Thursday, July 2, 2015

Menagerie For Sale!

I am happy to announce that you can now - finally - buy Menagerie!

Some quick links:

1 This post tells you what's inside Menagerie, how to use it, and what sort of skills and materials you will need for the projects.

2 This post has a free download sheet of hand stitches that are used in the projects of Menagerie, and which are useful for sewing soft toy in general.

3 This post introduces you to some of the tools that I have found useful when sewing soft toys and dolls, including a home-made funnel for channeling poly beads into small and deep spaces.

4 This post contains FAQs and background about Menagerie.

5 This post documents the thoughts and sewing experience of my stupendous pattern tester Grandma G (thank you, Amazing One!) as she ploughed through Menagerie and test-sewed the kangaroo and joey. Lots of photos!

Some quick facts about the pattern:

1  The file is about 13 MB. Make sure your device is able to both download the file and store it before opening the file.

2  This is a pdf pattern. I repeat: this is a pdf pattern. This means that it is not a paper pattern. It will not be delivered to you in your postbox by the mailman or the UPS guy. It will come to you via a link in an email. You will need to download it yourself, open it and print it (if you want). You will need a program that reads pdf patterns in order to open it. Adobe is an example. Preview on the iMac is another example. Microsoft Word is a non-example. WatsApp (or Twitter or Facebook) is another non-example.

3  The templates (there are 14 pages of them) have NO SEAM ALLOWANCES. This is to enable you to enlarge and shrink them more easily to make animals of different sizes. It is also to enable you to easily assemble the integrated tails and modify the base template to do different things and make different animals. Some people will prefer having SA included in the templates. To that, I say, "Tough." I also say, "Learn to lay out without included SA because once you get used to it, you will experience a liberation like no other and you will never look back; among other things, it allows you to accurately mark sewing points and lines and match up edges. But if you still prefer, you can turn the SA-less templates into SA-included ones by cutting them out with a 1/4" border (my kids call it "bubble cutting") around the relevant edges, before laying them out on the fabric."

4  When you print out the template pages, make sure to set your printer to print at 100%. This is what my printer menu looks like when I command it to print a page - it chooses 91% because it thinks it's clever.

I override it and set it to 100%. Notice that the image is now bigger. Also notice the square in the top right hand corner of the image - this is a 1" callibration square. If your page is printed at 100%, that square will measure 1". Your printer menu will not look the same as mine if your printer is different, but they can all be set to print at 100%.

Now, it is not a terrible thing if you forget this print-at-100% step. The templates will all print out proportionally smaller and you'll still get a cute stuffed animal at the end of your sewing adventure, albeit a slightly mini version. However, some parts of your animal's anatomy are measured independently from the template sizing. See red ovals:

If you are using shrunken templates, these other pieces might be a tad large and would need to be cut proportionally smaller, too. Moral of the story: don't let your printer tell you what to do; show it who's boss and make it print the right size.

5  Menagerie costs US$24. Originally, I wanted to price it at US$50,000 to reflect the amount of work that went to it, but talked myself out of it. You're welcome for the 99.952% discount.

Email me or leave comments if you have any questions, or if you have problems with the download, okay? We're going to be at some lake (i.e. no internet connection) for the Independence Day hols, but I'll be back at my computer after the weekend to help you all out.

Alright, enough talk. Go here to buy the pattern, and thank you for all your support and interest! I hope you enjoy sewing the animals of Menagerie and learning to create your own. Go forth and fill the earth!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We'll Turn Manhattan Into An Isle of Joy

I spent this past weekend in Manhattan. 

It was not so much to see the city, to which I'd been many times B.C. (Before Children), but to meet Edwin, my friend whom I hadn't seen in ten years. Because we now live in different countries, we've been trying to find each other in various cities around the world but year after year went by without our schedules cooperating. This summer, the stars finally aligned and it was "Oh, you're going to be in NYC? We can meet! Okay, I got my ticket. I'll see you next month! Woohoo! Waitwaitwait... I've got kids. And someone has to watch them. Ooops. Uh..."

No, it wasn't quite as dramatic as that. This friendship, though, is. It has spanned decades and continents. But more on that later.

Let me begin by saying that having lived -and driven everywhere in my minivan- in Minnesota, I went slightly nuts in the 2 hours it took to get from the airplane runway to the apartment. Air train, walk, E train, walk, 6 train uptown, walk. People everywhere. Street food vendors selling generic edibles. Too many cars per square inch of road. It felt EXACTLY like Singapore, in other words, but with nicer weather.

What was especially lovely about meeting in a city in which we both weren't really tourists - me having done the tourist thing to satiation long ago, and he having lived here in the years while I was here doing said tourist thing - is that we could focus on just talking and eating. There was walking, of course - just so we could transplant ourselves from one eatery to another. And because we were so busy talking and eating, I did a very lousy job with photodocumenting the trip. 

Here's probably the only shot of me in a tourist pose. In the rain, no less. And the only reason this photo got taken was because I wasn't the one taking it.

Here follow a series of photos taken with three different cameras (all mine, used according to whichever's battery wasn't dead at the time).

And just to ensure I had something artsy to actually show for this visit (it is NYC after all!), we went to one museum and watched one movie (between eating sessions).

We walked along the High Line to the newly-reopened Whitney Museum

to enjoy art and a lovely sunset (see first photo)

and stopped at various new and old haunts for (as earlier mentioned) food.

Most of our food stops, though, were for sugar. The Magnolia Bakery's caramel cake still gives me goosebumps - it was so good I ate all the icing, when I usually scrape off all the frosting from cakes because they're like cement which someone thought to sweeten and add color to;



and hot chocolate thick as melted ice cream - both hot

and frozen.

There was a little bit of token shopping - although I wasn't in NYC to shop any more than I was there to be a tourist. I made a pilgrimage to Mercer Street for this:

The staff let me take as many pictures as I wanted. Yes, this is a camper.

I am in love with those accent pillows. And the water jug on the shelf. And the print on the lampshade. And the entire retro cabinet. And everything.

More swoons.

I bought only one non-food item for myself during the entire trip -

this binder for my sewing room.

If you make the right kind of friends in your life, they will not only give you fabric as gifts (which  Edwin does on a regular basis), but learn to sew so that all your vacations can include a bit of fabric shopping and drafting conversation. And it was after one of these conversations that it was decided: Edwin needed to sew a shirt in the very near future. Because Mood Fabrics (people who watch Project Runway will know which store this is) was closed on the Sunday we wanted to go fabric shopping, we ventured into Brooklyn to the very charming Brooklyn General Store,

which, as the reviews so aptly put it, felt like your grandmother's sewing room.

There, we bought the fabric for the shirt. 

I did not buy any fabric. Well done, me. But I fell in love with this toadstool. Wouldn't you?

Shared fabric obsession aside, this is a friend who is game for anything, including forgoing sleep to continue the talking-and-eating. We lay awake into the wee hours of the morning, unpacking our lives in increasingly deeper layers and being completely unsurprised at how much we have changed while staying exactly the same. The thing about psych. people (he's a therapist and I am a lapsed-license counselor) getting together is that we now possess a shared vocabulary with which to define the mysterious and nebulous emotional journeys we navigated in young adulthood. It was a treat not to waste time swopping superficial "how have you been these 10 years?" stories; we could now dive right into the richer strata underneath to swim the currents of catharsis. 

While eating strawberries in chocolate fudge ice cream and nutella.

Then it was time to come home, both emotionally drained and revived, as one often is at that moment when one's soul is washed and made quiet. Saying goodbye was such a non-event by comparison - just a hug at the subway turnstile and reminders to "take the E uptown, not downtown!" and "I want to see photos of that shirt when you get it done!" There was no need for a backward glance when you have already found words for the things to say that matter. There will be other meetings, we promised, but -for heaven's sake -sooner than another decade.

As the train sped away, my thoughts turned to what to cook for dinner when I got off the plane in Minnesota. Life goes on, as it must. There are meals to serve, late-night stories to recount to the husband, hugs and kisses to apportion to the girls, sewing patterns to launch, zippered bags to make and teach. 

Speaking of the girls, here's a bit of parenthood to share: this being the first time I've been away from home for an extended time since they were born, this trip was a big deal for them. There were tears and lost appetites and heavy hearts and tantrums, and other manifestations of the sorrow of Missing Someone. We'd talked about it and processed their feelings and anxieties beforehand and while I was away, we communicated by cellphone and Facetime. While observing the ebb and flow of their moods, I was tickled by how differently and creatively the three girls coped. One of them threw herself into responsibility, taking on the household chores and comforting her sisters. She emailed me to say, "Now I appreciate how much work you do for us, Mom!" Which made me giggle - there's nothing like your kid admitting, "You told us so." Another diligently journaled what they did during the time I was away and read it to me when I got home. The third made a shopping list and sent me on a kind of scavenger hunt for things to buy, like it was her way of assigning meaning and purpose for the trip beyond "Mom being gone." 

Once again, I was reminded that it is exactly because children are so creative that they are also incredibly resilient. We just need to teach them the vocabulary of feelings so they can pull out whatever's deep inside them and process it. Even after being home a whole day, the girls still get the occasional rush of emotion that feels like they're continuing to miss me. I love that they're telling me this while simultaneously admitting that it sounds crazy. In return, I tell them that after their bodies and hearts have gotten used to missing someone, it takes time to stop missing them, especially if that person is precious.

And now it is time to return to work - I have a softie megapattern that you need and something else that I'm excited to launch soon!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Menagerie Pattern Early Next Week!

We're almost there, friends! I am sooooooooooooooooo excited!

In the meantime, as promised, here are some screenshots of pertinent pages of the pattern, for your preview (and preparation) pleasure.

First, the introduction section containing information on equipment and skills and material that you need to tackle the projects. 

Next are the index/contents pages, so you know what you'll be getting, and how it's all organized, and why it isn't just "a bundle of seventeen individual animal patterns". Remember, this is designed like a softie primer, meaning the main aim is not just to provide you with templates for making x number of identically-shaped animals but to teach you how to design standard animal features (limbs, tails, ears, etc.) that you can use for other softies in your life, not just the ones of Menagerie. 

So, summary:

1 Menagerie is a 92-page pattern, including the cover page. Of these, 

  • 14 are template pages,
  • 22 are text-and-color-photo pages of foundational instructions that teach you about making softies and softie parts in general, and
  • 48 are text-and-color-photo pages of instructions for specific animals
  • 4 are diagram pages for assembling, adapting and varying the templates.

2 The Squid is included. The Fish is partly included. This means that there are instructions for adapting the base template to make the Fish templates, and there are instructions for making the fish lips, but there are NO actual fish templates for fish fins and fish eyes and so on.

3 You will need a program for reading pdf documents as well as a printer for printing out templates. You also need to know how to set your printer to print things at 100%. This means that if your printer has the bad habit of choosing its favorite scale (they call it "print to fit") as its auto-setting, you need to know how to override that and force it to obey you and give you what YOU want. This is easier than it sounds - all printer settings have this function, and it's usually as simple as clicking one of the options in a menu on your computer screen, but not all of us know where to find that and don't realize that printers can sometimes be sneaky behind our backs and try to get away with murder unless you show them who's boss.

How do you know if your printer is evil? Answer: if you know exactly what I'm talking about in this paragraph, you're in control. If you're like, "What? There are different sizes? I thought I just hit 'print' and the printer does everything," you probably need to ask someone for help.

Monday, June 22, 2015

More Zippered Bags

That Time Warp barkcloth is just the most beautiful thing.

And the marriage of Time Warp and vinyl? 
My happiness knows no bounds.

Now that Kate's Minecraft party is behind us, I am sewing bags again.

This one was inspired by a drum.

The straps work for slinging this bag from shoulders,

or for holding by hand,

or hanging on arms.

There are two zippers - the first is around the lid, of which I'll show you more pictures another day, and the second is in the base, so that the entire bag folds flat.

When we meet this bag again, we'll be learning how to do a full lining with hidden seam allowances (without cheating by binding) on BOTH the top and bottom rims of a tote, plus a zippered cover. Technically challenging, but so much better-looking results, and therefore worth learning.

Then there's also this one:

Whom we met in another life as the dubiously-named Craft Bag,

but which has since been given a makeover with a zippered strap. Still not sure what to call it though - I'm leaning towards Trapezium Tote, but that's a mouthful, not to mention controversial, since it seems that people within the US and without can't seem to agree on what exactly a trapezium is. 

Or maybe we should call it The Controversial Carry-all.
Or not.