Softies

The making of Miss Matilda Catkin, or ….

by Helen on September 12, 2014

…. why you should never give up on your softie!

As a child I much preferred my collection of stuffed animals to the dolls that misguided relatives presented me with from time to time. These were always left on my toyshelf – beautiful – and often naked as I would heartlessly remove their pretty clothing to dress my teddies, rabbits and most favourite of all, my panda! Now I love to design and make my own softies, and sometimes it’s hard to limit myself to just one in each issue of the Bustle & Sew Magazine.  But sometimes, even after carefully drafting and re-drafting my pattern pieces, as well as making a sample in some scrap fabric, actually continuing with a softie make can be a bit of a leap of faith.

This year I’ve enjoyed putting together a collection of long-limbed, jointed softies, beginning in January with Fred and Ginger the dancing rats …

Then continuing with Miss Mabel Fox, and later in the summer Emily (and Albert) Rabbit……

And this month I thought it would be fun to add a cat to the collection.  I knew the body should be fine, although I made a couple of small adjustments to the limbs, giving my cat rounder paws, to which I plan to add little stitched claws.  But the head was trickier.

Here she’s beginning to take shape.  I decided to add nice plump little cheeks – I’ve been staring very hard at some of the cats that live nearby, and have noticed they have quite round faces that only narrow to little pointed noses quite low down.  I’ve marked the position of her eyes with glass-headed pins to try to imagine how she’ll look, but honestly?  I’m not feeling too enthusiastic at this point.  But experience told me to persevere, so I gave her a body and a nice long tail with a cream tip to twitch …..

(yes, it’s been warm enough to sit and sew in the summer house still .. lovely!).  Then the next afternoon she grew a leg ….

And a temporary nose – an old button secured in place with another pin (sorry Miss Matilda!).  And I could at last begin to imagine how she would come together.  This morning I finally finished assembling her body, giving her proper beady eyes, a pink button nose and long whiskers.  Now she’s helping choose the fabrics for her dress – and perhaps she needs a flower or a headband too?

I’m glad I persevered with Miss Matilda Catkin and think she’ll look very cute when she’s finally finished.  But I have noticed that almost all my softies seem to go through that ugly stage, when I ever-so-nearly lose faith and think they’ll never turn out OK.  If this happens to you too, and you’ve discarded any half-finished softie projects, then it might be worth taking a second look as they (nearly) always come right in the end!

 

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Ask the Bunny … Softie Making

by Helen on August 15, 2014

Last week I asked if anyone had questions they’d like to ask the Bustle & Sew bunny.  I received quite a few queries which I’m beginning to put into some sort of order to answer in the coming weeks.  These included an email from a lovely lady called Baa who wanted to know about my free booklet “Making Beautiful Softies” as she couldn’t find the link to download it.  I had a bit of a rummage around and was amazed to discover that I actually put this together way back in 2011 (which is probably why Baa couldn’t find the link!) and it was well overdue for a dusting down and tidying up.  So I spent an hour or two on polishing it up a little and putting it into my new format, and here it is!

The illustration on the front is by my very talented friend Jacqui of Flapdoodledesigns, and shows two of my ever-popular Pincushion Mice.

Just CLICK HERE to download your free copy of Making Beautiful Softies, and if you don’t already have, and would like, the Pincushion Mice pattern, then please just CLICK HERE.

Both the booklet and pattern are free and I’m happy for you to share them with as many people as you wish, providing you don’t change them in any way.  And if you have any questions you’d like to “Ask the Bunny” then please do leave a comment below or email me direct.

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Every Monday afternoon …

by Helen on July 15, 2014

Every Monday afternoon I say farewell to my two furry friends and head off into Kingsbridge for an afternoon session as a volunteer at the Oxfam Bookshop.  I really enjoy these sessions as I meet lots of interesting people – many visitors to the area drop in to pick up new holiday reading as well as locals who almost treat the shop as a library – returning a bag of books for resale before choosing more.  I also enjoy browsing through the books myself and usually come home with two or three (at least!).

This week I thought I’d share one of my finds with you – it’s a Country Living Book entitled “Country Colour Combinations.”  My edition is a bit faded along the spine and dates to 2003.  As the cover makes the rather ambitious claim “classic colour schemes that never fail” I was very interested to see what was inside as most interior books become very dated …

The photography is stunning – as you’d expect from Country Living, and the colour schemes still look attractive, though there were one or two pictures that did look a little dated.  I loved the way the schemes were named – after all, who wouldn’t enjoy “chestnut and copper beech”, “rosehip and crab apple” or “rockpool and driftwood?”  And what’s not to like about “raspberries and cream,” “strawberry, apple & mint,” or “lilac & primrose?”  All the schemes were grouped into palettes, and my very favouritest one was of course “sun, sea, and sky …”

… including “sky & sunshine,” “shell, sky & sunset” and “storm cloud and sea spray”.  This book is still available to purchase from Amazon, though I was surprised to discover that although the cover and title are identical, the author name has been changed from Caroline Atkins on my 2003 copy to Kate Butcher on the current edition.  How odd – I wonder why?

But I haven’t just been lazing around in the summer house idly flicking through my “new” books.  Oh no, a major relocation exercise has taken place here at Coombe Leigh.  Rosie’s wedding arch was getting a little blown about at the front of the house – it’s quite exposed facing the prevalent south-westerlies, so it’s now been moved to the back ….

And made quite a lot taller with the addition of its legs!  The silk roses still look nice around the top and the sweet peas smell wonderful as we brush past them.  In typical country fashion I use the back door much more than the front so I’m really enjoying having the arch where I’ll see it every day.

And I’ve also been busy with new projects for the August Bustle & Sew Magazine….

These little bunnies are waiting for some clothes.  The girl has cute little red shoes and will wear the same dress as Mabel Fox, whilst I’m planning some dungarees for her brother.  The embroidered heart is also for the magazine and is waiting to be added to a project.  Rosie’s wedding may be over, but there’s still no shortage of activities to keep me busy, including a bit of painting – ably assisted by that mischievous Miss Daisy ….

What can I say?!

And to finish, I’m delighted to report Ben is recovering well now.  He’s back at the vet on Friday to have his stitches out, whilst his tooth extraction doesn’t seem to have affected his ability to hoover up his food at teatime -it’s nice to see him back to his old self again!

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At last the sunshine has returned, and though I don’t think you could call it hot, certainly there’s a pleasant warmth in the air and so I’ve been able to take my work out to the summer house today.  I’ve been finishing off another project for the July issue of the magazine – another trophy head – a Hare in a Hat!

Inspired by the lovely brown hares I see running and gambolling across the fields when I take Ben and Daisy to their favourite kennels.  And of course the furry pair were outside with me this afternoon, “helping” in their own special way.  Here’s a view of the summer house with my hare on the wall ready to have her picture taken ….

And it’s easy to spot Ben, snoozing gently on the warm slate paving.  But where, I wondered, as I took this photo, is Daisy?  Not far away was the answer – all tucked up in my favourite clematis and far too sleepy on this warm and drowsy afternoon to open her eyes, even just a little bit …

Naughty girl – she knows she’s not supposed to be in the flower beds!  Perhaps she thought if she didn’t open her eyes I wouldn’t be able to see her?

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