More work on the Celestial

A little light on the updates because I haven’t had much to show. I did wrap up the four little beanies that match this, but I’m holding off on the final photoshoot until I have the Celestial Dragon (a/k/a Space Noodle) done. At that point I’ll lock the cats in the bathroom for the several hours it’ll take to de-hair everything.

In any event, the alignment was off on this wing but it was enough to play around with armature wire and determine that yes, this will do nicely.

I found a remnant of charmeuse that I decided to use for the backs of the wings. Yes, that was entirely inspired by the minky dragons, but I like how it came out. And unlike the minkies, the underside of the Celestial’s wings will show quite a bit.

I will definitely have to clean my worktable, nay, my entire house to have space to photograph this critter when he’s assembled and standing up.

Sewing plushies with cosplay, costume, and special occasion fabrics

I am a sucker for novelty fabrics, so right now – coming up on Halloween in a year that’s seen fabric stores (well, JoAnn anyway) lean hard into the cosplay trend – is catnip for me. I was just picking up some thread when a check of the remnant secion turned up some of the green holo scale fabric.

I already have this fabric in black, white, and purple, which might surprise people because you’re right, you haven’t seen a dragon made from it here yet. I started one of the standing plushie dragons, and got as far as sewing and stuffing its body before setting it aside because the thin dancewear-type fabric just showed lumps and wrinkles way too much.

I happened to pick up a chunk of clearance fleece at the same time, thinking I might make some beanie dragons out of it. It happened to match the mint-y teal-y color, so I thought maybe this time I could compromise and use the scale fabric as an accent and let the fleece carry the structure and, well, of COURSE.

I’ve solved the lumpiness problem in costuming before, when I had the perfect fabric for a dinosaur tail in quilting cotton. I interlined that tail in half-inch foam, so fleece was just scaling down the idea.

“Interlining” is just a matter of cutting a piece of lining fabric the same shape as your main fabric piece, and sewing it as one. Sometimes you baste the two together in the seam allowance, but since I was running this on the embroidery machine I was dealing with rectangles and not pre-shaped pieces.

Now, not all fancy fabrics work to make plushies, even with interlining. They’re not made with the expectation they’ll be sewn into tiny pieces that will rub past each other while simultaneously being stretched into sharp curves and so on. A lot of foiled fabrics will rub the shiny right off doing this. Both the scale and dot fabrics here have gaps, and they’re a rubbery material, so there was less cracking and splitting than usual. The price to pay was that they’re a little grippy, and that tail was only barely possible to turn. Test your fabric before you commit to it: stretch it, rub it against itself, see if you can damage it. (If you’re doing this on the bolt in the store, please confine yourself to the selvedge!)

Others are woven fabrics, which definitely change the dynamics of sewing plushies. Monday’s post was all about dragons I made with quilting cotton but there are three factors at play there. One, the patterns are made to be flat-sewn (matching two same-shape pieces together, no fitting curves). Two, in all cases the woven fabric is on only one side, leaving the minky on the other side to make up for the lack of stretch. And three, they’re all very small pieces, so there isn’t a lot of wrinkling and easing to happen. For a larger plushie, you’ll have to add more darts and easing to use a fabric without stretch.

Even some knits lack sufficient return – if you poke it with a turning tool, sometimes you’re left with a bloop that doesn’t flatten out. Interlining will shield it from that somewhat, but be careful about your turning tools.

Dancewear/swimwear fabric tends to be tougher than costume/special occasion fabrics. For fray-prone wovens, you’ll definitely need to leave a generous seam allowance to keep from blowing out toes and noses and whatnot. Again, a tough interlining will help take the strain off the outer fabric, but a stretchy interlining will help less with a woven outer fabric so think about using a muslin interlining for a woven fabric. You can even interline your interlining if you need the loft of the fleece but the stabilization of a woven interlining.

The interlining was key, though. The beanies have, well, beans (tiny plastic pellets), and with a thin dancewear fabric alone that belly would have been a weird pocked landscape.

A non-interlined plushie made with dancewear fabric has to be stuffed to within an inch of its life, bloating it and, in the case of foiled fabrics, distorting or tearing the surface decoration. Otherwise it’s prone to developing lumps and pleats and bloops and tucks that would be hidden by a pile fabric but which are right out there for everyone to see on a sleek foiled swimsuit fabric.

Interlining does add bulk to the seams, though. Trim the seam allowances, especially on flat things like the wings. If I did it again I’d have used something lighter, probably a flannel, in the wings. They’re flat even after turning so a woven interlining would be fine, and it really only needed the reinforcement on the upper side for the satin-stitch applique.

And ohhh, that applique… Dancewears are soft and stretchy and grippy and they love to grab onto the flat part of scissors and raise up a little wrinkle that will get snipped without you even feeling it. Sharp scissors can easily slice into it, and even applique scissors don’t entirely fix it. I like the effect on the dragon wings, but be warned: any time you need to cut away something from the surface of a fabric like this it adds a lot of labor and time and possibility for screw-ups.

Long story short, you can get some really neat results with specialty fabric, but be prepared to coddle it a little… or a lot.

Busy weekend!

I thought I might take the weekend off; I spend most of my “free” time playing with the embroidery machine either for the business or for fun, and I don’t want to burn out. But Friday night I had an idea, and I knew the way my brain works there was nothing to do but get it done.

I was playing around with a little bat pattern and was trying to decide how to most easily make quilting-cotton inner wings for it when suddenly my brain yelled “DO THAT ON THE PLUSH DRAGON” and here we are.

And then Mastodon yelled (well, politely suggested) “do that on the beanie dragons” and here *those* are.

And then my computer locked up and while I was fixing it I realized I had some stuff already cued up on USB.

I bought the Hogwarts-letter pouch from String Theory awhile back and converted it into a notebook cover. Showed it to my teenager who immediately pointed out that Kids These Days preferred a different envelope.

That’s the Super Smash Brothers Ultimate invitation (and a Smash Ball dangle), in case you don’t recognize it.

And then I finally got the last couple of plush dragons in the Pern colors done today.

And then, since I had cut a bunch of white, black, and ivory vinyls for notebook covers, decided to make a companion to the Dragonquest notebook. You can make them too, via the dragon snap tabs (just drop the final, outline thread) and the notebook cover files. If you list them on Etsy, let me know and I’ll link to them since I really should stop making notebooks and get back to that Celestial.

Extremely Festive Dragons

That’s the phrase I keep using to describe these guys because, I mean, just look at them. Their “proper” name is crowntails, because they’re inspired by the betta fish of that type. The purple one is a little ironic because that’s the color a lot of breeders aspire to but, to my knowledge, truly purple bettas don’t exist yet.

The blue-with-red is modeled after an extant betta color, and the black-with-rainbow was sort of a “well, why not go all-in?” I probably should have gone with two blue-and-reds, so that if I screw up some parts I might still end up with one complete dragon. But hey, YOLO, right?

Four art dragons in the shop

I decided to go ahead and list all four of the finished art-doll dragons, and put them on sale for “Smaugust.” (Hey, don’t look at me, I don’t invent these things.) It’s almost two months since any have sold, and I’m afraid the fancier ones are just too pricey. This is a shame because they’re really underpriced based on the amount of labor (and RSI damage) that goes into them, but maybe the market just isn’t there.

Of course, now isn’t the time to decide that… Spoonflower just had a sale on fat quarters and I sprang for a pair of extremely festive crowntail dragons, which are nearly as ornate as the greater sea dragon. So I’ll finish the purple one I’m working on and consider taking out some Etsy ads, and if that doesn’t work I’ll reluctantly move on to something different.

Tiny dragons

I honestly didn’t expect quite as many repeat buyers as I’ve gotten (I have people who want to collect every color of beanie dragon!). It’s been a bit of a race to come up with a variety of “favors” to include in orders. For smaller orders, I’ve started making tinier snap tabs.

The design went through some iterations to achieve “legibility.” This is the last pair of variations: I settled on the design, ran five bronzes, and then after struggling to neatly cut out the circle, revised it to an octagon. Ten fit in a 5×7 hoop, so I can stock up.

Of course, once I’ve gone through all five colors, I’ll need a different design, so I’ve already started on that. This is what the first draft looks like: if you squint, you can kind of tell what’s going on. What looks perfectly clear on the screen and even in the stitch preview can look a lot different when it hits the vinyl. It’ll take a few more revisions before I’m happy with this.

More standing plush dragons

Now that I have a breeding pair, getting the shop stocked with these should go much faster.

All the new colors of beanie dragons have been eating up my time, but hopefully I’ll get the conventional machine out this weekend. I’ll sew the larger version of these and see what needs tweaked in that pattern.

The return of Teddy Pig

Teddy Pig is fifteen years old and I still have never gotten around to finishing its eyes or clothes.

I was contacted on Etsy by someone who’d found the Teddy Pig pattern on a Russian Facebook site and wanted to pay me for it. It’s always been a free pattern so, as long as folks adhere to either CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-NC, it’s legal to share around, use to make and sell stuff, etc.

It hasn’t been on the site for awhile (the Queen of Unfinished Projects has been planning to revise it, add instructions, etc. etc.) but since any availability is better than none, I finally tracked down my old site mirror and copied the text and pictures in.

In theory, my task for today has been stocking new colors of beanie dragons. You can see a couple of new blues there, and UPS is bringing me French blue today which I’ll run along with the purples. Pumpkin and canary are cut and will happen sooner or later. I’ve also been working on the shop software and getting all the minky colors into it. If you’re curious, you can see all the potential dragon colors here, though as I write this nothing is “in stock” – they’re all still sold through the Etsy shop.

Scaling up dragons

When I first posted the test dragon to Mastodon, I got some requests for the pattern. Now that I have some minky fat quarters in the shop, I need an excuse for people to buy them and so I remembered the pattern requests. This sounds kinda mercenary, but now that I have gone over the numbers I have a clearer picture of where I need to focus on things.

The current plan is for the printable dragon pattern to be open source, and for the in-the-hoop files to be sold in the shop. So I haven’t completely sold out to The Man. At least, not until I find out how big (or perhaps how small) the market for in-the-hoop plushie designs is.