Nick the alpaca

I do not actually know how I found the alpaca pattern, but it sure was an exciting find! Shishi Girl has the pattern up for free download. Although I have a ton of projects that I need to be working on, this one flew to the top of the list. It was perfect for my friend’s birthday. I met her during my bioarchaeology field school in Peru in 2007 and not only did we eat alpacas (a taste for me, no more!) but she has one as a pet. (If you are curious, it reminded me of steak flavor but with pork chop texture.)

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Itwas my very first attempt at a “Softie”. But considering my large project for my niece Kaia (who incidentally was born on 1/30, yay!), I need to practice. People my age would set softies up on a shelf but little miss Kaia might find it appropriate to chew and squish and who knows what else with them so they need to be made very well.
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The pattern was very easy to follow. In fact, there are only 3 parts to it – a side (cut twice), the top of the head, and the belly. I was in such a hurry to churn this out and see how it worked that I didn’t wait to buy a fabric marker (I must have given the one I had back to the person I borrowed it from). I didn’t think it would be a problem to mark it in ink, but sure enough, there is a small spot on the face, of all places, that you can see it. Darn.

For it being my very first stuffed toy, I am pretty gosh darn proud how it turned out. I was careful with my measurements and so there’s really no weird pokey places where I was off on the seam allowance from one piece to the next. I stitched it together by hand, and you can see some of the stitching but I don’t think that it bothers me. I think it adds to the hand-sewn look.

I really didn’t know how she did the bridle so I studied the image and decided to just try it. Something like that would leave a big knot so I used a teeny tiny crochet needle and poked it through from the opposite side of the head, in the stitch line. Then I grabbed the knot and carefully pulled it into the toy and worked the crochet needle back out. It seemed to have worked pretty well. Then I just looped it around the nose, poked it through to the other side and up and over the head and back into the alpaca. I made a knot and again worked it back into the animal with the crochet needle. Then I tied the reins around it, like in the picture.

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The saddle was not included in the pattern, though the picture shows one. I just cut a piece of paper out and kept shaping it (folded in half) until I had the look I want and then cut the felt out with it. I beaded the blue felt first and then attached it to the black. Then I sewed it on to the body, hiding the knots underneath.

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The drawback to this for me was that perhaps I went too little for my first toy. I had a really hard time reversing to right side out with the ears and tail. I also had a hard time stuffing the ears. Although I should mention that I decided to leave the needle in when I reversed it (and I did clip the seam allowance all the way around). I started with the tail on one side and went up to the chest and knotted. Then I repeated for the other side and continued up to the head pieces going to the stuffing gap and back around to the finish the head and knotted. Then I sewed from the tail up the back to the stuffing gap and rather than knotting it like I know I would have done years ago, I left it there. This allowed me to stretch the gap open a little further, but not have such a wide spot to sew from the right side. My stitches were ugly, but I knew I was hiding it with a saddle. But the worse part about it, that you may have noticed, is that he is a little crooked. Once I started sewing the saddle on, it pulled it to one side and I couldn’t stretch it enough to even it out. And his head is just a little bit off (we call it the Taco-Neck syndrome;).

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I do have to say that I totally enjoyed it though, and cannot wait to do another! When I went out to pick up more supplies, I also grabbed some fat quarters, so I can’t wait to try it out with fabric and a sewing machine (that I currently do not have, poo). In fact, Shishi Girl offers a sting ray pattern – Kaia’s playset will be killer!

imitation flatteration

Most artists learn through copying. It makes sense – humans pretty much do it with everything: language learning, cooking, fashion, gadgets. What’s fun about it is adding your own spin and making it yours. This is how the world evolves. Something I will always try to do, though, is to never make money off of someone else’s idea. So in my search for creating “products”, those projects that I copied will never meet the standards. But, alas, sometimes I just have to try my hand at something, regardless of how blatantly obvious it is as a copy.

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This project was inspired by Princess Lasertron. She designs these brilliantly colored felt flowers, with all kinds of awesome buttons. She is a big hit currently in the bridal world, a new take on a traditional item. I strongly urge you to check her out, you’ll fall in internet love with her immediately, I just know it.

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I was simply itching to try this out, so what better opportunity than my pseudo-niece’s baby shower? The host and moi (as co-host) wanted to try our best to not be traditional, so this idea would be awesome as favors.

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I had no prior skill to felt crafting or even embroidery. I google searched, and came up with Sharon B’s dictionary of stitches – so helpful!! I learned maybe like 10 different stitches, and have plans to learn lots more. She has some amazing possibilities on her site.

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Anywho, I went around to local antique stores looking for jars of buttons and came up pretty empty-handed. So while visiting my gramma in Southern Indiana, I tossed it out to her that I was searching for buttons. Gramma is whom I inherited my packratting ability from. If anyone would have buttons, it would be her. And she didn’t just have some. Oh no, she had literally maybe 9 pounds worth of buttons collected over the years by her and my great gramma. I spent hours picking and choosing. It was très difficile, but I managed to borrow about 4 pounds worth.

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The host provided the felt and thread in colors that matched her theme. My pseudo-mom (she would be my Mother-in-Law should I ever get married) suggested using stencil paper. Great idea! I used my Cricut Expressions with a couple of different borrowed cartridges that had flowers and cut in two sizes – small ones of about 1.5” and larger ones of about 2.5”, so that I could stack them. I also made two sizes of leaves, in two shapes, that were about the right proportion to the flowers. Using a disappearing ink fabric marker, I marked all the felt and cut away.

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Another difficult stage in the process was matching up the buttons and colors. Princess Lasertron works with a slew of color palettes. I found myself being constrained to monochromatic themes. I don’t know how she does it. But then again, the color choices might have assisted me had they been my kind of colors (I prefer the colors that look so good, you could eat them:) These colors were not edible for me.

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I started with embroidering all the leaves, as singles or as sets of two, in all kinds of stitching. Then I put together a flower, found buttons to match, and began embroidering. I learned early on to sew the pin clasp first, as doing it after everything was stuck together was difficult. Sewing the buttons on came last, although ironically, sometimes the placement of the clasp made that part difficult too. Once the flower was completed, I matched it to a style of leaf and then moved on to the next. I definitely do not have these down to a science, even though I made 32 of them…

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I wanted something a little more special for the Mum-to-be. Princess Lasertron makes wrist corsages also, so what the heck, I’ll try that too! The host had realized that better color choices would be more fun, so she had bought some yummier colors. Unfortunately, neither of us thought to buy matching thread. Under normal circumstances, I could have gone out and bought some, but it was down to crunch time and neither of us had the time to do it. So, fortunately I had a box of embroidery equipment on hand from my pseudo-mom. She did not have purple thread to match the new colors, but she had black and a silvery kind. The flower creation turned out to not match the original ribbon I had picked out and it was about midnight the night before the party. What to do? Well, again, Fortune smiled upon me. Two years ago, my bro and his girlfriend visited and I found a nice piece of black ribbon in the room after they left. It was perfect. (See, packratting really does save the day!)

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I also wanted her flower to be better quality, but I could only work with what I had, so I doubled up the leaves and the back flower, for two reasons: it would be stiffer, thereby looking nicer on a wrist; and I would be able to hide the crazy ugly stitching on the backside. It was a learning experience to sew between two fabrics, but I achieved the look I was going for. It turned out super nice, and everyone loved all of the flowers.

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Craft itching satisfied, party favors succeeded.

The drawbacks to this project were: I only had one shade of fabric marker, so on the darker fabrics, it did not work so well. I do not have any other experience with fabric markers, so perhaps it is normal but maybe it was because I was using it on felt or the marker wasn’t a good brand, but the ink disappeared almost too fast to cut the shapes, even when I went over the stencil several times. I also originally attempted to make the backside of the pins look neat, but gave up. Some of them had the knot so close to the edge that it peeked out. We also used thin felt, and I believe that a thicker, sturdier felt would look more quality. The pin backing, being so tiny, is a little difficult to clasp and unclasp. And as I said, in my opinion, better colors would have been more inspiring to me, and might have allowed me options beyond monochromatic schemes.

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Also, check out these cupcakes that the host made:

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And how cute are these baby face cookies? Jill from Jill’s Sweets & Treats made them.

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baby on the way

So I’ll be getting a pseudo-niece, as I like to call her (I’m not married into the family quite yet). I know I want to make her a killer blanket, and I’ve been tossing around the ideas of themes and possibilities and I think it will be a floor blanket, with detachable toys. She doesn’t have to use it but I think ill have a lot of fun making it, and as a family tradition of sorts, new babies always get blankets, so I thought I would continue that.

That’s not what this post is about though.

This post is about a small simple project I made for the shower. Since I’m helping with the necessities of that, I didn’t really want to buy anything but I did want to get something cool. This seemed like a good compromise.

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It’s a Bo Bunny My Word Chipboard Album, reading “BABY”. I used mostly paper from Nana’s Nursery Paper Stack Baby Girl, by Die Cuts With A View.
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The goal was to create a photo album for the Mum-to-be. So I made some places to attach photos, with the measurements written in so she would be able to cut to size. There are two things I did not adhere to the book because they will sit on top of the photos she places in it, so they are still in a protective coating (the white rick-rack looking square, and the “baby girl” circle).

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I painted the edge of the chipboard white, so that it wouldn’t look as cheap. I cut the paper by laying the chipboard on it and using an exacto knife to cut around it. Then I added layers to it of other paper to punch the background up a bit. After all the paper was cut, I ran the pieces through the Xyron machines with the permanent adhesive paper and carefully lined them up and stuck them together. I used my Cricut Expression, with a borrowed cartridge of All Mixed Up to cut out some words. (Having a network of fellow Cricut owners saves tons of cash!!) I have a corner rounder I used on the photo mats, as well as some simple grommets. I had some old seam binding that I used in lieu of lace in the letter B. I had some tiny pink rope I used to attach all the letters together, and make a tie to keep the book closed. There is a little wooden tag on the end to loop through, rather than tying the rope.

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Had I thought of doing this site prior to the project, I would have had photos of the stages in between. I’ll try to do that on future projects.

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All in all, I liked this project a lot. The only thing I would do differently with this one is to run the chipboard itself through the Xyron machine, and then stick the paper to it, and then cut it out. It was a little difficult to match up the already cut letters to the chipboard once they were covered in adhesive. Live and learn :/

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