Tag Archives: felt

96: Deer Ears

I’m not generally a costume person, but after getting (good-natured) grief at the Halloween parties last year, I knew I had to step up my game.  Of course, I also wanted to kill two birds with one stone and make it a blog project as well!

I had to use Ryan's favorite photo, right?
I had to use Ryan’s favorite photo, right? 

To still be “me” and keep my costs down, I decided a deer costume was the ticket.  I thrifted a brown skirt to pair with my white button up and brown sweater, and the makeup was from the college theater class.  To complete the look, I designed a pair of deer ears.

We cut the plush fuzzy side down.
We cut the plush fuzzy side down.

We cut felt really early in the blog run, way back during Week 4, Rock Band Drum Covers.  We learned the hard way the smell of laser cut wool was pervasive, so I used synthetic felt to construct the ears. Jo-Ann’s has a plush felt that was perfect, and at less than $6 a yard.  We needed less than 1/8 of a yard for the project.

Paper attempts - I decided to ditch the bottom fold on the bottom ear for simplicity.
Paper attempts – I decided to ditch the bottom fold on the bottom ear for simplicity.

I knew I wanted something more realistic looking than “Cut a petal shape and pinch at base.”  I consulted Google for deer ear shape images and I did a practice run in paper.  I’ve never really drafted a pattern before, so the paper was to test where folds would go and what the fabric to look like before folding and gathering to give it the appropriate shape.

Full ear shape
Full ear shape
All the little parts, before I cleaned up the fuzzy extra bits of felt.
All the little parts, loose on the right and in place on the left, before I cleaned up the fuzzy extra bits of felt.

Deer ears are brown with white inside, and than get brown again near the inside base.  To really get full use of the laser, I did decorative swirls on the inside of the ears.  We found that while the laser cut the material nicely, the inner swirls were too tight of a cut and got a little melty and stuck to the “plush” part of the felt.  Not a big deal, but they had to be trimmed out later by hand.

First fold
To get the ear shape, my first fold was straight down.  You can see where it’s going, but the curve at the base isn’t right.  On the final run, the inner swirls would already in in place in the ear.
Second fold, which I think technically makes a dart. This care the ear a more natural curve and created fullness
Second fold, which I think technically makes a dart. This gave the ear a more natural curve and created fullness.
I basically whip stitched the folded end, making sure all three layers got sewn together. The top of the swirl isn't sewn down, though I did end up tacking it with superglue.
I basically whip stitched the base, making sure all three layers got sewn together. The top end of the swirl isn’t sewn down, though, because I didn’t want brown thread to be shown on the front, or white thread on the back.  I ended up tacking it with superglue.
I had the perfect shade of embroidery floss to attachh the ear to the clear com. I tried to cover as much of the comb as possible, just in case my hair didn't cover it. I chose the comb over a headband because I could blend it into my hair better.
I had the perfect shade of embroidery floss to attach the ear to the clear comb. I tried to cover as much of the comb as possible, just in case my hair didn’t give full coverage. I chose the comb over a headband because I could blend it into my hair better.
Detail of how they are attached to the comb
Detail of how they are attached to the comb
Completed ears!
Completed ears!
Closeup of the hair - I did end up taking out the top bobby pin when I was sure it was all set.
Closeup of the hair – My hair is fine, so I didn’t have enough to volume to cover my ears and keep the combs in place and covered.  I compromised with a low drape under the fake ear that I held up with a barrette – partially covering the ear and holding up the felt ear in case gravity became too much!  I did end up taking out the top bobby pin when I was sure it was all set.
Eyes shut version so you can see the makeup.
Eyes shut version so you can see the makeup.

The makeup was a lot of fun to do.  I used the brown and white pots of my Ben Nye creme make up kit, and everything else is black eyeliner and mascara.  There are a ton of you tube videos for the deer look (It’s really quite in right now) but they were a little too over the top for me and involved too many fake eyelashes.  I took my inspiration from this image (unfortunately I can’t track down the original source), but I pulled back on the fawn spots, added a black lip and white to the nose which is seen on some deer – like this great photo of a mule deer by Anthony Dunn.

The costume was a hit, and just my speed.  The makeup and hair, shockingly, lasted all night, and I’ll have the ears for years to come!

Save the best for last - I had to make a tail too!
Saved the best for last – I made a matching tail too 🙂

05: Rock Band Drum Covers

I spent a lot of the 90s listening to my brother John beat on the drums. He would blast Rush tunes like Tom Sawyer and Red Barchetta and was so good at keeping up with the likes of Neill Peart that I was regularly awestruck. I spent enough time just sitting in the room listening to his music to damage my ears. John helped me try to figure out the rudiments once upon a time, but I was so frustrated by making my legs and arms do what I wanted to at the same time that I never really went far with it. I’d still sneak in from time to time and drum along to—I kid you not—F-Zero’s “Big Blue” and “Death Wind,” tracks I’d recorded onto cassette tapes.

Rock Band LogoI’ve always been a big video game nut, so when some arcade games like MTV’s Drumscape and Konami’s DrumMania happened I was thrilled, but it wasn’t until Rock Band that I was really able to get into a drum game. Sure, Rock Band was more than a drum game, but it was the drum portion of the game that elevated it beyond “great, another Guitar Hero” for me.  It also taught me the limb independence I just couldn’t figure out back when I was an impatient little kid. The game’s drums had some hard rubber surfaces that weren’t great to hit, and despite the second iteration improving on these materials considerably, I still sought out some aftermarket alternatives.

Fake Advert
A fake billboard for GoodWoodMods, a company who specialized in aftermarket rhythm game hardware.

There was a pretty big aftermarket for Rock Band hardware thanks to the positively shoddy first run of instruments and the moderately improved second run. One of those aftermarket suppliers was GoodWoodMods, who originally made high-quality mesh drum head replacements with wooden frames. They replaced the wooden frame with a molded plastic frame to simplify replacing mesh as it wore out, and that’s the set I installed on my Rock Band 2 drum kit.

Comparison
A comparison of the GWM stealth head mod and the original Rock Band drum heads.

The best thing about this aftermarket option was that mesh heads are incredibly quiet compared to the original drum surfaces. Sure, they have much more rebound, making playing the drums much more natural and fun, but the silence is why they were branded “Stealth Drum Kits” in the first place. Of course, they’re only silent when you’re well-practiced and can avoid hitting the hard plastic frame surrounding that wonderfully bouncy mesh. Otherwise, the resounding clack of hitting off the mark is even louder than the original drum heads.

Solving the Problem

The Original Felt
A plastic drum head frame sitting atop natural felt.

A while back, I picked up some 8″ squares of thick natural felt, thinking that I should be able to cut some covers for those offensively loud plastic frames. It wasn’t until this week that I got around to trying this out! GWM’s new ABS plastic was precisely machined, and thanks to some clever transforms in Illustrator, the twelve screw holes were easily made equidistant.  So the design was no trouble at all, but the material certainly gave me a headache. The initial test cut fit great on the drum heads, but the felt itself didn’t do as much to dull the thud as I’d hoped. Furthermore, laser-cut natural felt stinks like burning hair, and it lingers. This is a solvable problem, but since I wanted to pick out some better colors to better match the original drums’ design, I decided to pick up some new synthetic felt to avoid the problem altogether. While I was out shopping, Jennifer found some interesting foam that might improve the felt’s noise-dampening qualities.

Bits of Felt
Many leftover bits of the felt/foam combination.

Some multi-purpose spray adhesive was used to bond the four new felt strips to the foam back, and after a short drying period, I did some tests to confirm new, much lighter laser settings. It seems that synthetic felt cuts more quickly than natural felt; it also smells a lot less like hair mishaps. The four finished pieces were cleaned of all of their tiny cut-out bits (look at all of those screw-hole cut-outs!) and attached to the drum heads. The natural felt was a decent thickness that didn’t stand too far above the mesh surface of the drum, but the synthetic felt/foam combination does sit just a little taller and has me worried that I’ll be prone to hitting the sides more often as a result. This shouldn’t be an issue at all, though, because the foam did its job: hitting these are much quieter than the natural felt was! Even when the drum stick impact centers right over one of the screws (which are exposed to keep mesh replacement simple) it’s fairly dulled by the surrounding felt. Mission successful!

Green Drum Closeup
A closeup of the green drum and its felt lip.

I had some trouble deciding whether to use a temporary or permanent adhesive for attaching these fabric covers to the plastic drum frames at first. For now, I’m using some glue dots, but I’ve found that they just don’t hold as strongly as I’d like; I figure I’ll be trying some new adhesives in the future.

The Whole Kit
Head on shot of the entire kit. Please don’t mind the Rock Revolution pedal!