Friday, November 7, 2008

Making A Realistic Black Cat

I named this guy "Smokey, the Graveyard Cat" because that's where he's going to be displayed next Hallowe'en. That's right....I'm planning for next Hallowe'en already. It's what I do. It's what goes on in my head. ANYWAY, I'd like to share some tips on making a realistic black Hallowe'en cat.

It all begins with a sketch. This is quite a scribbly sketch, but that's what sketches usually are. Just an idea scribbled out on paper. I did a little research on how an angry or frightened cat would pose.....and although they usually would have their tail arched, the stereotypical straight tail is the best to go with for a Hallowe'en prop.

Now some of you may get upset, but I used real fur in this prop. Blackbear fur to be exact. It's because I have a bunch of it hanging around and it's stinky, so I wanted to use it up. I based the cat body on the arch shape from my sketch and made two pieces for each side of the cat. The tail was just a rolled up and sewn piece of fur in which I ran a thick wire afterward. For the legs I stuck in two wires bent like an upside-down "U". REALLY, this prop is based on the same principles as making a plush toy. I strongly suggest using fake fur because it's a LOT less expensive and if you can get your hands on a toy cat pattern all the better.
I find hemostats to be great tools when stuffing hard to reach areas (legs) and to aid in turning your sewn "skin" right side out. (When you sew things, you usually sew them inside out)
The legs and head are actually made out of black sheepskin. VERY IMPORTANT: WHEN SEWING REAL FUR USE "GLOVERS" NEEDLES. You CANNOT sew leather or fur using regular sewing needles. You can use regular needles for fake fur, no problem.

So here is the headless cat body standing well because of the "U" shaped wires in the legs. I'm sorry I didn't start photographing this project until the body was done. Then I made a silhouette of a head to test for size. This one looked about right.

The basics of making an animal head is to make 2 silhouette mirror images and a top piece narrowing at the nose. You sew the three together starting at the nose. I ended up adding a chin piece (not pictured) because it was looking too much like a dog and not a cat.
I was originally going to insert LED "eyes" but I changed my mind. I used "teddy bear" eyes instead. I had to do some "soft sculpture" sewing to make the eyes look less round and innocent looking. I cut ear shapes and sewed them on the outside of the head. An angry cat has "flat" ears, not perked up.

Once the eyes and ears are attached it's time to stuff the head. Now more "soft sculpture" techniques can be used to help shape the head. (I made the snout a little too long) I sewed the back of the head together once I was satisfied with it and began to sew it onto the "neck" area of the body.

I was in a hurry to get these photos his head is still wobbly if you shake him. I'll go back in and fasten it better when I have more time. But that's basically it! My fingers took a beating, but I think he was worth the effort!
Oh yeah, I used some black plastic wire for his whiskers.

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