Introduction: Kali's Top Face
And now it's time to build Kali face. Fair warning: this tutorial is huge.
Putting together a face takes FOREVER, and this is only the top part!
I'm re-making an old aluminum walker into Kali, the multi-armed, three-eyed Hindu goddess of time and empowerment. Kali is the feminine form of 'Kala', the Sanskrit term for Time. Her "skin" is made out of leather remnants and pieces of old jackets, skirts, and pants. In this portion, I built the top portion of her face.
Here are the tools I used:
2 work tables and a protective sheet cover
Kali's face pattern from the last Instructable
Sharp fabric scissors
Kali's padded face
Ethafoam rod and safety blades
Sharpie and ballpoint pens
Glass terrarium rocks
Elmer's Glue and coffee stirring sticks
Sewing machine, polyester sewing thread and a size 14 universal needle
Heavy duty black thread and a hand sewing needle
Zipper parts and pieces leftover from storage and old projects
Leather upholstery samples, shirts, jackets, and remnants
And many time-outs to feel up my face.
Check out my other Instructables if you'd like to make some mobility art of your own. Or take a peek at Opulent Mobility if you want to know why I make such fancy scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs. The deadlinefor Opulent Mobility 2016'scall for submissions is coming up soon (July 30th at 5 PM PST), so please send in your art and inventions dealing with mobility, disability, and accessibility. I'd love to see your ideas!
Step 1: Prepwork and Cutting the Forehead
Choosing materials for Kali's face took some time and digging through the scrap bins. The plan was to make her face in blue tones with red for her lips and tongue. The darker leathers would be used for hair and eyebrows, with maybe a few splashes of blood red. I also had a bunch of zippers I found at a remnant store. Those were set aside to use for eyelashes and tiara edging. The blue leather options in stock were limited, so I made another thrift store trip and found a baby blue suede shirt.
Once I had gathered all the materials, I took out Kali's draped face and unpinned her forehead pattern. It looked like I could add the nose bridge to the forehead and cut it all out as one piece, so I unpinned the nose bridge pattern too. I sewed the two pieces together and laid the pattern out on my work table on top of a cutting mat. Before cutting any leather, I checked out the Kali research to decide on dividing lines.
According to one of the research images, Kali's third eye is outlined with an oval shape. I liked that idea because it would be easier to move the eye around or change it out if I had any problems. I cleaned up the pattern and cut it out along the lines, separating the third eye base from the rest of the forehead. After that, I picked silvery blue leather to use for both pieces.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Step 2: Third Eye Base
I cut the leather for Kali's forehead, nose bridge, and third eye base. The forehead and nose bridge had a 1/4" seam allowance added all the way around each edge. For the third eye base, though, I cut out right along the oval edges. I wanted to build it as a fully finished piece that could be shifted around easily. That meant the edge needed a finishing touch. I pulled out a narrow magenta zipper and held it to the edge of the oval to see how it looked. It was good, so I dug out one of my favorite Bernina machine feet and set the sewing machine to a short, tight zig-zag stitch.
Pro tip: specialty machine feet are sometimes worth the extra cost. It all depends on the kind of sewing you plan to do. Most of the time you don't need anything more than a standard foot that works with both a straight stitch and a zig-zag. When you really need a zipper foot, though, nothing else will do. They are great at getting right next to the edge of a zipper. They're designed to only work with a straight stitch, though, and I needed something more secure. The machine foot I chose let me get right up to the edge of the zipper teeth AND zig-zag at the same time. Excellent!
I sewed the zipper to the edge of the leather oval so that the zipper teeth and a tiny edge of the magenta backing fabric showed, but the rest of the backing stayed underneath the leather oval.Once it was sewed, I turned the oval over and tried to clip the fabric backing so it would stay nice and flat. This didn't work out so well, so I ended up trimming the backing down to a scant 1/4". That did the trick. I took the oval back to the machine, shortened the stitch length to just below the "1" marking and zig-zagged the edge again. The edge looked much cleaner with a solid black outline.
I put the oval on the forehead and pinned it a couple of times to keep it in place, turned the forehead piece over, and then used masking tape to hold the oval down. I turned the piece back over, took it to the sewing machine, and sewed the oval down. After clipping my threads, I pulled out the third eye pattern and test fitted it over the oval. It looked good, so I got ready to build the eye.
Step 3: Third Eye Lashes
I unpinned the third eye pattern and laid it out on the cutting mat, and then chose my materials. I picked dark green for the upper eyelid, white leather for the eye, and two different zippers for the lashes (royal and baby blue).
The top eyelid didn't need any seam allowance since I planned to finish off one edge with zipper "eyelashes" and the top would be zig-zagged down flat. After cutting out the lid, I moved on to the white of the eye. I added about a 1/4" seam allowance at the top and 1/8" at the bottom edge and cut the piece out of white jacket leather. The top zipper lashes went next. I zig-zag stitched the royal blue zipper to the bottom edge of the eyelid, curved the lid over the white of the eye, pinned it into place, and then stitched the lid to the white along the zig-zag stitching line. Once the zipper fabric was trimmed, the top lashes curled up nicely. I trimmed the extra zipper ends away and set up the lower lashes.
I pinned the baby blue zipper to the underside of the white eye base and straight-stitched it down. Unlike the top lash, I sewed the bottom lash so about 1/4" of zipper fabric extended past the edge of the white leather. After trimming the seam, I folded the zipper edge around to the front so it encased the bottom edge of the eye, and then stitched it downright next to the zipper teeth.
After picking out a glass terrarium rock to use for an eyeball I was ready to move on to the iris.
Step 4: Prepping the Iris
I trimmed the iris out of my third eye pattern and tested it over the glass terrarium rocks, just to make sure that the fit was right. The piece of glass I had chosen was way too small, so I picked a larger piece and set it aside. I drew out the iris shape on the white of the eye with a Sharpie, using my pattern as a guide, and trimmed it out along the line.
After trimming the iris, I checked the glass "eyeball" once again. It fit well, but the rest of the eye needed support and padding. I pulled some ethafoam rod, cut out a shape to fill out the eye base, and test fit the eye once again. The combination of the shaped foam and the glass "eye" did the trick! I set the padding and glass aside and used the Sharpie to color in the cut edges of the white leather.
The saying that "hindsight is 20/20" is so appropriate for this project. It took an amazing amount of time to shape all the eyes, and building eye sockets and large eyeball spheres would have been a much better choice. The method I used worked out fine, so it wasn't a big deal. If I ever do this again, though, I'm definitely making eye sockets!
Step 5: Third Eye Down
Before attaching Kali's third eye, I checked out the placement on her forehead. The eye was wider than the original pattern (the zipper lashes added almost 1/4" to each side), but it still fit inside the oval. I centered the eye, pinned it down, and zig-zag stitched the outside of the lower eyelid down.
I pulled the top of the eye aside and test fit the shaped piece of ethafoam rod underneath. I then got out Elmer's glue and some coffee stirring sticks, spread glue under the eye base, glued the foam in place, and let it dry for a few minutes. Once it was secure, I made a little hollow in the center of the foam to make room for the glass "eye". I put the glass into the hollow and checked the fit again. It seemed okay, but it looked like I could use a little more foam at the bottom to hold the glass securely and to fill out the eye.
I cut out a foam crescent, pinned it in place underneath the glass eye, pulled the eye leather over the foam and glass and pinned the edges down to the forehead. After that, I sewed the top edge of the eyelid down with a short, tight zig-zag. That took a few tries, but it got sewn eventually, and all the innards stayed in place.
Pro tip: plain white glue may be associated with grade school craft projects, but it is a great, non-toxic choice. It's not as secure as contact cement or epoxy. It's also not going to eat your skin away, give you a vicious headache, or cause brain damage. Wherever possible, I prefer to use non-toxic solutions! At any rate, if you both glue AND sew, your work is probably going to hold up pretty well. Glue alone can't guarantee durability, no matter how good it is.
Step 6: Eye Corners and Eyebrows
Since I sewed the top eyelid down a few times, I wanted to secure the seam. Sewing leather over and over can make the seams fragile and prone to shredding. I used a stirring stick and glue to coat the top seam and let it dry. That did the trick. Afterwards, I pinned the forehead and third eye pattern to some cardboard so I could keep track of the pieces. The plan was to keep all the patterns just in case anything broke or needed replacing. They also look cool. Maybe someday I'll turn them into an installation!
The corners of the eye didn't look quite right to me. I decided to sew the ends of the zipper lashes together to emphasize the crescent shape. I used heavy duty thread and an embroidery hand needle, the kind with a larger eye. I sewed the top and bottom lashes together in between the zipper teeth and hid my knots inside the seams. After cutting the thread ends, I put a little dab of glue on the knots to secure them. Voila! The third eye was ready!
After pinning the forehead and third eye to the mannequin, I moved on to the eyebrow patterns. I cleaned them up, trimmed the patterns along the lines, and chose some black suede from the scrap bin. Using a white pencil, I marked out the eyebrows onto the suede, adding a 1/4" seam allowance all the way around each piece. I cut them out and set them aside to get ready for the next step.
Step 7: Lower Eye Base
One eye down, two to go! I removed the patterns for the lower two eyes, eyelids, and surrounding areas, and laid the pieces out on the cutting mat. They were different shapes, but not by too much. I chose materials for each area: white jacket leather for the whites of the eyes, baby blue upper lids, and silvery blue jacket eye surrounds. After that, I cleaned up the pattern lines, trimmed the pieces and laid them out onto their respective leathers.
The eyelids had a 1/4" seam allowance added on top and at the edges, but no seam allowance on the bottom. Those edges would get finished off with zipper teeth. I added 1/4" seam allowances all the way around the whites of the eyes and the eye surround pieces. Once the pieces were all cut out, I marked the iris placement on the whites of the eyes. I laid the pieces on the mat and removed the patterns for the sides of the nose from the mannequin.
I cleaned up the patterns, trimmed along the lines and cut the nose sides out of a pebbly blue leather with a 1/4" seam allowance added all the way around. I set those aside, took out the eyebrows, and sewed them to the top of the eye surrounds with a straight stitch and a 1/4" seam allowance. I trimmed the seams down to a scant 1/8" and laid them out on the mat. After unpinning the forehead and third eye from the mannequin, I put in between the eye surrounds and placed the nose sides down on the mat to see how it all looked together.
I really didn't like the sides of the nose. The pebbly blue and the silvery blue looked unpleasant together. The suede side of the silvery blue looked great, though. So I re-cut the sides of the nose in that suede and sewed them to the sides of the nose bridge. Much better!
Step 8: Brows, Nose and a New Forehead
After trimming down the nose side seams to a scant 1/8" I moved on to the eye surround pieces. I turned them upside down, pinned the seams together from the suede side, stitched the seams with a 1/4" seam allowance, and flattened the seams out. I then checked the fit of the eye surrounds and eyebrows against the forehead and nose. It looked okay, but the eyebrows were a little large. Not to worry. I wanted some extra room at the eyebrows so I could stuff them.
I sewed gathering stitches at the top of each eyebrow, using a very long stitch and a 1/8" seam allowance. After pulling on the bobbin threads to gather in the top edges, I checked the fit against the forehead again. It seemed good, so I turned all the pieces around to the back side and pinned them together. I used a 1/4" seam allowance to sew them together and then pinned the eye surround pieces to the sides of the nose. I sewed those seams with a 1/4" seam allowance, clipped the seams at the curves, and took the upper face back to the mannequin to test the fit.
I wasn't happy with it. The nose didn't curve in enough at the sides, the eyebrows really needed a lot more bulk and the forehead didn't have enough contrast. Oh well. Back to the drawing board.
I unpicked the nose side seams and re-cut the forehead out of the baby blue suede. Since the face leathers were really lightweight, I didn't want to unpick any more seams than I had to. It was way too easy to shred the leather. So I cut the new forehead without adding any seam allowance, pinned it carefully on top of the old one, and stitched it all the way around the edges using a scant 1/8" seam allowance. That made a huge difference! The eye surrounds looked darker and more deep-set, the third eye popped nicely and the nose looked much better. I checked the fit on the mannequin once again and got ready to pad up the eyebrows.
Step 9: Eyebrow Dimension
I took the upper face back to the cutting mat to figure out my next step. The left side of the forehead was buckling a little, so I decided to trim out the old forehead from the back side. That made it much smoother. I then found scrap yarn and cording to use for padding and took out the needle and heavy duty thread.
The left eyebrow didn't need much padding. I found a chunk of cording that filled the space nicely from the back and smoothed it into place. I then whip stitched the cord to the top seam allowance. Since the bottom part of the eyebrow was sewn with the seam allowance on the outside, I couldn't whip stitch the cording down without it showing through, so I did a hem stitch instead. Since all the materials I used were black, it was almost invisible. That was great for Kali but made it very hard for me to take a good picture! I used a much thicker beige yarn for the right eyebrow, which filled it out nicely and was much easier to photograph.
I cut the yarn so it was a little longer than the eyebrow area and sewed around each end several times with the heavy duty thread. The yarn unraveled quickly, and wrapping thread around the ends kept it from falling apart. I put the yarn in place and whip stitched the top seam allowance over the yarn. At the bottom edge, I sewed the yarn to the eyebrow using a hem stitch. This meant I took big "bites" of the yarn with the thread, but very small "bites" of the suede right above the seam. Since the suede was fuzzy, the texture helped disguise the stitches. They were nearly invisible from the outside.
I checked the eyebrows from the front. They looked good, so I turned the face back over and started putting the nose sides together again. I sewed the inside corners of the eyebrows first and clipped the seams. After taking little darts in at the corner of each eye to make them indent a little more, I sewed the sides of the nose to the eye surrounds again. I trimmed the seams down to a scant 1/8" and taped the seams open from the inside. Since those seams were sewn twice, they needed a little reinforcement.
I trimmed off all the thread ends, cleaned up my piles of trimmings, and checked the face on the mannequin once again. Excellent news! It fit!
Step 10: More Eyes and Lash Fixes
I took the lower pair of eyes off of the mannequin and laid them out on the cutting mat. If it was possible to remove the tape without shredding the foam, I wanted to reuse the foam eyelids. I gathered together the eye whites, eyelids, and zipper lashes, and got ready to build more eyes.
The irises were already marked onto the white leather, so I cut the irises out and test fit the pieces over a couple of glass terrarium rocks.The upper eyelids had a 1/4" seam allowance added to the top edges, and I decided I didn't need it. Zipper lashes would finish off the bottom edges and the tops would get zig-zagged to the eye surrounds. I re-drew the eyelids with a scant 1/8" seam allowance all the way around, cut them out, and zig-zag stitched royal blue zipper lashes to the bottom lid edges.
I pinned the eyelids above the whites of the eyes from the back (suede) side of the leather. This kept a smooth, outward curve on the eye, but made it hard to see if the seam allowance was consistent. Since there was a little extra room on both the eyelid and eye white pieces, it wasn't a problem. I turned the pieces back around to the front (smooth leather) sides and straight-stitched the lids in place. After that, I turned the eyes over again and pinned the baby blue zippers to the underside of the lids. I opted to pin both eyes down without cutting the zipper into two eyelids because I could stitch both eyes down in one smooth line. It also looked cool and I thought it was funny.
PS: sometimes I make choices based on logic and efficiency. Other times, I make choices based on whether or not they entertain me. When making long-term artworks, I take all the entertainment I can get.
Some of the zipper teeth from the top lashes extended down into the lower lash area. I used a pair of bent-nose pliers to pry those teeth out. Unfortunately, I pulled a little too hard on one side and the zipper fabric frayed and pulled right out of the seam. Annoying, but not too big of a deal. I unpinned that corner of the eye to fix it.
I used a safety blade to remove the royal blue zipper lash just beyond the fraying point, pulled out the loose threads, and secured the back of the fraying zipper with masking tape. I re-pinned the eyelid and lash and sewed it back into place. It was as good as new! After that, I re-pinned that eye corner down to the baby blue zipper once again.
Step 11: Lower Lashes and Eye Placement
I used a semi-tight zig-zag to sew the baby blue zipper to the lower eye edges. After sewing, I removed the pins and cut the zippers off at the corners of each eye. I then folded the zipper fabric up and straight stitched them to the front of the eyes right beneath the zipper teeth. That finished off the bottoms of the eyes and gave me a lovely set of lower lashes. Once that was done, the eyes were ready to attach to Kali's face. I pinned them into place on the eye surrounds and zig-zagged down the lower edges with an applique stitch. Then it was time to pad up the eyes.
Pro tip: an applique stitch is a very tight zig-zag stitch. It's also called a buttonhole stitch. I set the stitch length to midway between 0 and 1 on the dial. The stitch width can be whatever you want: wide if you want a big area of stitching and narrow if you want something smaller. A semi-tight zig-zag uses a slightly longer stitch length (between 1 and 2 on my machine). A standard zig-zag stitch is where the width and the length are about the same size, and a loose one uses the longest stitch you have available.
The foam pieces I used to shape the eyes got too mangled when I tried to take off the masking tape, so I cut some new ethafoam rod into eye shapes and carved them smooth with a safety blade. I test fit the foam pieces under the eyes, cut ovals in the foam for each glass terrarium "eyeball", and carved another set of foam crescents to help hold the glass eyes in place. After sewing down the top of each eyelid with a straight stitch, I took another look at the eyes. Did they need some more foam added to the back? They seemed a little flat.
I turned the face over, carved out another couple of eye shapes from foam, and shoved them underneath each eye. That filled the whole area out. I then used masking tape to hold the eyes in place from the back.
Step 12: Nose Base and Top of Lip
Whoa. Are we there yet? Honestly, though, we're getting closer.
I test fit the face on the mannequin. It looked like the eyes needed to be set in a little more deeply, but I figured I could deal with that later. After pinning the eyelids in and the forehead down, I took off the patterns for the cheek, base of the nose and the upper lip, and laid those pieces out on the cutting mat.
I cleaned up the lines and cut the patterns out, and then got out the silvery blue leather for the nose base and upper lip. The nose base was simple. I drew that out with a 1/4" seam allowance all the way around and marked the nostrils. For the upper lip pattern, I added a generous 1/8" in between each line. The plan was to sew in tiny tucks at each line to help shape the upper lip. I marked the top and bottom of each of those lines, taped the pattern together with the added 1/8" in between each line, and double checked it against what I'd drawn on the leather.
Well, that didn't work at all. One of those pieces shifted while I was drawing them out, and the leather was way off. So I crossed out the lines, moved on to another part of the leather, and re-drew the upper lip using the taped pattern. Much better!
After cutting out both the nose base and the upper lip, I sewed in the little tucks on the upper lip. I sewed the center tuck from the suede side and the other two tucks from the smooth side of the leather. That did a nice job of creating a shapely upper lip.
Step 13: Nostrils and Cheeks
The next bit required some time-outs to check out my face. Have you ever really spent time checking out where your face goes in and out? I have, for drawing purposes, but it's not something I can recall at a minute's notice. So I poked at myself and took a lot of pictures. The first two pictures are of me checking out the cupid's bow (that little divot right at the top of the upper lip) and examining my nostrils.
After checking out my own nostrils I was ready to start building Kali's. I cut little nostril shapes from black suede that were about 1/8" bigger than the marked nostril areas and very carefully sewed gathering stitches around the top edges. I then pulled on the bobbin threads to ease the nostrils in, zig-zagged the edges down at the marked lines, turned the nose base over, and trimmed the blue leather just inside the zig-zagged stitching lines. That made it possible to pop the nostrils inwards.
Eventually, those nostrils will get glued or sewn so that they stay indented.
I cut the cheeks out of baby blue suede, adding 1/4" seam allowance all the way around each piece. After that, I pinned the nose base to the upper lip from the inside, checked the fit on the outside, and then sewed them together with a straight stitch. I had to ease the upper lip a little bit to get it to fit, but it looked pretty good. Once the seam was trimmed down, I sewed the cheek darts, trimmed the seams, and checked to see how the cheeks fit the sides of the upper lip.
Kali was really starting to come together!
Step 14: Mouth and Chin Cutting
After laying the mannequin down on its back, I removed the mouth and chin patterns and laid the pieces out on the cutting mat. I also removed the foam shaping for the lips and tongue and checked the proportion of the lips to the upper face. It looked about right so I picked out my leathers: white jacket leather for the teeth, three shades of red leather jacket for the lips and tongue and silvery blue leather for the chin.
My first step was to cut out the teeth. I added a 1/4" seam allowance to the top edge, traced around the bottom and drew in tooth lines. Next, I drew out the chin pieces, adding a 1/4" seam allowance all around each pattern and marking the darts. Both sets of lips were drawn out with a 1/4" seam allowance, and then I cut out all the pieces out and laid them out in order on the cutting mat.
Step 15: Tongue Construction
I unpinned the tongue patterns and laid out the pieces on scraps of a red leather jacket, using the suede side for the top of the tongue and smooth leather for the bottom. I added 1/4" all the way around the top of the tongue and marked the center lines. After setting the sewing machine to a straight stitch, I sewed a tiny tuck along the center line of the tongue's top from the back side. I then positioned the tuck over the groove in the foam tongue. I pinned the leather down, turned the tongue over, and put masking tape over the center line of the foam. That protected the foam from shredding as I sewed all the way through the suede and foam.
Once the top was secure, I pinned the underside of the tongue to the top around the edges and straight stitched the top and bottom together. I sewed this edge from the bottom side, pulling the leather a little as I sewed so that the slightly larger top edge would ease into the smaller bottom edge. After trimming the seam allowances down to a scant 1/8", I turned the tongue to the bottom side again and sewed the bases together.
Pro tip: use feed dogs to your advantage! Feed dogs are the little metal teeth you see on a sewing machine, right underneath the machine foot, and they help drag your material along as you sew. They also have a tendency to ease the bottom edge of your material in a little bit more than the top. This can be very helpful. If you have a piece of material that you want to ease in slightly, sew from the opposite (or shorter) side and pull on the shorter side while you sew. The bottom side will naturally ease in. This is great when you want to create curves or add a little extra room, like when you're fitting the top of a sleeve into an armhole.
Step 16: Building Lips
The lips were much larger than their foam understructure, which was good. They needed gathering around the edges to give them shape and dimension. I set the sewing machine to the longest stitch possible and sewed gathering stitches at 1/8" from each edge, leaving tail ends of the thread on each side. Pulling from the bottom (suede) side of the stitching, I gathered in the edges just enough so that the edges bulged but didn't form tucks or pleats.
After testing the fit of the top lip against the upper lip (that sounds confusing, but check the pictures for labels), I cut out a tiny pie wedge shape from the silvery blue leather. Eventually, it would become the cupid's bow (or the very top of the lip). I pinned the top of the lip to the bottom of the underlip from the suede side, sewed them together with a 1/4" seam allowance, trimmed the seam down to 1/8" and turned the piece back over. The cupid's bow came next. I pinned the tiny pie wedge into place right above the center of the top lip and stitched all the way around right next to the edge.
I moved on to the bottom lip next. I pinned the tongue in place on the top edge and test fit the foam lip shape. The foam was a little small, so I wrapped it in a thin piece of batting and shoved it inside the lip leather. I wrapped the bottom edge around the stuffing, pinned the leather edges to each other, and straight stitched both edges and the tongue base together as one. After trimming the threads, I tested out the curve of the tongue against the lip. It looked good!
Once the bottom lip and tongue were set, I went back to the top lip. I turned it over to the suede side and put the top lip foam in place, using masking tape to hold it down and to stabilize the center of the lip. Next, I stitched all the way through the foam, leather, and tape down the center of the lip. That created a nice lip groove. Once the thread ends were trimmed, I taped the lip seam to hold it over the lip foam.
Step 17: Getting Some Teeth
The last part of the upper face was fitting in the teeth. I test fit them against the lips and tongue and then sewed along the tooth lines several times with black thread. That helped create the look of separate teeth. After that, I pinned them to the bottom edge of the top lip, overlapping the pieces by about a 1/4", and applique stitched the teeth down.
Kali's face was really coming together! It looked creepy and great all at once.
I jumped ahead of myself with the last photo. It doesn't show you how I attached the lips together or sewed in the cheeks. But I will get to that in the next tutorial. I promise.
Of course, with hindsight I wished I had built a more secure understructure. The tape over thin cardboard and padding worked out just fine, but it doesn't hold up all that well to repeated poking, pinning, and prodding. Not to worry! Re-sculpting can happen at any time.
Thanks for hanging in there! Next time I'll build the rest of Kali's face.
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