The eyestalk trophy is meant as an easy-to-make prop for use in a roleplaying group. It also works for cosplay and anything else that you can think of! Let me know what you think, and thank you for checking out this Instructable.
In a recent roleplaying session, my group encountered a Beholder. One of the iconic Dungeons & Dragons beasts - a floating ball with one huge eye, a giant maw and loads of eyes on stalks all over the place. Eventually, they defeated it and, naturally, decided they wanted a trophy. So the towering goliath paladin tore out one of the eyestalks. The player then hinted that it would be cool to have it as a prop to impress and scare others. Since that player is also my wife, there was really no way for this not to happen.
This Instructable is all about making one such trophy, and while it goes deeper than the video you can find above I stell recommend you watch it. If you are looking for ideas and suggestions on how to incorporate it into your game, check out this post here, and if you feel like a good meal, why not try this one.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
Here is what you will need to make your Eyestalk Trophy. Keep in mind that there are always other ways to get to the same goal, so if you do not have one or more items on the list feel free to improvise and find those ways (and let me know!).
Of course, you need the free pattern, which you can get here - Free Eyestalk Trophy Pattern.
felt (or other cloth) - in the color that you want your eyestalk to be. You need a piece twice as size as the eyestalk pattern. You also need one or more strips of felt in the color you want the "stump" to end in. You can use the same as the outside or something more "fleshy". If you go for the felt eyes you also need two pieces of white the size of the eye pattern as well as some black and possibly one other color. On the subject of other cloth to use, I have not tried it but I imagine using thin or fake leather will look interesting.
thread - to sew the felt pieces together. Using the same color as the felt is strongly recommended, but you can get away with a close match or even black if all else fails. For the felt-eye-option white is best for obvious reasons.
stuffing - cotton is the most common choice here, but I have started to use the cutoffs of a project, cut into small pieces, to stuff what needs stuffing. It works pretty well and makes you feel good about recycling.
paper - to print the pattern on.
acrylic ball (transparent) - one of the kinds that come as two halves that fit together. This will serve as eyeball (unless you go for the felt eye option). I designed the pattern to work with a diameter of 5 cm or 2". You can scale it up or down if necessary, but you will have to figure out by how much - and if you shrink it be aware that inverting it will become that much more of an interesting experience.
acrylic paint - to paint pupil and iris. I think black and white are mandatory for the eye, plus at least one color for the iris. I recommend using at least three to make it look good. I personally chose mostly metallic effect paint for that part. Since there is no need to paint the felt eye, this is only for the acrylic ball option.
paper towels - for removing excess paint and fixing mistakes. Only needed when you want to go a little artsy on the plastic eye (and obsolete for the felt eye option)
glue (paper) - for gluing two parts of the pattern together. I used a glue stick, but anything that bonds two pieces of paper for a few minutes should work.
glue (acrylic to felt) - for gluing the plastic ball to the felt if you chose to do so. I would use ca-glue or contact cement, but check how well they work with your plastic balls first. Doing a test on the inside of it will save you some potential headache.
scissors - to cut things. Mainly for the paper pattern, the felt and the thread.
sewing machine - to perform sewing operations in a fraction of the time it would take you using a needle by hand. Which is to say that if you do not have a sewing machine you can make due sewing the eyestalk by hand. Believe me, it can be done.
sewing needle - either for a few stitches that the sewing machine cannot deliver on or for the whole thing if you are so inclined.
pins - to hold the paper pattern on the felt pieces and the felt pieces together.
long dowel (or similar shape) - helpful when it comes to inverting the eyestalk shape as well as pushing the stuffing in.
toothpicks - to apply the acrylic paint to the acrylic ball if you are so inclined. If you do not need that level of detail or chose the felt eye option you can skip them.
brushes - also to apply paint. Again, not necessary for the felt eye option.
printer - to print out the pattern. I am just trying to be thorough.
Step 2: The Pattern
You can download the pattern through the link in the previous step.
It has been designed to work best with 5 cm or 2" acrylic balls, so if that is what you are working with print it out at 100%, original, without resizing, or whatever that option is called in your pdf reader or printing dialogue.
If you choose the felt eye option (more on that in a bit) you can scale the pattern to your heart's content, except that it will get increasingly tricky to invert the shape if you scale it down.
Cut out the two pieces for the eyestalk (part A and part B) roughly, that is with a bit of room to spare around the outer line. Then apply glue to the flap on part A and glue them together along that line. Make sure that all the lines align - there are not that many. While slight misalignments are not a deal breaker, it still pays off to be thorough.
Once the glue has dried you can cut the pattern out more accurately along the outer line.
Step 3: Using the Pattern
Take two pieces of felt, larger than the pattern, or a single one folded down the middle, and place the patter upon it. Hold it in place using a couple of pins (3-4) along the length of the pattern so neither of the three layers can co anywhere.
In the spirit of being as thorough as possible, what I mean by that is to push the pin through all three layers, halfway in, then angle it back up to pierce all three layers again. Do not prick yourself, though!
You can leave the excess felt on there for now, but you should cut it to fit along the bottom line (the only straight one in the final pattern) to make sewing a lot easier.
Step 4: Sew, Sew, Sew Your Stalk
Now use either the sewing machine or a sewing needle and loads of patience to make a seam along the inner line of the pattern. Try to be exact, although, again, this project forgives small imperfections fairly easily. The bottom end is to remain open, so do not sew that one shut. That would be an imperfection it cannot forgive.
Make sure that you start the seam near the edge of the material. This is why I told you to cut the felt to the line, and it will make thing a lot easier. Once you have sewed all the way to the other end, you can cut off the threads with some material to spare and make a few overhand knots to keep everything in place.
My sewing machine has a reverse function that makes it easy to go back and forth. I generally use it at the beginning and end of seams to gain a little stability, but this is quite optional. Especially since, in all likelihood, this seam will not experience too much stress.
Step 5: Make the Cut!
Now the time has come to cut away the excess felt. I recommend cutting to the outer line of the pattern, but as long as you do not cut into the seam things should be okay. You can leave more material standing if you wish, but that will not make inverting the shape any easier. Removing too much, though, can be detrimental to the seam's stability on the long run.
Keep the cutoffs on hand, though. We can still use them, and we will.
Step 6: Removing the Pattern
While pinning the paper to the felt made it easy to sew straight away without cutting out anything at first, this pattern now has to go. There are two ways to go about it.
The first one involves tearing the pattern off. This is a little tricky if you want to be thorough in that it can stress the seam and, at worst, tear the thread. Here is how I recommend you do it. Tear into the pattern until that tear hits the seam. Fold the piece you almost tore off several times along the seam. Carefully tear it off along the seam. Remove the small strip of material still standing. Repeat by tearing into the pattern, usually towards the other side. You can leave the outer edge of the pattern where it is, it will not bother you later.
The second one is even easier. Use scissors and carefully cut the pattern inside of the seam, leaving as much material as there is left on the other side of the seam in order to prevent damaging it. Leaving that strip of paper in will not be noticeable later, but it might change how the seam behaves going forward. I would not expect major drawbacks from this, though.
Step 7: Eyestalk Inversion
The next step is to turn the whole thing inside out. This works out okay at the size that the pattern comes in, and gets pretty tricky for anything smaller.
I use a long wooden dowel to push the top of what will be the eye cavity through the stalk. Make sure that the dowel does not have sharp edges or splinters coming off, and do not apply too much pressure to any single spot. Instead, move forward a bit, move the dowel, and repeat.
Once the general shape has been turned inside out, use the dowel to push along the seam. This will give you a crisper shape going forward and help you stuff it more evenly.
Step 8: Going Back on the Eye
What you have in front of you looks more like a cudgel or worse, but not like an eyestalk. This is because we now need to re-invert the front half of the top bulge to form the eye cavity.
Gently push the material back in and aim for a crisp edge all the way around. This is when you get to decide how deep you want the eyeball to sit, so give it a test drive with the eyeball, painted or unpainted - although the painted version will give you a much better idea of how the final thing will look.
To keep this from flapping back out either now or lather when it comes to stuffing, use some color-matched thread (or the closest thing you can find) and a needle to make a few stitches all the way around.
How you do it depends on your artistic choice. I would recommend making a seam halfway down the bowl running around the whole thing if your sewing machine can handle that, otherwise, go for 3-4 single stitches, each repeated a few times before making a knot.
Once you are done, use the needle to pull the surplus thread to the inside of the stalk to hide them.
Step 9: Eye Options
There are two ways to make the eyeball, and you probably know already what they are (since I kept going on about them earlier). One uses a plastic ball, the other is felt-based. (There are more advanced options and ideas that I will go into at the end of this 'ible).
The acrylic ball eye has the advantage of looking like a "real" eyeball, and you can create a more realistic iris on it. It is also more stable and has a wet sheen to it. It can come apart, break and shatter should someone decide to step on it.
The felt eye has a more muppet feel to it, and might not look as "serious" as a glaring plastic eye. That depends on how well you can paint an acrylic eyeball, and the rest of the eyestalk might be made of felt anyway. This version also lends itself well to bashing someone else over the head with, since the likelihood for serious injury using a stuffed piece of felt is pretty slim.
Step 10: Option 1 - Acrylic Eye
If you chose the acrylic ball option I want to congratulate you on making a good choice. That being said, make sure to test-fit your ball into the eye cavity of the stalk. It was designed for 5 cm or 2" balls, but better safe than sorry.
The painting will be done on the inside (preventing the color to be scratched off during use). But that requires some care to get the result to look right. The main theme here is that you need to add details before adding the background, the inverse that you would expect when painting on a canvas, from back to front (see next step).
If your acrylic ball is like mine, it comes in two halves and has a piece of plastic on both that comes together for an eyelet to hang the ball from. Whether you use this eyelet for anything or not, it makes it pretty much mandatory to place the eye with the seam running perpendicular to the circumference of the cavity, if that makes sense. What I am saying is that this protrusion should be sitting at the very back. This arrangement, in turn, makes it necessary to paint the two halves so that the lines match up (pupil and iris). Not to worry, it is not that hard.
If your ball does not have that eyelet feature, you can choose to place them so that the seam runs along the outside, and paint the eye on one half only. In this case, you either need to glue both halves together or be really confident that they will hold even when you swing the eyestalk around.
Step 11: Option 1 - Painting the Eye
The acrylic eye needs to be painted from details to background since what we paint will be seen from the outside looking in. What that means is that you need to put some thought into what you are doing. There is no painting over mistakes later.
If the seam between the two halves runs through your iris, you need to make sure to align both halves properly. For that purpose, I recommend drawing the circle of the iris on the outside of the acrylic using a felt-tipped marker for reference. The easiest way to do that is to place the ball on a round shape like a pipe or a shot glass and trace around it. Either use a board marker and be careful not to smudge the line during handling, or use a permanent one that you can later remove with rubbing alcohol.
Using painter's tape also works well to get semi-crisp lines, and I used this technique for the actual pupil. Since I wanted it cat-like in appearance, the tape worked really well. I doubt I would have used it for a round iris. The tape-method also allows you to line up both sides and make sure they come together as intended before you ass paint.
Since this already sounds more complex than it actually is, I will go into how I built up the iris in the next step. I just want to add that this is the first time I am doing this, so please do not think I knew what I was doing. Just give it a try and see where it goes. You can always try again later - or chose the felt eye instead.
Step 12: Option 1 - Building Up an Iris
Like I said before, take this with a grain of salt since this is my first time doing this. I watched far more talented artists paint dragon eyes in a similar fashion, and while I like to believe that I got the basics I might still be screwing up in a rather royal fashion here.
Nevertheless, here are the colors I used and what I used them for, in sequence:
black - for the pupil. I decided to make the eye catlike, giving it an elongated pupil that will hopefully cover up part of the seam. Going with a slit also allows you to use the spots where the outline of the iris intersects with the seam as connection points. A crisp line is important here, and hard to fix later. If you watch the video you will notice that my lines were not as crisp, though, due to the painter's tape used. I think I can still sell it as imperfections in the eye of an aberrant creature.
This is something I wanted to try but did not, so you can be the judge of whether it makes sense. With the dry brushing technique, I wanted to add a shadow along the inside of the iris. The idea behind this is to add paint to the brush, then stroke it over a paper towel to remove most of it. The (almost) dry brush will then leave behind very little paint, perfect for shading like this. On a side note, try to reuse the paint you left on the paper towel in some way.
metallic colors (copper and gold) - for details on the iris. Using toothpicks I added wavy and jagged lines connecting the pupil to the outline of the iris in a radial fashion. Think of it as muscles holding and shaping the pupil. I started with one layer of thin lines in one color, let that dry, then add the other. I repeated that process until the iris was pretty much completely filled. Take care not to scratch one first layer when applying the next.
Something you might want to try - and that I did not do - is to add dry-brushed black shading every few layers. I would expect that to give the iris some additional depth.
brown - for the iris background. I chose a matching color for the metals I used, and cover the metal details.
red - to make veins on the eyeball. This was actually a request from my wife, where I would have left the eyeball white. As always, she had the right idea. I used toothpicks again, going for arcing, branching patterns, starting from the sides and approaching, but never quite reaching, the iris. Less is more here, I think, especially since depending on the size of your iris, you will not get to see much of those veins once the eyeball is in the cavity..
white - for the general eyeball. This will cover up everything from the inside. The iris should already be covered, so you do not need to paint that part, especially since getting white spots where it might not have been painted over all too well is not desirable. You do not need to paint the white all the way to the back either since that part will not be seen anyway.
What I actually did and you should not is confusing plain white with pearl effect paint. I tried to get it off but could not remove it completely. The effect is minor, given what you see in the finished product, but I think white looks better than the rather turbulent effect paint.
Step 13: Option 2 - Felt Eye
If you chose the felt eye option I want to congratulate you on making a good choice. Yes, I said that for option 1, too. Deal with it. Both are good options.
The process for this is slightly different than it is for the eyestalk since you need to add pupil and iris to the eye. There are several options for these, but to begin with, take the circle pattern and pin it to a double layer of white fabric (unless you do not want the eyeball to be white). Then cut it out along the outer line of the pattern.
Now, we deviate from the eyestalk process. Take the two felt circles apart and do some soul-searching regarding the iris and pupil you want. I am going with a round piece of brown felt and a cat-pupil piece of black. I sew those on the center of one of the white circles, and if you want something more artistic, this is the time to embroider whatever fancy iris color swirl you want - just keep in mind that with the felt eye, we are not going for extreme realism or detail.
Step 14: Option 2 - Sewing the Eye (ouch)
With iris and pupil done place the two felt circles on top of each other with the iris facing inward. Sew along the second line of the pattern. Once you are done, you will probably realize that you just sewed the eye show in an inside-out state. That is okay, and here is why.
Initially, I wanted to leave some of the seam open so you could invert and stuff it. But that would have resulted in this opening, which you will have to sew by hand, to be visible on the side. Making it like the acrylic eye with the seam running through the pupil would, in turn, require sewing the iris to the finished eye, i.e. across the seam. So I opted for a third version - cut a hole in the back (not where the iris is), use it to invert, then stuff, and sew it shut. It will be in the cavity, and thus not visible.
Once you have the eye's insides on the outside start stuffing it, either with felt snippets or with cotton. Make sure to put enough in there so it attains and retains eyeball shape, and be ready to explain away any wrinkles and imperfections with mistakes made when preserving the eyestalk.
To seal up the eyeball best use a needle and some thread and sew the remaining 1/4 of the seam shut. Push it inward if you can to make it less visible.
Step 15: Eye Tether (very Optional)
This idea stems from the fact that the plastic balls have a small eyelet to hang them from, but it can be applied to the felt eye as well, or be completely omitted (and substituted by glue for one and thread for the other). Personally, I tried this in a prototype but did not go with it on the final version.
The idea is to attach a length of sturdy, or even better, rubber thread to the back of the eye, pull it through the bottom of the eye cavity and all the way through the eyestalk, and attach it near the bottom (in an upcoming step). The advantage is that the eye will remain slightly mobile and that you will be able to turn it, but if the thread gives, it will just flop around in its socket.
After using this I am very much on the fence about this. If you use a rubber thread that will keep the tension, and stuff the stalk well enough, you should get a trophy with an eye that can turn. I doubt, though, that this "effect" is worth the hassle. If you want to get the easier stalk experience I recommend skipping this step and using glue.
Step 16: Alternative Eye-Catchers
As mentioned in the previous step, if you do not want (or trust) a thread to hold your eye, there are alternatives.
For the plastic eye, the best way to keep it in place is to glue it into the felt socket. Since gluing things to plastic is not always a happy journey I recommend testing your glue of choice before actually using it on your painted eye. If you do not want to use a new ball for that, ruining it in the event of success, use the inside of the painted one towards the back where there should be clear plastic left, or use a small piece to glue to the back where it will be covered up by the socket.
The felt eye is easier to attach. Use a thread the color of your eyestalk and add a few stitches through the socket. Since going in and out through several layers of felt might not be that easy you can also push the needle through the eyeball (ew) and out the other side several times.
Step 17: Stalk Stuffer
Unless you want your eyestalk to hang limp (and possibly use it like a morning star), I recommend stuffing it. What I like to do is cut up all the project's cutoffs into small pieces and use them as stuffing. Cotton works just as well, but I like using up some of the waste at this point.
I recommend using the dowel you used to invert the stalk to gently push material all the way down. And if you chose not to secure the socket with a few stitches (which you really should), make sure not to push it out as you stuff the stalk. As a rule of thumb, there is always room for a little more, and you should hold it and squeeze it a couple of times to see whether there are still pockets of empty that need filling.
Stuff the stalk till about 2,5 cm or 1" of material is left unfilled on the bottom end.
Step 18: The Fleshy Bit
Seeing how the eyestalk has been separated from its host, simply sewing the bottom end shut would not be very realistic, and realism is everything when working with a felt replica of part of a made-up monstrosity. I am, of course, joking. If you want to, you can simply sew the bottom end shut, but that is not what I did.
I picked a color of felt that best resembled "flesh" to me, and also matches the rest of the felt I used somewhat. From that material, I cut a strip about 2 cm or 4/5" wide. If you are working with smaller sections of material you can cut multiple strips. If possible, make one side of the strip a little jagged, and do not try to keep it too even when rolling.
Start rolling this strip up and make sure it is tight. You need a roll that fits snugly inside the bottom end of the eyestalk. If your strip is not long enough for that (chances are it won't) just add another one on top of that. Make sure to hold it well until you get to the desired diameter, which is the inside of the bottom end of the stalk.
Step 19: Plug the Bottom
If you are using the eye tether option and have a thread coming out the bottom of your stuffed stalk, this is what to do with it. If not, skip to the next paragraph (not step). Use a needle and push the tether-thread through the roll from the side. This can get tricky due to the thickness of the material, but it can be done with lots of wiggling and some pliers. Repeat the process to go back next to where you came out, and make a knot so that the plug is held by the tether close to the end of the eyestalk.
Place the roll inside the bottom end of the stalk. The idea is that the outer material, i.e. the skin, extends a bit over the roll, i.e. the flesh. If you are having a hard time pushing the plug inside just flip up the bottom of the stalk, place the plug against the stuffing and flip the skin back over it.
Now take a needle with thread to match the skin (not the roll) and start stitching them together. For durability's sake, I recommend going all the way through the plug a few times, but you can also stay close to the surface and hope that friction does the rest.
Step 20: More Eyes, More Options
Once you have an idea of how this eyestalk can be made, you can get creative about it. This is not really where I tell you what to do, but where you use the "I Made It!" button to show us what you made! Nevertheless, here are some ideas:
- use fake leather for a more weathered stalk
- fray the bottom some more
- add additional seams as scars and wrinkles to the stalk fabric before sewing it up
- make it move!
Have more ideas? Share them!
Step 21: Ok, and This!
Having recently gotten back into crocheting, I decided I might as well try my hand at a crocheted version. I do not have a pattern for this since I improvised my way through it, but after doing a few plushies based on a pattern book I felt confident enough to try. The main problem is probably getting pupil and iris in. You would have to stitch them, which in my opinion does not work well on crocheting.
Step 22: Thank You!
Thanks again for checking out my eyestalks (which is something I never thought I would say) and this Instructable. I appreciate any kind of feedback in the comments, and if you liked it please share it!
If you are looking for ways to use this as a prop or as an imagined item in your roleplaying games, you can find a post about that here. If you want to pretend to cook and eat an aberrant eyestalk, check out the recipe here. And if you want to see moving pictures have a look at the video linked above.
I hope you enjoy making one as much as I did, and as always, remember to Be Inspired!