bodice? … and the “skirt”. (Tails?) Anyway. I made sure to do fittings with all the other layers underneath, so we didn’t end up making it too snug. It looks pretty good on, but hides all the rest of the fun colors, so we’re probably also going to have to find a way to tie it back or leave it open in cooler weather. Maybe move the buttons to the cuffs…

I ended up making very bad shoe choices myself (again, more on that later), so we didn’t wander much at all that first day. Which meant we were right in the appropriate place for the end of the day’s costume contest. Which we won. As a couple. Which they weren’t planning on (but then so did the awesome Victorian Harley and Joker pair). And really we won because “Sherlock” bantered with the judge (as did Harley, for that matter). But who’s counting?