Category: how to

the songbird sewing pattern is in the shop and a free tutorial : how to make a realistic bird foot

sewing pattern for a textile songbird

sewing pattern for a textile songbird

The songbird PDF pattern is in the shop today! It has more than 100 color photos and detailed instructions.  You need basic sewing skills and some patience if you are a beginner.

stitched songbird in a tree

textile songbird in prospect park

hand stitched songbird - back

And to celebrate the instructions for making a realistic bird leg are below. I hope you make songbirds!

How to make a realistic bird leg with wire:

You can use any gauge wire you like, I think that 19 gauge soft annealed wire is the easiest to work with and provides enough stability for the legs. You can build up the thickness of the legs and feet by adding additional layers of floral tape.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 1

1. Gather the wire, floral tape, hammer, pliers and cutters, ruler and a surface to hammer on, I’m using a little anvil but any very hard surface will do.
Cut 2 –  12 inch lengths of wire.

how to make a bird leg - step 2     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 3    2. Hold the wire with the pliers 1 and 1/2 inches from one end.
3. Bend the wire forming a loop.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 4     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 5
4. Hold the loop just past where the wire crosses with the pliers. Bend the long end of the wire so it is perpendicular to the loop.
5. Wrap the long end of the wire around the short end behind the loop. Wrap as tightly as you can, keeping you fingers very close to the wrapping.

how to make a realistic bird leg - step 6     how to make a realistic bird leg - step 6
6. Place the wire on a hard surface and tap firmly with the hammer to flatten the wire wrapping. This will help the wrap hold in the next step.
7. Use wire cutters to snip the loop in the middle.

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4 scrap projects to try and a peek at the next two patterns

craft projects made from scraps

craft projects made from scraps

Little projects, for your little bits of fabric:

1. Charming little houses by retro mama. So sweet! And I love her fabric combinations, the natural linen and bright prints. The full pattern and tutorial are both detailed and excellent and you can find them right here.

2. Fabric wrapped hangers. I’m happiest when I have busy hands. Things like paper mache that occupy my hands and relax my mind. Good thinking projects. I also like hangers that things don’t fall off of.

3. For your tiniest scraps darling little flags with a secret ingredient. Perfect for your paper castles and cupcakes and maybe paper mache boats?

4. Paper piecing is perfect summer sewing, something that travels well, beach sewing. This tutorial is great.

And pattern news:

songbird pattern progress

The pdf version of the songbird pattern is just about ready to go. To drive myself crazy I’ve also been working on the print version at the same time and that will be right behind it. It has been a giant undertaking.

paper mache ship pattern progress

The paper mache ship pattern is at the printer as we speak. I’m picking it up next Monday. So  pleased to have it in print. It won’t be in the shop for a couple weeks because I’ll be traveling and teaching.

squam art fair

When I’m back I’ll turn it into a kit too. I am bringing the ship print patterns (and some ships) to Squam with me. Come say hi at the art fair next Saturday night, it’s such fun, there are twinkle lights and beer.

an entirely satisfying activity involving scraps

lace scrap spools

garlands made from lace scraps

All you need are scraps. And a sewing machine. It is the kind of thing you could lose yourself in, the next thing you know hours have gone by and there are miles of it. It’s a meandering process and an invitation to happy accidents, there are no mistakes, it is not careful (except keeping your fingers away from the needle) and there is no planning. The perfect thing if you are feeling the need for something spontaneous. Just start and keep adding stuff.

garlands made form little scraps of fabric and lace

My approach was pretty bare bones and I had lots of fun. What is your scrap situation like? I’ve got tons and lots of it very small.  I dumped the whole thing out and started pulling out the tiniest scraps, the un-sewables, the little whispers I can’t let go of.

 garlands of scrap lace

Start with one piece, add another and another, machine stitching through the whole thing, sometimes bunching or curving the little pieces. I can’t stop. And they don’t need to be lace, I’ve got cotton scraps too and I’ll try those next.  And you can add other stuff and get super intricate and detailed – find a tutorial here.

You could use the garlands for packages or hang them (maybe with some twinkle lights and paper mache ships) or stitch them onto doll clothes or your clothes or make a crown for somebody little.

I made a mini one  to use as a roiling sea for this little boat.  Find the free mouse pattern here and the free  little boat pattern here.

very nice mice free sewing pattern     

how to make a tiny bicorne hat

colorful handmade pirate birds with fancy bicorne hats (you should make one)

colorful handmade pirate birds with fancy bicorne hats (you should make one)

They are such fun to make. I want to put a bicorne on everything. I might start wearing one (kidding). You just need a few scraps and a few minutes.  I’ve made you a template in two sizes, one just right for little birds and another that is perfect for mr. socks. He likes to dress up like a pirate once in a while too.  Who doesn’t.

mr. socks dressed up like a pirate

materials for making a pirate hat

You will need:

The template pdf, wool felt, bright fabric scraps, embroidery thread, a couple sequins and/or some metallic embroidery thread, pinking shears and basic sewing supplies.

1. Cut out 2 felt pieces for the hat and 2 accent pieces.Use pinking shears for the curved part of the accent pieces.

2. Whipstitch the accent fabric to each felt piece with embroidery thread and stitch on a little sequin and fabric scrap to one of the pieces.

3. Place the two pieces together and  blanket or whip stitch the top together. You can find a video of the blanket stitch here – just make the stitch length much smaller.

how to make a little felt pirate hat

handmad pirate bird with a fancy bicorne hat

handmade pirate birds made from fortuny textiles

handmade pirate birds made from fortuny textiles

There are tips for piratizing birds here and if you make a tiny pirate hat I’d love to see! You can use #putabicorneonit on instagram.

template and instructions for making a tiny pirate hat

how to hide knots and an easy way to add seam allowance

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

If you have taken a workshop with me then you know I am the seam allowance police. I always mark my stitch line. I think it’s essential for small sewing. I recently came across an easy way to add or mark a consistent seam allowance:

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

Tape pencils together.

That’s it. If you’re drafting patterns it’s a quick and easy way to make a consistent seam allowance and for marking fabric just put one pencil point on the edge of the fabric and trace around. Also, if you glue a sheet of very fine sandpaper to a piece of cardboard or foam core it makes an ideal surface to keep your fabric from slipping as you make your marks.

tape pencils together to mark a consistent seam allowance

While we are talking about sewing tips one of the questions I’m asked most frequently is how to hide knots when adding features and details. I include this trick in almost every pattern I publish (and you can find a video of it here).

1. Make a tiny knot close to the end of your thread.

2. Insert the needle a little away from where you would like to begin and come out where you would like the first stitch.

3. Pull the thread tight to pop the knot through.

4. Insert the needle and use a sweeping motion to grab the thread from the inside  and pull the tail in.  I’m ready to embroider the little white ring around my bird eye ( I always add one dot to the center too, to give it life).

5. When you are almost finished stitching stop before you are ready to make the last stitch and make a knot in the thread.  Before you tighten the knot insert the needle into the loop and pull it down the thread until it is just a little further away from your work than the length the last stitch will be.

6. Make your stitch, bringing your needle out about 1/2 inch away, pop the knot through, pull the thread tight and clip it close to the fabric. If there is still a little tail use your needle to pull it under again.

trick for hiding sewing knots

Finished!  And no messy knots.  Find another tip for making small sewing beautiful and easy right here.

little doll jacket : a free sewing tutorial

tiny rag doll jacket

Sometimes a light jacket is just the thing and I’ve made you a simple and easy sewing pattern in two sizes, one for the tiny rag doll (or any dollhouse size doll) and a slightly larger version for mr. socks. And the pattern scales well so you could use it for other dolls too. It’s quick and very easy.

little doll jacket sewing pattern

tiny rag doll jacket

The hat pattern is free too and you can find the satchel pattern here, if you need to fully outfit someone tiny.

mr. socks jacket : free pattern

You might also notice that mr. socks is wearing pants for the first time. I made them using the bloomer pattern for the tiny rag doll sewing pattern. I add about 1/4 inch to the pattern and left an opening in the back to accommodate his tail.

mr. socks

mr. socks in pants
little doll jacket : free tutorial

little doll jacket : free tutorial

To make the jacket you will need : wool felt, an embroidery thread, a tiny button, basic sewing supplies and the pattern.

download the sewing pattern here

* You can click each image for a larger view

1. Cut out the three pattern pieces and pin to your felt.
2. Cut out one of each.

3. Fold the rounded collar of the front top over and stitch.  I’m using one strand of embroidery floss. You can use any stitch you like, fancy or simple. I’m using a basic whip stitch.
4. Fold over each rounded cuff and stitch as well.

5. Pin the front under piece to the back piece, make sure your folded and stitched cuffs  are on the outside.
6. Pin the front top piece as shown.

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4 free projects to try and a post crash update

4 free projects to try

minki kim linen bookmarks

I’ve been hitting the Pinterest pretty hard lately and collected a few projects I thought you might like to try.  First, linen book marks by Minki Kim. I love book marks as little gifts (it is time to make the things for the people…) and Minki shares some great techniques and ideas for imagery.

felt ornament gift tags

Next stitched felt gift tags from Purl Soho. Purl has a huge collection of free projects, it goes on and on, lots of knit and crochet stuff and a bunch of sewing and craft projects too – all with Purl’s sweet, clean, contemporary style.

bustle and sew alpaca

And a dear Appliqué Alpaca from Bustle and Sew. Everybody loves an alpaca. Find all the instructions and templates right here.

the cheerful space diy

Finally a step by step painting tutorial from The Cheerful Space. I especially love this for a beginner or somebody who is having a hard time starting – this will get you moving and trying stuff.

and the post crash update:

I’m back in Brooklyn but not back to business as usual. It has been a month since the ceiling came crashing down unexpectedly and I’m still dealing with it. I do have a ceiling again, a beautiful ceiling but I have not been able to put things back together here yet. I came home to one hundred years of dust. In everything, it went everywhere.  Looking on the bright side it has been a fabulous opportunity to vacuum, wash, or launder    every    single    thing    I    own.

temporary arrangements

temporary arrangements

And I was very surprised to find about 2 thirds of my place painted an aggressive shade of salmon pink. I have no idea why. No one does.  It should be repainted by Monday and I can’t wait. I am spiritually at odds with this color.

But still, I am home. Happy to be here and making things. Please meet Fernando (dashing in powder blue) and Alvaro.

fernando and alvaro : fortuny owls

fortuny owl : fernando

alvaro : fortuny owl

4 free projects to try

dear little paper mache boat ornament : a free tutorial

free tutorial : dear little boat

Everybody loves to go boating.

I’ve made you something!  A free tutorial for a dear little paper mache boat ornament. The boat is 5 and 1/2 inches long and 6 and1/2 inches high – a very nice size for very nice mice or tiny rag dolls.

tiny rag doll

ann wood : boat ornament

They are quick and simple to make (really quick! make a bunch) and only require little bits of fabric, cardboard and other things you probably already have.  And the pattern scales up easily – if you’d like to make a larger boat. I think it is helpful to read through all the steps before you begin.

To get started download the dear little boat and sail templates here.

little boat tutorial

* You can click each image for a larger view.

1. Place the boat template on your cardboard and trace the outline. Mark the fold lines (the dashed lines on the template) in colored pencil. Use the BACK of the exacto knife to lightly score the fold lines. Cut out the template.

2. Gently fold at the scored fold lines.

3. Bring the front sides and bottom together.

4. Tape over the tabs with masking tape – it’s helpful to tear off several little pieces of tape so they are ready when you need them.

5. Tape over the outside seams as well.

6. Fold up the back of the boat and tape over the tabs as well as the outside cardboard seams.

7. Fold the boat bottom flap tabs toward the print side.

8. Fold the bottom flap into the boat and tape over the tabs

9. Fold the sides over – into the boat.

10. Tape along all the edges. We are ready for paper mache.

paper mache tips: Because the boat is small and our armature is sturdy – one layer of paper mache is enough. If you are making a larger boat use at least two layers. Tear small pieces of newsprint – roughly an inch or smaller – small pieces of paper create a smooth sturdy result- use the smallest pieces for covering corners, tight curves and edges. I like commercially prepared wall paper paste – available at most hardware stores Collect text scraps for embellishing.

11. Begin with the edges – paint paste onto the boat – apply a piece of paper and paint paste over.

12. After covering the edges fill in the rest of the areas. One layer of paper is enough for a small boat – two will make it even sturdier. If adding a second layer there is no need to wait for the first to dry. Read More

3 ideas to try : paper lanterns, end of day baskets and collage experiments

paper lanterns by oh happy day

Everything I’m doing this week would either not be remotely interesting to you or is top secret so it’s the perfect time to share a few good ideas I’ve come across lately. Stuff I’d like to try. I love paper lanterns, I like things that hang and play with light.  These have so many possibilities. You could use fancy paper, or found paper – mixing in some wax paper and or fabric could be interesting. I love the way they look hung together. Find a tutorial for four different styles on Oh Happy Day.  And lots more photos too – all beautifully styled and charming.

susies scraps basket

I’m a fan of finding ways to use the littlest scraps – especially little bits of fabric I love to much to part with. You’ll find a complete tutorial for this “end of day” basket here. It seems pretty straight forward – clothes line rope, fabric scraps and a machine with a zig zag stitch. I particularly love the black mixed in with bright color on this basket. It also occurred to me that a tiny – doll size – one might be interesting.

julie hamilton collage sketchbook

And the sketchbook collage work of illustrator Julie Hamilton. I discovered her work through the Brown Paper Bag Blog – there is a post with lots of Julie’s work and more about her process. It’s such a good way to experiment and an easy place to start if you’re feeling stuck. Make some marks. collect some paper, cut stuff up and mess around.

If you try any of these I’d love to hear about it – you can let me know in the comment section.

make a ship for mr. socks

mr. socks goes boating

paper mache boat

Mr. Socks is going to sea in his very own ship. I made it using my free paper mache boat pattern with a couple changes. If you’d like to make your own follow the original boat instructions but to make it just right for Socks use:

(a note on sail making – there are instructions here if you need them)

a ship for mr. socks

Socks is the kind of cat that does just what he wants so he is off to Paris for a holiday in his brand new ship.

mr. socks goes boating

mr. socks goes boating

mr. socks goes boatingau revoir mr. socks!

 

woebegone pines : a free sewing pattern

woebegone pines

forlorn little tree

Woebegone pines, forlorn little trees who do not concern themselves with perfection.  These trees are all about heart and the particular magic that something made by hand possesses. I’ve made you a sewing pattern with three sizes: small – 3 inches,  medium – 4 inches,  and large – 6 inches (the little guy is my favorite). You can add a little trunk and base or just set them on their bottom. 

woebegone pines

mouse among the pines

And Woebegone Pines sounds like a lovely place – doesn’t it? A perfect spot for a mouse to take a stroll and think his wistful thoughts.

wobegone pines : materials

pattern notes:

The seam allowance is 1/4 inch. You could use a variety of fabrics – I’ve used cotton, linen. wool and felt – all worked well.

material list:

pdf pattern

  • fabric for the tree and scraps for patches
  • matching and contrasting  sewing thread ( I think cotton works best)
  • stuffing ( I like wool)
  • thin cotton batting (felt works as a substitute)
  • cardboard – corrugated and thin- a cereal box is good
  • pencil or disappearing fabric marker
  • sewing and embroidery needles
  • pins
  • chopstick for turning and stuffing
  • large bamboo skewer or similar pointy thing
  • paper and fabric scissors
  • wire cutters for snipping twigs
  • Elmer’s  glue
  • glue stick
  • twigs for trunks
  • bases – I used little wood discs and drilled holes – or  you can find spools, wood beads and other pre -drilled shaped at any large craft or art supply store.

wobegone pines : steps 1 and 2

1. Cut out the cardboard base and one or two squares of corrugated cardboard – smaller than the circle.

2. If you plan to add a trunk to your tree glue one of the corrugated pieces to the center of the circle. ( If you are making  the large tree glue two – one on top of the other).

wobegone pines : steps 3 and 4

3. Use a glue stick to attach  the circle to cotton batting and cut out.  Let the glued cardboard dry completely.

4.  Pin the tree and tree bottom patterns to a single layer of fabric – cut out one of each.

wobegone pines : steps 5 and 6

5. Fold the tree piece in half (right sides together) and mark the seam lines on the tree and circle. Stitch the seam –  marked in red. Leave the center of the seam open – about 1/3  of it – enough to fit the cardboard circle through later.

6. Snip the seam allowance at the top and bottom of the opening, fold over and press.

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stripes make a sailor and the easy way to make sails

gentleman sailor owl

stitching sails

When I first started making ships I was doing little handkerchief rolled hems on the sails. They were pretty but drove me crazy and took forever.  When I put together the paper mache ship pattern I wanted something easier and I found it.  It’s super simple and has other benefits too.

sail

I  cut two pieces of fabric for each sail (not usually the same fabric – I like the front and back  to be different  – even just subtly),  pin them right sides together and stitch around – leaving one little section open. Trim the excess off the corners,  turn it right side out,  press and stitch closed.  I add a whip or blanket stitch around the edge and  layers of patches and lace.  You can click here to download the sail pattern below if you’d like to give it a try.

sail_pattern_annwood_2

This method is much quicker than the tiny hems and makes a very tidy sail.  Also the double fabric helps the sails hold their shape when you fill them with wind.

paper mache ship

I’m making an owl to captain the ship I’m working on  and used my favorite piece of antique ticking for his front.  Putting a horizontal stripe on an owl transforms him instantly into a gentleman sailor.  The owl below is the medium size from the little owl pattern.

gentleman sailor owl

And ticking stripes are nice for sailing mice too.

sailor mouse

how to make my signature frothy lace cake topper bird gown

fancy bird gown tutorial

bird wedding gown

There are lots of cake topper birds on my worktable right now. It’s been 10 years since I made the first set  and I guess-timate that I’ve made more than two thousand pairs.  That’s a lot of dressed up birds. Today I’m going to show you how to make my frothy little gown for a cake topper bird or any other formal bird occasion.  The bird is made from my little bird sewing pattern but I think you could use the same technique on other birds – just adjust the size of the lace.  I think it’s helpful to read through all the steps before beginning and you can click the images for a larger view.  You will need a basic sewing kit and some lace scraps – something soft and not to stiff or heavy is best – I’m using cotton tulle.

bird gown 1         bird_gown_2

1. Cut a piece of lace or tulle – a rectangle that is 7 and 1/2 inches by 3 and 1/2 inches.

2. Place the lace on the bird so there is a long and a short side – you want one third on one side and two thirds on the other. Fold the raw edge under and pin the lace to the back seam of the bird neck.

bird gown 3        bird gown 4

3. Starting with the short side turn the raw edge under and pin into the seam at the side of the neck and then again – right on the seam – about half way down the from of the bird body.

4. Repeat on the longer side – pin once at the neck and then bring the lace across the body – folding the raw edge under  and meeting the pin on the other side – use that pin to hold both sides in place.

bird gown 5        bird gown 6

5. Begin stitching the gown to the body where the sides meet – make a couple tiny stitches here and knot once – keep the thread attached.

6. Using tiny whip stitches stitch all the way around the neck twice. It’s important to go around twice to make sure the neckline stays in place.

bird gown 7        bird gown 8

7. Pin the short side of the lace back out of your way and pull the long side around the body. To make the fancy ruched front gather the top 3/4 of an inch or so with your fingers into little folds – pin in place with one or two pins and sew the folds in place along the seam ( these stitches won’t show).

8.  Use your finger to pull the long side of the lace around the body ( you may need to take out the pin holding the short side) and stitch the rest of the  lace to the seam, stitching towards the tail – again these stitches will not show.

bird gown 9        bird gown 10

9. Stop stitching where the body meets the tail and trim the lace – just leaving a small edge. Stop trimming about one half inch below top (where the little folds are) and leave a long piece of lace. (save your little scraps – we’ll use them later).

10. Pin the long piece you left out of the way and pull the short side of lace across the body. While holding the lace across the body stitch in the same place as the previous side, right on top.  Read More

french hens

handmade hens

handmade blue hen

Suddenly a chicken appeared! Or more specifically  a hen, a french hen. It occurred to me that maybe the merry wobbler sewing pattern could be modified to make a hen – and it can!  Of course they need nesting boxes too and I created a little template and tutorial on how to make the box and modify the wobbler. Both are super simple – find the template and instructions below after lots of hen pictures –  I couldn’t help it  – I love them.

handmade hens

handmade french hens

hen house

blue and white hen

french hen posteriors

You can download the template for the nest box and hen parts here.  

And you will also need the merry wobbler sewing pattern or, if you like, come up with your own bird to chickenize.

Other supplies are:  felt for hen parts and the nest, a glue stick, cardboard  and embroidery thread- I’m using dmc 8.

nest box 1

Beginning with the nest box – cut out 2 of the felt shapes for the nest and one cardboard bottom – cereal box weight cardboard.  Read More

houses for mouses

mouse house party

So many nice mice! Thanks so much to everybody who made mice from my pattern  and shared their photos – on instagram and Facebook etc. as well as emailing me – I can’t tell you how helpful it is and how much I enjoy it – a nice way to end the year.  I love seeing what you make.  Check out the fantastic mouses and houses!! by readers below – I love them – every little detail.   This multi level affair is by Maura for her son – I can’t stop looking at it.

mousehouse_maura

mouse house

mousehouse_maura_2

mouse house

mousehouse_maura_3

And A little house in a box by Mama with a Needle and Thread for her little girl – so freakin sweet. Good night little mouse!

mouse house

mama_baby_mouse

Susan added little wooden bases to her dinner place card mice – it’s such a happy crew.

place card mice

happy mice crew

They survived a perilous journey across the couch – stay in a group little mice, stay in a group!

perilous mouse journey

And finally from Larissa – mmmcrafts –  slippers, mittens and snowballs  – I love it.

larissa holland mice