Beginning again, and again

in-the-beginning-logo

It’s that time of the year once again, when we finally stop a minute to take stock of our lives and realize we want to do so much more than we have been. A lot of people seem to scoff at New Year’s resolutions, claiming they are doomed to fail because there is nothing magic about a new year that will make salad and gym visits any more appealing then they were last year. I get that, but at the same time, it’s just nice to feel like you can push all the disappointments and setbacks from the previous year aside and tell yourself, okay, this time I’m gonna do this right.

So maybe that’s what I’m doing here. I had a small handful of goals or ideas which I wanted to pursue this year. I tried to keep them attainable, without being so vague as to make them meaningless. Firstly, I wanted to write more. I’m always saying I need to stop “being a writer” and just actually write something. Tada! Here I am. To help facilitate this a bit more I’ve signed up for a Blogging 101 Course over at The Daily Post. My first assignment? This post here, introducing myself, or rather reintroducing the purpose behind this blog. As for my great and glorious purpose, well let’s come back to that in a minute.

In addition to setting myself up with two nights per week devoted entirely to writerly pursuits, I’ve also decided to spend the following two nights working on my mad crafting skills. Yeah that’s right, I used to have a handmade toy business, but it was a tough uphill battle with all the new regulations coming in after all the lead scares. Plus, most of my favorite things to make were custom pieces for grownup collectors. I’ve been kicking around the idea of slowly building up a new business, but this time with a clear focus on nerdy, geeky, fandom loving custom works. Everything I love to make, from plushies to clay figurines. I missed crafting, this feels like seeing an old friend again. Like, an actual friend you liked, not the ones you put up with because your parents made you.

Aside from these two main goals I am of course doing the ‘yay fitness’ kick again. I’ve opted away from the boring “try to lose weight” plan and instead I’m focusing on actually doing cool fit person things. Last year I managed to run three 5k’s. This year I’m already planning my first 10k and want to add at least one more race than last year. If you’ve read around my blog in the past you know I am not a fit person by any means. When I say I ran a 5K I really mean that I managed to plod along without dying while making vaguely running like motions with my legs and arms, occasionally at the appropriate intervals. I’m not fast. I will never be fast, but I will finish and I will sign up for another race. I gotta represent my pudgy brethren.

Since I can only feign so much optimism about doing something I’m terrible at and don’t enjoy much I’m also taking up archery so I can be a badass. Just got my recurve bow in today, as such I am a fresh beginner in unmarked territory. Should be interesting to see if I shoot my eye out.

There you have it, all the things I’m starting to make myself the best version of me I can be. That’s pretty much what I think this blog is about this year. If you have any interest I’d love to have you along for the ride.

new-years-resolution-list

I get why people turn up their noses at the idea of trying to start fresh each year. You don’t really get a blank slate, all your baggage and stress is still there on January 1st, ready to ride into the year with you.  I get their point, but I still think they are wrong.

It’s not about having to start over every year, it’s about letting yourself have a new beginning. Remember that great and glorious purpose I mentioned earlier? The point behind this blog? Just making a little place where I can go to remind myself that falling short or failing isn’t the end, as long  as I begin again.

(Too hokey?  No worries, I have all year to work on it.)

Advertisements

10 Reasons you should buy handmade this holiday

Handmade Stuffed Bunny with Green ScarfWith the holiday shopping season fast approaching (most retailers already have their Christmas items on the shelves) it’s time to start planning your holiday shopping lists. This year why not be adventurous and try buying some handmade products for the ones you love? Why should you buy handmade instead of the usual store bought products you’re used to, well I’m glad you asked. Here are ten reasons why I think you should shop handmade for the holidays.

  1. Be original. Handmade products are usually one of a kind or produced in small batches so you don’t have to worry about gifting something the person already has or giving the same gift as someone else. Instead you’ll be able to find something just as unique as the person you’re shopping for and nothing brings a smile to someone’s face better than knowing you really cared enough to find them the perfect gift.
  2. Support people, not companies. By giving your business to local artists and crafters you’re helping build a better economy without lining the pockets of overpriced corporations who’s only interest is the bottom line. People care about each other, companies care about themselves and getting as much of your hard earned money as possible. A crafter will appreciate your business while a corporation demands it. The choice seems pretty clear.
  3. It’s more environmentally friendly. Handmade items are usually made from natural raw materials with much less waste and machine emissions than mass produced items. If your goal is to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet that you can’t go wrong with locally produced handmade items.
  4. Build a personal connection with the person making your items. Craftspeople love what they do and not only does it show in their work, but also in their attention to customer service. Have a question about how something is made or what inspired it? Ask away and the crafter will be thrilled to tell you all about it. Handmade items have a story and a history that mass produced products will never have.
  5. Avoid shopping at the mall. Holiday shopping can be pretty crazy and sometimes even dangerous as the days tick by. Why not save yourself the trouble of finding a parking space and braving the overcrowded big box stores by shopping local boutiques, craft fairs or even online handmade outlets like Etsy. Finding the perfect gift for a loved one should be fun, not frantic.
  6. Get it customized. Since the items are made by real people you can often ask for little extras like customization or even fully commissioned work to your exact specifications rather than having to settle for whatever the store has in stock.
  7. Handmade products are made with passion. Crafters pour their time, talent and passion into everything they make. Store bought items might all be the same size and specifications, but they will never have the heart or soul that a good handmade product is made with.
  8. Quality counts. Because even the raw materials are individually selected by hand more effort is put into the quality of each individual piece. Crafters want each and every product they make to be of the very best quality as a testament to their work They don’t take mass produced shortcuts or shortchange the customer by using lower quality materials, just the best material carefully crafted into the best possible product.
  9. More unique choices. An individual making a handfull of something is able to be more adventurous than a corporation which must sell ‘x’ amount of a product to be able to turn a profit. This means that handmade products can afford to be more unique and creative than store bought products.
  10. More value for your money. Handmade items are made to last. While mass produced items must be made quickly for as little money as possible handmade products are made from only the best materials and techniques. Corporations don’t mind if their products break down over time, then you’ll just have to buy another one. A well cared for handmade product on the other hand can last generations. Perhaps that is the reason people are still crafting by hand today even with all the advancements in technology trying to render them obsolete.

Bonus Point! Know where your gifts come from. There is something empowering about taking control and making something yourself, or at least supporting someone who does. It’s making a conscious decision to spend your money on a quality item instead of a mass produced product built by machines and underpaid workers in a distant country. Show support to your local economy and buy from artists and crafters in your area this holiday season.

Are you going to buy any handmade products this year? Share your handmade gift ideas in the comments section.

Story Builder Toy’s Custom Creations – Dr. Doofenshmirtz

My husband is a big fan of Heinz Doofenshmirtz from the Disney cartoon Phineas and Ferb so after promising him a plush for over a year I finally broke down and got it made. It took about 2 days and I used a body pattern I found here and made the head from scratch.

The lab coat is so essential as he’s just not a evil doctor without it. Plush once the coat was on it really just pulls the whole toy together.

He’s made from poly fleece with some felt parts and took a bit more handstitching than I’m used to doing, but I’m really pleased with how it came out.

Critiques and comments welcomed and appreciated.

Custom Corner – Mega Man and Mass Effect

 

Welcome to another edition of Custom Corner where I make plushie arts of random things for people’s amusement. This time I’ve got another custom order to share and a super special and rare thing I made just for myself. 

First up let’s talk Mega Man X. This was a custom order for dtoider Grimstar who was kind enough to send me some pictures along with his request. 

This one followed the same route I went when making Gordon Freeman in that I laid out the front and back separately constructing the armor as I went. I was lucky enough to find the right shades of blue which really helped the whole process along. No matter how clever you are if you have the wrong colors the plush is always going to look kinda off. 

Here’s the finished product, though I must admit I’m not thrilled with the final pictures. Too dark and from entirely the wrong angle to show off the effort that actually went into him. Still I don’t claim to be a photographer so I hope you guys won’t hold it against me too much. 

 

He came gigantic, one of my tallest creations to date, probably about 16 inches tall. This made boxing him up for transport somewhat exciting. Like usual he’s made of soft fleece with felt and some butter suede for the flesh colored bits. No pattern for this one, just built him as I went. 

Next up is a personal pet project of mine. As several of you are aware I recently got on the Mass Effect bandwagon in a big way. Tremendous thanks to GamesAreArt for gifting it to me on Steam. 

After seeing a really amazing Garrus plushie over on Deviant Art (Google it, it’s worth your time) I decided not to touch perfection and instead try my hand at another character that hadn’t received a definitive plush treatment yet. Based on some enthusiastic twitter suggestions from SchildConstruct and Aurain I decided on a Wrex plushie. 

 

This was truly a labor of love, not only because Krogan faces are hard as hell to figure out, but also because it was one of the only plushies I’ve made for myself. Hey I can have nice things too, right? 

I’ve had some helpful suggestions over in the Mass Affection Thread in the forums regarding his lack of teeth and neck. All problems I’m aware of, but was powerless to fix given the assembly method I selected. He’s mostly done up like Mega Man bodywise, but with a separate head that was added on last to try to get it to stick out more from his body. 

 

I used way more fabric glue on Wrex than I usually do, mostly since it’s just for me so I don’t have to worry about the parts coming off, but also because it gives it a cleaner finish and allows for more wiggle room in regards to adding things like the small red dots and thin slash marks. 

 

I wish I would’ve had time to go into higher detail on his back since Krogan armor is pretty interesting in shape, but alas when I’m working for myself I have to stick to a strict timeline. I did think the tail was a nice touch though. Also no pattern on this one so Wrex is completely one of a kind. 

Custom Corner – Avatar Takeover

Greetings kids, it’s been awhile, but don’t for one second think that means I’ve been resting on my laurels, whatever those are. Instead I’ve been super busy pushing out custom orders and that means I have a few goodies to share with you today. 

After the debatable success of Nihil’s Grin Reaper plush I had several other people decide that they needed plushies of their respective avatars. Take a look and see how I did. 

First up, the legendary Zombie Platypus! ZP is well known for having some of the most amazing avatar variations ever so finding source material was a piece of cake. 

After a very quick sketch I got to work and came up with this. 

 

I scored extra points for the exposed vertebrae and chomped tail. 

 


Unlike most of my plushies, this one was done in cotton and corduroy since I couldn’t find the appropriate colors in fleece. It was a bit of a challenge working with stiffer material, but in the end it came out great and I was rather pleased with the results. 

 

Next up was a special commission from my buddy JohnnyViral for his good friend Analoge. Sidenote, I love doing gifts for people anyway, but this was even more fun because right after JV asked me to make it I got a message from Analoge asking for the exact same thing. Needless to say I had to lie my way out of that saying I was really behind and would get back with him later about it. He was crushed, but once he got his surprise package in the mail all was forgiven, as far as I know anyway 😉 

 

This plush is actually two individual pieces, so the frog can be removed from the car and paraded around. I made the frog out of the same cotton material that made up the platypus body (hooray for having the right material on hand) and made the car out of my standard fleece. The car is actually based on my son’s Cars slipper which I used for reference. He later tried to wear it before I got it packed up, it didn’t work out for him. 

To make this plush really special I hand stitched Analoge’s name onto the license plate since he had once asked about getting monogrammed plushtoids. Sadly I didn’t have the time or dexterity to hand stitch all of those, but for a surprise gift like this I wanted to go all out. 

 

Last up today, my good buddy Mix, AKA the guy who came up with the idea for Plushtoids wanted a plush of his avatar. I’m proud to say this was my most unique request to date, a stuffed toaster complete with toast. 

Being the awesome guy he is Mix had actually done the sketch for me complete with measurements and color ideas. This made an otherwise super difficult custom more manageable as I know only had to focus on actually making a toaster out of fleece. 

Not gonna lie, I was a little worried about this one because in addition to the overall shape of the toaster I had to factor in two staggered slots for the toast (which were different sizes) to rest in. With nothing except good intentions and a basic idea of what I was going to do I got to work and came up with this. 

 

Yeah, I’m kinda proud with how well it turned out. Of course the real test would be how it looked with the toast inside since that’s what the avatar has going on. 

 

This collection was a lot of fun to make and with each order I feel like I’m getting closer to being as good at making these as everyone seems to think I already am. Can’t wait to see what I’ll be doing next. 

Custom Corner – Grin Reaper Plushie

 

Welcome friends once again to my little corner of the cblogs where I create custom plushies for members of the community. Today’s very special custom is brought to you by the forum’s personal rape genie Nihil

Today, not only am I going to share cool pictures of my latest creation, I’m also going to walk you through the process of how I go about making a custom plush for someone. Ready? Let’s do this thing. 

Usually it starts with an inquiry, people send me a photo and ask “hey can you make this?” My answer usually depends on how complex the shapes are and if I think the material I use would hold the form well enough. Contrary to popular belief, I can’t make everything and I have a certain way I go about doing the stuff I can make so if you’re hoping for a L4D Boomer Plush that looks just like the one Valve sells, well you’re gonna be disappointed. 

Nihil wanted a plush of his old avatar the Grin Reaper, and cool guy that he is he even provided the reference photos without me having to ask. 

 

From that I made a sketch up of what my version might look like with little notes about size and construction/materials so that I can remember what I thought I was doing later. Be forewarned, I’m not a super artist, go easy on me. 

 

This was my first idea, incorporating the clock as an accessory the reaper would hold and giving him a wide enough base to stand on his own. I sent this to for approval and got shot down (hold your pitchforks folks, it happens). We discussed the changes and I went back to the drawing board for round two, changing the construction and design to better suit his ideas. 

 

The new version would have the clock as a stand alone piece with some Velcro to hold the reaper on top of it. This meant the reaper would have to be thin enough to bend at the waist to allow him to sit. I was worried he wouldn’t hold the bend very well so I added pipe cleaners inside his body to give him some form to hold. 

As soon as the sketch got approved, and I had the time to work on it, I started cutting and shaping the fabric. Like usual I was working with fleece and felt. In retrospect the clock might have been a little bigger, but the overall look seems to work. 

 

Sadly the pipe cleaners aren’t super at holding him in a bent shape so he has to be really propped up against a wall to adequately sit on the clock. If I could do it over I would have made him in a sitting pose from the get go instead of trying to make him able to stand on his own. It would have been more difficult, but I think the end result would have worked better. 


Read more at http://www.destructoid.com/blogs/Zodiac+Eclipse/custom-corner-grin-reaper-plushie-197588.phtml#SVmOZjcIBovCgd8w.99

Story Builder Toy’s Custom Creations – Narwhal

Today’s custom plush order is for a narwhal. For those not in the know, it’s basically a whale with teeth and a huge horn sticking out of it’s face. Not exactly my idea of cute and cuddly, but what the heck, I like a challenge. So how to make this:

creepy real narwhal

Look cute. First step, the drawing board. I’m no artist, but I’m a fair doodler so I sketched out some cartoony whales and quickly decided that going all Animal Planet wasn’t for me. This thing needed to look cuddly and fun. To that end I ditched the gray color scheme and went with a cool blue and white palet.

 

plush narwhal

Notice the eyes? I decided to play around with different styles and settled on this one I’d spotted on some goofy cartoon on Cartoon Network. I really dig how innocent it makes the toy seem, completely ignoring the ginormous sword horn coming off his face. I mean look at that thing;

plush narhwal front view

I tried to add a toothy grin, but it kept looking silly so in the end I just left it off. Luckily the eyes have more than enough personality to make up for the lack of a defined mouth.

plushie stuffed narwhale

As usual he’s made of fleece with felt details. It actually came out really cute and cuddly and I was sad to see it go. Might have to do more sea mammals in the near future.

 

Check out Story Builder Toys for more fun animals. If you’d like a custom creation of your own send me a message here or via my website for more information.

Story Builder Toy’s Custom Creations – K9 Plush

Seems like I’ve become the go to person for plush robots lately, which is kinda awesome, but a little intimidating because then I get requests like this from hyper fans who want a specific character and who will know right away if I screw up.

I don’t have any “in-progress” pictures of this one because once I started constructing it there was simply no time to stop and snap some. For such a seemingly simple body shape there was a bit of complexity in the actual construction. Getting everything to line up correctly was the a bit daunting, plus I was working with new material this time.

Usually I make everything out of fleece because you don’t have to worry about unfinished edges unraveling, but this time I wanted something that had a flatter metal color so I opted for some grey corduroy.

My usual felt detail work remains and I did mix in a little fleece for some color variations. The tail is a big pipe cleaner so I could get the shape right. The whole thing stands just over the promised 12 inches so at least I’m getting better at estimating finished sizes.

The biggest challenge was attaching the neck since it needed to keep it’s tube shape and be able to support the weight of the head. I had some fun figuring out how to stitch it correctly and while K9 will never be able to look straight I think it gives the plushie a bit more character to have him looking slightly to the side as if he spotted something interesting over there.

All in all this went much better and quicker than the Gordon Freeman Plush I shared with you guys last time. I still picked up a few useful tips on pattern making and realized I’ve gotten better at assembling odd shapes.

Thanks for reading this edition of Custom Creations, if you’ve got an idea for a stuffed something you’d like to buy, contact me here or via my site Story Builder Toys and ask about a custom order.

Story Builder Toy’s Custom Creations – Gordon Freeman

Gordon Freeman from Half-Life 1 & 2

I got a PM from an online friend asking if I did custom orders. Feeling a bit overconfident I told him I could, then he asked me to make him a plush Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life video games. Now to put things into perspective for you folks at home, I’m not some master crafter by any stretch of the imagination. I taught myself to sew and am very much still learning the ropes as far as proper protocol and making shapes correctly goes. I’ve never made anything even remotely human shaped and certainly nothing with such a detailed armor case to build.

 

I delicately tried to talk him out of it, assuring him that it wouldn’t come out as amazing as he hoped, heck I haven’t even played Half-Life, what was he thinking? Still he wouldn’t be dissuaded and I finally found myself agreeing to do it. I started googling hardcore and jotted down some sketches to give him an idea of what I could make. After they were approved I went to work on my most complicated piece yet. First up I made the body.

front and back view of body

This wasn’t too bad, mostly felt and fleece cut to look like Gordon’s outfit. I really should’ve taken more pictures of the inside to give you an idea of how many layers there were involved in this, but frankly it was way more than I should have needed so lets save me the embarrassment and just pretend I forgot. After the front was finished I laid out the back and matched up the sides as best I could. Then it was time for the real challenge, his face.

head unassembled

This was my biggest concern since there was so much room for error here. With the armor I at least had the advantage that so long as the colors were in the right areas it would look right. Faces require more effort and planning. In the end I went for a “less is more” approach to keep him from looking too busy and hectic. It took a few more days for me to track down from fuzzy hair material, but then he was ready to be sewn shut and stuffed.

Gordon Freeman Plush

Even after I had flipped him rightside out I still had to go around and check all the seams and correct a few places where they weren’t sealed properly or didn’t line up right. I had estimated the final product to be around 16 inches tall. What a liar I turned out to be when Gordon ended up at 21 inches. Still I think the extra space helped me add in a few small details that made it worthwhile. I even went back and made a quick felt crowbar to go along with him so he wouldn’t have to be unarmed out in the world.

So that was pretty much the process I followed and while I have no intention of doing another one of these I figured I’d share it with you guys. Hopefully I’ll find time for more custom’s in the future and will be able to post those as well. I learned a tremendous amount working on this one so the extra work was time well spent in my book.

For more cute things check out my site Story Builder Toys

Plushtoid has arrived!

193421-PromoteHeader

 

Greetings community! As most of you are aware I’m “officially” a stay-at-home mom (insert motherhood jokes here), but as only a few of you know I also run a home business on the side making and selling handmade toys. Christmas was mighty busy at the Eclipse Household, but now that we’ve put the mad rush behind us I finally have time to sit down and make things for fun again. Here’s where you guys come in.

I’d like to introduce you to Plushtoid, a cuddly soft stuffed version of our beloved Destructoid helmet. Plushtoid is about 4.25 inches on all sides and completely handmade by me from fleece with felt details. I’ve got a handful of these ready to go with more on the way if enough people are interested.

You can order one today over at my business site Story Builder Toys for $15 plus shipping. Before anyone gets out their pitchfork, yes I will ship worldwide so long as the buyer assumes responsibility for all shipping and postal fees. I really just want to get as many of these out to Dtoiders as possible as a way of doing something fun for the community that has done so much for me.

Special thanks to Mix for giving me the idea and super special thanks to Niero for letting me use his mascot to pimp my plushie skills. Much love guys!

Plush Dtoid