Wednesday 20 January 2016

Sock Penguins

Having completed the challenge of the sock owls, I had plenty of enthusiasm (and socks) to try the sock penguins. I decided to make the penguins for three sisters, as with my own sisters I made them using the same template but with differences to make them unique. I found the tutorials on Craft Passion as I had with the owls. I adore this site, the photos are really helpful and the descriptions very clear.  I loved making the feet, it was such a simple method to make them look webbed as well as giving a good base.

Sock Penguins

Once again the challenge came in matching the stripes on the socks and trying to get the faces to look right. The stripes took a lot of pinning on both the body and the flippers to get a pattern match.I found the faces shape very challenging, I used thin white socks, which in hindsight were more difficult than the thick socks as they moved more when I was trying to pin them. Despite being difficult to handle the white socks worked really well when padded lightly for the tummies. The beaks were easier to make than with the owls as they were a simple cone shape. I would be tempted to use felt in the future to get more detail in the eyes. As with many toys I make the expression comes as I sew the face which resulted in a slightly evil/stern looking penguin in a red scarf and a blue scarfed penguin with a larger forehead. The weighted bag inside was a great touch as it helps them sit nicely.

I had been working on arm knitted scarves as gifts so I decided to take it a step further and finger knitted the scarf using this tutorial. This is really simple to do but I felt that the wool gave a good finish.

Monday 18 January 2016

Gimmie a M A S C O T

I was trying to think of an idea for my niece's 13th Birthday. I find this a difficult age to make things for. I had made her brother a ninja and her sister a husky so I was eager to go down the "soft toy with a twist" route. When she was little I bought her a fairy rag doll called Mary. At that point I would never have dreamed of sewing things like this for her, but I wanted something reminiscent of Mary, but personal and a bit different, and it needed to be quirky enough for her to like it.

For the past couple of years she has been part of a cheer and dance group based in the Midlands called ACES. She seems to be loving the mix of dance and gymnastics and is having a lot of fun with the group. I remembered seeing a photo of their mascot Molly and started wondering if I could make a mini Mollie. I realised I had a pattern in Sew Cute to Cuddle by Mariska Vos-Bolman (Fluffels) that I could possibly adjust to make it look like Mollie. I loved making the tortoise by Mariska Vos-Bolman  and I was eager to make something out of this book.

                 Mollie the Aces Mascot
Mini Mollie - design modified from "Sew cute to cuddle" 

The pattern to make the doll is really well laid out and explained. The book has full size pattern pages to trace which is helpful and it is beautifully illustrated. As with the Melly and Me toys I used felt as I find it gives a lovely finish and comes in bright solid colours. I changed the dress colours which was easy and then all I needed to do was make the hair bigger and change the facial features. I found the doll easier to put together than the wedding Tortoise. The most complicated bits were as a result of my modifications. By making the bunches much bigger they are far more difficult to fit inside the head to sew it up which resulted in me ladder stitching part of the head closed. The face took quite a lot of time and rearranging as even the slightest change and it all looked 'wrong'. Mollie has very distinctive eyes ( I started to refer to them as "Pacman eyes" by the end of it).  There was a lot of pinning before I was happy enough to sew it, I layered the complicated eyes using felt. I was very pleased with the bows in her hair as they are made in the way that real "cheer bows" are.

Although she looks unusual without the context behind her design I was pleased with the outcome, I think next to Mollie she looks how I was hoping she would. My niece certainly knew who she was when she opened her which I was really happy about. I now have more characters from the book planned including some with more modifications.

Tuesday 12 January 2016

For the Love of Spoonflower - Avengers and Oystercatchers

I find it challenging to come up with new and different ideas for gifts. This means that I am always open for requests. The requests are normally for a particular design or function, but unusually this request from my niece was for a specific fabric. The fabric she had found was perfect for her, it contained her favourite colours and was based on "The Avengers". She found the fabric on spoonflower. I love using spoonflower it is a fantastic website which allows designers and artists to post their designs and if enough people are interested in it then it can be printed. When my niece found the fabric it had not yet made it into production but it was obviously popular as within a month you could order it. One of the downsides of using spoonflower is that it is an American site so delivery does take longer than UK sites or local shops. I find that I only use it when I am being VERY organised. They do sometimes have 'Free Delivery' offers so if you are keeping your eye on something you can get a deal that way too. I find the quality is really good and the price is good as well. It also makes you very careful how you cut as you know a mistake can lead to a long wait for a replacement!

Avengers Satchel - bag design Rebecca Tuffnell

I knew she wanted a bag, and she had liked a satchel style bag I had made my sister the year before. I wanted to make something that showed the pattern fully, I didn't want pockets on the outside as I was worried that it would look too busy. I chose a pattern from issue 21 of Craftseller. The design is based around using a fat quater as the flap. This is a lovely idea and it is good that it takes into consideration shopping within a budget. The pattern itself was straightforward and I found the instructions clear with all measurements given. I have had difficulties in the past with Craftseller patterns but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I adjusted the pattern slightly to make it a bit bigger as I wanted to avoid cutting up the squares on the pattern as much as possible. The bag is a basic pattern with modifications suggested and I inserted a large pocket into the one for my niece.

I chose to use a turquoise complementary fabric to line the bag as I thought that using purple might be a bit much, and the turquoise would set it off nicely. The pattern uses antique effect clasps however using quite modern fabric made me feel that it would be better to use something more "abstract". I found a lovely set of interlocking bell clasps on Minerva Crafts. They do look a bit like a puzzle out of a Christmas cracker but it gave the effect I wanted. The site itself is excellent with a huge array of clasps and closures and it is now where I go for anything like that.

It is not just Avengers fabric I bought from Spoonflower this year; when trying to find the perfect fabric for a friends apron I found myself back on the site. I found beautiful Oystercatcher fabric and unsurprisingly it was for one of the recipients of my oystercatchers last year. The fabric has a bold and modern design, it uses block colour on a beautiful light turquoise background. I adore the simplicity of the pattern.

Oystercatcher apron - Design by Fiona Goble

The apron design is the "Sew Quick Sew Cute" pattern I used before, I made a small change as I wanted the pattern on the pocket to match the apron so I cut it to line up and positioned it off centre to match. This looked a little "wonky" so I added a strip of 1" wide cotton tape to the side of it to be used as a tea towel holder. I came across this on a previous design, I think it is a great addition as it is very handy.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

Melly and Me Toys

I know I have said it before but I love making things for children; here are some of this years gifts that have been made from Melly and Me, although I have blogged before about my love of Melly and Me patterns in general with my quilt, bags and mice.

Judo inspired Ninja
Sky Blue Ninja

This pattern was bought as an individual pattern from the website which I had e-mailed to me as a pdf. I first made ninjas back in the summer for my nephew and his Dad. My nephew is learning Judo so I had a lot of fun using the blue of his training suit and making an orange belt with the correct amount of yellow tabs. I then made his Dad one in blue and white as he is a Coventry City supporter. I enjoyed making these so much that I decided to make them for our cousins for Christmas. I have written before about making the "same but different" for sisters. For the sisters I made one pink and purple and one claret and blue as one of them is a big Villa supporter. Thankfully I do not follow football otherwise I would be in trouble with one or even both. The ninjas are really fun and they do not have over complicated features. The patterns are very easy to follow and the most difficult aspect is getting the arms to look the same. I have a constant battle with pairs of things as one always seem to look different. In the original pattern the bands are added in sections, this makes sense if you are trying to line up cotton, although having chosen to use felt I decided to just hand sew the felt strips on after the toy was constructed. This is easy with felt as the stitches are hidden by the texture of the fabric. The main difference in the Christmas ninjas is that I decided to use beads instead of felt for the eyes. The beads I used were 7mm and I was pleased with the result. I would opt for felt still for a younger child in the future. They are lovely to put together and as long as you take your time to straighten up the bands then it would be a good project for a beginner.
Christmas "Sister Ninjas"


The first toy I ever made was a caterpillar for my little girl from "Sewn Toy Tales" by Melly and Me. It is a fantastic pattern mixing hand sewn yo-yos and machine sewn leg sections. The yo-yos and leg sections are held together with 5mm cotton tape. I adore this design as it allows the body to move in a really fluid way, it is also great for popping them on things. The book itself is excellent with a comprehensive stitch guide and some fantastic advice on fabric selection. The face details and antenna give a lovely personality and character. There are 15 yo yo's in the caterpillar which are all made of different coloured cotton fabrics. In my Christmas caterpillars I used some soft brushed cotton for the body pieces. I made one with green body sections and brown, red and orange yo-yo's and the second with a purple body, pink, purple and turquoise yo-yo's. I found just enough of my brown mushroom fabric to make the antenna and nose for the green one, which made me incredibly happy as this fabric was left over from the recipients parent's wedding present that I also made. One of the things I learned doing the first caterpillar is that you do not need all the fabrics to match, you just each each fabric to match one other, which is a tip I use a lot! This is a great way to use up your fabric stash.

Super- Hero 

This is another toy  designed by Melly and Me, it comes from her latest book "Sew Fantasy Toys". I fell in love with this design straight away. I love how bold and bright and fun the pattern is. I have a soft spot for super heroes anyway so I was excited to make one. I used fleece as I love the finish and it made him nice and soft. The pattern is well explained and illustrated with the most difficult part being the piecing in the bottom. Because I was using fleece and not cotton I hand stitched the features on instead of using the machine. This is simply because I think the fleece hides the hand stitching well. I also decided to sew on the mask. I liked the idea of it coming off but as the recipient has a one year old brother I decided that an elasticated mask was not the best idea. The pattern overall was more difficult than the ninja and caterpillars. The way the feet are sewn and matched reminded me of the oyster-catchers I made last year. This gives a nice match on the foot seams. I still struggle with getting the arms and feet the same size and shape.


This pattern also came from "Sew Fantasy Toys". The construction of the mermaid is a lot more like the ninja than the superhero. Again I used fleece to make it nice and soft and fun. I chose to change the hair style and colour. Instead of using ric rac bunches I used the two buns that were used in the fairy pattern. I was a little worried that this was the Star Wars hype taking over and it would look a little like Princess Leia, but I think I got away with it. Like most toys I make the mermaid got her personality when I added the eyes and mouth. I know that if I made lots of these they would all have different expressions and personalities which makes it such an individual gift. I love the finishing touches like the starfish in the hair and the fact that the designs are not overly complicated.