Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mole Plushy

This is collaboration between friend Claudia Sutton and I for a client of hers. The character I am building in fabric is an adorable little mole from one of Claudia's illustrations. You can see it HERE.

I will be updating this blog post with the progress of this piece.

Usually I approach "plushes" of my own design in a free form sort of way. I make a pattern and adhere to it loosely, letting any mistakes or snafus become part of the piece itself. Because I am trying to recreate someone else's design as closely as possible, I have approached this project in a more architectural manner.


Wire Armature (and a claw)

"Fleshing Out" the armature
My favorite thing about documenting my work stage by stage in a blog is that it makes me take a step back and examine what I have done. It helps me see things I may not see when I am sitting twelve inches in front of whatever it is I am working on. For example, in the last photo of the above sequence, I can see that the shape of the arm is not following the reference drawing. The beauty of first building a wire armature is that it can be easily remedied. A couple of small bends and the arm is back in now back in proportion.

I traced over the eyes on the drawing Claudia gave me for reference and used Sculpey like silly putty to pick up the pencil lines. This will help me get the shape of the eyes and eyelids perfect on the final piece. Don't mind the pieces of lint in the white - they will be polished off.
ready to get baked!
sculpey claws
sanding, then polishing the claws after they have baked
the difference between unpolished and polished

The fabric I chose is a synthetic suede. The feel of it is soft and velvety, and it is pliable.

the material (color is off. see below photo for accurate color)

wrong side (left) and right side of the material
Instead of having a seam between the coat and tummy colors, I have decided to dye the fabric. Batik, a wax-resist dying technique, is one method of dyeing fabric. In the sample below, the light areas were protected by wax.
Sample Batik
Much more attractive than a seam, right? The above sample was made quickly and with important steps omitted - I just wanted to see if it would work on a textured velvet or suede-type fabric.

pinning his separate parts
moleskin! after being turned out
Why, it's a pleasure to meet you to, Mr Mole!
Here, Mr Mole's skin has been all sewn together, and I have pulled it over the frame to check the fit to see if minor adjustments need to be made before I start dying the fabric. I have taped on bits of paper and yarn, and loosely positioned his claws to give me a sneak peak of what he'll look like when done.

My kitchen table doesn't always look like this
After doing a little experimenting, I decided that instead of batiking the fabric, I will use custom-mixed Dye-Na-Flow dyes to color his fur. Dye-Na-Flow can be applied by brush in layers to build up color, and can be heat-set using an iron or 30+ minutes in a laundromat dryer on the highest heat setting.

Ta-da! Meet the finished Mr Mole! I was running a bit behind my projected due finish date for this guy, so I stopped documenting as faithfully but really all you missed were some finishing details - hot gluing and getting his belly the right color.


  1. Wow Molly! This is great, I'm actually learning from you too. :) I can't wait to see more.


  2. Just popping in from Claudia's blog to share my gushing amazement over here! Well done!