Monday, November 24, 2008

How to..., design a softie, step two,

From pattern to prototype,

Apologies for the delay with this post, I fell behind with everything last week, poorly boy and poorly car.  Anyway, on with some more tips on progressing with that softie.  Next, you need to begin visualising your sketched design as a three dimensional object and identify the different shapes of fabric required to sew together, to build it up.  It is at this point decisions need to be made regarding the structure...,

...for instance, are you going to add in a gusset?, the image above shows a gusset added to the underbelly.  Gussets can be tricky to sew, but are worth persevering with as, I think, they do contribute to a more successful body shape, particularly with animals.

One vital point to remember is to add a seam allowance to all your patterns where needed, otherwise, your softie will end up a lot smaller than intended.  This is a mistake I have made, many a time!  The depth of seam allowance will depend on how much the fabric you are using frays, you don't want seams coming apart once your softie is stuffed, and also the thickness of the fabric, bulky seams will spoil a nice smooth body shape.

Going from paper pattern to fabric, is really just a case of trial and error.  It is very rare that I make anything that is right first time, there is usually quite a bit of ongoing pattern development.  For example, the cotton reels,  I drew out a basic pattern on paper, began to sew it up in fabric as a tester, but it wasn't quite right, so I re-drew the pattern and tried again.  Still, it wasn't quite right, so went back to the begining...

(my first 3 attempts at the cotton reels, there were more!)

Here (below) is something new I have been working on, the bees.  The first (the yellow one) looked more like a mouse to be honest (all it needed was a tail!).  I was really struggling with the wing size and shape in relation to the body, the wings looked more like ears.  With the second, I settled how and where I wanted to add stripes, but was still not happy with the wings (too big), and most definitely not happy with the larger eye!

With softie design, or indeed, anything three dimensional, designing can only be taken so far on paper, after that, you've just got to get the sewing started.  When it comes to fabric choices, I am a bit of a believer in the 'anything goes' philosophy.  After many years of working within the constraints of the textile manufacturing industry, it is great to be able to express my creativity with fabrics now.  I love mixing old and new, felted sweaters as a base with newer fabrics as an accent are my current favorites.

When I'm working small, I tend to make any prototypes in my already chosen fabrics.  If it doesn't work, there is not much wasted, and personally, I find it helps me work out the finer details, embellishments, buttons, embroidery I want to add, which I will talk about more in part three of this 'How to design a Softie' series.

Part three will be along later this week, and after that, I will finish off November with the christmas robin tutorial.  Its a busy week ahead, but Thursday is being kept free, Thursday is special, Thursday is the day I am meeting up with some other UK craft bloggers, more on that after Thursday!

(am praying my car doesn't break down again, please, please, pretty please!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

It's f-f-f-freezing...

...in our house during the day.  When I'm the only one in, I simply can't warrant putting on the heating just to warm up the smallest room.  So this evening have just whipped up these...

wrist warmers!


As I have so many felted jumpers lying around, all I did was chop off about 22cms worth of sleeve for each, cut a slit in the seam for my thumb, took it in slightly on the sewing machine (I have skinny wrists!), then blanket stitched round the raw edges (ie, the thumb hole and the bottom edge).  I also added a final bit of decoration, a (chocolate coloured, naturally!) flower.  The cuffs have been turned over to give me a bit more finger room for sewing (and breaking my bar of chocolate into chunks), and can be turned back to warm my hands up again, nifty hey!

Now my hands are toasty, I can get on with writing up the next steps of the softie tutorial and the christmas robin too, oh and a new Sew Hip project, oh and then there's the american magazine, the list goes on, and on, and on...!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Just a quickie...

Etsy shop update going on...

have just listed the poppy & vase and a couple of cotton reel pincushions today, 

more to come soon!

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to..., design a softie, step one,

Ideas, inspiration and resources, through to pattern development. 

This isn’t intended to be a definitive guide to designing, just a run through of the methods I employ, which have been honed down over the years I have been crafting. When it comes to softie design, the first step is to choose or at least have a vague idea, of what it is you would like to make, be it animal, insect, doll, inanimate object etc.  Once you have that, next, you need to begin searching for reference through the various resources available in order to refine the initial idea.  I find inspiration firstly, in amongst the books and magazines I have here at home, then by doing basic Google image searches.  For the purposes of illustration, I am going to show an owl (I can’t show something new really, have to keep at least some secrets!), first for actual real life owls, owl drawings and/or illustrations, and then for owl softies (can you spot mine?!), also trawling places like Flickr and Etsy. This is a very useful way of collecting inspiration and will also help identify what is already out there, design wise, is order to avoid any potential copyright conflict.  When I'm searching for ideas, in addition to looking for examples of styling and techniques that inspire me, I'm also looking at ideas to avoid, which may have already been done many times before.  I prefer what I make, to have it's own unique features and characterization.

There are some new online softie resources I've come across recently, the first has been created by Jhoanna of One Red Robin, a whole website dedicated to Softiemaking.  Then there is the website to go along side the 'Softies' books, (I have only just managed to get hold of the first softies book, and now they have brought out another!).  Both are full of ideas, links and downloadable free patterns to get you started.   On the MyCraftivity website, I have recently started a group covering plush and textile sculpture, which you can join to show and share what you make.  In addition to these, there is also Plush You and Softies Central which are both well worth checking on a regular basis, and a list of other places to look in the 'softie link' section in my blog sidebar. 

Once you have some images pulled together, it's time to get the sketchbook out.  It is through this process, that the inspiration you have collected, will develop into a much more personalised idea.  I tend to re-draw my design over and over again, each time taking it further away from what I have been using as reference, and closer towards the finished design.  


I also like to try and draw it from different angles, given that what you are going to construct out of fabric is in 3D, this is a useful way to think about how the different components will fit together, and also serves to highlight the various different pattern pieces you will need to draw.


Japanese craft books are ideal for gaining an insight into breaking down a sketch of a softie into a pattern, even if you can’t understand the words, the illustrations are hugely educational and convey most of what you would need to know in picture form.

Step two will be next, covering going from pattern to prototype, choosing fabrics and additional materials and the actual making of the softie. Now, I need to get back to my own sketch book and work on some new designs, thank you for all the ideas from my previous post, a huge help. 

See you soon!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'm still here...!

Can't believe it's been 2 weeks since I last posted, school holidays are now over until christmas, and our break was jam packed full of playdates, visiting family, shopping for new furniture, building new furniture all intermingled with a lot of coughing and colds all round.

I have been playing with my sewing machine though, and given the freehand embroidery a whirl...

am working on transforming the cotton reel idea into pin cushions for Etsy.

But look what happens when you visit your mum for a few days and leave your sketchbook unattended, her new puppy tries to eat it!

Now that the first issue of 'Sew Hip' has arrived in the shops, if you do make a kitten from my pattern, please do join the Flickr group to show and tell.

I am at that point with design work where I need to do some brainstorming and expand my pattern portfolio, so will be spending some time working on new ideas for a range of small softies.  While I am doing this, I am going to document the process and feature it here, in a series of blog posts.  The first will cover ideas, inspiration and development, the second will talk about selecting materials and making a prototype from your initial pattern, and the third will cover the finer details, embellishing and finishing off your softie.  Hopefully this series will inspire the designer within you to emerge!

But first things first, in order to kick start the whole process, how about a few ideas from YOU!

What shall I make?, animal, insect, plant, doll or inanimate object?