Welcome to Virginia, Discovery!
The whole family went to go see OV-103 when she flew in this month (April, 2012) on the back of a 747. Completely awesome! I highly recommend it. Five stars.
I had orbiters on the brain all week, so the first thing I did on the weekend was to put together this plush space shuttle. I had to wing it a bit, but it turned out just fine.
Step 1: Materials
- Black fleece (1/2 a yard is fine, I usually just pick up the odds and ends from the remnants section of my local fleecery)
- White fleece (1/2 a yard here, too, ish)
- Black thread
- White thread
- 15" by 17" by 1/4" reusable foam Air Conditioner Filter (see the picture below, this worked great for the wings!)
- About 9 oz. of Polyfill (stuffing - you can buy it new like I did, or cannibalize an old pillow, I suppose)
- Sewing machine
- Scissors (A rotary cutter is even better!)
- Needle for hand sewing the last part
Step 2: Bottom of Wings
Like everything I do, I started with some graph paper.
I drew a rectangle the same shape as my air conditioner filter, one box on the graph paper equal to one inch of filter. Once I had my filter mock-up, I sketched the outline of a shuttle onto it as shown. To get the same shape from my filter, I transferred the image to a scrap of newspaper.
Note: I only had 15" by 17" left of my filter after an earlier unrelated project, so I sized my pattern to fit that. You can scale it up to meet your preference.
The quickest way I found to transfer the shape was to find all the key points of the outline counting the boxes, then measure out matching dots on the newspaper using a ruler. Then connect the dots and cut out the pattern. Because the shape is symmetrical, you only need to do half of it, and just fold the air filter over to cut out your pattern.
Note: Save the scraps of the filter! We will be using most of it. When I did the project, I jumped ahead to the next step to do the rest of the cutting, then came back for the sewing. The choice is up to you.
Using the orbiter shape you just cut out as a template, cut out a similar shape of black fleece. Leave about 1/2" for seams, and leave a semi-circular shape attached at the top, as shown below. The semi-circle should be about 3" from the tip of the filter, and extend about 2" from each side, as shown below. This will be folded up to become the nose later.
Pin down and sew the filter to the fleece. I used a straight stitch all the way around the filter.
Step 3: Top of Wings
The wings need a bit more reinforcement, so take the scraps of filter you cut away from the body, and cut an extra set of wings from them as shown below.
Note: Keep saving the scraps! These leftovers will become the tail fin later
Using the fleece we cut in the last step as a template, cut a similar shape from your white fleece. This is just to cover the wings, though, so you do not need to cover the nose or that little part at the tail. The white piece should be about 11" long.
Note: If you want to add decals, now is the time, before all the foam is attached. See the images below for placement on the fleece. For further reference, check with NASA.
Use the fleece earlier as a guide, and lay out the two wing reinforcement pieces on the white fleece. Sew the reinforcement pieces to the white fleece. Again, I just used a straight stitch around each of the reinforcement pieces.
Step 4: Body
Pin the top and bottom parts of the wings together, with the fleece sides facing each other.
Sew around the outside edge of each wing, but leave the middle alone. Reach through the middle, and flip the whole thing inside-out.
Step 5: Tail
Now we get back to the scraps!
Double up those little extra filter pieces, and trim off the corners a bit as shown below. They should be about 5" from bottom to top, and 6" or so from front to back. I think the important thing here is that neat, airplane-tail shape for the top half. The bottom half will be hidden.
Use your tail pieces as a template to cut two pieces of white fleece, leaving about 1/2" around the edges for seams. You only need it about 4" high, we only want to cover the top part of it.
Sew the top three sides of the fleece and flip it inside-out, covering the tail foam.
Note: You can wrestle with the foam to get it in there using a pencil or something, but I found it easiest to put a couple stitches through the foam to attach it to the seams of the covering. Just be careful not to attach it backwards!
Step 6: Fuselage
Cut two more pieces of white fleece. Two rectangles, 15 1/2" by 5 1/2" is what I used. If you are scaling yours up a bit, just use the body of the shuttle as a guide to the length.
Cut off a bite of each, 2" at the base and 4" long, as shown below. This part will attach to the nose.
Pin the body pieces on, then sew them as shown. I sewed all the way through the shuttle to close off the wings, then just sewed the seams together for the front part.
Note: The first time I sewed the wing half, I didn't quite have the original white fleece part covered with the fuselage, so I had to sew another line about a half inch further out on the wing. It turned out okay though.
Step 7: Nose
Now we attach the nose. Flip the semicircle up to pin it, then flip it inside-out to sew it, as shown in the pictures below.
Once the nose is attached to the fuselage pieces, sew the fuselage pieces together for about 5" starting from the nose. You should get back just past the angle in the fuselage pieces where we made the cut.
Flip it all right-side out again, starting to look pretty good!
Note: As cut, the nose looks a little boxy. If you wish, you can do what I did, and pinch the sides together and sew the excess together from top to bottom. This will make the seams in the front look like a "+", and will make the nose a little more pointy. You can experiment a bit: flip the nose inside-out and pin where you might want the seam, then flip it right-side out and put some stuffing in the nose area to see how it will look. If you like it, sew where you pinned!
Step 8: Engines
Cut a mostly triangle piece of black fleece. it should be about 6" at the base and about 4" high, with about 2" flat at the top. This will be for the engines.
For the three Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RS-25 liquid fueled cryogenic rockets, take a round thing and and cut three little round pieces of black fleece from it. It's okay if they're not perfectly round, you can trim them up later.
Note: In retrospect, these would've probably looked better using a slightly different color, like dark grey, if you also have some extra grey scraps laying around after making a fleece Skyrim helm...
Sew them onto the triangle as shown, then you can trim around the circles to clean it up.
Sew the engine triangle onto the engine ledge. Be sure to have the seam on the inside of the shuttle, and the rockets on the outside!
Step 9: Empennage
Position the tail where you want it, I put the back edge of the tail about 2" away from the edge of the fuselage pieces. Allow yourself 1/2" or so of seam, and pin the tail to the fuselage pieces.
Note: Make sure the bottom of tail covering is below the pin line, so no foam is exposed on the tail.
Flip the fuselage inside out. Sew the fuselage together, starting just past the front of the tail, sewing across the tail where you pinned, and continuing the straight line all the way to the back of the fuselage. You now have a tube of fleece with foam sticking out.
Flip up the engine piece and pin it to the back of the fuselage as shown. We will sew around the edges, but start at the top and sew down one side, then start at the top again and sew down the other side. That should help keep it from getting off-center.
Note: It gets pretty bulky at the corners. I had to flip it out and look at it, then flip it back and sew the corners again a couple times before I had them closed all the way.
Step 10: Stuffing
Flip it right-side out and start filling!
I have to admit this is when I started throwing it around the room to see how well it flies.
Note: When you fill in the back part, spread out the excess foam from the tail piece. This will help keep the tail piece from tipping over. It probably won't stand perfectly straight, but this will keep it from laying down completely.
You can fill it with as much as you like. The final shuttle weighed about 9 3/4 oz. (about 275g), if you want a ballpark amount.
After you fill in the shuttle, fold over and pin together the remainder of fuselage opening, and hand sew it closed. I made one pass forward and one back to seal it up.
Step 11: Walkaround
That's it, you have an orbiter that flies almost as well as the originals! (No really, those things flew like bricks, they just compensated with massive amounts of thrust. Awe-inspiringly, earth-shakingly massive amounts of thrust.)
Note: Theoretically, this is machine-washable, I wouldn't send it through the drier though. I don't know if I'd even try it in the washer, you'd have to leave it out in the sun for a day or something to dry all the way through.