Saturday, March 31, 2018


I have more Menagerie critters for you!

Another bird today - a big one this time. Unlike the little Robin from this post, this Bald Eagle was made from the full-size Menagerie base pattern.

Confession: I was somewhat hesitant to make an eagle, and a bald eagle at that, because it's the national animal of this country and an important symbol and such. But beyond that, I felt about this guy the way I felt about the Dragon in the first season of Menagerie: you just don't mess about with creatures of that stature, because what if you inadvertently made him cuddly and cutesy when in reality he's anything but? 

Heaven forbid.

So I hummed and hawed and made other animals instead, but I kept coming back to him. And toward the end of the shortlisting process, when I was down to the last two or three choices, I decided I'd go for it. 

Very relieved that he emerged not at all cutesy and cuddly (well, maybe a bit cuddly).

But let's deconstruct now. The bird is one of the simpler variations on the base design because all you need are two wings, 

a tail,

and (if you own the Menagerie pattern) the Peacock's feet.

The wings themselves are darted to curve around the body, and if you use a sturdy fabric like this faux fur,

the wings can be propped away from the body in quite a realistic manner. I lined my wings with a coordinating dark brown fleece (instead of more of the faux fur) to reduce bulk where the finished wing (plus the seam allowance of the darts) inserts into the neck seam.

Let's talk about all the fur in this Eagle. Bird feathers are multi-layered, which produces a lot of wonderful texture - something everyone is vaguely aware of but can only fully appreciate when one has to render that in flat fabric. In the next post, I used layers of fabric to create that texture, but for this prototype, I used the fibers of the fur itself.

Here's a closeup shot, showing where "feathers" of the Eagle's head overlap those of the body at the neck. It's entirely possible to create a stylized version of that as a neck frill when I work with bald fabric, as I've done with my chickens here and here.

For this prototype, however, I wanted to experiment with faux fur to create effects like the fake-feather-overlay at the neck, and the hunch of the shoulders around the head. I really like what the fur added to the design.

Of all the Eagle's features, the most challenging were the eyes. As always with stuffed animals, the face is the thing that's most important to get right. And as earlier mentioned, Eagles are like Dragons - they are by nature more majestic than cute. So their gaze has to be appropriately solemn and intimidating (but not scary, because who likes a creepy, spooky toy?). 

So much fun to make, and a much quicker sew than it might look.

Friday, March 30, 2018

I made a cardboard box

We just got home from Singapore!

What fun we had spending time with the grandparents, eating glorious food, swimming and shopping. Returned in elation yesterday to sunny skies and snowless roads and thought, "I can do this. It's practically spring!" 

Alas. This morning, it snowed. And the weather forecast promises more snow by Easter. And it was grey and overcast today. 

What. Is. This. Trickery.

Nevermind. Let us talk instead about cardboard. 

This is a Yamaha guitalele that was a gift from my lovely cousin Ash. It's a (6-string) guitar that's about the size of a tenor ukulele and which is tuned a 4th up to the standard ukelele tuning. We thought it would be a good transition instrument for the kids when they want to move from the uke to guitar. Meanwhile, though, I get to play it. I always feel simultaneously inspired and wretched after hearing the people in my family play the guitar because they make it look so easy. On this trip, some of them got together to jam with Emily on her uke. It was such fun to listen to them bond over music.

But I digress - we were talking about cardboard. This guitalele came with a soft fabric case which, while pretty, wouldn't be anywhere near adequate for the long plane ride home to Minnesota. I didn't want to splurge on a proper hard case, so I made a traveling box. 

I used random cardboard Mum had lying around. Yes, apparently my parents hoard cardboard too. I totally approved. We couldn't find any long rulers in the house, but Mum found a wood shim, so I used that to draw semi-straight lines and eyeball the measurements. Here is the finished masterpiece. Not exactly award-winning aesthetically but still a sound design (ha, pun) functionally - a very snug fit so the instrument doesn't shift around in-flight and a box-flap opening at the wider end for customs inspection.

Nothing like a bit of cardboarding to make a vacation complete, eh? 

Anyway, we carried the box on board the aircraft and stashed it in the overhead bin (so much better than being crushed in the hold), where it kept good company with several other ukuleles belonging to a group of college-ish musicians on the same flight. None of them had their own cardboard traveling boxes, sadly - only hard cases and gig bags. Pity.

Incidentally, I am happy to report that the box made it home safe and sound (the guitalele did, too).  

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Hello again, friends!

Resuming the Menagerie roundup after a short break with this little guy.

He's a robin, a happy harbinger of spring. Which still seems far-off with the cool temps and wet forecasts, but one must always be positive. 

This is a mini Menagerie critter, by the way.

I thought it was more realistic than a full-Menagerie-sized robin.

No adaptation required - I used the base template as is, and added a beak, 



and a tail.

After I'd made this robin, I decided that I must make some of the little birds we see in our backyard, like blue jays and finches and hummingbirds and such. All it'd take is the right colors, and some characteristic plumes and tail shapes. We could make a whole series of backyard birds!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring Bunnies . . . and Chickens, and Piglets, and Kittens

Happy end-of-winter, friends!

Snow still coats the ground here in Minnesota, but we are casting our thoughts ahead to the coming weeks of spring. We've gone summer-clothes shopping. Twice. We've bought our season passes for the waterpark. We've loaded up on flipflops and sunscreen and allergy meds. We've roused ourself from languid hibernation and we're done with the white and brown and grey. Bring on the green of maple buds! The blue of the swimming pools! The gold of the summer sun!

I am finishing up the Season 2 critters of Menagerie, which made me think of all the animal babies I've made and shared on this blog. Thought I'd do a roundup for your entertainment, to maybe inspire you to make some for your own in time for spring!

I suspect that bunnies are the animal I've made most varieties of in recent years (we have Kate to thank for that!) so let's begin with those.

Here is a little baby bunny, 

with carrots and a bunny bed

in two sizes.

Find the tutorials here, here and here.

This is a sitting bunny

disguised as a carrot.

Find the pattern here

and the tutorial for its coat here

and bag here.

For your convenience, there are a couple of fabric kits to make this sitting bunny in my shop here.

This is a no-sew pompom bunny that we made for Kate's birthday party. Find the tutorial here, and the main Bunny Party post here.

This is a Chicken 

that lays plastic easter eggs

that hatch into chicks.

Find the pattern here.

This is a very large sow that gives birth to piglets 

(they zip into her belly)

and feeds them.

Find the pattern here.

Find the pattern here,

and the kit (comes with the pattern, too) here.

And here is Menagerie

from which you can make chickens, pigs, lambs, rabbits, cows, and all manner of other animals.

Happy making, and happy spring!