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A feature, some questions, and some answers

My “Hug Me! Slugs” were featured in Zertuchina’s holiday gift guide post here. Thank you, Zertuchina! I thought it was funny that she happened to also pick for her feature a Janine King bag in the same print that I’ve been eying. I have one of Janine’s bags, and the workmanship is super.

Also this week, a student who is studying textiles wrote to ask me some questions regarding my textile work, in particular my dolls and toys, for a project for school. She is working on an original doll with assorted clothing for her coursework. I thought maybe someone else would be interested in the same things, and so I thought I’d post my answers here. I’m sure I could have expanded on any of my answers, but here they are:

What inspires your work?

I find inspiration in all kinds of things. It can come from anywhere really. I might see a combination of colors I like together, or maybe some fabric that appeals to me. I love animals, and I like to try to create them in doll or toy form. I enjoy experimenting. The creative process itself can be inspiring.

How long does it take for you to create your work?

It varies. A small toy can take a couple of hours, and a more complex doll, like the art dolls that are hand painted and have hand-sculpted parts can take a couple of weeks.

Which fabrics do you use?

I use 100% cotton quilting fabrics, cotton sateen sheeting, and polyester fleece. I also use socks for some of my dolls and toys. I pre-wash all my fabrics in fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergent to make sure they don’t run, to pre-shink them in case they ever need to be spot cleaned, and to get rid of the new-fabric smell (which I just don’t like).

Do you have to do practice attempts before you create a product you are happy with?

Yes. I start with sketches, and rough drawings of my pattern pieces, as I think they will need to be. Then I sew a prototype. There are sometimes small changes that need to be made because when a doll is stuffed, it often looks much different than it did on paper. They often get taller and thinner, and I need to compensate for that. Sometimes the stuffing doesn’t sit right in a certain shape, and I need to re-draw the pattern to compensate for that as well.

Thanks, L.B., for the compliments. I hope your project comes out great. I look forward to seeing it!

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The latest roundup

The latest batch of slugs are on their way to their new homes today. They are probably driving off from the local Post Office right now, or at least riding in the back of the truck. I have some photos of them to share, but first I’d like to thank some of the people who have been featuring my work.

The Rabbit Dances” makes an appearance on Annette‘s Etsy treasury this week. Annette is in Scotland, and her treasury is meant to help raise funds for the Buckeye House Rabbit Society, in Ohio, which is holding a holiday raffle where you can make a donation and enter to win an original rabbit painting. The details on the Buckeye House Rabbit raffle are here. Entries for that raffle need to be postmarked by December 1st, but Annette told me she also has a raffle of her own going on to benefit a rabbit and guinea pig rescue group in the United Kingdom. You can make a small donation for the rescue group, and enter for a chance to win one of several rabbit-themed prizes she has, that were made by various artists. You can check out more information on Annette’s blog. It’s open to anyone, and the artists involved are donating the shipping costs of the prizes, worldwide.

The Frost Angel” was featured on another Etsy treasury by Christine.

Christine picked out some very pretty winter images for her treasury. It hasn’t snowed here (yet), and it is nice to look at frost without freezing!

And finally, my “Marmalade the Hug Me! Toad” was featured on the Found Handmade blog.

Thank you, Annette, Christine, and the folks at Found Handmade!

So, here they are…this Monday’s postal travelers, plus…one “Name this slug” slug. Yes, I managed to get one done! I was pretty happy I was caught up with my custom orders, but that only lasted for about twenty-four hours!

This batch included a custom, small-sized “Super Slug”. His name is Percy.

I think I’m going to make up an Etsy listing for more custom “Super Slugs”. I always thought the idea of a Super Slug was funny, but I’d only made one large one before.

I’m still experimenting with his cape, with how full I want it to be. It is sewn into his back so it won’t fall off while he’s flying through the air, or just slugging along.

This is the “Name this slug” slug, in gold and orange. If someone doesn’t grab her before I can list her, she (or he…not sure there) will be over in my Etsy shop soon.

I enjoy photographing the slugs in pairs. They seem to interact with each other, especially when they are looking in different directions.

Lots of people have wanted this royal blue color, and I’ll try to find some more. (Update December 1, 2009: I did find some more at the store. So I do currently have it!) I have another appealing royal blue, but it isn’t this dark. I have at least one dark royal blue small slug left.

I think Super Slug is checking out his friend Ludwig’s heart here. He must like purple.

Okay…off to Slugland. By the way, I’d like to do some “Name your own” “Hug Me! Toads” too, but I’m not sure if I should try to show some of the socks I have to choose from, or if I should just make them and have them as “Name this toad” toads. Or both. Just thinking.

I also have some neutral fleece colors, like gray, darker charcoal gray, various tans, and brown, in case anyone happens to want a more masculine slug. I have some plans for the neutral colors. I’m going to try my earlier “Huggy Kitty” and “Huggy Bunny” using them. That might take some more experimenting….and more time, if I have some.

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Guess what I’m doing

It has nothing to do with “Hug Me! Slugs“. Okay, it does so. They are currently everywhere, sharing the tabletops with cascading piles of multicolored fleece. So, here’s the plan…Once the batch for Monday’s mail run is ready, I’m going to try to make up some “Name this slug” slugs, for the last-minute holiday shoppers, who want to personalize a slug for someone, but didn’t order a custom slug early enough. That way, I can make up a personalized hang tag, which won’t mean more than a day or two wait before shipment. I can probably keep up with the custom slug requests for another week or so, and still get them out in time for Christmas. But, it will depend on how many people want them. We’ll see how is goes.

I’m going to try to get some other ready-made name-your-own creatures and dolls made also. I don’t know how far I’ll get before the holidays. I expect things to be a little hectic before then, but I can’t predict exactly what will happen. Again, thanks so much, everybody, for your interest in my creations. I really do appreciate it. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday, and that you will enjoy your weekend.

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Slugs and surges

Large, small, and medium “Hug Me! Slugs”, all in a row. One is from the first batch of slugs I ever made, and one is from this past week. They were initially inspired by a teasing suggestion that I add a slug to my list of “Huggy” animals, but they’ve turned out to be embraced by people of all ages, in a way I hadn’t expected. That’s really nice. Thanks everybody, for your enthusiasm. It’s a joy to hear that they are loved and that they making people happy. I appreciate hearing your stories. It’s a lot of fun.

This Monday, “Green Bean” left for a baby shower.

I was proud of myself for carefully matching that green plaid. I had to stop to admire how it dovetailed along the seam lines 🙂

Little “Rupert” is going to surprise someone’s dad for Christmas. Slugs are his favorite animal.

Oh, wait. How did he get in there? That’s my buzzard. According to Gund, he is supposed to be a toucan, but I’m pretty sure he’s a buzzard. He just stuck to me in the store, while I was out shopping with my mom. She threatened to buy a stuffed dog that sang Christmas carols if I didn’t put him back on the shelf. But I said no. I told her to go ahead and get the singing dog (she didn’t). I was getting my buzzard.

As I’ve mentioned, my sewing machine went to the shop with electrical problems. The owners of the sewing machine repair service told me that those issues are usually caused by power surges, but I had a surge protector on my machine all along. There were no unusual electrical “happenings” at the time, no surges or lights dimming, and I wasn’t running any other small appliances or electrical devices at the same time. So, most likely, it was caused by something else. Still, to be safe, we thought we’d get a new surge protector. My friend Miko sent me some information on how electronic sewing machines are also sensitive to both surges and to low-voltage occurrences, or “browns”. He suggested I get a surge protector with line conditioning, to protect my machine from surges and from browns.

To be safe, we also wanted to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with the service to my workroom. My dad made an interesting discovery, by checking the wattage on all the things I was using in my room. We had never noticed that I have a 1700 watt iron. Right away, my dad said, “That’s awfully high!” I had noticed, at other times, that the lamp on my desk dimmed when the iron reset itself, which would indicate there wasn’t enough power on the circuit for both the lamp and the iron to be on at the same time. My dad double checked, and the recommended limit on your standard 15 amp household circuit is 1440 watts! That’s means everything you have plugged in and turned on in one room usually! The mathematical limit is a little higher, 1800 watts, but still…the iron all by itself was exceeding the recommended amount of electricity being used on one circuit. Adding the lamp was too much. So sure, low voltage occurrences were probably happening all the time, when the iron needed more electricity than was available, making my lamp dim.

Luckily for me, my dad has been an electrician, something he learned from his dad…whew. He cut a hole under the circuit box, ran 50 feet of wire to my workroom, cut a hole in my wall for a new outlet, and put in a new 20 amp circuit and outlet for my workroom. The recommended limit on a 20 amp circuit is 1920 watts, with a mathematical limit of 2400 watts. Now I have both a 15 amp and a 20 amp circuit in my workroom. The iron and the lamp are plugged into the 20 amp outlet, and my sewing machine gets the 15 amp outlet, with a separate circuit, which protects the sewing machine from any fluctuations caused by anything else that’s on in the room.

Complicated? A little. But good to know if you have sensitive electronics, like sewing machines with fancy push buttons and other electronic features. Most people who sew also iron, but there wasn’t any warning about damaging anything on or inside the box. All the directions said were to avoid plugging the iron in with other high wattage appliances, but even the lamp was too much. That’s not a high wattage appliance, and neither are most sewing machines. So, I guess you can get a low wattage iron, or just avoid plugging it in on the same circuit as your electronic sewing machine.

Anyway, thanks, Dad for saving the day and safeguarding my sewing machine! And thank all of you for reading my blog and for your support. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!