Saturday, September 16, 2023

Jacquard deColourant + Laser Engraving

I've recently integrated Jacquard deColourant into my concepts/creations. The deColourant is a non bleach chemical that non-destructively removes the dye from darkly colored natural fabrics that have been dyed with a "dischargeable" dye . It allows you to create a white area on a dark shirt that you can then apply your image to. It works by being sprayed, brushed or stamped onto the dark fabric, allow it to dry and then apply steam heat from an iron and the fabric turns white!! If the deColourant is spilled on a surface where you do not want it to be, just wash the garment in that area (or the whole thing) because nothing happens until you apply heat.

In the Amazon reviews for the 8oz bottle of the deColorant, Dennis S. mentions using his laser etcher tool at high speed and very low power to create an image in the area where he applied the deColourant. Using this directed heat method is the same concept that's used in fax machines and thermal paper. You'd use your laser etching machine to "etch"/heat a negative image into the deColorant area. I haven't seen anyone else anywhere mention using a laser engraver as a pointillized heat source to be used with the Jacquard deColourant. His results are amazing and show the potential of what is possible.

I received a second hand Glowforge Pro for my birthday & dug into how to achieve something similar to the image from Dennis. I cut up a spare t-shirt, coated it in a layer of DeColourant, let it dry and then started running test strips. I was trying to max out the speed and run the job at the lowest speed, based on what little Dennis included with his photo. The thing I didn't know at the time was that when the Glowforge is set to the highest speed, the size of the laserable area is reduced (a smaller canvas area). This means that my excellent test data is somewhat invalidated because I want my final image to be bigger than the area that is available when the Glowforge is running at 4000 speed. Also, some of the higher speed settings aren't available depending on the file type being used to engrave. No, I haven't read the manual yet, but I'm working on it as I bump up against hurdles like these. The test sheet below required further adjusting to balance the "canvas area" with the available speeds/powers.

My findings to date. These settings achieve a good reduction in the shirt color where the laser hits the deColourant as applied to the shirt. I used white masking tape cut into arrows to indicate the corners of the rectangle where I applied the deColourant to the shirt so I can see the rectangle where I want to "print" the image in the Glowforge preview of the bed image.

Using a PNG vs a SVG achieves minimal reduction in laser "print" time. I see no benefit in using an SVG over a BMP or a PNG for this use case.

Glowforge Settings for reliably good "prints"
Speed 2600
Precision Power 15
(sometimes I think my power settings are a bit hot, but when the shirts are washed, they look fine)
Grayscale Vary Power
Min Power 3
Margin Optimization 100%(maximize quality)
Lines Per Inch 225
Number of Passes 1 pass
Focus Height Auto

I would like to speed up the process and will look into how I can increase the "printable" image size and achieve higher laser speeds.

I used the tutorial by Bailey (MyDogsThinkImCrazy) to make magnetic risers & use a magnetic erase board as an adjustable surface rather than having the crumb tray in place inside the Glowforge. She gives the background on the 3D printed risers and the magnetic whiteboard & ceramic magnets to use here.

The different heights of risers are to be used when engraving in items that wouldn't fit in the Glowforge if you were using the crumb tray. This is her post on engraving things without the crumb tray. Using the risers allows me to tuck the extra fabric of the t-shirt underneath the magnetic white board and secure it in place with a few magnets & painter's tape on the bottom of the magnetic white board. Ignore that the rectangle where the deColourant was painted looks grody. It doesn't matter in the slightest when it is getting lasered. It does help to dry the area a bit with a hair dryer set to COOL no heat (deColourant is heat activated). I've tried lasering deColourant when it was still wet and I was getting inconsistent results.

My risers are made out of scrap wood (I don't have a 3D printer), glued and stacked to achieve the various heights of risers (1.4, 1,2, 1 and .8 inches high) I engraved one layer and cut out a circle in one layer to have enough room for the thickness of the magnet to be flush with the wood of the riser (the magnets are .2 inches thick).

The Cricut cutting mats have a similar grid layout to help you place your vinyl and the things you're cutting - the Glowforge does not have this X,Y location feature - but the post by Bailey tells you how to make your own grid and then the aberration from the Glowforge fish eye bed lens will not affect the accuracy of your desired cuts/engraves/scores. In this post she includes a PDF that shows how you can make your placement jigs for the grid board out of universal interlocking plastic bricks!

I paint on the deColourant with a small paint brush, being sure to saturate the fabric of the shirt. I then use a hair dryer on the NO HEAT setting to dry the deColourant before placing the shirt in the Glowforge. Most of the shirts I've made take anywhere from 30 - 60 minutes to fully render (line by line). If the power settings were lower or the image were smaller or I were printing at a lower lines per inch measurement the process would go quicker. 

Here is a photo of what I'm calling successes with deColourant and the Glowforge. I'm pleased with how these shirts have turned out and as I work with these two tools more, I'm certain that I will learn more about what images transfer best with deColourant and how I can adjust the image and Glowforge settings to get the best "print."

Shirt blanks from 
5000 Gildan 5.3-ounce 100% Cotton T-Shirt <-turned out well, lightened to a grey
PC54 Port & Company Core Cotton T-Shirt <-turned out well, lightened to a grey

DT6402 District Women's V.I.T. Boxy T-Shirt <-nice soft fabric, lightened to a sepia tone

Jacquard SolarFast UV Reactive Permanent Dye - How To and Lessons Learned

I'm late to the Jacquard SolarFast game. I've recently discovered this method for transferring images to clothing. I got started down this path via an Instagram post about printing on fabric with the Cyanotype process. Further research turned up the Jacquard line of SolarFast dyes in a plethora of colors. 

I've been hankering to make my own rendition of the Blue Velvet t-shirt I had in the '90s and a new incarnation of the infamous Robert Watts/Products for Implosions // Vivienne Westwood/Malcolm McLaren Seditionaires "tits" tee (link & link).

As luck would have it, I have 3M transparency sheets, an HP Laser Printer and access to lots of Florida sun.

I've also been able to utilize the artwork I've made for other projects and print transparencies to use with the SolarFast dye. Bonus!

The basic concept of the SolarFast dye is to brush it onto the t-shirt with a foam brush or a paint brush in a room protected from UV light sources (daylight, incandescent bulbs). If you use a paint brush, you will likely see brush strokes in your final work unless you take care to fully saturate the t-shirt with the Solarfast dye. The Jacquard website is your first resource for tips, tricks and general instructions.

Notes I've picked up along the way are:
  • You can thin the SolarFast down with water to a 1:1 ratio without losing more than 10% of the final color vibrancy.
  • The 1:1 ratio can be used in a spray bottle to spritz the tshirt in preparation for sun exposure. This worked ok, but I prefer the control of a paintbrush.
  • I've used my Cricut to cut a mask for the shirt using the Reynolds Freezer Paper stencil method. This keeps the area where I'm applying the SolarFast constrained to only the shape that needs the dye. Lots of tutorials show the person painting a big square of the dye but only exposing a small area of this dyed fabric to the sun. My goal is to mimic a silk screen effect and only lay down SolarFast where it really needs to go. This will also reduce the amount of area you need to wash the unexposed SolarFast from once your garment is ready to wash.
  • Pouring the SolarFast into a bowl and using a small paintbrush is the easiest method to paint your fabric with SolarFast.
  • I've made good use of last year's corrugated plastic campaign signs as backing boards to clip the shirt to and used a piece of cardboard inbetween the front and back of the shirt to keep the SolarFast from bleeding through to the back of the shirt.
  • When you're preparing your images for printing on the transparency sheets, use registration marks outside the boundary of your artwork to align your two prints quickly and easily. Using two transparency prints will give you a fully opaque negative to get greater contrast in your SolarFast prints.
Below are photos of the application of the SolarFast dye, placement of the transparency, the exposure process and the final product.


Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Computerized Machine Embroidery with the Brother Innovis VE-2200 using Inkscape and Inkstitch

Bear with me, we are about to go down a rabbit hole that begins with a birthday present and ends with a slew of Wet Leg patches.

Last September (2021), my husband gave me a most excellent birthday present. He found a second hand Brother Innovis VE-2200 computerized embroidery sewing machine. At that time, I was finalizing the Fred Lane, Elvis Costell and Peter Weller puppets I'd been making. The machine sat on the floor of my workspace for a couple of weeks til the work table was free. While I was finishing the puppets, I was searching the internet for software capable of creating files the VE2200 could stitch. The majority of options were very expensive (not a desirable option) and were not available on the file trading networks (imagine that?!). I stumbled across mention of Ink/Stitch as a plugin for Inkscape and that the whole software package was free and open source. Free and opensource is often code for amazingly hard to learn, and with documentation that requrires a LOT of knowledge of writing code. Luckily this wasn't the case with Inkstitch.

The lovely father/daughter duo Project Anonymous on YouTube got me set off in the right direction. I watched the tutorials created by Ink/Stitch to fill in the technical gaps I had and from here, my first project was to recreate the floor mat logo patch for the Nissan PAO. I must've spent at least 9 or 10 hours working on the PAO logo, trying to figure out the intracacies of the Bezier tool, how to separate the thread into color layers for ease of stitching etc. At one point, I lost 6 hours of work because I'd been saving my work in a .pes file instead of an .svg file. The .pes file is used by the machine for stitching, but the .svg file is the one that is editable and re-workable and THEN saved as a .pes to stitch.

I moved on from the PAO logo to stitch versions of the Pike Factory cars, then I recreated the Kraftwerk heads from the Musique Non Stop video to put on the back of hoodies. From this exercise, I learned that recreating the artwork is much faster than cleaning up the software interpreted artwork. Also, there is a high value in having one contiguous running stitch or bean stitch to speed up the stitching process. The software tool 'trace bitmap' netted me a stitch count of 118,754 (nobody's got time for that mess). When I re-drew the wire frame heads (a task I desperately did not want to do but HAD to if I wanted it to stitch right), my stitch count went down to 36,6345. Much more manageable.

Next stop from the UV reactive thread in the Kraftwerk embroidery was GLOW-IN-THE-DARK thread. Oh my! I created patches from some of the neighborhood buildings and made a line of "Seminole Heights After Dark" patches which all glowed in the dark, reacted to UV blacklight, or BOTH.

It was around this time that I became aware of the band Wet Leg from the Isle of Wight through the "Now Playing" group I'm a member of on Facebook. Around May of 2022, the group was blowing UP with posts from people spinning their Wet Leg lp in all the colors it comes in. It turned into a group meme of sorts, becoming a running gag. Well, I had to go give it a listen simply due to the fact that I'd never seen a single LP get so much attention from this FB group, ever.

Wet Leg are Rhian Teasdale, Hester Chambers, bassist Ellis Durand, drummer Henry Holmes, and guitarist Joshua Omead Mobaraki with a new album out on Domino Records as of April 8 2022.

I gave it a listen and liked it (a lot!)  - then my friend Daniel in Orlando posted that Wet Leg was coming to The Plaza in Sept. I secured tickets and while I was doing that, I found this photo of Wet Leg with Rhian Teasdale wearing a jacket covered in vintage Americana trucker PATCHES. Holy smokes what a venn diagram.

I thought OH MY! I can replicate these vintage patches and maybe someone will want new ones?! So I started with the I'm a truckers' girlfriend, then the Truckers Make Better Lovers and finally the Next to Sex my CB Radio is best. Well, it seemed nobody wanted replicas of vintage trucker patches. I found the FB Wet Leggers (Wet Leg Fan Community) and posted in there about my replica trucker patches on May 24th. Crickets..

Late on the evening of June 1st, I had an idea to make a patch of Wet Leg lyrics (Excuse me, (what?)) by using the letters I'd already digitized in the CB Radio patch. The "font" in the CB radio patch is pretty cool and I only had to make the letter "c" to do the patch. I stitched up 3 of them and posted to the group - did anyone want these and I'll mail them to you with a stamp if you do. HOLY SMOKES. I think I shipped out at least 15 or more Excuse Me What patches for free. Clearly people want patches BUT they want patches that represent something NEW. Suggestions kept coming in from the group and I used the foundation of the first 3 patches I'd made to create new patches. By June 6th, I had 7 different Wet Leg patch designs and a handful of my patches were in the mail to places all over the globe.

When Wet Leg played the Glastonbury Festival June 24th, Hester's guitar strap was decorated with one of my "I feel sorry for ur mum" patches!!! 

The suggestions from the Wet Legger's group kept pouring in and I kept making patches. To date (July 5th) there are now 22 different Wet Leg patch designs! I'm keeping records of patch and sticker sales so that I can pay the profits forward to the band (perhaps when they play The Plaza in Orlando). Until then, I'm working on creating the embroidery for the uniforms they wear in the UR MUM video as well as sourcing badges and recreating the Isle of Wight patch on the left sleeve of their Angelica's uniforms.

Through this process of rapid fire creation, I've learned that it is good practice to take the covers off your VE-2200 and clean out the flurf and thread bits that will cause your machine to sew badly. It is also best practices to use T-Pins to hold the fabric really taut in the large embroidery hoop as this minimizes fabric shrinkage as the embroidery stitches pull the fabric tighter. I have learned that auto-routed satin columns are your friend and are not to be feared as they will minimize the amount of post-stiching clean up you'll need to do (trimming jump threads) and auto-routed satin stitches also make the projects stich faster overall. I have learned that the large (12x7in) hoop has to have it's screws REALLY tight or the machine won't recognize it as a hoop (this realization was had during a call to Brother's tech support). It is also good to pre-cut your HeatNBond backing to a uniform size, to minimize the need to trim the edges.

I've gotten much faster at digitizing images and getting them to a stitchable file. I recently made three patches from photos of people and got to a completed patch after investing about an hour into each of them. This is a timelapse (sped up 10x) of the processes I go through when turning a picture into a SVG/PES file.

Also, this is the basically the best birthday present ever. It's the gift that keeps giving! Thank you DAVID!!

Here's a link to my ETSY shop!!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Elvis Costello and Paul Weller as Puppets!

What happens when you catch me in the moment of being on a puppet making tear (having just shown off the newly minted Conny Plank puppet) and a dear friend says "IF I had any artistic ability whatsoever there would be Elvis Costello and Paul Weller ones.  They could fight for my heart, like Karate Kid.  Also if I wasn’t lazy.  Also if it wasn’t your brilliant idea."


So it began.

Making the Small Fry body was the easiest part. The pattern is quite simple and I was already in the process of sewing one other caucasoid puppet, so adding two more to the batch actually made the process go smoother. Two I sewed together by hand and the third one I sewed on the sewing machine. Machine sewing the Small Fry body turned it into a nearly complete puppet (body, hands, legs, and feet) in just over 3 hours. Someday I'll learn the Muppet ladder stitch, but so little of their face seams are even going to be visible on these two puppets, I didn't sweat it too much.

I started on Elvis first because, in my opinion, he's pretty straightforward with regard to his visually recognizable markers. His teeth, oversized glasses, and excellent hair make it easy to turn him into a recognizable puppet. The part I was finding challenging was deciding WHICH LOOK to use as the guideline for his hair and clothing. Rocky said for him that decision was easy - the look he's got on the This Year's Model album cover. GOSH THAT'S EASY. Now I had something to work with for Elvis's clothing. Black suit, white button-up shirt with tiny grey polka dots, and a grey satin tie.

<insert image of this year's model cover>

I looked around online for suitable patterns for 18" dolls (they're comparable in size to the Small Fry puppet) and ended up buying a couple of patterns. There isn't much out there for Small Fry clothing patterns (yet) so I got to sewing and modifying the 18" doll patterns. The biggest issue with a pattern for an 18" doll is that the doll has a NECK and the Small Fry doesn't. Shirts and jackets don't fit as cut on the first try. I made a few mock-up dress shirts until I'd modified the dress shirt pattern well enough to look right and close at the top collar button on a Small Fry puppet. Here is a link to the Small Fry puppet patterns I've created through trial and error. I've included all the sewing instructions for the dress shirt and blazers.

I sculpted Elvis's teeth out of some FIMO I had leftover from making puppet noses for Kraftwerk. It wasn't going to matter that they were not teeth colored color to start with. I scoured the internet for good photos of his nose and sculpted a tiny nose for him. Then thinking it might be handy to have a small reproducible puppet nose, I made a mold of it and used it for The Reverend Fred Lane puppet. I did a DIY flocking of the sculpted/cast nose to make it blend with the puppet fleece skin once the nose would be attached to the puppet face.

Elvis Costello's teeth and nose

I painted his teeth using acrylic craft paint I had on hand. The paint probably won't stand up to lots of abuse over time, but I don't anticipate that Rocky has a lot of hard use in mind for his Elvis puppet. While I was daydreaming about how I was going to affix Elvis's teeth to the puppet mouth I decided I didn't want to make them permanently attached so I made a new puppet and puppet mouth plate and used some small round magnets I had on hand to make Elvis's mouth plate attach the teeth MAGNETICALLY. I cut and glued little strips of magnetic metal to the backside of the upper and lower teeth. The magnetic teeth work like a champ. I'm thrilled.

Redoing the mouth plate (and puppet body) to make the teeth magnetically attach!

On the cover of This Year's Model, Elvis is standing behind Chris Gabrin's (the album photographer) Hasselblad 500 camera and tripod. As luck would have it, some scouring of the internet turned up a papercraft pinhole camera model of the Hasselblad 500. The original creator of the papercraft is Kelly Angood but her site doesn't host the file any longer. I found it on Scribd. I printed out the Hasselblad at an appropriate scale for the Small Fry puppet, making the camera dimensions around 1.5 inches. Putting the papercraft together was tedious, but I was happy that I wasn't trying to make a tiny, functioning pinhole Hasselblad 500.  

Papercraft Hasselblad 500

I measured the lens diameter needed and poured 4 exploratory lenses out of clear two-part resin. The first one worked like a champ. I did a light sanding to the edge of the lens so the UHU would hold it in place and then I googled to see what kind of aperture the Hasselblad has. I was on the fence about making it look exactly like the album cover, or making it true to life. I chose true to life. I printed out and cut the leaf aperture opening and glued it to the lens.

Papercraft Hasselblad 500 lens with leaf shutter

Now that the lens was in place, I made the rear of the camera attach with magnets and inserted a stabilizing base and threaded nut for a tripod mount inside the camera. Once the glue was dry, I painted the inside of the camera black (why not?).

Papercraft Hasselblad 500

I went looking on eBay for a Small Fry sized tripod that looked similar to the one on the album cover. I scored with a nice vintage Escot tripod in black/chrome with a handle that looked quite a lot like the one on the cover.

Papercraft Hasselblad 500 comparison photo

I completed his jacket with three working buttonholes and then cut his hair out of coal Mongolian faux fur from (leftover from the Kraftwerk creations). I then attached his eyes, nose and then gave him a haircut.

Elvis Costello - looking good

Another search of eBay turned up a pair of perfectly sized, childs' hornrimmed glasses. When they arrived, I used some loose lenses from broken reading glasses to give Elvis's eyeglass frames something to hold onto and reflect the light.

Elvis Costello - yassssss

With his clothing, camera, glasses, and tripod complete, I was able to recreate the UK, US, and Swedish release album covers of This Year's Model.

UK Cover

Elvis Costello This Year's Model 

  US Cover

Elvis Costello This Year's Model

Swedish Cover

Elvis Costello This Year's Model

One more scouring of the internet turned up Axman - a woodworker in the UK who makes replicas of famous musician's guitars, including Elvis Costello's iconic Jazzmaster guitar (!!). Take my money, right?

Elvis Costello PUMP IT UP

The hard part was shooting a video of Elvis to replicate a tiny portion of the Pump It Up video. Green screen is hard y'all. Trial and error, shoot, re-shoot and then spend an inordinate amount of time in Adobe Premiere Pro masking around his feet to avoid reshooting again. I'm happy with how it turned out and it makes me laugh hysterically! That was the goal all along. 

I didn't send Rocky any process photos once I'd shown him a shot of the teeth pinned into place for a trial fitting (!). Keeping the pictures I've taken off the 'net and hidden has been sooo hard because I've been wanting to share each success I've had in this creation.

Here is the final video cut of puppet Elvis in all his glory in the Pump It Up video!

Creating a Paul Weller puppet was much less challenging by far. I found a tiny doll wig on AliExpress, made it a bit smaller by running a long stitch up and back around the scalp of the wig to "tighten it up" and make it fit the Small Fry better. I picked one of Paul's least-bad haircuts to give the puppet. I didn't have the heart to give him a severe hairline like I saw in most of Paul's earlier photos.

I found a tiny Fred Perry polo shirt on eBay, tailored it to fit Paul, and made him a pair of dark pants.

Paul Weller lookin spiffy!

Shoes were found on AliExpress and modified to be more like suede boots.

Paul Weller's tiny suede boots

I made Paul's nose a more traditional puppet nose - a bit of foam wrapped in fleece and sewn in place. I did some searching to see if he has a signature guitar strap (he does) and I made a tiny guitar strap to match the "real" one.

Paul Weller

I learned a lot in the creating of these puppets and I'm happy to have sent them to their new owner! I can't wait to see what Rocky does with Elvis and Paul!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

How To Make A Skydancer Tube Man (Tube Person)

Perhaps you've always wanted your own custom Skydancer but didn't know how to make one? Look no further. I will tell you how I made this Skydancer and what all of the measurements are and where I sourced the fabric and fan.

This drawing isn't exactly to scale, but it has all the measurements of the Skydancer you see pictured above. I also made one to model Wolfgang Flür from Kraftwerk. Here's the measurements for that Skydancer.

Kraftwerk Skydancer Measurements
If you have a serger sewing machine, making a Skydancer is fairly straightforward with this pattern. I used the Vitruvian Man drawing by daVinci as the source for the proportions between head/face/torso. The proportions work regardless if your Skydancer is wearing "clothes" or not.

This Skydancer pattern will create a Tube Man somewhere between 14-15 feet in height. Measurements are indicated in inches on the pattern and the process photos below will assist you in placing the openings for the Tube Man arms.

I ordered the 1.9 ounce ~70 denier ripstop nylon from HERE, the waterproof 600 denier fabric from HERE, and the 2-inch wide hook and loop (you'll need the loop side as the fan will have the hook side pre-attached to the circumference of the fan base) from HERE. The fan I have is a Big Bear B-Air BB1 but the current model is a BB3. Total cost of fabric + the fan is around $289. Given that custom Skydancers are priced around anywhere from $100 - $200 not including the price of the fan, you could easily make your own or hire the services of a local person with a serger sewing machine like mine to make the Skydancer for you. I have a JUKI MO 654DE but any serger type sewing machine will work for this project.

The ripstop nylon is 60 inches wide which is exactly the same circumference as the base of the B-Air fan. Create a thicker bottom attachment section with the 600 denier waterproof canvas. This is the section you will sew your 2-inch loop fastener strip to in order to connect the base of your Skydancer to the B-Air fan.


 I used a small salad plate (12 inches in diameter) to mark the arm openings. The arms taper to a 4-inch opening. The center of the "armpit" is 14.25 inches from the back seam (the fabric width including the selvage was 61 inches wide).

Here is what the loop strip will look like on your canvas bottom section. Sew a 60-inch strip around the base of the canvas section and then attach a hook and loop strip to each edge of the canvas 12 inch by 60-inch section to secure the canvas fabric closed once you've attached it to the base of the fan.


You can make the facial features out of the same ripstop nylon, serge the edges and sew them by hand to the Skydancer as seen here:


Here is the pattern for a basic Skydancer/Tube Man

Here is the Skydancer in action!!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Rain Lamp Peak Plastic Fail and What You Can Do About It

Way back in April of 2019 the bottom of our rain lamp fell out and dropped 4 quarts of mineral oil on the dining room floor. The cleanup required a mountain of towels which will never come clean and will only ever be useful to turn sticks into torches. We were dismayed and uncertain as to how to fix the cracked plastic. The rain lamp base is the oil reservoir and attaches to the base of the rain lamp with three small bolts and acorn washers. The attach point for each bolt had completely disintegrated and there is no way I would trust a two-part epoxy to support the weight of 4 quarts of mineral oil.

Rain Lamp Cleanup

Rain Lamp Rag Pile

What did I do? I put off trying to fix it for ages (literally years). I had the idea to get a ring cut out of aluminum or sheet metal from a fab shop, but I was dubious that a shop would want to do a small one-off piece for a reasonable amount of money. The prospect of me cutting out a completely symmetric circle from a piece of sheet metal with a dremel was well outside of what I wanted to spend my time doing, so I just didn't do it.

Fast forward to the middle of the pandemic. I saw a person in the neighborhood with a 3D printer printing up loads of standoffs for face mask shields. I reached out to him and asked about the probability of him 3D printing a potential solution for my rain lamp problem. He said he'd try, and eventually I received three different shim types from him. One of the three shims seemed like it would work, but I only ever got the one shim 3D printed from him (I needed 3) and he hadn't responded to a message I'd sent in over five months. I took the one workable shim prototype and used it to cut 3 shims out of some K-S brass strips I had from another project.



With my husband's help, we sanded down the shims to fit under the lip of the oil reservoir, marked and drilled the bolt holes for each of them, and reassembled the rain lamp with new, improved non-disintegrating, weight distributing brass bolt supports.


If you have a rain lamp, beware that it is probably reaching peak plastic brittleness and you could find yourself with 4 quarts of mineral oil on your dining room floor. We were lucky that it happened while we were home, awake, and could quickly mitigate the large pool of mineral oil that hit the floor. If your lamp hasn't bottomed out yet, perhaps you should take a few moments and make some shims to prevent against a mineral oil disaster in your own home.

If you need to restring your oil rain lamp, I have a how-to for just that very thing!

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Reverend Fred Lane as a puppet!

As I was thinking over who I know that would appreciate a puppet of themselves and is also visually iconic, I came up with none other than The Reverend Fred Lane. The Venn diagram of people I know and who can be unmistakably rendered in puppet form is admittedly small, but I digress.

The Reverend Fred Lane as described by Wikipedia:
Tim R. Reed, known by the stage name Reverend Fred Lane, is an American, Tuscaloosa, Alabama-born singersongwriter, and visual artist, who released two relatively obscure yet critically appreciated albums in the 1970s on Say Day Bew Records, later re-released in the 1980s on the Shimmy Disc label. These albums explored various traditional genres of American music such as jazzcountry, and big-band swing, but infused with improvisational experimentations and Dadaist free-associative lyrics.

I first met Tim at the showing of the documentary of him titled Icepick To The Moon. David had clued me in to The Reverend Fred Lane many years prior and we were both thrilled to see the film and meet Tim in person! It was shown at the University of Florida. If you haven't seen it, here's a link to the trailer for it. It was super to see the documentary on Tim Reed and then have the opportunity to meet him and his lovely wife. The following year, we visited them both at their artists booth at the  Florida CraftArt festival in St. Petersburg, FL. He and his wife Jeanie are traveling artisans. He works in wood (mobile sculptures) and his wife Jeanie works in fiber and ceramic arts (mixed media).

I reached out to Jeannie and asked if having a puppet of his stage persona would appeal to Tim. She said yes (!) and I quickly began working on replicating The Reverend Fred Lane (TRFL) based on photographic evidence in the way-way back machine called the Internet.

The puppet pattern is the Small Fry pattern created by Adam Kreutinger. The fleece is from (leftover from the fleece I used to make Kraftwerk). Once I had the puppet form created, I began working on creating The Reverend Fred Lane's stage props and costume accessories. I used a duplicate resin cast of a nose I sculpted for another puppet, flocked it with UHU glue and fibers cut from the fleece I'd used to make TRFL's puppet.

I documented the process behind making all TRFL's accessories and costuming in this Flickr photo album.

I ordered the smallest "straw" fedora and children's sunglasses that I could find on AliExpress. The sunglasses turned out to be just perfect. I knew the hat was going to be too big, but I hoped boiling it would make the synthetic fibers shrink up. I had no luck in shrinking the hat, so I cut up the hat according to a tiny fedora hat pattern and made a TRFL sized hat from a hat.
<insert hat photo here>

My pal Joel is a whiz with 3D printers, so I sent him a link to sunglasses on Thingiverse and said, can you make these sunglasses but have them be 2 1/2 inches wide? He said yes he could, so he sent me 5 print out in case I needed backups. As it turned out, my measurements ended up being much too small for TRFL's face. I was shooting for 'comically small' sunglasses but ended up with TEENY TINY sunglasses. Not a problem, I turned the teeny tiny sunglasses into a pair of earrings (!!) for Jeannie.

Bespoke 3D printed sunglasses

I used my Cricut to cut a sheet of ABS plastic into sunglasses, salvaged a pair of eyeglass hinges from a broken pair of sunglasses, and created the 'comically small' sunglasses for TRFL. It required much sanding and grinding with a Dremel because my Cricut is a Cricut Air, not a Cricut Maker. The Cricut Air is not powerful enough to cut all the way through the ABS plastic, I had to do the work to free the semi-cut parts from the surrounding plastic and grind them down to the 'engraved' lines the Cricut made in the ABS sheet.

Custom Cricut "cut" sunglasses

To get the right look for TRFL's band-aids, I made three prototypes. I used ink-jet printable heat transfer material to get two sets of band-aids on a sheet of white fabric. One prototype used Mod Podge gloss to glue a layer of thin clear vinyl to the band-aid image to make it shiny, the second prototype used layering of the Mod Podge gloss to create several layers of Mod Podge to create a shiny band-aid surface. The third prototype used a beige vinyl fabric and permanent fabric markers to make the band-aid perforations and gauze pad center. The beige vinyl band-aids looked the best against TRFL's head! I used Fabri-TAC glue to adhere heavy-duty Velcro hook squares to each end of the band-aid; leaving the gauze section in the middle of the band-aid free from Velcro. This allowed me to criss-cross the band-aids on TRFL's face as is his stage wear.

Which band-aid is best?

As luck would have it, I found a paper-craft globe online and it was already sized proportionately to TRFL's puppet size.

He's got the world on a string

I used this photo of Mattel's Tommy-Burst Detective Set to replicate the toy Tommy Gun TRFL is seen sporting in photographic history.

Papercraft Tommy Gun for The Reverend

PEX tubing made the frame of TRFL's tricycle possible. Silver and red spray paint made it complete. Tiny pedals made out of FIMO gave TRFL something to perch his tiny feet upon.

Fimo pedals to push on

His hair was cut from a scrap of faux fur, sewed into place and then a suitable haircut was given. After his first hair cut, I fashioned a wispy mustache and goatee which could then be 'waxed' into a twist.


For his final million-dollar grin as seen on the cover of "From the One That Cut You" I sculpted his grin out of a section of PVC pipe with various Dremel bits and grinder tips. A base coat of paint was applied to his teeth and the final paint layer added pink to his gums and a bit of grey shading between his teeth to make the depth of them pop visually.


I had a ton of fun making all of TRFL's accouterments and I am happy to hear that Tim is as pleased with himself as I am!

He's got the world on a string and Anne Plastic Ear.
He's got the world on a string and Anne Plastic Ear.

The Reverend Fred LaneThe Reverend Fred Lane