Introduction: Kali Hair and Hand Belt

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

Okay. It's weird and hard times out there in the world. I make no apologies for taking a while to get back to instructing. But it's important to learn and grow and tackle new adventures, and it's even more crucial in difficult times.

So I'm back.

Kali is still growing! In this tutorial I make her hand belt and her hairdo.

In case you haven't been following, I'm re-making an old aluminum walker into Kali, the multi-armed, three-eyed Hindu goddess of time and empowerment. All of her parts are made of re*used materials. That's my thing. So is making mobility devices amazing.

Here are the tools I used:

Cutting mat

2 work tables and a protective sheet cover

Kali's padded mannequin torso and face from the past few Instructables

Kali's hand samples from here

Quilting pins

Sharp fabric scissors and utility shears

Ethafoam rod and safety blades

Masking tape

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

Heavy duty black thread and a hand sewing needle

Stick-It (a brand of double-sided tape)

Leather upholstery samples, shirts, jackets, and remnants

Scrap bits of cording (heavy yarn)

Military zipper remnants

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.

Step 1: Hand Belt

I think I covered making all of the sample hands in Kali Hands and Body Tweaks. These are the hands that didn't quite make the cut for Kali herself, but were fine to use for her belt. Unfortunately, I totally forgot to take pictures of making the wrists or the belt. Oops. It was pretty straightforward, though, and hopefully these instructions will give you all the information you need.

To make the wrists, I cut out leather pieces that were wide enough to go around the base of each hand, plus about 3/4" added for seam allowance. The pieces ranged from about 5"-12" long, depending on the size of leather chunks I had available. I sewed each wrist piece into a tube, using a 3/8" seam allowance, and trimmed the allowances down to a scant 1/8".

I took out the staples at the base of each hand, and one by one sewed wrist tubes to each of the hand bases. I trimmed the allowances down from 3/8" to 1/8", and then added tiny tucks to help shape each wrist. After that, each wrist got stuffed with extra pillow batting and the bottom edges were sewn together. Once the hands and wrists were set, I moved on to constructing the belt base that would hold all those hands together.

The belt base was cut from a heavy duty piece of suede skirt. I used a heavy duty military surplus zipper that was originally intended for tents and sleeping bags to edge each side of the belt base. The zipper added some pizazz, but the belt needed a little extra dimension and color. I cut strips from a silvery blue leather jacket, covered a long piece of old cording left over from a drapery project, and sewed it to the center of the belt base. That helped.

I then arranged the hands along the belt, pinned them down carefully, and sewed the hands down one at a time. That took a while and a lot of cursing. The hands kept flipping around and I got snagged by the pins several times. Eventually I figured out that the best way to sew it was to pin one hand at a time, then stop, trim my threads, remove the belt from the sewing machine, pin on the next had, and go.

No one ever said art would be easy.

Step 2: Hairline

I forgot again and only took before and after pictures of the covering process for Kali's right hairline, but there are a ton of pictures of the left side. So I'll go over this in more detail later on.

In short, each piece of "hair" was carved out of scrap pieces of ethafoam rod. These pieces were pinned onto the mannequin to shape Kali's hair. To cover the foam, I used scraps of brown and black leather and suede. One by one, I unpinned each piece of foam, trimmed it down to get rid of any ragged edges, and put pieces of Stick-It (a brand of double-sided tape) on top. I used the tape to stick leather and suede over each piece, and then trimmed the leather down to a 3/8" seam allowance all around each piece. Those seam allowances were how I sewed the hairline pieces together.

On my first attempt, I hand sewed all the pieces together with heavy duty sewing thread. This took a long time and it looked pretty lumpy. Using a zipper foot onto the sewing machine and re-sewing the seams made for much smoother stitching lines, even though it took some extra effort.

Once the right hairline section was ready, I tested how it curved. It looked like it would fit Kali nicely, but I wanted to test fit it to be sure.

Step 3: First Strands

Making Kali's long strands of hair took a few tries before I came up with a method that worked well for me.

The first method I tried seemed promising. I carved hair shaped bits out of ethafoam rod and pulled out leather scraps to cover them. My idea was to wrap each piece in leather and only sew one side with the machine. I laid down the first piece, wrapped jacket leather around it, pinned the leather together on one side of the foam, and then trimmed the leather down to a 3/8" seam allowance.

I wrapped and pinned and wrapped and pinned until the first pile of hair pieces was ready to take to the sewing machine. The leather I used was mostly black and brown, with a couple pieces of dark red ones thrown in for fun.

After all, Kali is known for battling and slaughtering demons. At some point, she might get a little blood in her hair.

Step 4: Messing With Machine Feet

The first sewing machine foot I used to sew the hair looked like a great idea. Until it wasn't.

I set up the machine with a foot that allowed me to get right up close to the bulk of the foam on the right hand side, but stayed flat on the left. Sewing the hair with this foot didn't work too well, though. I was able to get up close to the foam sometimes, and then the foot would slide off the leather and snag the underside. Sometimes I got little tucks as I sewed that weren't there when I pinned the leather. And the stitching was kind of sloppy.

Maybe this would have been a better idea if I had a larger seam allowance, but screw it. I decided to try another machine foot. I used the zipper foot, which let me sew close to the foam on either side as long as I made sure to change the position of the needle first! (See pictures 4, 5, & 6 for changing the needle position.)

Sewing needles hitting your machine feet leads to needle shards coming at your eyes, which makes for a very bad day. Please trust me on this.

PS: I don't remember how I cut myself on the thumb in this picture series. It happens a lot. Sewing usually = cuts and pokes. I try to keep bandages and antiseptic around at all times!

I used the zipper foot for the next piece of hair. It worked okay, but I wasn't thrilled with the stitching. It wobbled around a lot. Since I needed a lot of hair, though, I decided to use this method for the time being anyhow.

Step 5: Hairline on the RIght

I trimmed down all the seam allowances on the long leather hair strands to a scant 1/8". I then pulled out the hairline pieces and pinned down one long strand to the bottom edge of the hairline. Sewing the strand to the hairline pieces using the zipper foot was really awkward, but it worked, and the longer strand finished off the edge nicely.

One at a time, I pinned strands of the longer hair over the hairline seams and then stitched them into place. Having one tiny seam per piece of hair to sew down was difficult and the stitching got a little messy, but it worked out okay. I figured I would try another method for the rest of the hair.

After putting a few more strands on the hairline, I pinned the entire hair section into place on the mannequin's face. It wasn't a bad start, although it had a long way to go before becoming the flowing mass of hair that Kali has in all the research. Piece by piece, I pinned in extra strands of hair, unpinned the entire segment from the mannequin, machine sewed the strands, and re-fit the hair again.

Step 6: New Techniques and Hair in Detail

Once I reached the back edge of Kali's hair (the part right next to her tiara), I decided to make a bunch of hair strands using a new and improved method!

This method used the same carved bits of ethafoam rod as a base for the long strands of hair. Instead of trying to wrap each piece in one bit of leather, though, I used one strip of leather on the bottom of each hair strand and another to cover the top. I pinned the leather into place around each piece of foam and didn't trim the leather down until after sewing all the way around the foam. I tried using the zipper foot and the first foot I tested out- and both of them did a great job.

If you take a look at picture #2, the hair strands on the left were made using the first method and the pile on the right used the technique. Technique #2 was way faster, much easier, and made really nice curvy hair strands. I added a few pieces of the new hair to Kali's right hairline and got ready to move on to the left side.

To hold the foam to the leather, I used Stick-It, a brand of double sided tape that's used in TV and film wardrobe to hold unruly edges of clothing or wigs in place. Another common brand is Top Stick. The thing is, any double sided tape will work. I happened to have some lying around from the last TV gig, so that's what I used. I peeled off one side of the protective paper from a Stick-It strip, cut it into pieces that fit on the foam, put the pieces on top of the foam, and smoothed the tape over the curves. I then peeled the protective paper off the other side of the tape.

I laid out a piece of scrap jacket leather suede side up on my work table and placed the foam on the leather, tape side down. I pressed the piece back and forth to get the tape to adhere, trimmed the leather down to 3/8" outside the edges of the foam, and turned the piece over to make sure the leather adhered to the foam's curves.

That worked well, so I unpinned and covered 2 more hairline pieces.

Step 7: Building Up the Hairline

I pinned the 3 leather covered hairline pieces together at the seam allowances from the back, and then turned the pieces over to see how they fit in front. It looked good, so I unpinned the next 2 pieces of foam on Kali's hairline. The foam pieces were a little bit messy, so I trimmed off the mangled edges with utility shears before adding tape. I debated pulling off more foam bits, but figured that 5 pieces at a time were plenty.

After taping the next 2 foam pieces, covering them with leather, and trimming the leather so each piece had a 3/8" seam allowance all the way around, I pinned them both to the last set of hairline pieces. After checking the fit of all 5 pieces on the mannequin, I was ready to move on down the left side of the hairline.

Pro tips: It's good to not jump too far ahead of yourself with any project. I do this all the time and get lost, confused, and heavily poked with pins. Try working with a few pieces at a time and you will be much happier. I will do my best to take my own advice in this area.

The first time I try new steps, it is often frustrating and difficult. Once I've figured out a good technique, it gets a little easier each time. That is the way of things. :)

Also, the bit about utility or kitchen shears is kind of important. Foam dulls blades like crazy. If I use a razor blade to carve foam, it's maybe good for shaping one piece before the blade is unusable. If I use my nice scissors on foam, they will get dull super fast and I will be sad.

Please don't be sad. Try utility shears instead!

Step 8: Hairline Construction

I unpinned a couple more pieces of foam from the hairline and repeated the process from the last 2 steps- trimming, taping, covering with leather, and pinning the pieces together. The entire piece was starting to get awkward to move around without poking myself with the pins, so it was time to get back to sewing.

I sewed all the pieces together using the zipper foot. It was a lot easier to sew this time around! That's usually the way. The first time I try something new and tricky, it's frustrating and difficult. Once I figure out a good technique and practice it, it's so much easier. Go figure.

I trimmed the seam allowances down to a scant 1/8" and test fit the entire left hairline piece on the mannequin. It looked pretty good! It was almost ready to attach to the right side. I covered one more piece of foam on the top right hairline (see picture #6), sewed it to the top of the right hairline, and pinned the left and right hairlines together at the center part.

I sewed the part together, trimmed down the seams, and turned the pieces around to the front to see if I was missing anything.

Step 9: Putting the Part Together

After cleaning up the hanging thread ends, I laid the hairline out on my worktable. There were a couple of areas that needed to be filled in, and that center part seam was only going to be in the way. Fine. I carved some foam to fill in the gaps, covered those pieces with leather, took out the center part seam, and carefully sewed the wee hairline bits into the blank spaces.

I trimmed the seams, checked out the shape, and test fit both sides of the hairline on the mannequin again. It looked okay, but it was a little flat and dimensionless. Not to worry! I unpinned the hairline bits and taped the foam together on the inside to form a more exaggerated curve. Adding batting underneath the hairline later on would be a more durable solution, but the tape was fine in the meantime.

After checking the pieces on the mannequin again, I sewed the part together and moved it around on Kali's face until it looked good. It turned out that she looked much better with her part slightly off-center.

That may say something about Kali, but it probably says something more about me.

Step 10: Filling in the Gaps

I unpinned the hairline from the mannequin and added sewed in a few long strands of hair on top of the seams. This helped fill it out visually. There was a lot of back and forth from the sewing machine to the mannequin to test each strand. That was partially because the strands needed test fitting, but mostly because I kept snagging myself on pins and getting cranky.

Sometimes taking a little extra time is good.

After a few strands, I checked the hairline again to see what gaps needed filling. One gap on the right side needed a new piece of foam hairline to be carved, covered, and sewn in. Most of the gaps, though, were taken care of by adding in more long hair strands. This also made Kali's hair look thicker and fuller, which was awesome. (See pictures 5 & 7.)

The back 2 rows of hairline, the ones at the base of Kali's tiara, were long strips of foam that I covered in black skirt suede and sewed to the hairline. That covered a multitude of gaps! Unfortunately the hair looked a little flat and needed some definition. I sewed the seam allowances inside the hairline together in places to help bulk it up, which helped a lot.

Doesn't Kali have a sassy profile now?