Still Not Dead! The Latest Big Project – Banette

I know it’s been a bit of a stretch since I posted, and I don’t feel good about that. I’ve still been working on my plushies, and I have lots of projects that I need to get posted on here. But things have been hectic, so I haven’t gotten around to posting much. But I’m hoping to change that over the next couple of days, and we’ll start with the biggest project I’ve been working on — a Banette!

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This one was requested by a friend. I wasn’t familiar with this particular Pokemon, so I did some research to figure out what I was in for. There were several things that had me worried — the head shape, the head-piece in the back, the facial features in general. I couldn’t find any ready-made patterns online, so this was one I had to put together myself. Which is ALWAYS terrifying. But through the magic of reference images, minky fabric, and sheer stubbornness, I was able to put something together that I’m pretty pleased with.

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The head shape came as a total surprise. At first I tried making it as a three-paneled sideways sphere. I wasn’t pleased with the shape that came from that, so I decided to add a fourth panel to see what would happen. I made the panels “fatter” around the middle to try to get the proper structure. The result was 100% not was I was going for, but I was really happy with it.

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The head-piece off the back was tricky, but turned out alright. The trick seemed to be understuffing it so that it would lay correctly, rather than just sticking straight out the back. The body and arms were pretty straight-forward. I put a dart in the belly-piece to give it the right shape. 

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The face, on the other hand, was quite tricky. I decided early on to do an applique zipper, and not an actual zipper. I feel like that keeps the cartoon-ish look of the design. Otherwise, it wasn’t very difficult to shape and apply the face, but getting the proportions was difficult. In the various Pokemon that I’ve been making, that is a problem that I have found to be pretty universal — in turning a 2D cartoon character into a three-dimensional plushie, it is nearly impossible to get the facial features to look right. For the most part, with a bit of fiddling, you can get it pretty close to right. But this one did give me a lot of trouble. I pinned the features in a lot of different ways, and they just never quite looked right. Eventually I settled on the placement you see now. To cap things off, my fabric paint did NOT want to stick this time around. It was strange, because this paint has worked fine on minky before, so I don’t know what happened there.

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Pardon the messed up tablecloth in the back. It’s the cat’s fault.

So, finished product! In the end, I’m happy with how it turned out. My friend who requested it was disappointed with the face, and that’s never a fun thing to hear. Because of the fabric paint outline on the eyes, I can’t just pull them and replace them, so I may end up redoing the whole head. We’ll see what happens with that.

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But otherwise, this guy is SUPER cuddly! The size and shape is excellent for snuggling, which is a great quality to have for a plush. This is also easily the biggest plush I have made so far, as well as the most complex. I feel like I learned a lot, and it’s good to know that I can pull off something of this caliber. Even if the face still irks me.  

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The Critters and the Pokemon Favors – Pictures

A few days ago I made my big super-post about the Pokemon party favor shenanigans, but left out pictures of Zia and Mac and their “assistance” throughout the project. Well, here for your amusement, are my partners in crime. It looks like I took fewer pictures than I thought — and even fewer of Zia, because she generally kept her nose out of things for this one — but here is what I have!

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“Mom, this seems like a lot of work. How about we sleep for you?”

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Supervising Jigglypuff reference images.

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“Human, what is this? Nothing you’ve made looks anything like this.” “Shut up, Cat.”

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“What? I’m helping. With my judgement.”

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“String? String!”

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“My string now, human!”

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*to the tune of Firefly* “You can’t take the string from me!”

 

Operation Pokemon Party – Or, Stress, Chaos, and Encouragement from Kids

This post is long. It is a long story of some ups, many downs, and a happy ending. You’ve been warned.

A few weeks ago I posted that a friend had approached me for my first commission. She and her husband were adopting a 9-year-old girl that they had been fostering for some time, and were preparing to throw her an adoption party. Their daughter is deeply entrenched in the Pokemon fandom, so my friend wanted to see if I would be interested in making party-favor-sized Pokemon plushies for the party. I agreed right off the bat. After all, I was sure there would be patterns available for such touchstones as Pikachu and Jigglypuff, and maybe some others as well! What could go wrong?

Turns out, quite a lot. For starters, I could find NO pre-made patterns that worked for what I wanted. I found one pattern each for Pikachu and Jigglypuff, but neither of them panned out very well when I tried them in felt (I decided to go with felt for the party favors, because the cost worked out better). So I ended up making the patterns from scratch myself. Each Pokemon took several tries before the pattern was really sorted out.

Pattern creation is not a quick process. I’m sure a more experienced seamstress could tell you that much quicker. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have my doubts as I struggled through figuring out the geometry of a Pikachu.

You know what? Pikachu is a PAIN to make. You wouldn’t think it. He looks so simple. Don’t believe his lies.

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His adorable, oddly-proportioned lies.

 

It was not all struggle though. I could practically feel my stitch-work improving as I went. Nothing improves your technique like hours and hours of practice, right? I also got to work with fabric paint for the first time. I was able to find fabric paint markers, which were lovely! The felt has a tendency to “string” out when you mark it, but such is life when working with felt.

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Poliwags, or “Thank Heaven For Fabric Paint Markers”

I spent about two weeks in intense production on this project. That included constant tweaking of patterns. I will be honest, I spent most of the time quite discouraged. I was never happy with the results. I sent my friend progress pictures for each Pokemon to see what she would think. Every time, she had nothing but praise. She showed each one to her new daughter, and each one met with complete approval. Her encouragement often fell on deaf ears, I have to admit.

I wasn’t content with the plushies I was producing, but there just wasn’t time to make the kinds of improvements I really wanted. 

The first thing that made me feel better about the project? That would be when I switched gears to work on what I dubbed the Grand Gift Jigglypuff — a larger plush made from minky material, to be a gift for my friend’s new daughter. I was so nervous as I started working on it, the chaos of the felt plushies fresh in my mind. 

I had no reason to worry. As it turns out, apparently, practically ALL of the problems I had been having were problems inherent with working with felt. Once I started working with the minky, everything went smoothly. Seriously, not a single problem. Aside from the shedding.

Minky sheds when it is cut. A lot. Everywhere. It’s impressive.

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My pajama pants might never recover.

The minky was a little difficult to pin properly, but that was about the only adjustment I had to make. Everything else was divine — it stitched beautifully, it hides seams it a wonderful way, it forms and shapes like a champ, and it is super easy to attach limbs and appliques. I had read that minky is the fabric of choice for plush making, and now I truly understand why.

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The grandest of Jigglypuffs. The smug thing didn’t photograph well, unfortunately. Because of its roundness, it was hard to get a good picture.

Finishing this Jigglypuff, and being pleased with the results, gave me renewed hope for the rest of my party favors. I was still nervous (and growing shorter on time), but I was ready to press on.

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Pictured: Pressing On

The day of the party arrived. Filled with doubt, I took the fifteen party favors and the Grand Gift Jigglypuff to the party. My friend called over her little girl, and pulled out one of the Pikachus (and if I didn’t make it clear enough before, the Pikachus were easily my least favorite of the lot). And what did this girl do?

She grinned ear-to-ear. “Pikachu!” A gaggle of cousins swarmed over with a chorus of “Can we see? Can we see?” I held out the tote for them to investigate. And what did they do?

They dissolved into semi-controlled chaos. “Pikachu!” “There’s a Jigglypuff!” “I want a Poliwag!”

So I blushed for a solid half an hour while a gathering of kids absolutely SWARMED those fifteen party favors that I was just certain wouldn’t be good enough. They loved them. Totally, completely loved them. Their parents were pleased too — one of them was joking about snagging one and smuggling it away from the kids for herself.

I couldn’t believe it, and still kind of can’t. I never would have expected that reaction. After all the stress of working on this project, I’m so glad I got to see that response.

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The assembled bundle.

And what of the Grand Gift Jigglypuff? It was equally well received. Pulled out of its gift bag by its child, it was immediately hugged and cuddled, while all the cousins and friends asked for a turn to hold it.

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But enough of the waxing poetic. I’m sure what you really want to know is what I took away from this project. This project was HUGE compared to what I expected it to be. It did not play by the rules that I set for it. And, as is the case with such projects, I learned a LOT. 

First and foremost: I might never work with felt again, except for specific projects. I was pretty sure that I was just crappy at this. But after working with minky, I realize that many of the problems I’ve experienced are inherent with working with felt. In the future, I will probably always use minky for big projects (and certainly for any future commissions), and probably cotton for everything else. I have yet to try out fleece. We’ll see how that goes!

As I mentioned, fabric paint is a good thing. Fabric paint markers are a better thing.

Pattern creation is a pain, and it takes way longer than you think it will.

Projects that call for many plushies might be fine, but on a deadline they are STRESSFUL. No matter how much time there is, it will never feel like enough.

But perhaps most importantly: if the customer is happy, that’s good enough. I spent a lot of time stressing out when my client/friend was assuring me that I was doing fine. Am I totally happy with how the party favors turned out? No. I will always believe that, given more time and better fabric (ie, cotton instead of felt), I could have made a better product. But at the end of the day, the kids did love them. And seeing their reaction to getting those plushies is all the encouragement I’ll ever need.

And guess what? 

I’ve got another commission, as of this morning.

Time to get to pattern making.

P.S.  You may have noticed a lack of Zia and Mac pictures in this post. There is no lack of said pictures. On the contrary! Miss Zia and Mr. Mac supervised pretty much every step of this project, and I have lots of pictures to prove it. But since I figured this post was long enough, the pictures of their adventures will be coming in a separate post later this week. Stay tuned 🙂

“I’m not dead!” A Quick Update

I’m not dead! I know I haven’t been posting much lately, and I can tell you exactly why: Operation Pokemon Party Favors has been taking up my every waking non-work moment for about the last two weeks. It has been a heck of a ride, filled with ups, downs, and excitement. But you know what?

Operation Pokemon Party Favors is complete!

I will be making a nice long blog post detailing how that process went and the (MANY) things that I learned from it. But in the meantime, I wanted to make a quick post saying that I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, and I’ve got lots to share as soon as I’ve had a chance to recover a bit.

Also, I have taken the time to update my Links page and add a Contact page, both of with you can find at the top of the site. The biggest addition is a Twitter account for my plush adventures, where you can find me @VikingDogPlush. So feel free to check that out.

Now, to tide you over until the next post…

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Exciting News!

I’ve had some interesting and exciting things come up in regards to my plush making over the past week, and I’m very exited about the opportunities!

First off, early in the week, I was visiting with a friend of mine. She oversees her church’s Operation Christmas Child program. Every year, they send hundreds of boxes in to the charity. She has seen the plushes I’ve been working on, and she asked if I would be interested in making some simple little plushes for their Operation Christmas Child push this year. They don’t have a specific number for me, just as many as I want to make. Which is nice, because that means I can go crazy making plushies for this, but I don’t have to stress about it. So expect updates on that as it develops! I’ll probably start working on those towards the end of August. Why the end of August? Well, because…

A bit later in the week, I was talking with another friend of mine. She and her husband are adopting  a little girl that they have been fostering for a couple of years, and they are throwing a party for her mid-August. My friend asked if I would be interested in making little Pokemon plushies as gifts for the kids attending the party. That is looking like 15-20 little Pokemon plushies. 

So, that’s what I’ll be up to over the coming weeks! I’m very excited, if a little bit terrified! I’ll be posting progress reports and pictures as things come along.

Another Success! A Cuddly Poliwag

I’m not dead! Thanks to some setbacks with my foot, as well as things getting very busy at work, I’ve not been able to spend as much time working on plushies as I would like. Fortunately I was able to make some time to work on this little guy, and I’m quite happy with the results. This is also the first time I have successfully worked without a pre-made pattern.  Behold, a cuddly little poliwag!

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A wild poliwag appears!

As always, there are several things I want to change in future iterations. Obviously, the color isn’t quite right, but I was just working with what I had lying around, and that was the only shade of blue I had. I also somehow managed to make one foot larger than the other… hmmm. I made this guy as a four-panel sphere, but in the future I think I would like to try something much different — I think a two-panel oval might make a shape more closely matched to the actual poliwag from the games. But in the meantime, this little guy is quite cuddly and adorable, and I am very happy with the results! 

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How could you deny those eyes?

I have several projects in the works, so hopefully I will be able to post more over the coming days.