9.18.2013

Stuffed Animals Book Review

Almost 10 years ago, as I started to experiment with sewing dolls and stuffed toys, I often wondered -  how do people learn how to do this?  I mean, you can go to school to learn how to design clothes or simply take a class or two at a local fabric shop to get a grasp on the basics.  There are also plenty of books, blogs, online courses and tutorials on designing and sewing garments and quilts.  And sure, there are books and patterns for sewing dolls and toys - but my question was how do people learn to design stuffed toys?  Where is there a book or a course for that?

So I learned the way so many others have learned - by doing (and lots of trial and error).  I sewed lots of doll and toy patterns and collected and reviewed several vintage soft toy sewing books.  I examined mass-produced stuffed animals at toy stores, or wherever I happened to come across them - noting the seams and darts, etc. trying to figure out how that specific toy was put together.  In fact, I still do this...

In early 2010, midway through the process of designing patterns for the projects in my book, Abby Glassenberg started a series on her blog While She Naps called Elements of Soft Toy Design.  I'd been a long-time admirer and follower of Abby's blog and I remember thinking, Really?!?!  I needed this series 6 months ago!!!  Shortly thereafter, Abby halted her series and announced that it would become a book.  I would have to wait...


And it was well-worth the wait.

Stuffed Animals:  From Concept to Construction was released a few months ago to well-deserved acclaim.  This book is full of 16 adorable projects that demonstrate 52 lessons (52!!!) - lessons that are particularly helpful for anyone out there aspiring to create or enhance their own stuffed toy designs.

Each of the projects helps demonstrate up to 4 or so lessons.  For instance, this Elephant project below covers such techniques as underbody gussets (Lesson 8), leg darts (Lesson 9), cutting slits to insert details (Lesson 10), and eyelids (Lesson 11).


And this ridiculously cute dinosaur covers how to create a zipper mouth (Lesson 51) and how to compensate for a top-heavy design (Lesson 52) .


Believe me, this book covers just about everything!

So not only is this book full of incredibly helpful lessons, but the projects help show in practice how each of the lessons/techniques are actually used, resulting in a finished toy.  How awesome is that?

My girls wanted me to make the puppy first (that's a no-brainer if you took a look around our house these days).


But I went with the Kangaroo because I wanted to test a technique that was new to me (Lesson 44: Cutting a Hole to Attach Limbs).


I remember Abby briefly covering this technique back in 2010, and it was a technique I hadn't tried before.


So, I went ahead and traced the pattern pieces onto freezer paper (all are full-size, except for the dinosaur) and then cut all the pieces out of super soft, furry knit minky fabric.  And then I prepared to start sewing.

I started with the finger puppet and noted that the pieces were very small - the arms and ears even appeared too small for me to sew on the machine.

And then I read the instructions. D'oh!

Yes, I read the project instructions after cutting out my pattern pieces.

My mistake.

Oops.  I realized only after reading the instructions that the seam allowances were not included as part of the pattern templates in the back of the book.  While I personally prefer that patterns include seam allowances, this is just my preference and not at all the fault of the book.  It was my fault for not reading the instructions!

All of this happened at the end of Spring/start of Summer.  And I contemplated whether to scrap the pattern pieces and start over again or just try and sew the Kangaroo using the smaller pieces I had already prepared.

And then I decided to completely rearrange The Pink Room and the Kangaroo pieces sat untouched for longer than I intended.  Once my sewing space was ready to use again, I decided to just sew the Kangaroo as is, which meant having to hand-sew the finger puppet, but that was it.  Everything else I was able to do on the machine.

Here is my finished Kangaroo.  I don't know how much smaller it is than it should have been, but it turned out just as cute!


The legs are super sturdy.  I loved trying this new-to-me technique.


Look at this fuzzy big foot!


And the little (hand-sewn) Joey finger puppet.


Unless you're a family member, I imagine that any follower of this blog also follows Abby's blog.  But if you don't, you should!  And if you don't already own this book, you must!

I don't spend nearly as much time as I used to online, looking at blogs, etc.  But when I get a chance, I always check Abby's blog.  Abby's posts are so helpful and thought-provoking - it's a must-read for any crafter.  

And Abby herself is intelligent, nice, responsive, approachable, honest, and so passionate about the craft and business of sewing and designing toys.  She is one of the biggest resources out there when it comes to these topics.


Check out all the wonderful reviews on Amazon for more information about her book and this book trailer.

Stuffed Animals:  From Concept to Construction fills a void that existed until now.  It's a must-have book for anyone interested in sewing stuffed toys.  Wonderful job, Abby!  And most of all, thank you! 

9.05.2013

Around here...

Hello there!

Pig Pillow (variation on Kitten Pillow from my book).

We've had a busy Summer, full of lots of sports camps and travel.  These girls are keeping us active!

I'll let some pictures do the writing...

Soccer tournament in Pacifica, CA.

Bar Harbor, ME.  Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park.

With cousins in Cape Cod.

With cousins in Summerland, CA.

Lake Tahoe, CA.

On the creative front, I started off the summer with a HUGE project - reorganizing The Pink Room.  I'm talking about a complete overhaul of all my sewing/crafting supplies.  Everything.  I've been wanting to give my youngest a bit more space and make the room more of a bedroom and less of a sewing room.

So I dumped out every fabric bin/yarn basket/sewing drawer.  Everything.  I completely emptied the closet and worked so hard at sorting, folding, more sorting, and more folding.

I spent the better part of a week in June on this project...and about 3/4 of the way through it...I got stalled.

And all my stuff just sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Summer happened.  Vacations were taken.  I even vowed to not work on any sewing projects until I finished, hoping it would reinvigorate my clean-up efforts.  Nope.  It still sat.

And we had fun.

Then these turkeys returned to school.

First Day of School, 2013.

Even the little one.  She started Kindergarten.  (She had just turned 2 when I started this blog!).  She wore the same Oliver & S Teaparty Dress that I sewed for my oldest daughter's first day of Kindergarten five years ago.

Oldest on First Day of Kindergarten, 2008.

Then my middle daughter wore it.

Middle on First Day of Kindergarten, 2010.

And, finally, it was her turn.

Youngest on First Day of Kindergarten, 2013.

I got around to finishing up my reorganization project last week and I spent much of the past weekend sewing (I'll show you what I made in the next post).  So happy to be back in there with everything organized and stored away properly. 

The timing is perfect. With all the busyness that Fall brings - homework, Fall soccer, afterschool activities, etc. - it also means the start of holiday crafting.  

My middle daughter is ahead of us all, around here.  She learned to knit earlier this year from my mother.

Middle's first scarf, early 2013.

And she has already finished off knitting this vibrant scarf below for her favorite (almost) 8-year old cousin ;-).

First Christmas present done!

Me, I'm starting on my holiday crafting, too.  All three girls want dolls (even my 10-year old...she asked for a marionette-sized doll).  I have lots of pajamas to make.  Not just holiday matching PJs either.  In all that clean-up I did, I discovered lots of fabric that I need to use soon, before my kids get much older. :(  

I also have a few really cute toy patterns to finish up.  I mentioned those earlier this year.  I hope to have them available this Fall, at least in time for the holidays.

That's it for now!  Look for photos of a toy I made from this book below...  I'll review the book, too.  Both are awesome (the project and the book).  More details and photos soon.