Introduction: Finishing Kali's Face

About: I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. I re*use often. And sometimes I staple drape.

And now (after a very long break to do many many things) I finish off the outsides of Kali's face and neck!

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. I attached her lower face, padded her lips and nose, and built up her neck in this segment.

Here are the tools I used:

Cutting mat

2 work tables and a protective sheet cover

Kali's face and the pattern from the last Instructable

Quilting pins

Sharp fabric scissors and utility shears

Kali's padded face

Ethafoam rod and safety blades

Sharpie and ballpoint pens

Scrap yarn

Masking tape

Sewing machine, polyester sewing thread and a size 14 universal needle

Heavy duty black thread and a hand sewing needle



Leather upholstery samples, shirts, jackets, and remnants

A wooden spoon

And a certain amount of cursing.

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.

PS: there were not enough strong submissions (i.e. work that fit the theme and tone of the exhibit) to do a group Opulent Mobility exhibit this year.

So... I've issued a challenge. Let's re-imagine disability and mobility together!

Step 1: Lower Nose to Upper Lip

In the last part of Kali's Top Face, I sewed the teeth to the upper lip with a short, tight zig-zag stitch. Using black thread to sew white leather means that every single skipped stitch showed, even after stitching twice! I used the tip of a black Sharpie pen to color over the gaps. This made the seam look cleaner. It also meant I accidentally got a little Sharpie on the upper lip. Oops. Luckily, permanent marker is not that permanent. I can fix her lip later.

Pro tip: rubbing alcohol helps make Sharpie pen marks fade. So does time and sunlight and laundering.

I pinched the upper lip together at its midpoint to check out the fullness. It was a little flat, but I figured I could add some more padding after the lip and nose areas were joined up. I turned the face parts to the back sides, pinned the upper and lower nose parts together, and sewed them using a straight stitch and a 1/4" seam allowance. Once the seam was trimmed down to a scant 1/8", I turned the face right side round to check out the fit. It needed a little thread trimming at the nostrils, but it looked pretty good!

Step 2: Lip Plumping and Rigging

I turned the face around to the back side to deal with the lip padding. The sculpted ethafoam I used for the basic lip shape wasn't adding enough fullness. I cut a piece of heavy yarn to size, machine sewed the ends of the yarn to prevent fraying and pinned it to the inside center of the lip.

I threaded a hand needle with heavy duty thread and whip stitched the lip seam allowances over the yarn. Instead of pulling the thread tight with each stitch, I kept the thread a little bit slack. This gave the yarn some room to move around and helped keep the lip from looking too rigid. With extra padding, the upper lip looked much better, so I moved on to the lower lip and tongue.

After pinning the corners of the lips together from the front side, I turned the face over and pinned the bottom edge of the teeth to the top edge of the lower lip. The tongue would hide the bottom edge of the teeth, so I didn't have to worry about making pretty stitches. I turned the face over again, checked the pin placement from the front side, and whip stitched the teeth to the lip.

You may notice that I spend a lot of time going back and checking the fit from both the front and the back sides. This is because these shapes are confusing! And when I sew, I am frequently working inside out, backwards, and upside down. It is so very easy to lose track of where things go. Checking helps remind me where I am in the process.

Step 3: Cheeks and Chin

From the back side of the face, I pinned the top of the left cheek to the bottom of the left eye area and sewed them together using a straight machine stitch and a 3/8" seam allowance. I checked the seam from the outside, turned the face back around, and sewed the second cheek ridge in place.

The next area to sew was from the outer nostril corners to the sides of the upper lip (see picture #3). I sewed those areas on both sides, trimmed the seams down to a scant 1/8" and checked the fit from the front. The corners of the nose weren't quite deep enough, so I took in those seams slightly (see picture #4). I trimmed the seams down again, checked the face from the front side, and then got ready to attach the chin.

I wanted the chin to come from underneath the lower lip and tongue but wasn't sure about what seam allowance to use. All that lip padding I added had changed Kali's mouth significantly, and my old seam allowances weren't always working. So I test fit the chin piece against the face before sewing. The two pins on the chin in picture #5 mark where the lip corners meet.

After turning the face around to the back side, I pinned the chin to the right side of the cheek and sewed them together with a 3/8" seam allowance. I then pulled the chin underneath the lower lip and tongue, pinned the left side of the chin to the left cheek and repeated the process. It looked good from the front, so I trimmed my seam allowances down and got ready for the next step.

Step 4: Eyeball Stabilizing

Kali's eyes weren't quite as deep-set as I wanted. Part of that was because I didn't build a skull base with eye sockets, which would have helped. Sewing the eyelids on top of the facial structure didn't do me any favors either. Luckily, fixing the top eyelids wasn't hard.

First I took out the foam eye bases and glass "eyeballs". I turned the face around to the inside and folded the leather at the zig-zag stitching line that I had used to sew one of the eyelids down. It took a couple of tries, but I was able to sew a small dart that encased the zig-zagging (see picture #2). That seemed to do the trick. After sewing both eyelids from the inside, I put the foam eye bases and glass eyeballs back into place and checked the eyes out from the front. The shape was a lot better, but the glass eyeballs kept sliding around and showing the foam underneath. Not the effect I was going for.

I took the foam and glass out from the eye areas and used Topstick (a clear, double-sided tape) to hold the eyeballs in place. After putting the foam pieces back into the eyes, I taped the back of each eye with masking tape to keep the foam from crumbling and then hand-sewed the eye seam allowance together over each eye with heavy duty thread. It looked creepy, but it made sure the eyes weren't going to shift around on. The stitches got covered with a second layer of masking tape for security.

Step 5: Neck Patterning

Before getting started on the neck, I checked out Kali's face over the mannequin to test the fit. Everything looked good, so I moved on to the neck pattern.

My first step was to label all the pattern pieces with numbers so I could keep track of them!

After numbering the pieces, I double checked the pattern lines and drew in cross marks at the join points. I unpinned each piece, trimmed along the drawn lines, and laid them out in order on the cutting mat.

The center neck piece was originally drawn as two pieces (see picture #7), but I decided to cut it as one piece. By this point, I was tired of putting together face parts and anything I could do to cut out a step sounded great. I re-labeled the piece as 7 (instead of 7 and 8) and renumbered the remaining neck patterns accordingly. Once all the pieces were trimmed along the lines and laid out in place, I chose my leather colors and wrote them down on each pattern.

Pro tip: turning two pieces into one is a classic time-saving method in pattern making. The fewer seams you have to sew, the less time it takes to get finished.

Step 6: Right Neck in Leather

I drew each neck piece out onto the leather, adding 3/8" seam to every edge, and then cut the pieces out. I kept them laid out in sequence with the patterns on top of the leather so I wouldn't lose track of them.

I sewed the neck together in segments working from the right side to the left. Pieces 1-6 were sewn together with the seams on the outside. This was the same method I used to sew Kali's arms and body pieces. The seams were trimmed to a scant 1/8" and smoothed open with the back of a wooden spoon.

I checked the leather against the pattern pieces and on the mannequin. The fit was good, so I took both the face and right neck pieces off the mannequin. I then sewed pieces 5 and 6 of the neck to the right side of the face. This seam was on the inside, which helped emphasize the crease where the jawline met the neck. I trimmed the seam, smoothed it open with the wooden spoon, and laid the entire face out onto the work table to figure out the under chin piece.

First off, I pinned the top of piece 7 to the bottom of the chin with the outsides facing each other. I sewed the pieces together, backstitching at the points where the 2 chin pieces came together (see picture #7). After trimming the seam, I pressed the seam allowance up towards the tongue and turned the face over so the outside was showing. I tested neck pattern #7 against the leather, pinned the right side of piece 7 to the neck and cheek from the inside, and sewed them together. I trimmed the seam, flattened it out, and checked out how it looked from the front.

So far, so good.

One of the oddest parts of making Kali's face has been deciding not only where to put the seams, but whether or not to make them outside or inside seams. For Kali's body, it was simple. I loved the look of the exposed seams and wanted to use them all over. On the face and hands, though, it wasn't so clear. I spent a lot of time deciding what areas should stick out more (like the nose bridge and eyebrows) and which ones should sink in (like the tops of the eyelids and the sides of the nose).

Step 7: Nose Plumping

Before moving on to finish the neck, I took some time to pad up Kali's nose. The leather collapsed a little when I test fit the nose over the mannequin, so adding padding seemed like a good choice.

To work on the padding, I turned to face around to the backside. I used the same heavy yarn to pad the nose that I used earlier to fill out the lips and eyebrows. For the nose base, I made a "bow" out of the yarn, doubling it over and joining the yarn in the center with a zig-zag stitch. One edge of the yarn was zig-zagged to the seam allowance of the nose base (see picture #1). The edges were hand-sewn to the far sides of the seam allowance to help fill out the corners of the nose (picture #2). I then pushed the nose base back into place (so the nose tip stuck out in front) and pulled the ends of the yarn up to work on the nose bridge.

The tail ends of the yarn were a little longer than I needed to fill out the nose bridge, so I zig-zag stitched each piece to the correct length and trimmed off the excess. I laid each end over the nose bridge, pinned them together between the eyebrows, and hand-sewed the corners to the inside edges of the eyebrow padding (picture #6) and to the side nose seam allowances (picture #7). I then turned the face back around to the front.

It looked okay. Well, to be honest, it kind of looked like a demented muppet, but I figured putting the face back on the form would fix that problem.

Step 8: Left Neck in Leather

My final step before moving on to the left and back neck was to sew the left cheek "point" to piece #7 (see picture #1). I then sewed in piece #10, which covered the left jawline, and piece #8 which covered the front neck. Both of these pieces were sewn with interior 3/8" seams that were trimmed and flattened with the wooden spoon. Putting these seams on the inside helped emphasize the jawline and indentation under the chin.

Neck pieces 9 and 11-13 were sewn with exterior 3/8" seams, trimmed to a scant 1/8" and smoothed open with the wooden spoon. I wanted the outer edge of the neck to have the same type of seams I was using on Kali's body so the pieces would blend together nicely.

Step 9: Facial Fitting

Once all the face pieces were FINALLY sewn together, I planned on pinning it around the mannequin to keep it in shape. There were many more Kali body parts to construct, and I had no idea how long it would take to make them. In the meantime, the face could hang out on the form and stretch into shape.

I started by pinning the third eye in place below the hairline. Kali's face looked remarkably creepy, but that was simple to fix! I tucked the chin leather into place, pulled the neck pieces around to the back, and safety pinned the edges together in the center back. While I was fitting the face in place, the tiny office clips I was using to hold the shoulder seam closed kept coming unclipped, so I replaced them with safety pins too.

I moved back to the front and smoothed out the sides of Kali's eyes, and then pinned those into place. Much better! She might still look like a creepy muppet, but it was a very well-fitted and constructed goddess muppet.


I took a little time out to look at my original face pattern and compare it to Kali's face in leather. The pattern was also beautifully creepy!

Thanks for hanging in there. It's been a while since the last tutorial because I have had way too much on my plate. I hope you all are enjoying seeing the goddess in process! If you want to see some of the more recent pictures of Kali, you can find some on my Instagram along with other ridiculous stuff I make, plus pictures of my dog Lucy.

Next time I'll go over making Kali's hand belt and her hair.