Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Here You Go

I'm home.

Singapore was great, but there's nothing quite like sleeping on your own bed. Or sleeping not-on-the plane. Or just sleeping, really. 

We're slowly coming out of the jet lag - it's always far worse coming home than going there - but the kids are back in school, the husband is back at work and I am . . . well, I'm doing whatever it is I do when everyone is out of the house. 

And one of those things is getting these guys together for a photoshoot. Because you all asked for a group shot, remember?

Here you go then:

This is where the animals live usually - in my gigantic light box (a post for another day). 

Poor things. 

Yesterday morning was lovely, so I released them outside for some fresh air. They were delirious with joy - check out all the slouching and posing and gossipping and faceplanting between takes. 

It wasn't easy getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time, but at least nobody stuck their tongue out and made silly faces. Well, nobody apart from the frog, anyway.

And yes, I'm working on the pattern! I worked on it on the plane, but there is still some way to go before everything is typed and drawn and measured and formatted. I'm aiming to finish before May, so let's see if I can avoid procrastinating long enough to do so!

Alas - I'm already distracted. 

Last night, I stayed up (thanks, jet lag) and conceptualized 16 bags for my new tutorial series. 

You guys are going to love it. 
It's all about zippers. You all love zippers, right?

I can't wait to share it with you! 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Menagerie Pattern Coming Soon!

I am in Singapore now.

In other words, I'm procrastinating.
(Like you're surprised.)

However, here is a preview shot of Menagerie!

All those animals in one photo. All from that single base template. No kidding.

I'm working on this pattern, friends. I may be slacking off in the sunshine here, but I brought the pattern with me to slack off with. When I get back, it will go to the testing lab, and then I will let you know as soon as it's ready to buy. I just wanted to do a pre-release post with some info because I've received so many email messages from you guys asking if you'd missed the actual pattern in the deluge of daily creature-features. So no, nobody's missed the pattern. I've not finished it yet. I'm aiming for April sometime.  

Let me explain a few things about it first, though. 

1 Templates! Templates! Templates!
At the time of writing this post, there are 14 pages templates alone. Just templates! But then, that's 14 pages of templates for 17 critters. Which isn't a lot. Because, as we keep mentioning, it's just one base template and a lot of smaller add-ons and extensions. And the same construction sequence. Which means that by the time you've made a couple of these guys, you'll be able to do the rest in your sleep. 

2 Fabric
You don't need a lot of yardage for each animal - about 1/3 of a yard of fleece is sufficient. Obviously, you'll need more colors if you want to make all the different features and contrast panels, and you'll need wool felt or wool-blend felt for the smaller details. And while I made a few of my samples with fancy fur, you can really make them with regular fleece. I'll share the materials list soon.

3 Sewing Level
Can beginners sew these animals? I say yes- especially the simpler variations, although it really depends on what you mean by "beginner". The dragon, having lots of add-ons, and with that curved tail, will require a slightly more adventurous spirit. And remember that there are practically zero straight seams in this project. So if by "beginner" you mean "I've only ever sewn tote bags and zippered pouches and the occasional gathered skirt with elastic and I can't sew a curved seam" then this might be out of your current repertoire of skills. Go try the raccoon variation on Sew Mama Sew to see if you'll be okay with it. Most of the variations will be just like that. 

4 What's In The Pattern?
The Menagerie Pattern will obviously not be the same as the raccoon tutorial, because it's not raccoon-specific. After all, it has to teach you to make 17 different animals (and more). However, the pattern covers much more instruction than the tutorial, contains loads more photos (including detailed how-tos on those ears!) and focuses on the framework and concept of this base template. In other words, rather than paying for 17 repetitive tutorials on constructing the 17 animals, you learn how this base template accommodates the various parts of the animal - how to add limbs, ears, eyes, tails, how to make hooves, paws, bulgy patches, spines, horns, bills, and how to make flat, padded and filled shapes for wings, feet, tails. I wrote it to empower you to create your own animals from this base template, beyond the 17 I've included for inspiration. Think of it as learning to make just one project, but being equipped to turn it into many, many more.

My kids have been beyond thrilled to watch me turn out animal after animal in my sewing room. They were very disappointed when I announced that I was finally stopping! This is one of the pages from my drawing pad - you can see the original concept sketches and how the final versions may or may not have looked like them. You can also see some of the critters that I chose not to make, because they were too similar to some of the others that made the shortlist. 

I loved this project - it came out of nowhere and brought me and the kids so much joy during the horridest and boringest part of the winter. My favorite part was being able to involve my girls so much in the design process. They had so many wonderful ideas!  I found Kate's sketches and took some pictures to show you - it turns out that the fox was hers, after all! 

And she badly wanted a horse, but we never got round to making one. Maybe you can!

I hope you're as excited as I am for Menagerie. I can't wait to share it with you!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Raccoon on Sew Mama Sew!

Last of the menagerie- a raccoon!

Make this little guy on Sew Mama Sew today.

I think you'll love how easy he is to put together, and it'll give you an idea of what to expect with the Menagerie pattern. 

Here are shots of him with Kate, to give you an idea of how big he is. 

I'll tell you a little more about the pattern tomorrow! 

Update 2021: Unfortunately, the Sew Mama Sew (SMS) website is no longer active. However, you can still access this tutorial, as well as my other tutorials which had been featured on the SMS site - visit this more recent post for details and links.

Sunday, March 22, 2015



I love dragons.

They're such complex creatures, dragons. They breathe fire. They fly. They eat other dragons. They talk. They come in thousands of varieties and every culture has its own version. They're evil. They're good. They lie dormant for centuries and then awake to fulfill prophecies. They are heartless. They have consciences. They raze civilizations. They aid kings. They're invincible. They are vulnerable. They are targeted by knights. They make formidable battle-buddies. They befriend little boys who grow up and leave them behind.

When you make a proper dragon, you know you need to stay away from cutesy. But beyond that, you are torn between hideous-and-nightmarish and noble-and-endearing. You can't, say, make a minky dragon. Or a fluffy dragon. Or a pom-pom dragon. I mean, yes, you could if you wanted to, but you also can't, you know? 

It's like there are rules in soft-toy-dom dictating that certain creatures cannot be cutesy. Like centaurs. And T-rexes. And minotaurs. True, people have crossed that line big time with pegasus and unicorns, but dragons . . . let's leave dragons safely on the side of fearsome and mighty, shall we?

So let's talk about this dragon.

Again, same base template, with a slightly different tail extension. This one is a curved tail, which means the two body halves are not symmetrical, and have to be eased together along the spine so they meet at the end. I'll show you how in the pattern.

Some new variations: major claws,

neck frills, wings

a tail tip,

and horns that curve if you want them to. 

P.S. Anyone noticed his eyes are funky? They're not attached! I'm so silly - it's so hard to get a good dragon face that I refused to glue on (let alone pre-stitch) his eyes so I could keep repositioning them until I saw one that I liked. What's especially hilarious is how I keep losing the eyes as I lug him around the house for photoshoots. Or when the children come into the sewing room to say hello and hold him (they don't seem to care that he's dangerous) and they leave with one of his eyes hanging onto their shirt sleeve. I will eventually permanently adhere his eyes, but for now, they're sitting safely in a box on my sewing table. 

(I hope.) 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


A celebration of motherhood.

This is another variation on the Tail Extension permutation of the template.

Two additions: a front belly pouch and thigh-ed legs.

And the little joey, of course.

My girls squealed when they saw him. They like baby things, and mother-and-baby pairings make them go all soft and sighy.

He's shaped like his momma, 

but tiny.

This kangaroo wasn't even in the original list. One day, I was thinking, "Babies. Mini versions of softies. Pockets to store them. Hm." And suddenly I had to make her :)

Friday, March 20, 2015


So now we're extending the base template - adding a tail

opens up so many new possibilities.

This is the simplest variation - straight tail and spine plates.

And the most spartan of facial features - a little horn and some teeth,

and a look that's at once tough and vulnerable 
(because that's what softies are).

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Photo overload today. 

I love this guy so much. There are just so many angles to him-

the tilt of his chin - now I know why they say "as proud as a peacock";

his striking face;

his side profile;

and his tail.

I designed his tail to lay flat and sweep the ground behind him, but you could reshape its bottom edge so that it will stay upright (with a few stitches to keep it in place). And those eyes - they were a bit of work, cutting 'em all out as well as stitching. But totally worth it, no?