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.


  1. Waiting for the giraffe and cobra ;)

    But seriously, what a fabulous idea!! Apart from the glimpses you've shown us over the last few weeks, I'm already imagining the base shape modified into a tapir, pangolin, dugong, platypus and trilobite!

  2. Natural selection with stuffed animals. Awesomeness.

  3. Love it! I can't wait to see them all. I've been making Minecraft characters and Princess Leia. Only some of them are puffy. Puffy definitely takes more work than a pillow with arms and legs attached.

  4. So much looking forward to the rest! This one is very very promising.

  5. Oh Noo I can't waitt to see them all. So flipping adorable!

  6. fantastic! I can't wait to see the rest :)

  7. Who doesn't love a fat, adorable penguin?! And all the rest of your creations! More, more.... bring 'em on!!

  8. I am crazy excited about the menagerie. I can't wait for you to offer the patterns so I can grab up a few for my charity sewing projects.

  9. I had actually been thinking that your base shape looked like it would make a great penguin, so it makes sense that this is where it all began! I can't wait to see the entire menagerie.

  10. Oh my toddler girl is so excited at the pictures of your penguin. There were excited cries of "pungy! Pungy!"

  11. So cute! And in brown he would make for a very adorable kiwi.

  12. I love penguins! This is porbably going to be the best blog-series of the year. Looking forward to seeing them all.

  13. And perhaps at the end you'll let us look at those who didn't make the team as well? For that would be educating in its own right!


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