Thursday, May 24, 2012

For my cat nephew

So, this is the ewok I made from the Wild Olive free pattern.

Yeah, it's cute but I'm still "meh" about it in general.

But I think my cat nephew (Lowell) is going to enjoy it.  Especially after my sister sprays it with catnip spray!

In fact, I think this pattern is perfect (yeah, I had to stop myself from typing "purrfect") for cat toys.  It sews up pretty quickly, makes a decent size (good for kitty to kick and wrestle), and can be made from recycled/inexpensive materials.  In fact, this is made from a pair of corderoy pants I got from the thrift store (and cut up) and a bit of acrylic felt.  I'd imagine the corderoy will withstand some good cat wrestling (the hood might get mauled easier though--but making a new one wouldn't be a big deal).

I texted my sister a pic of it and told her it was for Lowell.  I can just picture her rolling her eyes and sighing "He's so SPOILED!".

He is.

"Kitty Up": Progress Report

This is where the painting was at when I started last night:

(I just noticed how the shadow under the Timothy's rear leg doesn't connect to the leg so he looks like he's levitating!)

And this is how the painting looks NOW:

Eeee!  It's really starting to look like a painting now!  It could prove a little too soon for the details (stripes and such) but putting them in now helps me make sure everything else in in the right place (and helps with all the shading).  You can't see it very well in the photo but Timothy even has a wee mouth (it's kind of cute/creepy in person, like a mix between the Cheshire cat and Mona Lisa).

You can see I tied that shadow to Timothy's rear leg, too (just couldn't leave it the way it was even though it will probably change a million times before the painting is done).  I also lightened Timothy's head a bit.  It's surprisingly difficult to lighten black without accidentally going into gray territory.  It's more noticable in person but you can see it a bit in the pic (on the right ear--right as you look at the painting).

And in a rare move, almost the entire edge of the canvas (the part that wraps around the sides) is painted, too.  There's just one white spot at the top (where the clampy part of the stand holds the canvas) and the bottom is still raw (and will be for some time I suppose).

OH, and in case you were wondering, yes, that's a painting of a nude lady there in the background (GASP!).  We had a model last night but I didn't feel like painting her.  I'm a week behind on "Kitty Up" and there are only two more classes before the session is over and I'm gonig to miss one of those so. . .yeah, only one more class with "Kitty Up" before summer break.  No, I know I'm not going to get it done in one more session.  I also know I don't paint at all at home (the lighting is too bad) so I need all the studio time I can get.

OH, and for the record, here's what I'm aiming for:

I'm still wondering if the lettering (right corner) is going to end up in the final painting.  I'd like it to just for the oddness of it but I'm not sure.  And I'm going to underexpose Timothy's eyes a bit, so we can see that the buttons are indeed different from each other.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wok-a, wok-a, wok-a (coming soon!)

Yesterday was a day off from work (have I mentioned how much I love having to take vacation/personal days because they have added up to the point I have to "use em or lose em"?  yeah, might have mentioned that before once or twice or a million times).

After I went out shopping and scored a pile of embroidery floss for 10 cents a skein.  Yeah, yeah, it was at Wal-mart (boo his!) but I only shop there about once a year and only go in if there's something there I simply can't get somewhere else (I went in looking to score another bathing suit--yeah, I like their Catalina suits--good quality, good price).  And if I happen to fall on some clearance embroidery floss while I'm in there, so be it.

Some of the newly scored embroidery floss went into embroidering the Tattooed Lady doll (remember that spoonflower fabric I bought a while back?).  Turned out NICE, too.  Hopefully I'll have enough of the light blue color to stitch up the Boy doll (it took a whole skein to do the girl and her tattoos are smaller--the boy has this big ole pirate ship on his chest).

Blah blah blah, I'm supposed to mention what I MADE yesterday (the doll isn't finished, just embroidered and cut out--I have to re-thread my machine with white thread to stitch it up) so. . .


An ewok.

I whipped up that Wild Olive pattern and. . .well. . .I'm not totally impressed.  Not dissapointed but just not all worked up over it, either.  And while I'm voicing my "meh" I can't help wondering how much LESS I would have liked the finished product if I'd sewn it the way the tutorial describes (stitching on the right side versus stitch and turn).  I did mine as a stitch and turn (so it would have nice neat edges) and it worked just fine (ok, I blew out a few seams when I was stuffing--I don't know my own strength!) and I can't imagine how. . .well. . .crappy it would look done the way the tutorial shows.  The corduroy would totally unravel and. . .yeah, I'm just not in love with the pattern in general (it's cute and all but I probably wouldn't make more--ok, I might if it was as a silly gift for a Star Wars loving friend's cat, but that's about it).

Yeah, I think it's the purr-fect pattern for a cat toy.  Quick and relatively easy.  I think that's where mine will end up.  In my cat-nephew Lowell's toy box.  My sister will sigh and act like she's all put out that her cat is spoiled rotten but I know she loves how Lowell has a bit of a fan club.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A new super hero is born!

Keeping a close watch on his Burgh.

He sees all.

He knows all.

Ne're do wells take note.

There is a new super hero in town.

He is. . .


I can't lie, I'm loving those pics.  Look at me all getting artsy with my pics.  If anyone deserved the extra work it's SUPER WORM!!

Or you can call him Clark.

A generic full body pic of him for the record (and to show of his body).

The pattern is from the "Wee Wonderfuls" by Hillary Lang.  Though the inchworm in the book isn't nearly as "super" as Clark here.  The inchworm in the book is named Evelyn.  She has button eyes and a babushka (love a babushka).  But once I got my inchworm completed I just had to make it a bit more fabulous (and I didn't want to sew tiny buttons on for the eyes--tiny buttons make me rage).  So instead I decided on the cartoon glasses effect, where the eyes are basically part of the glasses (which Clark's are, I didn't cut out the lense part of the glasses and instead put felt circles over them and added a little french knot for the pupil).

I think all the "Big Bang Theory" I've been watching was rubbing off on me, too.  Clark would fit right in with Leonard and Sheldon and the gang, dressing up like a super hero (and his cape has a decidedly "hand made" feel to it--since I just whipped it up on a whim--though I do have to brag and say it has mitered corners).

Clark has quickly become one of my farvorite things I've made, in no small part because he made my wife laugh.  Normally when I show something off to my wife I get a polite "nice" and/or "you're nuts" (with a loving eyeroll).  But when I snapped Clark in front of my wife, he smiled and laughed.  I love making my wife laugh, so Clark really is SUPER!!

Grrrr! Don't let the name fool you.

Dinosaurs hold a special place in my heart.  I can clearly remember the first time I learned about them in a real way.  It was sixth grade and as part of the learning experience, the teacher passed a pair of plastic dinosaurs around the room for us to inspect.

Now these were far from accurate portrayals of dinosaurs.  One was a brontosaurus style dinosaur with a gaping mouth full of menacingly pointy teeth.  The other was a tyranosaurus rex style with the same menacing grin.  They were the hollow type toys (where you could put dirt or water inside) and they were the poster children for cheap "made in china" plastic junk.

And I loved them.  Not just love, I coveted them in a way that would have made my sunday school teacher retire in shame.

I quickly informed my mother that I wanted toy dinosaurs of my own which just about made her head explode.  These were the days when dinosaurs just weren't as readily available (in toy form) as they are now a-days.  Yeah, you could find them but they were mostly the aforementioned cheap-o types.  My mother was not about to waste money on something cheap (especially if it was a christmas or birthday gift and if her child had specified not to get the cheap-o ones because they weren't "right").  She's also never been one to give up when her children made a very specific gift request (we were taught from an early age to only ask for the things we wanted the very most, to keep our greed in check, so we usually received everything on our very carefully chosen lists).

Of course, she found me dinosaurs.  Really nice solid plastic dinosaurs.  The kind you get from a museum gift shop.  They were FABULOUS (and yes, I still have all of them).  They were acurate (no pointy teeth on a herbivore!) and each one had the name printed on the belly.  There were the classics (t-rex, stegosaurus, brotosaurus) and some exotic wonders like a pterranadon (teradactyl--my generic name for all the flying ones) and what quickly became my most favorite of the set, a blue plesiosaur who was just made for splashing around in the bath tub (my mother thought that one would be the one I liked the least, since it seemed to "dragon like" and fake to her).

Dinosaurs quickly became a staple of my childhood.  I had stuffed ones and little rubber ones.  Dinosaur bedsheets and dinosaurs even showed up on my birthday cakes.  My sister even sewed me a very large plush brotosaurus one year for a christmas gift (and yes, I still have it which surprises my sister, even though it shouldn't).  My parents even let me paint the side of our shed with a big ole brontosaurus (which became a bit of a landmark in our po-dunk neck of the woods).

So when I saw the latest pattern at Nuno Life (link is to the actual pattern but that whole blog is bursting with fabulousness) I went a little bit nuts.

And this weekend I got right down to the getting down.

Meet Snarl.  This is just his generic full body decently lit picture.  But he's so fabulous I had to take some more photos of him so. . .

Prowling the few potted plants at my office.

The pattern is fabulous.  It's a lot of sewing but not difficult sewing.  A perfect pattern to make while you're in front of the t.v.

I can totally see myself making another one of these using some better felt (I just used scrap for Snarl and ended up with quite a few seam blow outs). 

(and yes, he's named for the Dinobot.  What?  You think I didn't have Dinobots?  Hell, I adored Transformers and when the Dinobots came out I nearly had a stroke.  Two things I loved together at last.  They were better than the combo of chocolate and peanut butter.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Kitty Up": Progress Report

It's Thursday so that means "Kitty Up" progress report.

First, we start with where the painting was at the beginning of class:

And THIS is where it ended up:

As always, a pic of what I'm aiming for:

What I notice immediately is the shading on the darker gray areas.  Or rather, the color in general of the darker gray areas.  It's too dark.  And the light gray is too light.  The light gray on the face is getting toward the right shading/color so I should use it as a reference.  I think the dark gray of the foot might be close to accurate as far as the dark gray is concerned (it's a little too light on the lighter side of the foot but it's still the best dark gray on the canvas right now).

I slathered on a lot of background paint this go 'round and I think I'm getting the basic dark/light lay out framed in.  It might not really show in that small pic, but the dark swath across the middle of the photo has a very green tinge to it.  And the very light color at the top has a noticable blue hue to it as well.  So I worked with that this time around, to kind of get down the right base to build on.  And I put in the shadow (under Timothy's legs) just for kicks.  Sometimes I do that, dabbling in something a bit too early just so I can get a feeling of what the finished painting could be (kind of proving to myself that I will get to that stage eventually).

I also slapped some paint on the edges of the canvas, too.  I'm bad about that, usually leaving the edges glaringly white (and I don't frame anything so it's very cheap looking).


My work station.  I wanted to get a snap of my pallette (just for kicks) and I kind of liked how this looked (with the photo behind the pallette and all teh painting clutter around).  Yeah, I have to set up my work station the same way every time, like a painting ritual.  My paint thinner jar has to be on the left of the oil jar and I have to have a paper towel diaper in front of both.  And I have to oil up my brushes (and wipe it off on the diaper) before I start painting.  It's silly, but I think it lubes them up and gets them ready for painting, kind of wakes them up.

I love how well used my pallette looks, too.  But I'll admit, the first time I used it and had to wipe the leftover paint off and the plastic didn't return to its pristine white plastic sheen, I was miffed (and a bit grossed out).  It was like the pallette was ruined because I hadn't been careful enough to use it correctly.  But now I like seeing each layer of paint adding a new shiney sheen to it.  And I like how the back is even stained up a bit even though I don't remember ever using it (though I may have accidentally put paint on it at some point).  And I like how everyone's pallette looks different.  Mine is very earth tone, being very brown/gray at the top and fading to a lighter color down where you hold it.  My wife's pallette has a lot more color to it and feels like it has more layers of paint on it, like he doesn't scrub it off as hard after each use (I tend to really scrub mine because I can't stand the idea of it leaving greasy paint marks randomly on other stuff).

And I'm a bit excited to report that the wife and I have just about used up our very first full tube of paint!  Somehow that seems like an accomplishment, like we really are "painters" that it's not just some whim where you buy all the stuff then abandon it in a closet.  And let me just say, getting the last little paint squirts out of the tube is a royal pain in the fingers.  I thought it would be akin to milking the toothpaste tube but it's far harder (duh, the tube is metal, not plastic, dingus!).  It's annoying when I bear down and squeeze and squeeze and a little turdlet of paint slowly prairie dogs out of the tube and when I go to wipe it off on the pallette I reduce the tension just enough that the paint sucks back up into the tube.  NOOO!! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

George, the urban chameleon

Meet George.

"Good morning!"

Yeah, George is a morning chameleon.  He's bright eyed and curly tailed first thing in the morning, ready for a productive day at the office.

"Excuse me, I hate to interrupt but it is getting late.  We really should get going so we don't miss the bus."

George is also punctual.  I like that in a chameleon.

George is one of the first guys in the office.  He likes the quiet (translation: lack of co-workers yapping at him).

"Ok,  I need to check my voice mail and then fire off a few emails.  But first. . ."

"Phew, I'm just so parched today."

No, George isn't much into coffee or hot drinks.  Just give him some clean, cool water and after he wets his whistle he'll get down to work.

Nose to the grindstone and all that.

Wait, what's this?

Oh, George!  In such a rush to get to the office you had to bring your breakfast with you?!

Silly George!


Holy moly, I'm even in shock that I went from rough sketch to finished product in the course of one day.  AND, the pattern is fairly decent, too.

I didn't need the head gusset (which I was almost convinced I would need).  The belly gusset was needed.  It makes George more poseable (his legs can drape over stuff).  Speaking of his legs, no wire.  I didn't feel like dealing with it.  But I think wire could work in them which would make George (or rather, his kin) a bit more awesome (no offense George).

The body and the tail may be mismatched.  The body is a bit more like a walking body but the tail is clearly a sitting still tail.  BUT, that may be to my advantage should I make another one.  I want to make a "walking tail" version and this body will work well for that (and isn't really a failure for a "sitting tail" style).

The eyes could be improved upon.  I like these but they're very slapdash (just a circle of dark green with a circle of lighter green and a snippet of super light green glued on).  I was tempted to totally glue the eyes on but then thought better of it and glued the two top colors onto the darker base then stitched the darker base onto the head (and lightly stuffed under it). 

If I make more chameleons I'll definitely use better felt, too.  This was some random felt from my stash and I'm not sure the fiber content (I think it has some wool in it because it's not super shiney like pure acrylic and it didn't get all pilly and pull apart like acrylic does, especially when you're cutting skinny pieces like the tail and legs--I don't think I could have made that tail with pure acrylic felt, it would have torn off).  But I didn't want to squander my limited supply of "good felt" on a prototype project like this (also, I only have spring/pastel type colors and I wanted a deeper green color--and I really wanted green or brown, not purple or pink).

Speaking of felt, I really need to get a bunch more wool mix felt so I can goof around with it.  It's not like it's that expensive and it will show me if a pattern is going well or not (how can you know the pattern is good if you're using crap felt that tears?).  But I do have quite a pile of acrylic felt so I do need to find ways to use it (it's not that it's no good for anything but the wool blend is SO much better--I'm a total convert).

Oh, and George is totally named for Boy George.  Just in case that wasn't obvious.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sketch Book : Chameleon

I don't have a proper sketchbook (yet, I'm toying with buying one in honor of my upcoming vacation) but I do sketch quite a bit at work (on pilfered copy paper).

Most of the time it's just advanced doodles, nothing that will ever become a stuffed toy or anything more than a drawing (sometimes I re-create the drawings on index cards that I send to some of my online friends).

But after making the sweater alligator I got a wild hair to make a chameleon.  A quick google search (to see if a free pattern existed--hey, I'm lazy and will take a free pattern) I didn't find any free patterns but did see a few felt/plush chameleons other folks have made.  Some were super complex and/or knitted/crocheted (damn my lack of crochet skills!) but one was exactly my speed.  It was a simple little felt item.

And that's what got me off and running to try and design my own chameleon pattern.

Preliminary doodle/sketches.

I never really thought about how much chameleons look like dinosaurs.  I still adore dinosaurs (and might be making a felt one right now--but more on that later).

So the basic shape is pretty easy (if you're going for a cartoony feel, which is my taste).  And the limbs are really just spindly dealies with two toes sprouting off the end.  The big trick is in making sure the top of the leg (rear in particular) don't take on too much of a chicken leg shape (yes, that's what one of the notes says "less chicken leg").

To get rid of some of the pillow style feel of it (to make it more dimensional) I'm thinking it needs a gusset on the belly and one at the top of the head.  That should make it able to stand on its own (as long as the limbs are stuffed tight enough and/or have wire and the feet are placed correctly).  And with a gusset on the head it will make it easier to attach horns (if that's the style of chameleon I want).  (that's what that funky triceratops looking thing is in the bottom right corner--trying to see if a forehead gusset is necessary--it might not be necessary).

The tail, which you'd think would be the hard part, might not be that big a deal now that I've made that octopus.  The hardest part will be making sure the pattern is wide enough so the felt doesn't pull apart (and cutting it out--that's going to be a pain in the butt).  But the sewing of it shouldn't be that hard, just stuff as you sew.  (and yes, I want to make a curled tail and tail up/walking style--same body only with tail/leg variation).

The eye may prove the most tricky.  To get the classic eye look I'm thinking two circles of felt (one slightly bigger than the other) the smaller of which with a hole cut for the eye bead to slightly poke through.  Sew the eye bead to the base circle then the top circle over the bead and base.  Lightly stuff to get the bulgy-ness.  Then attach to head.

Yeah, I think this might be something I can actually DO!

Perhaps I can get a rough cut pattern trimmed out today.  That is my goal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Adventures in Upcycling: Sweater to Alligator

I've been dieing to felt up a wool (or animal fiber blend) sweater and make something from it but I just hadn't gotten around to the thrift store to search out a sweater victim.  I'd been meaning to (there's a realtively new Goodwill two blocks from my house I've been meaning to check out) but just hadn't gotten around to it.

Friday I finally went to the Goodwill.

I was on the look out for clothing I could upcycle and/or fabic sheets.

For $10 I scored a pack of small styrofoam balls (still in original wrap), a pair of mens corduroy pants (ear marked for wookie and/or ewok creations), a flat bed sheet in a ticking pattern (I've wanted some ticking print fabric so this was a great score) and as I was just about to give up the hunt (as all the sweaters were cotton/acrylic) a 100% wool Eye-talian sweater.

A hideously ugly 100% wool Eye-talian sweater VEST.  Honestly, it was so small I wondered if it was mis-hung in the adult section (or maybe it had already been felted accidentally?).

I didn't take any before pics but this gives you a great idea how heinous it was.

In case the pic doesn't do it justice, that's a dark green with alternating orange, red and pink stripes.

Did I mention it was a sweater vest?  SWEATER VEST.  (yeah, that just needed repeating).  It felted up nicely after only one wash (hot, "rough" cycle) with a few green towels (in case they made lint it wouldn't look too freaky agains the green sweater).  And after felting it was only a few inches smaller (no joke, the original size had to be a kids size--right before I took this pic I held the scrap up to my chest and it was just barely a crop top size, I bet if I actually put it on it would be more like an ample sports bra).

And you can see what I made from it, too.  Well, from only 1/4 of the front and one strip of the arm hole piping trim.


(oh, I did use one little scrap from the back fabric for the eyes).

It was a simple "make it up as you sew" pattern.  From the 1/4 of fabric still pictured you can see pretty much what I did.  I just folded the fabric over so the shoulder strap part became the tail (and the stitching would make the warbly back bumps).  When I got to the head/face I added a gusset at the top and bottom to get the flatness needed.  The eyes are from a bit cut from the back fabric (two pieces stitched togther for stability and to hide the stitche attaching the google eyes).

The eyes were from my stash.  Something I wasn't sure I'd ever use but they're spot on fabulous (if I do say so myself) here.

AND, s/he stands on her/his own thanks to WIRES.

Yup, my first real stab (pun intended) with armature.  My first idea was to make two side pieces (that included the side of the legs) and then two gusset pieces (for belly and insides of legs) but the fabric didn't lend itself to that.  I wanted to get the most from the fabric (in keeping with the upcycling theme).

After I got the body done was was pondering the legs and was almost ready to give up and just make floppy bean bag style legs (that wouldn't support the weight and would definitely compromise the alligator feel) and then I remembered I had some floral wire.

Ok, great.  I had floral wire but now I had to make a pattern for the legs.  Poo.  WAIT!  HOLD THE PHONE!  I spied the piping around the arms and neck and it was PERFECT.  Because it was multiple layers it hadn't felted as fully as the rest of the piece.  So I could just run one half of my scissors down into it to make tube for the wire. 


Take the wire and stab it through the body.  Bend up the ends (to keep pointy pieces from jabbing through).  Slide the piping over the wire and stitch top to the body and then take a scrap (from the trimmings from the body) to make a set of toes (each toe is not individual--that would be nuts).  Sew toes to the bottom of the piping tube leg and BAM, you have a leg.

Now since I was just eyeballing everything, the front legs are a wee bit longer than the back (did the back first) but that kind of worked out since alligators do kind of have uneven front/back legs.  AND I managed to get what I really wanted which was an alligator that not only stood on its own but got its full tail up off the ground (just a bit).  I really wanted this alligator to look somewhat realistic body wise (flat head, eyes popping up off head, stands on own, can hold tail fully off the ground).

I'm loving this alligator and. . .

I'm open to suggestions for naming (and what else to do with the rest of the fabric).

Under the Sea: Sparkly Octopus

I mentioned I was mega crafty this weekend.

And this is what I made on Sunday (yeah, I'm going out of order because I'm saving my "original pattern" post for last).

I've had this pattern on my "to sew" list for a while but I knew it took a lot of cutting prep work and I had to be in the mood to cut out a mess of little felt pieces.  I was in that mood on Sunday (it was either work with the stuff I had laying around my stash or drive myself out to the 'burbs to the craft store and I don't like driving at all let alone out to the 'burbs so. . .).


Oh, before I forget:  PATTERN IS HERE.

Looking at the finished product it looks like a really daunting pattern, like it would be super hard.  It is NOT.  At all.  I'd classify it as "medium" (on a scale of easy, medium, hard) and that's only because it's a smaller item and you have to cut out a TON of pieces (oh and the beading--but really, the beading isn't hard just time consumming).

Another photo of him/her with some stylish glare on the sequin suckers.

After I beaded the first leg I wondered why on earth the pattern was all uptight about sequin placement when they were all crammed together anyway.  Then I realized my sequins were larger than the ones used in the tutorial/pattern.  Hey, I was working with what I had and these green ones were fabulous against the lighter green of the body.  And they worked with the beads I had (I have a few tubes of same color beads I wanted to work from since I was not in the mood to pick through my container of mixed seed beads--I always find ones that are cool but have impossibly tiny holes).

I went "classice" with the sequin eyes, too.  If I made this pattern again (and I might, but not right away thanks to the aforementioned mass of cutting it takes to prep) I'd do some embroidery for the eyes.  One of the octopi shown at the Future Girl link (home of the pattern) had lazy daisy stitches for the eyes and it was super cute.

I have a feeling this octopus is going to get my co-workers all squeeling with delight.

Now I just need a name for him/her.  (and I need to make the mermaid doll I plan to go with)

Suggestions for names gladly accepted.

Work in Progress: Kitties!

Another update on the litter of kitties.

Meet Linus, brother of Samantha (from the previous post).

As you can see, Linus's facial stitching is a bit wonky.  I prefer Samantha's, to be honest (you see, I forgot to look at Samantha before I started stitching on Linus, so I was winging it with him--oops).  But for what Linus lacks on his facial stitching, he makes up for on his tail.  It's EXACTLY what I wanted.

That said, I have to utter my one gripe with this pattern (or style of mini plush if you will).  Since they are flat, pillow style items (perfect for adding pins to, as we've seen) there will always be a back which means ugly unfinished stuff.  Linus's tail is a bit messy from the BACK.  But in order to get a nice front I think that's the price we have to pay.  At least for now (I don't know how much longer I can fuss making siamese cats trying to get one "perfect"--well, perfect with stitching--if I got some markers we wouldn't have these issues but I like doing the tiny embroidery on these).

Oh, three strands of embroidery floss REALLY helped (that was something I mentioned with Samantha's post--that six strand was just too bulky).

Overall I'm pleased with Linus.  His wonky stitch face gives him personality.

I think there may be one more siamese for this litter along with a lion (yeah, weird litter that has siamese cats and an adult lion with a mane--eh, what are you going to do).

I had a very productive weekend, so on to my next post to show off more stuff I made.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I want to try: PAPER MACHE

Oh, I've done paper mache before.  You know, that old school kiddie stuff where you wrap paste sodden newspaper strips over a balloon (well, in my case it was a balloon inside two egg box tops to make a hotdog in a bun type form--then I made the mistake of covering it in copious layers of mod podge which made it nearly indestructable, not the best idea for a pinata!).

But THIS, this is paper mache for artists, not just dorky teens making a pinata for their friend (or stay at home moms making something for a kid's birthday party).

Ultimate Paper Mache :  its my new blog crack.

There are even online video tutorials for projects.  HOLY EFFING CRAP!!  Now I need a laptop so I can slop along with the tutorial (my home PC is in a crafty inhospitable room and, well, the home PC is just sad and slow and needs some help to be fabulous or just taken out back and shot).

With summer right on my heels, paper mache will be a great outdoor activity, too.

(I can just picture my wife's extravagant eyeroll when I tell him about this)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Kitty Up": Progress Report

Nothing to report this week.

When the wife mentioned we would be going out for happy hour to celebrate our friend's graduation I had a feeling we'd forget all about painting.

And we did.

But we remembered the margaritas.  And tacos.  And laughter.

So the evening was great even if no painting happened.

There's always next week.  I'm really going to be ready to paint like a mad woman after this brief break.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Work in Progress: Litter of Kittens

I'm still working on a full litter of kitties (I keep making and giving away random ones, so progress is slow).

But I have completed ONE kitty for the litter.

Meet Samantha.

She's my first stab at a siamese and I'm fairly happy with her.  Ok, let me rephrase that.  I AM happy with her.  But I see plenty of places I could improve on her for the NEXT kitten.  In fact, the next kitten is going to be another siamese in gray with darker gray points.

I think I'll handle the head pretty much the same as Samantha here, but maybe make the ear points a little bigger.  For the body, I'd handle the feet the same (I really like Samantha's feet) but I'd attack the tail differently.

For Samantha's tail I wa obsessed with having the stitching be on both sides of the tail.  I don't know why the tail needed to be stitched on both sides when none of the other embellishments are on both sides (it's one of the drawbacks of this pattern, the end products are flat and really only detailed on one side--perfect for pins).  Now when you're working with a wee little felt tail all those stitches tend to just chew up the fabric.  And when you're putting that many stitches on such a small area it leaves ZERO space for stuffing (heck, when I stuff a normal none embellished tail I have to roll a tiny bit of stuffing and basically sew the felt around it since I'm working with such a small space).  So Samantha's tail is not stuffed which makes it a wee bit flat compared to her body (kind of like a beaver tail).  It's only really noticable when you squeeze the whole finished product so it's not a "bad" thing but it could be improved. 

So for the silver siamese, I'm going to only embellish the front side of the tail so maybe I can still stuff it.  That should also make for neater stitches and leave space for a bit of stuffing.

We'll see.

So, what other kitties should be in this litter?

Kitties (some "for the cure")

Despite Susan G. Kommen's asshattery with Planned Parenthood, I couldn't resist running with an idea my co-worker had (I was showing her the other kitties and wondering aloud what I should do next and she mentioned pink kitties for breast cancer awareness--such a fabulous idea).

Then my friend told me she was doing the Race for the Cure (big Kommen walk/run on Mother's Day) and the two ideas melded.

Pink Panther Pins (or Kitties for the Cure--though any time I type "for the cure" I think of that Simpson's episode with "the shinning", when groundskeeper Willie hisses "hush boy, do you want to get sued!").

I had to use the most active of the patterns, since a cat sitting on its butt (or even laying down) just doesn't give off the "working hard to find a cure" vibe.

Closeups?  Ok.

While they're the same pattern they each have their own personality.  The top one is classically cute, with a very photogenic smile and head cocked cutely to one side.  The other one is a little more reserved, a bit unsure of his/herself.  And s/he has a wonky eye.  That irks me a bit but to fix it would be a huge bunch of work that I just wouldn't do.  I'd just make another kitty and that's not an option at this point.

I was worrying over the wonky eyed one quite a bit (like was it not "good enough" to give to my friend) and then when I was showing them off to another co-worker (pretty much all of the women I work with are all about the kitties) she snatched up Wonky and started gushing over how s/he was her favorite.  So I guess Wonky's flaws are really only glaring to me.  Guess that's the curse of being the maker, you see every wee flaw that others simply don't notice.

Anyway, I mentioned they were pins so. . .

They are indeed pins.  Nothing fancy, just a stitched on safety pin.  And you know I pinned them to my pjs (I made these both last night) and stood in front of my bathroom mirror to make sure they were hanging well (not going all floppy or crookedy).  Then I made my wife inspect them, too.

(and you'd never know it from the pics, but I did give them a frizzy trim--man, felt makes so many frizzies, even the good stuff).

They've been well received already (from the aforementioned co-worker who even took a pick of Wonky and she mentioned she was telling her friend about the kitties--yeah, I could probably sell these if I wanted but I'm just not convinced about that whole "going into business" thing).

I still want to make a few more kitties just for myself.  In fact, I have one of "the litter" completed so I'll show her off in her own post.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I'm not sure how many kitties will be in the litter. 

One is already completed and I know there will be at least two more.

Soon, very soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Cuter than your average Ewok.

Want to make your own cute little Ewok?

Check out Wild Olive (here) for a free pattern and instructions. 

It's such a simple pattern I think even first time sewers (and/or kids) could make it (in fact, I may have mentioned it to my boss.  Her 8 year old son is insterested in learning to sew and this would be a great first project since it doesn't involve a machine or sewing on the wrong side and turning or any of the "hard stuff").

I learned something else today, too.

The actual ewoks from the Star Wars movies were UGLY.  I mean REALLY UGLY!  How the hell did I ever think they were cute?  Their faces are disturbingly human/bear hybrid freaky. . .yeah, just not cute like the little Wild Olive ewok.

Let's just pretend the real ewoks aren't as freaky-fug as they are, huh?

(and yes, I'm going to make my own Ewoks--in fact, I think my cat nephew Lowell needs one for his toy box--he already has a tribble)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Kitty Up" Progress Report

This was the painting when I started last night:

And this is the painting NOW:

Eeee!  It's starting to look like an actual painting now.  It's amazing what background color can do for you, huh?  It drives my wife nuts that I take forever to do my backgrounds.  To him it's so backward.  And I'd agree, it does make more sense to lay down a full background and then build up on it but I just have this hang up about all the color UNDER the figures, like will it make it harder to get the right color in the end if I have to work to cover up some base color that's wonky?  Dumb, I know, but that's just how my brain works.

Ok, now to see what the goal is:

I can see the head still has a bit of a forward slant to it.  The front corner needs to be nipped down a bit (the negative space between the shoulder and the chin area needs to be bigger--on the left side of the pic--right side is looking somewhat ok).

And holy crap, what a difference that little splash of yellow on the eye makes.  It's nowhere near the right shade or any of that but just having it there really helps set the figures on the canvas and point out what's going well and what's still way off (it looks like there needs to be more space between the eye and the mouth--I need to move the eye up on the face a lot--it really is very close to the seam at the top of the head).

Getting the temporary facial features (Timothy's) off helps, too.  Those eyes weren't situated very well at all and it was distorting how I viewed the rest of the painting.  With them gone I can focus more on the big picture (shape of head, etc).  The head still is a little off along that severe down slope (on the left side).  Getting all the "erased" marks (where I had to cover up dark sketchy lines with white paint) helps a lot, too.  With the "mistakes" more hidden I can better focus on what still needs done.

The gray shades are coming along well, too.  The light is getting light enough.  In fact, it might be a little too light right now (but I need to work all the shades before I delcare it officially "too light").

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  These progress reports are really helping my painting overall.  The amount of cursing I'm doing with this painting (versus "Baby Elephant Walk") is dramatic.  The only muttered curses I've indulged in this time around are for legit reasons (like accidentally smearing something) and not merely temper tantrums (I had so many "this sucks, I suck, I hate everything" tantrums with "Baby Elephant Walk" it was downright pathetic and a bit embarrassing--part of it is my general childishness and part is I think "Baby Elephant Walk" may have been a bit too lofty of a goal for my skill set--so I was never going to get exactly what I had envisioned and it took me a long time to come to terms with that).

I'm starting to think about my NEXT painting, too.  I thought I wanted to do robot portraits (on oval canvases) but I'm re-thinking that.  I still want to work with oval canvases (just because) but I think I need to do something more abstract for my next piece.  I'm thinking of taking one of my existing paintings (I think "Jackie and Xerxes") and making an abstract version of it.  Kind of like deconstructing it.  My wife is doing an abstract painting like that now and it looks so FUN.

But first things first.  "Kitty Up"  (I'm really enjoying this painting so much)