September 28, 2015

Pochi Rickman

I'm a pretty big fan of anime and anime movies. Ghibli for sure, but lately G-Kids has been distributing some stellar animated movies. They first came across my radar when a friend introduced us to Summer Wars. I was obsessed with that movie for months and it remains one of the few I keep on my giant iPhone6+ at all times. Then I picked up a movie called Letter to Momo in a Target on a whim and loved it. After visiting a local indie theater, we saw they were doing a G-Kids summer event showing films. This gave us a whole new list of movie titles to hunt down and one of the first that stood out to us was called Welcome to the Space Show.

This movie is on iTunes right now and is described as "surpassing Star Wars in scale". Yeah. After watching the trailer I cannot say that I had any idea of what the heck was going on and it was a pretty refreshing feeling. Seems like a lot of trailers just show you the whole movie! All I knew is that the animation looked cool, it had a voice actor I love, and a space dog. That was enough.

The movie is a little long (2.5 hrs), and is one of those you will want to pause often to take a look at all the stuff going on in the frame. Some parts are visually overwhelming which balance nicely with the quiet scenes. It starts in a pretty standard anime movie setting of a small town school in the summer, then takes you to an amazing space port, then back to a very earth looking planet just long enough for you to get comfy with what you are seeing, then throws you back into a crazy alien smorgasbord battle royale!

The main character is Pochi Rickman. He happens to be a very dog looking alien and is a darling character. My husband said he's like a space dog Indiana Jones. He was so endearing to me, I kind of immediately knew I wanted to squish him for real. That feeling was only enforced when I took to the internet and saw that there is NO merchandise for this show. Nothing on Etsy even. The market has let me down. With that in mind, I of course turn to my skills and since sewing is not one I have, crochet it is!
pochi sketches to figure out the shapes
His colors are tricky I think. Sure it looks like all you need is black and white, but really?? Nope.
While I dislike Red Heart yarn, they had a color that was the only one in the store even close to what I wanted. Most "white" yarn looks a little yellow to me. Most "off white" or "eggshell" colors also really end up like dirty tea-stained doilies... not the right color either. I had some coupons so I bought a Red Heart Super Saver Jumbo skein in Soft White. I also noticed that his nose is a darker black than his ears and paws. That meant that I could use normal black yarn I had on hand for his nose and needed to find a "dusty" lighter black. The only one I liked enough to get was a Caron One Pound of yarn in "black". Held next to any other black yarn and it's easy to see its a little lighter, though. Also, just FYI, I used almost an entire 32 oz bag of polyfil for this guy, so be aware he takes a lot.

His head shape was nice and easy, as it is a large cylinder. I then made an oval snout about half as long and affixed it to the front of the face. His nose was next and I tried to make it a nice triangle shape that I could add a little stuffing under. I followed that with the eyebrows and then the ears. Finally I used the dark black yarn of the nose to embroider a smile. The head alone took about two weeks of work to get the shapes right and assemble.
ear and eyebrows

assembled head
I'm using a 5mm H hook for Pochi, but I think I got a little ambitious with the size of him. I did not intend to make him life-size, but after finishing the head, that seems to be what happened. I guess if you wanted to make one yourself, you could follow my pattern, but maybe with a thinner yarn and a 4.00 mm hook to make a more reasonably sized Pochi. I thought about ripping it out and starting over, but certain family members said his head was too cute and perfect and that I shouldn't...

So, I made the body next. Since he's just a big white bean shaped dog, I could mess with the shape as I was making it, without needing to worry about changing colors or doing too much detail. I kept holding it up to the head to try to get an idea if it was right or not. Gave him a bit of a wide butt and tapered it up to the neck to match the head opening so it was easy to sew together.

After the body was done I made a quick tail which was a super easy shape. Then, I was able to start work on the arms and paws which were the most challenging. I started at the paw and worked up to the shoulder. I tried a few different paw shapes, but I settled on making a large oval and embroidering the separations between each finger. I left a large hole in one side of the paw that I then came back and added a thumb on to.

After that I did the fore arm and upper arm, and I tried to use strategic increases to give him a bit of an elbow joint shape. Then I had to figure out how to reverse my pattern to do the other arm so they both bend the right way and have the thumbs facing in. Also one arm is all white and the other is half white/half black and it was important to make sure I got them right.

Next was the legs, thank goodness they are the same. No thumbs to worry about and the same color scheme of half and half. These I made in three parts. First, an upper thigh round shape tapering from wide at the hip to a bit smaller at the knee. Second, a "transition cylinder" shape to join the upper leg to the paw and lower leg at the right angle. And third, the paw and lower leg piece. It was hard to tell if I was making it too big or small, so I had to go ahead and just commit to finishing one and see. I thought it looked ok so I went on to making a second.

It was about this time that I remembered that I never used the recordable voice box I bought for Groot since I was never able to get a clear sentence out of the film. So I dug it out and with some expert pause/play action from my husband, we were able to get a fairly good recording of him introducing himself early in the film.

The recording says "My name is Pochi. I'm from planet Wan-Bau in the Animal Stellar Region."
Since the only thing I had not yet finished was this one leg it went into his foot. I tried to keep it in the middle of the foot so I would still have room in the front to embroider his toes, but keep out of the heel where it would be harder to activate. Once the box was in the foot/lower leg section I was able to stuff up and finish the second leg.
its all in the details
With all the limbs done I used a little pink paint to add paw pads to his hands and feet, as well as inside the ear. Then it was time to add his eyes to his face. I used felt and tried to get the shape just right. I made a base plate to sit the pupil on to get that anime eye look. The tiny perfect circles were made with a hole punch, which only works since this felt is really stiff.

Finally I had to tackle attaching the limbs to the body. I had a few thoughts on this. Originally I had planned to just sew them on in place, but then I had the idea to use a button to make a kind of spoke and washer through the shoulder so it could move around a little. Looking at how much yarn and fluff I would have to get through to make this work I didn't think it was the best solution. Plus they would be seen and that would ruin all the work I did to make him look right. Wandering around my local Joann Fabrics I saw these giant 30mm snaps and realized that they might work out well... I could pose his arms and legs at will with these! I used white crochet thread to attach them to the limbs and body and snapped them into place.

Unfortunately I did not like the finished look when I tested it out on one arm. There was a ton of space between the arm and body where the snap was and you could see it quite easily. It did allow for movement at the shoulder, but the arm was way to heavy for the snap to keep it posed in any way. So I went back to basics and just sewed them in place.

Done! Pretty on model I think.

I never thought I would make another plushie as large as Blathers is, but as as you can see he is, in fact, larger. If less complicated to make. Pochi does resemble K.K. Slider a bit, you know?

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time to complete: 80 hours to experiment, write and make from scratch
Finished size: 22 inches from butt to ears. 29 inches tall "standing" up

Note: As with Lion, I have written out his pattern, but sharing it would make this post even longer. Email if you want a copy to try out.

September 21, 2015

Octopus Puzzle Ball

One of the crochet bloggers I like to follow, AllAboutAmi, had a post a while back about an amish puzzle ball she made for her daughter. Pretty cool by itself, no doubt, but she mentioned that they had other animal shaped ones and after taking a quick look, I fell in love with the octopus one. The pattern is free on Ravelry and is by Dedri Uys of Look at What I Made.

I've got about half a skein of my favorite Mandala colorway from Madeline Tosh on hand, leftover from my baby otachi and I thought it would be an excellent octopus coloring. I'm pretty sure it is a DK weight yarn. I decided to use it for accents in the head and do the body and the rest with a Bernat in Aqua which I found on super clearance at the local Joann's.

Knowing that the Mandala yarn is a little thinner I used a 4.25mm hook to do the wedges parts of the head, that would make sure they weren't too small to match up to the larger yarn pieces. I was a little worried that I would not have enough of the mandala to do all 12 of the wedges, but somehow I managed... Each took about 10 minutes to make (x 12) for a total of 2 hours for the wedges.
I then went down to the 4.00mm hook as the pattern calls for for the wedge lids, as well as the rest of the pattern. The two wedge lid chains took about an hour each. After that it took another two hours to attach the lids to the wedges, stuff and close off the two body rings.
finished body rings
Once I had two rings done, I started into the head. The mouth is first and I used a little bit of what was left of the mandala yarn for the mouth, with a little bit of white scrap for the teeth/beak. After that you start on the head proper making a cone and after a bit you add the mouth in to the bottom and then work the tentacles out from there. It's a really cool technique to be able to make this all in one big piece.
mouth piece
After that it is a matter of working the four remaining wedges, head and a three lid chain together into another ring, this one with an octopus head on it! I think I did it backwards from they way they did but it made sense to me and it ended up with the same result, so it was fine. Took me about half an hour to attach, stuff and finish off the head and ring.

For the eyes I decided to go with buttons as well. I have found that using crochet thread (like for doilies) is a great way to attach buttons to crochet. It is much thicker than regular thread and is much sturdier, but will also fit in a yarn needle and most button holes and it is easy to find in white and black.

Once they were on, the octopus was done! Pretty cute. He's about 17 inches long from tentacles to top of the bulb part of the ball itself. I had fun making him, but he is for sale.

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: about 7 hours

September 14, 2015

Dapper Gray Wolves

Got a commission for a little wolf man. Prompt was that he be a gray color, with a white shirt, red tie and black vest. As the request came from one of the recipients of the Mr. Skeesbears, she figured I could modify that construction for this project. Shortly after we started discussing, she decided she wanted a girl wolf companion for him, like the pair of kitties I made in the past. The girl would be styled with a black dress and red belt.

If you recall, both the Skeesbears and the Kitties were based off a monkey pattern I purchased from Pica Pau Yan. On her site, I found an image of a wolf she made that seemed to be of the same style. The monkey base pattern is pretty versatile. I sent her an email since her Etsy store is still empty of patterns, asking if I could purchase the wolf pattern, but never got a response. From the pictures I was able to see about how it should be done, so I set to work.
wolf (or gray fox?) on the right here.
For this project, I had the white, red and black yarn on hand for the details. I bought two skeins of Vanna's Choice in Silver Gray for the rest of the bodies, a pair of 18mm safety eyes for the girl, 15mm safety eyes for the boy, and some more polyfil stuffing. Hook used will be a 5mm H. (One day I will buy a fancy one from BQueen Collection.)

Since I have made this pattern at least 6 times now, it's a no brainer, except that the nose, ears and tail will be different. Half a brainer then? Anyway. Of course I jinxed myself. I got through the head, made up a nose pattern and got some ears made. Went to assemble the head before moving on and realized that the head was almost twice as large as the last monkey I made, which I still have on hand. WTH.
MASSIVE mistake
While ripping it all out, meditating on what went wrong, and the not-so-correct looking nose shape, I realized that I made these in the past with a 4mm hook. Oops. That accounts for the massive size increase. Think this yarn is a tiny bit heavier as well than the last one I used, but thats the way it is with most 4 weight yarns as it is a broad category.
I started over with the correct 4mm G hook size and it came out much closer to the right size. I also reworked the nose pattern to be a bit more gradual of an increase and once I had it on I knew it was better. You can also tell that the eyes look much more in proportion to the head this time. This one is the boy of the pair and I used 15mm eyes for him. (The girl will have 18mm eyes.)

I reworked the ears as well and added them on, as well as embroidering the smile, before moving into the body. White shirt, black pants, gray feet sticking out at the end. I'm always sure to use the back loops for color transitions as it makes an nice edge and gives the illusion that it is on top of the body color. Same for the arms. With the main body assembled and finished, I moved on to the girl. (Yes, I know, the tails on both will be the last thing I make.)

The girl pattern is just the same as the boy. Started with the head, added the larger eyes for cuteness sake. Made up another nose and set of ears. Moved into the body and started with the top of her black dress. Then when I got to the legs area, I decided to give her bloomers like I had with the lady kitty. Seems like people look up skirts on dolls out of curiosity, so I had to address it. Cant have her " going commando". Switch colors back to gray for the legs and feet.

Then I went back and added the skirt over the bloomers. After that I embroidered the belt on. Wanted to make her a little girlier so I added a tiny red flower as well by an ear.

After that it was tail time. I put it off because it made taking pictures as I went along, easier without them though. Kept the same gray and white nose coloration on the tails as well and kept them kind of bushy. I moved a few rows around from the tail section of a husky pattern by Sylvia of Studio Ami to get the tail shape right for these two.

Final touches was to add the vest on to the boy, complete with button. And add light cheek blushies with a little fabric paint.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time to Complete: 45 hrs for the pair

September 7, 2015

Hand Painted Mugs

Since we had plenty of porcelain paint markers that I did not use for the Blueberry tea set, I picked up a four more white mugs while out at Ikea recently. They have a nice smooth surface and are a great size for drinks. Being cheap doesn't hurt either.
the markers we have, this is two sets.
I decided to make two for myself. Greedy, I know, but I was having too much fun.

The first is a totoro and soot sprite design. I used the Totoro gingko leaf design that I've wanted to get a tattoo of, but probably never will. I modified it a bit to fit in a wider direction and gave him a little chibi totoro friend with a leaf. On the opposite side I added a few soot sprites to balance out the mug. I really like how simple and clean this design is. It is not cluttered and has a lot of breathing room with so few designs and the single black outlines.

The second I got a bit more ambitious. I knew I wanted a mug with Lion on it from Steven Universe. Luckily the two sets of markers we got had two different pinks! I thought about doing just his face really big, but after looking through the Crewniverse tumblr, I decided to make him sleeping on the side. They put up a few rough images as placeholders to let us know what's going on or as alternate title cards and I love the way they look, especially the school themed ones... In particular I liked this one for Lion 3, which was a particularly emotional episode.
I tried to recreate that sleeping lion on the side and made sure to give myself plenty of room for him to fit. Started with the outlines, then added the color in. He's a little darker pink than I would like, but they are the ones I had and he is still recognizable. Once he was on the cup, he looked lonely and there was a ton of white space. I thought about adding Steven or a gem, but I had none of the colors I would need for anyone else. So instead I added Rose Quartz' flag insignia on the opposite side and had it spiral out and behind Lion, terminating in a rose. Click here to see a short video since it's hard to show the whole thing in pictures.

I also made one for my mom-in-law for her birthday. She had a little trouble deciding what she wanted, but we settled on a bunch of Studio Ghibli stuff with lots of colors since her office is pretty dull. Can you name them all?

Finally, I used the fourth one I got to make a birthday present for a good friend from high school and college. This one I covered all over with small images and logos from a lot of things he likes, as well as a small sentiment that we both share.

These were just too darn fun to do. I can see myself making a lot of them. I know I have to pick up a few more since my hubby wants one too. I this is like what I always wanted those paint pottery places to be when I was a kid, but better. Now if only they had more colors to choose from. Heh, maybe I'll have a paint your own mug birthday party next year. Yeah, I'm an adult!

Difficulty: Easy
Time to complete: Each cup took anywhere from 30 min to 2 hours to draw on. You let them dry for around 4 hours and then bake at 320 for 30 min, for these markers anyway...