Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Woodland Creatures

Making my own Christmas decorations has been a bit of a tradition since we moved into our own first house about ten years ago with only a car boot full of belongings to our name.  We didn't have much cash to squander on non-practicals but I did have my sewing machine and was given some tartan wool fabric to make cushions.  Instead I used it to make star shapes which I strung together on gold string and hung them everywhere.  Making our own decorations is also something of a family tradition, I still have some made by my mum, beautifully bugle-beaded felt shapes that hang from the tree every year. This year sees the addition of some cheeky woodland characters who live together in a festive garland.  

I have made one or two of these just about every evening this week, sketching a template using inspiration from British woodland and garden animals and birds.  I've tried to keep the shapes simple and exaggerate their colours and markings in each case.

The shapes are cut out of felt and hand sewn together.  There is a front and back section for each animal, with a little wadding slotted in between (some leftover bump interlining from a curtain-making project in this case, but you could use a couple of extra layers of felt).  I added the details such as paws, tails or other features on the front half of the animal before sandwiching it all together and sewing around the edges.  Not forgetting to tuck in a loop of ribbon at the top to hang them up with.

Here's the back of the bristly badger.  

Robin and fox appeared first, followed by badger, wren, thrush, owl and the little doe.

All this has been done whilst sitting on the sofa in front of the television with minimal need for concentration or application, just happy faffing around with scissors and felt and a box of trimmings.  What I hadn't noticed immediately, was how mildly annoyed they all appear to be!  Mr Cunningham the Fox looks as though he might be already anticipating with trepidation the boxing day hunt, the curmudgeonly badger is most definitely in a surly mood and even the red squirrel looks cross.  Perhaps because he can't quite reach that tantalisingly sparkly pear. 

The little eyes are all black, metallic glass beads to give twinkle.  I wanted to keep the stitches visible and used a mixture of cotton thread and some thicker embroidery silk for the sewing together, I think it suggests quite well their fur or feathers.  Whip stitch keeps the front and back sections together nicely but you could use blanket stitch to good effect. This little collection of creatures are very cute and very festive, nestling between the pinecones and lights in their forest garland.  Even if some of them are looking a bit Bah Humbug!  

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Wool Tweed ChrisMoose Present

Here's a sneaky look at one of my Christmas makes, which may or may not (ahem!) be a present for somebody.  At the moment I'm wobbling about giving it away, as it's extremely cute and my children will snaffle it if they catch sight of him.  The pattern for "Chris Moose" was inside Sew magazine recently (October edition that featured the Christmas 2015 templates) and although I don't often sew craft items or soft toys, as my house could honestly be filled to the rafters with them, the tweedy combinations of this toy appealed to me, as well as the opportunity to use up some stash fabric.  

Also with Christmas approaching I am definitely much more inclined to indulge my urge to enjoy make crafty things and cute stuff, and then I can give it away.

This festive fellow is actually made out of some fabric from yet another charity shop find that made its way into my stash a few weeks ago, when the winter apparel started to appear on the rails.  It was a pure wool tweed, full length skirt from Laura Ashley.  Sadly a size or two too big for me and as it was supposed to be a fairly slim fitting style, it was very obviously baggy around the waist and hips even when wearing a longer top to cover the top few inches.  I could have adjusted it of course, taking the waist band off, taking the seams in and perhaps adding some darts for shape.  But to be honest that's not why I bought the skirt.  It was purely for the beautiful dark brown herringbone wool.  

The refashion/remake pile is a stash I try not to let get too big because I could end up with just a big pile of unwearable clothes that are going nowhere fast.  I dislike having to alter clothes generally, I do find that unless I really see the potential for altering that will reveal a fantastic result, it tends to be dull, faffy and fiddly sewing and lowest on the priority list for me. I have been known to apply myself to altering things, if it's a piece I love and I absolutely know it will be worth doing, like the grey leather skirt I took up recently, but I normally defer to making something completely from scratch.  However picking up interesting garments that are made of lovely fabric, from charity and thrift shops or table top sales, is irresistible to me.  Something of quality will always come in useful to me.

Working with pure wool is a real treat I think, and just as much with little novelties like this as with a garment to wear.  It is easy to work and shape, has great colour and is soft, warm and durable.  Chris is sporting several different types of wool here with his red check antlers, forest-green herringbone hooves, cream check belly and toffee coloured ears all being made up of contrasting little pieces and offcuts.  He has definitely got the cuddle factor, but also looks nice hanging out on the sofa in a seasonally appropriate kind of way.

His eye is tricky to see here as the enormous moosey antlers are casting a shadow over his smiley face!  The weather has been so awful here lately, the dark days have made taking photographs a bit of a challenge, hence the bright kitchen lights making deep shadows inevitable. Anyway you can just make out that I've used some black silk embroidery thread in satin stitch to make his peepers, although I could just as well have used buttons, which would have been a cute addition.  I've used beige thread for his mouth (slightly wonky sewing evident here, but adds character, no?) and two nostrils.  

His body needs the stuffing packing pretty tight in order to stay upright and so the legs don't buckle (I used washable, polyester stuffing that is specially for soft toys but you could also used material scraps if you wanted).  He holds up very sturdily then on his four legs, albeit with a rather John Wayne stance about the rear end!  You need to interface the antlers so they stay rigid and don't flop around too much, but as you can see here they stay up quite well.  The pattern recommends you sew the tail onto the body after stuffing and sewing up, however I chose to insert his tail into the seams between the body and gusset before sewing, as I think it looks neater.

I've finished him off with a ribbon round his neck and a little spotty bell.  This is a pattern that could, with a little alteration easily become a reindeer, using grey brown colours and the changing the shape of his antlers from rounded to pointy.  There's plenty more wool in the stash for a few more friends to join him!