Friday, September 20, 2013

A look inside the custom plushie process - Mantis shrimp

I know a lot of you are disappointed that I've stopped taking custom orders.

First off, I want to thank my customers, truly and wholly. I appreciate every one who admires my work, and I very much appreciate those who buy it.

A lot of you are really interested in the custom plushies. In fact, the response has become overwhelming - in every sense of the word.

In recent weeks, I have had to take down both of my custom listings, and stop taking orders. It's actually really frustating that I can't keep up with the work load. I already have the full-time job of being a mom to an extremely active, teething toddler.

Some days I do nothing but keep up with her. I can only sew when she naps (read: passes out from over-exertion) or if I can get her distracted with an activity, which doesn't buy me much time. And then she's still wandering over, pointing at whatever I am working on, exclaiming "bay-beee! bay-bee!" And if you guessed that she probably get upset when I don't let her play with them, you'd be right. Many-a temper tantrum have arisen from the plushies.

So while I take a break from taking on new projects, I thought I'd share one that I've been working on, because this is one of my favorite plushies I've made to date.

I got a request from a customer to make a pair of mantis shrimp. I was immediately excited by this, because I have fond childhood memories of this ruthless undersea killer.


My dad used to keep a saltwater tank, and when he bought a piece of live rock, an unexpected passenger came along for the ride.

If you don't know about mantis shrimps, just know that they are a force quite nearly beyond comprehension. When they strike their prey with their appendages, they move so quickly that the water boils. WHAT. Fully grown ones can break through glass... and we had a baby one, hiding in the tiniest nooks and crannies of the tank. It was a time bomb.

(Sidenote: The true power of the mantis shrimp as an animal could be a post of it's own. I could just start listing off facts, but The Oatmeal does a much better job with their info-comic. If you haven't read it, go read it now and be astonished by the power of the mantis shrimp!)

I watched every day, as my father devised a new plan to eradicate the shrimp from the tank. But every day, for a long time, the NASA engineer was outwitted by the two-inch shrimp.

It made this hauntingly loud clacking noise at night that could be heard throughout the entire house, and it was eating our fish, one by one.

He finally caught it by tying a string to a water bottle and waiting for the shrimp to crawl inside before he pulled him out. He held the water bottle up high in triumph, much as a warlord would display the captured enemy for the townspeople.

He "released" him in the swamp in our backyard. I never knew what became of the mighty beast, but for all I know, today there is a giant, mutant shrimp ruling the Florida coastal back-swamps.

So, you can understand my excitement for this project. I mean, clearly.

This is the first pattern I drafted. Sometimes I get lucky and a plushie pattern doesn't require 20 revisions.

I cut the pattern pieces directly from this picture, and made this prototype:

It really is worth it to try out your patterns before using your good fabric. I had this white fleece lying around. I got it from a remnant bin because it was inexpensive. I don't usually use pure white; I prefer to use creams and off-whites, so this was perfect to use to test my pattern with.

This picture shows the upper carapace in progress with the customer's colors. I do say, quite smashing!

...and this is the finished product! He has lots of hand stitched details, and 10 little jointed legs.

I think he is just magnificent.

I now feel that I, too have conquered the mantis shrimp. I have avenged the deaths of my fish brothers from my childhood. I have created an adorable replica of a savage, bloodthirsty beast.

Who wants to bathe in the blood of their enemies? You do! You do!*

(*things not to say out loud at Christmas dinner. It's a very long list.)


  1. Awesome! My best friend has always carried around a crustacean, thou not as cool as this one.

  2. That is such an amazing shrimp- both in real life and in Your version :)
    I'm glad to see You're working on all the cool animals, I think we share the love for the under-appreciated weird and unique creatures :)

    I just adore Your creations, glad You have Your owns site I can lurk on now :)