Little sleepy bunny – a simple pattern for beginning toymakers

sleepy-bunny-1-1k

Here’s a little pillow-shaped rabbit  (12″ long x 8″ high) that’s made out of the softest imaginable fur fabric, specifically designed for comfort and cuddles. The pattern includes step-by-step photos and illustrations, so it can be confidently made by anyone with just basic machine- and hand-sewing skills.

An easy gift to make for a new baby, the sleepy bunny makes an adorable nursery decoration until the newcomer is old enough to sleep safely with a toy. As always, pillows should not be used with sleeping babies for safety reasons. A simple embroidered face and soft, satin-lined ears guarantee the bunny will be ready for naps or bedtime…this little one loves to sleep and may even coax a toddler to enjoy a nap with the sleepy bunny.

Minky, a 100% polyester fabric, can be a bit tricky for beginning needleworkers, but this pattern uses a special technique to tame the minky quirks and enjoy its consummate softness. There are lots of varieties of minky available, so it’s easy to choose the minky that will make your bunny uniquely yours. Here are some of the textures of minky:

minky

Fabric.com seems to be a good resource for natural animal colors of minky. If you’re not sure what to order, you can always request swatches for $1.75 each.  Each bunny will take about ¼ yard of minky, so this is a very reasonably priced project.

Here are three rabbits I made from this pattern in different textures of minky: gray bunny is made from zebra textured cuddle, white bunny is made from rose cuddle and brown bunny is made from crushed cuddle.

sleepy-bunny-trio

As a toymaker, I greatly appreciate the wonderful soft hand of this fabric is compared to the faux furs we routinely used “back in the day.” I think toys made from minky are actually endearing to the touch.

Here are some general tips for sewing with minky:

  • Minky doesn’t shrink, but the satin you use for the ear lining should be prewashed in case it shrinks.
  • Never iron minky directly since heat and pressure  will ruin the pile and the finish. In the unlikely event that you need to refresh minky, you can steam it, gently.
  • After doing a minky project, follow the directions for cleaning your sewing machine’s feed dogs, bobbin case and throat plate. Don’t let minky fluff build up and clog the mechanisms in your machine!
  • Minky has nap, which you must respect. To find the direction of the nap on your minky, just pet it, running your hand next to its selvedge. One direction will lie down, and the other will rile up. For best results, be sure to make the arrow on each pattern piece follows the direction that makes the pile lie down. Pay attention to how your minky stretches, as well.
  • Cutting minky will release a cloud of fluff, so don’t wear black unless you LOVE removing lint. After I cut each piece, I run my hands along the edges to pull any loose extra fluff off. It’s a good idea to keep your vacuum cleaner handy so you can clean up as you cut.
  • Recommended sewing machine needle is a size 90/14 stretch needle. Test on a scrap before you sew the pattern pieces to be sure your stitch length (3mm or 3.5mm) and tension will make for smooth sewing.

If you’d like to try your hand at making some sleepy bunnies, click on over to my store. The pattern is available for instant download for $8. As always, if you have any questions or comments about any of my patterns, please email me at pippa@craftdesignworks.com.

New pattern: Pig Family Finger Puppets

pig-family-fps

There’s something so charming about a family of friendly little pigs. This pattern lets you make a whole pig family in any configuration you like. Four different body sizes are provided: large, medium, small and baby, finishing from 1½ to 5 inches tall. The PDF pattern with step-by-step instructions can be made up in a variety of fabrications. The family above is made of fleece, while this little lady is made of boiled wool:

pig-bride

You can also make them from wool or synthetic felt. This is a great project for using up fabric and notion scraps, since you only need small bits for their costumes. Use simple machine sewing for the basic shape, then glue on the details like ears, arms and tails, and finally hand-stitch the beady little eyes in place.

You can keep each pig as is, tie a simple bow around its neck, or you can create any costumes you like. Make your own family or make them as gifts – you can make any combination of family members. Dress them up yourself or make a whole batch of plain pigs and let your favorite kid(s) design their costumes and be part of the finishing touches.

This pattern uses basic toymaking skills and is suitable for all sewing levels. Since the pigs have small parts, they are not suitable for children under 3.

If you’d like to try your hand at pig-making, the PDF pattern is available from my shop for instant download.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about the pattern, you can email me at pippa@craftdesignworks.com.

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It’s summertime—let’s make toys! Six stupendous starting points

party-wood-bkgSummer is here, with (mostly) lovely weather (at least in the Northern hemisphere). Children hopefully get a bit of time off from school and grownups hopefully get a bit of extra time in vacation.  Perfect opportunity for diving into crafting!

Nowadays, with the explosion of content shared on the web, ideas for crafts projects abound in a rather overwhelming flood. I’ve selected a few of my favorites to share with you that I hope you’ll like as much as I do. When thinking about toys for children, I’m always on the lookout for toys that stimulate free-form imaginative play.

Some of these are things you can make for children, some are things to make with children and some are things children can make by themselves. Exploring these links will bring you into the creative worlds of the makers, where you’ll find lots more toys and activities for summer fun. So let’s make toys!

1.

First, a simple but terrific paper project. Origami folds fashion adorable little monsters by Marie-Laure Pham. Can’t you just see these little monsters going around the house and yard munching on all kinds of things and having wacky adventures? On her site, Hello, Wonderful, you can find complete folding and decorating instructions. And it’s a doorway into lots of other charming activities, yummy food and decorating ideas for children.

Hello-wonderful-origami-monsters

Photo: hellowonderful.co

2.

It’s impossible to think about making toys without mentioning the marvelous Marilyn Scott-Waters, The Toymaker. She offers a generous selection of free paper projects on her site. I really like the Dog Show, an easy to cut out printable with lots of dogs and lots of awards. If you know a child who likes animals, this is a natural!

While you’re on the site, check out how many creative toys Marilyn makes available for free. There are projects for all different skill levels. And there’s probably a whole summer’s worth of fun in that one spot!

Marilyn-Scott-Waters-Dog-Show

All Material © Marilyn Scott Waters

3.

Next, I’m crazy about these ideas from Mr. Printables. These are the kinds of things I wish I’d thought up myself. Wouldn’t it be fun to turn kids loose with some cardboard, paint, and some of these basic structures? Just the sea creatures are amazing by themselves—check out that shark!!!—but if you’re in the mood for the next step up, the peg people add a whole new dimension of playability. You’ll find complete instructions and downloadable templates on the site.

MrPrintables-sea-creatures

Photo: mrprintables.com

4.

Here’s a make-for-kids/make-with-kids project from Handmade Charlotte. Wooden spoons + paint/markers + little bits of trim or buttons. I love this project because it has two parts—first there’s making the spoon people (the excellent set below is designed to help with learning colors, but I can imagine a wide range of spoon characters that kids might make if you gave them some animal print papers, faux fur, shiny fabric, yarn, pipe cleaners, gold stars, googly eyes…you get the idea). Let the spoon people’s paint dry and let their glue set. Then they’re ready for part two—to be played with. I’m imagining pirates and monsters and fairies and wizards weaving their stories around the flowers and foliage of summertime…or jumping out from behind the sofa if the day’s too hot and everyone is indoors in the cool of the air conditioning.

HandmadeCharlotte-spoon-dolls

Photo:www.handmadecharlotte.com

5.

In this same vein is the articulated cat puppet from a previous craftdesignworks post. This is a project for children who have good paper cutting skills that’s held together with mini-brads so the arms and legs can move and be posed.

craftdesignworks-paper-cat

Like the wooden spoon characters, this could go in a lot of different directions depending on the materials you make available…it could go from delicate to swashbuckling with different colors and textures of the papers/fabrics. And even the head shape could be altered to make a different animal or person. These little characters would be a natural for experimenting with stop-motion animation.

articulated-cat-black-and-white

6.

This sensational array of vehicles made from recycled bottles might just get you to start a collecting box of likely materials. These are from  How to make simple toys using recycled materials found at home on OneHowTo. This project may call for a utility knife, so for safety’s sake, it may be best for you to make the toys following the child’s instructions. On the same page you’ll also find a multi-stage cardboard parking garage for toy car play, plus a UFO made from things you’re likely to have around the house.

UnaVidaLucida-vehicles

Picture: unavidalucida.com.ar

 

So there you go—six stupendous starting points for summer toymaking.

Please be sure to let me know if you have any favorite make-at-home ideas!

 

DIY – Articulated cat paper puppet with garland option – free pattern

articulated-cats-construction

I’ve been playing around with this articulated cat doll puppet for a while now, and I started to connect the cats with linking elements into garlands. Connected with hearts, these dancing cats can make a fun Valentine’s Day garland when a number of them are strung together with your choice of messages.

articulated-cats-doll-garland-Valentine

While I really appreciate both historical and contemporary articulated toys, there’s something very appealing to me about the simplest rendering of this concept, especially when it’s a CAT. I like the lack of detail, which invites me (and perhaps, you, as well) to experiment, to make variations, to try different things. This project is well-suited to crafting with kids. Younger children enjoy designing outfits for the cats, while older kids can cut and assemble the figures themselves.

To get things started, you can download the free pattern from my store. Here are a couple of variations I made recently, playing around with different styles. The first one uses pages copied from a vintage French textbook. I added a lacy doily skirt.

articulated-cat-black-and-white

The other one was inspired by Uppercase magazine’s new fabric line. Issue 28 included a postcard with an array of the fabric prints, which made up into a playful patchwork-looking cat.

articulated-cat-petchwork

More about articulated figures

Of course, this is a contemporary expression of toy with a long history.

A lovely collection of historic pantins can be found on Evelyn Kennedy Duncan’s site. Many of her images can be downloaded for free for personal use. See her terms of use for details.

Castle in the Air offers 11×17 giclee reprints of historical pantins for sale, along with many other wonderful vintage paper models, games, toys, and scenes originally published over 100 years ago by the Pellerin company of France.

There are a couple of vintage St. Nicholas pantins for free download from Wikimedia via Creative Commons license. These would be fun to dress up with Dresden, tinsel bullion and glitter for the winter holidays.

Print outs from downloads should be printed on card stock or glued onto a heavyweight paper. You’ll want to balance ease of cutting with the stability of your base stock. I used Mod Podge on chipboard for my black-and-white kitty, which worked out fine, and the patchwork kitty was cut from postcard weight stock.

If you’re interested to explore this subject further, Pinterest has lots of images to offer. Try these boards: Robert Mahar’s tasty collection  and another great compilation.

Thinking about articulated dolls always brings to mind silhouettes and shadow theaters, which inevitably leads to Lotte Reiniger, the brilliant early pioneer of animation. I remember first learning about her many years ago when I saw photos of her shadow puppet theaters in a book. I dreamed of actually being able to see one of her films, but at the time even art cinemas screened them very rarely. It’s one of the miracles of the internet that YouTube lets us watch her masterpieces (mistresspieces?) at will. Thanks to the web, these treasures have not been lost. If you’re new to her vision, her Papageno film, set to Mozart, is a good place to start. Lotte Reiniger - Papageno on Youtube

If you’re already familiar with her work, you might enjoy this documentary showing how she developed her film ideas. Of course, once you’re on YouTube, it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and watch all her amazing work.

Let me know if you make a project based on the cat pattern or any of these ideas. I’d love to see your work!

Travel/Inspiration/Textiles – The London report – winter holiday 2015

selvedge-christmas-fair-promo

My job took me to London in early December. As my schedule developed, I only had one touristic day at the end of the tunnel of work. With such a truncated personal travel timeframe, I had two goals: the Selvedge Christmas fair and the Liberty Christmas windows. Both exceeded my very high expectations.

If you’re a fan of Selvedge magazine, as I am, you may have seen the ads for the Selvedge seasonal crafts fairs, and perhaps, as I have, dreamed of going to one. Luckily for me, the timing worked out for me to go to the Christmas fair. It didn’t disappoint.

I definitely need to improve my photography skills, because I wasn’t able to capture the scene inside the Chelsea Old Town Hall, the site of the event. I’ll refer you to a couple of pages from Selvedge: a couple of exhibitors products, and a partial list of the over 100  exhibitors . But just imagine a crafts fair where all the exhibitors have something to do with textiles—pretty much heaven on earth!

Among an overwhelming array of heartwarming products, I found a stall of beautiful Indian traditionally dyed fabrics: silk shibori, indigo and natural leaf-dyed scarves from Aranya Naturals. “We source our raw materials from nature’s discards that abound in Munnar, such as leaves, petals, roots, bark, seeds…”

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I also brought home a small sophisticated packet of coordinated remnant scraps from the Cloth House. I’m not sure what I’ll do with these lovely little morsels, but this little packet just called out to me.

Cloth-house-fabrics

The path to the Chelsea Old Town Hall took me to the Sloane Square tube station, and a walk down the King’s Road. There was an amazing Anthropologie with a miniature village in the window. And then I found a tiny upscale Oxfam thrift store tucked just off the King’s Road.

Sloane-Square-Oxfam

I got a beautiful cobalt blue scarf for £3, and color-coordinated thread spools for £2 each. Score!

I can’t bear to be in London without going to Liberty and I especially wanted to see the window displays. In the most tasteful possible way, they manage to cram in an astounding amount of product. Here’s a whole gallery of past windows.

In its mix of history and modernity, Liberty exemplifies everything I love about Europe . I’ve never been inside the store in the pre-Christmas season, and I barely escaped without blowing my budget on the range of totally tempting objects of desire. I was only able to resist buying something from Quail Ceramics like the wild boar jug or the badger salt-and-peppers because there were so many choices that I couldn’t decide which to pick. And the range of holiday items was out of this world.

Back at home I discovered that the Liberty website hosts over 50 free tutorials for projects you can make from Liberty fabrics (or the fabric of your choice).

Let me know about your favorite must-visit spots in London.

Travel/Inspiration/Textiles—Vancouver, Part 1 – Maiwa Handprints

Before I go to a new city, I try to do a bit of research to see if I can find out what’s happening there with textile arts. Before traveling to Vancouver, BC recently, I turned up a couple of very intriguing things to explore just by searching online for “textiles Vancouver” and “Vancouver fabric”. And both of them far surpassed any hopes I had for textile travel adventures.

Maiwa Handprints Vancouver

Maiwa has several locations in Vancouver—I went to the 2 stores in the Net Loft on Granville Island. I had read a bit about Maiwa online, so I was expecting high quality handcrafted textiles there, but I was overwhelmed by what I found. I visited Maiwa Handprints and Maiwa Supply and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was absolute heaven for a textile lover. Here’s the display I saw in the front window of Maiwa Handprints, a hint of the wonders to be found inside:

Maiwa Handprints Vancouver, window display

Maiwa is dedicated to fabrics made using organic cotton, natural fibers and natural dyes, and to supporting handcraft traditions—here’s an example of the kind of consciousness that goes into their product. This one is an Indian shawl: “The entire process is environmentally friendly. Tea waste provides a primary source of tannins, browns and earth-tones. madder root imparts a variety of reds, indigo gives blues, lac, cochineal, marigold and other dyes round out the palette. The waste water is used for irrigation in the adjacent garden project.” Shopping at Maiwa supports the kind of future I want to live in!
They have a complete line of designer clothing made from the delicious fabrics…

Maiwa Handprints Garments

…as well as bedding, tablecloths, etc.

Maiwa Handprints Bedding India Blockprints

I explored every corner of the store, marveling over and over at what was gathered there. Some of the fabrics were so beautiful I felt I was in a textile museum where I was allowed to touch treasured objects. These were textiles I had seen in slideshows when I studied at Fiberworks and years ago when I attended a lecture series at San Francisco’s Asian Arts museum. I had a peak fiber experience browsing through the intricate bandhani silk scarves—some in indigo and white truly made me feel I was touching a midnight sky. I had seen photos of this kind of work before, but holding them and feeling their delicate dynamic texture was awe-inspiring. I only escaped without buying one because of the price, which was quite high and extremely fair for the amount of work and the level of craftsmanship (or should I say craftswomanship)—just a bit “above my pay grade”.

And if all that wasn’t enough, they also carry some handcrafted household items and the most carefully curated selection of books on textiles I’ve ever seen in one place.

Maiwa Handprints Vancouver

For more about Maiwa, visit the website. I especially enjoy reading about all the artisans they work with, keeping these invaluable cultural textile traditions alive.

Maiwa Handprints in the Net Loft, 1666 Johnston, Granville Island, Vancouver BC.

So that was Maiwa part 1. Read on for Maiwa part 2 and Our Social Fabric.

Travel/Inspiration/Textiles—Vancouver, Part 2 – Maiwa Supply

I’m writing these posts in reverse order, so please go to Travel/Inspiration/Textiles—Vancouver, Part 1 to get the whole Vancouver story.

Maiwa Supply Window

Maiwa part 2 was Maiwa Supply, in another section of the Loft, and equally thrilling in a different dimension. The supply store is a textile artist’s dream made real. You might think their tagline “everything for the contemporary artisan” was hyperbole, but it’s just not an overstatement.Maiwa-Supply-Natural Dyes

Here’s a sampling of what they carry: natural dyes, fibre reactive dyes, acid dyes, vat dyes, mordants, resists, paints, yardage, printing supplies, esoteric Japanese textile arts brushes, spinning supplies, felting supplies, horn buttons, everything you need for knitting, crochet and embroidery, Merchant & Mills sewing tools, back issues of Selvedge, the list goes on and on. And it’s all beautifully displayed in vintage/ethnic shelving, baskets, etc.

Check out the colors in this selection of perle cotton hanks, all dyed with natural dyes. The tags you see hanging from them are the color recipes.

Maiwa-Supply-Natural Dyes - Perle Cotton

From India, a wide selection of hand-carved blocks for printing:

Maiwa Supply Hand-carved print blocks

Yardage, some ready for your designs…

Maiwa Supply Fabric for Dyeing Printing

…and some organic cotton printed and ready to sew, already printed with the same quality promise found in Maiwa Handprints:

Maiwa Supply Hand Printed Fabric

And if you happen to be interested in learning a new textile technique or expanding your artisanship or artistry, check out the Maiwa School of Textiles. When I was there, their Symposium series was going on, bringing “internationally acclaimed speakers, instructors, and artisans” to Vancouver. Maiwa Supply Symposium List

Unfortunately for me, none of the workshops aligned with the timing of my trip (next time!), but there’s another amazing symposium planned for 2016.

It’s hard to imagine what could be more inspiring for textile lovers than Maiwa Supply.

In the Net Loft, 1666 Johnston, Granville Island, Vancouver BC.

For part 3 of my Vancouver textile adventures, please read on.