Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Spring Birds Kits!


The Spring Birds Kits are now in my Etsy shop!


There are four different ones - one to make each of the birds.





Included in each kit are fleece and 100%-wool felt for the bird's body and appendages, knit fabric and poly pellets for the pellet bag, and safety eyes (I threw in an extra pair in case you make a mistake and need a spare). You'll need to provide your own stuffing and sewing thread in coordinating colors, plus black and white. 



Please note that while the kits are meant to be used with the Spring Birds sewing pattern, they do NOT include the pattern, which has to be purchased separately here on my blog or directly from my pattern store here (find it on page 2).

Each kit comes with an individual discount code for $4 off the sewing pattern, which makes this a sweet deal for a gift for a sewing friend. After Etsy has notified me of the payment, I'll email you the code, so be sure to use an up-to-date email address at the checkout. 

At present, there is a limited number of each bird kit, because I made a small initial order of the wool felt. If the kit you want is sold out, just shoot me an email and I can order more materials to restock them. 



Head to my Etsy store to grab your favorites now, and happy sewing!


P.S. I loved your bird suggestions in this post so much that I picked a couple from your list to make (also because bird-making is strangely addictive). I'll share them in upcoming posts, along with results from an experiment on how the grain orientation of the fabric may or may not change the shape of the bird. See you back here soon!


Spring Birds Sewing Pattern!



Over the past few weeks, I've been posting about the birds I've been making, and today I am excited to share the new Spring Birds sewing pattern with you!


It began with a single robin more than three years ago and although the plan was always to make more birds, I'd never thought of actually writing a pattern for the birds. After all, they were adaptations of the Menagerie pattern, so anyone who owned that could in theory make all the birds in the world from it. My kids convinced me otherwise - maybe sometimes people just want to make birds, they said, because they're small and adorable, and don't need nearly as much fabric as, say, a dragon. They certainly had a point, but I still wondered about the versatility of a pattern for (what I'd thought was a single narrow) subset of creatures. Then I started making these four feathered friends myself and was blown away by the sheer variety in just this one class of the animal kingdom. 

Hence the Spring Birds pattern: like Menagerie, but focused on birds. Later on in the post, I'll talk a little bit more about how the two are related, but for now, let's have a look at the Spring Birds pattern itself.

Here are excerpts of the sections on prerequisite skills, recommended materials and equipment.


A question I'm often asked about my patterns is the level of experience needed to undertake the projects in them. That's an excellent question, if a bit tricky to give a short answer to. I shared in an earlier post that I've recently started to crochet, and I've been devouring tutorials online on my learning journey. Some of them are labeled "easy", which is admittedly very motivating, although when I try to decipher the written instructions, they might as well have been in code. Others have no such label (interestingly, I haven't actually seen any that are helpfully labeled, "hard", for instance) but I'm still able to happily follow along with the stitch video, and by the time I'm halfway through, I can tell that it wasn't nearly as simple a technique as the ones in the "easy" tutorials. What has been immensely helpful in all the tutorials, regardless of their labels, is being told that I need to be familiar with "single crochet, double crochet and slip stitch" before attempting whichever fancy new stitch I'd set my sights on. Certainly being also informed that the project is "suitable for beginners" is encouraging, but it's nowhere as helpful as being reassured that I have the prerequisite knowledge to even begin to learn that new stitch. So whenever I write a new pattern, I include a section on the skills and techniques with which a seamstress should be familiar in order to feel comfortable with it. Like so:


and if there's a new technique that's required beyond those, I'll often dedicate an entire section to explaining that. Like so:


And I know that sometimes it's helpful to see how the instructions are written, so here are a couple of sample pages to give you an idea of the layout and level of detail.



Summary: this is not a pattern for absolute, absolute beginners - the sorts who've maybe just bought themselves a sewing machine, learned to sew a straight line on a piece of scrap cotton, and are poring over Pinterest boards for quick things to make. Spring Birds is not entry-level, although beginners with some experience with a sewing machine and a willingness to work with smallish pieces could totally make the projects. And if you've ever previously sewn a 3D thing, like a stuffed toy or a bag, you're set, too.  

Let's talk a bit about supplies and such:


I've tried to pick materials that can easily be found online or at fabric stores. Fleece, for instance, is widely available in many colors, and because of the small size of the projects in this pattern, you can even use microfleece (thinner version of Blizzard or Anti-pill) and still get good results. I'd be cautious about luxe fleece, or any of the Polartec fleeces above the 100 weight (see this post for more info about these types of fleece), again because their greater bulk quickly adds up in the seams. I am of two minds about minky: on the one hand, it's soft and wonderful; on the other, it tends to be more stretchy than the 2-way stretch this pattern calls for, and you might end up with unexpectedly rotund birds. Although if that's what you were aiming for (and certainly I will have nothing but praise for spherical outcomes), then go for it.

As always, I recommend 100% wool felt if you can get it. Especially because some of the pieces you'll be working with are small, you'll want a good-quality felt that doesn't tend to pill or disintegrate. Wool-blend felt is a good alternative, certainly a better one than acrylic/craft felt, at any rate. That said, if you don't have access to wool or wool-blend felt, buy the best quality felt you can find, and if it happens to be acrylic, then that's OK, too. There is a range in the quality even among the acrylic felts: pick the sort on bolts over the 8" x 12" squares, if possible.

You can buy 100% wool felt online from Etsy and other suppliers. The sort that works well for projects like these are roughly about 1.2 mm thick and often made from Merino wool. An 8" x 12" sheet tends to run upward of $3, plus shipping, which is ten times that of a similar-sized sheet of acrylic felt, but it's well worth the extra cost. Different Etsy stores offer a slight discount if you buy multiple sheets, and many let you pick the colors you want. I buy my safety eyes from craft stores, which sell them in little packs of maybe a half dozen pairs, but you can also get them online (try Amazon) in larger packs of 50 pairs.

Three things to note before you purchase the pattern:

One, there are instructions to make the four different birds pictured below, but they're all derived from one set of base templates which I call the Bird Templates. Variations aside, the construction sequence is very similar for all four birds, so it should feel familiar after you've made one or two. My hope is that you'll enjoy the variety of tails, wing layers and color combinations and that these different features will also inspire you to make other new birds beyond these four. An oriole, for instance, has very similar wing markings to the finch's, and many birds have a similar tail shape to the Robin's and Cardinal's. And of course a sizable number of other birds have distinguishing crests like the Cardinal's and Robin's - woodpeckers and hoopoes and cockatoos come immediately to mind. I've loved learning about birds while doing "research" for this sewing pattern! They are astoundingly beautiful and unique.


Two, the Bird Templates are derived from the base templates of Menagerie, with some seam tweaking and new avian appendages. However, you do not need to own or even be familiar with Menagerie to use this pattern. If you do own Menagerie and are game for some experimentation, you can adapt (and shrink) the base templates of Menagerie to create these bird designs. 

Three, I have a few bird kits in my Etsy store. I'll post about them later today or sometime tomorrow. Emily and I had a lot of fun assembling them for you last week and we're thrilled for you to have the option to purchase almost* all the materials you need for each bird in one place. These are materials-only kits i.e. the sewing pattern does not come with them and will have to be purchased separately. That said, when you buy a kit, I'll send you a discount code for $4 off the cost of the sewing pattern, so if you're planning to buy both, get the kit first and wait for that code before purchasing the pattern, OK? 

* Q: "Almost"? 
   A: Yes, you'll have to provide your own stuffing and all-purpose sewing thread, but otherwise, the kit contains all the other supplies you need. 


A final word: I've mentioned "smallness" a lot in this post and I hope that no one reading it feels a sense of escalating dread or anything like that! I believe that there is a discernible difference in working with smaller pieces - curves are more pronounced, circumferences are tighter, and seams can feel bulkier simply because of the smaller spaces around them. And some folks with stiffer fingers may simply not enjoy adorably tiny projects if there is a lot of fiddling about with aligning and turning things out. I highlighted the smallness not just to help manage your expectations but also in accommodation of that size: better quality felt will make smaller pieces last longer and handle better, techniques to achieve better seaming at edges with tight curvatures, etc. Rest assured that there is only one step right at the end where you'll turn the project RS out through an opening, none of the fabrics are weird or slippery or hard to stitch through, and most of the pieces can be assembled flat.  Just take your time and don't try to rush through the project - the extra care you take as you pause to reposition fabric under the presser foot will go a long way to have everything lined up and smooth.   

Enough said! Let's get sewing! Email me if you have questions! Otherwise, go to my pattern page on the blog here 


or directly to my E-junkie store here (scroll to Page 2) to buy the Spring Birds PDF Sewing Pattern!




Happy making!


Monday, May 17, 2021

Spring Birds



So, I've been working on these little guys all spring (and part of winter).


If you've just joined us, you can find the solo posts for each of the birds here: 








It's been thrilling to create them - all the aspects of making a new Menagerie critter are - and I always learn so much about the animals in the process. I have the internet to thank, of course, for any anatomical accuracies. But there's also my backyard and bird feeder, where I watch these birds in action and get to verify the exact shades of yellow or turquoise or rust, they way they perch and fold their wings, or hold their tails as they sit. Rendering a real life thing as a toy isn't a prescriptive process, regardless of how closely I want to represent it, and I often have to adapt some feature or other to make it work in fabric. How much artistic license, where and how: those are some decisions I make, and then I tweak. It invariably takes longer than I imagine it would, but it's a lot of fun, and the finished outcome is so worth it.


I love that within just one taxonomic class, there are almost infinite variations of color, heads, beaks,  


wings, tails . . .


And they're all in my new sewing pattern, Spring Birds, 

so you can make them, too!



I'm also preparing some kits of materials for the shop, so you can pick up all the things you need  - fleece, felt, eyes, poly pellets, everything but the thread and stuffing, really - to make these birds. Check back later this week for updates - both the pattern and kits will be available very soon!



Saturday, May 15, 2021

Blue Jay



Bird #4 is a Blue Jay (which some of you guessed right)!


This one was a lot of fun to make, because of all the additional details.


The wings


and tail, 


the striking black feathers against the white and blue, 


and the markings on that sweet little face.


Here's that crest again, which the same as the Cardinal's.


After I was done taking these "studio" shots, it occurred to me that nobody could really tell how small these birds were,


even against the backdrop of nature.


So I went back outside with my camera and took more shots with the girls holding them.


Here are a couple more of the other birds:



You know what they say about a bird in the hand being worth more than  . . . okay, I won't be corny and finish that expression.  

In the next post, I'll do a quick roundup of the birds and share a fun announcement!