Free Pattern: Create Paper Animal Characters from Your Scrapbasket

Free pattern for paper animal characters--rabbit, cat, or bear. A scrapbasket toy from craftdesignworks

Lots of us are following the advice to stay at home as much as we can right now. This requires some special skills to keep ourselves healthy, in heart and spirit as well as keeping fit. It can be especially challenging to stay at home with kids and their burgeoning energies. And it’s challenging for the rest of us to feel like we have something positive to contribute to a world with a new shape.

Enter the toymaker.  From my little corner of the world, here’s a small thing I can offer. A craft project designed to be more of a prompt than a coloring sheet. Something kids with scissor skills can do themselves, but a project that’s adaptable to different levels of involvement for younger children as well. Something that we young-at-hearts might like to make, too, maybe to send through the mail to show someone we’re thinking about them. Something that requires zero special supplies (just paper, scissors and glue) and encourages reusing everyday things around the house. Something not too specific, so there’s room for imagination and creativity to engage. Something that could be the start of a who-knows-how-big project that will be remembered long after.

Years ago a tiny plastic tea set with cakes and forks and little boxes got me started to make a teddy bears’ picnic set using a doily as the picnic cloth. I challenged myself to make a couple of little bears just out of construction paper, glue and crayons.

Paper toy--teddy bears' picnic -- craftdesignworks

As humble as they are, this set became a special toy that only came out on special occasions with the motherly challenge to “be sure to keep all the little pieces together”.  Over time the little bears evolved into a cat figure that became a free pattern on this blog.

For this special spring I’ve expanded the cat pattern, adding a bunny and a bear and making the animals in two sizes.

Free pattern for paper animal characters--rabbit, cat, or bear. A scrapbasket toy from craftdesignworks

You can print out the pattern on any heavy paper stock or print it on text weight paper then glue/collage to thin cardboard (like cereal boxes, for example). The figures are purposely simple so they can be completed with paints, markers, pencils, collage or pens, as you like. They have no defined characters–they can become whatever they are imagined to be. Scrapbasket toys are made with whatever you have around the house and don’t require a trip to the crafts store.

My first group of cats had no face detail but were joined together as a valentine garland. These used mini-brads to make them poseable, but you can as easily just glue your animals’ arms and legs into position like my first bears if that’s what you choose.

Cat-garland from free pattern - craftdesignworks

Go ahead and raid your paper recycling for inspiration. This cat was made from Uppercase magazine’s colorful postcard inserts. I tied some strands of thread into a bundle and glued it onto this cat with black sequin eyes.

Free pattern for paper animal characters--rabbit, cat, or bear. A scrapbasket toy from craftdesignworks

Once you’ve made your basic animal, you can add clothes made from paper or fabric. You can make all kinds of accessories, furniture, houses, towns, cities…the sky’s kind of the limit here. I can imagine this being the start of who-knows-what. I keep picturing that cat with a mane, becoming a lion. I see stories unfolding around characters with unusual names populating a world that springs from the imagination at your house.

I see generous members of our craft community, like Charlotte Lyons, @housewrenstudio showing us how to make castles from our empty oatmeal boxes (in her instagram stories) and I see these little animal characters feeling right at home there.

charlotte lyons tower

If you’re up for something more elegant and ambitious. there are some lovely antique French paper model kits being offered for free download by Castle in the Air. Another example of the generous spirit of our creative community! Wouldn’t the little animal characters have fun in the antique toyseller’s world?

Castle in the Air free downloads

Please be sure to let me know if you decide to make some paper animals from your scrapbasket…I’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories.

 

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.

 

 

Rabbitmaking! Ragfinery April 6

Toymaking workshop 4/6/2019 Ragfinery

Just in time for Spring celebrations, come spend an afternoon with me at Ragfinery in Bellingham on April 6, making little rabbits. It’s an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of the time-honored tradition of sewing toys from the scrap basket. Inspired by illustrations in vintage children’s books, these little dressed rabbit finger puppets are about 5 inches tall. They can be made and embellished with a wide variety of fabrics and notions to create one-of-a-kind characters.

Materials for toymaking workshop 4/6/2019 Ragfinery

We’ll be making our rabbits with “boiled” wool fabrics and looking at some of the many other fabrics that can work with the basic pattern. Starting from machine-sewn basic shapes, I’ll guide you through the traditional toymaking techniques to finish and add character to the basic bunny with hand-stitching, glue and simple embroidery.  Along the way I’ll share tips, inspirations and resources.

Costuming materials - Toymaking workshop 4/6/2019 Ragfinery

Once your rabbit is done, you can simply leave it au naturel, finish it with a smart bow tie or make it a complete costume.  To spark inspirations, I’ll be bringing a tasty and varied stash of fabrics, notions and trims for you to use. Plus there will be options to create accessories (banners, pennants, parasols, bags, baskets, etc.) to personalize and add finishing touches.

Accessory materials - Toymaking workshop 4/6/2019 Ragfinery

All materials will be provided, and of course you can always supplement with your own purchases from the treasure trove that is Ragfinery. The 8-page pattern and instructions 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. They like to hang out in dollhouses, lego and block structures and little nooks in the garden.  Not to mention their pleasure in peeking out of Easter baskets and papier mache eggs. Add one to a flower arrangement or Spring centerpiece for lighthearted touch. Put one out in the garden on top of a bamboo garden stake or dowel as part of an Easter egg hunt. You could even send a handmade Spring wish to someone far away, tucked into an envelope.

I’ve been struck recently by how many artists and creative people grew up in households where making things was part of daily life. In that spirit, once you have the basics down, it could be fun to make up a batch of plain rabbits and let the kids in your life guide you in making costumes for them. It could be a one-time activity or it could spur an ongoing shared project, making a family (or even a whole village) of handmade creatures. Intergenerational fun and an affirmation of the power of continuing creativity—and all this from your scrap basket!

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

Little Scrap Rabbits workshop, Saturday April 6 2019, 1-4PM

Ragfinery 1421 N. Forest St. Bellingham, WA 98225

Tickets: $22 early bird (til March 23), $25 regular

Free Pattern for Cat-themed Valentine’s Day DIY Crafting

Cat Puppet Free Pattern Valentines

It’s time for another round of my articulated paper cat pattern – using the pattern to make more cat-themed Valentines for family and friends.

I’ll admit these are really corny sentiments…but that’s in the tradition of goofy valentines, right? Maybe you can come up with something better, but these have been fun to work on, as potentially groan-inducing as they are.

My idea was to attach each articulated cat puppet to the valentine with a removable glue dot so the recipient could take it off and keep the cat as a reminder that they’re in my thoughts. And I wanted to try to make some different styles from the pretty kitties I’ve made in the past. So here are the results, ready for me to write personal messages and send them off:

You’re the cat’s pajamas. This one is what I want to call a ransom-note rebus, with lots of collaged elements.

Cats Pajamas Free Pattern Valentine

You’re my PURRFECT valentine. Reusing part of a fancy invitation, I made the cat from a vintage-style prophecy board game. I added sushi grass and a fun Japanese printed paper to create a pretty crazy card that will be just right for a certain someone. Upcycle!

Purrfect Free Pattern Cat Valentine

The cat’s out of the bag. At first I thought this cat would turn out to be a robot, since I used a matte metallic paper and square brads, but it didn’t end up being too techy after all, so I left it simple.

Cat out of the Bag Free Pattern Valentine

You’re the cat’s meow. This one is pretty much a standard card, foldover blue with another prophecy board cat and red paper lace.

Cats Meow Free Pattern Valentine

If you’d like to try your hand at using these little paper cat puppets to send valentine messages, download the free pattern.  And if you’re interested in articulated paper figures, there’s a lot more to explore on my original post.

If you make some cat valentines, let me know your ideas, no matter how corny!