Monday, January 31, 2011

How To Make A Stick Horse

When I first made stick horses here, I adapted a no-sew tutorial from Family Fun magazine so I could use my sewing machine. People wrote to ask how I made my stick horses, and I always referred them to that original tutorial. As I made more horses, and eventually unicorns, I drew up a pattern because I wanted uniform-sized horse heads, and the freedom to sew everything on, including the eyes, before gluing the heads to the sticks.

This pattern has been sitting in my to-finish tubs for a long time, as has the stack of torn jeans that I wanted to turn into more horses. After organizing my sewing room, I felt like everything in those tubs needed to go. And people are still writing to ask how to make these stick horses. So here is that pattern and tutorial, and a horse head to give away at the end.

Note that my torn jeans, split open, look like this - just to encourage you that yes, even that hole in the knee is OK for turning out a pretty decent horse:

Here is the pattern. Click on each page so it becomes US letter size (8.5" x 11") and print it out. The first page is templates for the ear and eyes, and a diagram for the bridle. The other 4 pages are to be connected (follow the numbers) into a single, long pattern. This pattern is for both the top and underside of the horse head.

Some notes:
  1. There are NO seam allowances. Every piece in those 5 pages is the FINISHED size. Add your own seam allowances to everything except the eyes and nostrils (which don't need seam allowances).
  2. When you have cut out and stuck the 4 pieces together that form the complete horse head pattern ABEF, use it to cut two pieces of fabric out - one for the top of the head and one for the underside of the head. You will sew them together to form a tube.
  3. If, however, you choose to keep one side seam of the jeans leg, as I did in the picture above, then you should layout the pattern so that either AE or BF (depending on which leg of the jeans you're using) lies along that side seam.
  4. ABCD is the template for the snout/muzzle of the horse. Use it to cut two pieces of brown fleece - one for the top and one for the underside of the head. When the horse head tube is assembled, these two snout pieces will wrap around the entire snout area of the head.
  5. The top of the horse head has all the embellishments - eyes, nostrils, ears, mane, fringe. All the positions for these are marked in black. The only exception is the position for the unicorn horn, which is marked in pink.
  6. The underside of the horse head has only one sewing feature (apart from the snout/muzzle) - and that is the big curved dart that forms the neck. This is drawn in light blue.
  7. It is perfectly OK to deviate from the dimensions of the pattern - I have made many horses and unicorns without a pattern, of different sizes and proportions, just to fit the size of the jeans legs I had to work with. I've also had to shift the positions of the ears, neck and mane to work around pre-existing tears in the fabric.
  8. Instead of sewing on the eyes and nostrils, you can also choose to hot-glue them on when the horse head is finished. I did that with my first horses and unicorns just to be sure the final face wasn't lopsided or unintentionally creepy.

You can use the pattern on actual old jeans, or just cut up brand new fabric. Here is a rough materials list - I am not including yardage because you can figure that out yourself by looking at the pattern pieces:

  • Old jeans/other fabric
  • Fleece for the muzzle of the horse
  • Scrap felt for eyes and nostrils
  • Fabric for the inside of the ears
  • Yarn for the mane and fringe - a whole skein is more than enough.
  • Stuffing
  • A 1" dowel (mine was a yard long, bought at Michaels) or mopstick
  • Ribbon for binding the neck of the horse to the dowel
  • About 2 - 2 1/4 yards of 1" webbing for the bridle.
  • Long piece of cardboard about 8" wide - or use the cover of a shoebox.

Righto- let's begin.

Step 1
Press the seam allowances of the inside ear piece inwards. This tutorial might be helpful.

Step 2
Top-stitch them to the ear pieces.

Step 3
Pair up one ear piece that has an inside-ear piece sewn on, with one that doesn't. Place them right sides together and sew all around, leaving the bottom edge unsewn. Snip the seam allowances where necessary and turn right side out. Repeat for the other ear.

Step 4
Pleat the bottom edge of the ear to roughly 1 3/4" wide. Sew down this pleat to secure.

Step 5
Make the mane. Wrap about 100 loops of yarn around a piece of cardboard about 8" wide. I used the cover of one of my Abandoned Projects tubs - they are shoebox-sized.

Step 6
Carefully remove all the loops and sew through their midline with regular straight stitch. It is OK if the overall length of the mane increases - we will bunch it up later. Set this aside.

Step 7
Lay and cut out the fabric for the horse head.
If your jeans has a huge rip in it like mine,

position the pattern so that the rip is at the big neck dart.
Cut out the horse head, remembering to add seam allowances. Transfer the positions of the darts for the neck, the mane and the ears/fringe, as well as the eyes and nostrils, onto your fabric.

Step 8
Lay the midline of the mane along the midline of the mane dart, and sew along this midline to attach the mane. You may need to bunch up or spread out the mane in order to fit in the dart.

Step 9
Fold over, and sew the narrow dart to enclose the midline of the mane within it.

Here's a close up of the dart

and how the mane looks, stuck in the dart.

Step 10
Make the fringe. Wrap about 20 loops around the 8" piece of cardboard/storage tub lid

then ease it out carefully, and sew down its midline as with the mane in Step 6.

Step 11
Lay the midline of the fringe in position along the midline of the fringe/ear dart. Arrange the ears as shown on each side of the fringe. Sew along the midline of the dart to secure all three in place (you'll be sewing very close to the bottom edge of the ears).

Step 12
Fold the fringe forward, and then the entire fabric over to enclose the ears and the fringe. Then sew shut the dart to secure the ears and fringe within it, the same way you did with the mane in Step 9.

Step 13
Working with the underside piece of the horse head now, sew shut the neck dart. Mine has all the messy rippy bits enclosed within the dart.

Step 14
Attach the snout pieces.
Sew the short edge of one snout piece to the short edge of the other to form a long snout piece- or cut it out as one long piece like I did. Place the top sewing line of the snout piece on line CD, as shown, right sides of the snout piece and the horse head together. Sew along CD.

Flip the snout piece over, topstitch the seam, and sew the bottom edge of the snout piece to AB of the horse head. Stitch on the nostrils.

Step 15
Cut out the eyes - choose comic or come-hither -

and either top-stitch them in place, or save them to glue in position later when the horse head is stuffed and completed.

Step 16
Fold the horse head in half lengthwise, right sides together and sew the long side seam to make a long tube. Notice the lumpy-and-yet-hollow cheek area between the ear/fringe dart and the underside neck dart? You can leave it as is, and tuck it into a fold when the horse head is stuffed.

Or you could join the ends of the darts (sew on the wrong side of the fabric) so that it is a smooth line. You choose.

Step 17
Leaving the tube wrong side out, sew long running stitches about 1" below the edge AB of the horse head, all around the circumference. This is to gather the horse snout shut.

Step 18
Pull to gather, and wrap the thread around it (it will be bulky) a few times, then tie off in a good strong knot. Cut off the excess thread.

Turn the entire horse head right side out - the snout will be all puckered up like so.

All the sewing on the horse head is done!

Step 19
Stuff the horse head, and insert the dowel/mop stick in position. Gather the bottom edge of the head around the stick, and hot-glue in place. Wrap yarn or cord around it to flatten the gathers.

Step 20
Wrap and hot-glue ribbon over the yarn and gathers for a neat finish.

Step 21
Cut open the loops in the mane and fringe, and trim to length.

Your stick horse is complete!

Now we will make the bridle. Note that I didn't include the exact dimensions of the parts of the bridle, because each bridle will be different, depending on the final size of the horse head after stuffing.

Step 22
Measure around the snout of the horse,

around the area just behind the ears

and the distance between the two positions.

The bridle is essentially two loops of webbing (or stiff ribbon, if you like) that are connected by a long U that will form the reins. Measure and cut out three lengths of webbing:
  1. one for the snout loop (include overlap allowance)
  2. one for the behind-the-ears loop (include overlap allowance)
  3. one for the reins. 
Finish the cut ends of the webbing so they don't fray - you can use fray check, fold over like a hem and stitch down, or you could use the candle method (for nylon webbing).

Step 23
First sew closed the two loops that will go around the snout and behind the ears. Then cut a long piece for the reins - the cut ends will be sewn to the outside of the snout loop. Try this on your horse and mark the position of the behind-the-ears loop along the rein loop. If you look at the picture below, this behind-the-ear loop is not perpendicular to the rein loop, because of the slant of the neck.

Now your horse is completed AND has a bridle and reins!

Some questions I anticipate:

Q I can't get the pattern to print out as letter-size. Can you email me the pattern?
A No. I apologize on behalf on my iMac, if your computer and mine are incompatible. It happens sometimes. Please do the best you can. I don't have the time to email patterns out individually. And no, I don't wish to upload a pdf version onto a free-download site, either.

Q Are you going to do a tutorial on the unicorns? A No. They are the same as the horses, just white, and with a horn.

Q Are you going to show us how to do the horn?
A No. It's not difficult. It's just a skinny cone. Cut a triangle with a curved bottom edge and sew it up into a cone.

Q Yes, but how do you attach it to the forehead?
A I'm going to eat nutella now.

And now - the giveaway! I am giving away this horse head - no more sewing needs to be done on it. You will need to provide your own stuffing, dowel, ribbon and glue to assemble a stick horse from it. There is also no bridle/reins - you'll have to make your own. So it's only the unstuffed horse head, OK? In the picture, I rammed random lumpy softies inside it to pad it up to give you an idea of what it will look like when it is stuffed.

If you'd like to win it, just leave a comment on this post by bedtime Friday Feb 4. Please make sure there is an email address at which I can contact you if you win. I can ship internationally, so any one in the world can enter. I'll pick a commentor at random on Saturday Feb 5th.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Smoooooooth Waistbands

At your request, here's the tutorial on how to make the waistband of the pants in the last post.

This is not a tutorial for the pants: I'm assuming you have a pair of pants that merely needs a waistband. A suggestion for maximizing the smoothness of this waistband: use as small a waistline on your pants as is possible. Remember that the waistline needs only be as big as your hips to be pulled up over them. If you entertain excess ease in your waistline, it'll all show up bunched under this waistband. 

I recently saw a similar tutorial on someone's blog that inspired me to try waistbands like these. I made one adaptation to that tutorial: in Steps 1 and 2, I sewed both the elastic and fabric loops closed before assembling the waistband. I did this because I like to hide all my seam allowances if I can. Sadly, I cannot remember the blog - I only remember that I left a gushing comment that included the words "yoga pants". If you're reading this, thank you! And would you also please raise your hand and shout, "Me! Me" and leave a comment so we can all go visit and give you credit?
*** update: found it, thanks to KJ@letsgoflyakite - here it is on The Mother Huddle!***

Let's get started:
You will need wide elastic and some stretchy fabric for the waistband. I used some knit remnants. You can also use ribbing, interlock, jersey - anything like that. Note that the pants themselves are a little stretchy, being made of sweatshirt fleece. I have not tried this with wovens - it seems incongruent somehow.

Step 1
Get wide elastic - mine was 1.5" wide - and measure and cut the length you need. Overlap the ends and sew into a loop.

Like so:

Step 2
Lay the loop flat on the waistband fabric (folded double along the left edge as shown) and cut to size. This is going to encase the elastic band, so it has to be as long as the waistband, and twice its height plus seam allowance. My waistband loop was 22" long and 1.5" wide, so the waistband fabric piece, including 1/2" seam allowances, was 23" long and 4" high. Remember to lay out the fabric so that the waistband stretches sideways (from hip to hip) rather than from top to bottom.

Sew the short ends of the waistband fabric (right sides together) together to make a tube.

Step 3
Fold the tube in half lengthwise, with the right sides facing out, and slip the elastic tube inside. You now have a casing for the elastic that hides it completely, and has the bottom edge open.

Step 4
Flip the waistband upside down so the unfinished edge is on top. Notice it is a little smaller than the waistline of the pants. You might want to make quarter-circumference marks along the waistband for alignment with the pants later.

Step 5
Slip the upside-down waistband into the top of the pants. Line up the seamline of the waistband with the back center seam of the pants and pin in place.  Line up the quarter marks of the waistband with the other seams of the pants and pin those spots in place too. Ignore how my seam allowances are all of different widths - it's just the way I sew. 

Step 6
Start sewing, stretching the waistband to match the waistline of the pants as you go. Stretch in both directions - behind and in front of the presser foot. Sew as close to the edge of the elastic as you can, but not on it.

Here's a picture to show the bulge of the elastic to the left of the stitching line - the stitching line hugs it pretty closely.

When done, it should look like this:

Step 7
Serge/finish the seam allowance of that seam you just sewed and keep it folded down (not turned up) as in the picture.

Step 8
On the right side, top-stitch on the pants, close to the seam, making sure the seam allowance is still tucked underneath so that you are sewing through it to keep it folded down.  

Finished waistband - in denim blue

and rose

just to show you that it works even in pink!

Two variations:
  1. For sweatpants with adjustable waists, use draw cord elastic (the kind that has a channel in the middle with a drawstring) and make buttonholes (or use eyelets) in the center front of the waistband.
  2. For yoga pants, make a wide/high and snug waistband of some shape-control fabric like lycra or polyester knit and omit the elastic.