Monday 23 March 2015

Oystercatchers and Puffins

Following some dithering I decided to buy the Tilda collection . Although I only wanted 2 out of the 4 books it still seemed worth the investment for those two. They arrived and were beautifully presented in a little box with good quality paper and hard backs. The design and layout was very stylised. They are a thing of beauty. I decided I wanted to make four sets of puffins and oystercatchers. These were for birdy friends who would appreciate them for being fun and different.

I had read in reviews of the books that the small pages made photocopying the patterns difficult. This did not really bother me – enlarging them was not too difficult and it is something that I have to do a lot with patterns anyway. What did strike me was the lack of instructions. I have made quite a lot of soft toys by different designers so I am lucky that I know roughly what I am doing but I had to read the instructions a few times before starting. If somebody was new to toy making I would send them away to practice on a lot of other projects first. I would recommend Sewn Toy Tales by Melly and Me or Sew Cute to Cuddle by Mariska Vos-Bolman. If you were a confident sewer but had never made toys I would possibly use Google for some of the specific terms.

I didn't want to make 4 identical pairs of birds, and so I had good fun finding different black fabrics. I used some batik, some spotty and some that had a small floral pattern on them. I used white fabric with white patterns on, again in spots or flowers. I love white patterned fabric as it lifts a design and adds texture. After my initial reservations I was pleased with the design. One of the nicest  features is  that you piece fabric together before sewing, giving a good seam match. I also liked the slits for turning the wings as it was effective and easy to hide when it was all put together. Putting the bird bodies and wings together happened quite quickly. I changed the oystercatcher's eyes as the white would not show on my fabric and I wanted them to be black and orange like in real life. I had my reservations about adding in the sticks for the legs and beaks. Just stabbing wood into fabric to make a hole seemed a little unrefined although I cannot deny that it was effective. With tiny buckets filled with oasis and a pile of local pebbles and stones I glued on the bits with a hot glue gun and my oystercatchers looked good. Finishing the puffins was a harder task. 

Painting sticks was nice and easy but painting on fabric scared me. I will admit that I put it off for a while! My problem was three-fold 1) I wanted more than just an orange bill so needed to change the pattern, 2) I have no artistic skill when it comes to drawing/painting bits on and 3) I knew if I went wrong it would be "start again time". I also had a small issue with the book as it said craft paint which I initially took to mean general poster type paint. After much discussion with friends I became less sure about using this. I carried out some test pieces and found that the paint worked ok but was bleeding out a bit on the thinner fabric. In the end I decided that I needed fabric paint. After a chat with my local art shop I found out that you can add it to acrylic paint to make fabric paint. This was really useful as it allowed me to choose from a lot of colours and the left over can be used by my husband for any art projects rather than being fabric specific.

The results were really effective, like most soft toy creations they seem to get different expressions just by eye placement and small differences in seam allowance make all the difference in shape and proportions. I felt each pair worked well and the recipients were very happy - albeit one had a very confused cat!

Close up of Tilda design Puffin and Oystercatcher

Four sets of Tilda design Oystercatchers and Puffins 

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