Featured Project – The Steampunk Clown

Oh steampunk… is there anything you can’t make amazing? Sometimes the best ideas come from one random thought, such as “I wonder what a steampunk circus would look like?”

From that one brilliant idea this amazing steampunk clown costume was born from the talented minds of two ladies, Laura and Chelsey. That one little thought grew into this gorgeous over-the-top clown costume that just blew my mind when it showed up in my inbox. The photos were taken in an opera house in Mantorville MN, just a short drive from my hometown, and the richness of this whole project was just too good to pass up!

I could go on, but really, it’s much better if I just let our lovely ladies tell us a bit about what went into this steampunk creation…


What started this project?

Laura: I started to buy fabric to design a circus costume after several of us talked about how we hadn’t really seen a steampunk circus done before, and what fun it could be.  I didn’t know the outfit itself would be a clown until I had assembled a pile of brightly colored fabrics and the idea that the skirt might look like a carousel.  When I mentioned it to my husband he said, “Just don’t make a clown.  Clowns are creepy.”  Which meant, of course, that it had to be a clown.  A non-creepy clown.


How did you go about choosing designs for the project?

Laura: We chose the Parisian Clockwork for the lapels, stripped down to just the clock faces and in a copper thread to mimic the idea of the clown being a clockwork clown, and to bring the copper color of the metal into the embroidery.  Lyra and the Ringmaster got added to the spats after the leather that was purchased for the spats was found to not be thick enough for the original cut-work design that was planned.  The colors were changed in their clothing to better reflect the colors of the fabric.


The end result of the spats far exceeded our expectations and looked much better than I believe the original idea would have looked.  We did use Carousel Animals embroidery from Embroidery Library because we needed a number of different animals (there is only one repetition in the entire skirt) and at that point Urban Threads did not have a large collection of carousel animals, otherwise you definitely would have been our first choice!


Chelsey: It was tough to choose between all the different circus characters and steampunk elements. I think Laura and I had a list of a dozen designs before we settled on Parisian Clockwork, Lyra, and the Ringmaster. In the end, Parisian Clockwork was chosen for the simplicity and subtlety it could bring.


Lyra was picked because we wanted to keep the costume as feminine and pretty as possible. The Ringmaster was chosen because he was playful but still had that hint of creepiness that circuses have.


Talk us through the embroidery… which designs did you use? How long did it take to embroider it all?

Chelsey: Once we sifted through all the possible designs, the whole thing came together. I used Embird to edit out the background shading and text on Parisian Clockwork and then repeated the design against itself. I stitched it large enough that Laura would be able to fit her lapel pattern inside the stitched area, essentially creating a new fabric for her to use. Lyra and the Ringmaster were embroidered into this amazing pink leather.


This project was the first time I’d ever embroidered on leather before, and I was a little nervous my placement would be terrible or I’d screw up have to start over, leaving Laura without enough room to cut out the spats. Those three designs were super easy and fast to stitch up. The carousel animals on the skirt were the most time consuming with their million and one thread changes. All told, there is probably a 40 hour work week put into the embroidery, but that’s a rough estimate.



Any challenges along the way?

Laura: Oh goodness yes.  In regards to the actual construction, the design changed several times. The mechanical pieces in the front actually broke several days prior to the photo shoot and needed to be completely redone.  The shoe design was changed several times and the wheel farthingale that supports the skirt went through several variations before we got it right.  The rigging of the front panel was also done on the fly the morning of the photo shoot.  It worked, though, and the photos were beautiful.


How was the costume and the embroidery received?

Laura: Everyone thus far has LOVED the costume. Historical and non-historical costumers alike. We were so very fortunate that the setting of the background worked so well with the colors of the costume and we really lucked out in having Jim Jordan shoot the photos. He did an amazing job. The boots were particular favorites of many people, and I know the embroidery was a huge part of that.

Chelsey: It’s been fun to get comments from people who usually don’t like clowns. One of the biggest goals was to keep her a pretty clown, and I think it really worked. The embroidery is one of the really fun aspects of this costume, because every time someone takes another look, they notice something different.

final shot

Any plans for other amazing embroidered costumes?

Laura: I have a plan for Chelsey, but she doesn’t know about it yet. 😉

Chelsey: I have at least two costumes in mind right now. To keep with the steampunk circus theme, I have a bearded lady Lolita in mind. I plan on using a good amount of UT mustaches  The other costume will have a little embroidery, in particular a gear or two, but it is actually going to be a physical interpretation of an Urban Threads embroidery design.

Thank you so much, ladies, for sharing this project with us. The fabrics, the spats, that amazing full skirt, the gears… goodness I could go on. It’s fun to see some designs from our buds at Embroidery Library show up too! Now it makes me think we need to do a line of steampunk carousel animals… what do you think, gang?

Want to see more of this project? It was wonderfully documented on Laura’s blog Rocking the Frock if you’d like to see even more behind-the-scenes action of its construction, and of course you know you want to see more of those final photos over on their facebook album.

Do you want to have your project featured on StitchPunk? Drop us a line at support@urbanthreads.com or upload your Urban Threads stuff to our flickr group!

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30 Responses to “Featured Project – The Steampunk Clown”

  1. 1
    Jean says:

    Wow! The details in this costume are amazing! Wow!

  2. 2
    Chelsey says:

    As the embroiderer in question for this project, I give a resounding YES! Please make steampunk carousel animals! Better late than never, right? 😉

  3. 3
    Carla Reale says:

    Clever, beautiful, and cool all at the same time.

  4. 4
    timewrinkler says:


  5. 5
    whtsands says:

    Must have steampunk carousel animals, please. Love the dragon and Rabbit.

  6. 6
    Miriam M. says:

    WOW! It is so beautiful. You have done a great job.

  7. 7
    Patsy Sweetra says:

    Yes!! Steampunk Carousel Animals would be absolutely awesome!

  8. 8
    joann says:

    i am totally grateful to see this wonderful project..seeing such creations in costume designs is just terrific. joann

  9. 9
    michelle Ford-copley says:

    oh wow…lol I have never understood how clowns were creepy but then I am a pretty macabre person LOL

  10. 10
    Deedee789 says:

    :O wonderful and really beatiful, you’ve done a great job n.n

  11. 11
    Robyn Skrhak says:

    The possibilites are endless when it come to machine embroidery. This costume is an amazing example. Take a bow. I want to see the encore!

  12. 12
    Kathy Scruggs says:

    I like to watch Face Off, the character designing show/contest on SYFY. This one would fit right in, like it!

  13. 13
    Adrianne says:

    What talented ladies! This costume is beautiful and I am looking forward to seeing your future projects as well! Yes please, we want steampunk carousel animals!

  14. 14
    kyla kahn says:

    i was totally floored. I am a steampunker and vendor and this outfit takes the cake. Love love love it!!!!!

  15. 15
    kyla kahn says:

    Also what type of machine do you have and what weight was the leather?

    • Laura says:

      Chelsey is the embroiderer and I am the construction person, but I think I can answer this question. Chelsey has a Viking embroidery machine (Designer, maybe? it is upper end) and the weight of the leather was very very thin colored lambskin.

  16. 16
    joanna atilana lovato says:

    outstanding. I think these girls should become the chief costumers for Tim Burton! The steampunk carousel animals seem like a natch.

  17. 17
    Liddy says:

    This is really awesome, such a wonderful idea and how brilliantly created! Great job can’t wait to see your other creations!

  18. 18
    Jessica says:

    Love the designs and the costume!

  19. 19
    QuiltDragon says:

    This clown has got to be my favorite! The detail and the way all the elements come together is fantastic. Please do make a carousel!

  20. 20
    Carrie Germany says:

    Awesome costume, great job. Definitely UT has to do some carousels!

  21. 21
    Mickey says:

    I’ve looked at this costume several times and each time I come away with new ideas for items I’m working on. I love Halloween and making costumes for kids. Sometimes I wish there was more than one Halloween a year but since it’s also my birthday I guess I’m kind of glad it only comes around once. I vote for one costume day a month instead. Love everything about it!

  22. 22
    Hope Seesock says:

    The creativity in the clown costume is wonderful. The choice of color, design, and execution are spectacular. It’s obvious this was a labor of love.

  23. 23
    michelle Ford-copley says:

    I LOVE the creative use of embroidery on this costume. But gosh to choose a favorite would be SO very hard to do. I love the Alice quilt, love the ancestry quilt geez…There is NOTHING on your project list or on your website I do not love.

  24. 24
    michelle Ford-copley says:

    gorgeous!!!!! Love this!

  25. 25
    Julie Schoen says:

    AMAZING!!! Just beautiful!!!

  26. 26
    Sherry Swecker (SpiderStitches) says:

    Oh goodness… every time I look at this, another magic part becomes my favorite! The spats? YES! That’s definitely my favorite! I’m absolutely sure… no wait a minute, I think it’s the carousel animals! Yep, they are SO gorgeous – all that COLOR! and … no, oops, it’s the breast piece with all the gears and WHAT is that BRONZE? COPPER? fabric and silver? and gold? threads and the model is fabulous with that little bow mouth and… Oh Dear… tomorrow I’ll just have to take another peep to see if I’ve missed another elusive part of this MASTERPIECE!

  27. 27
    jan says:

    This is amazing! Wonderful craftmanship!

  28. 28
    charlotte s. says:

    If I only had the patience. Love the costume.

  29. 29

    I love this great Embroidery designs information and appreciate this amazing apparel artwork.

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