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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Toy Workshop Results

On December 10th 2011,  at the Center for Cartoon Studies  I taught a 3-hour plush toy workshop.  It was open to all ages,  so there was a nice mix of kids and adults.  The class ended up being totally full with 24 people ready to make some toys.  Alec volunteered to be my assistant teacher for the day and was a huge help making sure everything ran smoothly.

My goal for the workshop was to have everyone go home with a customized plush character.  I didn't know the skill levels of the participants,  so I assumed everyone was a beginner but left room for each person to use any existing skills. 

CCS Toy Workshop

Before the class,  I created a simple blank body shape out of fleece that could be translated into many different ideas.  Each person took that shape and using additional felt and fleece fabrics turned it into their toy.   Everyone participating really showed me how many variations could be created from a single shape,  all sorts of different and amazing creatures were made.  I had a great time sharing some toy design skills and everyone went home with a cool plush toy, so I hope they had a good time too.

I didn't get photos of the finished stuffed toys, but here are some as they are being created.

CCS Toy Workshop

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Basewood Beard Destroyed!

Alec finished the last chapter of his graphic novel, Basewood, on December 2, 2011.  He then edited and assembled the book and planned a big event for his first haircut and shave in over 3 years.

Each time Alec finished penciling or inking a page of Basewood, he would take a photograph, I took all those photos and some images from his books and created this fun video.

We used Livestream to broadcast the haircut as it happened on December 9, 2011, you can check out that video here:

Aside from finally seeing Alec without a beard, this is a big step for us as it kicks of the planning stages of our next adventure together.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Plush Toy Workshop at CCS

Two weeks from today on December 10th,  I'll be teaching a soft toy workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.   I'll be covering the basics of making a simple plush character and by the end every participant will have created a unique soft toy to take home.

You can sign up for the workshop here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cat Pattern

I finally finished the instructions for the Cozy Kitty pattern,  it's now available in the store section.  The patterns are also available on etsy,  along with a couple finished plush kitties,  check 'em out.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dinosaur Skeleton Sweater

I recently completed my first adult sized sweater!  I've been knitting for some years now, but each new project is a challenge and I learned a lot from this one.  It started because I wanted to use up a bunch of skeins of yarn that I've had for awhile.  I narrowed it down to a group of analogous colors: blue, purple and turquoise green.  I wanted to make a sweater that I would probably never find in a store,  so I came up with a combination of two of my favorite things: skeletons and dinosaurs.  I gridded out the dinosaur design and lined it up with the knitting pattern. Since I was trying to use yarn I already had, I ended up mostly using Paton's classic wool.

Once I got through the first panel (the back), I was already running low on some of the colors. Since all my yarns were from different and old dye lots I knew I would be hard pressed to find matching ones.  Luckily since I already had the stripe pattern incorporated in it was a little less obvious when I had to substitute colors on the remaining panels.

Not getting enough yarn wasn't my only mistake.  I ended up making 3 sleeves, since the first 2 weren't identical due to not lining up the stripe pattern correctly. I used the wrong size knitting needles,  so the sweater is a little snugger than I had anticipated.  Even with all those mistakes, I'm happy with the outcome. Now that I made it through my first sweater, I'm a little more confident and I might take on another.

Here is the pattern that I used:

Women's Day 101 Sweaters You Can Knit No. 3
Copyright 1970

Saddle Sleeve Cardigan

Sizes: Misses' 10 [12-14-16-18-20]. Garment width around underarms,  buttoned,  34 1/4" [ 36"- 38"- 40"- 42"- 43 1/2" ]

Misses and Women's measurements-
Size:      8              10             12               14          16         18
Bust:     31 1/2      32 1/2       43                36         38          40
Waist:   23             24             25 1/2         27         29          31
Hips:     33 1/2      34 1/2       36               38          40         42

Materials: Columbia-Minerva Nantuk Sports yarn, 6 [7-7-8-8-9] 2-oz. skeins. Knitting needles No. 4 and No. 6 or size required to knit to gauge. 7 buttons
Gauge: 5 sts and 7 rows = 1" (stockinette st on No. 6 needles)
Back: With No. 4 needles, cast on 84 [ 88-92-98-102-108 ] sts. Work in k 1, p 1 ribbing for 2", inc 2 [2-4-2-4-2 ] sts on the last row -- 86 [90-96-100-106-110] sts. Change to No. 6 needles and working stockinette st (k on right side, p on wrong side) until 15" from beg, or desired length to underarms, end wrong side.
  Shape Saddle Armholes:  bind off 2 [2-3-3-4-4] sts at beg of next 2 rows. Dec Row (right side): K 1, sl 1, k1, psso, k to the last 3 sts, k 2 tog, k 1. Repeat Dec Row every right-side row 2 [3-4-5-4-5] times more, then every 4th row 6 [6-6-6-7-7] times -- 64 [66-68-70-74-76] sts. Work even until armholes measure 5 1/4" [5 1/2"-5 3/4"-6-6 1/4"-6 1/2"] above beg of armhole shaping.
Shape Shoulders: Bind off 5 [6-6-7-8-9] sts at the beg of next 2 rows, then 7 sts at beg of next 4 rows -- 26 [ 26-28-28-30-30 ] sts. Place sts on holder.
Left Front: With No. 4 needles, cast on 47 [49-52-54-56-58] sts. Work in k1, p1 ribbing for 2", end wrong side. Change to No. 6 needles. Next row: K to last 8 sts and place these 8 sts on holder for buttonband. Next row: cast on 1 st, p across -- 40 [42-45-47-49-51] sts. Work in stockinette st until the same length as back to underarm, end wrong side.
Shape Saddle Armhole:  Bind off 2 [2-3-3-4-4] sts at beg of next row, k across -- 38 [40-42-44-45-47] sts. Next row: Purl. Dec row: K1, sl 1, k1, psso, k across. Repeat Dec row every right-side row 2 [3-4-5-4-5] times more, then every 4th row 6 [6-6-6-7-7] times -- 29 [30-31-32-33-34] sts. Work even, if necessary, until armhole measure 4 3/4" [5"-5 1/4"-5 1/2"-5 3/4"- 6"]  above beg of armhole shaping, end right side.
Shape Neck and Shoulder: Work 7 [7-8-8-8-8] sts and place holder for neck, work across. Dec 1 st at neck edge every right-side row 3 times; at the same time, when the armhole measure same as on back, bind off 5 [6-6-7-8-9] sts once, 7 sts twice.
Buttonband: With No. 4 needles, work in ribbing on the 8 sts from holder, until piece fits from to neck (slightly stretched). Place sts on holder. Sew band to front. Place markers for 6 buttons, the first 1" from beg, the 6th 2 3/4" below neck, others evenly space between. The 7th will be worked on the 4th and 5th rows of neckband.
Right Front: With No. 4 needles, cast on 47 [49-52-54-56-58] sts. Work in ribbing as on the left from, working buttonholes opposite markers as follows: Beg at front edge, work 3 sts, bind off next 2 sts work across. Cast on 2 sts over bound-off sts on next row. Work even until ribbing is same as on left front, end at front edge. Next row: Work 8 sts and place on holder for buttonhole band. Change to to No. 6 needles. Next row: Cast on 1 st, k across -- 40 [42-45-47-49-51] sts. Work to correspond to left front, working buttonholes opposite markers as above.
Sleeves: With No. 4 needles, cast on 40 [42-44-46-48-50  sts. Work in k1, p1 ribbing for 2 1/2 ", inc 4 [4-4-4-6-6] sts on last row -- 44 [46-48-50-54-56] sts. Change to No. 6 and work in stockinette st. Inc 1 st each edge every 8th row 7 [7-6-6-6-4] times, every 6th row 1 [1-3-3-3-6] times -- 60 [62-66-68-72-76] sts. Work even until 17" from beg or desired length to underarm, end wrong side.
Shape Saddle Cap and Saddle: Bind off 2 [2-3-3-4-4] sts at beg of next 2 rows. Dec row 1: K1, sl 1, k1, psso, k to last 3 sts, k 2 tog, k1. Repeat Dec Row every right-side row 9 [10-11-12-13-15] times more -- 36 sts.  P next row. Dec Row 2: K1, sl 1, k 2 tog, pass slipped st over the k 2 tog, k to last 4 sts, k 3 tog,  k1. Repeat Dec Row 2 every right-side row until 20 sts. remain, end wrong side. Place marker each edge for start of saddle. Dec 1 st each edge every 4th row 4 times -- 12 sts. Work even until 4" [ 4 1/4"-4 1/4"-4 1/4"-4 1/2" ] above markers. Place sts on holder.
Finishing: Block pieces. With markers at shoulder edge, sew sleeves in place. Sew sides of saddle across shoulders. Sew side and sleeve seams.
Neckband: With No. 4 needles,  beg right front with right side facing, pick up and k 79 [83-87-91-93-93] sts around neck edge, including sts on holders. Row 1 (wrong side) p1, * k1, p1, repeat from * across. Row 2: K1, * p 1, k 1, repeat from * across. Repeat row 1 once. Continue ribbon as established working a buttonhole over next 2 rows, until 1 1/4" from beg. Bind off in ribbing. Blanket st around buttonholes.
Sew bottom in place on right front. Steam press seams lightly.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Snail Sale

I made a couple more Snail Mail plush toys and they're now available for sale on etsy
Check them out here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Alec's Hat

The original hat
The replacement hat

Alec used to have a blue hat with red wings on it.  He sadly lost it on the subway in New York a few years ago.  For his birthday he wanted a replacement.  Instead of trying to search one out,  I made him a replacement since I love to knit.  I knit the cap out of blue wool yarn and made the wings out of red cotton flocked fabric.  I only had one reference photo of the original but it was most likely made of double layers of acrylic yarn.  Instead of making it double,  I made the whole thing in a 1x1 rib knit. So both inside and out it looks the same, and it's stretchy and comfy.  I think I did a decent job mimicking the original but also making it a custom hat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wizard Robe

 Halloween is approaching fast, and it's my favorite holiday.  Last year,  due to a recent move and being sick, I didn't participate.  This year I'm trying to make up for it.  Alec is going to be Dumbledore,  because it's the last year he will have his epic beard.  I'm going to go as Hermione,  so we compliment each other.  I'm going to go as polyjuice mix up  cat Hermione so it's extra fun.

When Alec and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter last January,  they had all the house robes,  but they were over-priced and cheaply made.  Instead I picked up an official Hogwarts crest patch so I could make my own custom robe.

I created the robe pattern by expanding a tent sloper to full length and adding bishop style sleeves and a hood. This is not a replica of the movie robes by any means.  I didn't fully line this robe,  it just has facing pieces to finish the opening.  It is a generic Hogwarts robe, as it doesn't have any of the house colors for the lining. This way it can be any character's robe.

 To make it, I was trying to use material I already had around the house.  I didn't have the right kind of buttons in black, so I just found the right size in my button collection and covered them in the same fabric as the robe.  I used a lightweight woven cotton that I had found at a fabric re-use place in Portland.  I would recommend a heavier weight synthetic that resists wrinkling if I was going to make it again.  There are in seam pockets on the sides for wands and chocolate frogs.

If you would like to make a robe similar to the one I made,  here is the rough pattern.  Print this out and blow it up until it is the size of the measurements stated.  This is a very roomy robe that could fit a large range of sizes.
*Addition April 18, 2013*
Here are the really rough instructions on how to put the pattern pieces together. If you've never sewn before this isn't enough information for you to put the robe together correctly, it's just a loose guide for people who've sewn from patterns before.

click images to view larger

Friday, September 30, 2011

Snail Mail

 I know the US Postal Service is facing major cutbacks and is transitioning to fit our now digital world.  As one fantasy solution, wouldn't it be cute if actual snails delivered the mail?

I whipped up a toy snail that shows how it could work.  Unroll the snail's shell to reveal a pocket in which to place your letter.  Once your letter is in,  roll the shell back up and secure with a snap. The snail slowly moves on its way to deliver your very important letter.

 I'm planning on making some more snails in different color combinations, then putting them up for sale on etsy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pigeon molding experiment

I had a dream a couple of years ago about city wall space getting so sparse that people starting spraying graffiti on live pigeons.  It seemed like a crazy concept,  so I thought I might try to sculpt some pigeons and then paint graffiti pieces on them.

I have made different kinds of molds throughout the years,  but I wanted to try some potentially more environmentally friendly materials.  Silicon is a great molding material as it picks up excellent detail and cures very quickly.  The problem with silicon is that after you're finished using the mold,  it's gonna be around for a long time.  Looking up some options, liquid latex seemed like a good fit for what I wanted.  It's natural, coming from the rubber tree, it will eventually break down and it holds excellent detail.  It is mildly toxic as the liquid part contains ammonia.  Since it's so flexible,  an additional mother mold is needed to hold it in place. By using plaster to make the mother mold,  I'm still using a material that will naturally break down.

I sculpted a sleeping pigeon using Roma Plastilina #2 medium,  I've used this material with success before.  I like that you can use it over again since it's oil based and doesn't dry out.  I did have some problems creating details.  With the summer heat,  it stayed pretty soft at room temperature.  I was constantly sticking my sculpture in the freezer to cool it down so I could carve out more intricate details.  In the future, for small detailed items I'm going to try either #3 or #4 hardness or Castiline.

Original pigeon in plastilina
I purchased liquid latex through the Compleat Sculpter in New York.  It was really easy to apply the latex with a brush, but it is a slow process since you need to wait for each layer to dry.  It took about a day,  since I worked on other things as each layer dried. After 9 layers, the latex mold was complete and I was ready to make the supporting mother mold.

Latex covered sculpt, I added additional pieces to the back to remove the undercut

My sculpture has undercuts, so I had to make a 2-part mold mother.  I used more plastilina to divided the mold into two parts, then poured the first part in plaster.  After the plaster set (about 45 minutes),  I still waited about 2 hours for it to really set and dry.  Then I applied one coat of liquid latex to the finished plaster side so that the 2 parts of the mold wouldn't stick to each other.

First half of plaster mother: I thought using a plastic jug would make it easier for the mold, but I was wrong.

 I poured the second part of the mold, then waited a couple more hours for all the pieces to dry before pulling it apart.

Two part plaster mold encasing the latex mold

I made a cast using more plaster.  Latex is pretty great because it doesn't stick to much, I was able to cast without a mold release agent. Maybe latex is too flexible, because I had some problems getting it to sit right in the mother.  In some ways,  it's awesome to play up the distortion factor you can get with latex, but that's not what I was looking for with this project.  After a couple wonky looking plaster pigeons,  I decided that I was too sloppy with the first mold and attempted another.  By making the pigeons out of biodegradable plaster,  I don't feel bad about throwing my mistakes away.

A mutant pigeon

The second time I made a 4-part mother and was much more careful about dividing the mold into pieces and molding them with care.  I also made a rectangle box support to hold the mold while it cured.  The 4-part mold worked a lot better,  maybe because it was my second time doing it.

Once the mother mold had cured,  I cast a pigeon in plaster.  I painted the undercoat in grey gloss enamel spray paint (so much for environmentally friendly.)  Then I used paint markers to create the graffiti.

Graffiti Pigeon sculpture
Graffiti Pigeon sculpture

I'm happy with the result. It pretty much looks like the dream I had, except for the pigeons were still living in my dream, but I don't condone painting any living thing with spray paint.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Squirrel Puppet

Alec and I have some grand plans to start making puppet show videos.  Both of us have a lot of ideas,  but we also have a lot of higher priority projects.  It may take awhile before we're making any videos, but the first step for me is to start making the puppets.

My first try is this squirrel, a simple hand puppet.  Made of fleece, faux fur, and wool tweed.  I made him a wool, cable knit sweater to prepare him for the coming fall.  I think this guy is cute, but needs some work in the actual puppeting part.  He can move his arms and head but in a limited fashion.  At least he can always be a backup dancer if he can't cut it in a starring role.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Lilly Pulitzer Jacket Re-mix

I recently took this awesome, bold printed Lilly Pulitzer Mens Stuff jacket and cut it down so that it would fit me.  I used the same pattern set that I used for the color swatch dress, this time following the jacket pattern.  The choice of pattern was determined by whether it used the same or less fabric than the original.  The original jacket is classic men's single breasted style with a two-part sleeve.  The new jacket style is a loose, boxy shape with a low yoke that shapes the bust.  I made a point to keep as many of the original's details including the flap pockets and the awesome gold lion buttons.  The original jacket was only partially lined,  so I did have to purchase new fabric for the lining. Amazingly, even though the new jacket is a lot smaller, I used almost all of the original fabric.

History of the jacket:
Last year,  Alec's grandfather,  E. Howard Goodwin passed away.  He was a very sharp and classy dresser during his life.  Alec inherited his grandfather's amazing tie collection along with a couple bright suits from Lilly Pulitzer's Mens Stuff collection dating from the late 1960's to early 1970's.  Since Alec is not one to wear bright, bold prints he gave the pieces to me to do whatever I wanted.  I only met Howard through video chat before he passed,  but now I have something to continually remind me of him.

Inside the jacket was this neat, old tag from the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America union.
A nice touch from times past.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dana & Jon's Wedding Quilt

Wedding Quilt

This past weekend,  my friend's Dana and Jon got married in Seattle.  I made them a quilt as their wedding present.  I looked at many existing quilt designs for inspiration,  since a quilt for a wedding is somewhat of a tradition.  Instead of tackling a traditional quilt like double rings,  I made up my own pattern.  I used Illustrator to create a patch that could be repeated and rotated to make an interesting design.  Since I currently live in such a small town I ended up picking up fabrics whenever I went on trips so the materials were collected in New York and Portland, OR.  The quilt measures about 78" x 78" and is 100% cotton, including the batting.  There are 2,400 individual pieces making up the full pattern and it took me 130 hours from start to finish.

Wedding Quilt
Color-wise I hadn't been to Dana's house in awhile so I wasn't sure what to pick. I did know she likes yellow so I made that the connecting color.  Since blue is a complementary color to yellow I chose a couple different patterns and shades to create the background.

Wedding Quilt
I incorporated a zia symbol into the quilting since Dana loves her Santa Fe hometown. The interconnected rings in the center are trying to really drive home the marriage part.

Check out more photos on flickr

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bike Carnival

Last summer,  I did a couple of bike related watercolors to decorate the awards at a benefit carnival for Spokeland that took place in my back yard.  Spokeland is an awesome Oakland, CA based bike co-op.

The first one was for a balance event.  Each competitor had to successfully ride a tiny child's bike on a narrow plank of wood,  it sounds easy but was not.
The next event was a frame lifting event,  I think you had to hold up a bike frame in each hand for as long as you could.

The last event was a tire changing competition,  I'm pretty slow at this so it was awesome watching some pros going super fast.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Georgie the Green Monster

I made a cute green monster this week.  It's part of a concept that I'm continuing to work on. Georgie is a helpful monster with hidden wings that unfold when he raises his arms. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tweedy kitty

I'm working on several projects that are all in various states of completion,  so I haven't had much to share lately.  Here's a tweed kitty plush that I made today.  It's fun experimenting with different fabrics,  like wool tweed,  to make stuffed animals.  I've got the pattern finished,  so all I have to do is work on the instructions then I can make it available to everyone.