Naughty (Thigh High Boots) and Nice (Sproglet-Approved Dragon Plushie)

Naughty first because it’s just a triumphant update:  I FINISHED THE SATSUKI COSPLAY BOOTS!!!  They’re a bit baggy, but they’re my first real proper try (the Attack on Titan ones were just boot covers so they don’t count).  Glued to a pair of high heels and everything.  I’m moving this week though, so I’ll post about them properly later, and for now you can have a photo:

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Now for nice.  I promised I’d post about the new dragon plushie dragon I made for my friend’s child, especially seeing I never posted about the first one.  It was small and green and made of felt, which was a nightmare to turn right-side out.

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Damn cute though.

This time I thought I would be clever and make it out of green polyester taffeta with spots on, which would be easier to turn.  On second thoughts I decided to make it twice the size of the previous plushie as well.  Was it any easier?  …Eh?… Kind of?  My advice is not to do this the day before you want to give the plushie to the kid.  Or you’ll be up till *@#$ o’clock in the morning (even though that didn’t matter so much when I saw his happy little face).

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Should you wish to make one of your own, you will require:

-A couple of big sheets of paper (A3 would work well) to draw out your pattern.

-Some measuring tools, ie a tape and a ruler.  If you want to get fancy and get a compass too, by all means do, but I didn’t and I survived.

-About 50-75cm of fabric in the dragon’s main hide shade and about 25cm for the belly, feet, inside the ears and under the chin.  I used polyester taffeta and satin to make for easier lunch-stain-removal.  If you’re giving this plushie to a kid, it’s inevitable that at some point it’ll encounter tomato sauce or hummus or chocolate or all of the above.

-Some offcuts of a stiff fabric like cotton twill or felt (recommended, would have been easier) for the various features like horns, spines, a forked tongue or claws.  Go nuts.  If you want to do button eyes instead of appliqué eyes, you’ll need some of those too.

-Some felt to underline the belly to make it hold its shape better (not compulsory).

Step 1) Nut out a pattern

I broke the dragon down into the following parts:

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  • The back, including the neck and tail (two identical halves).  Once it’s drawn, add a small dart to the place where the neck meets the back in order to round it out more.  Making the neck curve like so at the edge where you set in the head (which for clarity’s sake I will refer to as n) will give the head a charming downward tilt.
  • The belly (one part, cut on the fold).  Make this a half-football shape.  Measure the curved edge and make sure it isn’t too long for the lower edge of the back.  You don’t want it going too far into the tail.
  • The foot base.  This is a circle.  It will be the base of all the feet.  Measure the radius and work out the circumference (2πr thankyou highschool maths).  We’ll call this c.
  • The front leg (cut in two identical halves).  Start by getting your measuring tape, marking half c on it, then bending it slightly to get a shallow curve.  Trace this curve.  This is the bottom of the leg where you will set in the foot base.  After that, you can draw whatever leg shape you like above it.  Trace that base line on another piece of paper though so you’ve got a matching one to build the back leg off.
  • The back leg.  Start with the tracing of the front leg base and then draw another leg shape.  I made mine fatter and with a slight bend for the dragon’s knee.
  • The top of the head (which is cut on the fold).  This is where it gets kind of tricky.  What you want to do first is measure with your measuring tape.  This is what you have to work with re: the edges of the head that attach to the neck.  The top of the head is most important.  Allocate about 2/5 of n for it.  We’ll call that edge h. Draw as a straight line (because that’s easier).  Then measure about 5mm above h and draw a straight line for the fold edge from there.  You’ll end up with this:  Then what you want to do is decide how long your dragon’s head should be and add in some curves to complete the shape.  That 5mm from before will come out as a dart to differentiate the forehead from the neck a bit more and give you a guide for where the eyes go.  Now measure the bottom edge of the pattern piece and write it down.  I’ll call that edge b
  • The chin (cut in two identical halves).  I learned the hard way that it’ll be better to have  some kind of centre seam in the head somewhere, and the chin works.  It can be a straight seam.  Allocate about 1/3 of n for the neck-edge of the chin (let’s call it c).  Make c a straight line, then remember that measurement that you took before?  That is how long the top edge of the chin piece will be.  We will call it b2, using all the powers of our imaginations.
  • The cheek (for extra head-shaping) also has an edge that is whatever is left over of n.  We’ll call that edge k.  It doesn’t matter how long the cheek is so long as it’s the same length on both sides and so long as it’s shorter than b.  We’ll call the upper and lower sides of the cheek e.  They’re the same so I figure they’re interchangeable.
  • The eye, if you want to appliqué, however big you want
  • The wing, as you like.
  • The ear, in a vaguely star-trek logo shape is nice, but really you can do it however you like.
  • Misc other features like spines, toes, tongues etc can be up to you.

Still with me?  Have a picture of the bottom of the dragon.

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Step 2) Cut out your fabric

I chose to do the body, top of the head, cheek, legs and upper wings and ears in green, the belly, chin and under wings, feet and inner ears in yellow and the spines in black.  You do you though.

Step 3) Start your engines  (I’m so sorry I didn’t take any photos…)

I started with the details so I wouldn’t forget any.  I sewed the wings right-side to right-side around the edges, clipped the corners, turned them the right way out and sewed veins onto them in a zig-zag stitch.  Then I decorated the spines, belly and tongue with a zig-zag stitch in green.  I also sewed the dart in the back of the body pieces.

Then you can get down to business.

Pin the body pieces together along the spine with any spine details and wings sandwiched between.  Sew that seam down to the end of the tail and a little way back along the other side of the tail.  Clip the end of the tail and turn it the right way out.

Sew each leg together right-to-right leaving about an inch gap along the top back.  Very carefully baste the foot base pieces in to the ends and sew them in.  If you’re adding toes, do this in the same seam.  It’s fiddly.  Then clip the seam allowances and turn the legs the right way out.  Stuff them firmly (I used cut-up fabric scraps, but you could use commercial stuffing or lentils or whatever), then slip-stitch the gap at the top firmly closed.

Get the head-pieces ready to go on the body.  Sew k to right-to-right with the wide end of the cheek piece level with on both sides of the top head piece.  Then add on each side of the chin, with the edge of the cheek pieces level with c.  Then you can add eyes to the dragon however you wish.  I just appliquéd mine on with a zig-zag stitch.  I also added a forked tongue.

Now sew up the ears (if you want them) and more spines (if you want them) and baste them to the top of n on the body pieces.  Baste or pin the complete head on over the top, right-to-right, ensuring that the centre chin edges are level with the bottom of the neck.  Too long is better than too short, and if the head edges are too long you can just pleat the cheeks a little to bring them level and it’ll give the dragon a slightly chipmunky appearance.  Sew this seam, then turn it all the right way out and check that you’ve caught all the bottoms of the ears and spines.

Turn the whole thing inside out.  Carefully fold the wings up and baste them so they won’t get caught when you sew the belly seam.  Starting at the chin, sew straight down the centre seam of the dragon, attaching the belly to the other side of the body, and then stop at the end of the belly.  From the other side, sew the bottom tail seam up, leaving about a two inch gap so you can turn the whole thing the right way out.

Turn it the right way out (it will be frustrating).  Check that everything’s ok and you haven’t sewn the wings into the belly, and then you can stuff the whole body and slip-stitch the gap closed.  Then I added the legs.  A curved needle would have been useful here, but I didn’t have one and I managed.

Step 4) Give it to a kid

This is the fun part.  The kid will hopefully hug the crap out of it and then start explaining to you that it’s actually a water dragon and it likes to cook with chocolate even though it can’t eat chocolate because dragons eat meat.  (This is legitimately what happened).

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The kid hopefully won’t care that the spine’s wonky.

See you after I move!  I need to post about some exciting things like SHORTS.  YES, I MADE SHORTS.  I’M SO PROUD I’M ONLY TALKING IN CAPITALS FROM NOW ON!  Stay (vaguely) tuned!

 

 

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The Faux and the Furrious

Oh har-di-har.

I cut into that decadent swathe of Lisa Ho faux fur the other night.  It pained me, but it needed to be done.  In the process I have learned the following things:

1) Sticky tape is good.  It keeps the fluffies at bay.  Don’t inhale the fluffies.

2) I can’t remember whose blog I saw it on now, but some very clever lady advised using a silver sharpie on the back side of the fur to mark your cutting lines.  I had one but it ran out after about three cat-paw outlines.  I went to four different stores in search of another, but success was not forthcoming, so I’ve taken to using white eyeshadow and an angled brush.  It’s not as quick, but the effect is much the same.

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4) A stanley knife would be useful.  Embroidery snips make cutting out slow.

5) Bella the cat doesn’t like it; she sees it as a usurper and expressed her displeasure by attempting to upchuck on my sheet music this morning.

Other than that it’s gone together rather quickly.  Because it’s really low-pile fur it doesn’t seem to catch in the seams, so the curved seam across the face looks fine.  Because Sissy-poo’s cat Rupert is an exotic shorthair, I thought she’d appreciate it if her hot water bottle looks somewhat Rupert-esque, so I’ve squashed up the nose and sewn it down.  Means I don’t have to stuff the face either.

??????????????????????Ruppie in an old suitcase.  Pity the faux fur didn’t come in orange.

All in all it looks a tad creepy, but in a hipsterish sort of way.  Or maybe it was a bad idea to watch the Blair Witch Project and sew at the same time…  At any rate I need to buy new velcro before I can finish it.  I didn’t realise the stuff I’d got was self-adhesive velcro.  Not great in a furry water bottle context.  Perhaps I’ll go with buttons and loops instead.  I never liked velcro.

I’m pretty proud though, so just in case anyone’s crazy enough to want to make their own shonky hot water bottle cover in the shape of the world’s creepiest cat, here’s how I did mine:

You need about a third of a metre/yard of low-pile faux fur, and the same of (I’ve now discovered that I should’ve used 100% polyester for the lining rather than the cotton I had, but I’m going to test it and see how well it deals with hot water bottle heat.  Logically it should be fine.  It gets exposed to much higher temperatures when ironed, so a comparatively low temperature over a period of time shouldn’t be too bad.)

For the pattern, you basically just trace around the hot water bottle at a decent distance like so:

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You add ears, of course.

For the face, I just cut it in half and added the same curve to the centre of each half.  I kept it pretty shallow.  Feet and tail at your discretion.

Pattern Pieces Front

Here are the front pattern pieces (not to scale or anything)

Pattern Pieces Back

And here’s the back.  Overlap for the flap, green lines where the tail and legs will go.

Then I cut out and put together the feet and the tail.  I stuffed them a little to make them less boring. Then I did the lining, (sans curved face and CB seam). Then I cut out the front pieces, sewing them together at the curved seam.

On the back you need a horizontal, overlapping flap  to get the bottle in and out, and a vertical CB seam on the bottom half so you can put the tail in.  I did the CB seam first, putting the tail in as I went, then attached it and the back of the head to the front pieces with the legs sandwiched in between.  Then I got jiggy with making the face cuter, put in the lining to finish the raw edges on the back flap (which sort of worked.  I was flying very much by the seat of my pants here) and would’ve added the velcro if it hadn’t been the wrong kind.

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Et voila!  A super creepy/hipster cat hot water bottle.  The eyes are mesmerising…

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I’m trying very hard to like it…

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…But the creep factor.  Oh the creep factor… it’s like a witches’ familiar.

Speaking of witches, the other night was also the premiere of a new work called Weird by a friend of mine, the Suave Composer, which was basically a massive chamber song cycle about witches.  The Suave Composer always had this grand vision that it would be very theatrical, almost like some kind of operatic monologue, so some kind of crazy get-up was required.  I spent a few hours watching all the Pixiwoo costume/creative makeup tutorials on Youtube.  They’re hilarious and awesome.  She says things along the lines of ‘you’re probably watching this thinking woah that’s crazy, I’d never wear that’ or ‘bear in mind this isn’t meant to be a wearable look, I’m just having fun experimenting’, while she’s busy putting eyeliner on her lips or blusher as eyeshadow or using a stencil to achieve a Spock-like eyebrow, but I was sitting there going ‘YES.  THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE LOOKING LIKE.’  Cutting loose and going completely crazy with stage makeup is oddly fun. I went as far as to copy the eyeliner-as-lippy and blush-as-eyeshadow tricks.  The light is terrible in this photo, but the effect is probably about the same as people would’ve got in the audience:

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*sleazy eyebrow waggle*

And the hair ended up way bigger and more spherical, like mad scientist frizz and a Georgian hedgehog do went and had a terrible baby together.  My hair’s good like that.  It teases up into an absolute haystack but brushes out quite easily in about 5 minutes.  It’s about the only respect in which my hair is good.

Anyway.  I’m off home for a couple weeks sabbatical.  (constant access to a piano only steps from my bedroom door… excellent…) Expect blog silence.

Too Good at Voodoo

Firstly, I couldn’t resist filling a title with ‘oo’s.  Secondly, I’ve been pinning things to my dodgy dressform, which pretty much equates to voodoo: sticking pins in a large stuffed copy of myself.  I feel fine… apart from the shooting pains…  Perhaps I have some latent talent for the black arts.

Anyway.  I’ve got two things sort of on the go at the moment, one of which I can’t show you because it’s a birthday present for my sister.  She requested a hot water bottle with a cute animal-shaped cover (kitties being highly preferable), so I can tell you that much, and having trawled the interwebs and the cute stores and I couldn’t find anything. Well.  Nothing nice.  So I figured I’d study my leopard-shaped one and work out how they did it.  And hopefully optimise the design because while the leopard is mighty cute, he doesn’t quite fit over the bottle anymore.  So I’ve started patterning, and I’ve got some absolutely lustrous faux fur (Lisa Ho faux fur, no less!  This is gonna be one high-end kitty-hot-water-bottle) which I’ll bag out with a sturdy cotton lining.  The ones from Big W are completely made of crappy polyester, so I figure high-quality faux fur lined in cotton will be safe.  Safer, even.

???????????????????????????????I can’t resist one picture of that faux fur.  Mmmm, pettable.  

The other is a skirt.  I decided I need something different to wear in my recital seeing I’m spending half of it sitting down so I don’t look like some kind of evil soprano hulking like an overbearing heavy-breather over my hapless guitarist.  Also it’s June.  The chances of Melba Hall being comfortably heated are laughable, and most of my performance gear is either backless or not made of particularly insulating fibres.  So I’ll make a long-sleeved but fancily-draped merino top (eventually.  Hopefully)  and pair it with this skirt I’m making, which is going to be a big-ass thing that fancies itself as a Dior New Look late ’40s/early ’50s silhouette.  Which is going to be a damn sight comfier to sit in than a wiggle dress.

???????????????????????????????Here be the design sketch.

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Here be what I have so far.

I’ve only got the bare bones yet.  The foundation layer for the waistband, boned at the seams to stop it collapsing on itself, and one lining layer of very thin synthetic net stuff that my housemate the Adorable Folky gave me after she cleaned out her gran’s hoard of stuff.  There’s more of it.  Like, metres more.  So I can go nuts with the friffiness.  And once again my patterning is slightly too big, but this time it’s deliberate so that I won’t bust a zip with a big breath.   After years of trying to breathe properly, I finally got the hang of it, and now get accused of taking ‘Wagnerian’ breaths in Donizetti by my teacher.   I’m pretty sure it’s just a normal breath that looks big on me.

Then I pinned on my nice crispy new black silk to see how it’ll look when I cover it.

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Not bad…

Then I got massively distracted with pins.

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 Exhibit A: ‘So what if I save a metre and make a matching bodice…’

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Exhibit B: ‘So what if I buy 3m more and make an awesomer bodice…’

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Exhibit C: ‘What if I just get a heap more fabric and make a whole other dress…’

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Exhibit D: Ridiculously carried away by this point, envisaging asymmetrically-draped confections, requiring more yardage than I can afford…

And now I’m in a world of pain.  I should probably take those damn pins out.

Why Didn’t I Think of This Myself?

Wandering blithely through the costume department to the kitchenette to make a cuppa at rehearsal last night, I noticed that the costumer’s sewing machines all had these little velcro-on pincushions attached to them.  “Egads!” I cried.  “This is the best idea since the little pincushions you velcro around your wrist!  And it’s kind of the same!  Why didn’t I think of this myself?”  Though, admittedly when I sew I adopt the mindless determination of a zombie gnawing on some poor bugger’s frontal lobe, so I guess it’s not surprising I never made the connection.  Anyway, I improvised my own little dodgy pincushion this morning out of an old unfinished dress (in a poly-cotton print so ghastly I’m wondering if I was quite well when I chose it) and a heap of fabric scraps, inspired by Cation Designs’ recent Mountain plushies, which are SO CUTE and stuffed with scraps: http://cationdesigns.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/purple-mountain-majesties.html  She makes squids too!  They’re squee-worthy.

Okay, enough fan-girl-time.  On with the pincushions.Here are my little shapes.  They are fairly basic and when sewn together they made a shape like a little crown, or maybe a Mongolian hat (though I’m pretty sure Attila the Hun wouldn’t be seen dead in florals).  All I did was make sure that the bottom of the quasi-triangular shape was 1/4 the circumference of the circular base, and checked the top point with a set-square to make sure it was a 90° angle (to get a nice flat top.  If I wanted to dress my sewing machine up as Madonna in some sort of weird sewing-machine cosplay moment, maybe 90° wouldn’t have been the best option, but I didn’t so 90° it was.)

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Having added the scraps (which as you can see have come from all kinds of sources and have all kinds of content from cotton to silk to poly to acetate.  I hope it doesn’t matter too much), and slipstitched the bottom shut, it looks vaguely like a little cricket ball.

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Then all it needed were some little straps, which I tied nice and snug around my machine (seeing I didn’t have velcro and am too much of a cheap-arse to go and buy some).  The fabric looks way better as a craft item than it did as a dress.  Though I’m tempted to make a stand-alone Peter Pan collar out of it too, just because it’s a law of the universe that I die a la the Wicked Witch of the West if I’m caught out in public in a jumper without a little collar sticking out of it.

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Seeing this was a kind of stash-busting, and I’d estimate the cost of the materials was something to the order of 0.5 cents, I’m going to say this was pretty much free.  HOORAY!  It is a well-documented fact that uni students love free stuff.  It took me all of ten minutes, and it’s made me consider maybe using other bits of scrap fabric for the purposes of plushness, which in the long run can only be a good thing.   The thought of collars has also made me think of little blouses.  It’s damn near pointless for me to make dresses (except for performance gear) because my wardrobe is about 80% vaguely retro blouses and 20% jeans.  And seeing as I’ve pretty much fulfilled my ballgown quota for this year (ALREADY!  Maybe I’ll do a looking-back-style post about it soon, it was a doozey!), there’s no more reason.

To round off, here is Stash-Buster again to once again extol the noble joys of stash-busting.

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