Back in January 2019 (!) I posted 19 projects I was determined to complete in 2019. Spoiler alert – I failed – but I have made significant progress on about half of the projects on the list. Inspired by the recent Masters of the Universe and Suicide Squad remakes, here’s the current progress on my trio of 80s cartoon girls.
What I said: I’ve never shown these before, except for the odd glimpse in the background of Instagram pics. I started this trio of plastic canvas portraits when I moved in August 2017. While I love how they look in black and white (and blue), I designed them to be in full color and I’d love to see them complete.
What I did: Quite a bit of progress!
I’d never shown them on the blog prior to that post, so here’s a look back at how they got to where they are now.
I’d moved in 2017 and was really excited to be able to fill my space with all the crafty, nerdy little things that make me who I am.
Every shelf and table has some item that references my varied interests, and I’ve even used some previous projects as home décor – see the Minecraft heads from my tutorials peeping from above the kids’ desk, along with an as-yet-unshown secret project hidden among the books – so I was really excited to fill a blank wall space in my dining room with a handmade project.
First I purchased three of the largest plastic canvas sheets I could find. When looking for inspiration for what to stitch on them I really didn’t need to look very far. There are Archie comics in nearly every room in my house, thanks to my kids enjoying them as much as I do. In addition to the coloring book from my last post, I’ve drawn Betty on the blog here before, and Henri had drawn Archie a few years back. (He was even an Archie comics character for Hallowe’en last year, and I’ll be sharing that project here in October.) So clearly, Betty Cooper would be one of my cartoon trio.
Initially I drafted up Betty, Archie and Veronica, and planned out a triptych of the three of them, but the more I thought about it the more I realized it was Betty specifically that I like, and that I didn’t care if I saw Archie and Veronica daily, so I scrapped them and looked around for more inspo. As soon as I had the freedom to look beyond Riverdale I knew Harley Quinn HAD to be one of them. I’ve adored her for decades, and she’s featured in assorted places around my house, including in two different spots on this one shelving unit:
Finally, it wasn’t hard to decide on Teela as my third girl. I grew up watching He-Man and playing with the toy sets along with my younger brothers. I don’t know if it’s that she’s a strong, independant woman or if it was because she often wore a cobra headpiece and had a snake staff, and I’ve always adored snakes… but either way she had to be the one to complete my cartoon trio. I’ve shared Teela and a portion of my 80s toy collection on the blog before, and they’ve now found a home in a cabinet along with other childhood relics:
The hard part done, the next step was to create charts for each character. Instead of doing it the easy way and importing reference images into a stitch software, I decided to go the hard route and chart them myself in Excel. I found reference images for each character, adjusted the Excel cells to be square and marked off an area with the same stitch count as my total canvas size. From there it was just a matter of redrawing each girl, pixel-art style, and tweaking the design until they looked right. I’d originally planned to use continental stitch to save time, but quickly realized the angles would be skewed and that cross-stitch would be best, using one stitch for every pixel/cell in my chart.
I ordered a bunch of yarn from Knit Pics, then got started.
Here you can see the initial stages. I didn’t want to have to refer to the charts throughout the entire stitching process so decided to start with the black outlines first, so I could then later fill them in, coloring-book-style. Plus I didn’t know how long they would take to complete into full color and wanted to be able to hang them on the wall in the meantime. Considering I started these in 2017 and I’m typing this post in 2021, I’m glad I had that foresight!!
After finishing most of Betty I moved on to chart HQ next. I bet you’re wondering why I left Betty mostly done instead of finishing the rest of her border? Took me a moment to remember too lol but it’s because I left myself things to work on that didn’t require concentration, so when I had more time I would work on HQ and follow my charts, and when I had the kids with me or was watching something that required more focus I could work on Betty’s border that didn’t require much thought or any chart reference. Basically it was the cross-stitch equivalent of having knitting or crochet projects of varying difficulty levels.
Once the outlining was all done I worked on each of their eyes, as I thought it would look better on the wall, and truthfully HQ was a bit creepy without them. Then, while I still had the blue out, I added Betty’s shirt. Her top was red in my reference image but blue is my favorite color so I swapped it out, plus I liked having a color that was in each of the 3 images, to help tie them together. The middle pic above is the one posted on the blog back in 2019, and where they sat for basically most of the last 3 years. At some point I filled in their mouths and got started on Betty’s skin, and that’s where I’d stopped and moved on to other projects.
Eventually I started working on them again. I’d always had it in mind to work on equal parts of each, so as they hung on the wall they’d look similar in completion. First Betty had the slow progress on her face and neck…
…and then this past summer Teela got the same treatment, using stash yarn so she wouldn’t have the exact same skin tone as Betty’s.
Technically I should have done Harley’s face next, for them to all match, but these sheets are large and get folded up against my body or resting under my arm as I work. Since Harley’s face is white, and clearly a focal point of the image, I decided to hold it off for last so it wouldn’t get dirty or faded, and work on her costume instead.
At that point I was on a roll! The new Netflix Masters of the Universe had just come out, and it was kinda cool to start working on Teela’s tiara while watching the premiere. In fact, I got so into it that I kept watching until I found I’d binged the whole first season!
Spoiler-free take: ignore the men complaining about the show. It’s awesome to see the old gang again, even Stinkor! (Man I can still remember the smell of that toy!) I love the focus on Teela and magic vs tech. Made me think about Skylanders and my girl Sprocket – guess I’m always drawn to my tech girls! Also, as a big Buffy fan, with Sarah Michelle Gellar as the voice of Teela, it’s fantastic to hear Buffy kicking butt again. ♥
This is where the girls are now. I’ll be working on HQ’s white bib and pompom next, to complete her outfit, and that will put me into the home stretch with only 2 sections left on each girl. At the end I’ll have to do one run of border around each one, as the edges are currently unfinished, and then finally attach rings for hanging them properly, as I’m currently holding them to the wall with thumbtacks.
I know it’s not conventional wall art for an adult woman, but I love them.
Halloween is in two weeks, so you know what that means- time to start scrambling for (not quite) last-minute costume ideas! To help out, here are some costume-related projects from my archives that are short enough to get done before the 31st. 🙂
My phone has been pinging quite a bit lately, notifying me that people have been saving my pins. While I think that’s awesome, and am flattered, I was also confused because I couldn’t think of what I’d posted that would be so popular at the moment. And then I remembered – it’s almost Halloween! Sure enough, it was my Minecraft-related pins getting all the love, the Creeper/Steve head tutorial especially.
So for anyone who found my blog via those pins, or anyone else who’s interested, here are some quick links to my (few) Halloween/costume-related tutorials. I do have more coming up this month, so be sure to come back and see.
Update: This tutorial is now also available as a downloadable PDF here. More details at bottom of this post.
It’s October! That means it’s okay to start talking about Halloween, right?
It is according to Henri- when I woke him up for school this morning he gazed up at me sleepily and grinned “It’s October 1st.” When I asked why that mattered he smiled even more adorably and said “Because now it’s almost Halloween.”
‘Almost’ is relative. (He clearly gets his awareness of time from his father). However his mention of it reminded me that I never showed last year’s costume. So. Now, with plenty of time to get ready for this year’s holiday… here’s how I made the boys Minecraft Steve and creeper heads, and how you can too!
The boys decided for Halloween they wanted to dress up as their favorite Minecraft characters. They do sell ready-made cardboard heads in stores but they are expensive, and there are a ton of tutorials online. I looked at a few, then worked things out with what I had on hand, and what I was able to find at the dollar store.
What you’ll need:
square boxes (large enough to fit over the wearer’s head)
1. Yannick came home with 2 small boxes he’d found somewhere. Grocery stores often have ones you can ask for, or as a last resort you can buy boxes.
2. I used two-sided tape to tape the outer flaps to the inner ones (not shown) so the inner flaps wouldn’t drop down onto the kids’ heads. Then I used masking tape to fully tape over the top seam, both to securely close one end of the box, and to make the seams less visible once they were painted.
3. I cut the lower flaps off the boxes and then used the same masking tape to cover the exposed edges. It would gave a cleaner look, vs the rough look of cut corrugated cardboard, plus was less likely to catch and tear, which could potentially pull off the paint.
4. I divided the 4 sides and top into even grids. I looked at pictures of the characters online and mapped out roughly how many squares per color/face, and then used a ruler to divide the front (face side) into the grid. Once the face was set, I carried the markings around the sides of the boxes, and finally the top. Because the boxes are taller than wide, the top has fewer squares than the sides do. That’s not what the characters SHOULD look like, but I didn’t think the kids would mind.
5. Once the boxes were plotted I used a cutting blade (also from the dollar store) to slice out the eyehole sections. For Steve, only the dark pupil area was cut out. For the creeper it made more sense with where Henri’s face was to cut out the larger nose/mouth section. After removing those areas I covered the exposed edges with masking tape.
6. Finally it was time to start painting. The paints and brushes were from – you guessed it – the dollar store. The advantage with the Minecraft characters is that if you have to custom mix your paints to get the right colors, it doesn’t matter as much as it would in most projects if you have enough to complete your painting or if you need to mix more and risk not matching quite right. The goal is to have an assortment of shades, so blending colors works perfectly.
That said, if you prefer a more accurate version, I have compiled this tutorial into a downloadable PDF (linked at the bottom of the post) which includes full-color screen-accurate charts for both characters, including the hex codes for each color so you can color-match accurately.
Here’s the four sides of the painted creeper head. I set the boxes to dry on a paper towel roll to hold them off my counter until the lower edge was dry. (I held them up the same way while painting too).
Same goes for our buddy Steve here. I’d only had three shades of brown paint on-hand to work with, so I blended them together with some black for the hair, and then lightened with some white and a touch of red for the face. (I’d actually done the face/neck/ears first, so then I could re-use the same paints but darken them for the hair. That avoided any waste and kept the same unifying overall color tone for the head.)
I had them both on the counter while I cleaned up the dining room table of all my painting gear. Couldn’t resist this dramatic shot. Look out! He’s behind you!
7. The next step was to seal the heads with an aerosol can of clear sealant. I didn’t know what the weather would be like on Halloween and didn’t relish the idea of my hard work being ruined by a few drops of rain or thick snow settling on the kids’ heads. I moved the heads into the garage and set them on some newspaper to protect the floor as I sprayed, and did a few coats, allowing each one to dry for about 20 minutes in between. If you have a dry, open area outside or good, even weather you could do this next step outside, but here there was nowhere I could leave them unattended, so I had my garage door open the entire time I sprayed, and then left it about a foot open during the drying time between coats. Once they were properly sealed and dry to the touch I brought them inside and allowed them to dry for a full day before the final steps.
The last bit in getting the masks ready to wear was to block out the open areas. I bought a gauzy sheer black scarf (also at the dollar store!) and cut off squares large enough to fully cover the open areas.
8. Using the same double-sided tape I secured the black fabric down around the cut areas.
9. Finally I covered all the exposed edges of the cloth with masking tape, making it doubly secure and hiding any rough, cut edges so they wouldn’t catch or fray.
With that, the masks were complete! The black gauzy fabric looks opaque from the outside but from the inside it’s so sheer that it’s quite easy to see through it, making it perfect for this project.
From idea to finished product this project took about 4 days. Halloween was on a Friday last year and Yannick brought me home the boxes on Monday night. Tuesday I did everything up to/including painting. On Wednesday night I sprayed the clear coat, and then on Thursday night I stuck the black fabric in.
They were pretty darn excited!
Halloween night they posed for a quick picture inside…
…then it was time to go trick-or-treating.
Can’t you almost hear the tick…tick…tick…BOOM? The heads held up beautifully and the boys felt like mini celebrities as they walked down the street and people from all over, even in passing cars, yelled out “Steve!” and “Creeper!” and gave them high-fives. The heads have now become part of our dress-up box and are still in great condition, and they wore them for ‘Halloween Day’ at their camp this summer.
*Update in 2020: the heads are still going strong! The boys outgrew them of course, but we keep them as nerdy shelf displays and they look exactly the same as they did back when I made them.
I hope this post shows you how easy and fast it can be to make your own Minecraft Steve and Creeper heads!
You can adapt the tutorial to make any Minecraft mob, and I’ve got an assortment compiled for you here.
As mentioned above, if you’d like an easy-to-print-and-save PDF version of this tutorial, I have made it available on Etsy here. The 9-page PDF includes full instructions with additional details, clear photographs, as well as game-accurate full-color numbered charts for all 5 sides of both character’s heads along with their hex codes for perfect color matching.