Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Lake and Ichi, In Tahoe

At 5:30pm on Friday, I abandoned my laptop. I put Ichi into her harness and we piled into Mongo, my name for Eric's larger vehicle. It was a short drive, just a few miles to the right – wait, no – left. Due to construction, the drive was a bit longer than we'd expected. Not bad, per se, but longer still. We pulled off of 89 and onto the shoulder, next to a sign covered by a tarp that read "Closed for the Season." But it's April, late April, and Tahoe is between Seasons now. There are no tourists, only construction and locals. Locals that bring dogs and cameras down to the lake for some fun in the last bits of sun.

I had brought Ichi's favorite Tahoe toy, a funny Z-shaped rubbery thing that is bright orange and throws like a sideways frisbee. It's a bit too tall for her and she has to lift her head high to walk whilst carrying it. That doesn't seem to bother her, though. It's still her favorite toy that I bought for her when we had an address in Tahoe.

Mel tried to teach her that it's name was "sex toy." She succeeded on some level. Ichi knows that her beloved object has "toy" in the name. Preceding it with "your", "the", or any other words seems to work just as well as "sex". Really it's okay if my dog thinks her toy is named something a bit inappropriate – it's not like she'll be saying it's name.


I brought the toy to the "Closed for the Season" trip to the water's rocky edge and with it in hand, let Ichi off her leash. Keeping my poor dog on a leash is a bit silly whenever that toy is in my possession  If that toy is near the presence of her and I at the same time, she will not leave my side for fear that I will not throw it, or worse, I will throw it and she will not know where it went. She will carry it up a mountain in 4 feet of snow in the hopes that I will pause and throw it for her. I have also now learned that she will walk and then swim into Lake Tahoe for that toy. Again, and again, and again.

She will swim out into the lake, going in circles until she can barely keep her head above the water, desperate to try and find it once more after I've thrown it too far. She will swim and then wade and then crawl onto shore to rest for a moment. Here she will stare off into the lake, look back at me with imploring eyes and then walk back into the blue in the direction the stone I throw lands. In circles she will paddle, heading towards the splashes from rocks Howard, Eric and I try to aim around the floating Z. And when she finds it? Her head will dive into the water, jaws open and eyes wide, snatching it up before it can get away again. 

She will swim back to shore and then wade and then crawl onto the rocks, barreling and sliding over boulders as big as her like they will move out of her way. When she finally gets to dry land, she will walk a bit away from me, drop her prize, shake herself off, pause, then turn and bring her triumph over to my feet. Even as she pants, snot running down her chin, right leg shivering from the arthritis and thighs shivering from the wind, she will wait for me to throw it again.

So that is what happened when I shut my laptop on Friday, and that is what I learned about my dog's love for that damn toy. Eventually, the only way to get her to stop trying to get her toy into the water was to put her back on her leash and place a large rock on the other end of it. She still played with the toy, though, trying to bury it in the mud and pine needles.

That is, until I let her off again..

Because, you see, I had had the toy in my hand.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tutorial: Enlarging a Pattern

Over a year ago, I promised a friend of mine I'd make him a rather large Totoro. Me being me, it took me quite a while to actually sit down and fulfill that promise, and when I did, I decided to make my own pattern for these adorable toy. Unwilling to screw up on such a large project, I made a smaller Totoro toy first, and then enlarged the pattern for the final product. This post will show you how I scaled up that little doll.

First thing's first, I traced the smaller pattern's pieces onto parchment paper. I enlarged them one at a time, making sure there was enough room around the tracing for the larger version.

After I traced the smaller pattern, I decided how much bigger I wanted the doll to be. I wanted my larger Totoro to be about 6 inches taller, and proportionally wider, so I traced a new line 3 inches larger from the smaller one in every direction.

After the initial size increase, I went back and corrected the curves and shape based on what issues I saw with the little guy. For example, on the bottom of the doll I only increased his base about 2.5 inches, as I felt that was a better shape, and made him a little bit taller.

I did this for each piece, increasing the size of the original pattern a bit differently for each body part. The arms I widened a bit, but focused on increasing their length instead. The ears I only increased about an inch and the tail got a whole new shape.

When I could, I just focused on getting half of the shape right, as symmetrical pieces could be cut on a fold. Once I was happy with the general size and shape of all the pieces, I cut out my paper patterns.

With my paper patterns all ready, I went to work cutting out the fabric pieces. I laid them out before sewing to double check size...

... then went to town! Jumbo here isn't finished in this picture, and the angle is weird, but I'm pretty happy with my pattern and modifications. Definitely an improvement over lil' Totoro.

I promise, I'm working on a tutorial on how to make your own Totoro, which will come with a free pattern! For both sizes! The assemble instructions for both the lil' guy and big guy are the same, the problem is I did such a poor job of taking pictures of my process. I'll be making a new and improved little Totoro for the tutorial, as soon as I find the time >.<;

Also, enjoy this completely telling picture of my kitchen table. Not seen: giant stack of mail hiding behind the big Totoro.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Storytelling in Games

This week at, I start a mini-series looking at Storytelling in games. To kick off this fantiful theme, I look at the dark and twisted Gloom.
Good games, according to some people, tell a story. They weave plots that engage their players beyond the mechanics and strategy of play, regardless of the medium used. In these games, there is a reason the world is the way it is, there is a reason you are playing the way you are, and there is a goal, a final resolution, to whatever conflict you are tasked to overcome. Raise a family, become a farmer, explore the universe, wage a war, be a hero; these are all major plot devices that games allow you project yourself into. The majority of board games on the market today feature a strong theme with an engaging story that draws their players in before the mechanics of how to play are even presented.
So sit back, relax, and let me tell you a story.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Board Stiff with Five Awesome Games

This week over at GrE, I go overboard and introduce you to 5 games that belong in every gamer's collection.
Here’s five games that you can pick up and play immediately with gamers and non-gamers alike that will keep everyone entertained. Each takes under an hour, if not significantly less, and is quick to learn, easy to teach.
Jump over to take a gander at what I've outlined.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tutorial: Making Your Own Pattern

A year ago (or maybe more), I promised my best friend I'd make him a Totoro. It would be a giant Totoro that could be snuggled up against on his armless couch. This promise was made when I was in the middle of a big sewing kick, and lo' and behold, when that kick ended, I still hadn't made that Totoro.

For those of you that are wondering what a Totoro is, it's the spirit of the forest from the 1988 Miyazaki film My Neighbor Totoro. Totoros come in all sizes, but the largest one is referred to as the king of the forest, who, if I made him, would be larger than the couch.. so I went with the middle-sized Totoro.

Me being me, I refused to purchase an existing pattern and instead made my own. I also took lots of pictures of the process and now it's a tutorial! Yay!

So step one is of course figure out what you want to make a pattern for. Sketch it at every angle you need and break it down into its core pieces. Ears, body, tail, arms, etc.

Then, using pencil, sketch out these pieces on parchment or butcher paper.

For pieces that are larger or are the same on both sides, you can assume you'll cut them on a fold to get perfect symmetry and only draw half. Because I didn't want to make my first go at this a giant Totoro, I scaled down the pattern to start so I could make a test Totoro.

Once you've got your pieces sketched out to what you think you need, cut them out.
Feel free to lay the pieces out like how you'll be assembling your toy and adjust as needed. It's only paper, after all.

After you're happy with your pattern pieces, or just fed up with trying to make it perfect, trace the patterns onto your fabric.
All of these pieces need at least two, aside from the circle bottom, so my fabric is doubled instead of on the fold.

Cut out your fabric pieces and pin them into your shape. Just like with the paper pattern, you can trim as needed to get things just right.

Try and put off sewing until you're 100% happy with how you're going to assemble the toy, and make notes about what you're going to do! It's easy to forget exact steps in the middle of sewing things together.

For the ears I went ahead and sewed them into the body with the machine, but they made them flop in a very un-Totoro way. This is why I decided to make a mini one first, though, so I could run into these problems on something a lot more manageable  Also, because this little guy is a prototype, I'm not worried about ripping the ears out and redoing them.

Notice the point on the side of his head? That's another unforeseen issue that the prototype helped point out about my pattern. For the real Totoro pattern, I know now I'll need to make the curve of the head less drastic.

After I got his arms attached, I decided that aside from a few minor adjustments, I like this little guy. Enough that I didn't worry about giving him a face for a few days.

Sewing his face on by hand was a bit of a pain, so I decided that I would use the machine for the larger Totoro. All in all, I'm happy with my mini-Totoro and I made lots of notes about what to change about the pattern when I scale it up... which will be my next crafty post!

Interested in getting my Totoro pattern? Well, I'll be scanning both the big and little one in as soon as I get a chance, and making a tutorial about how to use the pattern to make your own Totoros. Stay tuned!