Chapter 5 of The Tangle is Live!

the-tangleNo, your calender’s not wrong. Yes, this post is late. I have only myself (and my work schedule) to blame. I ended up working two hours extra yesterday, and completely forgot that “Tiles”, Chapter 5 of The Tangle, was supposed to be coming out that very day! But, anyway, Chapter 5 is live on Channillo.com, so, if you like, you can check it out here.

Sorry for any inconvenience!

That’s all for now. Hopefully, I’ll see you on Wednesday for another Wednesdays with words. If I remember. 😛

How to Make an Aperture Laboratories Personality Core Plush (Part 3)

Introduction:

We’re almost there! Today, we’ll be finishing up our personality core: attaching the handles, finishing and stuffing the sphere, and stitching on the final decorations. If you missed part two, you can find it here.

Let’s begin:

Grab the handles you sewed and stuffed earlier, the part of the sphere we created last time, and a length of black thread. We’re going to attach the black cylinder to the edge of the side sphere panel, as shown below.

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But first, we’re going to need to cut out a hole where you want to attach the handle. The circle should be no wider than about 3/4s of an inch across. It’s fairly hard to predict just how big our circle will be when using the method laid out below, so cut it small at first and only make it bigger if you need to.

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Find the place which will be the center of your circle, and fold the material over so that your center point is at the corner of the folded felt, as shown above.

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Cut the corner in a curve. The result will be something like this:

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By folding the sphere in half, we can find the exact place where we need to cut out a symmetrical circle on the other side of the optic. We’ll also need to cut two of these circles below the optic for the lower handle.

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Remember, the holes need to be on the same level so that the handle won’t be crooked.

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I cut the holes a little too big. Learn from my mistakes, and cut your holes small at first. Only make them bigger if you really need to! You can stitch the black cylinders into holes that are a bit too big, but it will stretch and pucker the fabric around them, resulting in an ugly finish.

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Sew in the black cylinders, using a length of black thread and a blanket stitch. At the end, when you’ve stitch both, you should have something like this:

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Now, stitch in the lower handle in the same way.

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Here’s how it looks inside:

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You can see some of the puckering around the black cylinders. Oops…

Now, it’s time to finish the sphere itself, and stuff it. Grab the last two sphere panels and a length of white thread.

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You know how to do this by now. Starting at the top, blanket stitch the panels together down the curved side, until you get to the bottom.

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Grab the other panel and stitch it to the raw edge of the other side of the sphere. And… you’re finished with the basic sphere! (Finally, after like three posts worth of this…) It should look something like this:

Sphere Finished

Now, it’s time to turn the sphere inside out and stitch up the back.

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Starting at the bottom, grab another length of white thread and, once more using a blanket stitch, sew up the seam about a fourth of the way. Then, tie off the thread. We need to leave a gap of several inches so that we can pull the handles through and turn the core right side out.

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Snip the thread and tie another knot at the end. Starting at the top, stitch up the seam, leaving about a three inch gap un-sewed.

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Reach through the gap, grab one of the handles, and pull it through. You’ll have to bend it, but that’s fine. If it’s stuffed firmly, as it should be, you’ll be able to just press it back into shape later on. Anyway, pull one handle through, then the other, and turn the whole thing right side out. Now, it’s time to stuff your core!

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Don’t skimp on this step. You want your core to be fairly firm, so he holds his shape when you give him a great big hug! (And he is supposed to be a robot made of metal, after all…) Also, make sure you stuff the black cylinders so that the handles aren’t floppy.

Stuffed Core

Alright! Now it’s time to stitch up that gaping hole at the back. Get a length of white thread, knot the end, and get ready to make a hidden stitch. This special stitch of my own devising is designed to mimic the back-and-forth loops of a right-side-out blanket stitch, but sewed from the outside.

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Pass the needle through one of the raw edges of the felt. Pull it through, and loop back over, making another stitch through the edge of the other panel. You want to fold the raw edge over slightly. Below, I’ve illustrated the steps of this stitch with a few photos.

Hidden Stitch

This stitch fairly difficult to master, and even more difficult to explain properly. The end result should be that the raw edges of the panels are tucked underneath the seam, invisible to any prying eyes. 😛 If you can’t get the hang of this stitch, that’s fine. Just use a simple whip stitch. Even if the result is a bit ugly, it’s fine. We’ll be covering it up with the core’s back port in just a few minutes. When you reach the end of the gap, tie off the thread.

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We are almost done, and we’re completely through with any stuffing or blanket stitching. Now, it’s time to stitch together the back port, and attach it to the sphere.

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Grab the other 4 inch black circle, the gray circle with a cross cut out, and the 1 inch gray circle. Stitch them together as shown below:

Back Port

We’re going to attach this port to the back of the sphere, right over the seam we just stitched up.

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Place the port in the center of the back of the sphere. Grab a needle and a length of black thread, and, beginning at the bottom of the circle, on the seam line, make a stitch. Sew it on  all the way around, as shown below:

Back Stitch

Here’s what it should look like when it’s stitched on:

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The top and bottom of our core are looking a bit empty… Grab the two 4 inch gray rectangles, and the 2 ½ inch black rectangles. Stitch them together as shown below:

Top and Bottom peices

These will be stitched onto the top and bottom of the sphere. Use the same method we used earlier for the back port to attach them, this time with a length of gray thread.

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Stitch one on top and one on bottom.

Now, grab some black thread and the four long black accent strips and get ready to attach them. When sewn on, they will look like this:

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You’ll need two for the top and two for the bottom of the sphere. They pass above the black handle pieces, and are stitched to the edges of the 4 inch black circles at the front and back of the core. Attach them to the black circles as shown below.

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We’ll just be using a simple whip stitch. One stitch through, then back over and through again, till you get to the end of the short edge of the strip.

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Attach the other end of the strip to the black circle at the back of the sphere. It should be flush with the sphere, and look like this:

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Stitch another strip in the same way on the other side of the optic, then turn the core over and do the same at the bottom with the other two strips. Depending on how spherical your core turned out, you may have to trim the strips so that they fit.

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There you go! We’re almost done. Just one more little thing to finish off…

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Grab the last two pieces, the 3 inch by 2 inch black rectangles, and a length of black thread. We’ll stitch these over the center of the white handle bars, to add some definition.

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Wrap one of the rectangles around the white tube, right at the center. The 3 inch sides should be the ones that you’re stitching together. Make sure that the rectangle is centered before you begin. Stitch up the side with a whip stitch, as shown below:

Handle Accent

You should pass the needle through the white fabric of the handle bar for a couple of stitches, so that you fix the black accent in place.

In the end, it should look like this:

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And… there you have it! You’ve completed your very own Aperture Laboratories Personality Core plush! Give him a big hug, just to let him know that you love him to bits, and go show him off to all your geeky friends. 😛

Here are a few more pictures of my Space Core:

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Look how happy he is! Don’t you just wanna give him a great big hug??? ❤

How to properly care for your Personality Core:

The stuffing I use is supposedly machine washable, and, if you double thread all your needles, the plush *should* be strong enough to withstand a gentle machine washing. However, felt does get annoying little pills of fiber on its surface when machine washed, so I usually don’t wash any of my felt creations this way. If you really need to clean a spot or two off your personality core, use a damp washcloth to scrub it away.

(Note: The Enrichment Center makes no guarantees regarding the ability of an Aperture Laboratories Personality Core to survive machine washing, floods, lightning strikes, incineration, the Apocalypse, or any other unspecified catastrophic events. In the event that any of the above happen, you are on your own. However, we are pleased to let you know that all Aperture Science Personality Constructs will remain completely functional in low power, apocalyptic situations of as little as 1.1 volts. Good luck, test subject!)

Always show your personality core how much you care about him! A few hugs, cuddles, or words of endearment to this little robotic companion of yours will go a long way to keeping him happy, and stable. Do not, under any circumstances, attach your core to the Aperture mainframe or use him to replace a damaged central system core, as this will probably cause him to go completely power mad and try to kill you and/or throw you into dangerous testing situations once he assumes complete control of the facility. This has happened before. Once. Don’t do it. You will die.

Anyway, yay! We made it! Here is celebratory digital cake: 🎂🎂🎂


Thanks so much for bearing with me for this long haul. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. If you make a personality core using this tutorial, please take a picture and tag me on Instagram (or Twitter). I’d love to see what you make! You can find me @ariaemaher on both platforms.

On the other hand, if you’re not a huge fan of Portal, and would like to see me make something from another game or fandom, please let me know! Send me your plush ideas, and I’ll definitely see what I can do… Also, let me know if there are any improvements I could make on this tutorial, or anything which could be better explained. I know explaining how to sew something is hard, so hopefully all the pictures will help you.

Anyway, bye for now!

🙂


Personality Cores

How to Make an Aperture Laboratories Personality Core Plush (Part 2)

Introduction:

Hello, everyone! Welcome back (to the Enrichment Center). Today, I’ll be continuing my Aperture Laboratories Personality Core plush tutorial. If you missed Part 1, check it out here first.

Last time, we finished our personality core’s optic and attached it to the front panel of the sphere. Today, we’ll be focusing on completing our core’s handles and sides, and then next time we’ll attach the handles and finish up the outer decoration.

So, grab your scissors and thread and let’s get started!

                                                                                                                             

Let’s begin:

Personality cores have to ports on either side of their spherical bodies. For the plush, these consist of two pieces, which, like the optic from earlier, have to be stitched together first before attaching them to the sphere. Below, you’ll see the pieces laid out:

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You’ll need one of the 3 ½ inch gray circles, and one of the 2 inch black circles with a slot cut out of the middle. Stitch these together using the same method as we used for the optic: take a length of black thread, knotted at the end, and pass it up through the gray and out at the edge of the black circle. Then, pass it back through the gray felt to the WRONG side of the port. This is the first stitch. Make another one about an eighth of an inch away, and so on, all around the edge of the black circle. Don’t forget to also stitch around the inside slot!

Side Port Front and Back

 

Above, you can see what the finished port should look like. We’re going to need to make two of these, so grab the other gray and black circles and sew them together in the same way.

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Perfect! Set the two ports aside for now. We’ll come back to them in a minute. Right now, we want to focus on the actual sphere. Grab the front sphere panel we made last time (the one with the optic stitched on) and one of the four remaining white sphere panels. We’re going to attach these two together. Place them together as shown below. Make sure that the optic panel is placed WRONG side out, (i. e., the second panel should be covering the optic, and the side of the optic panel with visible stitching should be facing outwards).

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Pick a side, any side! (We’re going to use a blanket stitch to attach the panels on one of the curved sides.)

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Grab a length of white thread, knotted at the end, and, starting at the top corner of the panel, make the first stitch. We’ll be using what is called a blanket stitch to attach the sphere panels together. Below, you can see how to make one of these strong, simple stitches. Remember: the smaller and closer together you stitch, the stronger, and less noticeable, the seam will be!

Blanket Stitch

 

There you have it! The blanket stitch is indispensable for sewing plushies, and you just mastered it. This is what a several blanket stitches look like, one after another. They look ugly now, but don’t worry! We’re going to turn the sphere right side out once we’ve finished it.

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REMEMBER: Don’t sew through the edge of the black circle when you get to the middle of the panel!

When you reach the bottom corner, tie off the thread a shown below:

Tying Off

Awesome! The sphere part of our personality core is now about 2/5ths completed! Look how adorable he already is…

Cute Space Core

Now, attach another sphere panel to the other side of the optic panel, just as you did a minute ago. Remember to sew on the wrong side of the fabric!

When you’ve finished with that, and you have three panels sewn all together, it’s time to grab those side ports we made earlier and stitch them onto the sides of our personality core. You’ll want to put these in the center of the panel, like you did with the optic, but set them back towards the raw edge of the felt, as shown below, so that they will be more centered on the side of the sphere.

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Stitch these on exactly the way you did with the optic in the first part of this tutorial, using a length of gray thread. When you’re done, it will look like this:

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Here’s a couple more photos:

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And the inside…

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Now, it’s time to make the handles that sit above and below the core’s optic, which can be used to carry him around. Set aside the sphere for now, and grab the four handle side pieces (the solid ones, not the similar ones with holes cut out) and the eight small white circles, as shown below:

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Stitch them on as shown. When that’s done, grab the two long white rectangular handle pieces. These will become the actual handles of the core, the part you hold with your hands. Fold the pieces in half and sew each of them down the long edge, using a blanket stitch, to make two white tubes:

Handles

Turn both of the tubes right side out. I use a ‘special’ stuffing skewer to help with this. They’re really just little wood sticks, which often come packaged inside bags of stuffing. They really come in handy when trying to turn narrow or small pieces right side out, or when stuffing small corners. You can use the eraser end of a pencil as well, which I have often done.

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Now that the handles are right side out, you can attach them to the interior handle sides. These are those gray pieces which look just like the four side pieces we saw earlier, but with two circles cut out. There are four of these pieces, two for each handle. Attach the white handle piece at the smaller end of the interior side piece with a blanket stitch, as shown below.

Handle Blanket Stitch

Sew all the way around, then tie off your thread. Do this for all four interior side pieces.

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Phew! Still a few steps to go, but don’t worry. We’re nearly done with the handles! Grab the four black rectangles (they’re 2 inches by 1 ½ inches), fold them in half, and blanket stitch them up the shorter side to make four small black cylinders, as shown below:

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Turn them right side out, like you did with the white handle pieces, and stitch them to the interior handle side; again, just as you did before:

Handle Blanket Stitch #2

Now, it’s time to finish off these finicky handles, once and for all! Now, bear with me here. Turn the handles inside out, as shown below:

Inside Out

Now, all the raw edges will be on the outside. It’s time to grab those exterior sides we made earlier and attach them to the interior sides with a blanket stitch, as shown below:

Handle Sides

Stitch all four handle sides together, all the way around, matching small ends to small ends and big ends to big ends. You should end up with something like this:

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Okay. We’re almost done. Now it’s finally time to turn these right side out, once and for all!Right Side Out

Finally, stuff the handles firmly. Don’t skimp on the stuffing! The handles need to hold their shape.

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And… here are the finished handles!

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Wow… We are about two thirds of the way through! Next time, we’ll attach the handles, finish up the sphere itself, and add the last few details. See you then! Bring celebratory digital cake… 🎂🎂🎂


Please let me know if you enjoyed (Part 2 of) this tutorial! I’ve been wanting to do sewing tutorials for a long time, but this is the first one I’ve ever made. I know there’s probably a lot I could do to improve, so… give me a chance to make another tutorial! If there’s something geeky that you’d like to be able to sew, please let me know. I’d love to hear you suggestions, and if there’s something you want me to make, I’ll definitely see what I can do!


Personality Cores

How to Make an Aperture Laboratories Personality Core Plush (Part 1)

Introduction:

Although I’m not a huge fan of Portal 2, I really do love Wheatley and the other personality cores. They’re cute, funny, quirky little characters, who provide a touch of lightness and humor to an otherwise dark game. I love sewing things out of felt, from video game and movie characters to original creations, so of course I had to make myself an adorable little Wheatley plush. Here he is!

Wheatley

Basically, he’s a white felt sphere with a bunch of decorations sewn on, plus the handles on the front. I used these photos as a reference. Lots of people make awesome plushies and other fandom goodies and post pictures online, but there’s hardly ever a tutorial. I’m okay at figuring out how to make things based off photos, but I know there are plenty of other geeks not blessed with this skill who would probably love to know just how to make something geeky and adorable from their favorite fandom. So, today, I present my first ever geeky DIY tutorial! I know that usually this blog is about writing and books (and movies) and author stuff, but I thought it would be fun to show another side of my personality, the geeky DIY side, and help you Portal fans out there to make yourselves an adorable plush! Posts like this will not be super regular, but if I make something crafty and geeky, I’ll be sure to tell you about it!

For this tutorial, I made Kevin the Space Core (Kevin is an unofficial name. It’s what he’s called in the Blue Sky fanfiction, so I’m going with it because Blue Sky is awesome), but you can make any core you want just by using different eye colors; green for the Adventure Core, purple for the Fact Core, blue for Wheatley, etc. I’ve taken tons of pictures and listed out all the steps and provided some printable PDF patterns. Usually, I cut everything freehand, but if I can get my hands on a pattern I’ll use it. It just makes everything so much easier, and hopefully it’ll make it easier for you too!

I make the majority of my plushies out of Rainbow Classic Craft Felt by Eco-Fi. It’s really good quality acrylic felt made from recycled plastic, comes in a variety of lovely colors, and, where I live, retails for about 23 cents a sheet, or four sheets for a dollar. Also, it doesn’t stretch unless you really pull on it, which is good when cutting out small or thin pieces that you don’t want to become misshapen. You can usually find this felt at Walmart, in the crafts section. They also used to have it at Meijer, but the one near me doesn’t carry it anymore, so I’m not sure if other Meijers still have it. However, you can use any kind of acrylic or wool felt you happen to have lying around. Just make sure the colors are consistent!

I sew all my plushies by hand. If you would like to use a sewing machine, you’ll have to cut out some of the pieces with an extra half-inch or so. Felt is very easy to sew by hand, and good for beginners and seasoned sewers alike. Usually I use a blanket stitch and turn it right side out so that the ugly edges are all on the inside. This results in a nice, smooth exterior. However, acrylic felt is a bit coarse, so you could try sewing your personality core out of soft fleece using a sewing machine so that he’s cuddly and fluffy. If you do that, please send me a picture!

Finally, this tutorial will be divided into several parts, as it is so long. This is part one, where we will deal with cutting out all the pieces, and sewing together the optic, or ‘eye’, of the core. Please read everything below carefully before you begin, so you have some idea of what you’re doing before you start.

Okay, enough talking. Let’s get started!

You will need:

At least four sheets of white felt, wool or acrylic (assuming the sheets are about 9’’ by 11 3/4’’)

About two sheets of black felt (or large scraps. I have tons of scraps lying around from other projects. Always hold onto your big scraps! They come in handy and you won’t waste felt)

About one sheet of dark gray felt

Two sheets/large scraps of eye-color felt, light and dark shades (i. e. one sheet of dark blue and one of light blue, for Wheatley, or dark yellow and light yellow for Kevin the Space Core, as shown below)

Needles

White thread

Black thread

Gray thread (Try to find some that matches your shade of gray felt)

Eye-color thread

Scissors

Felt sphere pattern (printable image link here. Right click to save it to your computer) This pattern originally from this website.

Core decorations pattern (printable PDF link here) I made these patterns myself, using Windows Paint (yes, I’m so professional). If you repost these somewhere else, please link back to my website. 🙂

Polyester Fiber-fill (stuffing). Amount will vary based on the size of your core, and whether you want it to be firm or squeezable. For Kevin, who is fairly firmly stuffed, I used most  of a 16 oz. bag. You’ll also need some stuffing for the handles above and below his eye.

Required Peices

Q: How much will this cost?

A: If you went out today to my local Walmart and bought all this stuff (minus the needles and scissors), it would be about sixteen dollars, assuming you bought a big bag of Fiber-Fill. Now if you like, you could go shell out about thirty bucks for a Wheatley plush online (Not kidding. I looked, and you can get one), oooor you could make your very own customizable personality core for about half that, and then go impress your friends when you tell them that you made it yourself… 😛

Q: How long does it take to make one of these?

A: I didn’t do a precise count, but I’d say that it took me somewhere around 5-7 hours start-to-finish to make the Space Core. So, it’s probably best to do this project over several days, or find an extra-long Saturday afternoon and an engrossing audiobook.

Let’s begin:

Start by cutting out all your pieces. Below, I have a photo of all the cut out shapes used for the Space Core. For Wheatley, the original plush I made, I used five of the sphere shapes, because I had cut them out bigger than the guidelines, as I was trying to make a larger plush. Unfortunately, this seems to have resulted in Wheatley being slightly lumpy at the back, and not entirely spherical. But I ended up using five panels for Kevin as well, and I’ve had to cut out the panels with an extra quarter inch on all sides to make the sphere big enough. No matter what the original website says, five panels is the way to go. It’s still not a perfect sphere, but Kevin did turn out a lot better than Wheatley, just in general.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you print out the sphere panels to be about four inches across at the widest part, you’ll have to add an extra quarter inch to either side, if you’re hand sewing, and about half an inch if you’re machine stitching, to make sure that all the pieces fit on the surface of the sphere.

Pieces

Above, you can see all the pieces cut out.

Now, we’ll start by making the core’s optic (his eye aperture, no pun intended). We’ll sew all the pieces of the optic together before stitching it onto one of the white sphere panels.

Here are all the pieces you’ll need:

Optic Peices

One of the large (four inch) black circles, the dark eye-color circle, the light eye-color circle, and the two outer optic shells. Optionally, you can add an eyelid (or two) to give your personality core a bit of… personality. With the Space Core, I gave him a little lid on the bottom of his eye to give him a goofy, crazy, space-happy expression. If you’re making the Fact Core, for example, you might give him a drooping, disapproving lid on top of his eye, to emphasize his cynical nature.

Below, you’ll see the layers of the Space Core’s optic, the order in which we’ll attach the pieces:

Optic Layers

First, place the dark eye color circle in the center of the black circle. We’re going to stitch it on first.

Optic #1

Thread your needle with a length of eye-color thread, and tie a knot at the end. I always double-thread my needle. This is essential when sewing a plush, because it makes the thread twice as strong, and so keeps the seams from pulling apart. Take your needle, and , starting on the WRONG side of the fabric, pass it through the black and yellow felt, so that it comes out right at the edge of the yellow circle.

Optic #2

The needle will now be on the RIGHT side of the felt (the side which will face outwards). Pass it back through the black circle, just above the first stitch, as shown above, and pull the thread through.

Optic #3

The needle is now on the WRONG side of the felt (the back). Make another stitch, beside the first one and about an eighth of an inch away, passing the needle out through the black and yellow felt and onto the RIGHT side, as shown below:

Optic #4

Pass the needle back through the black circle, just above the second stitch, as you did before. On the back, it should look like this:

Optic #5

Continue to stitch like this all the way around the dark eye-color circle.

Optic #6

When you get back to the top of the circle, tie off the thread as shown below:

Thread Tie Off

This is what the back and the front of the optic will look like now:

Optic Front and Back

Next, stitch on the smaller, light eye-color circle, right in the center of the darker circle, once again using the yellow thread:

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This next step is optional. If you want to add eyelid(s), now is the time to do it. I stitched it on using the same method as above, but I didn’t stitch across the flat edge, as I think it leaves a crisper, more defined line between eye and lid.

Optic Lid Front and Back

Next, it’s time to stitch on the outer optic shell, which surrounds the eye itself. Grab another needle and a length of white thread for this step. Unlike with the Wheatley plush, I didn’t cut out a chunk of the optic shell from the upper right hand corner. If you want to do this, go ahead. I just found it simpler to leave the right shell all in one piece. Also, on Wheatley I did try to draw a little Aperture logo in the lower right corner of his optic shell with marker, for a game-accurate look. It didn’t come out very well. If you want to try this, or try to embroider it or something, go ahead. You probably know how to do it way better than me… 🙂

Again, I didn’t stitch these all the way around(I stopped at the top edge of the eyelid), so as to leave a crisp line between the shell and the eye:

Optic Front and Back #2

We’ve now finished the optic itself! It’s time to grab one of the white sphere panels and attach the optic to it.Place the optic onto the sphere panel as shown. It should be right in the middle of the panel, at the widest part. Make sure the piece is centered before you sew it on! We’ll use the same method as before: up from the back, through the white and black layers, then over and back through the white, all the way around. Use a length of black thread for this.

Optic (Attached) Front and Back

 

Here is the fully attached optic! If you’ve made it this far, awesome! You’re well on your way to creating your very own Aperture Laboratories Personality Core plush. Join me tomorrow for Part 2, where we’ll tackle the sides of the sphere and the handy handles for carrying him around. 🙂


Please let me know if you enjoyed (Part 1 of) this tutorial! I’ve been wanting to do sewing tutorials for a long time, but this is the first one I’ve ever made. I know there’s probably a lot I could do to improve, so… give me a chance to make another tutorial! If there’s something geeky that you’d like to be able to sew, please let me know. I’d love to hear you suggestions, and if there’s something you want me to make, I’ll definitely see what I can do!


Personality Cores

Chapter 2 of The Tangle is Live on Channillo!

Hello, everybody! I know, I am super late in posting this (should have done it on Saturday), so I hope you’ll forgive me. But I thought I should just let everyone know that, yes, Chapter 2 of The Tangle is live on Channillo.com! You can check it out here. Also, tomorrow is the last day you can use the code CHAN99 at checkout to get your first month of any Channillo membership for only 99 cents. Head over to www.channillo.com/memberships to check out this offer.


I am super excited to let you know that my historical fiction short story ‘Miss’ has amassed over 120 downloads on InstaFreebie! You can grab a copy, in your preferred eBook format, here.

If you like the new look of my site, please let me know! Personally, I think it’s a bit easier to read now, and a bit prettier, but let me know what you think. 🙂

Burnout

My head hurts. It always hurts. I’m stressed out and sick and sick of worrying. But they just want more. Always more. Always demanding new content. I am pressured to throw more and more into the grinding internet machine, to keep tossing in more work, more content, more words on more pages, more tweets, more Facebook posts, more and more. I haven’t been tossing in anything recently, because I’m out of stuff to toss. Every idea comes with its own set of flags: what will people think about this? What will they say? Will they throw hate at me, or laugh at me, or refuse to take me seriously? Is this trendy? Is it searchable? SEO optimized? Will it bring me the clicks?

And I’m out of stuff that fills that ever growing list of criteria. I’m out. Done. Finished. The internet has run me into the ground. My head hurts, and all I can feel is the burnout.

Okay. Sob story over. Real talk.

Creating content takes time. And work. And more time. And stress and more stress. We, the Internet, myself included in some cases, just want more. We don’t see what happens behind the scenes, how fast the burnout hits you in the brain, how fast you can become sick and tired of the rat race. It is a constant battle to keep afloat, to get content and get that content out there, to get people to notice, and to care. And I’m losing that battle.

I love to write. Don’t get me wrong. I love a nice writing session when I can just sit down and write my heart out for an hour or so and get my story on the page. This is not that kind of writing. This is publicity, PR, clicks, follows, whatever. I used to enjoy writing stuff for my blog, back when I had ideas and I wasn’t scared of clicking that ‘publish’ button. Back when the burnout hadn’t filled my brain and dragged me down. After that initial wave of enjoyment passed, I began writing for the search trends and the SEO; aggressively publishing that 30 day drawing challenge that happened back in September. At first, it was fun. At first, I was seeing those clicks and visitors and stats I wanted to see. I felt good. And then it just dropped off. And I got the burnout in my brain and I was sick and tired of doing those stupid drawings every day, but I kept going because I thought maybe those stats would come back if I just kept on trying.

They didn’t.

Of course they didn’t. By that time, people were tired of me, probably, tired of all my amateur drawings filling up their inboxes or feeds every day. I tried to feed the internet machine, but it wasn’t hungry for that anymore. It must have something new.

New. New. New. That is the cry of the internet machine. That is the cry of the burnout as it eats your brain and all your ideas, and tires you out before you even sit down at the computer to write. I tried feeding the internet machine, and it didn’t work. So I stopped. And that didn’t work either, because unless you’ve got a team of people churning out more and more every day, you’re doomed.

Social media hasn’t consumed my time. What’s consumed my time is worrying about that social media. ‘Your 58 followers haven’t heard from you in a while,’ proclaims a notification on my Facebook feed, ‘Write a new post!’ But I have nothing to say. And the internet machine goes on asking and asking for something new, but I don’t have anything to give. I am losing the battle. I can’t stop worrying that I’m not optimizing my time or my social media accounts for those elusive ‘best results’; more followers, more likes, more people who will (maybe???) buy my book. And the internet machine keeps on eating and eating and eating, and I keep worrying and worrying.

And I’m stuck.

Again. Always. Stuck in that awful place, stuck in the burnout, with no more ideas to give.

Happy New Years! (Plus: Reasons I’m not Staying Up Until Midnight)

It’s New Years Eve. I won’t be staying up this year. Not intentionally, at least. I’ll try to sleep. But if I don’t, it won’t be because I’m excited. Yes, it will be a new year. Yes, 2016, the year the internet hates, will be over. But life will go on. Nothing is going to change. I’ll have to learn to remember to write 2017 as the date instead of 2016, but the date isn’t going to change anything.

We might be mad. We might be really worked up over various things, although I will not mention them, lest tempers run high. We might think “What a rotten year! It must be the most awful year in existence.” But it’s not. It can’t be. We are so fixated on the ‘now’ that we can’t look back at history. Many awful things have happened this year, to be sure. But it’s not the worst year ever. And, yes, there is still the future. But when the ball drops in New York, or the clocks strike midnight, things won’t magically change.

So, yes, happy New Year. I hope it’s a good year. I hope things get better. But I won’t be staying up till midnight, because I don’t place my trust in the year 2017. It’s just another year, after all. But I think I’ll sleep in, anyway.

Five Colored Pens: A Self-Editing Strategy for Authors

Every author knows the feeling: You’ve finally finished that first draft. You feel so good. You feel like you’ve written the next Great American Novel. And then you go back and read that first chapter, or first page, or first sentence, and the dream crumbles like a sand castle. It’s okay. That’s what first drafts are for! That’s your experimental time, your space to let your imagination run wild. Now, it’s time to pick up the pieces and make your novel great again.

Fair warning: This post is fairly long. I know the internet rules: Shorter is better. But I wanted to explain my strategy in full, so I’ve opted for something a bit unconventional in terms of length.


It’s not just for the indies

 Self-editing is one of the most important parts of writing a book. Even if you plan to send your work to a traditional publisher, you have to have it polished to a professional sheen before you even start considering packaging up your brainchild and shipping it off to who-knows-where. Trust me: First drafts are always pretty bad. No matter the potential in your story, a publisher isn’t going to want to dig through all the trash to find the diamonds. That’s your job. You’ve got to make it shine, so that you can land that book deal you’ve always dreamed about.

I must confess that before late 2016, I did not know this. When I wrote my first book, a YA mystery/fantasy novella called Behind Her Mask was Death, I didn’t really know exactly what I was doing. I had a first draft, which thought was pretty good, and I wanted to get it published. This was before I had even begun to consider self-publishing. I was all ready to ship it off to a publisher without even touching that first draft, much less editing it to shreds. I am extraordinarily glad that I found an editor who was willing to wade through all that first-draft trash and help me make a book out of my manuscript, but I ended up making her do a lot of work which I could, and should, have done myself.

And, of course, if you’re going the indie way, it’s just as important, if not more so. Although getting a professional editor is highly recommended in the indie business, it has always been way out of my range, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. My ‘editor’ is family. Extraordinarily well read family who aced her writing course, but she still works for free. So if you can’t afford to pay someone to do it, the value of self-editing skills go way, way up, as does the value of beta-readers/family/freinds who will read your book and give you honest feedback. In my experience, your family are you toughest critics. If you can get them on board, you’re doing great. But don’t even  try running your dream book past them until you’ve tackled that first draft. Nobody wants to muddle through a bunch of half-completed ideas, stunted subplots, characters who might be diamonds someday, but that are still definitely diamonds in the rough. Well, unless you are some kind of magical magician author, who plans out every detail and gets stuff just exactly right the first time. If you are, congratulations. You don’t need to read any of this, at all.

But, seriously, if you’re like 99.999 percent of the authors out there, your first draft is probably at least a partial mess. When I write, my stories have almost no concrete structure. I have a beginning scene, and a nice vague idea for an ending, and the middle is nothing but open water. At the end, I get a basic story, often with a lot of loose ends or inconsistencies that need to be worked out before anyone even can even see the first page.

I’m betting something like this happens to you too, right? So, is there an effective strategy to work out those wrinkles and make everything just as good as it can possibly be before you send your story off, either to that carefully selected publisher, or to those beta-readers/family/friends/people who care? Yes. Yes there is. Today, I’m going to share my Five Colored Pens self-editing strategy with you! I hope it helps! Here goes…


First of all: Everyone sees clearer on paper

The first step to any good self-editing strategy, in my opinion, is to print out your manuscript on paper. With Behind Her Mask was Death, I never actually did this. My editor did, but I didn’t. It was a mistake on my part, and made her job a whole lot harder and more time consuming. (Sorry!!!)

When something is printed out in physical ink and paper, you notice things that you might otherwise skip over when reading your manuscript on the computer. There were errors I never even saw until the proof copy of Behind Her Mask was Death was actually in my hands! I’m just glad I had time to fix everything.

Everyone sees clearer on paper, and the ability to make physical notes on your manuscript is very important for the next steps.

What about those colored pens?

This blog post isn’t called ‘Five Colored Pens’ for nothing. For the editing of my upcoming novel The Tangle, I used five Paper Mate felt tip pens which originally belonged to my mom, and I will definitely be using them again for any other book projects. You can use any colors and any kind of pens, as long as you can easily distinguish between colors. Note down what colors correspond to what errors. We’re going to assign a different kind of mistake to each pen, and use that pen for that mistake consistently throughout the entire manuscript.

Mistake 1: Stylistic Errors

I used a peach colored pen for these.

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You can see in the photo above a stylistic error which I’ve underlined in my own manuscript, The Tangle. I’ll be using examples from it for the rest of this post.

Stylistic errors can range from cumbersome sentences to word choice problems. If you’ve got the gist of what you want to say down on paper, but you’re not saying it in quite the right way, that’s a stylistic error. Mistakes like these are much different from problems with the plot or characters. It’s an issue with the words, not the actual content. If your description is confusing, or your word order is weird, or something in your sentence structure is just a bit off, underline it with your Stylistic Errors pen and note down the problem, and, if you have a clear idea of it at that moment, the fix. You can also strike out words that you don’t want in a particular sentence.

Nota Bene: Always be clear with your notes, not witty. Save the wittiness for your writing. You don’t want to come back later and have forgotten just exactly how or why you were going to change that thing in the first place.

Mistake 2: Typos

I used a light blue pen for these.

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Typos are the bane of a published work. Don’t you just hate it when you come across a typo in your favorite book? They can mar a perfectly good paragraph, or even change the whole meaning of a sentence. If a word just looks and sounds wrong, or if its obviously missing a letter or anything like that, underline or cross it out with your Typo pen and note down the correct word.

Mistake 3: Show, Don’t Tell

I used a dark purple pen for this.

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As writers, we are constantly being told to ‘show, don’t tell’. Don’t tell the readers that your character is afraid. Actions always speak louder than words. Show how much she’s sweating, or how hard he’s breathing, or how those icy fingers of dread are climbing up her spine. See? Much more effective than ‘She felt very scared’, and it sounds so trite when you just flat out tell like that. If there’s a place where you’re telling your reader how to feel, underline it with your Show Don’t Tell pen and make a little note reminding yourself to show! I like to wait until editing the second draft on the computer before figuring out exactly what I’m going put as a fix. Simply noting down the problems makes it  fixing them much more manageable.

Mistake 4: Character Discrepancies

I used a dark blue pen for these.

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Character discrepancies are yet another writer’s bane. You don’t want your characters to act out of character. Yes, they can be spontaneous. But they can’t just go against their nature on a whim, or for the dictates of the plot. Things like physical discrepancies also fit into this category. Don’t say your character had green eyes in one part of the story, and brown eyes in another. It’s just annoying, and it confuses people. If you have trouble remembering all those pesky details, consider starting a ‘character bible’. It can be a file on your computer, or a section of your notebook, where you keep all the correct physical descriptions of your characters. Can’t remember if Mary is tall enough to look John in the eye? Hop over to your character bible and find it all in one place!

Is your character doing or saying something that they just wouldn’t do or say?  Just underline it with your Character Discrepancies pen and note down what needs to change.

Mistake 5: Plot Discrepancies

I used a purple pen for these.

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This is a fairly important, and large, category. For me, it includes everything from, say, a character having a knife in one scene, and never even thinking about it again when it might have been useful, to a room which is said at one point to have windows, and at another to have none. You could create a sixth category for ‘setting discrepancies’, I guess, but I decided to just lump all those things under one heading. As with the example above, you don’t want to have characters in the possession of useful things that they just inexplicably forget about. This also goes for magical powers. If a character has super strength, and is trapped, say, in a cage made of normal strength steel, they can’t just suddenly be unable to get out. Either put them in a better cage, or let them bust out and get caught again or something. Having a door be locked at one point and then open at another, unless there is a valid explanation, would also fit under this heading.

So, has your plot gotten… tangled? Underline the problem spot with your Plot Discrepancies pen and make a note of what needs to happen to fix it.

Nota Bene: None of these categories are set in stone. You can add new ones or redefine existing once as you see fit. I’m just explaining the process that I used to edit my novel. Every writer is different. Do what works for you.

So… Now what?

 So, now you have a stack of papers covered in multi-colored scrawls. What now? Well, it’s time to fire up your computer and go back and fix all of those mistakes you just uncovered. Copy the manuscript file and name it something like ‘[My Book Name Here] Second Draft’ or whatever, just to be organized, and grab your papers and start fixing stuff. If you find new problems, great, go ahead and fix them right now. And when you’re all finished with that, if you’re a super nitpicky person, or if you think there might still be epic flaws in your book, you can print out the second draft and grab your handy pens and repeat the process all over again. If you do this, I recommend waiting a week or so after you finish editing the first draft, so that you see it with fresh eyes and don’t gloss over any more mistakes.

Another Nota Bene: Always save your early drafts. Just do it. If you end up taking out huge chunks of the book, and you edit the original file, you might lose something good. Save everything. (This was something else I didn’t know about when I was first working on Behind Her Mask was Death. I ended up losing (FOREVER!) several sections of description that I really liked, and I thoroughly regret it.)

To recap:

  1. Print out your manuscript onto physical paper. It’s a lot easier to miss certain flaws when reading on the computer.
  2. Use five colored pens, one for each type of error: Plot discrepancies or issues, stylistic errors, typos, character discrepancies or issues, and ‘show, don’t tell’ errors. (You can also add new categories if needed)
  3. Write fairly detailed notes. Nothing is more frustrating than forgetting why you wanted to change something in the first place.
  4. Take it slow. Do your very best work!
  5. Fix it on the computer. Then leave it for a while and come back and read it again. If you want, print out the second draft and repeat the Five Colored Pens process for ultimate nit-pickiness.
  6. Save your original drafts! All of them.

 

Finally…

Thanks for sticking with me to the very end of this rather long post. If you have any suggestions or questions, please leave them in the comments below. I hope you found this post helpful. 🙂

America’s New Religion

(Because no matter how much you would like to forget it, it’s almost November.)

This was originally written for school (I got to write it instead of a written narration, mostly because I couldn’t think of anything to write a written narration about…)


Law suits, perhaps, (to me, anyway), are something of a joke. Maybe it’s because one of my brothers is under the mistaken impression that you can win lots of money from them. He often suggests that we should sue various people (Microsoft, Nintendo, and the like) whenever he thinks a problem can be conveniently blamed on them.

People expect the government to look after them. They sue others in the hope that they can find a way to bend the benevolent law around to their point of view and have the government exact revenge upon their enemies. They complain, always seeking something new, something that will pander to their own interests while at the same time pandering to a million other people. They jump on board with the latest revolutionary bandwagon, because it’s new and its loud and, hey, everyone else is doing it to, so it must be right, right?

We have become fascinated with the idea that government is all powerful. The government is our savior. It fixes all the problems, or sweeps them away under the carpet where they will be forgotten. It is our great god and we are its slaves, toiling away so that we can hand over our share of cash to Uncle Sam and ensure that we keep breathing to work another day.

I’m not a cynic. Or at least I try not to be. But November is coming up and I’m seeing those ‘Remember to Vote!’ things online, and it got me thinking about our crazy mess of a government. Well, maybe the wisdom of The Roots of American Order had something to do with it too, but okay.

The first part of the second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence states that the purpose of government is to secure our rights, which, famously, are those of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Did you get that? The whole point of government is not to enslave us, as some would say, or to make sure that we have a good education, or even to make sure that we are moderately happy. The government’s sole purpose is to protect our rights, our autonomy, to make sure that we are allowed to live and breathe and read and write snarky blog posts or whatever.

But we have taken this protection way too far. We have sacrificed our responsibility in favor of the whims of the too-powerful men, who, in our desire to find something to protect us and love us and make sure we’re all right, we have made gods in courts of law.

So much for ‘separation of church and state’. Somehow, they’ve become one and the same thing.

30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 18

Day 18: Draw scenery.

I know you’re eager for a new drawing after yesterday’s extraordinarily random doodle, so I’ve drawn a nice lake and mountains and a little cottage. This drawing was done with an brush-tip inking pen (for the thick lines), a regular inking pen (for the cottage and the background trees) and colored with Prismacolor colored pencils.

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See you guys tomorrow for Day 19. 🙂