Sunday, 10 July 2016

Honey badger tutorial for sew a softie day

Did you know there is an international sew a softie day? Thought up by Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons, the 16th of July will be a day focused on sewing with kids and teaching kids the joys of sewing. There will be workshops and sewing events, and for the two weeks leading up to the day, bloggers all over the world are sharing tutorials for sewing softies (You can find the whole list of tutorials on Trixi’s blog). If you’re here specifically for finding a tutorial, welcome!

I love the idea of a day dedicated to sewing with children. I started sewing as a child, beginning with simple projects my mother thought up for me. I’m the type of person who loves a challenge though, and I remember in grade eight home economics class, where I sewed a dress while everyone else worked on a simple pair of shorts. For those of you who like a challenge, this tutorial is for you! My aim is to help make the process as simple as possible by providing very detailed photo instructions.

This project is geared toward an older child (or adult) who already has experience sewing. You will need to be able to use the sewing machine, but other than that, its mostly down to following instructions precisely and pinning carefully! If you can do those things, don’t be afraid to give this a try. You’ll learn lots of useful techniques for sewing softies, such as putting in a gusset, sewing curved seams to give a stuffed animal a round body, attaching ears and limbs by machine and by hand, as well as practice stuffing and embroidering. Most of all, enjoy the challenge and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck!

This tutorial is for a cut-and-sew softie. Before we begin, a few words about cut-and-sew patterns. These are patterns that come with all the pieces printed directly on the fabric, so that all you need to do is cut everything out and start sewing. The nice thing about this is that you don't waste time and precious sewing energy on thinking about what to make and choosing fabric, but everything is all ready to go. I sell a range of cut-and-sew patterns in my shop, and if you want to try a simpler one, start with the polar bear pillow case

  • Step 1: When your fabric arrives, it will look like this, with all the pieces printed and ready to cut out. I sewed this one out of linen/cotton canvas, which is a sturdy but not too heavy fabric. You could decide to order the cut-and-sew softie on a different base fabric, that's what's nice about cut-and-sew softies on spoonflower, you can order a design printed on any of their fabrics. But be aware that some fabrics will be easier to sew than others.
  • Step 2:  Cut out all the pieces. The seam allowance (1/4 inch) is already included.
  • Step 3: Here are all the pieces cut out and ready to sew together.
  • Step 4: Start by sewing the legs together. This kit comes with a little tag, that you can attach to the leg. To do that, fold the tag in half, right sides together, sew around three sides, snip the corners and turn. Then lay it onto the back of the leg as shown, before you sew the two leg pieces together, right sides together.
  • Step 5:  Now sew together both legs, arms, ears and tail. These all follow the same principle: put the right sides together, pin them together so they don't slip around while you're sewing, then sew all the way around, leaving the top side open. make little snips right up to the seam around the curved bits (without cutting into the seam!) - this will make them look smoother when you turn them inside out.
  • Step 6: Now turn all of these pieces inside out. This can be a bit fiddly, but there are some tools that can help with this, or just use a knitting needle or a pen or pencil (I've been known to use my teeth!)
  • Step 7: After you've turned all these pieces inside out, give them a press, either with an iron, or just go along the seam with your thumbnail to flatten it out. 
  • Step 8:  Now you can stuff all of these pieces. I used fabric scraps to stuff the bottom of the arms and legs. This makes them a bit heavier and harder. Then I used stuffing to fill the rest of them. A tip for stuffing your softie: go slowly, and put little bits of stuffing in at a time, pushing it down firmly so that the softie doesn't get lumpy. That being said, I used less stuffing in the tail, so that it would hang better, and only a very tiny bit in the ears (or none at all if you prefer!)
  • Step 9: Here are all the pieces stuffed and ready to be attached to the body.
  • Step 10: Now its time to attach the ears. First make a little fold in the bottom of the ear and attach it with a few stitches. The final width should just fit between the top of the head (although don't forget the seam allowance! see picture 11) and the start of the white part of the badger's body.
  • Step 11: Pin the ear in place, with the dark side against the badger's body. Then sew it on.
  • Step 12: When you fold it back out it should look like this. Now, when you sew the two body pieces together, make sure the ear is folded in, onto the body, and it will get caught in the seam, so that the ear is attached to the body (see picture 15).
  • Step 13: You will now need to do the same for the arms. Lay them on the front body piece (the same piece that has the ear attached) about two inches below the ear. Attach them to the body with a few stitches, and when you attach the front body piece, again make sure they are caught in the seam as shown in the photo.
  • Step 14: With the ear and arm tacked on, you can now attach the two body pieces together for both sides of the badger. Here you will be attaching two curved pieces together, which will make the stomach nice and round. Its important, when sewing curved pieces together, to use lots of pins, to make sure the fabric doesn't slip around while you're sewing. Another tip is to keep the dark fabric on top, since it is easier to move this to fit the curve. Remember to take your seam allowance into account when starting this seam, as shown on photo 14, the tip of the top fabric will stick out a bit, so that the seam starts exactly at the right place. If it helps, first put a pin through the place where the seam should start (1/4 inch in from the edge of the fabric) on both the top and bottom fabric, then secure them in place with another pin.
  • Step 15: After you have sewed your seam, make little snips right up to the seam (not through it!) along the curve, so that it will lie flat. Fold open the seam and the arm and ear should be securely fastened onto the body. Now do the same for the other side. 
  • Step 16: Lay your two body pieces next to each other, and fasten the tail to one side of the body with a few stitches. Do the same with the two legs. Make sure the legs are pointing forward, and attach them 1/4 inch in from the front of the badger's stomach. 
  • Step 17: Now it is time to sew on the gusset. A gusset is a piece of fabric that is added between the two body pieces in order to give the head more volume. The gusset piece is attached from the tip of the nose to the back of the head, making a round head shape. Starting exactly at the tip of the nose (again, put a pin 1/4 inch in on both pieces of fabric to find where to start) sew along the gusset. Important: on the nose side, start the seam 1/4 inch in, don't start at the edge of the fabric! Make sure you back up a few stitches to this point, so the seam won't unravel. Do the same in the following steps.
  • Step 18: Once the gusset is attached, make little snips to ensure the curve will be smooth.
  • Step 19: Now attach the other side of the body to the gusset. the red pin on the picture at the tip of the nose shows where to start the seam, again make sure you don't start right at the edge. Pin the two pieces of fabric together, and this time sew all the way from the point of the nose down to the bottom of the badger. Before you sew the seam, pin it all the way, to make sure the bottom edges will line up when you get there!
  • Step 20: This picture shows the seam, starting 1/4 inch in from the nose and going around the top of the head and down the back. Now snip the curve.
  • Step 21: The next seam will close the front of the badger. Start your seam right where the top seam finished: 1/4 inch in from the top of the fabric. (When you start the seam there will be a lot of fabric from the top of the head in your way. Make sure to fold it away from you and don't catch it in the needle as you sew.) Then sew down the front of the badger. Again snip the fabric where the seam is curved.
  • Step 22: Turn the badger the right way around, this is the exciting moment where she starts to come alive! with your finger, smooth out all the head seams and check that they look all right. If your nose doesn't quite line up, don't worry, you'll be embroidering a nose over it, and can cover up some small mistakes. If everything looks okay, then stuff the head and the body.
  • Step 23: Using a needle and thread, close the back seam using a mattress stitch. I started at the beginning, secured the thread inside the body, and then stitched first along one leg, pulled my stitches tight, then stitched back over that leg and along the other leg, before stitching back to the middle. This will make sure the seam is secure.
  • Step 24: Your badger is almost done! with some embroidery floss, stitch the eyes, nose and mouth as shown in the picture. I also added a few whiskers, by making little knots and snipping off the thread. 

Thanks for reading, enjoy sewing and don't forget to share photos with the hashtag #sasday2016.
If you've gotten this far and want to give it a go, from now until July 14th you can buy two fat quarters for the price of one on any type of fabric in my shop. I've designed a matching trench coat for Honey badger (shown in the picture above), and there are also other animals in the collection

Ps. you can read more about how I designed the honey badger prototype here. There will be a tutorial for the trench coat coming very soon, and a pattern for the little cardigan is also in the works.

Friday, 1 July 2016

diy play mat

A play mat is something you only need for a short period of time, and its also something that takes up quite a bit of space. Play mats can be quite garish, so I never had one with my first daughter. With the second, however, I decided I wanted to make one (maybe mostly as an excuse to get some of my fabric printed). This tutorial will walk you through the process of "re-upholstering" a play mat.

I first looked at different kinds of play mats, and decided the easiest way to make one would be to buy one second hand and re-use all the "hardware", that way all I needed was a piece of fabric and a sewing machine. 

I bought this pink play mat at a charity shop for three pounds. Its not too bad as play mats go, but the fabric is hideous polyester - which is a magnet for hair and dust, and I wanted something that I would like to touch, especially since I would be putting a baby on it. I got to work planning and measuring and decided to make a simple round shape, adding interest by printing different designs on the fabric to make it look like a quilt.

The fabric I used is a heavy cotton twill fabric, which was very nice to work with and feels sturdy and soft. If you find a round play mat and want to use the same fabric I did, you can order the panel in my shop on any of the base fabrics available on spoonflower (I debated between the cotton twill, the thick organic jersey or the cotton / linen fabric). Most of these designs are also available in my shop as single fabrics / wallpaper / gift wrap as well. Depending on the shape of the play mat you're re-doing, use any fabric, or design your own like I did! This tutorial I wrote a few years ago walks you through the same design process I used here.

The following photos show the steps I took for making my play mat. These are kept quite general, since every play mat will be different, but they show some things to consider if you'd like to redo a play mat of your own.

  • Step 1: This photo shows the back of the play mat. Before you take it apart, look at how its sewn together and think about how you want your new play mat to look. I made a few changes, such as deciding not to sew the petal shapes, but to do a simpler stuffed circle around the edge instead. I also designed my play mat to be slightly larger. I couldn't make it too much bigger, because then the arches wouldn't fit. If you're designing your own play mat and printing it, rather than using existing fabric, make sure you measure and plan everything carefully, because you won't be able to cut more fabric. 
  • Step 2: Take off any fittings you will need.
  • Step 3: These are the pieces I reused: the stuffing from the petals, the batting from the bottom of the play mat, the buttons and clasps for attaching the arches, and the arches themselves. I kept the original fabric for these.

  • Step 4: Once I knew the diameter of the play mat, I created a file in gimp and filled it with different designs. When the fabric arrives, don't forget to wash it first, so that it won't shrink when you wash it after you've sewn it!
  • Step 5: These are some of the designs I used. I used mostly existing designs and recoloured some of them to create an overall matching look.
  • Step 6: Cut out the play mat, leaving a seam allowance, and cut out a piece of backing fabric the same size (I used an old curtain).

  • Step 7: Calculate where on the back the clasps need to go (its helpful not to throw away the old play mat, so that you can easily see where to place things). Sew them on. To make the play mat bigger, and to shape the stuffed outer circle, I added four strips of fabric around the outside of the mat. Now sew the whole thing together, right sides together, leaving an opening for stuffing.
  • Step 8: Pictured here is the stuffing going in. Before I stuffed the outer circle, I first put the round piece of batting into the play mat, and sewed around the inner two circles to keep it in place. You could hand quilt this, or use the machine like I did. This will leave you with a round tube around the outside of the play mat for stuffing.
  • Step 9: Sew the opening closed by hand, then sew on your buttons if you're using them, attach the arches, and your play mat is finished! I also printed a number of butterflies on the fabric, which I want to sew, stuff, and hang from the arches, but that hasn't happened yet!


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Location and creating

I recently listened to a conversation between Kate O'Sullivan and Dan Thompson on the A Playful Day podcast. As I was listening to their discussion about connecting your art to the place where you live, I thought about how my own making and creating relates to my location. At first I thought it wasn't relevant. I’m not really involved in any local craft groups, although I’m aware of them: Eyeing the knit and natter group in the library on Wednesday afternoons, but thinking it wouldn’t really work with a toddler in tow; Talking to members of the local quilting group and mentioning I design fabric, but not taking it any further than that; Signing up for a newsletter from my local yarn shop, but not getting involved. I’ve lived in Sutton, in the south of London, for almost three years now, and while I would say I’ve now settled and enjoy living here, it definitely feels like a temporary home and not my „real“ home.

As I thought a bit more about the topic, however, I realised that, actually, location plays a big role in my fabric design. If you know me, you know that the question „where do you come from?“ brings a kind of tired smile to my face, and depending on how I feel, or how interested I think you are, you’ll get a simple or a more complicated answer. I’ve moved more than 70 times during my life, and lived on three continents, and in answer to the question „where do you come from?“ I could answer either Papua New Guinea, Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, or more recently, Sutton, in the UK. These locations, or more the mix of locations, understandably plays a huge part in defining who I am, and as I thought about it, I realised this does come out in the designs I create. Perhaps for me the answer to how being an artist is relevant to where I live is more about using my art to connect myself to the different places I call home - turning memories into tangible usable objects.

different designs inspired by places I've lived

Let me give some examples (click on the photos to see the whole design in my shop).

When I moved to Sutton, England from Heidelberg, Germany, I felt lost and depressed and struggled to come to terms with this new place to call home. At the time I spent months working on a design about Heidelberg, working from photo’s I had taken of my neighbourhood there. This was one of the first designs I made where I started to feel like I could almost get it to look how I saw it in my head. I spent hours poring over the lines, tweaking, adding details, and mentally walking around „my“ neighbourhood. Each building in this design has a memory for me, of many many walks past the river, through the streets to work and uni, and memories of ice cream and coffee, people I spent time with and conversations I had. Working on the design was therapeutic and helped me to slowly say goodbye to Heidelberg while at the same time creating something new that I could keep with me.

fabric designs featuring Heidelberg

When my grandmother died two years ago, I started working on a series of fabric designs all centred around her garden. The collection, called grandma’s garden, shows fruit and vegetables from her garden, each of which brings up a picture in my mind of long ago summer days spent there, picking rhubarb and eating it with a palm full of sugar, learning to pick potato beetles off the plants with my grandma, riding my bike past her garden and stopping to pick some fresh raspberries, going down to her cellar for a glass jar of preserves for supper. I couldn’t go to my grandma’s funeral, because I was half way across the world with a one-month old baby, but working on these designs brought me close to her and created something that makes me smile when I see it and remember being with her in her beloved garden.

fabric design featuring my grandmother's garden

I haven’t (yet) made many fabric designs about Papua New Guinea, although I think that will come. One I did make though, was to celebrate two other grandmother’s and their gardens. This design conjures up memories of a very different kind of garden, on an island in the tropical heat, cutting a length of sugar cane to munch on on the way home, gathering firewood or digging up some sweet potatoes for supper.

fabric designs featuring Papua New Guinea

Location doesn’t just play a role in my fabric design. I recently took part in a challenge on instagram, where I learned how to design and write knitting patterns. This was an incredibly fun challenge run by Francoise Danoy of aroha knits. We started the design process with a mood board of photos, and while I noticed many of the other participants used generic pictures to convey an idea for a design, I wanted to create my design around a real location, a real memory of a place that was important to me. I used photos from a recent holiday at the beach in Zeeland, the Netherlands, a place I also went to as a child. The resulting two pieces of knitting capture that mood and feeling for me, and now I can dress my daughter in a little cardigan that for me holds the location of the North Sea beach in Zeeland.

knit design inspired by the north sea

Creating all of these designs for fabric, or in my experiments with knit design, means that I can make objects to use on a day-to-day basis that are present with me where I am now, while reminding me of other places where I cannot be right now but that still mean a lot to me. For me, this is how I combine my location with my creating - translating memories and places into design.

Friday, 3 June 2016

a mini felt tea cup tutorial

My daughter has started serving me tea in little tea cups. Since she doesn't have any real cups she uses duplo blocks. Yesterday I had my box of felt out and decided it was time for some "real" tea cups. 

a mini tutorial on how to sew a felt tea cup

Here is a mini tutorial of how I made them.

learn how to sew a tiny felt tea cup

Step 1: Draw a tea cup shape, cut it out and use it as a template to cut out four felt tea cups, two in white and two in the colour you want for the outside of the cup.

Step 2: Decide on how you want to decorate the tea cup, cut out felt embellishments and choose embroidery floss colours.

Step 3: Embroider a design on one of the outside tea cups. I had an idea in mind but find it easier to decide on the design as I embroider, adding leaves and beads as I go, and little embellishments until if feels balanced.

Step 4: Using blanket stitch, first stitch the tops of the tea cups together, so that you have two pieces with white on the inside and green on the outside, then continue blanket stitching around the rest of the tea cup, this time stitching all four layers together. This will give you a tea cup that is open at the top. 

I wanted my tea cup to be able to lie flat, but if you want it to stand up, try adding an oval at the base.

Make a few and have a tea party!

ps. do you like this tutorial? See more of my tutorials here

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Introducing Honey Badger

Last week I spent all my free time pattern drafting, cutting, revising and sewing. When I get inspired by a project I often feel like I'm riding a wave of creativity and, knowing that it will eventually ebb, I tend to put all my thoughts into the one thing. I'm very happy with the final product, which is a stuffed animal called Honey Badger.

The idea to make honey badger came from a Facebook group I'm in for softie designers - with a challenge to create a stuffed animal from a bandana. I had two bandanas sitting in a back drawer. I've often looked at them when I sort through my clothes and have thought - I don't ever wear these, should I get rid of them? But both of them were gifts from special people, one from my mother and one from my grandma, so I didn't want to throw them out. This challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity to make them into something I would actually use.

I started the design process by sketching badgers, thinking about what elements of a badger I wanted to use and trying to find an overall cohesive look for the stuffed animal, with preliminary thoughts about clothes, facial expression etc. Because I already knew what fabric I would be using, I also thought about what parts of the fabric I would use where, to create the light and dark markings of a badger. The basic shape of the animal was based on an earlier stuffed animal I created, the fox.

First I sewed a prototype. In order to get my head around sewing a 3D shape, I needed to actually try it out. Although the body is based on my fox, I made changes to the shape of the head, neck and stomach area, which meant more pattern pieces and experimenting with how changing the shape of a pattern piece would affect the shape of the badger. 
I'm glad I made a prototype. It helped me figure out the optimal spot for the ear placement (I changed and lengthened a seam so that the ear could be placed along a seam), and it helped me visualise how a different shaped head gusset would change the shape of the face. The prototype's face was too flat, so I adjusted the pattern pieces accordingly.

This is the fabric I used for the honey badger. The bandana on the left is from The Netherlands, I got it from my mother years ago. The bandana on the right is from Canada, my grandma gave it to me about 15 years ago. Here I laid out all the pattern pieces on the fabric to check how much fabric I would need. I ended up making the final honey badger twice as big as a the prototype.

Here the honey badger is starting to come together. I got a bit carried away in the meantime, knitting a little scarf for the prototype badger, and then a sweater. (I adapted the sweater pattern and made another little cardigan, but that is material for a different post!)

After the badger was all sewn up and stuffed, I sewed on the facial features, embroidering eyes, a nose and mouth and adding some whiskers. Next I needed some clothes. There was still quite a bit of fabric left from my two bandanas, so I planned a little trench coat and a dress. The pattern of the dress started out as a sketch but evolved as I went along and figured out what worked well and what was too hard at this tiny scale.

And finally, here is the finished badger with her coat and dress!

This is where I ran out of steam, but I still have dreams and plans for the badger. I took detailed photos of the process and documented all the sewing steps. I also kept and adapted the patterns for the clothes and started designing more. My plan is to adapt this into a cut and sew pattern to sell in my spoonflower shop, and create a detailed photo tutorial to go with the fabric (You can see the cut and sew fox I have for sale here). I thoroughly enjoyed the process, and once again realised how much you learn through actually doing something. 

ps. here's a final photo of the honey badger with it's prototype. My daughter has adopted both, calling them mama and baby honey badger. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

sew a doll's dress from an old t-shirt

 doll dress sewing tutorial
We recently had a doll visiting for a few days, and as a thank you to the owner, a four-year-old girl who loves blue at the moment, I decided to sew a quick dress for the doll.

I've created slopers for making doll's clothes before, and its a simple way to create a pattern and ensure a good fit. With a sloper made for the body and the sleeve, I created a pattern from some scrap paper. To make the pattern, just add a bit of ease along the side, and add a bit of flare to the skirt pattern. Since I'm using jersey for the dress, there's a lot of give and forgiveness in the fabric.

I had a pile of old clothes ready to go to the charity shop and used this t-shirt to make the dress. A t-shirt is perfect for this pattern, since you can use the existing neckline and hem, and it was the right size for this doll.

Cut out the front and back of the dress, using the existing neckline of the t-shirt.

Use the hem of the t-shirt sleeve as the hem of the dress sleeve. As you can see on the left, the pattern for the arm is longer than the sleeve. If you use a long-sleeved t-shirt you could make a long-sleeved dress.

Sewing steps (not all pictured here):

1. Sew the shoulder seams. Check that the doll's head fits through the neck hole.
2. Sew the pockets onto the front of the dress. I first attached the pockets by hand before sewing them on with the machine, with stretchy jersey this means a lot less puckers!
3. Sew the sleeves onto the body.
4. Sew the side and under-arm seams in one go.
5. Sew the hem. I did a blind hem, but you can do any kind of hem.

Put the dress on the doll, and enjoy! You can add anything to this basic pattern, I added pockets, you could do contrasting pockets, add a gathered waist, use the pattern to make a t-shirt... 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

tea towel calendars and a 2 for 1 sale

Every year spoonflower holds a tea towel calendar contest at the end of November. These calendars are designed to fit on a fat quarter of linen-cotton canvas. This year my design features sweet peas. I worked on the winding trellises of sweet pea flowers during a holiday in Germany a few months ago and enjoyed creating a seamless repeat. I love working with a scanner and a printer which I don't have at home, it means I can work on multiple versions of the design by hand, rather than doing most of the touch-up and fine-tuning on the computer.
I shared a photo of the process on instagram a while back:

While I'm still tweaking the repeating pattern, I decided to use this for a calendar, since the trellis shape was perfect to hold twelve months.
Here's the final design, which is for sale now in my shop:

A close-up photo of the colours printed on fabric:

I also finally updated my 2015 blackberry calendar for 2016. This calendar is available here.

Finally, spoonflower is having a 2 for 1 sale on all fat quarters, so you can either get both calendars for the price of one or choose any other fabric or type of fabric in my shop!