Tuesday, June 8, 2021


Happy summer! I can't believe that this is the last week of school and that summer - with most of its joys and opportunities - is actually here. Last year, we ended the school year in a very different mood, faced with the prospect of so many more "no"s than "yes"es. The kids were despondent and afraid, and sad in many indescribable ways. I am so thankful for the vastly different scenario this year. My heart aches for the communities in other places where the situation is the opposite, and closer to, if not worse than, our experience in 2020. May they find relief and help and hope, and very soon. 

I've been working on putting together the last of the bird kits for my Etsy shop (there are still some of each variety available, so you can pick them up here) and now that I'm done, I can return to documenting my birds here on the blog! Here's another one I picked out from readers' suggestions in this earlier post

In real life, this little guy has iridescent feathers and, depending on the lighting, can appear in photos in shades of green ranging from emerald to lime and even turquoise. Which, as you can imagine, is a tad challenging to render in fabric that isn't sequined or something else from the Halloween costume aisle of the store. After changing my mind about a million times, I eventually decided on a tie-dye green fleece to approximate the changing hues in the sunlight.  

His wings are a very simple green overlay on dark brown, which has stitching lines to mimic the flight feathers.

His tail is almost fin-like, 

and very similar in coloration to the wings - green over brown.

He has a red throat - again, in the photos, it seemed to be anything from scarlet to orange to deep red.

His bill is very different than the ones in the other birds I've made - long and skinny and slightly curved. If I were to make him again, I'd shorten it a little, but otherwise, I do like how he turned out.

I mentioned in an earlier post that while making this hummingbird and the oriole from the last post, I experimented with the grain direction of the fabric so I could show you guys how that affects the shape and proportion of a finished stuffed toy. I've discussed this idea previously in the context of bunnies when I was making prototypes for the Bunny and Carrot pattern - the conclusion then was that one grain orientation produced plumper bunnies and stumpier feet than another, and if we didn't want skinny bunnies (or, conversely, if we did), we'd do well to pay attention to the grain direction.

The premise holds for birds, too, and is particularly useful if one considers that some bird species are naturally rounder than others, at least as they are typically depicted. I think of robins, for instance, as fluffy things that puff out their little red chests and hop on the grass in mounds of feathers. Hummingbirds - when they're still long enough to see - are tiny little things, sleek and slender and zippy. Obviously, depending on the conditions, any bird can be of either profile, but in my mind, some birds are round and others less so, and I wanted to be able to represent that difference by choice when making mine.

Here's the body of the hummingbird, which turned out leaner and more streamlined than the other birds, although you might think it looks plenty plump here.

Until you compare it to, say, the oriole.

Here they are in a series of side-by-sides. 

It's probably most evident here. These are exactly the same body templates, by the way. The oriole's were cut with the stretch direction (fleece has some stretch in one direction) horizontal i.e. it stretches sideways, which is the grain orientation recommended in my sewing pattern, and most other stuffed toys. The hummingbird's were cut with the stretch direction vertical i.e. it stretches head-to-base.

This difference in stretch orientation also affects the overall heights of the birds,

as well as the proportions of one body part to another. Incidentally, I laughed when I took these juxtaposition photos, because it's ridiculous to imagine a hummingbird next to a blue jay in real life without being completely dwarfed by it, let alone beat it in a size competition.

So, grain orientation and stretch direction. It's not rocket science, really, but I thought it'd be interesting to see that we can in fact sometimes defy the instructions of a sewing pattern for advantageous reasons. Summary: if you want to make a leaner-looking bird, disobey my grain suggestion and turn the templates 90 degrees.

And with this green addition, I now have an almost-rainbow of birds.

I should really make a purple bird, like one of those purple starlings or martins. Maybe someday.

Till then, I wish you guys a wonderful summer. May you enjoy the sunshine and the glorious symphony that is nature: the sibilant dance of leaves in a sudden breeze, the crashing rhythm of ocean waves (if you're lucky enough to live along the coast, I mean, and no, I'm afraid lake waves don't come close), and the sweet descant songs of the birds. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Bird Kits In Stock!

Hello friends!

A quick post to let you know I've put some bird kits in my Etsy shop today. As I assemble more over the weekend, I'll add those as well. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Oriole - and a shop update

Made another bird last week. This one is a Baltimore oriole

Very striking coloration, that black and orange.

And a very easy adaption of the Goldfinch

Their wings, for instance, are identical except for the topmost layer - the coverts, I think is what they're called. The finch's are yellow,

while the oriole's are orange and black.

Its tail is the same as the Robin's and Cardinal's, but in orange and black.

Here is an interesting seam tweak: the oriole's black throat coloration dips partway down its chest, so the throat seam was changed to a V to reflect that.

Here is that v-neck compared to the Robin's much straighter one.

He was such a fun bird to make!

A quick shop update: 

the first round of bird kits sold out within the day, and some of you have emailed me about restocking them. Thank you especially to those who were specific with their requests, because I was able to factor those choices into my next order of materials. I have all the materials in now, and should be able to get more kits in my shop by next week. If you'd like a particular kit and would like me to put one aside for you, please email me so I can set up that reserved listing in your name. This way, you can be sure to get it before it sells out. Also, if anyone wants multiples, I can pack those as a single order. In addition to using less packaging, which is great for the environment, it also allows me to immediately pass on to you the savings from combined-item shipping. Each kit comes with a code for $4 off the Spring Birds Sewing Pattern, and I'll continue to offer this discount until the kits sell out. I don't plan to restock the kits after, so do stop in and pick them up while they're available. 

I'll update here when the new round of kits are in the shop, so check back soon!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Spring Birds Kits!

The Spring Birds Kits are now in my Etsy shop!

There are four different ones - one to make each of the birds.

Included in each kit are fleece and 100%-wool felt for the bird's body and appendages, knit fabric and poly pellets for the pellet bag, and safety eyes (I threw in an extra pair in case you make a mistake and need a spare). You'll need to provide your own stuffing and sewing thread in coordinating colors, plus black and white. 

Please note that while the kits are meant to be used with the Spring Birds sewing pattern, they do NOT include the pattern, which has to be purchased separately here on my blog or directly from my pattern store here (find it on page 2).

Each kit comes with an individual discount code for $4 off the sewing pattern, which makes this a sweet deal for a gift for a sewing friend. After Etsy has notified me of the payment, I'll email you the code, so be sure to use an up-to-date email address at the checkout. 

At present, there is a limited number of each bird kit, because I made a small initial order of the wool felt. If the kit you want is sold out, just shoot me an email and I can order more materials to restock them. 

Head to my Etsy store to grab your favorites now, and happy sewing!

P.S. I loved your bird suggestions in this post so much that I picked a couple from your list to make (also because bird-making is strangely addictive). I'll share them in upcoming posts, along with results from an experiment on how the grain orientation of the fabric may or may not change the shape of the bird. See you back here soon!

Spring Birds Sewing Pattern!

Over the past few weeks, I've been posting about the birds I've been making, and today I am excited to share the new Spring Birds sewing pattern with you!

It began with a single robin more than three years ago and although the plan was always to make more birds, I'd never thought of actually writing a pattern for the birds. After all, they were adaptations of the Menagerie pattern, so anyone who owned that could in theory make all the birds in the world from it. My kids convinced me otherwise - maybe sometimes people just want to make birds, they said, because they're small and adorable, and don't need nearly as much fabric as, say, a dragon. They certainly had a point, but I still wondered about the versatility of a pattern for (what I'd thought was a single narrow) subset of creatures. Then I started making these four feathered friends myself and was blown away by the sheer variety in just this one class of the animal kingdom. 

Hence the Spring Birds pattern: like Menagerie, but focused on birds. Later on in the post, I'll talk a little bit more about how the two are related, but for now, let's have a look at the Spring Birds pattern itself.

Here are excerpts of the sections on prerequisite skills, recommended materials and equipment.

A question I'm often asked about my patterns is the level of experience needed to undertake the projects in them. That's an excellent question, if a bit tricky to give a short answer to. I shared in an earlier post that I've recently started to crochet, and I've been devouring tutorials online on my learning journey. Some of them are labeled "easy", which is admittedly very motivating, although when I try to decipher the written instructions, they might as well have been in code. Others have no such label (interestingly, I haven't actually seen any that are helpfully labeled, "hard", for instance) but I'm still able to happily follow along with the stitch video, and by the time I'm halfway through, I can tell that it wasn't nearly as simple a technique as the ones in the "easy" tutorials. What has been immensely helpful in all the tutorials, regardless of their labels, is being told that I need to be familiar with "single crochet, double crochet and slip stitch" before attempting whichever fancy new stitch I'd set my sights on. Certainly being also informed that the project is "suitable for beginners" is encouraging, but it's nowhere as helpful as being reassured that I have the prerequisite knowledge to even begin to learn that new stitch. So whenever I write a new pattern, I include a section on the skills and techniques with which a seamstress should be familiar in order to feel comfortable with it. Like so:

and if there's a new technique that's required beyond those, I'll often dedicate an entire section to explaining that. Like so:

And I know that sometimes it's helpful to see how the instructions are written, so here are a couple of sample pages to give you an idea of the layout and level of detail.

Summary: this is not a pattern for absolute, absolute beginners - the sorts who've maybe just bought themselves a sewing machine, learned to sew a straight line on a piece of scrap cotton, and are poring over Pinterest boards for quick things to make. Spring Birds is not entry-level, although beginners with some experience with a sewing machine and a willingness to work with smallish pieces could totally make the projects. And if you've ever previously sewn a 3D thing, like a stuffed toy or a bag, you're set, too.  

Let's talk a bit about supplies and such:

I've tried to pick materials that can easily be found online or at fabric stores. Fleece, for instance, is widely available in many colors, and because of the small size of the projects in this pattern, you can even use microfleece (thinner version of Blizzard or Anti-pill) and still get good results. I'd be cautious about luxe fleece, or any of the Polartec fleeces above the 100 weight (see this post for more info about these types of fleece), again because their greater bulk quickly adds up in the seams. I am of two minds about minky: on the one hand, it's soft and wonderful; on the other, it tends to be more stretchy than the 2-way stretch this pattern calls for, and you might end up with unexpectedly rotund birds. Although if that's what you were aiming for (and certainly I will have nothing but praise for spherical outcomes), then go for it.

As always, I recommend 100% wool felt if you can get it. Especially because some of the pieces you'll be working with are small, you'll want a good-quality felt that doesn't tend to pill or disintegrate. Wool-blend felt is a good alternative, certainly a better one than acrylic/craft felt, at any rate. That said, if you don't have access to wool or wool-blend felt, buy the best quality felt you can find, and if it happens to be acrylic, then that's OK, too. There is a range in the quality even among the acrylic felts: pick the sort on bolts over the 8" x 12" squares, if possible.

You can buy 100% wool felt online from Etsy and other suppliers. The sort that works well for projects like these are roughly about 1.2 mm thick and often made from Merino wool. An 8" x 12" sheet tends to run upward of $3, plus shipping, which is ten times that of a similar-sized sheet of acrylic felt, but it's well worth the extra cost. Different Etsy stores offer a slight discount if you buy multiple sheets, and many let you pick the colors you want. I buy my safety eyes from craft stores, which sell them in little packs of maybe a half dozen pairs, but you can also get them online (try Amazon) in larger packs of 50 pairs.

Three things to note before you purchase the pattern:

One, there are instructions to make the four different birds pictured below, but they're all derived from one set of base templates which I call the Bird Templates. Variations aside, the construction sequence is very similar for all four birds, so it should feel familiar after you've made one or two. My hope is that you'll enjoy the variety of tails, wing layers and color combinations and that these different features will also inspire you to make other new birds beyond these four. An oriole, for instance, has very similar wing markings to the finch's, and many birds have a similar tail shape to the Robin's and Cardinal's. And of course a sizable number of other birds have distinguishing crests like the Cardinal's and Robin's - woodpeckers and hoopoes and cockatoos come immediately to mind. I've loved learning about birds while doing "research" for this sewing pattern! They are astoundingly beautiful and unique.

Two, the Bird Templates are derived from the base templates of Menagerie, with some seam tweaking and new avian appendages. However, you do not need to own or even be familiar with Menagerie to use this pattern. If you do own Menagerie and are game for some experimentation, you can adapt (and shrink) the base templates of Menagerie to create these bird designs. 

Three, I have a few bird kits in my Etsy store. I'll post about them later today or sometime tomorrow. Emily and I had a lot of fun assembling them for you last week and we're thrilled for you to have the option to purchase almost* all the materials you need for each bird in one place. These are materials-only kits i.e. the sewing pattern does not come with them and will have to be purchased separately. That said, when you buy a kit, I'll send you a discount code for $4 off the cost of the sewing pattern, so if you're planning to buy both, get the kit first and wait for that code before purchasing the pattern, OK? 

* Q: "Almost"? 
   A: Yes, you'll have to provide your own stuffing and all-purpose sewing thread, but otherwise, the kit contains all the other supplies you need. 

A final word: I've mentioned "smallness" a lot in this post and I hope that no one reading it feels a sense of escalating dread or anything like that! I believe that there is a discernible difference in working with smaller pieces - curves are more pronounced, circumferences are tighter, and seams can feel bulkier simply because of the smaller spaces around them. And some folks with stiffer fingers may simply not enjoy adorably tiny projects if there is a lot of fiddling about with aligning and turning things out. I highlighted the smallness not just to help manage your expectations but also in accommodation of that size: better quality felt will make smaller pieces last longer and handle better, techniques to achieve better seaming at edges with tight curvatures, etc. Rest assured that there is only one step right at the end where you'll turn the project RS out through an opening, none of the fabrics are weird or slippery or hard to stitch through, and most of the pieces can be assembled flat.  Just take your time and don't try to rush through the project - the extra care you take as you pause to reposition fabric under the presser foot will go a long way to have everything lined up and smooth.   

Enough said! Let's get sewing! Email me if you have questions! Otherwise, go to my pattern page on the blog here 

or directly to my E-junkie store here (scroll to Page 2) to buy the Spring Birds PDF Sewing Pattern!

Happy making!