Thursday, October 6, 2016

Making a Scrudlum!

Scrudlums are one of my favorite plush creations! Furry, grumpy, Muppet-y, they are truly my spirit animal (monster). Here's a look at how they are made!

First, I create a textured fur by boiling it (see my previous blog post for that tutorial!) Once the fur dries completely, I lay it out with the backing facing up and trace out the various fur pattern pieces. The body, top head, bottom and tail are all made out of fur fabric.

Using a razor blade, I cut the the pattern pieces making sure to only cut the backing of the fur and not the actual fur fibers.

The hands/arms and legs/feet are made of polar fleece, preferably the anti-pill variety. I trace out the pattern pieces using a Sharpie and cut them out using a rotary cutter.

Next, I use quilter's pins to pin the the two fabric sides together to prepare for machine stitching.

Following the outline, I straight stitch the hand pieces.

After stitching, I trim away the excess fabric, making sure not to cut too deeply between the fingers!

Using a long, thin screwdriver, I stuff the fingers and palm with polyester fiber-fill.

After I've stitched and stuffed the hands, I repeat the process for the legs/feet. Once the feet are stuffed, I use strips of batting to fill out the legs and arms.

I cut the batting double the width of the arm and leg and fold the batting over. Using the same screwdriver, I gently guide the batting down the arms and legs.

Next, I pin and stitch the fur tail.

Once stitched, I turn the fail right-side out and then trim away the fur at the base of the tail to making stitching to the body section easier.

The nose is made from a different color polar fleece. It is traced out, pinned and stitched, turned and stuff with fiber-fill.

The nose and arms are guided through corresponding holes in the fur body section. They are pinned in place and ready to be stitched.

Stitching the arm detail.

After the arms and nose are stitched in place, I pin and stitch the back seam, leaving a section in the middle open. This open section will allow the Scrudlum to be turned right side out.

Now I pull the arms through the opening in the back and prepare to stitch the bottom, including the legs and tail.

The bottom pinned in place, ready to be stitched. The tail and legs have been fed through the opening in the back.

Like the nose, the horns are made from a different color polar fleece. They are traced, cut, stitched along the outline and excess fleeced trimmed away.

I lightly stuff the horns to give them some definition.

The top of the head is pinned in place with the horns in position.

Once stitching on the top is complete, I turn the Scrudlum right side out.

Using the hole in the back, I stuff the body full of polyester fiberfill. 

Using a ladder stitch, I sew the foot up to the leg to create the ankle.

Stitched feet detail.

To create the definition of toes, I use a long needle and button thread to stitch through the feet.

With the body stuffed and the toes stitched, I close up the back seam using a curved needle and a ladder stitch.

For the eyes, I use plastic soup spoons. I cut off the ends on a band saw and round off the edges on a belt sander.

I cover the eyes with a white spandex fabric. This gets hot glued on the concave side of the spoon.

I use another color of polar fleece for the eye bags. 

The bags are hot glued to the backs of the eyes.

Because the eyes should be glue as close to the backing of the fur as possible, I use embroidery scissors to trim away the fur fibers where the eyes will be placed.

With the fur trimmed, the eyes are hot glued in place.

Pupils are made from flocked black-out paper. This is normally used by photographers, but it's great for puppet eyes! I have circle punches in a variety of sizes. For Scrudlums, I use a 5/8" circle punch.

Pupils are securely glued in place.

I trace and cut the uni-brow from a long pile black fur fabric. Again, trace and use a razor blade to cut the backing, not the fur fibers. I use a white color pencil to trace pattern pieces on darker fabric.

The uni-brow is then glued into place.

Ta-DA!! All done and in need of a hug! Or an ice cream cone! Or a balloon! Or just a word of encouragement! 

Check out more Scrudlums and other critters in the All Hands Productions Etsy store: 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Tutorial: How To Boil Fur!

In this tutorial, you'll see my method for boiling fake fur which gives it a really nappy and crinkled texture. The fur I'll be using is a medium pile which some fabric stores label as "Punky Muppet." I should note that I have found this technique most effective for this particular fur fabric only. It is certainly worth experimenting boiling furs of varying pile lengths/weights.

Because, when boiled, the fur fabric will shrink a bit, I don't cut out my pattern pieces prior to boiling. Instead, I boil a whole piece of fabric and then trace/cut out my pattern pieces.  

First, I cut a section of fur fabric. I find it better to work with smaller to medium size pieces so the fabric has enough room to move around in the boiling water for a more even result. Always cut fur fabric on the backing side with a razor blade.

 Next, you'll need to fill a stockpot about 3/4 full of water. With the pot on the stove top, turn the heat on high and let the water come to a boil.

You'll also need a pair of industrial rubber gloves and a pair of large tongs to avoid burning your hands in this process. Safety first!

Once the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Put on your rubber gloves and dunk the fur fabric into the pot.  

Leave the fabric in the water no longer than 10 seconds. I usually keep it submerged for 5-7 seconds. You want the fur to crinkle in the heat, but not melt. 

While the pot on the stove is coming to a boil, I fill a second stockpot about 1/2 full of cold water from the tap and set next to the stove. When the fur has completed is boiling process, I remove it from the first pot and then dunk it in the cold water pot. 

Next, I run the fur through the delicate rinse cycle in my washing machine. This will wring out any excess water. Finally, I stick the fur in the dryer and run it on "air dry" for 30 minutes. (Do NOT run fake fur through the dryer on a heat setting. Doing so will melt the fur!) If it is still damp, I'll set it on a drying rack until it is completely dry.


Once dried, your boiled fur should look like this! Now it's ready for your next creation!

Monday, June 13, 2016

On With the Show!!

I received some wonderful news from The Jim Henson Foundation over the weekend: "The Pied Picker" has been accepted for a full grant submission. This means, the project has made it through the first round and now I must create and submit a full proposal. 

Stay tuned, in the coming weeks, for updates on this process in creating a new show!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Remembering Allelu Kurten

My friend and fellow musician, Mark Rubin posted a Facebook status update this past week which has hit very close to home. It read: “Confused? Upset? Maybe start talking to old people more often. You'd be surprised what you'll learn and how much better you'll feel generally.” There was definitely one “old” person whom I relished seeking counsel from and that was Allelu Kurten. I say “old” with quotation marks because if you knew or even met Allelu, you knew that despite her biological age, the word “old” did not apply to her. She was exuberance incarnate, even until the last.

Whenever I faced a big decision or transition in my life, she was always there with her light and wisdom and gave me perspective and a listening ear. She was there when I had to make big decisions regarding some work with the Muppets. She saw me through a number of heartbreaks. And she sat next to me at Jane Henson's memorial service. But she was also there to delight in all the good things in life, too: playing music, making albums, creative projects and, of course, puppet shows! She taught me the value of having a “chosen” family: the family that you may not necessarily be born into, but those you choose to surround yourself with.

I had a lovely last visit with her when I was in Brookline, MA last month. She revealed to me that her time was short and so I took advantage of having as much time with her as I could. She came to see “Billy Goats Gruff and Other Stuff” at the Puppet Showplace and I offered to give her a ride back up to her apartment in Concord. She showed me around her place, her lovely flower boxes on her deck, but it was soon time for me to go. We looked at each other and I said “I don't want to do this. I had to say goodbye to Jane and now I have to say goodbye to you.” We hugged each other and I made my way out. She waved to me from her balcony as I walked to my car, a gesture she made to anyone who came to visit her.

I will miss her human presence here, but know that her light is shinning all around us now, anytime we need. She left behind a legacy of love, hope, encouragement and enthusiasm. All of which are our inheritance. Truly, we are wealthier in those respects for knowing her.