To round up this series, I really just want to talk a bit about decoration, embellishing and finishing off a softie. As my background is in embroidery, it is only natural that it appears in a lot of my work. My all time favorite hand sewn stitches include blanket stitch, which I use mainly for edging. It is an ideal stitch for joining layers of fabric together for things such as wings, as it protects the raw edge from fraying.
Seeding, is another stitch I often use, for instance, on the egg (above). I like stitching seeding in a mixture of colours as it gives a subtle, yet effective decorative finish. Seeding also works very well when mixed with french knots (below). The majority of my embroidery is done in pearl cotton, mainly in size 8, but I do sometimes use 5 (thicker) and 12 (thinner) too.
In my own work, I tend to favour buttons over beading as decoration, no reason other than it is just my personal preference. I love using embroidery on softies as it adds another dimension to the whole design. Appliqued patches can be added in a decorative way, making the stitching part of the whole design, as well as functional. I hand sew the faces for all my softies and find, many a time, that I unpick the mouth in particular, quite a few times and redo it to get it right, facial expression is very important.
Some other designers who I would recommend looking at if you are wanting to add embroidery to your design are...
Mimi Kirchner, her work has some very intricate embroidery involved, Louise, from Prairie Mouse, whose hand embroidery (in fact, all of her sewing) is so amazingly neat, and this one is not totally about embroidery, but my all time favorite softie maker, Stephanie Congdon Barnes.
One major part of finishing off, particularly if you are making softies to sell is, what are you going to call it? Softie?, Plush?, I tend to shy away from the term 'soft toy'. In the UK, in order to market something as a soft toy, it would really have to go through laboratory testing for health and safety. The difficulty in this for me, is I vary the patterns I work from, they are continually developing, and every time the pattern changed, it would need to be retested. Over the past year, I have totally readdressed, in my mind at least, how I view my design work. I have wrangled over the fact that my natural style is kind of cute, which visually, tends to automatically bracket my softies as a toy. I know now, that is not where I want to be, where I want to be is more ornamental, sculptural, decorative, dare I say it... art?!
Another word which could be used is 'Stuffed',
I am very excited to say that some of my softies and an interview appear in the first issue, out January 2009. The magazine looks amazing with some fascinating work featured.
So that's it for softies for today, it's back to refereeing arguments over the playmobil advent calendar and deciding whether or not we persevere in the name of sharing, or give in and buy another so they have one each!