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GF (Goldfish) Swordtail

I "fake-joined" the One Tiny Stuffie Swap Round 9 at Craftster, which simply means that, while you still have to follow the rules for said event, instead of actually exchanging the item(s) that you made with another member, you're creating it for yourself. The "Fake Swap Craftalong" at Craftster is intended for people that really want to participate in a particular challenge, but, for whatever reason, can't (lack of funds for shipping, having already reached their quota limit for active swaps, wanting to make a certain object/thing but their partner(s) aren't interested in the subject matter, etc.) In my case, I've just been so lazy about producing any kind of artwork lately that I figured having some deadlines hanging over my head would force me to get to work on something, anything, and, thus far, that motivational strategy is working.

The object of the One Tiny Stuffie Swap was to make a single, small, stuffed figure (approximately 5" x 5" x 5"). After a lot of thought, I decided to sew a GF (Goldfish) Swordtail, my favorite creature design from the Japanese 2001 Wizardry: Chronicle personal computer roleplaying video game. I had previously contemplated modeling that particular monster in papier-mâché on several occasions, but never got around to it.

Beware: Sometimes you filet the fish, sometimes the fish filets you!

The default six-member party of player characters (two fighters, swordsman, priest, thief, and magician) battling two Goldfish Swordtails.

The in-game bestiary entry for the Goldfish Swordtail.

Now, unless my memory is playing tricks on me, I don't believe that I've ever created a completely plush figure before (I have made some combination sewn/sculpted toys in the past though). While I know how to utilize a needle and thread, I'm not particularly fond of the activity (I typically only sew when either my clothing or backpacks get rips or holes in them, and reluctantly at that), so this project was outside my comfort zone.

After deciding on my subject matter, the first thing that I did was make the pattern for the body/fins. This was accomplished by scaling up the game sprite and making a drawing of it, using the grid transfer system, which I then traced (and simplified) onto another sheet of paper and cut out. Next, I folded my fabric (an old, red T-shirt from one of the local casinos) in half, taped the halves together (to keep them from moving around on me while I sewed--I didn't use pins, because I'm guaranteed to impale myself on them repeatedly if I do), and taped my pattern down on top of that. Then, with running stitches, I went around the perimeter of said pattern with needle and thread [leaving a hole behind the anal fin so that I could (1) turn the fabric inside-out afterwards and (2) have an access point to push stuffing inside.] Lastly, I used cuticle scissors to cut around the outside of all of my stitches to free the sewn figure from the surrounding fabric.

Here's the sewn fish after I finished turning it inside-out, but before I stuffed the figure. Given the relatively small size of this project, the process of inverting the fabric, particularly the narrow swordtail, was rather difficult and infuriating. And, yes, I used various long, rigid implements to try to help things along, but it still wasn't easy and I ended up tearing through my stitches in several places, which then had to be repaired.

This is what the figure looked like after getting stuffed and the addition of pectoral fins, gill covers, and hand-made (but unpainted) eye buttons. Similar to the inversion process, the swordtail was a nightmare to stuff (I pretended that I was force-feeding a boa constrictor as I rammed the material down its length with a metal rod). At one point, I had considered inserting cardboard support structures inside of the swordtail and fins instead, which would probably have been easier, but, I ultimately decided that, if I'm making a stuffed critter, then the entire anatomy of the fish, sans the hard eyes, should be plush. I also originally wanted to fill the fish with cotton balls, but we didn't have enough of them left in the house to get the job done (there were only two lonely white puffs left in the jar), and I was too lazy/cheap to run out and buy some more, so, I channeled my inner-MacGyver, dug out one of our cheese graters and shredded several sheets of Kleenex into paper stuffing. Inhaling bits of that fluff did not agree with my lungs, so, if you want to try that out for yourself, don't be a self-destructive fool like me, please employ a protective dust mask while you do so.

Just before I began painting the fish, I sewed on some orbital ridges/sockets for the eyes, to give the head/face more three-dimensional definition. That done, it was time to apply color. I used silver, gray, orange, white, and red acrylic paints to embellish the body. I was surprised that I found painting fabric to be a rather enjoyable experience--while there are many similarities, textiles take paint differently than the hard, sculpted figures I usually work on, and the fabric's texture almost looks like tiny scales, which is certainly appropriate considering the subject matter. With the Goldfish Swordtail fully colored, the final step was sewing on the pair of button eyes that I made and painted previously. Well, I actually ended up having to create three of those peepers, as I carelessly lost one of the first two that I fabricated somewhere on the bedroom carpet.

Here's the finished product. All things considered, for my first stab at this type of thing, I think that my Goldfish Swordtail plush figure turned out fairly well. To be honest, there were several times during the construction process when I wondered if I hadn't gotten myself in over my head and I worried that the thing was going to end up as an unsalvageable disaster (I should have more faith in my abilities). Of course, it's far from perfect: Stronger fabric would have held up to the strains of inversion and stuffing better; I really need to work on making my stitches cleaner and neater; and I could have taken things further than I did, detail-wise (stitching spine lines into all of the fins for example). During the first two days of work, I kept reminding myself that, "This is why I don't like to sew.", but, towards the end (and with the exception of the lost eye incident), I started to enjoy the process and, as a result, I'm seriously considering attempting other sewing projects in the future. If nothing else, making this Goldfish Swordtail has given me a new appreciation for all of the individuals in the world that make plush figures on a regular basis--it's a lot harder and more work than I had imagined.

An old T-shirt, sewing thread, tissue paper, cardboard from a cereal box (backing for the button eyes), white glue, a wire twist tie (shanks for the button eyes), acrylic paint, and nail polish (gloss coating for the button eyes).

18.1 cm (7.1") long x 5.5 cm (2.2") high x 2.3 cm (0.9") thick.
(Technically, the plush figure was supposed to fit inside an imaginary 5" x 5" x 5" box, but, as the creature's 4" swordtail is about as long as the rest of the fish, I feel that the extra length is justifiable in this case, because, without that projecting barb, the creature would be well within said dimensional parameters.)

Three days: June 5th, 6th, and 7th, 2015.

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