• Plush Sewing,  Sewing

    Baby Yoda Plush: Behind the Scenes

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    The construction of Baby Yoda took a lot of trial and error. Making custom plush often looks like pure voodoo magic, so I wanted to show some behind-the-scenes photos of the progress. I always like to remind myself that there’s a midpoint in most projects where it looks like a failure… and that’s not a sign to give up. Garment sewing is the biggest offender. There is a point in the middle of every.single.garment that I make at which I try on said garment and it looks completely, irredeemably awful. But just like any muscle, that creative willpower muscle gets stronger every time we push through that moment.

    The construction of plush Baby Yoda’s face had many of those opportunities to work on my creative willpower muscle. As I said in my first post, it didn’t take much to transform him from super-adorable to weird-and-creepy. I wanted to keep his face proportions accurate, and also adorable, so I started with some sketches and some measurements and MATH.

    I found the biggest safety eyes I have, they’re about .3″ in diameter, and used those as my starting point. I measured Baby Yoda’s eye size and the width of his face, and used that ratio as a starting point for the size of my face and ear pattern pieces. I literally held my calipers up to the computer screen! It was a charming, nerdy moment.

    I made a rough sketch of what I wanted his shape to be so I could start to identify pattern pieces: head, ears, body, arms, collar. Above right, you can see my face sketches: the top face is a direct sketch of what baby yoda “actually” looks like. The lower face is a sketch of what I wanted my softer, cuter baby yoda to look like.

    These sketches are all hugely valuable to me as I move through the process of sewing just about anything. Often my drawings aren’t even very clear, and definitely wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else, but they help me to remember the picture I see in my head of what I want to make.

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    In my first prototype, I used the fuzzy tan fleece of his robe to line his ears, because I love how soft it is and think that fuzzy ears would make him so cuddly. But even from this first glance, it wasn’t right. This looked more like a cutesy version of old-man, regular Yoda. This plush needed to read as BABY Yoda. And babies don’t have hairy old-man ears.

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    The pink lined ears were a big step in the right direction, but right about here was when I started to hate his face. It was clearly baby yoda, because he’s green with big ears, but he just wasn’t very cute.

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    I gave him felt eyes because those could be bigger and any shape I wanted. I added darts to his head to add depth and also imply some of the yoda-style wrinkliness. But these eyes lacked dimension and sparkle – even though they could be huge, they weren’t as cutesy as the 3d eyes, so I went back to the safety eyes.

    My large safety eyes had a clear “iris”, so I painted the back of them brown. This was all guesswork: I used my highly pigmented watercolor paint (the only brown I had) and it managed to stick, and even gave a nice uneven, partly transparent look that was perfect for eyes. I sealed it with a coat of clear nail polish and rubbed at it with some fabric to test and make sure it wouldn’t wear off over time. Not fancy, but for a one-time thing, it was perfect!

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    Already such a huge improvement over the clear eyes. This was when I knew I could move forward and I would love his little face.

    baby yoda custom plush - progress shots

    From there it was back to basic shapes and math to construct his robe and his little arms. That furry fleece sheds like CRAZY – I was waving around the hand vacuum every hour or so, to keep David from finding the secret.

    His body is just a basic tube sewn to a circle base. The collar on his “robe” is also a convenient hiding place for the raw edges of his arm seams. I didn’t take any more pictures of the construction – too busy with the aforementioned constant vacuuming and secret-keeping – but that’s also the boring part.

    baby yoda handmade plush - baby yoda stuffed animal

    If you missed it, here’s a link to the baby yoda plush photoshoot. I hope you enjoyed this peek at my process! My goal is to show that there is no right answer in the creative process – you just have to try things and see what works.

  • Garment Sewing,  Sewing

    Jaipur Jumpsuit

    me-made may 2020: blue jaipur jumpsuit

    This jumpsuit/romper is my first sewing project that was directly influenced by Me-Made May 2020. It’s been so fun to see everyone else’s handmade clothes, and I’ve been spending more time on Instagram than I’d like scrolling through #memademay2020. I’ve seen so many amazing jumpsuits that finally, one day last week, I pulled out the Simplicity 1355 jumpsuit pattern I had purchased a few months ago and started cutting.

    By mid-morning, I had a full bodice, and by the time I went to bed that night, all that was left was the hem. I don’t like doing important finishing steps like hemming at the end of the day – definitely don’t want to do details like that when I’m tired, and I also wanted to try on the jumpsuit again the next morning, in natural light, to make sure my chosen length was what I wanted.

    me-made may 2020: blue jaipur jumpsuit

    I’m calling this my Jaipur jumpsuit because I bought this fabric on my wonderful trip to Jaipur. It’s one of those fabrics that, when I bought it, I liked it of course… it had great colors and reminds me of Moroccan tiles… but I didn’t know what I would make with it. It wasn’t until I started cutting it that I LOVED this fabric. The more 3D it became, the more this fabric came to life! It’s so fun… fabric is so magical.

    me-made may 2020: blue jaipur jumpsuit

    The pattern calls for facings on all the bodice pieces, but I decided it would be easier and cleaner to just add a full bodice lining. I didn’t want to add bulk with my lining – I was already worried that my Jaipur fabric, which doesn’t have much drape, would be somewhat “poofy”. I found this very soft, very drapey striped cotton in my stash and it made a perfect lining. I think it’s navy and white, but it could be black… I haven’t been able to look at it long enough to figure it out, haha. Ironing this fabric was dizzying!

    To reduce bulk, on the lining I sewed the shoulder pleat into a dart. I also added a tiny amount of the outer fabric to the neckline seams to create a bit of a facing in case they flap open. The back of the pattern called for an overlapped/wrap look, but I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that, so I just sewed the two pieces together along the center seam. Of course, that is how the jumpsuit can be pulled on and off! So I had to add an invisible zipper to the side seam to get into my romper.

    Speaking of – would you call this a jumpsuit or romper? I’ve been confusing the heck out of David because he has no idea what either one is. In my opinion, a romper has shorts – if the legs are long, it’s definitely a jumpsuit and NOT a romper. But a jumpsuit can be shorts OR pants, in my opinion. Yes?

    Regardless, I’m happy to finally join the club with a me-made one-piece in my wardrobe. This is just what my Miami life needed and I can tell I’m going to be wearing it a lot.

  • Garment Sewing,  Sewing

    Blue Poppy Maxi Dress for Lectoring

    me-made may: blue poppy maxi dress

    At the beginning of this year, I became a Lector at my church. This means that on my assigned weeks, I get to read one of the Scripture passages of the Mass from the altar. It’s a great privilege and it’s really special to serve in such an active way.

    me-made may: blue poppy maxi dress

    I only had the opportunity to read on three occasions before the church shifted to virtual Masses due to Covid-19, but those three occasions wiped out the majority of my lector-acceptable wardrobe. When I’m scheduled to read, that means I spend the first ten minutes of Mass sitting on the altar, facing the congregation. None of my skirts are very short, but I don’t have many that go well below my knees, and that’s obviously what I want if I’m sitting facing everyone.

    “Lector Skirts” were high on my sewing list, and “isewlation” is the perfect time to work through my more practical to-do’s. On my recent trip to Japan and Thailand, I bought this gorgeous poppy-printed rayon in Bangkok specifically to make a lectoring skirt. Fortunately, Bangkok fabric prices mean I always buy more than I need, and I had enough fabric to make a full maxi dress.

    I have a much easier time wearing dresses than skirts, because skirts always have the issue of finding a matching top. This dress will be easy to throw on for dinner by the beach (dreaming of someday when we can go out to dinner again!), and it will be perfect for lectoring with a little sweater over my shoulders.

    me-made may: blue poppy maxi dress

    I lined the bodice with a soft knit to add some comfort to an already very comfortable dress. I didn’t use a formal pattern for this dress – a few years ago, my mom bought me a dress in this style and I LOVED the fit but the fabric wasn’t quite right. So I traced the simple shapes of the dress to save the pattern, a la Tabitha Wheelwright, and my mom returned the dress to the store.

    me-made may: blue poppy maxi dress

    I didn’t include pockets as I was sewing the dress because I was eager to just be DONE. And then I realized a dress without pockets is just sad. So I opened the seams back up and added in-seam pockets. I might not use them often but I’m glad they’re there.

    I have fun selecting lining fabrics that coordinate rather than perfectly match. This allows me to work from my stash and worry less about having all the perfect fabrics before I can complete a garment. My bodice lining is a golden yellow that matches the yellow poppies, and again, it’s comfy knit which is more important to me than having it be a perfect match. And the in-seam pockets are a peach that matches the pink flowers. The pockets, especially, are never seen from the outside of the garment, so this fabric was also chosen by weight first – it’s a midweight rayon with enough support for a pocket, but thin enough that it won’t weigh down the dress.

    The back has a little keyhole with a button, which is mostly a design detail, as I don’t need to unbutton it to put on the dress. Choosing buttons is always both very fun and very challenging! Here I debated going for something more “fun”, like a flower shaped button, or something more contrasting, like the handful of yellow buttons I found in my stash. In the end, I went with a flat pink shank button… nothing fancy, but I like its simplicity. I used a thin hairtie for the button loop! I have a whole pack of assorted colored hairties that I keep on hand for occasions like these when I might need a thin, colored elastic.

    I’m looking forward to the day when I can wear this dress farther than around the block to my favorite pink wall! But I can’t complain about days spent inside, they certainly help me cross projects off the endless to-sew list.

  • Garment Sewing,  Sewing

    Me-Made May 2020, Week 1: Thoughts

    Samanthasews Me-Made May 2020

    Happy May! Somehow, we’ve made it all the way to this new month and it’s time for my favorite sewing-community celebration: Me-Made May. Started by Sozo Blog, here’s her Me-Made May FAQ if you want a formal introduction.

    The wonderful thing about Me-Made May is that it’s simply a celebration of anyone who makes their own clothes. There aren’t formal rules or requirements. I’m realizing now that I’ve never actually posted my outfits in past Mays, so this will be a first. I’ve done a few Mays now, though, where I’ve worn at least one me-made garment every day for a month, and I love the challenge.

    My first MMMay must have been at least five years ago now, but May arrived and I decided I was ready to take part. I’m best at all-or-nothing, so I decided to wear at least one handmade article of clothing each day. It was a big decision at the time. I had a pile of handmade tops in my dresser, but for some reason they hadn’t really made it into my wardrobe rotation. I mostly wore jeans to work, and there weren’t really any rules for what tops I could wear, but for some reason I never chose my me-mades.

    I think that in my head, that pile of shirts was still just, “things I made,” not, “things I wear”. It wasn’t a pile of clothes, it was a pile of accomplishments. But what a sad life for a shirt to lead!

    handmade shirts for me made may 2020

    Suddenly, every morning when I opened my dresser, I was confronting that pile of handmade shirts, and forced to choose one. It was a huge learning experience! I wore each shirt all day, and at the end of the day knew exactly how I felt about it. There was at least one that didn’t fit quite right, and I knew I shouldn’t use the pattern again. There were a few whose fabric wasn’t quite right, or that didn’t feel like me. But for the most part, I felt great. I was wearing the clothes I had made, clothes I was proud of, clothes that made me feel like me.

    It’s not an exaggeration to say that one month of focus changed my sewing habits and my dressing habits for good. My (Marie-Kondo-folded) tops sit in my drawer by color, with the me-mades interspersed between ready-to-wear: they’re no longer sacred objects, they’re just clothes, and I wear them. I make much better decisions now when buying fabric, and I’m able to focus on buying fabrics to make garments that I’ll actually wear. My sewing practice feels much more efficient and joyful when I know that I’ll wear the clothes I make, even if they take more time or effort.

    This year, I’m planning to wear a me-made every day. Sometimes this might just be a simple refashion, but every day it will be something that came from my sewing machine. Unlike previous years, I’m going to document what I can. One of the downsides to sewing more basic, wearable garments, is that when I finish them I simply… wear them. This is fantastic! This is what they’re made for! But this also means I skip pictures for the blog or Instagram, and MMMay will be a perfect time to catch up and share.

    me-made may 2020: week 1 at samanthasews

    I’m excited, as always, to take stock of my handmade garments and re-find some old favorites. I’m hopeful that I will be able to better diagnose any gaps in my handmade wardrobe, and maybe get to start on some new projects. I’m already loving the peek into what everyone else is wearing – the #memademay2020 hashtag on Instagram is an absolutely fantastic source for finding new patterns to try. I made a hashtag to keep track of my outfits this year: you can follow along at #samanthasewsmmm2020!

    My formal goals are to post at least 2 outfits per week to instagram, and blog one article of clothing per week, but I’ll be wearing me-mades every day even if I don’t post.

    Are you playing this year? What’s your goal? And if you’re posting outfits somewhere, please share – I’d love to see.

    See all my Me-Made May Instagram posts here: #samanthasewsMMM2020, and here are all of the Me-Made May 2020 blog posts.

  • Plush Sewing,  Sewing

    Baby Yoda Plush

    baby yoda with mug handmade plush

    David is a huge Star Wars fan, so we watched The Mandalorian as soon as the first episode was available. He was hooked from the first second of the first episode because… it was Star Wars. I was hooked by the end of the episode, when we got our first glimpse of “baby yoda”.

    I wanted to hug baby yoda from that moment on, and certainly the rest of the internet shares my feelings. But it wasn’t until David wondered aloud, “I wonder if you could make a baby yoda,” and “maybe for my birthday,” that I really began to plan the plush version in my head. I mean, was that a challenge? Of my plush-making abilities?!

    Baby Yoda handmade plush - Baby Yoda stuffed animal

    Baby yoda took a lot of planning, sketching, and practice sewing. First his head was too big, then too small. For my first ear prototype, I lined the ears with a furry fabric to give him some ear fuzz, but that immediately turned him from baby yoda into just… regular Yoda.

    And I have a newfound respect for the Muppet/Yoda sculptors because it is alarmingly easy to turn baby yoda from cute into horrifying – just a few millimeters difference in eye placement or ear size could transform him from that cuddly frog-snacker into some kind of Furby-monster.

    All of this tweaking, cutting, and stitching happened in secret, because I forbade David enter the sewing room by telling him I was working on my wedding dress. I would have known if he tried to peek, too, because I’m sure he would have been horrified to see the green fleece and tan fur as part of my “wedding dress” progress.

    Baby Yoda handmade plush - Baby Yoda stuffed animal

    There are many stuffed baby yodas on the internet, but the pièce de résistance of my version is, in my opinion, his little mug. My favorite scene (and corresponding gif) featuring baby yoda is when he is holding his little mug, and casually takes a sip as he stares at the world with his adorable giant bug eyes. I knew my version needed a mug, but I didn’t want him to have the mug all the time… so of course the answer relies on the magic that is magnets.

    Each of his little hands has a steel washer sewn inside, and the mug (filled with blue milk, which I thought would be appropriate) has two hefty rare earth magnets sewn inside.

    baby yoda with mug handmade plush - baby yoda stuffed animal

    I filled his base with poly pellets, the little plastic beads used in Beanie Babies, so he has enough heft to stand on his own… most of the time. When I took these photos outside, the wind buffeted his giant ears more than once, causing the poor little guy to faceplant on the ground.

    When it came time for David’s birthday, back in late January, I wrapped baby yoda in a box with his mug to the side, the “accessory kit”. (I’m still meaning to make a frog with magnets, too, to complete the collection). David loved it. He was completely surprised and very impressed, so it’s safe to say that I’ve defended my custom-plush-making crown.

    Baby Yoda handmade plush - Baby Yoda stuffed animal