Category: resources

how to make a perfect bird leg

I keep adding things to the bird pattern. Last week I decided it needs videos so last weekend I shot how to sew the body, ( it’s the trickiest part) you’ll get a link to that with the pattern download. And today I shot “how to make a perfect bird leg”.


It’s one of the things I’m most often asked about, the little bird legs, so I thought I would share that now as a gift. It’s my first ever video! It should be below  – if not click here.

How to Make a Perfect Bird Leg

*measurements are approximate for a bigger foot use more wire and create a bigger loop

* and one correction – if you find the 18 gauge wire to difficult use a HIGHER gauge wire – I incorrectly said lower gauge

tools and materials list:

18 or 19 gauge steel wire (hillman is my favorite brand)
floral tape (flora is my favorite brand)
needle nose pliers
wire cutter
hard surface

I hope you make bird legs! And stay tuned for the little bird pattern – it’s almost there. If you’d like email updates about new patterns and workshops etc. you can subscribe here.  Be sure to check the “make something” box on the signup form.



I love March.  Especially after a winter like this has been – and it’s not over – but the last couple days have been glorious.  The sun was out, the windows were open and I worked on  little birds this morning.

bird work

I finished the little group of  camper birds this afternoon and started photographing things for the shop.

camper birds

bird departure(after their official photo they went off to enjoy the day)

I got such a late start on photos I had very uneven light – I have found that a sheet of cheap drugstore white poster board makes a  very serviceable reflector.

poste board reflector

Checkout the difference with and without:

lamb shadow


(The birds and lambs will be in the shop tomorrow 3/12)

designing soft sculpture or toys

Abby Glassenberg makes wonderfully imaginative and incredibly well made toys and in her new book “Stuffed Animals: From Concept to construction” she shows you how to make them as well as how to create your own designs.

This is a solid, comprehensive guide to sewing 3 dimensional shapes – essential skills are explained and demonstrated clearly through 16 delightful and detailed projects.

As you make each project you learn a skill to use in creating your own inventions – like darts and gussets and joints.


The 52 lessons, tips, tricks and equipment overview make this a great place to start  for beginners as well as an excellent reference for more advanced sewers interested in designing patterns or soft sculpture or improving the quality of their work.

I don’t generally review things here but this book answers  questions I’m asked so frequently I wanted to offer it as reference for anyone interested in sewing their own designs.

sponginess and some irregularity

These are the two of the  qualities I wanted my mushrooms to have – a sense of sponginess and sometimes a little oddness in the shapes.


I also  very much wanted a concave underside for the cap – that has been the biggest struggle in creating the patterns and process . I didn’t want to make something realistic or botanical, not this time anyway,  but I did want a great deal of mushroom-ness. Mushroom strangeness. Also contributing to  mushroom-ness, I hope,  are  the curvy stems and tilted caps – impossible balance but for  stem bottoms weighted with glass bead fill thanks to a tip from abby glassenberg.

glass fill

It’s marvelous stuff. It is also magical stuff- pretty and sparkly and there is some delight and ceremony  in taking out the wooden  box I keep it in and spooning a bit into the stem.

There are new Fortuny toad stools too- I’ll show you those and more new things from that collection tomorrow.

squam art workshop

I taught a boat making  class at The Squam Art Retreat in the beginning of June.  It was my first time at  Squam  and my first time teaching anything ever.  Teaching was a leap of faith sort of thing and I think it went well – I didn’t spontaneously combust or anything and everybody made truly great boats. I liked teaching more than I expected to, so much so I hope to do it again soon – maybe here in NYC .  The class was held in the nature center – Sugar House – it’s a  camp so all the buildings have names.

squam classroom

I had wonderful students – skilled, generous and lots of fun.

julie's boat

I have written a few tutorials but participating in other people’s very individual processes, feeling their enthusiasm and having a peek into their imaginations was an interesting shift in perspective. I left with some new energy for my own work and pretty fired up about teaching again .

student boats

And  I made new friends  including some from right here in Brooklyn :  lovely and talented Jessica  Marquez – she has a book coming out in October ( congratulations!)  and   Rebecca Ringquist ,   I have  been a fan of her work for a very  long time  – she gave me two of her beautiful  hand screened embroidery samplers.

rebecca ringquist samplers

I wish I had taken more pictures. I saw the biggest weirdest bug I’ve ever seen in my life marching up a dock and did not take a photo.  The lake and the forest and the turn of the century cabins  are astoundingly beautiful and so up my alley – not one picture.  I was too busy having a fabulous time.  Other people took lots of great photos though-  there is a flickr group here.

Squam June 2012

(photo by Christine Chitnis)

the new artisans

I can hardly believe I’m included in this book – it is magnificent in every way. I think Olivier Dupon has created something very special.  In less expert hands this wealth of  information might  have been overwhelming or the spirit could have been lost but Olivier presents it with simplicity and real elegance – you are never distracted from the central idea: that this is a book about love of craft, process and materials or Olivier’s true affection for the subject.

Find the book:

on Facebook:

Olivier’s blog:

the new artisans

the new artisans

the new artisans

“This book captures the new mood – a return to a preference for the unique and the handmade. Design expert and acclaimed blogger Olivier Dupon has sourced the cream of the contemporary design world from all over Europe, Australia and the United States, profiling 75 artisans who use craft techniques, rather than mass-production methods, to create stylish, whimsical, covetable objects. Hundreds of colour photographs feature a huge variety of crafts, including art, ceramics, furniture, glasswork, jewelry, lighting, metalwork, papercraft, textiles and woodwork. Complete with a directory of products, and Dupon’s personal recommendations for inspiring shops and websites to visit, this is the perfect resource for discovering unique and beautiful objects made by new, talented artisans from all around the world.”

things to do on a rainy day


I made the ship above  as a prop for a TV commercial a couple years ago.  I assembled some boxes and parts of boxes into a shipish shape and then added all sorts of stuff – pipe cleaners, dixie cups, part of a birthday crown, wooden ice cream spoons, buttons, felt, etc. etc. The castle collage below was for an ad as well. I think they would be fun for little people to make ( with some grown up help).


Both  involve using the die cut sections of boxes for details .  I can’t resist a good piece of cardboard – I live near a fancy grocery and their recycling is full cartons and boxes with  interesting cutouts and shapes.



Everything I make starts in a box and then lives there until it’s done. The boxes are  for organization – keeping the many little bits for many little projects together and they are also a thinking tool  and  most importantly  a way to start, it is very easy to put things in a box.


I love Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit. Here’s a little of what she has to say about boxes:

“The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet. It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on a box means that I’ve started work”


I have different sorts of boxes for different sorts of projects. You could also  make your own box or use a basket – project bags are great too.

birds and boro

Stephen Szczepanek of Sri Threads came for a visit a little while ago and brought me a fabulous present.


Beautiful bits of Japanese indigo and bright floral dust rags. I love them. You can find more about Stephen and these amazing things at his website. I think I’m going to make a bat out one of the dust cloths.

These little birds are on their way to London today for a garden wedding.


I like this photo – I think they look very earnest or maybe sincere. Note on wedding birds/ cake toppers: I’m still making them but not taking orders right now so I can focus on current orders, tackling my massive backlog of email and doing a little restructuring to make everything more manageable for all concerned. If I were to continue without making some adjustments and changes I would certainly lose the rest of my marbles. If you would like updates please join the mailing list or check back here.

This lace and fabric is for some brides and grooms I’m beginning today.


My favorite parts of the bird making process are picking out the fabric and taking the photo when they’re finished. I like the middle parts too – just not as much.

taking pictures

It did get a bit brighter yesterday for picture taking but I still needed a little artificial enhancement so I invested a total of about 15 minutes and 8 bucks in putting together a sort of simple light box I found at Make. I used drafting velum instead of interfacing and I had one florescent bulb and one incandescent ( wish I had two florescent) which were clipped on either side. I would have shown you the clip lights ( which I already had) but that would have meant taking a wider shot and revealing some embarrassing disarray here in birdville.


Here are a couple bird portraits taken in the box:

This is the daily bird abra


and nan. She’ll be in the shop at one.

Pretty simple and it made the difference in being able to take at least acceptable pictures on a lousy day in a place where I’m already kind of light challenged particularly in the afternoon.