The Vibrating Plush Needler of Doom

image image This plush toy is meant to reference the needler from Halo while diminishing the severity of the original video game’s weapon design. This is the reason for the truncated spikes in this design, as well as the felt lining. I wanted to emphasize the materiality of the felt by incorporating the ability of the material to fold (as opposed to say, metal) into the design of the object. This is a toy that is not meant to fool anyone into thinking that it is anything other than a toy. The reason for this deliberate choice is because the toy is meant to situate the world of Halo, and by extension, of first person shooters (fps) more generally, in the world of fiction. Recently, a startling trend has emerged called ‘swatting’ whereby kids who play online fps use their opponents’ IP addresses to find their opponents’ physical addresses and call the local swat team to raid the house. This flagrant waste of police time and resources sometimes results in severe injury for the victim of the crime and is a troubling indication of the pernicious societal implications of more and more realistic gaming, and the macho culture that oftentimes accompanies it. My plush toy is a response to this trend.

Sewing posed a huge challenge for me. I’m relatively new to sewing, and very clumsy at it as a result. I should have made more patterns. When I first started building this toy, I made a rough frame out of foam core, mostly cutting the shapes by feel.

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The foam core frame.

I added chipboard to the frame to add some rigidity in the placement of the spikes, and eventually ended up electrical taping my wired LEDs to the chipboard.

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The completed circuit.

I didn’t really pay attention to where I was taping the LEDs down, which made cutting the fabric for the toy a real pain.

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The guts.

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It works!

I had to pin the fabric into the foam core frame while making sure I didn’t pin into any wires, then I had to stretch the material over the 3D printed needles and cut the material where I thought was appropriate. If I had laid out a pattern before starting this whole process, I would’ve saved myself a ton of headache.

Another challenge was retaining the look of the needler while trying to stuff the toy. Initially, I had thought that I could make a pillow-like layer that would sit on top of the chipboard and be stuffed with Poly-fil. I was really unhappy with how bulky and misshapen the toy got when I tried to follow this methodology [the whole thing eventually resembled a mutant whale head], and so I eventually reverted to relying solely on fabric for the plush feel of my toy.


It’s like Free Willy died and came back for the Zombie Apocalypse.


The mismatched pieces of fabric made the back of the toy look terrible.


Note the sad grin, the disappointed expression and the defeated slump of the top knot.

3D printing the spikes for the needler was straightforward because Becky mercifully linked me to an adafruit article that had a link for the spikes’ .stl file. The Makerbot in the Visible Futures Lab crapped out on me twice while printing these spikes. I could have used an industrial-grade 3D printer to complete the job, but there was no translucent filament available for that machine, and I was unhappy with how poorly light diffused through the new material. I was ultimately able to fill the gaps left by the makerbot with hot glue [though in one instance, the hot glue almost melted through the 3D printed filament]. A pretty interesting two-tonal light diffusion resulted from this non-conventional set-up.

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In the middle of 3-D printing!

I operated on intuition for figuring out the circuitry, and was able to power 6 LEDs wired in parallel with a DC motor using two 3V coin batteries wired in series.

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and now for your viewing pleasure:

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