Still more orcas, and a lot of testing

A pair of tiny plush killer whales, with a pen for scale.


This week, I’m finalizing patterns and processes and taking instructional pictures with the intention of putting a group of in-the-hoop plushie patterns on Etsy in a week or two. The orcas, I think, will go here on the blog so people can try out the technique and decide if it’s too fiddly for them.

I’m doing my best to minimalize fiddliness, with plenty of positioning stitches and tackdowns and so forth, and I think most of the patterns will be fairly easy to do, or at least will have easy options.

Tiny plush chihuahua work in progress.

For instance, the chihuahua’s body is very much like the Basic Standing Dog pattern, except there’s just no way to get a five-piece underbody going on in an embroidery hoop. I tried simplifying it to a two-piece, but really at that size a couple of French tacks will stand in for leg darts perfectly well and I don’t think that adds too much hand-sewing.

My plan right now is to shoot for a nice even ten patterns for the shop.

  • elephant (with variations for African, Asian, or mastodon) with flopsie body
  • pug (with variations for solid color or mask/ears) with flopsie body
  • French bulldog (with variations for solid, masked, or bicolor) with flopsie body
  • chihuahua (with variations for solid or bicolor) with standing body
  • fox with sitting body
  • raccoon with sitting body
  • cat (with variations for solid, points, or tuxedo) with standing body
  • horse/unicorn/pegasus with standing body
Test plush fox head
Fox test on the chihuahua’s body

I haven’t made a decision on any more patterns. I’ve thought about releasing the dragon but it’s not quite as dimensional as these patterns, so I don’t think I want to include it in this set. I might do a different dragon, though. I ran a test head last night that came out with a not-very-dragonish profile, but we’ll see what I can tweak it into.

Misshapen dragon head

Still open to suggestions!

Prototyping in the hoop

Three pugs, a fox head, a frenchie head, and a piece of fabric with some embroidered spots.
The body parts are piling up around here

Using the embroidery machine to sew plushies has had an unexpected side effect. My pattern drafting has always tended to be very geometric and mathematical, but the ease with which I can go “eh, let’s see what happens” and float some squares of fabric in a hoop means I don’t spend as much time carefully plotting out how each piece is going to go and pre-planning each dimension of the thing.

A blank green not-a-raccoon head next to a more finished fox head.

Instead, I sorta freeform in it Inkscape. Result? Oh, I didn’t think about how long the schnoz was going to be on that raccoon. In fact, if I change the ears up, it’s more like a fox. I mean, some of it is because I’m making less realistic critters, which is also fairly new to me. Normally if I was drafting a raccoon pattern I would have reference pics of raccoons, raccoon skulls, and so forth, and I would already know just how long that schnoz was going to *need* to be.

A different angle on the fox head.

I’m not sure it’s a good thing or a bad thing. But it’s a different thing, for me.

Doing things you shouldn’t do on an embroidery machine

I’ve been doing those things again.

Not things that might break the machine (probably!) but rather, “things that might be easier to do on a conventional machine,” or “things the manufacturer really didn’t consider you doing and so the user interface kind of works against you.” Those kinds of things.

An eyeless plush seal with a too-long neck.

Okay, some of them are things that just shouldn’t have been done, period. That seal pattern… whoof. The first draft is rough.

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Pachyderms!

The next in the collection of plushie patterns is a “flopsie” elephant — or in this incarnation, a mastodon. The embroidered face on this one comes from the cartoon mascot for the Mastodon social-network software, and its ears are smaller than the elephant version. At least, one ear is smaller… somehow the one on the other side is the large one.

The mastodon was supposed to have a yarn topknot that matched its braided tail, but I forgot to sew it into the seam. If and when I fix the oversized ear I’ll sew it on top.

I’ve also been experimenting with “puffy” embroidery. I don’t think the tusk is big enough to justify it, and the height of it gets lost in the minky pile. I’ll probably run another version with the black satin outline just to see how it looks.

It also makes alignment more difficult (I goofed this one up, which is why I didn’t finish it) so it’s time to work on a more foolproof system to line things up.

Monday shop drop?

Queen of Unfinished Projects embroidery design

Okay, I have a nearly-finished batch of tiny plush dragons (if I can just stop tweaking the pattern), the nearly-finished owlbear dice bags, a couple of embroidery patterns (look at those cleaned-up jump stitches — yes, I’m turning it into a whole alphabet), and quite a few samples (stash panda, jumping spiders) that, if the sunshine holds, I will take nice pictures of and get into the shop for a Monday morning drop. I’m shooting for 10am EST, wish me luck. Update: Make that 2pm, I forgot I won’t be home at 10 and Etsy doesn’t allow scheduling items as far as I know.

Once I get some of those smaller unfinished projects out of my queendom, I’m going to wrap up that crazy Mew project and put it in the shop, and then get back down to the more sculptural dragons. For real.

Revisiting the tiny beanie dragon

White, gold, and green tiny plush dragons.

Yesterday, I had the brilliant idea of finally getting around to installing the SSD drive in my machine, replacing the spinner. Turns out copying over a quarter-terabyte of data takes awhile, who knew? The Pi’s don’t run Inkstitch so the only stitch files I had were the ones already generated, and I was tired of owlbears (more on that later), wanted to tweak Queen of Unfinished Projects… and I had the tiny beanie dragons, the Pernese flavor (headknobs and applique eyes).

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Flower Bear kits are coming!

Partially sewn teddy bear pieces, joint hardware, and glass eyes.

For those of you who don’t have embroidery machines, or just don’t want to hunt down things like glass eyes and disc joints, I’m putting together some Flower Bear kits for the shop.

Teddy bear with flower ruff in front of flower arrangement
Swatches of upholstery velvet.

I’ve got three of the different greens out of my upholstery velvet stash, plus the chocolate brown that’s always been perfect for a sunflower center. I’m going to need some daylight or a better lighting setup to take the listing pictures, though – that middle color is a grayish green, not just gray, and the one on the left is the same one that shows up much brighter in the finished bear. I’m also going to need to find the tiny washers that go with those cotter pins — I scavenged enough loose ones to make the giveaway bear but I think I might need to order more.

Shoebox labeled "Joints" containing doll/bear joints.

I’ve organized a lot of sewing/art/craft supplies since moving and yes, I really do have a shoebox labeled “Joints.”

More impulsiveness

Saturday: I decided to sell off my faux fur stash because it was too bulky and I really wasn’t making big plush or costume items anymore.

Sunday: this happened.

In the course of trying to remember what it was I even bought the pink plush for, I did a DuckDuckGo image search for “pink plushie” and found nothing that jogged my memory but I did find some pretty cute (handmade) Mew plushies. I’m not a Pokémon player myself but when I found a promising pattern on DeviantArt, well, I’ve mentioned the way my brain works and here we are.

I haven’t started sewing because it has been years and years since I worked with a thick plush and I have no idea where my little box of binder clips have gone. Since that time, though, Clover has come out with Wonder Clips which are a more streamlined version of that hack, and I need some #11 sharps to sew the vinyl eyes, so it’s off to a fabric store for me.

Silver dragon work in progress

My experiments with the ice dragon had come close to using up the yard of white upholstery velvet from Fabric.com, so I ordered some more. While I was at it, I picked up a yard of silver on a whim (and also two yards red, which I’m not sure what Past Karen was thinking). Despite the projects already on my plate, “I wonder what surface sewing belly scales on upholstery velvet would look like” turned into… this.

Proper nerds may recognize this dragon as the current style of silver dragon in D&D: frilled head with a “goatee” type chin section. I’ve put my own stamp on it a bit; the official art shows kind of a bloated round nose profile but I toned it down quite a bit. It came out a little more dinosaur-ish than I was shooting for, especially in the above pictures where I forgot to pin the ear on.

I also haven’t decided whether I’m going with the carved-bone horn (black, below) or the smaller icicle-trim horn (chrome, above). The problem with both of them is that they only come in one direction of spiral, so I may come up with something else entirely so they can be properly mirrored.

I can’t say how excited I am that the embroidery-machine plans I’ve had in my head for the last year-plus actually work. At least, they work after a yard of experimentation and fine-tuning on that yard of white. Now the real challenge begins: finishing a project.