a brother’s Story

So I am still looking up little patterns to help me learn sewing skills and inspire new ideas. Since most of the patterns I find for free ask not to be used on products for sale, I really need to get a grasp of how patterns are created so I can make my own. If I ever get that good, and keep the hobby up, that is.

So my bro’s birthday was coming up and I thought it would be yet another good excuse to try something. Rather prematurely (and by no fault of my own – the pattern just doesn’t exist where I can find it!) I tried to create my own pattern, loosely based on the guinea pig here. See, he had a guinea pig named Story, but she passed away long ago, so why not give him a cuddly squishy piggie in memory of her?

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My first attempt worked well as far as getting the white and tan body sections, but when I pieced them together, I realized I would need a spacer for the body to make it fatter. In addition, I wanted the legs to stick out but wasn’t sure how, so I just went in with guns blazing, cut along the leg line, sewed it back shut, and was very unimpressed with the results altogether.

Undaunted, though, I am. So I continued, again, and created a spacer for the top of the pig. What I didn’t consider was creating another for the bottom. DOH! I also opted to embroidery the legs rather than try to do anything fancy with them being 3d.

I took the pattern from that website, added a tale, and cut it in half, with a slightly curved line. I made the back half out of tan, and the front out of white, and stitched each side together along the curved line.

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I just kinda guessed the shape for the spacer, but I knew I wanted the head and body to be fat, whereas the middle section could come in a little. I also made it half and half.

I pinned one side to the spacer and sewed them together and repeated on the other side, then I stitched all around to sew the two sides together, leaving a big hole at the bottom – much bigger than needed for stuffing, but I wanted to keep it open to embroider the legs (I could have done that first I suppose, before any sewing had been done, but Im a noob).

When I reversed it right-side-out, it appeared that the shape of the spacer gave it more of a dog face look than a guinea pig. I was NOT going to make a third one, nor was I going to remove all of the stitching, so I kind of reshaped it by adding a seam in the middle of the head portion. It didn’t work too badly – not something I would do again. I would make sure that it was the right shape. But for the learning purposes of it here, it would suffice.

Then I stuffed it full, stitched it up, and began working on a shape for the face coloration. Once I finally got a paper version, I traced it onto the tan felt and cut away. My gramma’s borrowed buttons saved the day again, as I found two beady eyes to place (not exactly as small as I was going for, but really suited the look compared to my other options). I also used the website’s ear pattern, and sewed a tan one to a white one and attached it to the face coloration part.

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Similar to the alpaca’s saddle, I sewed it onto the head. What I somehow didn’t notice was how crooked I pinned it on, but honestly I didn’t think it took too much away from it. I mean I wouldn’t sell this one, its definitely not up to par of the quality I want to churn out. But for my second softie, and my first somewhat hodgepodged pattern, Im pretty happy with the results.

I think in this example, having a spacer at the bottom might have been all it needed -not one at the top. This is a pig not meant to be viewed from the front or back (in which it looks a little creepy with only one leg)- this little pig much prefers profiles instead.

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So the guinea pig I made was a hit with my friends. They suggested I added whiskers and maybe a nose. So one day I decided to test it out with just whiskers. Using the same technique with the crochet hook, I pulled the knot into the body, and used white crafting thread to make some whiskers. Then it just looked like it was noseless, so I added a little pink nose, and used pink thread to add the details. I also pulled the eyes together so they didn’t stick out all goofy like. It was okay, but I still was not in love with the way it looked. So when my pseudo nephew Cam went crazy over how it looked just like Bugsy from the new movie Bedtime Story, and he asked if I could make him one, I just gave him that one. He was really happy and told me it meant a lot to him. How sweet!

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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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