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

Game Review: Portal 2

Portal 2Aperture Laboratories has had some remodeling done… and it’s not pretty.


DISCLAIMER: The following review contains heavy SPOILERS for both Portal and Portal 2, as well as a discussion of human scientific testing. Please proceed at your own risk.

As you probably know, if you read my review, I loved the first Portal game. It’s smart, sciency atmosphere, awesome puzzle gameplay and portal physics, sarcastic AI companion, and perfect touch of delightfully dark humor made it one of my favorite games to date, if not my absolute favorite ever. So, of course, I assumed that I would love-love-love the sequel, Portal 2, just as much.

I was wrong.

Partially.

Let me explain.

Portal 2 takes place an undisclosed, but certainly long, period of time after the first game. At the end of Portal (see what I said about SPOILERS?), Chell, the player character, destroys and escapes the testing facility, only to be dragged back belowground once more. At the beginning of Portal 2, we see that she has been in some kind of coma, or hypersleep, inside Aperture Laboratories. She is awakened by a small robot named Wheatley, who needs her help to escape to the surface. But they can only get out if they retrieve the ‘gun that makes holes’ (i. e., the Portal Device), which has been lost somewhere in the abandoned and overgrown facility.

Within the first few minutes of gameplay, Portal 2 is already unlike its predecessor. Where the first game was full of white walls and clean surfaces and an extreme minimalism which I found quite interesting, Portal 2 has turned that concept on its head. The clean, Spartan facility has been wrecked. There are vines and plants and smashed machinery everywhere. Although many of the testing chambers, and an unnamed AI (not GLaDOS), remain functional after what the AI believes has been ‘the apocalypse’, there is hardly a room which has not been ravaged by destruction or partially reclaimed by nature. The addition of new characters, namely Wheatley and the AI, is quite jarring, if you’re used to the loneliness and long silences of the first game. Even many of the textures and sound design from the original Portal have been completely changed. But, I was willing to roll with it. After all, sequels can’t always be quite as good as the first game. And aesthetics often change between games in any series.

And if that was where it had stayed, with the addition of new, talkative characters and a slight change in aesthetics, I would have been fine with that. It was rather unfortunate, therefore, when Wheatley (again, SPOILERS!!!) decided to take control of the facility, implant GLaDOS’s (still living) artificial mind into a child’s science project potato battery, and dump us both down a 4,000 foot shaft into the real heart of Aperture Laboratories.

Beneath the Enrichment Center, the modern underground testing and sciencing facilities of Aperture Laboratories, there lies an abandoned salt mine, chock full of dark and disturbing secrets. In the first Portal game, it is not made clear why exactly human subjects are being handed portal guns and shoved out into the testing chambers. My dad’s rather interesting theory, that they were being trained to use the gun in various situations so that they could become some kind of soldiers or operatives for Aperture, was disproved in the first game when it turned out (SPOILERS) that the cake really is a lie, and the only thing waiting for test subjects at the end of the testing track was certain fiery death. Portal 2 confirms my suspicions that this is all a case of ‘gratuitous sciencing’, or the ‘we do what we must because we can’ mentality.

The salt mine beneath the Enrichment Center hides the abandoned and condemned facilities of the Aperture Science Innovators, and the companies later incarnations, which have been blocked off and hidden for years. The company was founded, as far as I can tell, in the early-to-mid 1940s by enterprising businessman and inventor Cave Johnson, and used to recruit human test subjects, who were subjected to all kinds of disturbing and horrible experiments in the name of ‘science’ and ‘progress’, as well as used to test Cave’s promising invention, the Aperture Science Quantum Tunneling Device, which bears an interesting resemblance to the more streamlined Portal Device of later years. As you explore this area of the game, Cave’s cheerful, callous indifference regarding human life becomes shockingly apparent. As you come across old company policy signs and listen to the prerecorded messages of Cave Johnson himself, little pieces and bits of information fall together into a perfect picture of Aperture Science in the ‘old days’. The storytelling of this section of the game is absolutely brilliant.

However, I’m not really sure I’m comfortable with the story that Valve decided to tell.

In fact, I know I’m not.

“Aria!” you are probably saying, “It’s okay. It’s just a game. It’s just something somebody made up.” Yeah. It is just a game. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some historical background to all this. And that’s what makes it so disturbing.

I was first introduced to the Portal games by a YouTube video, a theory about the Companion Cube. The Cube, which, despite being a silent, inanimate object, has become “one of the most popular characters in the gaming community”, and during the first part of this video, the creator was exploring why this is, why people adore the silent, heart-covered Cube so much. He talked about scientific and psychological testing in the 1950s, back when “science was still interesting because there were no limits on human testing”, and when people had been put into extreme isolation for days on end, just to see what would happen. The creator of the video argued that because Chell (and, by extention, the player) are in such extreme isolation during the first game, as soon as they are handed a little plastic box with a couple of hearts on it and told to look after it, they develop an emotional attachment to the Cube, and come to see it as a friend in their loneliness. I’m not going to rehash the whole video here. What I wanted to show you was that little throwaway line, the historical precident: Back in the 1950s when science was still interesting because there were no limits on human testing…

And that’s the little bit of information I had bouncing around in my brain when I began to explore the Aperture Science Innovators facilities. And that’s the little bit of information that made all, or most of, the difference.

Because something like that could have really happened.

I didn’t sleep very well after that. I wandered around feeling disturbed and empty and depressed. I put the game away and told myself I would never, never, never play it again. The dark, delightful humor of the first game had been taken and destroyed, and replaced by nothing but darkness.

I did finish the game, later on. Because I’m stubborn like that, I guess. But I was, quite frankly, disappointed with the climax and final battle. The game didn’t have that Portal flavor anymore. It had become just another sequel, the plot grasping at straws to keep hanging on a little bit longer, a wordy fight between GLaDOS and Wheatley to explain stuff quickly and without showing it (telling, not showing, as the author in me would admonish), the wordy explanation tacked on afterwards. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the end of the game itself, the humor of the singing turrets, exhilarating rise in the elevator into an abandoned aboveground shed in the middle of nowhere, and my reunion with my dear companion cube (I know why I love it now, though, so maybe that defeats my emotional response a bit). Even the “SPAAAACE!!!!” part had me giggling. But it felt as if, after their brilliant display of disturbing storytelling in the middle of the game, the creators of the game run out of ideas, or at least ideas that make slightly more sense than shooting a portal at the moon.

I know there are people who love-love-love this game, and I can see why. But it just wasn’t for me. I still love Portal, and I can understand and (kind of) appreciate your extra-dark humor in hindsight, Portal 2, but that doesn’t mean I’ll play you ever again.


Final Rating

Plot, technical development, storytelling: 4 out of 5 stars

“I’m in SPAAAAACE!!! But work on your plot, please.”

Personal reactions: 2 out of 5 stars

“I hate science now. Thanks, Cave Johnson.”

ESRB says: +10 for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

Really??? I actually had to look that up, because I didn’t know. I assumed it was T for Teen, but it’s rated LOWER than the first game??????? (It is true about the mild language, by the way. Cave Johnson, GLaDOS, you don’t have to cuss to get your point across. GLaDOS, you didn’t cuss in the first game, so why are you doing it now?)

I say: I would definitely kick it up a notch, to T for Teen at least, or even M for disturbing themes. I wonder how many young kids have played this. Am I the only person who was at all disturbed by this game, even temporarily? Anyway, use your discernment. It probably depends on the maturity of the player, but I would say more like +16, to be honest…


Here is digital cake. 🎂 🎂 🎂

Enjoy.

Also, I happen to have an Instagram account, now! If you’d like to check it out, just swing by http://www.instagram.com/ariaemaher/ And if you like Portal stuff, I have a Portal-themed painting I did that you can check out over there…

🙂

Game Review: Portal (2007)

The box art for the PC version of PortalOne of the smartest video  games I’ve ever played, and still top-of-the-line ten years after it was first released.


Okay, I’ll admit it: maybe I am a little late to jump on the Portal bandwagon. But it’s been so heartily recommended by so many gamers and geeks, and even has a widespread meme to its name, one that still gets quoted to this day. Of course, I’m referring to the timeless phrase: “The cake is a lie!”

I used to game a lot, mostly on the Wii, where I played retro RPG games like Chrono Trigger and new(ish) platformers or adventure games like Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. (Look, I said ‘newish’, okay? Yeah, I’m not super up to date with games, as you can probably tell…) I was even a big Minecraft enthusiast for a couple of years.

But recently, I’ve stopped playing.

Maybe it’s that I’ve had so much more school recently. Maybe games have just lost their attraction for me. I used to tell my dad that when I was grown up, I’d play as many games as I liked, for just as many hours as I wanted (woo, life goals…) But then I began to find most games, well, boring. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. I mean, I used to play all the time, as much as I was allowed, and wish I could play more.

But Portal sparked my interest again. Portal is a puzzle game, but not just any puzzle game. It’s got a super cool sci-fi aesthetic, a sarcastic (evil) robotic voice as your only companion (except, of course, for your dear Weighted Companion Cube), and gives you the ability to fire space-bending portals out of an experimental portal gun. You can travel to places impossible to reach otherwise, or fling yourself through the portals, using your momentum to fly over barriers or across pools of chemical waste.

The story is simple: You wake up in a scientific lab (the Enrichment Center), and are thrust out by GLaDOS, a fairly malicious and purposefully misleading AI, into a series of testing chambers. You must complete the chamber puzzles using the experimental Aperture Science Portal Gun, testing its abilities, and your own, along the way. If you finish the tests without being electrocuted, crushed, shot, or drowned in toxic waste, you have the exciting prospect of cake at the end of the journey.

Portal is a lonely game. I found myself longing for the metallic sounds of GLaDOS’s synthesized voice during the long silences in the testing chambers. Even my dear Companion Cube couldn’t quite comfort me, I was so alone. And, unfortunately, I had to euthanize it. Sorry, buddy.

Oh, and, the cake is a lie, by the way. I thought you should know…


Final Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“This was a triumph. I’m making a note here: Huge success!”

(If you get that reference, you are awesome, and have probably already played this amazing game, so you don’t need a review to tell you how amazing it is)

ESRB Says: T for Teen

I Say: Probably 10+ Some puzzles are difficult and require good hand-eye coordination/timing skills, and there is a bit of violence (If you get shot by a turret, there will be blood spatters on the walls behind you)

Also, the Companion Cube is people.

And if you get that reference, you are awesome times ten. 😛


Channillo.com is having a special on all their subscription packages. Through the end of February, you can get the first month of any plan for just 99 cents. How cool is that? You can head over to http://www.channillo.com/memberships/ and enter the code CHAN99 at checkout to get your first month of any plan for just 99 cents. You can subscribe to my series and read the first installment on February 11th, TOMORROW(!), and check out some of the other stuff on there. There are a ton of other authors using this platform, and you might just find something super cool to enjoy! #Not$ponsoredinAnyWay #JustWantedToTellUCauseItsCool

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30 Day Drawing Challenge: Day 28

Day 28: Draw an Elf.

Okay, okay. So he’s not technically an elf. He’s a Hylian, or whatever. But, in my defense, he does have pointy ears. Anyway, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) procuring a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and finally getting to play it. So, in honor of that hope, I have drawn Link, the Hero of Time and Light and whatnot. He was drawn with inking pens and colored with Sharpie markers.

30ddc-day-28

See everyone tomorrow for Day 29!