I’ve put together a little collection of resources for you – some of my favorite tools and supplies and a couple tips and tricks. There are one or two things I’ve talked about before and lots of favorites I’m sharing for the first time. If there’s something that’s not included that you’re curious about – feel free to ask – I’ll do my best to hook you up.
I spend a lot of time stuffing things, sometimes starting over a number of times and I have a strong preference for wool – you can find wool stuffing here. I use a doll needle to move stuffing around from the outside to fine tune a shape – it can add so much character. And my main stuffing tool is an old paintbrush with the bristles clipped off close to the base – it grabs the wool (or polyester) a bit so the tool doesn’t slip through. I have a few in different sizes. Hemostats are also handy for placing stuffing very specifically.
For making things stand up on their own, especially something top heavy like a mushroom, weighted fill does the trick. My favorites are glass bead fill and crushed walnut shells. Tip: to prevent spillage I double stitch the bottom seams. You can also make a little pouch from an old pair of tights, put in the fill and insert that into your soft sculpture.
And what about that curvy stem? Wire works and there are lots of wire recommendations below but this works better: doll armature or coolant hose – it’s easy to work with and holds its shape well – you can do impossible looking things with it.
I use a bunch of different kinds of wire for armatures, bird and owl feet and other stuff, these are my favorites:
paper covered millinery wire – disclaimer – it is spring steel and not easy to work with but it produces beautiful stable shapes. I use it for ship armatures – find it here (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page for the paper covered sort). They also have special joiners for it.
30 gauge cloth covered spool wire – For things that just need a little support – like little bird tails. Find it here.
17 gauge brown paper covered stem wire – This stuff is sturdy and covered with brown crinkly paper – great for larger stems – I use so much of it I get it by the case – find it here.
paper covered wire – It comes in a number of gauges and also makes great stems – the paper is smooth and paintable – I also use this for ship armatures. Find a nice selection of sizes here.
Hillman 18 or 19 gauge steel wire – It’s my preferred wire for bird legs – one side is a little bit flat and the helps the bent joints hold together – find it here. And the full bird leg tutorial is here.
Hillman 16 gauge utility wire – For larger owl and bird feet – find it here.
Appliqué pins – They are pretty! And great for small work – find them here.
Cotton Sateen – The sheen is lovely – just enough – and it dyes beautifully – find it at Dharma Trading.
Dylon Dyes – bright true colors – the Velvet Black is fantastic. Google to find suppliers in the US- there are lots and find the full selection here.
Tiny Ribbon – I love 4mm silk embroidery ribbon for mini bow ties for birds and all sorts of other little details – the color selection is fabulous – find it here.
Chenille pipe cleaners – the nice ones- imported from Germany – they come in different thicknesses and are dyeable – find them here.
Flora brand floral tape – Not all floral tapes are created equal – this is the only brand I buy – nice and crepey and not overly sticky – it takes paint and glue well. Find it by the box here.
Lascaux Acrylic Paint – A little more expensive but so worth the investment – saturated color and wonderfully matte when dry. It’s available in lots of Art supply stores including Dick Blick.
I wish I got this years ago – a remote switch for my camera (I use a Canon). So handy for awkward shots and getting out of my own way. It’s very inexpensive – less than twenty bucks at B and H Photo.
White foam core board – The last tip is super simple and I use it all the time. I don’t have great light here – to get rid of shadows I use a piece of white foam core board to reflect sunlight and fill in shadows – it makes a huge difference -check it out in the lamb images below.
Wooden parts– huge selection – great for paper mache and fabric boats:
My new favorite paint- Holbein Acrylic – not cheap but less expensive than the super fancy Lascaux I love and it has a lovely matte finish and saturated colors.
Sublime stitching – you might already know but just in case – they have great supplies and a huge library of stitch tutorials.
Turning tubes – for those long and skinny tiny parts you need to turn right side out -I only recently discovered the magic.
And finally pocket – it’s an app – so many people recommended it but I resisted – once I tried it though I couldn’t do without it . It basically saves and organizes articles for later and they can ( mostly0 be read off line.