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Breather day

Pink and green Hug Me Slugs stuffed animal art toys by Elizabeth RuffingFirst of all, thank you, everyone who has been adopting Hug Me Slugs. I have been receiving such nice feedback and emails and photos. It is all much appreciated. You guys make my day every time I hear from you.

Hug Me Slug thank you cards by Elizabeth RuffingI had to hurry to print up some extra thank you cards for my orders.

The Post Office recommended Monday as the last shipping day for Priority Mail to arrive by Christmas, within the US. If anyone wants to place an order over the weekend, I will be happy to send it out on Monday. I’m not 100% sure they will make their deadline, but they seem to be doing well.

Packages ready to be mailed out by Elizabeth RuffingI had some weird health issues the past couple of weeks, but I’ve been holding steady, getting all my packages out on time. I was already getting rundown. I thought I needed to catch up on some sleep and eat better. I tried that. Then I got a fever and my lymph nodes under my arms grew to the size of grapes. They hurt. The fever is gone now and my lymph nodes are down to the size of peas. I still think I need some rest. I’ll have to get myself into the doctor near the beginning of the new year.

We scrambled to arrange some health insurance for me, by the deadline on the 15th. It took some doing, but I think I can swing it for about $200 a month. That is still better than the $780 a month quote I found a few years back. I do wish they would just extend the graduated subsidy to everyone who needs it, and not make arbitrary cutoff points, to leave anything up to the individual states. It makes no sense for some taxpayers to pay more if they make less, or to suddenly get no discount at all, after paying all year for insurance they might not otherwise afford, if they fail to meet a certain income dollar amount at the year’s end.  That is hard on self-employed people whose income fluctuates. But I will try to make more, not less, once I recuperate.

Oliver Bunny watching me by Elizabeth RuffingOliver has been keeping a careful eye on me, demonstrating how to rest properly.

Oliver Bunny watching me by Elizabeth RuffingHe’s very good at it.

Oliver Bunny watching me by Elizabeth RuffingHe likes to camp out under my work table, when he is done running. I thought he needed more exercise and so I made him a quickie obstacle course, out of a box lid, some cardboard boxes with holes in either end, and a cardboard tube.

It quickly turned into a kitty and bunny obstacle course.

Oliver Bunny and kitties playing with my obstacle course by Elizabeth RuffingSome of the obstacles were harder to pass through than others.

Bertie inside the box by Elizabeth RuffingEveryone had fun for a while, and then they all went back to resting.

Birthday cherry cheesecakeI had my birthday this week. Mom made me a cherry cheesecake, which we are still eating. It is very good.

Wild flower Converse sneakersI received beautiful birthday sneakers. Now I can run through Cosmos flowers and walk in the clouds. When my mom asked me what I would like for my birthday, my first response was that I would like a new toilet. No one was able to do the lifting on that, but these are much prettier.

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Thank you J.B. too, for the birthday video. I will be sure to watch it once I am done running around. I haven’t started the running yet, but I am working on it.

Clouds Converse sneakersAs a special birthday treat, I got to go the the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver’s license. I meant to go in earlier, but wasn’t feeling well enough. I insisted on reading the whole driver’s handbook before we went, even though my mom told me I only needed to know the road signs and pass an eye test. Poor Mom. She endured much carrying on on my part. We were out a couple of hours, while she was a captive to my ranting. I had myself forgetting everything, having a surprise driving test, where I had to parallel park fifty-two times in a row, which would all somehow lead to my imminent death. In actuality, the last time I parallel parked, I did it perfectly. I don’t know why I get that way. It is my nature.

I was called up just before closing time, and rattled off the answers so quickly, I got ahead of my questioner. I realized at one point I was several answers ahead, and she had stopped asking me questions. So, I said the numbers and the answers. When I stepped away, my mom was laughing at me. I didn’t know anyone could hear me. She said the guy behind her said, “Wow.” I passed my eye test too.

Fabric on Demand eyeball test swatch by Elizabeth RuffingThere was a small holdup in getting my custom-printed eyeball fabric from Fabric on Demand, but guess what? The pupils are black! Hooray. These should work for me. I haven’t had a chance to test them out yet, but I will. I think I need to make the whites of the eyes bigger. This could lead to some custom-printed novelty toys, and should help me make more of my characters. I’ll see how it goes…when I’m done resting, which I am obviously not doing. I was up until 3:30am last night, which didn’t help. I was happy I had a “no-obligation Saturday” ahead, but I was still wound up.

Another kitty showed up here, a big tabby-and-white cat. I think he is abandoned. Santana’s mom made up a flyer but no one claimed him. She’s going to make an appointment to have him vetted. My kitty friends next door have been inside for the most part. Three of them came to visit once, for pets, and Scooter popped over a couple of extra times to say hi. Fish is missing though. I am worried about him and hope he is okay.

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A teal slug and my Spoonflower eyeball experiment results

Teal fleece Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toy with a polka-dotted heart by Elizabeth RuffingI have a new teal fleece Hug Me Slug joining my other stuffed animal plushies over in my toy shop. I forgot to mention before that I now have the domains hugmeslug.com and hugaslug.com pointing to my toys shop, so it will be easier to find me.

Jojo, tuxedo cat, lying in a pile of cat toys on the bed, Elizabeth RuffingWe’ve been hanging around home, avoiding the shoppers. Jojo did her own shopping and got all the cat toys, while Henrietta was occupied.

I hurried in to the vet to get Oliver Bunny his checkup and nail trim, before the traffic at the shopping centers started. He met a girl bunny named Daphne in the adoption room there.

Daphne, little white bunny, Elizabeth RuffingDaphne

She liked him and nibbled on her cage to try to touch noses with him. He was hesitant. The vet asked if they made googly eyes at each other, and I told him she did, but he was nervous. He said, “Poor Daphne. She came on too strong.” Oliver finally settled back in by TV time. I told him I was sorry. He had the same reaction to the other two girl bunnies there, who were there the last time too. He doesn’t mind if big fat Santana jumps in my lap with him, or if Henrietta props her leg on his back while she gives herself a bath, but he isn’t sure about bunnies.

Santana is healing up and in a great mood. He appears to be enjoying the cats being closed up next door. Their new cat sitter showed up, which was a relief. I was afraid the same kid who didn’t take care of them before might be not taking care of them again. This one seems to be doing a good job of showing up daily.

Spoonflower Minky color mapSo…I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I ordered a color map of Minky fabric from Spoonflower and then a fat quarter with my toy eyeballs printed on their Minky as well.

Spoonflower Minky eyeballs printed on a fat quarterI’ll repeat those two photos here, above, to be more organized. As I said before, the fabric itself was nice and soft, and the colors were pretty. But I was a little worried about white showing through since the black didn’t cover the fibers all the way down to the base. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for my eyeballs, as you can see below. The white showed through as I sewed, and the black edges of my circles got mixed with white. Everything was wobbling and mixing. (I used Photoshop to paste my eyeballs photos onto a clearer backgrounds, and so the edges shown are actually cleaner and neater than they were in reality.)

Spoonflower Minky eyeball sewn with no stabilizerAt first, I tried sewing the eyeball with no Wonder-Under paper-backed fusible stabilizer on the Minky, which made a bigger mess, since the outside edges were moving. I thought maybe if I were to stabilize the fabric, I might have better results.

Spoonflower Minky white circle sewn with Wonder-UnderIt looked a lot better, sewing with the Wonder-Under, as you can see above, or at least it did with just the white.

Spoonflower Minky eyeball with Wonder-Under fused to backgroundI fused a printed eyeball onto fabric with Wonder-Under, and you can see above that the black fibers were not making an even line and the white ones weren’t either. That is just the nature of the pile being too long for my project.

Oddly, the eyeballs that were printed along the edge of the fat quarter were ovals instead of circles. The Minky is a knit and it must have stretched along the edges while going through the printer.

Spoonflower Minky eyeball with Wonder-Under fused to background and sewnWhen I tried sewing the fused eyeballs down, I had the same problems, with the white and black getting mixed up and everything losing its shape. The eyeball above was a slightly smaller eyeball, which came out even worse. I tried to accent the white dot in the pupil with embroidery floss, but that didn’t work.

The Minky fabric might work well for a blanket, but I think anything stuffed tightly, or with smaller seams, or with top stitching would probably have white showing through the colors.

Spoonflower Faux Suede white circle with Wonder-Under fused to background and sewnI thought I might have better luck using a lower-pile fabric and I chose Spoonflower’s Faux Suede to try. I used the stabilizer again, and it came out pretty neat. I thought I might get lucky this time.

Spoonflower Minky eyeballs compared to blackUnfortunately again, there was a problem. Above are my eyeballs printed on Minky, with a skein of black DMC floss for comparison. You can see they are close to black.

Spoonflower Faux Suede eyeballs compared to blackAbove are my same eyeballs printed on Faux Suede, and you can see they are not black, but charcoal gray. My black in my file was hex color #000000, black as black can be.

The colors on my colored eyeballs, below, came out well, but the blacks were still gray. By the way, if you are making a file to print, be sure to use the type of file in the resolution you need at the beginning, so color information doesn’t get thrown out when you make the file smaller. Spoonflower uses 150 dpi. I used 150 dpi (ppi) and a .png file. I tried a .jpeg and kept having issues with my hex color #’s changing after I uploaded my files. I did double check my colors by downloading my files from the site, after uploading them to the site, to make sure my colors were the same. They were.

Spoonflower Faux Suede colored eyeballs compared to blackI thought there might be a mistake and wrote to Spoonflower, but there was no mistake. They just can’t print black on some fabrics, and have trouble printing black in general. They said their fabrics that get blacker blacks are Basic Cotton Ultra, Satin, Performance Knit and Performance Pique, but none of those are fuzzy like my toy eyes, plus the edges would fray on them if I were to try to sew them on by hand with a blanket stitch, as I do.

They were nice and sent me a refund on everything after I returned the fabrics to them. I only had to cover the postage to send the fabrics back. They also sent everything out right away, which was great. It was just disappointing about the blacks. I am going to try Fabric On Demand, another custom fabric printer, who carries fleece, to see how they do. They responded right away, but so far they have taken longer to send a sample. We’ll see how it looks. I hope I can find something that works for me.

Update: Both Fabric on Demand and Spoonflower have fleece now, and the black comes out nicely on both. I coated my eyeballs with some Liquitex Fabric Medium to make sure the edges didn’t fray when I cut them out. 

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Batik slugs, fleece slugs, and one running slug

Green, turquoise batik Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toy by Elizabeth RuffingI had a request recently for another batik Hug Me Slug. A customer adopted three of them, three years ago, for his three nephews. Since then, he has gained a forth nephew, who keeps trying to steal “Sluggy” from his brother, who loves him too much to share. So, we needed another slug to come to the rescue.

I made a test slug first, the one above, who is over in my toy shop at the moment, although someone just wrote to say he’d make a perfect birthday present for his daughter. I wanted to make sure I had the same pattern, since I have adjusted my patterns since then.

Green, turquoise batik Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toy by Elizabeth RuffingI sent him some photos of batiks to choose from and then made the one above, with a pretty apple green fleece heart. He is on his way, and I hope he restores peace on earth.

Orange, yellow, purple fleece Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toys by Elizabeth RuffingI also posted the fleece Hug Me Slugs I had ready, in all different colors, orange, yellow, purple, watermelon, red,

Red and watermelon fleece Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toys by Elizabeth Ruffingand in all different sizes, 7, 8, 9, and 12 inches tall.

Purple fleece Hug Me Slug stuffed animal art toy with a headband by Elizabeth RuffingI had another special request for a Hug Me Slug with a headband. A man wanted him for his girlfriend, who was organizing a marathon. He had to be an athletic slug. I wasn’t sure how that would work, since slugs don’t have foreheads. I managed to attach it over his eyes. He called him a “little runner slug” and I added that to the hang tag.

Oliver bunny hops into my workroom Elizabeth RuffingI am plugging away in Slug Land. Oliver Bunny loves to come running in when my workroom door is open. He sits in the hallway like a couch potato, but once the door is open, he is in there, well, quick as a bunny. I caught him on video, getting excited about running inside, dashing in and out.

There is a small bowl of pebbles, meant for potted plants, under my work table, that he enjoys playing with. But then, he enjoys playing with whatever he can get into in there. I have to watch him.

Oliver bunny peeking out from under my work table Elizabeth RuffingThe menagerie have been keeping me busy. These are members of my kitty fan club, below, who, when they are free, wait for me on the borderline between our house and theirs. Sometimes they get impatient and come over.

My kitty fan club waiting by the woods Elizabeth RuffingSantana has been being so good about going to the back step and sitting there, when I ask him to, which I do, when the cats come closer. He has had too many squabbles and injuries. Last weekend, I thought we were doing great. The cats all came over, while I was walking Jude, and everyone seemed to be getting along. Trouble and Santana even went exploring together in the back yard. No problems. I was happy and thought they were finally making friends.

The kitty crowd even watched me set up our laser Christmas light, which must have been even more exciting for cats than a laser pointer. They were sitting in the driveway, staring up at the tree I had “decorated”, admiring it.

Santana the cat, sitting on the step, Elizabeth RuffingThen, the next morning, I heard cat noises. I jumped out of bed, ran out in my pajamas, and Trouble and Santana were in the driveway. Santana was badly hurt, three deep, cringeworthy punctures under the base of his tail (I will spare you the photo I took to get a better look). Ouch ouch ouch. I felt terrible. I found fur next to the back step, where I taught him to go when the cats came over. That made me extra sad, since he must have been trying to be good. Trouble had a little blood on his leg, but he appeared to be okay. I checked him over as best I could and didn’t see anything. He may have been coming to look in the back door, or maybe he thought it was fun to sneak up on Santana, who didn’t think it was fun, again. I don’t know.

Santana was bleeding a lot, and seemed to be in a bit shock. I called his mom and we flushed out the wounds. He went to the vet for a Convenia antibiotic shot. He was shaken for the first day, and tired, but the next day he was in a good mood. He is doing well now, and has even come up with a new game to play with me. He hides between the railing and the bushes by the back step, and waits for me. He jumps out when I come up the steps, and meows, like he is saying, “Surprise!” I wonder if he learned that from Trouble, who likes to sneak up and jump. They seem to do okay during the times I am around, but when I am not, in the early morning before I get up, and in the evening when I am inside and busy, are when the problems happen.

The cats are closed up for now, and no one seems to be home next door. Santana is probably happy about that too. I hope a cat sitter is coming this time. I haven’t seen one, but I can leave some food if I have to. I kind of feel like I am taking care of animals in every direction sometimes. I start when I get up and I am still doing it until late at night, while trying to fit work and errands in between. I did get another tree planted though. Go me.

I will post about my Spoonflower fabric samples in a separate post, since this one has already grown so long.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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My Halloween cat pumpkin and Spoonflower eyeball experiment

Halloween cat pumpkin by Elizabeth RuffingBoo! I don’t think I had carved a pumpkin for Halloween since high school, maybe college. Santana’s mom gave me one, and the day before Halloween, I decided to give it a go.

Halloween cat pumpkin by Elizabeth RuffingI sketched a quick template on paper, folded it in half, and cut it out, so I could trace the lines onto the pumpkin with a pencil. Then I used whatever I could find to carve it, a steak knife, an X-Acto knife, and a little stabby knife of undetermined categorization.

Halloween cat pumpkin by Elizabeth RuffingFirst, I “drew” the lines with the X-Acto knife. Then I chipped the surface away where I wanted yellow, with the X-Acto knife. Then I used the steak knife and the stabby knife to cut all the way through where I wanted the holes. I cut the top and scooped out the inside when I was done cutting. I made a bit of a mess, but filled in the lines and pupils with some acrylic craft paint.

I set an emergency candle in a cat food can, first dripping a little wax into the can to get the candle to stand up. Santana kept the cat pumpkin, which was made in his honor, company while we had trick-or-treaters.

Santana the cat at the door for Halloween by Elizabeth RuffingWe had the best Halloween in years here, only about fifteen kids, which is more than usual, but they had great costumes. One family came with the mom and baby as astronauts, and the dad as the universe. He was all in black, with white lights across himself, so as he held the baby, the baby appeared to be floating through the sky.

One adorably baby lion tried to crawl up the steps. I met him halfway with the bowl of candy.

My favorite was a little superhero, maybe three years old. He had seen the Corgis at the previous stop, and wanted to know if we had any animals he could see. I told him I had a bunny rabbit. He looked incredulous, and said in a surprisingly low, gruff voice, “I wanna see the bunny rabbit.” I showed him Oliver, through the safety of the door, and they were both very curious about each other. The superhero made all kinds of grimaces. I’m not sure he believed Oliver was real, until Oliver reached out his head for a better look. That got a hilarious grimace and a big bizarre pirate laugh. I was still laughing the next day.

Piles of fleece all pre-washed and folded and by Elizabeth RuffingI took apart all those pajamas I got on clearance, and fleece throws this week. They are now pre-washed and folded, waiting for me with about a gazillion other lengths of fleece. I was going to try creating a design and ordering some Spoonflower fabric for toys, but thought, since I have so much fleece, I would try having them print eyeballs instead. I made up a repeat pattern in Photoshop Elements, and uploaded it to their site. It was straightforward, once I got the dpi of my image to 150 at the size I wanted.

Spoonflower eyeballs by Elizabeth Ruffing printed on Minky, fat quarterI got my fat quarter in the mail this morning, printed on their Minky fabric. It looks pretty good. There is a small amount of stretching of my circles, near the edge. I don’t know if the black is as black as I might like, but the dye seems to have saturated the surface pretty well. That was my biggest concern, that white would show through the black. I am pre-washing the fat quarter right now, putting it through my usual steps. I will see how it comes out, once sewn on some slugs.

I think the printed eyeballs may be more consistent in shape and pupil placement than the ones I make by sewing the black onto the white. I don’t want them to lose their charm, but they will probably continue to be wonky enough for my satisfaction. 🙂 I may need to interface the backs so they don’t wiggle too much as I sew them on by hand.

Hug Me Slugs fleece plush animal stuffed toys in progress by Elizabeth RuffingThis is the current group of Hug Me Slugs I am working on. Thank you all for continuing to leave me such nice reviews. Aside from helping me out, those cheer me up. Getting appreciation back is great and helps me keep going, making things. It can be hard, working in a bubble of sorts, from home, so those mean a lot to me. I have been feeling better than I have in a while. Got to go get back to my sewing!