Poodle Topiary with Birds

I worked on a handful of aspects of a photoshoot with Jocelyn M. For starters, pulling the wings off of birds. One final bird gazes at his de-plumed brethren:

They were painted brown and their beaks, wings, and tail feathers were replaced with scored cardboard.

Alas, I apparently didn’t get a shot of a finished bird, but here are the birds with beaks sitting amongst piles of prepared wings and tails:

There was also a felt butterfly and some clouds, but by the time we finished with the poodle, picture-taking’s priority was somewhere behind going home.

Jocelyn made the wire frame and figured out the doormat-sized swatches of leaf cover:

The wire legs started out thicker, but the denseness of the foliage necessitated squeezing them down to peg-thin.

The tail required a reinforcing heavier wire. And until we decided that more of the heavy wire had to be added to the legs and neck/head, the lazy dog spent the day leaning every chance it got, just like a real dog.

I seem to be developing a specialty in covering 3D objects with stuff. That and topiary-related business. This is kind of how I got into skirt-making, which I could now do in my sleep. I’m not sure I want to be able to do topiary-related things in my sleep. Despite Jocelyn and I going on about how awesome a giraffe would be, I’m not sure I would actually want to follow through on that. Especially when I’m supposed to be sleeping.

Jocelyn is pretty amazing at sculpting. Look at that posture! Look at that dog butt!

Finished at last:

Luckily, the dog and I have the same prescription.


Yet More Topiary Animal Process

I went to Joann’s for some brown burlap, only to discover that there IS an online coupon for a single item, as well as a current total-order coupon in my wallet (those usually expire and I finally throw them away a couple months out of date), AND apparently the one fabric Joann’s carries for cheaper than Hancock’s is burlap. On top of all that, the girl who wound up cutting my fabric and ringing me up and making sure I got the maximum coupon benefit was knowledgeable and exactly the kind of clerk you hope for in a fabric store.

So I’m driving out to the location starting to feel pretty good about having to start over on Owl, or at least as good as can be felt. I look over at the animals as I pull up, hoping to see a glimpse of a white bag . . . and there is Owl, fully dressed. I never pulled his wrapping off when I packed up the last time I was there. To be fair, I had 7 large trash bags, it was dark, and so was owl. So here’s me, the biggest, but happiest spaz in the world.

On the plus side of this whole extra trip, Angel and Pooh got second fittings, which they might not have done, given the tight deadline. I haven’t finished the angel’s head yet, but I tested what I’ve got and had a chance to see the burlap art I decorated her dress with. Here is a burlap interpretation of a Sacred Heart.

Up the side of her dress:

I need to move the heart at the top; while working on the pieces separately, it wasn’t readily apparent where the overlap was.

These appliques are winding up getting made out of the loosest weave burlap, so they crumble as I put them on, and I noticed on Tigger, they were already starting to shred their way off. Stitching them on more securely would take forever as well as warp the fabric. So now all the appliques will be covered with ground-in school glue:


Topiary Animals Continued

The next step in the topiary process had to be digging up more fabric. After calling around, I located one store that had enough different colors so I could make it in one stop. An old blog entry I found while searching stated that Cutting Corners had many colors of burlap, but this is no longer the case. One location of Hancock Fabrics was worth the long trip out to the edges of the burbs. I think it’s not a current item, but their low burlap turnover has allowed them to retain some selection through the discontinuations.

Hancock Fabrics always has terrible signage; you can be looking almost right at it and not spot it while driving. Instead, it’s generally a good idea to look for the Big Lots sign. On the off chance there’s not one of those next to the Hancock’s, you can locate it with a Hobby Lobby or a Tuesday Morning sign.

I had really wanted Chris Robin to have blue pants, but it was not to be. There is no blue burlap to be had in the Dallas Metroplex. I considered khaki while looking at the burlap shelf, but while the shade was different, I figured it would be too close to what I was using for his skin tone that he would probably wind up looking like a horrible, pantsless little boy. The strategically-placed water spigot that keeps the plant alive wouldn’t have helped the situation. So brown pants it is.

This location of Hancock’s still carried these awesome scissors, though I had thought they didn’t anymore, so I stocked up. These are great lightweight fabric scissors that when I worked at a Hancock’s, we’d use to help our good scissors survive the fleece-cutting season–and they’d still be going strong at the end of it. Plus, they’re so cheap (at most places, between $1.50 to $2, and sometimes as low as $.75 on sale) that I use them like disposable scissors and don’t worry about people (i.e. me) using them to cut wire or some such thing as that.

Contrast that with those awful $9.99 sets-of-3 they’ve been pushing like they’re new for the past 2 (or 3?) years. To be fair, I haven’t used them, so I don’t know if the scissors themselves are awful, but Hancock’s tendency to force their employees to push stupid promo crap just keeps screwing over any good workers who are trying to develop real relationships with their customers–and while I rarely make it out to a Hancock’s anymore, it’s like getting in a time machine to see the piles of scissor sets clogging the cutting tables.


Because of the success of my method for pinning Rabbit on location and my desire not to have to undo and then redo as with Tigger, I prepped all the remaining 7 animals before heading out for the next fitting.

Eyore has a gimp leg (back left), and one extra-strong one (front left). I guess he does all his kicking with his right foot; I’ll just leave the story at that. Maybe he needs his tires rotated.

I draped the animals and pinned the heck out of them:

I’ll cheat and skip ahead to fitting #2. Rest assured there was much sewing and gnashing of pins between the previous picture and this one:

I marked him for some more velcro, where his eyes will go, and where to start his mane. The little pin-stars on his feet in the first photo became this:

I apparently left without a full shot of Rabbit, so here is a picture of his feet to tide you over:

I had originally pictured the overall-strap style of attaching chest to back only for Rabbit, but it’s winding up being the thing for pretty much every animal except Eyore and Tigger (pictured in the background). Also pictured, the everlastingly patient D., the real-life version of the Ryan Gosling Hey Girl Seamstress meme, and who probably does have a full body pic of Rabbit on his phone.

I put together a Roo ear from scraps, figuring that sewing in advance was just going to be a waste of time, like his mom’s hands were.

Second fitting:

She totally needs to shave her pits; there’s stuff growing in there, woman!


Piglet 1st fitting. Several people stopped to take pictures with him.

Second fitting:

I started Pooh, but it got too dark to continue. Got to mark his legs and diaper, though, which got filled with mud. Oh, Pooh!

I did get to see this, though:

The cool thing about fitting plant-folks instead of people, who would be mad about this sort of treatment:

On the other hand, I usually wouldn’t need to stand on a ladder to reach peoples’ heads; even a basketball player would stoop so I could get to his head if I were draping him for a balaclava or something for some reason.

Fitting 1.5:

I did his ears in the same manner as Roo’s. Also went home with a lot more mud in his diaper again; he poured water off his hands and down his legs the whole time I was fitting him.

Christopher Robin so far:

This is what his shirt looks like–nothing like normal-people shirts:

(Also, every time I look at that “cute and nerdy” bag, I start doing a double-parody on Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” song, which is my alarm clock, so it gets stuck in my head easily.)

Here is the angel (unrelated to the whole Winnie the Pooh story, but still a plant that doesn’t need to freeze to death in the winter):

Her arms proved to be waaaay easier than I first thought.

Now for the tragedy (yes, I am aware of what “tragedy” means in the classical sense, and I don’t really believe that Owl’s story rivals that of Oedipus or Antigone . . . well, maybe . . . )

Pretty much all of Owl is awkward and the formulas necessary to determine the pattern pieces by math would probably come from levels of calculus beyond what I managed to take in school, so there was a lot of pinning. And a lot of fabric. Look at that beautiful owl.

I discovered last night that the bag of Owl parts is missing. I can think of two parking lots that he might have been left in, and I asked around, checked dumpsters. I worked on the rest of the gang today in hopes that someone would go, “Oh look, a trashbag full of cut up burlap with pins in it–this must be important! Let me find the owner!” but it was apparently not to be. So back to the fabric store for yet more (locally-priced and no current coupons, alas!) burlap–fortunately brown is a readily available color–then back out to Fort Worth for a FIRST FITTING, gaaaahhahahahaahh.


Math and Cutting for the Topiaries

I sat down this morning to finish planning all the pattern pieces for the remaining 7 topiaries, then rolled out my paper and started drafting.

Between wrestling cats for the use of the rulers, maneuvering around the harp, and crouching on the floor for several hours straight, I decided to go ahead and sling one of my new 4’x8′ sheets of MDF onto a table base and spread out on a table in my cat-free studio.

There are a lot of things that need moving around and reorganizing, and I was postponing putting up the table until I got that done–that, and because it’s freaking heavy–but having a workspace this big is fabulous.

Several hours later and I’m down in the atrium again:

Okay, so the best-laid plans of mice and men. A lot of pieces had to be modified to fit the yardage available; Pooh’s shirt got longer, and he’s now wearing 3/4-length sleeves, instead of the cap-sleeved midi he usually wears. It’s his winter shirt.

I ran out of belly and inner-ears for Eyore, but they’ll be pink, and I think I can locate that locally. Christopher Robin has skin and hair, but no clothes. I had intended to make his shirt red without looking up a picture; it’s not, and I ran out of red anyway. I could have sworn I’d ordered some blue for his pants, but discovered upon looking at the pile of unrolled burlap that there is no pant-blue. So about 3 yards short. Not bad for guessing yardage to cover topiary animals before even determining the pattern pieces.

Luckily, burlap doesn’t have a nap and it’s wiggly enough that if you don’t cut it straight, no one will be able to tell–all the pieces just barely fit. I wound up with a tiny pile of scraps (many of them so small they’re only in the scrap pile just because there’s nothing else to use to solve emergencies) and an even tinier pile of trash:

The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers is This is the Only One

For this entire project, the Tigger Circular Reasoning Song kept getting stuck in my head on continuous repeat.

The remaining scraps of orange fabric with which to update Tigger:

Cats freaking love burlap.

Secret Cat had a hard time containing himself, spending the entire evening alternately sitting a few feet off and staring longingly when I was too close or sneaking up to sit on it when I turned my back or when there was a protective cat barrier between us.

Tigger’s torso, tail to neck:

The black square on the left is going to be tucked into his tail and not very visible, but will help make sure nothing is exposed to frost. The Goddess of Adequate Yardage helps those who help themselves.


(Again with the black patch to cover the difference between his neck and his arms.)

The entire remaining orange fabric:

Lots of stripes!:

I switched my sewing machine to the Princess, though I haven’t had time to pull her apart and clean/oil her. She wasn’t doing the problem things she was doing the last time I used her, so maybe she’s had time to think about what she’s done.

I’d had to switch because I needed a certain zipper foot that I only have in her size (low shank; the big, slow-witted brute I’ve been using takes high shank) for another project, and decided to just switch back over.



Clothes for Plants

The Project:

Fitted, semi-decorative burlap covers for 9 topiary animals for Cook’s Children’s Hospital


The geometry involved in coming up with the shapes involved in this project is crazy. While there are some near-circles and so forth, every single thing here is an irregular shape. I’ve got formulas for circle areas and circumferences, for right triangle sides, and for rectangles, but what is the formula for Pooh’s ear?



How many pins does it take to cross the breadth of an angel? Even the angel looks a little embarrassed about being so complicated.


The most time-consuming part of this project is figuring out the shapes and closures then drawing up pattern pieces.

This was my first optimistic planning option. Pooh is not going to look like either of these. Well, maybe Pooh will–I haven’t gotten that far–but on Tigger, the head involves 5 separate pieces and the velcro is not nice and neat up the center back. The more I planned and started drawing, the more I would realize more and more pieces that cannot be sewn together; these animals will not move their arms or wiggle their ears to squeeze into their clothes.

If cats knew math, they would be more helpful when drawing up pattern pieces.

I found a great local source for every shade of burlap you could want, 60″ wide; they could have renamed “apricot” as “Pooh colored” . . . on second thought . . .

But it turned out burlap was one of the things they can only sell as 50-yard bolts, which would have amounted to about a thousand spare yards of burlap by the time I was done using everything I could possibly need AND made myself matching burlap suits to wear while assembling each finished animal.

I found two sites online that, between them, carried a good enough selection, about half of which was 60″ and half was 48″. I managed to meet both of their free-shipping-minimums, though I had to order a few yards of lining fabrics and some samples to do it on one of them.

The client had requested me to start on Tigger first. I decided to make rabbit at the same time to help me determine how much yellow would be left over from Rabbit to share with Tigger. Once I finished Rabbit’s pattern pieces and went to cut out the yellow and orange fabrics, I noticed this:

I also noticed this:

Thanks to the Atrium, I could spread out both fabrics and switch Tigger snout pieces back and forth while I debated:

Then I returned to the location to test.

Okay, so it’s my first topiary animal. Tigger’s left leg has a large wire at his foot that is not very plant-covered, but is not forgiving at all, size-wise. His head is a really weird un-circle, and I overestimated the length it would take to cover his snout liberally. A lot of people passing by really liked him, though, and several asked if I was “making it Tigger,” and their wording implied that they weren’t previously aware that it WAS Tigger.

He has slightly defined hands, and I thought I’d be so cute and put in a drawstring to give him little mitten hands.

Burlap, however, does not slide against itself easily. What it does do easily is come unraveled. Drawstring hands are going to shorten the lives of these covers by about 99%.


On to Rabbit:

I had made his stuff a lot broader, with every intention of doing most of the planning with pins on location, so that actually worked out pretty well.

Notice the XOXOXOXO fence in the background. I didn’t either, until D. pointed it out. It was interesting how many people didn’t even realize any of the characters were from Winnie the Pooh. One girl even said, “Oh, are you going to do Pooh? He’s my favorite.” “Yes, that’s him next to Tigger.” “Ohhhh!”

A lot of the the kiddie-inspired accents around the grounds were subtle, some more than I even thought they were. It was nice that someone put a lot of thought into adding background whimsy all over the place to appeal to the subconsciousnesses of people who have a lot of other things on their minds.


Two non-math-related things I learned from this fitting:

1. I have GOT to locate the rest of my pins that I keep misplacing.

2. I need to bring a stepladder next time.