Wednesday, March 4, 2015


So here's how it all began.

I was languishing in the bleak midwinter, minding my own business, finishing up my sweater dresses and planning my next tutorial series on zippers and bags and such, and suddenly felt I needed to sew a new softie.

So I consulted with the smalls who live with me. Because I was too lazy to think of one myself, especially when those children are foremost authorities in the area of handmade toys. Their suggestions were enthusiastic but overwhelmingly varied (and thus not very helpful in and of themselves).

I detected, however, the seductive possibility of mass-producing, which I always like.

Although it did seem a bit more insane than usual if that mass-production was required to produce completely different animals.

Unless I sewed them the same way I sew garments - from a universal sloper, adapting that base template to create different looks. 

Could I?

(Roll eyes). 

All we needed was a good, versatile base pose that would work for most animals. And an upturned face. Children love upturned faces. And open arms. Upturned faces+open arms say, "I am forlorn. Pick me up and hold me." At least, according to Kate, passionate advocate of the upright variety of stuffed animals (read her theory of the Puffy-Flat Softie Dichotomy here).

So . . . featureless prototype . . .  tweak. . .  stuff . . . unpick. . .  redraft . . . rebalance . . . mark . . .  mark . . .  mark. . . pin . . . pin. . . pin. . . (repeat) . . . etc. etc.

It didn't take as long as it sounds, friends. Drafting softies is not like drafting clothes. They don't have to fit custom contours. They only have to not fall over, and they need cute faces. Easy. Two days later, we had the base template and we were all set for evolution.

This is the first species I made - a king penguin.

I took certain liberties with his coloration and swopped out his yellow throat for yellow feet instead,

and left his bill entirely black.

The aim was not to recreate a perfectly accurate copy of the real animal. And this will be more evident when you see some of the other critters. Instead, I wanted to see how much variation I could tease out of a single base structure by just adding simple, defining features. After all, it's no challenge to make scores of different animals. To really get the creative adrenaline pumping, one must make all those animals from one pattern.

The true test would be the children: I'd make the animal without telling them what it was, and if they could identify it, it passed. If it also scored high on the cute factor, it was a bonus. In other words, natural selection, ikatbag style. We all have our ways for coping with winter, right?

And now you get to see the ones who made the team - a species a day, till you've met the entire menagerie.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Species #18

And I'm done. He is my last. I have so, so many others in my brain and in my sketchbooks, and my kids are still yelling out suggestions to me, and pulling faces that not all of their Top 10 Animals have made the final cut. But I must stop. Really. Or I could go on forever. And then I'd never sew anything else and my sewing room would never be cleaned up and I wouldn't be able to find all my favorite CDs under the mess and then how will I live?

I will attempt to take photos in the coming days and share all the animals with you so you can pick your favorites. And then, friends, we can talk about the pattern. Because there is one. But just one,

because it's part primer, part softiesloper, from which to make them all.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

And now they're breeding


What was it they said in Jurassic Park?   "Life will find a way."
Evidently it did.

And speaking of Jurassic Park:

Kate thought he was the dragon.
I scoffed. 

P.S. Thank you for all the Scary Dragon/Cute Dragon comments to the previous post, friends. It was like, "Make Smaug!" "No, make Toothless!" I think I'll play fair and aim for Awesome.

P.P.S. Once I stop procrastinating by making other non-draconic creatures, I mean.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Species #14

Or maybe it was #13. Or #15. 
I'm losing count.

I thought the pig was my favorite, and then I made this guy.
As my reward, I get to cut out the dragon tonight. Should I make him scary or cuddly? Would your kids care?


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


If I made a pattern, would you buy it?

(Please say yes, because I'm already at species #13 and still diversifying, and if you say no, what on earth am I going to do with all those photos???)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Six Weeks of Love For Softies


I have been hibernating and eating chocolate.

It's winter, see.
And the cold has sapped all my happiness.

Every summer, I sit at the pool with winter-amnesia and think, "Hey, this is exactly like Singapore but without the claustrophobic masses of people and the suffocating humidity!" and wonder how I could ever have had any emotion other than joy and peace and goodwill toward men, women, children and small animals. 

Then January happens and . . . oh, yeah, I remember now.
Seasonal bipolar disorder, is what I call it.
The locals call it "Uffda, It's Above Zero Today, Let's Go Jogging Outdoors In Shorts."

And January turns into February.
And February stays forever.


look what the good ladies at Sew Mama Sew have got up their sleeves for the next six weeks to take us into spring (may she vanquish winter forever and ever, amen)!

Check out the guest list! 
I will be there. With a soft toy.
Among some very serious soft toy engineers.
I do not consider myself a serious soft toy engineer.
I rather imagine myself a cardboard person who also sews bags and clothes because she can't find stuff in the stores to buy. And sometimes toys, because her children asked her nicely.

But, honest self-assessment aside, I am very honored and a bit frightened to be among such distinguished company.
So frightened, in fact, that I went off the deep end two weeks ago and started sewing so many soft toys that we might need a house extension unless I consider selling some off just to make room to move around. 

But the children all said, "Yay! Another one! Please don't sell this one!" whenever they came home from school to find me wild-eyed and with bits of stuffing adhered to my clothes.

So, catastrophic sewing room notwithstanding, I know I'm on the right track, because my children have excellent track records in toy quality-control and market sampling.

And that is the end of my story.

Until March, when you can find me on SMS sharing a softie sloper/block (because I sew everything from slopers and blocks, so why should toys be any different?). In the meantime, enjoy the series, make some stuffed critters with the guests, donate a toy, win a Pfaff machine and chase away the winter blues. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Am Sewing The Animal Kingdom

. . . and that is why I am doing my hermit thing and unvisiting Blogland.

Wait till you see the dragon!