Every now and then I find it important to have what I consider an “instant gratification” project. Usually it’s the end of the week and my brain is through being creative, but I still want to make something. Other times I use it as a pick-me-up when I get frustrated because a prototype has just epically failed or I’ve had another string of losing battles with my sewing machine. It’s something that I know I can’t screw up and that is going to turn out fine even if everything else I’ve been working on has made me want to cry. Ideally these projects are quick and entertaining, cheap as free (or nearly so), and don’t require any special tools or skills. I’ve come up with many of these projects over the years, so this is the first of many in this theme. Click here to read more »
A couple of weekends ago, I decided to venture into Baltimore to witness the event that is Otakon. For the unaware Otakon is a large annual convention for fans of anime, manga, video games and the associated culture. There are lots of fun events, artists, and vendors of all manner of strange wares. In essence it is a huge Otaku geekfest. Now, I’m not really an anime nerd, but I’ve never gone to one of these events and I have to admit I was rather curious what it was actually like. Last summer I happened to be passing by Otakon and the bizarrely dressed throngs of people were fascinating. The vast majority who attend Otakon dress up or cosplay as their favorite characters so it is quite something to behold. Despite Otakon being focused Eastern Asian art and culture, the variety of costumes also spreads across the rest of the geek spectrum. So, truthfully the primary reason I attended was to see all the people who turn out for this sort of thing.
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Resolution at last! Often I have this overly optimistic uncluttered timeline that I think I work on. In reality, unless someone is paying me, things never get done like I imagine. I actually finished this up last weekend, but it took me a whole week to get the time to post it. I’m still figuring out this whole blog thing.
Anyways, picking up from where I left off last week, this is the exciting conclusion of my companion cube tutorial. At this point I have the six sides of my cube finished and it’s time to transform it into a 3-D shape.
- 6 complete sides from Part I
- polyester fiber fill or other fluffy filling of choice (fabric scraps can be used too)
- gray thread
- plastic pellets or rice (optional)
- nylon hosiery (foot part) or sock (optional)
The Making (continued)
- At this point I decided to trim back behind the light gray corners pieces. In theory this helps the shape when I stuff it, but I’m not sure it’s really that noticeable in the end product.
This is how it looks from the back. Be careful not to clip your stitches.
- Now it is time to start joining all the pieces together. First I attach them all together in a flat pattern. The order or pattern isn’t really significant, but this is how I chose to do it.
Just line up the edges and sew them together
This is how I joined the all together. The letters correspond to the order that I put the sides together in the next step.
- After the pieces are all joined I start connecting the sides to form a 3-D box. I sewed together everything but the top flap so it resembles a jack in the box.
Ready for stuffing!
- Surprise extra lesson time! Before I go any further I have a few things to say about the art of stuffing. It is a bit trickier than it seems and can be frustrating when you are just starting out. I suppose it should also be noted I’m crazy nuts about certain details and may have spent an unhealthy amount of time considering this topic. This project is fairly easy but I will be super detailed because I can! Here are a few tips:
- Don’t over fill. It’s really easy to get carried away and keep stuffing until your plushie is a poor bloated mutant. Overstuffing can also permanently distort or stretch your fabric. On the flip side, if you don’t stuff enough, it will lose it’s shape. Ideally there is just enough stuffing to hold the shape but not be bloated. Don’t be afraid to take stuffing out and try again.
- Don’t wad. Be careful not to wad or ball the stuffing too much or your plushie will end up lumpy. If it gets balled up, tease it loose again.
- Not all stuffing is created equal. The regular (sometimes labeled “premium”) stuffing is good general purpose, fluffy but coarse, and inexpensive, but I think it is better suited to larger projects. “Ultra Plush” is very soft and is really nice for stuffing smaller pieces as it is easier to shape. However it tends to compact a lot so it takes more and is more expensive. Fabric scraps are probably the cheapest option and will behave completely differently than a fiber filler. Fabric scraps are very dense when packed and will have less squishiness, especially depending on what sort of scraps you use. I would recommend cutting the scraps into smaller mostly uniform pieces because they will create a more even filling.
Optional step: I want my Weighted Companion Cube to actually be weighted, so before stuffing I filled a little sack made from some cut up nylons with about 1/2 cup of the little plastic beanbag pellets. In my original cube I used rice, but have since become more internet shopping savvy and discovered that the little plastic pellets are very inexpensive and I don’t have to worry about bugs or moisture making them icky. I imagine the toe end of a sock or some other little pouch can be used to contain them just as effectively as the nylons.
I think I used about half a cup of pellets, but it's mostly a matter of preference and what will fit.
- Let the plushing commence! First I take four small pieces of stuffing and push one into each of the the four bottom corners to make sure the corners get filled in. Next I make a layer for my “bean bag” to rest on. After that I continue to add more stuffing around the bag until I reach the top of the cube, but I don’t cover the top yet. If you don’t put any weight in, you can skip the “nesting” part and just put a big clump in. Just remember that the more stuffing you add, the rounder your cube will be.
It's important to get the corners first.
The layer on the bottom is fairly shallow. Just enough to keep the bean bag/weight padded.
Put the weight in on top of that bottom layer before adding more stuffing.
Essentially I'm building a little cozy nest around my bean bag.
- Taking my needle and thread back up, I begin to sew the top closed leaving one last side open. Before I close it I carefully push small pieces of stuffing into the top corners same as I did for the bottom. Then I fill in the rest of the empty space at the top and finish sewing up the final side
Now you can add the rest of the stuffing.
The end is in sight!
Optional step 2: Break for tea and pickles. We’re in the home stretch now and must gather ourselves for the final push. Mmm…Earl Grey and bread-and-butter pickles. I would recommend having the pickles while you put the tea kettle on. If it’s after five o’clock, a beer is also a good choice for those of age.
- There is only one thing left to do and it’s attaching all those little light gray tabs that go in between the corners where the sides come together. Once again I layered a piece of fleece underneath the felt for extra thickness. This step is rather tedious and straight pins are rather handy. I didn’t think this through all the way when I did it so I pinned them all on at once and had pins sticking out everywhere which made it difficult to hold and sew. It was a bit prickly. (Cringe at my puniness!)
Layers upon layers....
- Finis! I now have a beautimus beloved Cube. I shall go forth and taunt my geeky friends. Hopefully this tutorial has been clear enough that you can figure out how to make your own. If you have any questions, please let me know!
Victory for cuteness!
And away I go!