Friday, November 14, 2014

A Lego Movie Haloween

Everybody!  I made soem super cool masks for my boyfriend and I for Halloween (and the I stayed late at work and missed the party...  but we are going to pretend that didn't happen).  Ryan was Benny the Spaceman and I was angry Unikitty, both characters from the Lego Movie that came out earlier this year:

I mostly used this instructable (FYI, this is the best site ever!) for a basis for my boyfriend's mask:

For my own, since it was Unikitty, I was able to use a simple cardboard box and some foam shapes from the floral section of Michael's.

I happened to have the right lego blocks in my room to find my dimensions.  I really wanted my masks to come out as close in proportion to the actual mini-figures as I could make fit our human bodies.

10 mm : 12 in
24 mm : 15 in
While I waited for my boyfriend to tell me the height of his head (he was on a business trip), I got to work on my Unikitty mask.  A Sam Adam's box I had actually fit my head, and had just about spot on proportions.  Another bonus:  the flaps were the exact width I needed for the ears, so I chopped them off and re-attached them on top.

More Construction
What does the box say?
Then it was time for the real work...  the benny the space man head!  I bought a 12" concrete form, and a 10" concrete form and a 4' x 8' sheet of two inch yellow, foil-backed foam.  The plan was to make a lego head from the 12" form, use the foam to craft a removable helmet, and use the 10" form for the jetpacks.

Somewhere in there I was told I was crazy a few times for wanting to make a foam helmet, and my dad gave me the idea to nest concrete form pieces to make a helmet and head all in one.  I wish I had thought of it on my own, it worked great!  It also helped that this old style helmet is basically a cylinder with a dome on top, so I didn't have to spend extra time making the lower domed part of a lego head.  The most time consuming part, sadly, was probably sawing the sections of tube, but eventually I used my Dremel to speed things up, and give my forearms a break.  I used three layers to make the helmet, cutting the hole out of each layer before gluing the next in.

Tracing out the face hole on the outside layer

The face hole in the outside layer
Cutting off a vertical strip to fit this layer inside the first
The outside layer, next to the second layer
Realizing I needed to cut a little more off
I kept the last piece, for the face, separate to make painting easier.

I cut two circles from the foam to match the 12" diameter tube, to make the rounded top of the helmet.  I cut and carved a hole / divot in one of these circles to hold the mask firmly on the wearer's head, a nice distance from the front of the mask.  Then I glued the two discs together with spray adhesive.

Next, I had a lot of fun carving the foam to make the general dome shape.  I beveled the edge with a drywall knife, and then rounded the bevel with my little ofla.  But the best part was just sanding it.  Before that step, you wonder if you'll ever have a nice surface, then sanding it is like instant gratification.  I have a lot of foam left, and I think it is beckoning to become some awesome sculptures.

Cylinder, meet dome.  Dome, meet cylinder.
Detail of head hugging part
The one thing I would change if I did this again, is the shaping of that dome.  I think the dome came out a little flat for my liking, and I wish I would have taken the curvature further.

Due to my uncertainty of whether this foam would take spray-paint, and concerns regarding texture, I decided to seal the foam with wood filler.  After the first coat of wood filler, I glued the dome onto the cylindrical part of the helmet.  I kind of doubted this would work, but after nesting three pieces of form, the cylinder was 3/8" thick.  I scored up the foil around where the glue would be applied, and laid down my bead.  There were a few gaps, but I realized the surfaces made good contact with the help of putting a heavy box on top of the dome, the oldest form of clamping.  Finally the ugly flat part comes in handy.  Once it was done, I also flipped it over and ran more glue into the seam from the inside.  I think the extra wood filler used to smooth out this seam on the outside helped further with the connection.
Close up of scoring
The whole assembly before sanding and paint
I think I did two full coats of wood filler with sanding in between, and a third just to fill some more noticeable divots.  I used my Dremel to rough up the helmet like it is the movie, adding some dents and the crack in the lower portion.  I also had read a tip about using glue to seal foam, so I did one final coat of wood glue, over the whole helmet, just to be safe.  Then I spray painted.  This was my first time using a paint + primer, and I think it's safe to say I've seen the light.  I was blown away by how well it worked, since my dome started out quite a bit lighter than the cylindrical portion of the helmet.

More wood filler! 
It's just like frosting a fake cake
More sanding 
Wood glue layer...  this was not that fun to spread
Dry wood glue layer, look at that shine!
I also primed the Unikitty head and painted the lego face at this point.

Then, while things were drying, I worked on the Unikitty horn.  I needed to take both masks to my boyfriend's place, 5 hours away, in my miata, so my goal was to make my head collapsable, since I knew his wouldn't be, and at the time I thought I would be making him a set of jetpacks also (ambitious much?).  I decided to solve this problem by modifying a PVC fitting to "bolt" the box flaps together (then realized I could have used a twist tie or shoelace to get the same effect, but hey, the PVC is a little more elegant in how it fits into the unicorn horn, so boo to those simple ideas!).  I drilled two perpendicular sets of holes through the threaded part of the PVC fitting, and traced and cut the arch shapes out on the flaps of the box.  I cut some 1" floral foam into a 4" diameter circle, and cut 1/2" foam into a slightly bigger circle, then added a foam cone.  I attached these with wood glue and covered with the wood filler for a smoother texture.  The PVC fitting was just shoved into the bottom of the horn assembly for a friction fit.

I glued the yellow face into the blue helmet, and while it was drying, sketched out the Unikitty angry face.  I used the eyebrows for my eye holes, since her face doesn't really fit human eyes.  I painted the Unikitty head and the accompanying horn.

For the helmet, I came back in with glue and glued the bottom of the helmet as skewed as I could get it, to match the detail from the movie.  When the helmet was done gluing, I sketched the Benny face on.  Cutting the face out was very difficult and frustrating (oh, and it was 2 am, the night before Halloween...).  I used my olfa knife to score the spray paint, so it wouldn't peel or crack, then I cut with a combination of that and the serrated dry-wall knife.  The serrated knife probably worked the best, but I couldn't do very tight radii with it.

I used a sharpie to color around the tongue, and to blacken the inner edges of the facial features.  I painted the tongue red.  Finally, I duct-taped black fabric to the inside to blacken-out the eyes and mouth.

Here they are!  There was more to my costume, but I never got suited up.  Ryan made his box lego shirt!

Ok, I'm kind of over halloween now.  I'm sure we all are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#MiniProjectMonday 9/22/14

I know I'm a day late, but I designed a tshirt graphic for my friend's elementary school's 5k.  Here's the sketch I settled on to scan in (note:  I thought the event was a walk-a-thon at this point):

Here's the final digitized graphic, with more of a run/walk vibe (Maybe less of a pedophile vibe too, although I'm not sure, kinda just looks like the tables have turned).

The school is Saints Peter and Paul in Ionia Michigan, and the run is called the Panther Prowl to reflect their overused mascot.  I went sugary-sweet because last year some parents and staff told her the panther she found online was too scary.  It's not my typical style, but I know I would have liked it as a kid — and not just because I pretended to be a panther during every minute of free play I had.

Friday, August 8, 2014

DIYnomite | Wedding Edition

Over the last weekend, I witnessed and took part in one of my best and oldest friend's wedding.  It was a beautiful ceremony for a beautiful couple.

I wanted to share four pieces I put together for their big day.  I am most proud of number four, so go ahead and scroll down if you can't read all of this, it's a pretty long post.  I won't judge.

I should mention their theme was rustic, country-chic.  You know, all the burlap, natural wood, and mason jars you can handle, all treated with feminine touches because a wedding is no place for masculinity.

Ring Bearer Pillow
This project was pretty simple. I sewed a 7" x 7" pillow with an off-white muslin, then I covered it in a burlap that had gold metallic threads throughout for a subtle sheen.  Next I found a lace with a bold, graphic motif, cut various filigrees out, and applied them with Modge Podge.  

The pillow with added lace details
Finally, I found a simple domed brass button, and a thin ribbon that matched the sash from my bridesmaid dress.  I sewed through the middle of the ribbon, into the lace side of the pillow, through the other side, into the button, and then back up through all layers.  I did this a few times to make it strong, then pulled the thread tight to tuft the pillow.

Unfortunately, I neglected to take a photo after tufting the pillow.  Perhaps the newlyweds will oblige me, and send me some.

Circle Decor
These circular burlap decorations were kind of a bonus.  I had so much fabric left over from that tiny pillow, and I had these embroidery hoops from another project that ended up being a fail.  The rope was also left over from a project that is in limbo right now.

For the heart, I simply cut a heart out of some scrap paper, and pinned it to my burlap, which was already in the hoop.  I bought two kinds of ribbon from Jo-ann's that closely matched one of the wedding colors, and used a tapestry needle to randomly stitch around the heart.  It was very simple, and done while I watched a few episodes of That 70's Show.

The stencil for the heart circle
For the names and date, I laid out my text in an appropriate sized circle using Adobe Illustrator, and remembered to mirror the text.  I got these printed on oversized paper from Kinko's.  I usually like to print two copies, just in case, so I nested a few onto one oversize sheet to save money.  I cut these out and applied them via solvent transfer with lacquer thinner to the burlap (I did this while the burlap was out of the hoop).  This results in a very light print, so I painted over each letter and number with black acrylic paint, thinned with water to be more ink-like.

A picture of the names before painting over the transfer
I cut the rope to size, then used hot glue to wrap the ends of the rope with jute.  Finally, I hot glued the rope onto the embroidery hoop, making sure the frayed ends of the rope hid the adjustment screw on the outer hoop.  I wanted to add some of the lace to the names and date circle, but time did not quite permit, and the bride said she liked them this way.

Hot gluing and checking the rope border
Beaded Ribbon Sash
One thing my friend absolutely wanted from the beginning was a beaded belt to add some bling to her dress.  She was hoping I could save her a little money by putting one together.  She planned to send me beads...  then we put stuff off haha.  Finally, when I visited for her shower in June, we went to Hobby Lobby (My first time!), and picked out some embellishments that suited her.  She later mailed me ribbon, after making sure she picked out a width and shade of white that suited her dress.

We picked out 3 different circular embellishments, and 3 sizes of smaller loose gems.  I did some research and decided to pick up E6000 adhesive for the gems—apparently dance m0ms swear by it (  I laid out my design on paper.  The bride and I had briefly discussed the layout before hand, so I cannot take all the credit, but I can say that other than the pillow, I consciously tried to work the rule of threes into each aspect of this wedding package (Just realized that sounds weird, but it's because they want three kids, the two of them are now one family, the two of them and their dog make three, three comes up a lot).

We had discussed using the circle of rhinestones (I believe it is a fastener for a belt or strap) to increase the diameter of the middle element.  I liked the idea of working with the tiny cross bar to also add some dimension to the middle circle, I just needed to find a quick way to add a little extra support.  Because I had bought two of these fasteners, I got out my jewelers' saw and sacrificed the spare.  I found that krazy glue worked best for attaching the extra cross bar and the circular element on top.  An added bonus:  there was enough of a difference between the top embellishment diameter and the inner diameter of the belt fastener to sew around each cross bar.

Adding the additional metal bar
Finally, I sewed on two circular embellishments of a different style on either side of the franken-embellishment, and finished up by gluing a row of each size of loose rhinestones around the three embellishments.  An awesome trick I read about online:  use a damp q-tip to place rhinestones.  Major time saver.  It actually makes bringing things fun.  I may do more.

The finished design
The belt was simply tied around the brides natural waist on the big day.

Guestbook + Wedding Album
This was by far my proudest creation for the happy couple!

I had this idea to make the guest book for the wedding practically since they got engaged.  Then the procrastination set in...  Actually, it was more like timidness.  I had been looking at some wooden book covers online, and thought it would be so cool for their rustic theme.  I mocked up an idea on one of my iPod apps, Sketchbook Express.  I knew I wanted to laser cut the cover, but where to get that done?  I began lazily doing research.  Then I kept hearing my friend mention that she didn't want the traditional manner of guestbook and then I was unsure of how to proceed.  I started to think about how my idea would make a lovely wedding album.  I really liked the idea of it doing double duty, so they could look back at the signatures and well-wishes.

Fast forward to the bridal shower.  I regretted still not putting anything together, and then my friend started talking about how she still had no guestbook alternative figured out.  I sheepishly mentioned I wanted to make her one, and I had planned on doing it, but then I didn't know if she wanted it.

I don't know why I went into this whole story...  I just like telling you guys how my ideas take shape.

So I didn't tell her much about the final book, but I did ask her if she would like it to be her album / wedding scrapbook too.  I assured her I could make it compatible with the scrapbook / album sleeves you can buy at any craft store, and got her to pick her size.  She went with the 12" x 12" size, which I think was a perfect choice.  The other advantage to using a standard size was knowing that if something went terribly wrong with my design at the last minute, we could swing by the store and buy an album there.

Then I was off!  At least after the version of Adobe CS5 I bought for my new desktop (and the necessary superdrive) came.  I also decided to make my order through Ponoko.  If it's first on google, it's good enough for me.

I purchased one set of the photo sleeves and a pair of post screws from Michael's to make my measurements.  After I had a sample page laid out in Illustrator, I added 0.25" around all sides for the cover.  I split a thin piece with the screw holes away from the cover, to make the deep spine required for post binding.  This line actually came from the margin of the photo pages, and hopefully will make more sense when you see photos of the bound book.  I printed a test sheet to make sure the screw holes were spaced correctly, a vital step!  They were spaced fine, but I realized I wanted to move them to the left a bit.

Next, I copied and mirrored the front cover to make a back cover.  I then decorated the covers.  As per my mock-up, I removed a rectangle for a photograph of the couple.  I also inset another rectangle to serve as a guide for cutting the matte later.  I placed the couple's first names above the rectangle, and their wedding date below.  I was in good shape at this point, but I decided I needed to make it even more their style and special.  I used the pen tool to trace a mason jar, then I drew a petal, duplicated it into a flower, and then duplicated that into three inflorescences.  I added stems and leaves.  Then I had to break up and remove a lot of paths.

This is the file I ended up with
I am used to drawing for print, but when designing for a laser, you need to think like a laser.  So after reading a ton of Ponoko FAQs and watching a bunch of their helpful videos, I put on some Major Lazer and got to work cleaning my file up.  This consisted of removing paths behind objects with white fill (basically, always set your fill color to none), setting my paths to the right color codes for the amount of material I wanted the laser to remove (way to start in a CMYK file and move to a RGB template, Laura), and making sure to line up my covers well on my material (being conscious of grain direction and sharing a cutting edge!).

And after all this, I still got an email from a Ponoko designer letting me know I had some stacked cutting lines to fix.

The other problem: my file still wasn't going to make it to me in time to get it all bound, and maybe not even until after I was back from the wedding.  The cost of expediting was so expensive, I knew my friend wouldn't want me to spend the money to get it there on time.  But I didn't tell her about this snag either, on account of her being in the final push of wedding prep.

I fixed the file in one night and got it back to the friendly rep, then I nervously checked my Ponoko account from tuesday until thursday, 6 days before I needed to board a plane to Michigan.  On thusrday afternoon, my order was being made!  From the price calculation, I knew my order would print in something like 2 hours.  I had only chosen basic shipping when I thought the item would be late either way, and now I saw no way to change it.  I emailed the company to ask if they could do it, and I was able to pay to have my order by Monday.  It was on my porch on friday!  (I know, another long story, but there are morals here folks!)

This was inside the box, under a paper sticker!

Some detail shots of the cover and the mason jar on the back!
Now to the actual book construction.

I am so grateful that I got my order on friday, because the bamboo material I ordered was very splintery.  The slivers may have been a side-effect of removing the protective sticker from the material, but either way, I ended up using 4 coats of water based poly on the covers (and I think it looked better with 3), sanding lightly with 400 grit between coats.  I did not poly anywhere I planned to glue my book cloth, to preserve the porous surface of the bamboo.

Putting on some poly on the porch
After I was happy with the finish, I used nylon book binding tape to attach the covers to the binding.  It took me a few tries to get it right so that I liked the range of motion of the cover.  I spaced it to the thickness of the material, which I believe was around 3 mm (I used the scrap from the photo cut out to space my pieces).

 Next, I carefully measured and drew out my pattern on the paper side of the book cloth.  I glued in stages, working very carefully and methodically (I was in the crafting zone!).  First, the largest area, on the outside of the cover.

The main tricks when gluing book cloth to book board is to have 90ยบ between the grain pattern of each of the materials, and to spread glue on each surface and allow to get tacky before bringing them together.

Next, I continued gluing around to the inside, with the second largest area. I had to hold the binding and cover folded open to get enough cloth into the gutter to preserve the range of motion I wanted.  I used my trusty bone folder to remove bubbles, add pressure, and to stretch the cloth.

Lastly, I glued the top and bottom edges around, first tucking in the tiny corners, and then smoothing the cloth into the gutter.

Then I prepped the photo frame.  I cut a transparency (I wish I had thought to laser some acrylic to the same size) and some extra book cloth for the "matte", and used some of the nylon tape to affix them to the back of the front cover.  I sized a piece of cardstock to act as a vehicle for the front photo, so it can be changed when they get their wedding prints.  I attached the engagement photo they sent out with their invitations to the cardstock.

The painters' tape was to temporarily hold the transparency and matte together
Finally, I measured and cut some grey book cloth for the inside of the covers.  I cut an arc out of the piece for the front, so that the cardstock could be removed and re-inserted.

Detail showing inside book cloth—it got a little wrinkly around the photo pocket
The finished book, on an old chair because art:

The MOH is apparently a big scrap-booker, so she made an inside cover page and four lined sheets for signatures.  They fit the style very well, but you'll never know, because I never thought to get photos.  Oh well, it's more special this way, right?

Thank you for sticking with me to the bitter end.  This post is way too long!