Draft-Dodging Hyena

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Draft-Dodging Hyena

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MAKE’s photo editor, Gregory Hayes, made this fantastic draft-dodging hyena out of a pair of his destroyed work jeans, to keep the draft from creeping in under the door of his friend Lex’s new house. Greg explains:

I made this draft-dodging hyena as a somewhat literal housewarming gift for my friend Lex, a puppet and toy designer.

The project started as a simple draft-blocker made from a pair of my many destroyed work jeans. When I started pulling them apart at the seam, I toyed with a few ideas for ways to save the signature shape of the jeans pattern and settled on a rough rendition of Lex’s favorite animal. At the time I shared her house, and though I had free run of her textiles workshop I was trying to design this in secrecy so would only work on it while she wasn’t around … and couldn’t ask her advice.

I had worked with Lex on some puppet projects but had never patterned a stuffed creature before, so had to learn on the fly. For research and reference, I used a pile of Lex’s puppets and about a hundred Googled photos of spotted hyenas. I wanted to use mainly pieces from one pair of jeans, so to start I used scrap fabric or cheap felt to test shapes and ideas before committing them to denim. I found though that my solid mental image of the final shape had helped make my initial pattern visualizations pretty spot-on, so soon abandoned the test steps.

Besides the main pair of jeans, I used: denim scraps from other dead jeans to complete the legs; a scrap of black fur for the tail; a scrap of leather for the nose; stiff fabric to help the ears remain alert; polybead pellets sewn into six pockets to weight the base; leftover wall insulation for stuffing and, well, insulation.

The toughest part of the project was finishing. I slammed through my favorite parts — designing and assembling the face with ears, shaping the legs, sourcing the materials — then hit a wall when it was about 3/4 done. There was a tricky bit with the seams along the rump that I couldn’t quite visualize, so I set it aside for a day to ponder. That was in February 2011; I didn’t pick it up again until February 2012. During that time my subconscious must have been working on the seam problem, which finished up quickly and handsomely. The only thing I didn’t complete was my original plan to give the hyena brushed-on spots; I forgot all about them until I looked at my notes last night. Whoops.

I chose a roughly-finished look, leaving some seams on the outside and showing ragged edges, for a couple of reasons. I wanted to highlight the jeanish elements of the shapes: the face is the back pocket, one ear is the little fob pocket, the eyes are rivets in their original setting … I think that’s the fun of the thing. And hyenas are shabby things. The fraying edges echo the bristly look of a hyena coat.

Look for Greg’s tutorial to turn an old pair of jeans into a roll-up tool holder in MAKE Volume 34, on newsstands April 23. Not a subscriber? We can take care of that right now!

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"To oppose something is to maintain it." –Ursula Le Guin

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