July 27, 2015

Totoro Bird House

Just a quick project this week.

I was given an old wooden birdhouse... you know the like I'm sure. Painted flowers all over with a few gardening phrases in some fancy script for good measure. A few butterflies. Standard clearance craft store stuff. I was given it specifically since they knew I could have some fun repainting it.

My home's color accent outside is a lovely Teal color. I did all the shutters in it, as well as the window box. I've got pottery to match.

My outdoor office also is accented in teal around the windows and doors. With plenty of paint left over from the house I've used it for this great piece of molding that came off an old armoire. I installed it over one of the windows.

So, I got out the big can of Teal, a white spray paint primer, a hammered bronze finish spray paint, and a few cheap pots of "oops" color samples I got from Lowe's while looking for the perfect color.

After an initial spray painting session outside, I got the white base covering it up nicely and then did the roof in the hammered bronze. Only when it was painted this way could I really see the nice shape of the birdhouse. Who knew it was really cute?

After letting it dry all day, I brought it inside to work on the details. I wanted to keep it simple. I added a few windows to the sides. Some shutters around the entry. Molding under the eaves. Decorative flourishes and acorn motifs. And of course, a pair of totoro's on the front.

Not to mention a big sleeping one around the side.

I sealed the entire thing with several clear coats of enamel spray paint.

For now I've simply set it on one of the cute shelves on my front porch, but perhaps I will hang it from the tree in the front yard sometime.

Although it does look pretty cute in the window box as well... heh... I could turn the whole box into a fairy garden with this as the house!

Now maybe when you see some super cheap birdhouses, you can think about how fun it might be to make them into something new.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: About 3 hours

July 20, 2015

The Ponyo Dress

And now for something a little different.

I keep seeing more people online turning costumes into fashion, by making the recognizable features of pop culture on dresses: The Totoro dress. The Dalek dress. The Nightvale dress. The Marauders Map Dress.

I had the idea for a Ponyo dress. Not her exact outfit, which is easy enough to make (and would make a perfect future kid/mom cosplay set), but the art of Ponyo, or more specifically, the opening credits.
Warning: Long Post Ahead

I could just see the colors and shapes in my mind, flowing around a white A-line skirt. It would be insanely cool to do this kind of thing as a quilt or embroidery, but I do not have those skills.

I bought myself a set of 20 fabric markers from Walmart. I then had to find a reasonably priced white dress. This turned out to be much harder than anticipated. With it being fall when I decided to start looking, white sun dresses were pretty scarce. I had this idea in September 2014 and didn't find a dress until April 2015. I went with an Old Navy eyelet sundress because it was both relatively cheap and lined! I wasn't too thrilled with the eyelet design on the bodice and around the hem, but there was a large smooth area to work on the skirt. Turns out that the edging limited the area I would have to paint and contained my design nicely, so it ended up to be a big benefit.

Putting these scenes all together was a bit tough, so I first sketched out how I wanted it to go on the dress in pencil. I tried to have some large element to focus on, on each side of the dress.
Kind of an idea. Didn't stick to it too close.
After that I slipped a large plastic lap desk between the outer layer and the lining. This way I could stretch the fabric and draw on it with pencil and keep the lining from getting anything on it.
Kind of hard to see the pencil drawing.
After I penciled out the design, I went back over with the black fabric marker. I did it in four sections leaving each area to dry over night before rotating the dress to the next area to outline.
Initial outlining. Can see a little of the pencil up top there.
More of the design outlined.
Once the main outlines for the details were done I had to go back over and add the current lines that flow in all the water areas. In each stage of this I kept getting nervous. I was nervous to mark up a dress in such a permanent way. Then once the pencil was on I was scared to put the ink down. Then once the ink outlines were down and I had gotten used to seeing the design and liking it, I was terrified that adding the current lines would ruin it. I had to add them though, if I was going to be true to the movie.
The back, with current lines.
Now that the dress was fully outlined, it was time to figure out how to color it. The movie has kind of a watercolor look to it, but I had these fine tipped markers. My options were:
a) color in the whole dress like you would normally
b) try to open the markers, get the ink out and paint it on
c) go buy fabric dye and try to paint with that (unfeasible since I wanted to many colors)
d) find some other option for water color painting fabric that is permanent.
e) none of the above

I tried out the normal coloring idea on a scrap piece of white fabric from one of my husbands old cotton dress shirts. Luckily my dress is also cotton. I found that if you draw a line or shape then add a little water to the center and brush it around you can get a pretty passable watercolor look. The trouble is that the colors tended to bleed a lot.
just coloring bled out a lot
Coloring lightly then using a damp brush in the center and letting it bleed to the middle.
When starting on my dress I tried to use as little water as possible since I was worried the black lines would smudge, but since they had plenty of time to dry before I started coloring it in, their bleeding was minimal. Unfortunately controlling how much water went on was tough. I colored shapes that would not touch even if they bled so that they could dry and I could go back over and color new shapes with little fear of the first colors bleeding away or messing up the new colors I was adding on.
no touching for first round of colors
This meant that I could color a few elements, then would have to wait overnight for the areas to dry so I could color more the next day. This made it really slow going, which made me impatient, which made me use to much water.
this will take forever.
starting to come together
Luckily, even though nearly every element bled out a bit, once I started working on the solid background water colors, I was able to make it look a little cleaner around the edges. The watercolor effect started looking really cool once I got larger areas colored too.
getting so close to done
just a little more to go.
I tried to go back into each little element as well to give it a little depth and detail. The islands have a few colors and there are little dots for sand in places. I tried to darken the outlines around each item. Added shadows and shading. Added a sun on the horizon of the water too.

Once that was all done, I went back to the area along the top of the water and added a little blue outline that I blurred into the sky. It helped to transition the dress from the designs and colored areas back into the white of the bust. It was a mess in some places but looked ok I think.
Finished front. 
Finished back.
If you are going to attempt anything like this I recommend starting on the back and working to the front and not the other way around like I did. This means that when I got the hang of coloring on the back towards the end of this project that the back is now nicer than the front in my opinion.

Hanging in front of the window. The light coming through makes it look cool!
The markers are permanent and intended for how I used them, so the colors should stay. This dress should also be washable in color safe soap, but might fade a little. I really don't want to have to wash it more than necessary. So, after letting the finished dress hang and fully dry for several days, I put a few coats of Scotchgard Fabric Protector over the top. That way if I ever sit on anything or drop something on it, I won't have ruined all this work.

This is certainly now one of the longest projects I have worked on and is truly a one-of-a-kind dress. I plan to wear it out to conventions, I think, or Ghibli movies (should there be any more).

Difficulty: Advanced
Time to complete: Concept: September 2014
    Work started May 23, 2015 - finished June 20, 2015, about 65 hours

July 13, 2015

Baby Otachi

With the recent release of a large stompy monster movie about dinosaurs, which might as well be land based kaiju, I've been thinking about Pacific Rim again. I started a project and then let it go while I did a lot of other things in the meantime, but it's time to pick it back up.

After I made that pair of shell gloves with the leftover Madtosh DK Twist in Mandala from the Pineapple Doily Shawl, I still had a ball of yarn of decent length. Looking around Ravelry for a pattern that uses so little yarn was resulting in a lot of newborn hats which was pretty boring. Looking at the yarn itself though, I had noticed it was very close in color to the Madtosh DK in Stargazing I have previously used... for my Otachi.

What if... what if I made a baby otachi!?! Do I dare? Do I have enough? I have enough to try.

Just doing some google image searches revealed a lot of cute pictures of baby otachi fanart stuff. I'm thinking I want a large head with big eyes, a tapered body, some legs with toes, and a tail. Wanted to keep the baby feel with the giant eyes. I also wanted to make it smaller than the full size Otachi I already had made for cuteness reasons.

After thinking it over I sketched out a sort of rough guide for shapes in InDesign. (because I use it a lot)
I got through the head with the leftovers of my original skein and of course had to run out and get another skein to finish her. So if you are doing this from scratch, you only need one skein of yarn to make Baby.

I of course looked at the Lemmy Loop's original Otachi pattern I had on file, but modified it a lot for the smaller size. I basically only used her head and head fins and made up the rest myself. Since she was kind enough to share her pattern with me, I will share this pattern, if you ask, with the same caveat that you don't sell the pattern or the things made from it.

Her beautiful eyes are 18mm safety eyes made by Mia & Mom, a duo who happened to be at the Fiber Fest and have almost no online presence I can find.

Baby Otachi ended up being more complicated than first sketched, as once the main body was done, I of course needed to add all those little details that makes her a monster and not just a dragon/lizard thing. I ended up making a pair of back scales, three tail claws, a pair of wings and a back bump plate thing. The wing pattern is adapted from some by StitchBitch on this great Toothless pattern that I have already made a few of.

Once all the parts were all on, she really came to life with the final bit of embroidery in the bright Bernat Handicrafter cotton in a nautical "sky blue" just like her mamma big Otachi. I added her toothy smile, a few dots on her nose to try to get those extra eyes feel, and a bunch of glow spots down her back.

Baby Otachi is about 10 inches nose to tail which is about half of Mamma Otachi's 19 inches. Love the pair. Now my husband says I need to make baby a felt "chew toy" of Hannibal Chow's shoe.

Time to complete: 10 hours
Difficulty: Easy but labor intensive, just less so than mamma.

Image Credits from Inspiration Board: (left to right)
Mama Face: Unknown http://pixgood.com/pacific-rim-baby-kaiju.html
Fat Baby: Posted in comments by C. Rhodes at http://observationdeck.io9.com/remediosvaro-is-having-an-alien-baby-and-you-cant-tell-1586556217
Baby Otachi Hat: XDcreationz http://xdcreationz.deviantart.com/art/Otachi-s-Baby-Kaiju-Hat-411068619

July 6, 2015

Steven's Lion

If you follow me on Tumblr, you know that I am a huge fan of Steven Universe. Or you might remember that I have already made a post about this topic when I made a Cookie Cat. Either way, the show continues to be one of the best cartoons on TV right now.

With so much to love about the show from the amazing music, stunning background art and wonderful characters, it's no surprise that I wanted to make something else. The design of all the characters in the show does lend it self to making toys, but I have trouble making people shapes, so I decided to make Lion.
Lion Reference sheet from the StevenCrewniverse Tumblr account

Thanks to a gift card to one of my local yarn shops, I was able to get some really nice yarn to make him with. I got two skeins of Cascade Sierra in Pink (016) for his body. For some reason it doesn't seem to be listed online, but it is 80% Pima Cotton and 20% Wool and calls for size 7 needles, which are 4.5mm so I plan to use my go-to 5mm H hook to make him. For the mane I'm using Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky in Petal Bloom. Not only is the color name totally perfect, since Lion is related to Rose Quartz somehow, but the color is just a little lighter than the Sierra and super soft and fluffy. I plan to pull sections through the body and then fuzz it out a lot, kind of like what I did for Reveille the collie.

I had originally planned to use a free pattern for him and just adapt it, but since I want him to look really on model, I decided to try to make the pattern myself. Of course this is the more difficult option, but hey, nothing awesome comes easy. The head, snout and ears are all very close to that free pattern, if a little smaller, but that's all I referenced. I found that marking off the hairline and then sewing the ears back from that helped me visualize how this would look and where the mane should go.

The body from the head pattern is too bean shaped and Lion's tapers in the opposite direction with a large chest and smaller rump so I figured out the body as I went along. I tried to stuff him fuller in the chest.

Once that was done, I made the front legs. I wanted them to have the wide footpad and little toe bump shape. Comparing the width of the legs to the snout helped me realize these are wide, stout legs. I also added a tab at the top of the legs to get the shoulder area. When sewing them on I added a little stuffing under them to make it look nicer and really make it shoulder.

The back legs are the same pattern as the front, but without the tab on the top. I positioned the front ones to have him sitting up, so the back ones were added out to the sides to make him look cute.

Finally the tail. I started at the end of the tail and did a round bulb shape in the light pink of his mane and then gradually widened up from there to the base. I stuffed it as best I could. It is 7 inches long from base to end.

I sewed him together as I went along to make sure his proportions were to my liking.
A naked Lion! Or a Lioness, I guess.
Lastly I did the mane. I had a good idea of where the hairline should start and just went from there. To add the hair, normally you would make a wig cap and then pull the hair through it, but after making most of the cap, I realized that I would not have nearly enough yarn to then make the mane.
scrapped mane hair cap to the left.
Rooting the hair is a pain and making it look nice takes a long time. I watched a good video on how to root hair by Sharon Ojala online and I have it start at the place where it talks about rooting in specific. Once I had the concept down I started on the tail to make sure that I could use all the rest of the skein for the hair and not worry about needing to leave any. It was also a good place to test out how it would look.

Once I had looped about 30 strands onto the tail bulb, I unwound the two ply of the yarn to help it look and feel fuller as Lion has a really fluffy look to him. It took about two hours to do the tail alone. The mane itself took about 8 hours to loop it all on and then another hour or so to fuzz it out, cut and style it.
Mane looped on and tail finished and fuzzed out. Kind of looks like dreads.
Mane fuzzed out and trimmed. Adds a lot of volume. Tried to trim it into the points that give it a star shape.

From behind.

Finished Size: About 10" wide, 10" tall and 12" long (from nose to butt) .
Time to Complete: 20 hours over about a week for the main body and parts, a lot of trial and error mostly, so actually making him would be faster I have to think. Tail took 2 hours. Mane took 8 hours more, and another one to add and fluff and style. Total is 31 hours give or take.
Difficulty: Intermediate

Bonus: My Gemsona: Star Sapphire
Gemsonas are a thing artists on the internet have started doing, drawing their own fan characters for the show. Always loved star sapphires and own a few, made sense to give her one. You can see I played with location and weapon idea.

Final note: Yes, I have written up the pattern for Lion. But, as with Blathers, I am hesitant to share for fear of copyright infringement and pattern stealing. Ask nicely and drop me a line at angela dot skees at gmail dot com and I can share the pattern. 

I have now shared the pattern with about 8 people! And three or so have actually shared images of their finished Lions, but I really wanted to share this one made by Stefanie Varga. She used DROPS Eskimo yarn, that is also a felting yarn, for the mane and it came out amazing! Wish I had thought of that. She also added little pads to the bottom of his feet which are really cute.

Update 2:
The total of shared patterns is up to 46! I've got quite a few pictures back from their creators as well so I thought I would add them to this post so you can see. I love love love them all, but am especially fond of ones with super fluffy manes.

by Elaine

by Hannah

by Jessica

by Kathryn

by Maria

by Nadine