subscribe to rss feed
subscribe by email

Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Different Stitches

As I previously mentioned, I’m taking an online class on puppet-making. I have been learning the different stitches on the Project Puppet site. The tutorial covered four different stitches: whipstitch, locking whipstitch, baseball stitch, and ladder stitch.

And also, you know what’s a really good resource for learning this stuff? YouTube. Text descriptions and pictures are good, but watching demonstrations (provided that they are filmed well) helps even more.

Whipstitch: This is simple enough. Just a bunch of loops. It’s pretty basic. It reminds me of the way a spiral notebook is bound together. A good example can be found on YouTube here, although this one doesn’t really require that much explanation.

Locking whipstitch: I actually could not find a good example video for this one, but since I’ve done it in my elementary school craft class, I already know it. Strangely enough, many of the crafting skills I currently have were learned in elementary school in Taiwan. They seriously made children try a lot of things like pencil figure drawing, basic sewing and stuffing projects with felt, water-color, embossing a sheet of soft metal, carving your own stamp, making and decorating frisbees out of cardboard, decorating cans with straws, working with playdough/paperclay, etc. “Kids, bring your knives to school tomorrow so we can carve some wood to make prints” is something you will never hear in American elementary schools.

Baseball stitch: Although the instructor Andrew recommended baseball stitch and ladder stitch for puppet-building, I wasn’t quite sure about it. This is the kind of stitch that’s also used for baseballs (hence the name), but wouldn’t that leave big seams? After trying it out though, I like it. The seams are quite hidden if it’s done right and it seems to join together the fabrics and hold it pretty well. I like this video on YouTube. She’s actually demonstrating the baseball stitch using a knitting needle and yarn as opposed to the regular needle and thread. This makes things a lot more visible, because sometimes needle and thread just doesn’t show very well in web videos because of the video quality, or because the view is easily blocked by the person’s hands.

Ladder stitch: At first I wasn’t quite understanding this one. Though I am told that this stitch is almost invisible, I had some doubts. The pictures I am seeing about this stitch look like there would be a bunch of horizontal stitches visible on the top. So that makes ladder stitch not that different from whipstitch. But later I studied it a little more closely and realized that as long as I pull the stitches tight, the stitches really do disappear! This quickly became my favorite stitch. This video is a good example of the stitch, and this page is what I was looking at when I had the realization of needing to pull the stitches tight.

I am now practicing these stitches on a fleece puppet head that I am currently sewing together. I am almost done, and will post pictures soon early this week! :-)

Just Saw Myself On TV

… for a fraction of a second, that is.

Remember back in May, I talked about a TV show, California’s Gold filming at the burger joint Apple Pan while we had lunch there? That episode just aired a few hours ago, and I spotted myself!

Yep, it was for only a fraction of a second, but it was fun anyway.

So in that previous post, I mentioned that Huell Howser was interviewing some customers in front of the place when we left. Well, that was not quite true. Turned out that those two people interviewed were not customers. They are the owners!! And we (my co-workers and I) happened to have finished our lunch and walked out the door. Sure we only appeared in the corner and took up 10% of the whole screen for a fraction of a second and nobody waved at the camera, but that was fun.

Haha, finally I can say that I’ve been on TV. It wasn’t a “cool, I’m now a celebrity” moment though. It was more like a “where’s Waldo” moment.

By the way, you should check out Apple Pan if you are visiting West LA. They’ve been there since 1947 and the burgers are indeed good. Oh, and what a coincidence. I mentioned my friend Jessika being on Without A Trace in that May post, well, tonight I saw the rerun of the episode of Cold Case she was in again. Somehow when I mention California’s Gold, I also mention her in the same post, though the two really have nothing to do with each other.

Farewell, Analog Television

Here in the United States, the TV broadcast has officially switched from analog to digital. Yesterday was the very last day that the stations showed their programs in analog. Today, when I surfed the analog channels, they are all showing the same thing: an instructional video on how to get your TVs to work with digital signals.

Oh, and HSN (Home Shopping Channel). Somehow they are the only one that’s still on the air, and not showing the instructional video.

When you think about it, TV has certainly come a long way.

When I was a kid (in Taiwan), there were only three TV stations. Many of the old TV sets have three buttons (as opposed to a num pad like we are used to today), each representing one channel. They were all owned by the government and no private stations were allowed. There was also no such thing as cable television, probably a result of the combination of the lesser degree of globalization, lack of infrastructure, and the martial law in place from 1948 to 1987.

And that’s why when there was finally cable television, it was often referred to as “channel 4”, a term that’s still sometimes used today.

Our first cable box had eight buttons (yes, that’s how well I remembered it) and no remote control. The red button was the power switch. There were six black buttons for channels. There was a yellow button that could be set to either an ON or OFF position. With the ON/OFF of the yellow button and the six black buttons, the cable box could give you 12 channels to watch!

And that kind of thing was a big deal back then.

The TV channels were not national networks either. There was no infrastructure to broadcast the same channel to the whole country at once. Instead, we had a bunch of local stations who broadcast by setting up cables on existing lampposts or tagged them on right next to power lines (illegally, so every now and then they would be cut off by agencies that actually maintained these power lines) and they could not service areas that were too far away.

One of the twelve channels was a channel that always showed the stock prices. Another was a “TV guide” channel… which was really a camera pointing at a whiteboard with a TV schedule written on it. And the rest of the channels showed whatever VHS tapes that the cable TV providers could get their hands on. Sometimes they were movies. Sometimes they were those subtitled samurai dramas. Sometimes they were Taiwanese puppet shows. You never really know what was going to be on.

A few years later, it started to grow into something that resembled what we have in the United States. We had the same channels available in the same country. Heck, there was even HBO and Discovery. The cable boxes went from being able to serve 12 channels, to something like 60, 100, and then hundreds. It had definitely came a long way.

When we moved to the U.S., it was interesting to surf the channels we could get using antennas. In Taiwan, if you didn’t have cable, then all you get were three channels (a fourth one was added later on), but here, you not only get a bunch of channels, but many of them are in different languages. Here in Southern California, we certainly got our share of Spanish channels in addition to English channels. And there were channels that took turns throughout the day showing Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese programs. It was an interesting sight for me to see.

And then digital channels came along. Our analog TV wasn’t able to take digital signals directly, so we purchased a converter box (using the government-issued coupons they were giving out this whole past year) and we instantly got many more channels. Many of the channels were split into several. For example, NBC split into three channels in our area. One of them is the regular NBC. Another was just weathers all day. And the other plays the Olympics all day, pretty much. While I don’t think nobody would watch those two channels all day (except maybe weather fanatics and Olympic athletes?), it definitely shows that we now have the resources for one station to broadcast several sets of programs at once. Channel 18, which used to take turns showing programs of different languages, now dedicates one channel to Japanese programs, one to Korean ones, and one each for Armenian, Vietnamese, Chinese, and so on. I found myself watching stuff in languages that I don’t even understand quite often, actually, because they are fascinating to look at. (Ever seen the Armenian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

Digital television gives us a big selection of channels, and the picture quality is also better. But will I miss analog channels? Maybe. I probably wouldn’t want to watch them or miss them all the time, but hey, I guess there’s something nostalgic about it, much like listening to cassette tapes (we grew up on that stuff!) and watching old VHS movies. Ah, this is certainly the end of an era.

Farewell, analog television, it’s been fun! (And if you are not in the United States, um, never mind.)

Puppet Building 101


Puppet Building 101 is a nine-week video course on building foam puppets. Over the duration of the course, students will receive video tutorials and handouts that take them step-by-step through the puppet making process. There are also going to be live video chats to answer question that may arise.

The course will be taught by Andrew, who is the founder of and PuppetVison blog, and has been building puppets and teaching puppet building for a long time. What I particularly like about it is that we’ll be shown how to make our own patterns based on what we want to make. I think while it’s good to follow patterns and make puppets, it’s even better to know why the patterns are the way they are.

Am I signing up for this? Yeah, of course I secured myself a spot first, haha.

Who wants to be my classmate? You have until June 13 to sign up. See this website for details:

Puppet Building Live on the Web

Recently there are many puppet builders broadcasting live while they build puppets. I first came to know about these streamcasts from the Twitter updates of many puppet builders. And I guess the next natural thing to do is to organize these links into a blog post. At the risk of sounding like I am just regurgitating, as it seems to have already been written about everywhere (by that, I mean here, here, and here), I would like to share links to a few streaming live broadcasts.


You + Me + Puppets = Yay!

streamcast_stacygordonStacey Gordon is a puppet builder (among other things) that make many quirky things like toilet paper finger puppets. Many of them are finger puppets made of felt. They are colorful and interesting looking. She’s probably the most entertaining to watch on this list as she is pretty silly on camera (and quite possibly in real life too).

Stiq Puppets Live

streamcast_stiqmanDaryl from Stiq Puppets shows puppet building techniques in detail in his podcast. I am starting from the beginning and I am still catching up. I am not that far into it yet, but I am already picking up useful information like how to use a fishing line to hang a puppet’s arm. I haven’t seen all the episodes yet, but a quick glance tells me that I will be learning even more, such as how to install a detachable arm rod, which a lot of people are doing in different ways with their own pros and cons. If you want to learn more techniques, don’t miss this one.

Hoggworks Podcast

streamcast_hoggworksPuppet builder Brian Hogg of Hoggsworks Studios has also been live streaming his puppet building live. He’s the man behind DotBoom and Ask Papaltine and builds really good looking puppets (see website). I was also impressed with the attention he gave to the puppets’ torsos, as some puppet builders would just use generic shapes.

Puppets and Stuff Live

streamcast_puppetsandstuffI actually haven’t got time to check this one out yet, but Puppets and Stuff is a forum where many people share their experiences on puppet building, so it may have very good information as well.

It’s fun to see things being made, and if I can pick up a thing or two while I am at it, that’s even better! I am excited to see all these podcasts popping up on the internet.