Archive for Projects

Garrus and What He Taught Me

I have a few more customs to finish before I dive into my convention sewing. This little guy actually came together a little easier than I was anticipating and I’m really pleased with the results!

All the small details on his face and armor are hand painted. This was my first time painting on a plush and it worked really well! It also gave me the solution to something I’ve been tinkering with for a bit.

I’ve been wanting to make a plush version of the spider butt Darth Maul since I saw the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do the markings. Now I have my answer!

Studio Revamp!

New year, new craft room! I wanted to get the room really pleasant and functional for the new year before I get into convention sewing. It’s much easier to be productive and creative in a clean and organized space!

I was planning to take some “before” pictures, but I got a little excited to get started. So here’s a little floor plan instead. The window in the upper left was blocked by my small work table. The room I have is fairly large, about 13′ by 11′, but everything was against the wall and the center was not being used.

 

I am so much happier with the new layout!

 

The photo below is looking pretty much straight ahead when standing in the doorway. I moved my large fabric storage to the opposite side of the room and used it to create a little “wall”. My room is supposed to be the master bedroom. Since the room we use as the bedroom now is small I need to keep all my clothing in my studio. Moving the fabric storage utilizes the space in the center of the room and creates two areas, one for dressing and one for working. Since the back side of my fabric isn’t pretty to look at, I added a curtain to hide it. I’m also planning to add some adhesive hooks to the end of the fabric storage to hang my purse and outfit for the next day.

(The color on the next picture is the most accurate.) This is looking more into the dressing area. I got a lamp to add a little light for dressing and applying make-up. My shoes are tucked back in the corner.

The craft area is to the back of the room. I have a huge desk as well as a smaller table for my embroidery machine. (My embroidery machine plugs into my laptop, so I need to keep it close to the desk.) I added a curtain to each of my work tables to hide some of the storage underneath. This room is not only a craft studio and dressing area, but also serves as a guest room. The curtain makes everything look tidier for guests. The curtains are attached with hook and loop tape, so they’re easy to remove for washing.

Moving my fabric storage also gave me the wall space to eventually add a storage rack for my embroidery thread. There’s a good amount of space over my embroidery machine, (on the left in this picture). Currently it’s all sitting in a basket, which makes it really hard to find the colors I need. I am going to have way too much fun making a thread rainbow on the wall.

This is looking more the right. Hey, there’s a window there! Both the window and the bottom portion of my storage tower are now accessible! (Those AT-ATs are going to eventually be end tables, by the way.)

Turning more, her’s the other side of my fabric storage. Everything is accessible, hooray!

I am so pleased with how the room has turned out! I still have a few little projects to finish, but I think this will be much more functional and efficient.

Buzz Buzz Buzz

I have been an extremely busy bee! As Heroes Con and Dragon Con are drawing closer, I’ve been spending every spare moment attached to my sewing machine and turning out batches of cuddly friends. Here are two of the largest batches I’ve made:

Ninja Turtles! Shredder had better watch out with all these little guys after him. They are so fun to make, the little shells and bandannas come out so adorable. Plus, who can say no to teeny plus nunchucks? Nobody, that’s who!

I absolutely had to make a big batch of zombies for Dragon Con! It’s held in Atlanta, which is also where AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is filmed. This zombie hoard is decidedly cuter, and less pungent!
This is only half of the plush zombie hoard! I have twenty-two cuddly brain eaters with removable guts. Each one has a unique set of gross features with skull faces, bloody mouths, wormy friends, eyes dripping goo, and various injuries. These are probably my favorite thing to make, which might be cause for concern…
I’ll be putting a limited number of these, as well as a few of the other dolls I’ve made, on my Etsy shop this weekend.

Fireball!

Custom orders are done and it is finally time to throw myself head first into sewing dolls for conventions! I love custom orders for all the different and interesting requests, but I’m excited to take a break to work on some new designs and old favorites. Plus making multiples of things makes me feel super productive.

One of my goals for this year was to offer a wider selection and more original plush characters. I always have fun sketching new ideas and playing with designs, and I’m looking forward to offering some different things this year. Since this will be my first year selling at Dragon*Con, one of my first thoughts was obviously cuddly baby dragons! Since I happened to take some in process pictures while making the dragons, this is going to be a kind of behind the scenes look at my doll making process.
Any new character starts with a sketch, like the one above. I get the basic idea down and figure out what pattern pieces I need to create.
Since dragons are well known for their treasure hoarding, these little guys needed some sparkle. That meant one thing: sequins! One online order and lots of excited squeaking later a box of various colors was on the way.
I work from the same basic pattern for all the 18″ dolls; this pattern is modified or added to as needed for each character. The baby dragons needed a diffent head and a modification to the body pattern to get the cute little tail and dragony rump. They also made some little wings and two different options for ears. Once the new pattern pieces were drawn, I stitched up and stuffed a protoype.
This is the little dragon prototype, and he is super cute! Pleased with the look, it was time to move onto my favorite part: selecting colors and combinations. Lizardy greens and yellows were an obvious pick, along with fiery pinks and reds and some black and deep grey to recall the dark caves where dragons make their homes.
When making multiples, I usually sew and assemble the basic body first and add details later. I didn’t plan out which color got matched to each set of wings or ears; I like to fiddle and experiment with color combinations. Once the basic bodies were done, I just started putting pieces with them until I was happy. Playing with the sequins was definitely super fun, so sparkly! Each dragon got two different colors of sequins in several clusters of three or four.

Finally, here are some of the completed baby dragons! All the little eye decorations were cut freehand and each shape is unique. These little guys will be joining me at conventions and a few will be available at my Etsy shop. Time to move on to the next batch!

February Make Out – Let’s Pollinate!

No, it’s not what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter! This Make Out is a free monthly craft session organized by Crown Town Handmade, Charlotte’s group of crafty entrepreneurs. (Of which I am a proud member.) Make Outs are the last Thursday of every month and are open to all ages. Crafty fellas are welcome too!

For the February Make Out we brought a little color and cheer to the cold, gray winter with fabric flowers. Tsunami kanzashi flowers are made by folding small squares of fabric into petals and then joining five or more together to make a flower. The flower can then be attached to a pin, hair clip, or sewn directly onto another surface. Or just carry it around to demonstrate your awe inspiring ability to turn little squares of fabric into pretty flowers. Only really cool people can do that.

The flowers are pretty easy to fold, but do take a little dexterity. It helps to starch the fabric or iron on a lightweight interfacing, but we used untreated fabric and they came out fine. It does take a little finagling to get those petals positioned. Luckily the center gets covered with beads, buttons, or a bit of fabric so any imperfections are pretty easy to hide.

We all worked dilligently, by which I mean we mostly screwed around and chatted and got distracted by all the pretty beads around us and made inappropriate jokes. Getting to visit with other crafty people is one of my favorite things about the Make Out and we always have a total blast.

Here’s everyone with their creations.

If you want to make your own, feel free to print out or save the instruction sheet below. We used 3″ and 4″ squares of quilters cottons to make our flowers.
A big thank you to Beadlush for hosting us at the last minute and to Rachel for taking pictures!

October Make Out – Night of the Crafting Dead

October’s Make Out with Crown Town Handmade is the one I look forward to all year. Although a free craft taught by a local crafter every month is always fun, can you think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening then getting made up to look like the walking dead?

If it’s not obvious from some of my projects, I love me some zombies. The shuffling and dead eyed Romero kind, the shrieking and flailing 28 Days Later kind, the wormy and meat-obsessed Slither ones, the vacant and gruesome Walking Dead sort, the exploding and gnawing House of the Dead ones. I love them all. Of course I leap at the chance to join their disgusting ranks for an evening.

We used the cheap make-up palettes you can find at the drug store. You’ll also need sponges or brushes for applying, baby powder and a large brush to set everything once you’re done, and a mirror or friend to help you apply.
You want to start out by applying a thin layer of white of gray to your face and neck. Don’t glob it on; you want to look like you’re bloodless, not a clown. (Unless you’re going to zombie clown, and then more power to you.) If the make up is a little thick, you can soften it up a bit with some baby oil. Also, don’t be afraid to use your fingers. You want to dab rather than swipe and don’t forget your lips. Pay particular attention to areas that would be naturally highlighted; like your brow bone, the top of your nose, and tops of your cheeks. This will make these area stand out so you look more gaunt and gruesome once the “shadows” are applied. If you’re not sure where to apply, shine a lamp in your face from above and see what spots are illuminated and which are in shadow.
Use a black or purple to make dark shadows around and under your eyes, in the hollows of your cheeks, and to accentuate any wrinkles. Anything girls generally want to hide, you want to color black. You’ll probably need to make some stupid faces for this, it helps to show off various wrinkles. Suck in your cheeks, smile, scrunch up your eyes or forehead, stretch out your neck.
Once you have the base on, you can add bruises and marks. Use a pale blue eyeliner pencil to make winding veins. Make bruises with a mixture of purples, greens, yellows, and reds. Think about the colors in your own skin and what it looks like when you get a real bruise.
If you want a really fun and gross zombie, grab some liquid latex and congealed blood from the Halloween store or costume shop. (Obviously do not use liquid latex if you’re allergic to latex.) Wipe the make up away where you want to apply the latex and spread a thin layer on. Wait for it to dry and then gently rub or pull at it to make it look like scraped or decaying skin. Add some red and purple and fake blood to make it look like bruised and bloody skin.
If you’re allergic to costume make up or just want to look like a zombie that is more successful at catching unsuspecting victims, try making some edible fake blood. Not only is it safe to put in your mouth, it tastes a little like black forest cake. Much better than eating regular blood. Be aware that this stains like crazy and gets sticky, so wear clothes you don’t care about ruining.
To make it, mix one packet of raspberry jell-o with half of the water called for. Mix in a container of the cheapest maple syrup you can find, like the $1 one. Mix in a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder, the kind used for baking not making cocoa. Once you like the color, mix in enough cornstarch to get a consistency you like. Once you’re finished, get a mouthful of it and let it dribble down your face. (Think how your mouth is numb after the dentist.) Spit out any extra. You’ll probably want to do this outside, which has the added bonus of making it look like there was a horrible, bloody murder.
Happy Halloween everyone. Comment below and let me see your costumes!

Thank you to the wonderful Plaza Muse for letting us use their space!

Stitch Wars Strikes Back

I am so freaking excited to be in my first ever gallery show, I feel like a real artist. Also there are some insanely awesome and talented people involved and my stuff gets to hang out near their stuff and be friends. Maybe our toys will have slumber parties.

Stitch Wars opening night was this past Friday, August 12th. I really wish I could have made it, but Florida is a bit of a drive and as supportive as Bats is I don’t think he would have been down for a twelve hour trip. What a loser. I’ll just have to enjoy it through the magic of the internet.

I made three dolls for the show, a Kit Fisto and a Yoda and Luke on Dagobah.
I had to make Luke a little bigger than the usual dolls so Yoda wouldn’t have to be so tiny. Luke is about 21″ tall compared to my usual size of 17″.
I found this really really great rough muslin for Luke’s pants and Yoda’s robe. That makes me happy, which is how you know I’m a big fabric nerd on top of being a big Star Wars nerd. I am like a totem pole of nerdosity.
Luke has a little backpack so Yoda can ride along and make cryptic and generally unhelpful comments. The pack attaches across the front with velcro so it can also be removed as well.
The original Kit I did as a commission was so popular and came out so well I had to make another one for this show. He has some small changes; a different robe and spotty tentacles. The head is jointed and the lightsaber attaches to his hand with velcro. Added bonus, his lightsaber is fun to hit people with. Also, I’m making a million more Kit Fistos because they are so freaking cute I’m going to explode.
The show runs through September 25th. Check out photos of all the artwork on Bear and Bird Boutique’s Flickr stream or at their website. If you’re interested in purchasing, there’s a price list and availibilty sheet on the website here.

Stitch Wars Strikes Back

My plush are on the way to Bead and Bird for Stitch Wars Strikes Back, yay!

For the Birds

I’m taking a little non-embroidery themed interruption for a good cause. My lastest project is for a charity auction for Journey Towards Sustainability to pay for Eco-N-Motion  mobile education. The mobile classroom will travel to schools and other venues in the Charlotte area to teach kids
about sustainability and the enviornment.

The theme is based around birdhouses and I knew when I decided to participate that I wanted to make a cuddly tree friend similiar to this plush I made is 2008. I made a few updated and changes to the design and I am really happy with how it turned out.

Birdie lives in his cute blue house, protected by Tree Friend. The house is attached to the base, which is covered in green faux fur “grass”. Birdie has a bit of velcro on his tummy so he can sit on his house or be taken off for play. Tree Friend has velcro on his leaf hands so he can hold Birdie or hug with his long branch arms. When not being played with, he can wrap around Birdie’s house to protect it.

Birdie’s house is decorated with buttons and cute felt shingles. The felt is made from recycled plastic bottles!
Birdie was based off a pattern from Fun Dolls by Aranzi Aronzo. I made the chest a different color and used fleece instead of jersey. The beak and eyes are beads. I really love how cute he turned out and I want to make more! I also really like how Tree Friend’s “branch” nose turned out. I rolled and stitched together two long, thin strips of brown felt. His leaf hair is made from fleece stitched between two pieces of cotton.
If you’re in the Charlotte area, tickets are $20 and the fundraiser is March 31. You can find more information here. (The submission date has been changed from January 25th to February 15th.)

Embroidery 101: Supplies

Embroidery is great for the newly crafty for a myriad of reasons, one being that it’s so easy and cheap to get started. There are very few materials needed and all are fairly inexpensive.

Your most important tool is a good hoop. An embroidery hoop is actually made of two hoops, a solid inner one and an adjustable outer one. To use, lay your fabric (nice side facing you) over the top of the inner hoop. The outer hoop then goes over the fabric and inner hoop, trapping the fabric. Put the fabric taut and tighten the screw on the outer hoop to keep everything in place.
Embroidery hoops are available in many sizes. I find an 8″ hoop the easiest to work with, but you will want to consider the size of your project to avoid too much waste fabric. Hoops come in wood (usually around $1) or colored plastic (around $2-3). The plastic will be a little sturdier and some have a “lip” to help hold the fabric.

Important tool number two is a good needle. There are many different types of needles that work for embroidery; you may want to experiment a little to find the one that feels most comfortable. Look for embroidery, chenille, and upholstery needles. Avoid cross stitch needles and other needles with dull points. Remember to size your needle to the thread or floss you are using. If the eye is too small, it will be difficult to thread and pulling the thread through your fabric will cause wear. If the needle is too large, you’ll have big holes at the ends of your stitches. The package should have a number on it corresponding to the needle size. The higher the number, the thinner the needle.
There are two basic kinds of thread, or “floss”, used in embroidery. The first is six strand floss, which is generally made of mercanized cotton. This is the type you’re probably familiar with; it comes in little skeins in approximately a million colors. Six strand can be pulled apart to make thinner strands.
The other main type of floss is a cotton perl. The cotton perl is twisted together. You can’t pull it apart to make different widths, but the trade off is that it tends to fray and tangle less.
In addition to these you can find specialty flosses in linen, metallic, variegated colors, satin, and rayon. Remember to test your floss for color fastness if you plan to wash your finished project.

Of course you’ll also need something to embroider onto. You can embroidery on most anything you can pierce with a needle. When first starting out, avoid stretchy or very flimsy fabrics until you get the hang of stitch tension. Quilter cotton, like Kona cotton, is a good fabric to practice on and usually pretty inexpensive.

If you’re fabric feels a little thin, you can stabilize it one of several ways. The first is to use either water soluble or tear away stabilizer. These can be purchased with the interfacings at the fabric or craft store. The water soluble will turn sort of gooey and melt when submerged in warm water. The tear away needs to be trimmed away with small scissors. (Tear away is the kind you’ll most often see on commerical machine embroidery.) If you don’t mind the stabilizer remaining, use a lightweight or mediumwight fabric interfacing or a spare piece of cloth to add some strength.

Now that you have all our supplies, you’ll need a design to embroider. There are many pre-printed hot iron transfers available. In stores, most of the ones you’ll see with be Aunt Martha’s, but you may also find some from Sublime Stitching. You can also find or draw your own patterns. Below are some places I like to try, but many designs and pictures translate well into embroidery.

http://www.flickr.com/groups/341081@N20/pool/
http://www.needlecrafter.com/patterns.html
http://www.stencilry.org/
http://www.loc.gov/pictures/

Ready to get started? I’ll be going into transfer methods in the next post.