The Artful Bird: Creating a Swan from a Shirt


I hope you bought in the new year in good spirits and high hopes and plans for 2014. This is going to be a good year, I can feel it 🙂

As part of my holiday project a day, I decided to tackle something different than hand sewing felt. Santa was kind enough to being me The Artful Bird by Abby Glassenberg (who writes an awesome blog by the way) and since I didn’t have any wire for legs, I decided my first foray into creative birdie making would be the sitting swan.


My sister runs a fashion clothing shop and is often passing me on things she doesn’t wear anymore. Quite often I don’t end up wearing them either, but if they have some creative potential they may end up in my fabric stash. This top was one such example, and it definitely said “Swan” to me when I saw it!

The shirt before my fabric scissors got to it!

The shirt before my scissors got to it!

To get the pattern I had to trace from the book and then enlarge the swan body on the computer, which I found very frustrating to get it to print the enlarged image size correctly, but (somehow) managed it in the end. I am new to reading patterns and sewing gussets and got muddled on where to gusset actually went, and it was only after I had sewn the body parts together that I realised my mistake – off to the scrap heap for attempt number one!

Second attempt came out much better now I had a firmer grasp on the technique, and sewing up the swan body was pretty easy. It calls for a rock to inserted in the belly for stability and we have masses of river stones in our front yard, so it should have been a quick nip out and back… except my neighbour spotted me for a chat, during which I had to try to inconspicuously hide the fact I wasnot wearing a bra (it was holidays and it was hot!) while she filled me in on the Christmas goss.

It was fun to not worry so much about a perfect finish when sewing the details.

It was fun to not worry so much about a perfect finish when sewing the details.

Sewing the body was the basic bit, making the wings and features was the fun bit! The original swan was a bit … lacey for my tastes, so I went for a more rustic feel of roughly cut fabric strips intertwined with some of the fancier bits of the original top. I sewed pipe-cleaners into the top of each wing to give it some structure, but I think I should have gone all the way around to make it really stand on its own. I added the beak and face as per the book, but I think looking at it now I think I would have preferred the whole sculpture to be in the cream to give it a more classic look.

What a lovely swannie, the only downside was seeing the seam allowance through the fabric (see pic 3)

What a lovely swannie, the only downside was seeing the seam allowance through the fabric (see pic 3)


The swan was a really fun craft project and I enjoyed wizzing around on the sewing machine for a change. I am pretty happy with the end result for a first go, and now that I have the gusset idea in my head, I am excited about how I can apply this to other birds (Curlews and Kookaburras on the top of the list!)

My version of a swan from Abby Glassenberg's book The Artful Bird

My version of a swan from Abby Glassenberg’s book The Artful Bird


1. I was disappointed I could see the seam allowance through the material once I had stuffed the swan. I need to look into what other fabric types I can use that won’t be so transparent.

2. Working on the sewing machine really helped in the getting the project completed quickly. It was very satisfying to see it all come together in a matter of hours, I like the idea of sewing up the basic form and then spending the time enjoying working out and adding the embellishments. Something to look into more…

3. Gussets – YAY! So many times I see how things are done, but I just need to have a go to wrap my head around it. This pattern really helped me understand how to design a 3D soft sculpture, a style I definitely want to pursue in the future.

4. I am glad I tweaked a pattern to make it more ‘me’ and went for a look a bit different from the one in the book, I am not sure what I would do with a frilly swan! It also lead to a bit more experimentation and adapting to work with what supplies I had.

I am definitely going to buy some florist wire so I can have a go at some birds with legs and I will be on the look out for other materials I could use in future birdie creations.

What ‘a-ha’ moment have you had while working with a new pattern?

Holiday Day Project Challenge: Foxy Girl

With the madness of the Christmas period finally over, I ended up spending some very hot summer days in my craft room being distracted and generally very unproductive. It’s annoying to have the time to create only to end up with nothing to show for it but an increasing alarm for the well being of the residents of Midsummer County with it’s exceptionally high murder rate.

So in an effort to motivate myself I set a challenge to complete a sewing project from start to finish in one day. I had plenty of felt and a few Ginger Melon patterns I had bought in the holiday sales so I chose the Peak-A-Boo Fox pattern and got started.


It wasn’t as smooth sailing as I had hoped, especially given the temperature, my very unergonomic chair and my cat Ash’s contribution, hence my resorting to some left over Christmas bubbly for comfort and encouragement. 😀

Helpful assistance by Ash followed up by a more bubbly assistant to get this project finished

Helpful assistance by Ash followed up by a more bubbly assistance to get this project finished!


Ta-dah! Here she is!

What a foxie little lady!

What a foxy little lady!


There are a few things I learnt from this experienment

1. Hand sewing takes FOR-EV-ERRRRRRR. I plan to do a tally of how many hours it takes on my next project to get an idea if its viable for selling.

2. I love felt because it doesn’t fray, but I am still having issues with the white breaking apart and bleeding fibers into other areas.

3. I need to be better at storing my creations away from rogue stuffing/cat fur/fibers. I left this one on my desk, then chucked it in with other dolls and it has lots of tiny fibers on it. It’s a fairly small doll but I still notice it, especially when doing the photos. Grrr.

So that’s it = CHALLENGE COMPLETE! If you would like to try this pattern, you can pick it up from Ginger Melon’s Etsy shop.

Have you started on any projects over the holidays?

A Handmade Christmas

I decided to try a handmade Christmas this year, and as usual despite my forward “planning” I only began three days prior. Add to that I spend most of Sunday procrastinating by watching ‘Midsummer Murders” instead of designing the doll I was going to make, it’s nothing short of a Christmas miracle that they were ready for unwrapping at our Christmas eve family dinner – PHEW! 😀

handmade christmas

The fruits of my sewing labour – a handmade Christmas!

What I made:


My darling Dad passed away earlier this year. I had an idea of making something with some of his old clothes, so my Mum and my sister chose a shirt each of his that they liked and I decided to make a Dad-Shirt Cushion which is good for hugging. 🙂

dad pillow

Yes, the red and white pillow does have pirate ships, skulls and hula girls on it!


Through my obsessive softie research on Pinterest I had seen a number of amazing custom people softies so I decided to make one of my Dad for my sister. His pants and shirt are made from some of Dad’s clothes we kept – he even has a tiny hankie in his pocket!

I used some fur to make his hair – it was much too long (perfect for a Christopher Llyod doll!) so I gave it a hair cut and OMG my room was COVERED in flyaway hairs! (Being hot and having the fan on didn’t help the situation) but I really like the added ‘realness’ it give.

dad doll

Do you see a likeness? I wish I could have captured his smile, but all teeth ideas I had just looked creepy!!


My mum bought me the sewing book Hop Skip Jump and when my niece found my trial version of the Quick Red Fox she was smitten, so being the good aunty, I made one especially for her. Her excitement when opening it was magic 🙂

I used fleece for the first time which was relatively easy to sew, but despite the fleece being suuuuuuper soft and delicious, it piled on the red one particularly, so I ended up spending an additional hour snipping off all the piling. (A bit overboard?! I cant help it, I like to make things neat…except maybe my craft room!!)

fox softie

A cute fox, but the piling is annoying!


Since we had Christmas Eve with the family, we spend Christmas day with friends. They have two boys and having hit up their Mum for their favourite things I ended up making Batman inspired ‘Flynn-man’ and a Skeleton who was later christened ‘Robert’. Fair enough. 🙂

super hero softies

Robert still has pins in him – there was no time for photos after he was finished!


Lastly I decided on Christmas morning that I needed to make something last minute for our friends that we were visiting – WHY DO I DO THAT?! So at the time we were due at their place I was frantically wrapping and showering and trying to get ready – lucky their place is only 5 minutes away.

felt christmas ornaments


Remember how I said I like things neat???

craft room reality

Exhibit A – evidence of a crafting explosion 😛


It was definitely worth the time slaving away in very hot craft room, I am already thinking of ideas for next year – let’s just hope I learnt my lesson from this year and get started early! (sha, right!)

How did you go making your Christmas gifts this year?

Hand Sewing Learning: Gingermelon Patterns

After trying my hand at Noialand’s felt patterns, I also stumbled across Gingermelon’s lovely handsewn creations on Etsy. With so many patterns of cute bears, kittens, dolls and clothes that could be made out of felt, I had a hard time choosing where to start! (And yes, I did end up making a chart to see which purchases would be most beneficial in my learning – so lame!!)


I ended up in choosing the mohair teddy bear pattern without first checking if my local Spotlight store actually sold mohair – as predicted, no such luck. So instead I decided to use my newly ordered felt which feels much more firm and solid than the last lot I purchased.

The pattern pdf is much more basic than the Noialand one I previously used – it is all hand drawn and written out, but it very clear and easy to follow and much more printer friendly! The initial pattern for the mohair bear had the arms being sewn inside out and OMG, trying to reverse those tiny little arms was almost the death of me!! After the first go doing the Aqua Bear, I decided that the mohair must give more than my thicker felt, so I just stitched around the outside for the Blue Kitten which made it a much less stressful experience!

Those bust-my-chops arms! And wonky eyes :/ Still I think they look pretty sweet

Those bust-my-chops arms! And wonky eyes :/ Still I think they look pretty sweet

These little guys are so sweet and with the new felt I am finding the finish much more clean and professional looking which is excellent. I ordered the colours with some other projects in mind, so if I plan to make more of these, I may have to work out the palette and order some more specifically. But that is probably a way off yet – I already have heaps of felt to get through!

Hey there little guy!

Hey there little guy!


1. THE WONKY HEAD! I am still not getting it somehow, and they are bobbling all about the place!

2. As mentioned, turning those little arms inside out – too fiddly by half! It is much easier to stitch the outside, but I wouldn’t mind trying this pattern on a bigger scale with a sewing machine perhaps.

3. Take the time and get it straight! On my first go with the Aqua Bear I obviously was too excited and put those eyes on wonky 😛 The Blue Kitten was an improvement, but will have to keep an eye on that (boom-tish! “eye” on… geddit?!.. oh never mind…)

4. My new 20-35% wool and 80-65% rayon felt is sooooo much better, it makes all the difference in how the final product comes together. You can buy it at Benzie Design on Etsy.

These patterns are simple but they look great, I plan on investing in some more so I have a few projects I can go to where I can just enjoy the process of sewing without having to ‘create’ too much. If you want to create your own tiny teddies, there is plenty to choose from in Gingermelon’s Etsy shop!

How are your favourite pattern makers? I would love to find more patterns to try!

Custom Doll: Jareth & Sarah from the Labyrinth

I don’t ever remember watching it as a kid, but when I was introduced to the movie the Labyrinth as a teenager I was smitten. The costumes, the singing and dancing, the puppets, Jennifer Connelly’s teenage acting and let’s not forget David Bowie’s infamous crotch! (it’s a thing)

I adored it so much, that I even had a ‘Nursery Rhymes & Fairy Tales’ themed 21st just so I could dress up as Jareth the Goblin King. OH YES I DID!!


No fairy princess dress for me thanks!

If you don’t know the story, the gist of it is spoilt teenager Sarah wishes to the Goblin King (Jareth) that he take away her annoying baby brother, and because Jareth loves her, he grants her wish. Then Sarah claims she didn’t mean it, so Jareth sets her the task of getting through the impossible Labyrinth in order to get her brother back.


My previous project making the Beauty and The Beast pattern by Noialand, sparked an idea of what I could make next. So I started researching (ok watching the movie again) and drawing out some ideas and got to sewing…

My inspiration was the masquerade ball where Jareth tries to convince Sarah to forget about her quest - very sexy is a weird and slightly wrong way!

My inspiration was the masquerade ball where Jareth tries to convince Sarah to forget about her quest.

I chose these costumes as the masquerade ball is my favourite part of the film – filled with dancers wearing elegant 18th century styled ballgowns accompanied by hideous goblin masks. Sarah is stunningly beautiful and her wide eyed innocence is perfectly contrast against the creepy feel to the ball. Jareth keeps appearing and disappearing before her, and the best part is when he comes over to dance with Sarah and sings to her – *swoon*! (For a children’s movie, they sure weren’t afraid to work the ‘Lolita’ element!!)

"Though were strangers till now, Were choosing the path between the stars, Ill leave my love between the stars..."

“Though were strangers till now, We’re choosing the path between the stars, I’ll leave my love between the stars…”

The basic cut of each of the dolls was very similar to the original pattern, although I added a base to Sarah’s dress and lengthened Jareth’s jacket at the back. What took the most time was the beads…. OH THE BEADS!!! I had enough for Sarah’s dress, but was sifting through my big stash of random seed beads to find ones for the jacket and quickly ran out of blue. I had the opportunity to buy more blue ones at Spotlight, but me being a tight-arse decided not to spend $6 on the blue ones but $2 on another bag of random seed beads and the proceeded to struggled to find enough blues in that one too! Will I ever learn? (history points to ‘probably not’)

"Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City..."

“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child you have stolen. “

Their facial expressions turned out pretty well, I think I captured Sarah’s wide eyes but maybe she looks a bit more pouty than I planned! I enjoyed taking all the elements I had seen of their costumes and trying to bring it back to the basics where they are still identifiable characters. And I loved the research element and being able to dig into the detail. (Although I am pretty sure my husband was sick of me playing this video on loop!)


No ‘Note To Self’ this time! The new felt worked so much better and made the dolls feel really special and sewing these two up in a familiar pattern made it pretty easy on the whole. I am keen at looking at maybe moving away from such ‘cute’ patterns to try and develop a more creative style of doll, so Jareth will probably make an appearance again in the future. 🙂 <3

"Live without the sunlight, Love without your heartbeat, I, I can't live within you..."

“Live without the sunlight, Love without your heartbeat, I, I can’t live within you…”

What kind of movies do you love? Have you ever tried to make your favourite character?

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