Little Winter Mousemaking for the Holidays

Cooking mouse.png

There are lots of different ways of getting ready for the holidays. Some people bake, some people sing, some people love wrapping and giving presents.  If you’re a toymaker,  you just have to make toys for the winter celebrations. And if you’re me, you’re happiest when you’re sharing the skills of the simple crafts of making little animals from the scrapbasket.

So in the holiday spirit, I offered a workshop at Ragfinery in Bellingham last Saturday to make “Little Winter Mice” from upcycled fabrics, using the craftdesignworks pattern for the Mouse Family finger puppets. They look so cheerful peeking out of the top of a Christmas stocking:

stockingmice

The pattern includes 4 sizes of mice–for the workshop we used the medium-size mouse pattern. The class kits started with pre-sewn bodies made from boiled wool and included all the bits and pieces the makers needed for each mouse.

kits

It’s always interesting to work in a group with mixed experience levels. Many in the group had sewing experience but were “rusty”. Many others were very skilled and included some professionals. And there were a couple of complete beginners. The atmosphere was friendly and supportive, with lots of sharing of tips. We mostly agreed that we think toy mice are cute, but don’t really enjoy having real mice in our kitchens and closets.

class

Once the mice were assembled with their ears, arms, eyes, noses and whiskers, the costuming got underway. So many individual adorable characters were created!

Leslie-Emily

One little mouse actually got its own bandana and backpack:

backpack

…and there were some quite stylish characters created:

Carrie-Dee

…some even with golden cloaks and fur coats:

gold mink

There was exuberant laughter at the imagination of some of the participants as we enjoyed each others’ creations.

Monika

Some of the little mice are destined for Christmas trees, some will become part of a wonderful grandmother’s crafting kit with her grandchildren, and some will be special one-of-a-kind gifts for some very lucky children.

redplaid

Everyone took home materials to make one more mouse at home, so I’m pretty sure that this is only the beginning of a happy mouseful holiday season.

Big Scrap Crow Success! Toys from the Scrapbasket at Ragfinery

crowline

Whenever I design a new pattern and plan a new workshop, I’m always hopeful (obviously) that I’ll be happy with the creature and that the makers in the workshop will be able to successfully recreate the design. But I can never be quite sure of how things will turn out until the workshop happens. So I was kind of ecstatic with the results of the “Little Scrap Crow” workshop at Ragfinery in Bellingham on October 13.

I’d worked out a new technique for making legs and feet that can be added to a stuffed crow body. It was a new challenge for me, and after experimentation, I found the best results using hardware store wire or brown florist wire to make the unit. I planned to let people choose to make a crow finger puppet (easier) or to continue with adding the legs and feet to make a standing crow figure. Either corvid could be dressed up in the costuming materials.

feet

Each place was set up with a kit of  patterns and materials, and everyone got to work to fashion their crows. There was a wide range of sewing experience in the group, from zero to expert. I love the spirit of community in Ragfinery workshops. People were so helpful to each other, sharing their tips as we went along. There’s something so cozy about crafting together in a warm supportive atmosphere.

Allcrows-class

Although I was expecting the less-experienced stitchers to make finger puppet crows (the less challenging project) everyone in the class opted to make the legs and feet and set them in. And absolutely everyone was successful. A complete murder of crows was created!

Allcrows

I was so proud of everyone’s accomplishments and so happy to see the variety of charming creatures that went home from the workshop that day. And since almost all the materials we used were rescued from the textile waste stream, it was a great upcycling project–extra credit!

Little Winter Mice Workshop at Ragfinery November 9, 2019

Little Winter Mice Workshop - 4 mice

Get a head start on holiday gifting and celebrations by making some little mice from the scrap-basket. We’ll be hanging out warm and toasty inside Ragfinery in Bellingham, WA on November 9 from 1-4 pm, where you can spend an afternoon slow stitching your own little mouse finger puppet character. There are so many mice in children’s storybooks to inspire us (think Beatrix Potter classics, Stuart Little, Miss Bianca from the Rescuers, and there’s even a Pippa Mouse!). Let the illustrations be your starting point, or work from your own imagination.

Little Winter Mice process photo

We’ll be working with “boiled wool” fabric, upcycled from damaged sweaters and old wool yardage. Starting from machine-sewn basic shapes, I’ll share the fabric preparation technique and traditional toymaking techniques to finish and add character to the basic mouse. You can finish your mouse simply with a smart bow tie, or make it a complete costume.

Toymaking - Little Winter Mice - materials

Dig through the stash of provided fabrics and trims to clothe and accessorize a character. Added elements like banners, carol sheet, tiny packages can add personal messages and make it really special.  A cook? An angel? A caroler?

Little Winter Mice workshop - accessories

All materials will be provided, and of course you can dip into Ragfinery if you have something else in mind. Craftdesignworks pattern/instructions will be included — basic hand-sewing skills and a pair of sharp scissors are all you’ll need to bring.

These little mice are a perfect size to use for special little gifts, stocking stuffers, ornaments, extreme package toppers, part of your holiday decor and tablescapes. They’ll bring special pleasure when they emerge from your holiday stash each year because you made them.

I’d love to see you…here are the details:

Little Scrap Mice workshop, November 9 2019, 1-4PM

Ragfinery 1421 N. Forest St. Bellingham, WA 98225

Tickets $22-24

https://www.ragfinery.com/upcoming-events/event/toymaking-little-winter-mice/

Little Scrap Crows Workshop at Ragfinery October 13, 2019

2 handmade crow toys

Question: Is it a premeditation of crows if you’re working on making a murder of crows but they’re not done yet?

If you’re looking to make a special something for Halloween, come and spend an afternoon with me at Ragfinery in Bellingham, WA on October 13, slow stitching little crow figures. We’ll be exploring an interesting territory–following the inspiration of children’s book illustrations, the reality of crows, folktale crows and our own imaginations.

We’ll work with a low-pile black fabric that I was unable to resist adopting from the free section of Our Social Fabric textile recycling initiative in Vancouver BC. You’ll be helping me put it to its next purpose. It has a wide-wale corduroy-type texture that makes it easy to cut and tatter for visual interest. Beaks are made from a repurposed vinyl chair seatcover, so even more upcycling! I’m happy to share both materials with you—if you like you can take home enough more of both materials so you can make 2-3 more crows at home.

Beak detail - handmade crow toys

The little crows finish about 5 inches tall, based on the classic craftdesignworks finger puppet pattern. And you may choose to make a finger puppet crow–that’s how I got started with these. Optionally, you can take the next step and add wire-crafted legs and feet to create a little standing crow character. Unlike more complicated bird figures that require complete wire and/or paper mache armatures, this uses a simple technique to add the feet to the stuffed body—easy yet effective.

Handmade fabric crow toy with gold ruff

The workshop will start with pre-sewn bodies so there won’t be any machine sewing needed in the class. I’ll guide you through the traditional toymaking techniques to add wings, tail, beak and eyes with hand-stitching and glue.  Once the finger puppets are complete, I’ll demonstrate crow costuming and accessory options.  There will be lots of choices of fabrics/notions/trims from my stash to spark your ideas. And there are some tasty options to add your unique touch with messages and accessories–pennants, banners, etc. (“Trick or Treat”, “Happy Halloween” , “The Witching Hour”…)

Fabric and notions for Little Scrap Crow workshop Ragfinery

Then we’ll fork off into 2 groups. For those who want to keep their crow as a puppet, it will be time to create the costumes and accessories that complete the character’s personality. The other group will learn to form the wire legs and feet, then stitch up the bottom of the crow. Then they’ll be ready to join in costuming and accessorizing. We’ll finish up with a quick photo-and-share so we can learn from each other and harvest ideas and inspirations.

All materials will be provided, and of course you can always supplement with your own purchases from the treasure trove that is Ragfinery. The pattern and instructions (and crow material, if you like) are yours to take with you so you can continue making more at home. Basic hand-sewing skills and a pair of sharp scissors are all you’ll need to bring.

These little guys are the right size to inspire so much imaginative play (for children who are old enough to beware of scratches from the wire feet). I can imagine them lurking atop dollhouses, lego and block structures and little nooks in the garden during dry weather. They’ll add so much character to Halloween decor and tablescapes–a special pleasure when they emerge from your Halloween stash each year because you made them yourself.

I’d love to see you…here are the details:

Little Scrap Crow workshop, October 13 2019, 1-4PM

Ragfinery 1421 N. Forest St. Bellingham, WA 98225

Tickets: $22-$24

https://www.ragfinery.com/upcoming-events/event/toymaking-little-scrap-crows/

 

Teddy Bear Repair Workshop

Teddy bear repair workshop, Blaine Library, 6/22 10:30am

A dear friend from long ago surprised me recently with a copy of Much Loved by Mark Nixon.

Looking at the very loved and also sometimes falling-apart soft companions in the book inspired me to offer a workshop at my local library for repairing/refreshing “overloved” teddy bears or other stuffed animals. There are still some spaces available for Saturday morning, June 22, 10:30-noon. I’ll be sharing techniques, tools and tips for bringing vitality back to ailing animals — and improving their longevity.

I’m requesting that attendees please share advance info about your animal so I can bring the appropriate materials to the workshop. It’s open for ages 12 and up, space is limited, and registration is required. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you on Saturday morning. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the animals we’ll be working on:

Teddy-Bear-Repair-Blaine-Library 6/22/2019 10am-noon

And if you’d like a copy of the worksheet we’ll be using to create an action plan for the repairs, you can download it here.

If you have any tips and tricks for helping much loved animal friends, please share them!

Sweet, Simple Lavender Sachet DIY for Mother’s Day – free patterns

Lavender sachets - free patterns

If you’re looking around for something to make for a Mother’s Day gift (or anytime, anyone, really), this is an easy and rewarding project. I’m a big fan of sachets–this is my second DIY sachet post. Sachets are great for drawers, closets, shoes, cars, next to your workspace or your pillow, wherever you want to add pleasant scents to the surroundings. My previous project used precious scraps and trinkets to make luxurious little sachets based on a 1920s lingerie-drawer esthetic. You can see those here. One of those would pamper a luxury-loving mum.

But this time I wanted to use the same patterns with a more homespun and cozy feeling, using materials in a neutral palette. I filled them all with lavender, and I wish I could send the scent to you across the web. My lavender is 3 years old but it’s still going strong after being stored it in a sealed bag. If the scent starts to fade, you can refresh it multiple times with a few gentle squeezes. And when the scent ultimately disappears, you can either refill a sachet with fresh botanicals or add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for another round of use. My go-to online supplier is SF Herb Company, but you can likely get potpourri ingredients wherever bulk herbs are sold.

There are patterns for 3 classic sachet shapes: heart, boxy, and what started out to as a diamond shape and ended up to be a “posy cone”. If you’d like to try these, you can download a free copy of the patterns here. The fabrics I used were some linen scraps and an upholstery sample. You can make these either on the sewing machine or by hand-stitching. Backstitching is recommended if you choose to sew by hand, since you’ll need a strong seam to keep the contents secured inside. In keeping with the country look, you can leave them plain, or simply tie them up with twine or yarn.

Lavender sachets - free patterns - heart with twine.png

But why stop there? It’s so easy to add another embellishment to the sachet. I’ve been getting ready to give a workshop at Raginery in Bellingham this coming Saturday. It’s a drop-in, donation-basis workshop, making simple fabric flowers from scraps. (Please do come and join us if you’re in town. You can whip up a gift and still have time to go to the Procession of the Species afterwards.)

Simple fabric flowers workshop - for sachets.

The flowers were originally designed to go on cards, but aren’t they the perfect addition to one of these little lavender puffs? They are so simple to make–just tear off a strip of fabric about 1 1/2 inches wide, maybe about 18 inches long, and gather along the long edge with a running stitch. You can cut and tatter the “petals” as much as you like, or add a button or “stamens” to the center.

Lavender sachets - free patterns - with fabric flowers

Make one into an award for “Best Mom” (or “Silliest Pseudo-Mom”, or whatever is appropriate in your family) by adding another strip, folded in half, with pointed ends.

This is such a pleasant craft–you’re surrounded by wonderful smells as you work! If you make one of these (or many), please share your results. I’d love to see what you make.

Making Little Scrap Rabbits @Ragfinery

Toymaking workshop 4/6/2019 Ragfinery

What a lovely afternoon we had last Saturday, making up a batch of little scrap rabbits! Everyone started with a kit with everything needed to make a bunny.

Ragfinery-kit-for-start

We got down to business, making up the bodies from pre-sewn starts. I had done the machine stitching ahead of time, so everything at the workshop could be done with glue and hand-stitching.

Ragfinery Mary sews

Ears, arms, and eyes were attached, and then the faces were finished with noses and whiskers.

Ragfinery bunny body

With 9 workshop participants, there was a range of sewing experience in the room, from crafters who were sewing for the first time to experienced needleworkers, and everyone succeeded with their rabbits.

Next it was time for a break and some browsing for costume inspirations.

Ragfinery-browsing-for-inspo

Then, costumes!

Ragfinery everyone sews

I had 3 wishes for the afternoon: 1-that everyone would leave the workshop with a rabbit they felt good about, 2- that everyone felt like it was easy to make the bunnies, and that they felt confident about making more at home, and 3- that hopefully, everyone could feel inspired to continue trying other kinds of toymaking now that the basics had been demystified.

And I think all three of my wishes came true–look at what the class produced:

Ragfinery-gallery-1

Adorable downturned ear accent, exuberant tulle shawl, and (very creative touch!) a miniature paper crane accent

Ragfinery-gallery-2

Vest with bead “buttons”, multi-layered tunic + decorated basket, confident bunny with gathered. pleated skirt and lacy bonnet

Ragfinery-gallery-3

Issey Miyake pleats on a bitty bunny, my flowery after-workshop thank-you rabbit, and a hand-sewn lacy costume with lace rosette accent.

I’m so pleased with the results! All the rabbits are cute, and each of them showed such creativity in their costumes. One bunny has already been sent on to a lucky 4-year-old, and another workshop participant plans to make up a batch of bunnies that she’ll invite her granddaughter to help her costume. Fun!

If you’d like to make these bunnies, you can buy an instantly downloadable pattern for the rabbits and their costumes from my store here.

My next scheduled workshop will be completely different–I’m looking forward to giving a workshop in Teddy Bear Repair at the Blaine Library in June. Stay tuned for more about that soon.