Ears and Whiskers Oh My!

Contemplative

As any longtime reader knows, I’ve made many a fanciful, comfortable, and sturdy garment, mostly for child-aged humans. I keep coming back to animals and creatures (real or imaginary). In no small part this is due to the influence of my own children, who retain an interest in biology, zoology, cryptozoology and anything else involving creatures that flap, crawl, squirm, prowl, and/or fly.

This particular hat is a faux fur wolf-inspired self-drafted piece, lined in 100% wool for warmth and comfort. Since Halloween approaches – and I do run a side-sewing blog, here – I wanted to share a bit about how to make effective ears and easy-enough whiskers from inexpensive and rugged materials.

Now a few words about what is entailed in good ears. It might not be obvious to the initiate, but it isn’t enough to have wire or pipe cleaners, or whatever, stiffening the ear. The ears will be rigid, but they will not stand up from the head if this is all you do. The tail ends of the wire stiffening the ear will need to be anchored to a rigid form, which is in turn inserted into the hat body in a way secure and comfortable to wear. This means the rigid form has to mimic the shape of the pattern pieces of the hat itself. Get it?

So let’s get started. Materials needed (not shown, glue gun):

Supplies

Left-to-right: cardboard (buckram or light plastic, like a thoroughly-cleaned bleach or carpet-cleaner bottle, will also work), wire for ears, needle and waxed thread for handsewing, cable ties (and assembled “whiskers” on anchor tie, self-explanatory), pattern template, and both fabric AND paper scissors (ask any stitcher how much he/she likes having sewing scissors abused by paper!).

Different hat or hood shapes will have different templates – this hat was made by an earwarmer-style band and a four-gore crown. The traced piece you see here is one of the four gores. It is NOT an ear! I am assuming you have a rudimentary knowledge of sewing, or can follow a pattern, and already have your ear finished and waiting – with the bottom raw edge open (you’ll see below when I show you my finished ear).

I chose cardboard for my form, because I plan to simply spot-clean this hat, not immerse it in water. Dry-cleaning would probably even be an option but I don’t think we’ll be needing that. Using buckram or thin plastic might make the hat more washable – but you certainly want to wash a structural item like this with care, not throw it in the washing machine or anything.

So! Trace your cardboard (or whatever) form from your pattern piece(s):

Trace Pattern Piece To Form Material

If you’re thinking about ear placements/markings at this stage, don’t. There is no need to worry about ear placement yet as you will be able to use the lining to determine where to fix the ears.

Now it’s time to cut the cardboard (or whatever) form:

Cut Out Cardboard Form / Trim Seam Allowance

Make sure to trim off the seam allowances. This is because tape will serve as our “stitching” together the form pieces (if we do have more than one, as I do). If you didn’t cut off the seam allowances, the form would be too large. Go ahead and be confused, that’s okay. You’ll see what’s up when you stick the taped-together form in the lining and it doesn’t work – if that’s the case, you can go ahead and tear it apart and re-tape, or re-trace and re-cut.

Tape The Form, & Then...

The red piece on the left is the hat lining, an indespensible item for making sure things will fit nicely. At right we have the form, taped together. Next I need to slide the form into the lining to make sure it fits perfectly and does not extend awkwardly or look bulky. The goal is the intended recipient will not even feel the form. So let’s see how we did, eh? The cardboard form is inserted between the child (Hi, Phoenix!) and the lining:

... Double-Check The Form Fits Nicely

Everything looks good – that cardboard form is inside the hat and against the child, layered just beneath those two front gore pieces you see here. A few notes: the hat is a little large for my child, so would fit an adult with a smaller head. Secondly, that raw edge is going to be turned under and stitched, so the hat lining appears a little larger than the finished piece will be.

Slip the form out, and it’s a good idea at this stage to punch a few holes in the form. Even if you plan to use a glue gun exclusively, may find you are glad for a few holes to use in reinforcing by stitching:

That's Awl She Wrote!

Now for wiring the ear. Simple at first – just get a flexible but rigid bit of wire (23 cents a foot at the hardware store), bend it, and slide it into the ear with at least an inch and a half margin poking out the bottom from the open end of the ear. Wrap the wire-ends with tape so no one gets poked. Handstitch the raw edge of the ear together with a simple baste, and lash the wires to the ears. This is to preserve the general ear shape and make sure the ear form is closed, before proceeding.

Lashing Wires Into Ears

The wire may want to creep down a bit. That’s okay for now. When you’re finished you should have something like this:

Finished Ear; Wire Inserted

Pretty-cool ear, eh? I thought so.

Now sew the ears, again by hand, to the position on the shell hat pieces. You can use that lining (and hopefully a live model) to determine ear position.

Hand-Sew Ears First...

Basting or tacking the ears in place by hand will make sure they are symmetrical when sewn into the hat. I highly recommend this over pinning. Simply take firm stitches about 1/8″ shy of the seam lines.

Don’t worry about the wires much at this stage. They may be trying to slip around a bit. All you are doing is anchoring the fabric ear piece in position along the seam of the as-yet not-assembled hat.

Now, machine-sew the hat seams, which will anchor the ears firmly. Assembly will depend on the hat or hood pattern you use. Just don’t try to sew right over that wire, or you will bust your needle and scare the heck out of yourself, especially if you’re amped up on coffee (ask me how I know this!). When you get close to the wire, take your foot off the pedal and use the handcrank, guiding the seam along with your other hand.

... Then Machine-Sew The Ears - Carefully!

Your ears are almost finished! Now, insert the finished form into the finished hat/hood/crown, and glue or stitch first the form itself to the inside of the hat using the seam allowances, and then the wire “legs” of the ears to the form, to secure. As if that faux-fur wasn’t messy enough, we are adding a GLUE GUN!

Bending the wire “legs” of the ear and affixing them to the form may or may not be tricky, depending on your hat/hood style. Be patient, use more glue – the whole thing will be lined anyway. Press the wire into the hot glue using a spoon. Not your fingers. (Ask me how I know this!) Be cautious with the hot glue if you’re using it – don’t let it mar your fabric or your body.

Glue/Sew Template

Ears all done!

Finished Ears

Finally: when the glue is entirely cool, slip the lining into the hat and feel to make sure the hat will be comfortable to wear. No jabbing wires or glue bumps. You can add batting or a layer of fleece if you need to, but if you’ve cut your form templates properly and wrapped your wire, you shouldn’t need this layer. My daughter said she couldn’t feel the cardboard at all.

And now – this is easier, promise! – the whiskers.

The assembly for the whiskers and anchor cable ties is self-explanatory, and shown in my Materials photo up above. Now we only need push the whiskers through the shell material. If you are sewing a hat with a woven that has a loose weave (not likely, for a hat project, but still), you may want to interface or interface and make eyelets (by hand or machine), to make sure you don’t get a ravelling effect. However, these directions assume a knit or fleece, etc., easy, sturdy, and typical fabrics we work with.

So first, poke holes in the earflap to slide the “whisker” cable ties through (here you are looking at the wrong side of the shell fabric)…

Seam-Ripper To The Rescue

Then slip in the whisker assembly:

Inserting Whiskers

Now we need to lash the whisker anchor cable tie in for security. Due to the nature of cable ties, the “whisker” ties can only slide one direction along the anchor tie. So lash accordingly:

Lashing Whiskers In Place

If you’ve cut your hat out properly on the grain, the grain will assist you in making sure your whisker alignment is proper. You can see the knit grain here on the wrong side of the shell. Alternatively, just make sure you carefully mark your whisker-placement lines after cutting out the hat pieces.

One more note about lashing the whiskers in place: if you were to be creating a hat where you didn’t want stitches to show on the shell side (as you see, my choice of faux fir hides anything like that), you could carefully apply the anchorpiece to the lining and take orderly stitches from the anchor tie to the lining, then poke the “whisker” cables through the shell, when the lining and shell were joined.

Double-check the whiskers are symmetrical:

Whiskers, Right-Side

And kink them up, if you like it kinky. Heh.

Bent Or Straight?

If you went mad with power earlier with that glue gun, you could apply a bit of glue on the anchor points of the whiskers, although it’s not needed.

Now all that remains is inserting the lining into the shell. Normally I do this in such a way that only involves a teeny bit of handstitching, but in this case I turn under the entire lower edge of both the shell, and the lining, and securely whip-stitch all along this edge.

Voila! You now have a pretty ferocious little hat.

On The Prowl

Cutaway

friday fan-fucking-tastic

Family!
“The Importance of Family Dinner” by mamapoekie
This subject was a tricky one for me as until very recently I revered and “enforced” family dinner (the enterprise has good intentions, of course, and is also such an awesome thing to root-toot about and we’re told if we don’t do it we’re what’s Wrong With America). Of course, my kids and husband and I still eat dinner together almost every night, except now it only happens when people want to, not because they have to or are nagged at (there’s a real difference!).

“Thoughts on Man Caves, Mom Caves, & Gendered Space” by Alexis at the Studioist
I love Alexis’ pieces as well as her rather considered responses to anyone who takes the time to work out a comment. She is a gracious hostess.

The new Life Learning Magazine is out. Well-worth the subscription (and if you write an article, you may get a discount / free subscription).

Science!
Mantid of the Week at I Blame The Patriarchy
Twisty’s been posting less, but each post is enjoyed. I think she has the most tender heart underneath all her meanie.

Porn! (not really, something way better actually)
thethickness.tumblr.com
Edit: see comments.

Halloween!
Super-easy ghost cloak at mermag.blogspot.com
I will be using this. Probably in a few minutes, actually. Yes, not everything I sew is some goddamned masterpiece.

“Scary Decor”; the Studioist (again, but I love her posts and the brief discussion of Halloween experiences in the comments; also she said I was the “best Mom in the world”, praise I sorely need  on days like today where I hardly do anything decent as a mother

“Stripes”, a how-to for making striped fabric (bonus, the tute’s by my brother’s lady J.)

Etc!
“Hey Skinny…” at Twisted Vintage. Loving those little red shorts.

Great review of a pretty spooky movie: “Re-visiting the Canon: Candyman” at PostBourgie. This movie scared me quite deeply as a teen.

Guess who I think is sexy? No, guess. But you know, I think a lot of people are sexy. I guess I’ve got that joie de vivre. P.S. I’m also a big fan of his work and think he’s a compelling performer. The last bit of it I saw was in Wives & Daughters (Netflix instant). Did you know I’m a fiend for pre-20th century British period pieces? WELL I AM.

One imagines this Elliot Smith mixtape on soundcloud is against the Rules of the Intenetz & Copyright, but I have been enjoying a listen.

***

I am a total mess today. I can’t even express how little-by-little I’ve fallen behind to where my life currently feels like a small, grounded hulk of a shipwreck. I won’t feel this way soon. But I feel this way now and I’m being very hard on myself.

correspondance, commerce, & creeps

This morning after meeting a friend at Pure Clothing here in HQX (I love the owner J. and think we are so lucky to have such a great shop; today I found a pair of hot-ass Silver jeans in my size as well as a pair of my tried-and-true Levi 501s – have I mentioned how much I love jeans yet hate stretch jeans, which are almost all you find if you’re over about a US size 10, and remind me sometime to tell you my friend Jasmine’s dire and graphic warnings on such stretchy-fare) I stopped at Jackson Street Books and chatted with the owner Tammy (who really. REALLY. knows her books). While talking my eye fell on about ten books I wanted for myself or as gifts. I finally settled on two for Phoenix: Bunnicula by James Howe and The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (the second book in the very popular Percy Jackson and the Olympians series; she simply devoured the first one about half a year ago). I thought both were excellent Halloween choices. When I got home I surprised Phoenix with the books and she smiled bigger than you can imagine and put aside the “younger” (and shorter) Bunnicula to dive into the YA/General fare of Percy. I felt a bit sad as it seems her babyhood vanished far before I could treasure it; however I know she will pick up the story of the vampiric lupine (a favorite of mine as a kid) – at some point.

So I spent my grocery money on jeans and books but we made due with pantry provisions for dinner and I really think the purchases, especially the books for my girl, entirely worth it.

Today a friend asked me if I’d sew her up a dress (based on the striped hooded version recently modeled by Phoenix) to which I said Yes. I am ready and willing to take on full-grown ladies (and gentlemen), especially plus-size women as they are so underserved in the fashion industry. All of this has to be done within my own work schedule of course (I am currently two pair of monster booties behind) – which I’m trying desperately not to get backed up on as:

the gag order has been lifted and I am now able to publicly blog I am testing for an upcoming book project of Karen and Shelly’s (of Patterns by Figgys) as published by Wiley. While I’m not able to post pictures of the garments I’m testing (yet), I can say they are all fabulous and fun to sew and scratch my technical-writing nrrd-skills.  I’m saving up pictures in Flickr (as private) and hoping to make them public some day. There are a lot of things I really love about these two ladies, their designs, and their ethos (including generous voluntary copyright clauses for cottage-industry or home sewists). It is pure joy to be able to help such an enterprise.

And:

I recently received a Thank You email (very specific and edifying and including details of my reader’s life – which I love!) and a Paypal donation by reader E.; the day after a handwritten letter arrived, penned from New Zealand blogger Elly – and full of NZ and AU currency and some history/geography to boot! As far as feedback and commentary from readers it’s been a great week. Well actually it seems to get better all the time, although to be clear IMs and DMs and tweets and email and snailmail has never been much more than a steady trickle (I am no Celebrity). For this I am grateful as I sometimes fear I let correspondance slip through the cracks. Frowny-face.

In other news, sketchy Flickrite Alejandro seems to like the ladies. And the little girls. Like my 8 year old daughter. (Just not anyone over 22 or so, or fat or “ugly” – ew!) But don’t worry, I’m sure the fellow’s legit. See how he has no profile information and has posted no photo except one of a Siamese cat.

Cute cat.

what’s in your head, zombie

What’s that you say?

Bunting 002: All Hallows' Eve

“That is so fucking cute, Kelly-goddamned-Hogaboom!” Yeah. Well at least I think so. In fact the only thing I liked better that picturing this bunting from the very second I saw the fabric at Hart’s website was every detail of construction. Like underlining it with fusible wadding and appliqueing bright orange stars and then basting in the pumpkin-orange zipper and waxing thread to finish with handsewing while watching a soccer game:

On My Way

and of course the super-super soft and deep green fleece I lined the whole thing with.

So. Soft.

Oh right, forgot to mention – I thought I’d make another one, a bit less sweet and a bit more gruesome:

Bunting 001: Zombi (Looming)

My sewing room and I are like a couple honeymooners. I can’t wait to get back there and mess around. OK, ew. So what I really mean is, I’m having such a wonderful time making exactly what I want. And you know what I want? More babies, out and about, everywhere. These buntings are so warm they can be out all night trick or treating. Until they fall asleep while nursing in the sling.

I’ve put these abovepictured items up for sale: All Hallows’ Eve and Zombi in my wee little boutique. I’ve already got my next projects – seasonal for the approaching cold weather – out on the slab.

Deeply, truly good times.

Hat Et Al

freaks & squeaks

Our friend has a new camera with a high definition video function; she’s been doing a few short films including some of my family.  Here she graces you with a glimpse into our Halloween, sitting on my mom’s porch and handing out candy*:

This one was taken by our own teeny little camera, and the subject speaks for itself, literally:

* What say thee on the feminist front?  Are Westernized women’s problems over – do we live in an egalitarian, just society that treats them with respect, as my mother’s boyfriend argues here?