Saturday, July 31, 2010

Not Many Posts in July...

I didn't end up with many posts to the Blog this month. I think I was so preoccupied with getting the puppet ready to go that I really didn't have much time to post on the blog, not to mention I didn't really do much else that would have been interesting to post about anyways.

In some news to end July, I'm thinking about creating a new and separate blog dedicated to the puppets. It would be tied to a separate YouTube account as well along with a separate Gmail address.

I'm not 100% sure I want to do it yet, but it might be nice to be able to link to my blog in my Ebay auctions for people to see more photos and videos easily.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Sparrows Attack!!!

Today I took my little Switchblade plane to the park to fly it again. It took off and was flying perfectly when I noticed something odd.

It was being followed by about 6 little birds. I think that they were sparrows, like in the picture here. They chased the plane all around the field...everywhere it went, they followed. A couple of times they even managed to get close enough to it that I think they may have hit it. Unfortunately, the plane is so small that from about 70 feet away it's hard to tell if it's getting hit or if they are just really close to it. The only time that they would back off would be when I crashed it into the ground or when it landed. They would then retreat to places unknown and wait for it to take off again before resuming this odd dogfight.

The plane ran out of batteries and I had to go home. I charged it up and then later in the evening I took Cathy with me to show her the plane. After about a minute of it being airborn, it's adversaries were back...following it everywhere it went, not letting it get away. Again, they only left it alone when it would end up on the ground. They chased it around for the entire time I was flying, again, and then I ran out of batteries again and had to go home.

I bought another one of the little plane things at Target today, so the next time I go I'll be able to get twice as much flying in because I'll have two planes.

I don't know whether they were chasing the plane because they were trying to chase it away, or if they were following it because they didn't know what it was. Either way, it was pretty cool to watch. It was almost like when you see small birds chasing away a crow or a hawk, only they didn't seem quite as aggressive.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

RC Plane Thing...

The other day I was wandering around Target and I noticed this cool little radio controlled airplane thing called a Switchblade by Airhogs. It was normally about $70 but it was on clearance for $12, so I figured I should grab one.

I got it home and it seems pretty cool. It changes shape so that it can take off vertically, then when it's in the air you press a button on the control that makes it morph into the airplane form. It then flies.

I tried it in the yard, but I couldn't get it to morph. Probably a good thing, because it turned out to need a lot more space than I had in the yard and I probably would've lost it.

I took it up to the park tonight and tried it...and surprisingly it flew really well!! At first I hovered it up to about 30 feet or so then morphed it and off it went!!! It flew around the baseball field excellently. I finally managed to crash it by turning to sharply, so I tried to hand launch it. I tossed it into the air with full throttle going and off it went again!!

For $12, I think it is an awesome little gadget. I will probably stop by Target again to see if they have any more and maybe pick up another one, just in case something happens to this one.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First Puppet is Up for Bids!!!

Dart Auction

That's the first puppet that I have created to actually sell. His name is Dart and he's like Paddy but with different eyes.

I hope that I have priced him correctly. He's a bit less expensive than some other puppets that I have seen that I think don't look quite as nice as him, which hopefully will get him sold relatively quickly.

I've got a couple of more heads to put onto bodies, and a new pattern to try out as well.

I am nervous about selling him. What if he doesn't sell?? What if he does and the buyer doesn't like him??

I know that I think it's a good quality puppet...I'm just hoping that whoever buys him thinks the same thing!!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Puppet Almost Ready for Sale...

So I have completed a Dart style puppet that I will be listing on Ebay for sale in the next few days.

I am in the final stages of making an arm rod for him so that you can control his arm with a rod that you hold in your hand. I had an idea all set up that ended up not really working out, so I have designed another idea that should work and I should be able to complete it tomorrow night.

On top of the puppet, I have also made a couple of puppet stands that I will also sell on Ebay. They are very basic but work perfectly, and they also look pretty nice on top of that. I plan on offering them for about $9 or so with a couple bucks for shipping, so a total of about $15. I MAY think about offering a discount of a couple of bucks on them if someone purchases one with a puppet.

My initial pricing idea for the puppet is $35. I find quite a few puppets that don't look nearly as nice in the $55-60 range, so I'm hoping that the $35 price tag will fall in well and generate some interest. If it goes really quickly, I may think about raising the price a bit to see how well they do at maybe about $45.

As I type this, there are basically three styles of puppet that I can make for people. The one has eyes like Paddy that are covered with the same color fleece as the puppet. One has eyes like Blip that stick out off of the head. The final one is the one that is for sale, it's name is Dart and it has large yellow eyes. I'm thinking that Paddy and Dart will list for the same price as each other, with Blip costing a few dollars more due to his eyes.

I haven't had very good luck figuring out an exact cost for the puppets due to things being on sale and me trying so many different things with them. I haven't been able to get a good feel for how many puppets can be made from one yard of fabric. I am pretty sure I can get four puppets from one yard of foam, but I think I can only get three from one yard of fabric. That means that the foam costs about $2.50 per puppet, and the fleece would be about $3.33. The eyes are running right around 60 cents per puppet, and the miscellaneous fabric for the mouth and tongue is right around 40 cents per puppet. That means that the cost for each puppet, minus my time, is right around $6.83. There are little other things that might be added from time to time, like some pipe cleaners, and obviously the hot glue that I use for putting things together and the thread, but those costs are pretty minimal. I will say that in material, each puppet costs right around a total of $7.50-$8.00. My time, of course, is where the majority of the "cost" to the customer goes. Each puppet has taken me over two hours to complete. Even as I have gotten better, I have continued to have to go back and redo something on them.

I hope that my price of $35 is fair. I don't want the things to cost a lot more than what they are costing me to make...but I figure my time is worth about $15 an hour (that's less than what I get paid at work) so with that said, I would actually be losing about $3 on the sale of each puppet...but that's not a big deal, I don't really look at it as using my time up because I enjoy doing it.

Hopefully this first one will sell. I have two more heads finished and ready to be turned into whole puppets, so if this one sells I will have two more up for sale shortly after that.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Tires...

I got some new tires for the Taurus about a week ago.

I got them from Sears. Like everything else I've gotten from Sears this year, they turned out to be a pretty good deal.

I got four new tires, an alignment, and an oil change for all right around $450. Every other time I've gotten tires for a car it's cost about that much, and that never included an alignment.

When I took it in for the oil change, the lady told me "You still need new tires." She was the same lady that told me I needed new tires 3,200 miles ago at my last oil change. I figured it was time, so we put them on the Sears card and got 0% financing on them. Pretty good deal.

The car has 58,000 miles on it now, and they told me that they were 100% sure those were the original tires that were on there.

The Taurus drives like a dream now. Before it was a bit wobbly and had some vibrations on the highway. Now it's super smooth and it's so much more comfortable to drive. I'm also noticing that it seems to be getting better gas mileage. I hit a higher mile mark at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 tank marks than I have before, so it will be interesting to see how much better the mileage is now.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Cathy and I went to see "Inception" this evening.


Pretty much the only thing that needs to be said is that Chris Nolan has asserted himself as "the" director right now. Pretty much anything the guy touches turns to amazing, and "Inception" is no different.

Right from the beginning the movie just grabbed me and held my attention, 100%, for the next 148 minutes.

The concept is great, the style was amazing, the acting was superb. Overall, I would say it's the best movie I've seen in a good long while.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Found My New TV Show...

As anyone that reads my blog knows, I've been looking for a TV show to follow since "LOST" is now over.

I had found that I enjoy most of the shows on USA. "Burn Notice," "White Collar," and a few of their other original shows are really good. The problem being, they have been on for a while and getting caught up might be just about impossible. I still plan on one day getting all of the "Burn Notice" episodes on DVD and watching them...but that's for another post.

Well, on Tuesday night a new show premiered on USA. It's got that girl from "Coyote Ugly" in it, Piper Perabo, Peter Gallagher from "The O.C.," Christopher Gorham who played Henry in "Ugly Betty," and Kari Matchett from "Invasion." It's also put together by the guy that created the "Jason Bourne" movies, which were some of the best movies out there.

The show is called "Covert Affairs" and it's about a rookie CIA agent (Annie Walker) who was plucked out of training to work an operation. As the show progressed, it became apparent that there's a bit of an underlying story to this rookie agent. It appears that a guy that she had a relationship with while traveling is some kind of person of interest to the CIA. It seems that they may be using Annie to try and get this guy to come out of hiding.

The pilot was just over an hour long and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was paced well, fun, had some good acting, and some good action sequences. I think it might have the potential to be a really fun show...the acting is definitely there, the conspiracy idea is there, the production values are there, and finally USA doesn't really seem to do many shows that aren't very good.

In short, I think I may have found my new show...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mini Vacation...

Next week, Cathy and I have two extra days off of work. We took off Friday to go to Firekeepers with some friends, and I figured if we were going to take Friday off we might as well also take Tuesday off and have a nice four day long weekend.

I'm not sure if we'll really do anything else. Right now, even though it's early, the weather is looking like it's not going to be that spectacular. But a break from work is always nice.

If we do end up getting the weather to cooperate, I might try to go up to Lansing to the little water park that's there one day. Maybe we'll go to Greenfield Village. Maybe we'll take a day trip over to Grand Rapids. Maybe we'll go to Ann Arbor and go to the big mall that's there.

I'm not sure what we're going to do, but I'm looking forward to the extra time off!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Designing Puppets... just too much fun.

I know this might sound a bit crazy, but it's almost like I'm creating a bit of life. While I'm thinking up the character it literally comes to life in my mind, and as I get closer and closer to finishing it I can really imagine it being a real creature out there doing it's thing.

I know that sounds odd...but it's what it feels like.

Which brings me to a bit of a problem. I want to try and make and sell a few of these guys...but it's hard to think about selling them when I'm spending so much time coming up with the ideas. I guess that's something that I'll have to get over if I want to try and sell them.

I do have a few more ideas that I need to try to implement on a couple more "prototypes" before I start thinking about making some to sell. I'm going to try to change the pattern and the instructions a bit so that I can machine sew the entire thing. That should make it go faster all around, and I think I've come up with a way to do it that will require just a tad bit of modifying to the original plan. The original plan will have to have it's mouth plate enlarged just a tad and the material around the mouth on the head enlarged in order to account for the seams that the machine leaves. The original plan also requires you to sew the already completed head to the already completed body, which is a bit difficult to do with the machine. I believe that if I end up sewing the body to the head BEFORE I sew back seam on the two pieces that it would go together really well AND be faster. After trying these two ideas out on a puppet, if they work, I then need to time myself to see how long it takes to make one from start to finish. Now that I've used the machine a bit more I am having less issues with the string getting tangled and stuff. If, however, the two ideas don't work then I'll still have to time myself.

With all of this said...I have another really cool idea for one that i want to work on. I'll keep that a secret until I actually start to work on him. I also have another idea, but he will require one of the other patterns available...which I don't really want to buy right now. So as soon as I get that other pattern, I'll go ahead and start on that idea as well. I'll just say this for now...his name will be Bob.


So Cathy and I went to the buffet at Firekeepers Casino a couple of weeks ago, and we're going to go back at the end of the month with some friends from work.

It should end up being a lot of fun. We'll be taking a Friday off of work and going with at least two of our co-workers and probably their significant others...but I'm also going to try to get at least one more of our friends to come.

We're thinking either the 23rd or the 30th of July...we'll have to see which works best for everyone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blip is Done...

I finished Blip, the second puppet, tonight.

Machine sewing was definitely faster...and that was with all of my troubles using it for what essentially was the first time.

I had some trouble getting the arms attached. My mom sewed the arms on the other puppet for me, and I watched her, but I simply couldn't match what she had done. I have come up with another way that will attach the arms and look seamless from the top, front, back, and sides. The only time you'd see a seam would be if the puppets arms were up and you were looking at what would be it's arm pits. It will also take about 5 seconds to do, instead of a few minutes sewing.

I MAY try to sew the arms on with the sewing machine next time...but I'm not sure if it will work very well. The method I came up with should work just fine and not require any use of needle or thread at all.

I have also toyed with the idea of mounting the arms using buttons or snaps. The method of doing so would essentially hide the button or snap when looking at the puppet, but would allow you to use different arms if you wanted to. I made a different set of arms for the new puppet, so this method would allow the arms to be changed out to the different style whenever you would like. It may also help make moving the arms easier and more natural, as the button or snap would automatically swivel, where as being sewn on doesn't allow much room to swivel. Even with all of this said, I think that the way that I've devised will work perfectly and be the best from both a cost and time stand point.

Also tonight, I worked out the cost of the materials by looking at my materials with them all laid out.

I think it's safe to say that you need one whole yard of fabric to get two puppets. You MIGHT be able to get three out of the yard, but I think you'd be pushing it and you wouldn't have any room for error if you had to rework a piece.

So, you get two puppets out of $5 worth of fleece. I got the fleece on sale, and it was $5 per yard down from $10 per yard. From what I've seen, I will always be able to get that fleece for that price because there are coupons in the Sunday paper for 50% off of JoAnns items every week.

I also was off on my estimate on the foam. You can get two puppets from one half yard of foam if you lay everything out correctly and don't waste it. So that means that for $5 worth of foam you can get two puppets.

So for a total of $10 you can get two puppets...minues eyes and any other little trinkets you want to put on them.

Again, the felt for the mouth is like 29 cents and you would easily be able to get four mouths out of that one piece of felt, so I figure that about 8 cents per puppet for that. The eyes I used for both were 99 cents each. The pieces to mount the eyes to on both were about 50 cents for each set. There is also a piece of hardened felt that you use inside the puppet for some support. That costs 79 cents, but again, you should be able to get about 8 puppets out of one, so about 10 cents each. The hair on Paddy cost $1.99 and would easily be able to get you hair for 50 that's really negligible.

So all said and done, I would say each of those puppets that I made used about $7.50 worth of materials, including everything on them. The shirts both cost less than $4, which isn't included in the cost of the materials. All said it would be about $11 per puppet for EVERYTHING including the shirt on his back.

Of course, since they were my first two, it cost considerably MORE than that to make these two...but a lot of that was wasted on parts that didn't come out right and needed to be redone. I also spent money on some pieces that I couldn't end up using because they weren't the right size.

Paddy took me quite a long time to complete. I would say right around 6 total hours. Blip was much quicker. About 4 hours including quite a bit of time struggling with the sewing machine and a good 30 minutes making a pattern for the arms that I wanted to use. Probably another 20 minutes of time reworking the arms that I put on there because they just didn't look right. Add another 20 minutes of that to having to prepare different patterns because the patterns are slightly different sized for hand sewing and machine sewing.

I'm nearly 100% sure that I could probably get one done in about 2 hours...especially if I didn't go crazy on his eyes like I did with Blip and Paddy. If I went more basic with just some buttons or practice golf balls, I would easily be able to get one done in 2 hours. If I went with the basic sleeve body instead of the fancy body, I could probably get them done in an hour.

I'll probably make another one in a few days and go basic on it just to see how quickly I can get it done.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Paddy Is Finished...and a New Puppet Started...

Well, I finished Paddy the other night with the help of my mom. She showed me how to use the sewing machine, and I finished off the last part that needed to be done...his arms. I also found him a nice shirt to wear.

Here's the character bio that I've come up with for him.

This is Paddy. His real name is Lloyd, but his favorite food is lily pads and he spends most of his time looking for them, so his friends started calling him Paddy and it just kind of stuck.

Paddy is like a frog...but...different. His parents tell him that they're all different because of the green goo that leaked into the pond from the factory for a while. It's since been cleaned up, and they are all healthy, but they look a little bit odd.

Paddy likes to swim and juggle...but he's not very good at juggling. His favorite hobby, however, is collecting pennies. Here's the thing...Paddy thinks ALL coins are pennies. In fact, he thinks that any small circular metal object is a penny. His favorite "penny" is actually an old Coca Cola bottle cap.

I also started working on another puppet tonight. This one is going to be an alien. Between this one and Paddy, I will have a working basis to start making more of them, and maybe even selling some of them on Ebay or at craft stores. I'm trying to get the time it takes to make them down to under two hours...but so far I'm nowhere near that. Even with the sewing machine it still took me quite a while to get this guy's head done. However, I had some trouble getting the machine threaded because I forgot one of the steps. I spent a good long time fighting with the machine before I remembered what I was doing wrong. Either way, I still was able to make this one's head MUCH faster than I made Paddy' I'm sure if I keep working at it I'll get them down to about two hours in no time.

Here he is. His name is Blip. He's an alien. He crashed here while searching for food to take back to his home planet. Oddly enough, his species thrive on gummy worms.

Paying Off Some Bills...

So I have two department store credit cards, Meijer and Walmart, that I've had for the last several years and I simply can't seem to get them paid off. They are both relatively low balance cards, and that's probably why. I always seem to convince myself that making the minimum payment on them is good enough because they are such low balances that even the $14 minimum payments would work to lower the balance.

Of course everyone, myself included, knows this isn't really the case. They are low balance, but have high interest my $14 minimum payments are really only ending up putting like $4 or so to the principal every month.

So I decided to do something about it.

One of the nice things about the Thrift Savings Plan that we have at work is that you can take a loan out of your savings and not end up having to pay any taxes on it. You can do this because you "pay" yourself back by having a few extra bucks every paycheck put into your TSP account.

Of course, this can cause you to lose out on a bit of interest...but I did the math and figured that I would probably be better off taking out some of the money and getting rid of these cards. The interest rate on the TSP Loan is 2%. The interest rate on the credit cards are both about 30%.

So, in one year those "low" balances that total right around $800 would require me to pay about $240 in interest. That's just the real simple version, not taking into account that the principal would go down a few bucks every month. Compare that to right around $20 interest for the year on the TSP Loan, and that's a savings of $220 in just the first year. That $220 savings is a bit more than the interest that the TSP would make for me based on how I have it invested, so to me the answer was simple. Take the TSP loan, take the hit on the earned interest to save on paying interest, and get those two cards taken care of and out of the way.

I got the money put into my checking account today, so I'll be sending out the last two payments to those two cards within a couple of days!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Been a Few Days...

I've been busy the last few days doing things. I went to Lansing to finish Paddy, I played quite a few games, and I've been just generally not spending quite as much time on the computer as usual.

With that said, I have a few posts to make...and they will be coming later tonight!!!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I did some more work on my puppet over the last few days.

There were only minor setbacks. Mainly, when I made his "body" I didn't sew his head on tight enough so the seam at the back of his neck started to come undone. That was a quick fix. The slightly larger problem was that I accidentally sewed the bottom of the sleeve on upside down, so the seam was on the outside. I cut it off and fixed it, and got him all back together tonight.

I also added a tongue to his mouth, and found out that he fits in 0-3 month old baby shirts. That allows him to be put into all kinds of different looks.

All that's really left to finish is his arms...but I need to get access to a sewing machine to do those. I don't know why, but that's the only part of the pattern that doesn't have directions on how to hand sew it. It only shows you how to machine sew it.

Here's what he's looking like so far.

What's funny is how much emotion he can show, considering how basic he is.

I'm pretty happy with the way he's turning out. I didn't think I'd have this kind of luck with what is really my first puppet.

After I get his arms done, I'm going to go and pick out some other colors of material and try to make another one by using the sewing machine, to see if it ends up looking any different. I will probably eventually get a pattern for doing a head that is more "human-like." That will allow me to do all kinds of characters...and I have all kinds of ideas for characters!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010


My first one is done...but it was SERIOUSLY just a learning effort. It's okay looking, but I can do much, much better.

In fact, I knew I could do better so I started another one today, and it came out MUCH better looking than the first one. I don't have him finished because I'm going to work on a different body than what the pattern I have came that will be a bit more "stiff" and look more like a body.

Also, my mom has an extra sewing machine at her house, so she's going to give that to me so that I can make the puppets faster. The one I made today took about 2.5 hours to make his head. With a sewing maching, I'm guessing I could get that down to about 45 minutes. With that said, I'm sure the next one I do by hand will take less than 2.5 hours, because that's about half what the first one took me.

Here are some pictures of the one I made today. Again, he doesn't have a body or arms yet because I'm working on the pattern for that.

His name is Paddy. Well, his real name is Lloyd. But he lives in a swamp and spends most of his time looking for lily pads, which are his favorite food, so his friend's started calling him Paddy and it just kind of stuck. He likes to swim and juggle, and he tends to mumble to himself quite a bit.