The Basic Dog Figure

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“Kate, I heard that you twist balloons into animals.  Can you teach me?”

“Sure thing!  Let’s start with the basic dog?  It’s the easiest to learn, and the knot used in there, the pinch twist, is useful for many other figures.”

Kate continued, “Let’s inflate one of these long balloons, until there’s about 5 inches of tail left.”

“5 inches, that’s like two playing cards side-by-side, right?  Why are we leaving a tail anyway?”

“Poker cards, yes, but bridge cards are skinnier (so be careful which one you have).  We leave a tail for the air to go into when we twist.  If you don’t leave enough room, your puppy will POP…”, Kate makes a sad pouty face.  “But it’s not the end of the world.  All good balloon artists popped balloons, what’s important is that you learn from, oh, the sacrifice of the balloon.”

“Now let’s make 3 twists, each about 3 inches apart.  The first bubble is going to be the puppy’s face (A), then two ears (B, C).”

It looks so easy when she does it, but when I gave it a try, the first one keeps unraveling when I make the next ones.

“Hmm… dude, you need to hold the first bubble.  Otherwise the springy rubber is going to spring back into place!  See how I’m clipping it with my ring finger and pinky?  At the beginning, you can use your knees (or anything, really) to hold it, but you just looks smarter when you don’t need to twist yourself into a pretzel.”

Pretzel it is.  I tucked the first bubble under my arm as I make the next ones.  I found out that going in the same direction is good, and surprisingly, it doesn’t take very many twists for the bubbles to hold.  “How many times should I twist it?”

“A few times.”  “A few times?  That’s not very helpful.”  “Well, let’s try 3 hand-over-hand… that is, one-and-a-half revolutions.  The best number of twists depends on how hard or soft the bubbles are, and what comes after the twist.  You will see what I mean when we try something harder later.  We’ll talk about that then, shall we?”  “Okie dokie…”

“Fold the bubbles, so the two knots 1 and 3 line up side by side.  Now give it a solid twist, to lock the two joints together.  Good!  We will call this the lock twist.”

It’s working well so far, but when Kate twists, it just sound so much quieter than mine.  My lock twist is squeaky and gives me goose-bumps.

“Oh, the sound.  After you’ve lined up knots 1 and 3, grab the group of bubbles B and C in one hand, A and the rest in the other hand… give them an outward  tug <– –> as you twist.  The tug gives the bubbles some separation, and cuts down the squeaking.  It’s not only about the goose-bump making sound – the rubbing together can sometimes make the balloons pop as well.”

My puppy’s ears are lopsided, and when I tried to take it apart, it popped.  Ouch.  But it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I pumped up another balloon, and this time, the ears are the same size.  Yippie Yay!  Kate looks amused at my excitement.

“Let’s make a short bubble D for the neck, and two 3″ bubbles E, F for the legs.  Yea… try to make them the same size too.  It helps to make the puppy stand on its own.  Pinch twist them at knots 4 and 6.”

“Good good.  See? Once you’ve done the twist once, the next time is so much better.  We’ll make a longer bubble for the body, and then another pair of legs.”

“See how the air is pushed all the way to the end?  That’s why we left the tail at the beginning.”

I made a mental note of where each bubble came from…

…then Kate took out a sharpie, and drew the eyes and a smile in for the dog.  I think I’m hooked to this hobby.  I can’t wait to learn how to make that super-duper cute bird she made for Alison the other day.

I thanked Kate, and set up a coffee date for the second class.  When I went home, I made notes of what we did.  You can find it here: basic dog figure instructions (1 page PDF)


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