Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of DOOM

There’s a sort of unofficial mascot on the indigodragonfly forum called the Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom (CCMZSOD). The concept was the result of a sort of mind-meld between Maget and indigodragonfly. Apparently they were planning on naming a new colorway “Zombie Squirrel” or something similar and then Maget mentioned something about mutant zombie squirrels of doom which were not only evil, but cute and cuddly, so the colorway name ended up being “Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom” and Maget got the inaugural skein! Then she knitted some Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrels of Doom and sent them on adventures around the world. After that we all just sort of ran with it…

For the last Ravellenic Games Heather of Joey’s House drew a CCMZSOD for the indigodragonfly team to use as our Ravatars.

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I used this drawing as inspiration for needle felting a CCMZSOD to give to Maget!

First I started roughing out some shapes that could be used to build the squirrel. After only an hour I had the basic outlines for the body, head, and hindquarters started.

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Then I attached the hindquarters to the body, made a tail, and started to add some shape to the head. The basic head shape in the illustration is sort of triangular so I started to add some corners to the top of the head where the ears would go. After adding the corner for the first ear I stopped and thought, “What if the other ear is missing? It is a mutant zombie squirrel after all…” I decided to leave the head misshapen and see how it would play out.

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My initial attempt at the tail was too small so I added a lot more bulk to it before I attached it to the body. Then I started felting brown wool on top to smooth out the shapes and lay down a nice base color to build on. As I started coloring the head I decided the missing ear could actually be turned into a more gruesome exposed brain, so I left that spot black in preparation for that. Once I had the base coloring down I started shaping the hind legs out of the dark brown wool.

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I attached the legs and arms, but the squirrel still wouldn’t sit up at this point. Luckily, I learned from my experience in felting Ducky that it was way too early to worry about it. The head could drastically affect the balance, so if it was still unstable after the head was attached I could work on adding some more bulk to the base of the tail to make it sit up straight. I also learned from Ducky that for fine details like faces it is really helpful to be able to manipulate the head freely, so I should wait until I was finished with the detail work before I attached the head.

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At this point I was ready to start adding detail and I made a breakthrough! I had recently visited my local yarn store Canvas Works and discovered that they had some needle felting supplies there! One of the things they had was a pack of needles that came in multiple sizes. Until I saw those I had never even considered that different sized needles might exist for needle felting, but in hindsight it makes perfect sense – use the larger needles for building larger shapes, then switch to medium-sized needles for the smaller shapes and contouring, and use the smallest needles for the fine detail work.

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I put the smallest needle to the test for creating the exposed brain. First I covered the hole in a nice deep bloody red and then I mixed a bit of pink wool with some tan wool to create a brainy color. I spun the brain colored wool between my fingers to create a thin snake-like cord and started folding it back and forth across the red wool as I felted it into place with the small needle. It worked great! I was able to create some really tight curves by taking advantage of the precision of that small gauge needle!

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I also started experimenting with some color blending to create a suitably mutant-zombie-esque look for the squirrel. I had a multi-colored blend of purples, blues, and reds that looked great when lightly layered on top of the dark brown base color. I also was able to create a nice rotted look by blending dark green with the dark brown. For the belly color I  blended some orange wool with a lighter brown wool. Then I added a neck so I would have something to attach to the head to later.

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I finished the brains and made an ear for the other side of the head. At this point I held the head on top of the neck to see how it looked and realized the tail was still too small. I tried to make the tip of the tail taller and fatter to balance out the size of the head.

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Once the tail size was corrected I went back to focusing on the head. I added the eye and started working on the teeth. With the small gauge needle I was able to create some very fine black lines to draw the teeth!

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Considering a large portion of the squirrel’s skull was missing, I figured the eye socket was probably unstable so the right eye would be missing. Initially I had intended to have both eyes and just have them be different sizes, but in the end logic dictated that I should stick to the illustration. I put on the nose, re-colored the tip of the tail and attached the head.

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The squirrel still wouldn’t sit up so I did end up having to bulk up the base of the tail so it wouldn’t keep falling backward. I made a few final finishing touches including moving the ear (I had initially put it too far back), and smoothing out some of the joins.

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I could have called it done at this point, but I had one more dreadful thought that kept nagging at me – what happened to that other eyeball? I decided the squirrel still had it with him, so I took some red embroidery thread to represent the bloody muscles and nerves and tied a length of white wool around the middle. I tied it several times, front and back, until it had formed a rough ball shape around the middle of the thread. Then I folded the thread in half, wrapped the remaining wool around the end and started felting a ball around the thread.

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Once the eyeball was large enough I added a black pupil to the end. Then I loosely braided the strands of the embroidery thread together and threaded them onto a needle so I could attach them to the hand. Once it had been threaded through the top of the hand I made a knot so it couldn’t be pulled back through, then I fed the ends back through the hand so they stuck out the bottom. I cut each strand of the embroidery thread irregularly so it looked like it had been ripped from the head. With that, the Cute and Cuddly Mutant Zombie Squirrel of Doom was finished!

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It’s so horrific it’s adorable!

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Drumroll Please…

Last time I updated you guys on Ducky I had just started coloring the face. Since then I’ve done a lot more work. I finished coloring the brow bones and the cheeks.60 Ducky finished coloring brow and working on coloring cheeks

Then I worked on coloring the rest of the head.

61 Ducky working on coloring back of head

Once the coloring was done I was able to attach the crest to the top of the head. That was one of the very first pieces I made and I only needed to add a bit of bulk on the bottom to get the proportion correct! I also defined the nose shape a bit more and decided on the ear placement by sticking pins in their place and adjusting them until they looked symmetrical.

62 Ducky crest attached nose shaped and decided ear placement

The ears were a bit small at first so I added just a tad bit more wool to bulk them up before attaching them. After that I worked on the most nerve-wracking part of this whole project – the eyes. All along I’ve been telling myself that as long as I get the eyes right all the other imperfections will be less noticeable. Of course the converse of that logic is that if I DON’T get the eyes right the while thing will look like a mess. Fortunately I think I nailed it! I finished the eyes and started working on the eyelashes.

63 Ducky ears attached colored eyes and working on eyelashes

Once I got the eyelashes done I added the nostrils, and with that Ducky’s face was done!

64 Ducky eyelashes and nostrils done

All that was left to do was the arms. I left that step for last because I thought they would get in the way when I was working on the fine detail work on the face. I did end up needing to manipulate Ducky quite a bit in order to get the details right, so my instinct was spot-on. I used pins to work out the arm positions and started building the basic shapes for the shoulder joints with some yellow wool.

65 Ducky decided on arm placement and started building shoulders

I attached the arms by making a doughnut shape on the body and then inserting the end of the arm into the middle and felting it in place. By alternating between stabbing the end of the arm directly into the body and stabbing the raised parts of the shoulder into the arm I was able to make a very secure connection. Due to how thin the arms are they still can be moved around a bit, but they certainly aren’t going to fall off. Once the arms were firmly in place I started coloring the shoulders with the last bits of light green wool.

66 Ducky arms attached and coloring shoulders

I finished coloring the shoulders, made some final adjustments to the angles of the arms and ankles, trimmed off any fly-away bits of wool and with that Ducky was finished! She even stands up!

67 Ducky is finished

It’s pretty damn close to my reference picture too!

I learned a ridiculous amount from needle felting Ducky and she was well worth all the time and effort. Now that I’ve finished Ducky I know I can make anything. BOW TO ME FOR I AM THE GOD OF NEEDLE FELTING.

I took a ton of pictures in the light box, so here is Ducky from every angle possible:

Ducky 1 Ducky 2 Ducky 3 Ducky 4 Ducky 5 Ducky 6 Ducky 7 Ducky 8 Ducky 9 Ducky 10 Ducky 11 Ducky 12 Ducky 13 Ducky 14 Ducky 15 Ducky 16 Ducky 17 Ducky 18 Ducky 19 Ducky 20 Ducky 21 Ducky 22 Ducky 23 Ducky 24 Ducky 25 Ducky 26 Ducky 27 Ducky 28 Ducky 29 Ducky 30 Ducky 31 Ducky 32 Ducky 33 Ducky 34 Ducky 35 Ducky 36 Ducky 37 Ducky 38

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Un-Felting

Last time I updated you on Ducky I was starting to cover a small styrofoam ball for the upper body.

Ducky - upper body started on styrofoam ball

So, I set to work attaching that ball to the lower body. After about an hour and a half of work it looked like this (pardon the mess, I was crafting away from home).

Ducky - upper body fail

Ducky – upper body fail

The upper body shape itself looked great…but something was off about it. Here’s my reference photo again. See if you can spot the problem.

image from TV Tropes

image from TV Tropes

Do you see it? The legs look too small for the body. Or conversely, the body is too big for the legs. It looked fairly proportional before I added the upper body, so I decided the addition of the ball as the upper body was the problem.

How do I fix it though? You can’t actually un-felt something. Felting is kind of a permanent process. It locks the wool fibers together in a death grip and takes a lot of force to pry them apart. I had two options: I could try to cut the top off with scissors and be left with clean-edged areas of wool that are REALLY hard to felt into (believe me, I’ve tried it – it looks like crap), or I could try to pull off all the black wool that I used to secure the ball in place and risk distorting the top half of the lower body in the process.

I decided to try the ripping-it-apart-with-my-bare-hands route. It took some serious pulling, but I did finally get the upper body off with minimal damage to the lower body. I learned something it the process though – that styrofoam ball that I used to build the upper body didn’t hold up well to all that stabbing. The ball pretty much disintegrated inside the wool! I couldn’t really tell until I had to manhandle it though, so I guess it could still work as a core to build on as long as I don’t squeeze it too hard. I wonder if the larger egg-shaped ball that I used for the lower body is suffering the same fate? I’m not going to squeeze it to find out…

After having to rip off all my work it took a loooong time before I figured out what I should do next. I would just pull Ducky’s lower body out and stare at it every now and then, hoping an idea would come to me. Finally one did – why don’t I just try shaping the top half of the lower body so it looked like the upper body and then stick a neck on top of that?

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That looks better! I was even able to re-use some of the pre-felted clumps that I had pulled off the failed upper body to shape the neck. You can see some black fuzz along the top of the body leftover from the tear-down, but that will all be covered when I color it in. You can also see where I started adding in some of the back ridges on the base of the tail. I continued that across the rest of the tail.

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Now that I’m more comfortable with the overall body shape, I think I have a plan for how the rest of this project will go:

  1. Finish shaping the back ridges.
  2. Apply the final colors to the body.
  3. Shape the lower jaw and attach it to the neck.
  4. Color the inside of the mouth on the lower jaw.
  5. Shape the rest of the head, coloring the top part of the inside of the mouth, and attach to the lower jaw.
  6. Finish shaping the head and add in detail work
  7. Attach the arms.

That’s still a lot more work ahead, but it’s smaller pieces so hopefully it will go quicker? Or I’m having delusions of efficiency again… I’m still a bit nervous about how it will turn out because at this point it will NOT stand up. Not even a little bit. I’ll figure out how to deal with that once it’s done.

In between my staring contests with Ducky, I started on another project. Someone requested a monster. My sister creates illustrated characters all the time, so I asked her to design a monster for me. This is what she sent me:

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Cute, huh? I decided to experiment with a fluffier style of needle felting for this one. I’m not going to make the monster super dense – he’s going to stay a bit squishy and fuzzy looking.

First I shaped the body and started on one of the legs.

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Ula kindly lent me a paw for scale.

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Then I finished up the legs.

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It’s a bit small as you can see from the cat-assisted photo (though to be fair, Ula is a Ragdoll, which is a large breed of cats – think Maine Coon size), so I might want to make a buddy for this little guy. We’ll see how it goes.

WIP-Cracking Wednesday: Felting Progress

Let’s check in with the needle felting projects…

Ducky - upper body started on styrofoam ball

Ducky‘s body shape is nearly complete! I started covering a styrofoam ball with black felt to use for the upper body, but once I added it to the lower body I realized I had way overshot the scale and it was too big for the legs. I tore the upper body off and will be refining the front end of the oval shape of the lower body until it looks more like the upper body.

I have no idea if that paragraph made any sense.

Moving on.

The Kodama is coming along nicely! As promised, here are some process pictures…

Kudama prepping nut 3

I started off with a noisy nutshell.

Kudama - nut in head

Then I encased it in wool.

Kudama - stone

Then I had an epiphany! If I could just find something heavier than the head, I should be able to weigh down the body enough so that the head could rattle instead of the body! I found a stone that weighs several grams more than the head.

Kudama - arms and legs started

I encased the stone in wool and started forming the arms and legs.

Kudama hands and knees

Then I bent the legs to form knees and I added hands to the arms.

Oh, and last week I finished a set of Poke-dryer-balls for my sister’s friend.

Pokeball set

That’s all the felting I’ve got for now, stay tuned for more!

WIP-Cracking…Thursday

Sorry for the tardy post, it’s been a week full of technology drama, and we all know how that can devour time. I don’t have any new knitting to show you because I haven’t done any. Instead I’ve been needle felting as much as humanly possible. I’ve been working on Ducky from the Land Before Time for a while now and she’s turned out to be more complicated than I had anticipated. I’ve learned quite a bit from this project!

1) I found that the foam mat was slowly coming apart and getting bits of foam in my needle felting that I would have to pick out. To keep that from happening I cut a piece of scrap fabric and lay it over top of the mat so all the bits of foam stay under the fabric and out of my needle felting.

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2) I want Ducky to stand up, but being a bipedal character means that could be tricky. I decided to try to weight her feet down in hopes that will help keep her upright once she’s done. I took some lead fishing weights and folded them into the wool. I carefully felted the wool around the weight making sure not to stab too forcefully or quickly with the needle so I didn’t break it.

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I put the weight on top of a bunch of wool...

I put the weight on top of a bunch of wool…

...then I stuck more wool on top of the weight...

…then I stuck more wool on top of the weight…

...and I folded it all together and did my best not to break the needle.

…and I folded it all together and did my best not to break the needle.

After getting the entire leg felted together they actually do stand up! Hopefully the body won’t throw it off-balance later.

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3) The whole thing doesn’t have to be made of wool. After finishing the legs I was getting worried about my dwindling supply of green wool. I got some styrofoam shapes to build some of the other body shapes on to conserve my wool supply. The body is being shaped around this styrofoam egg. It’s much smaller than the body should be, so I’ll still need to use a fair amount of wool to get the shape and scale right, but at least it’s a start.

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4) The more complex the project, the bigger it will be. I’m really glad I decided to start this with the smallest parts first and scale the rest up from there. If I had started by making a body about as big as I thought the whole thing would be, then I would have run into some major problems once I got around to doing the detail work. Ducky is turning out to be HUGE. Like, at least twice the size I was intending. That means it’s also taking a lot longer than I thought it would. I’m going to have to start taking breaks from Ducky to work on other needle felting requests because she’s driving me a bit crazy. She has been teaching me a ton about my needle felting process though, so I will definitely keep working on her, just not exclusively. At the moment I’m roughing out her tail and body shape.

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In addition to Ducky felting, I took a quick detour into another type of felting. My sister worked out a barter with an online friend – he will send her a microphone so her online friends can Skype with her easier and she will send him a set of dryer balls (that I will make). I had never heard of such a thing, but apparently he wanted some.

I followed the instructions on this site – How to Make Dryer Balls on the seasoned homemaker – which basically involves throwing some balls of yarn in the wash and hoping for the best. Normally I detest wet-felting for this very reason. The control freak in me wants assurances that everything will turn out alright. Thankfully, it did!

Dryer Balls

 

I got 7 dryer balls out of one skein! I’m not stopping there though. I want to decorate them! I’m going to needle felt a design on one of them and then throw it in the dryer with my next load of clothes to see if the needle felting comes apart at all. If it doesn’t explode or bleed or whatever then my sister’s friend will be getting a set of very exciting dryer balls. If the dryer test run is a disaster then he’ll be getting some boring utilitarian dryer balls. In any case, since there’s no shaping involved at all it should be a pretty quick felting job!

 

 

 

The Art of Stabbing Oneself

I’ve had several questions lately through my Indiegogo campaign about needle felting. Namely: “what is it?” Well, I think I am prepared to share with you all my “sketches” in needle felting to illustrate the process.

Basically, it’s just a form of sculpting, except with wool instead of clay. You start with some unformed batts of fluffy wool, a very sharp needle, and a surface (preferably not your hand).

I had some needle felting kits I got from the Moxie booth at Urban Craft Uprising to work with. Since I was still very new at this, I also bought My Felted Friends which had some great instructions on how to make and connect certain shapes.

I decided to try for a pony, of the My Little Pony variety of course. In order to turn those balls of fluff into something with any semblance of form, you have to stab it with the needle. A lot. This locks the fibers together into one mass, felting them. Ideally this process would be done on a stab-worthy surface, like this Ecofoam provided in the Moxie kit, but I found it difficult to control the felting process that way, so I ended up picking up the wool and stabbing it in my hand. Sometimes into my hand. I stabbed myself many times actually, but I only drew blood once. What is art without suffering, anyway?

Very quickly I had roughed out a body that looked remarkably like a pony!

After making a few edits to the overall shape I started to add what details I could given the limited color palette I had to work with. I tried adding a unicorn horn, thinking making something so small and specifically shaped would be difficult, but it was surprisingly easy!

I took a good look at the colors I had left and consulted with my sister, the resident Pony expert, and determined that despite the horn, this was mostly likely going to be Roseluck. I added a rose Cutie Mark and then worked on installing the mane and tail. Now, keep in mind, this is only a sketch. The mane turned out…alright. The quality of wool provided in the kit was great for needle felting purposes, but it was rather wooly-looking and not very hair-like. For a more finished product I would use a higher quality wool for hair details, possibly even something with silk content. Even if I had taken the time to comb the wool before installing it may have improved the overall appearance, but I was really just testing out techniques with this pony and wasn’t particularly concerned with how it turned out. I didn’t have the right colors to attempt to add eye details, so I just left that out.

Not bad for a rough sketch of Rose Luck.

Here’s a pic of Rose Luck for comparison:

Roseluck from fimfiction.net

So, there’s my first rough, just-trying-to-figure-out-the-basics attempt at needle felting! Just from that short experience I can already tell that practically ANYTHING can be needle felted. Especially if I have a reference photo to work from (which I did not have Roseluck in front of my as I did this, just a few other Pony figurines so I could get the basic body shape right) I should be able to replicate figures fairly easily! By the end of it I was even getting better at NOT stabbing myself. For more example of what other people have done with needle felting, try checking out the Moxie Flickr Pool. I have also seen some really cool needle felted interpretations of celebrities from Felt Alive.

I am still trying to raise money to replace my stolen computer and tools so I can start my own business. Any amount helps, but if you donate $25 to my Knotty Narwhal campaign I will needle felt anything you want! Even if you can’t donate money you can help out by spreading the word.