Mr Badger is Back

There are some things I’ve made that sell out within a few hours of blogging about them. I love that something I have made is that popular but I often feel guilty they are gone so quickly and it’s common to get emails afterwards asking me if I’ll make an extra one for a commission or if I’ll be making more soon. The answer to both is usually no. I am a people pleaser so I hate saying no, but I also know myself well and once I’m done with something I generally need a break or I would not enjoy the process of making them. I also just don’t really do commissions as I find it amazingly time-consuming making just one of something and my time can be quite erratic (single parent, not exactly straightforward kids) so it’s better to just be honest and make a polite refusal than promise things I might not be able to deliver or where I’ll get stressed out trying.IMG_20170525_102205Way back in 2011 I made some Mr Badgers and they sold out almost directly after listing them. I got asked a few times afterwards if I’d make more and the answer was always no until someone emailed me in 2013 and in a moment of weakness (they wrote a very polite and compelling email, if I remember correctly,  about family names and the need for a Mr Badger as an ideal gift), I said yes, OK, why not?IMG_20170612_163909To try to make it worthwhile (time wise) I cut the fabric for six badgers and their clothing at the same time and delivered one completed Badger with the other cut pieces being stacked away for later. I love the woodland animals (the wolves are still my favourite, I think) but that are incredibly time-consuming and it just doesn’t scale so these will be the last I ever make along with a couple of new green-suited foxes that I still need to photograph and list.DSC_0028They are really a summer item with their mustard and red clothing and little ‘Red Arrow’ auricula brooches. The original badgers have roses, so this is one minor change along with little leather buttons instead of chunky yellow ones.When Scottie Plays The Pipes by Molly Brettba15fee7d832afdb14a50f700b6b80f8

They make me think of Molly Brett and Racey Helps illustrations, as animals in clothes always do.DSC_0030I’m sad to only just be photographing them now, they have been nearly finished for a while (with just the brooches to complete) and I would have preferred to post about them in spring or summer.DSC_0065Still, they are here now and I’ve listed them in my shop and on Folksy.Badger2 2Badger2The waistcoats got a pattern re-draft some time ago and aren’t as ‘snug’ as the originals, which in hindsight might be a mistake as looking back at the old ones and seeing their fat little bellies struggling to be contained by the button is actually quite endearing.Badger 2I’ve started to look at taking some photos in situ and plan to use my vintage furniture and belongings as props. I haven’t got it right yet, but I’ve made a start and I think it shows the size quite well, I know people imagine them to be smaller than they actually are.DSC_0158 2Another ‘tick’ for the list. Phew. Annoyingly as I was looking up some Molly Brett images I came across an animal that I just might not be able to resist making so that top part about these being the last might be a lie. I am a glutton for punishment.

Mr Wolf…

There is no doubt that my decision to make wolves as the most recent addition to my ‘Woodland Animals’ collection and as this Winter’s special is directly related to my slightly obsessional reading of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire‘ by George R.R. Martin.  The book reading was prompted by a mixture of my need for a fun new series to read, my love of sci fi and fantasy and a slight addiction to American TV programs, resulting in the rather late discovery of the ‘Game of Thrones’.  I bought all the books available on my kindle and happily worked my through them, it isn’t the best writing I’ve ever read but it is throughly entertaining and totally addictive.  I got to the end and then looked up when the next installment might be due, apparently it took Mr Martin 5 YEARS!!! to write the last book.  I was just a tiny bit gutted.  Still, whilst I wait to find out what will happen to the many characters I’ve come to love, I thought I might like to make some wolves.

As a general rule, I try to stick to ‘British’ animals when I design, it just feels more correct with my shop and although I don’t often see a wolf wondering through my garden, they did once live here so I think this is OK.  I noticed that my winter board has rather a few wolves on, above is a postcard by Hidden Eloise and to the left, my main inspiration, some fabulous wrapping and card in the form of ‘HUNTING WOLVES WRAP PACK’, by Zoran Pungercar which I bought from Wrap a year ago.  If you’ve never checked out Wrap, you must, they produce magazines based on a theme, containing fabulous illustrations by talented artists.  I’ve just ordered the new ‘Nordic’ version and can’t wait for it to arrive (I own all the back issues, but refuse to use them for wrapping as suggested).

I’m sorry, I keep rambling, but there is so much to write.  As with all my designs, I try to keep continuity by using a pattern that is already in production, in this case the body of the Foxes and Badgers, so it was just a case of re-designing the head.

I always work my patterns on brown paper, in fact I even do this for dress patterns, it’s just how I was taught and I don’t get on very well with that flimsy tissue stuff.  I tried out some different ears.  At this point I’d normally work up a fabric toille in calico and draw all over it, but I was feeling rather confident so I went straight to the final wool (which I braved washing in the machine to soften it, luckily a decision that paid off).

I find dark tweed and wool very difficult to mark on so I often use paper templates to sew around, or inside, as was the case here with the eyes.  They just had to be yellow, with black pupils.

I was rather pleased with myself at this point, the eyes worked, the tilt of the head was looking good and I felt really happy with the grey/black mix.  I had to stop myself adding another layer of ‘fur’ in another white grey around the neck, I so nearly did but I knew it was an unecessary step that would take a lot of time and was rather over complicating things.

Oh dear.  Makes me thing of Monty Python and lots of ‘big nose’ jokes.That’s better.  Should have done a calico toille after all!  Still, it was easily fixed.  It shows how differently things sew up to paper, once they are stuffed.

The clothing was led by my stash of Liberty Tana Lawn, namely the lovely berry ‘Wiltshire’ pattern.  This is one of my favourite designs and works perfectly with a nice red suit.  The red linen is the left over from a batch I dyed for Red Riding Hood mice some time back (one of which is back in the shop this year), it’s a mix of Dylon’s ‘Tulip Red’ and ‘Rosewood Red’ which make a nice deep scarlet, actually a little darker than it appears in these photos.As with the Badgers, I wanted to add a little brooch, which just had to be a berry one so I dragged out my beads one Saturday afternoon and rather quickly the final version appeared.  I do love just playing sometimes, the idea of bead berries has been rolling around my head for a couple of years now and it was fun to put it into action in such an organic way (ie just playing and not over planning them).  I do quite often work this way, although I do use sketch books, I also ‘make’ things in my head, I am the kind of person who lays awake at night ‘making’ a mini animal dress from scratch in my head, over and over to get the best process worked out.  I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who does this….I hope!And here he is, the first Mr Wolf in a Dandy Red Suit.  As always red is very difficult to photograph, it is definitely a little darker in real life, but doesn’t he look smart.

I so enjoyed spending some of this morning (in a rare pocket of brighter weather) photographing them.  The best bit was dressing each one, although I started the bodies back in October I had left the noses to last, they always seem to give a different character to each wolf, something I really enjoy, then putting the final outfit on really was a rather nice moment.

A little pile of wolves, to be found here.  I hope you like them 🙂

Finally *drumroll please* we have Foxes…

The above photo was taken back in mid September and it’s taken me a while to complete my Mr & Mrs Foxes, rather longer than expected (I blame those pesky kids ;)) but over the past few weeks I have made stacks of little clothing,

stitched many noses (one of my favourite bits as it gives each Fox a slightly different personality),

shirred lots of Liberty Tana Lawn and then (the best bit) finally dresses the Foxes!

Mrs Fox has a dress similar to my Wool Bunnies, shirred Tana Lawn with ties that fasten behind the neck to form a halterneck dress.

She then has a woven flower in her hair and, of course, a linen cape lined in green brushed cotton.

Mr Fox, the purple version is just as dandy as the blue, I don’t like to have favourites but if pushed, it has to be said that I am rather in love with this dark plum linen, especially teamed with the Mirabelle patterened lawn.

As with everything I make that might be played with by children, all seams are double stitched (except for top stitching) and where appropriate overlocked, and the stuffing Conforms to British Standard Regulation.  It should be noted though, that there are beads and small parts so the Foxes are not suitable for children under 36 months.  Clothing is washable by hand, I recommend washing the linen separately as it’s hand dyed and as I haven’t wash tested the tweed, I am opting for ‘surface clean only’.

You should have received and email from me, if you’ve asked in the past to be notified once the Foxes are complete, if I’ve missed you off my list, really, really sorry just pop me a message via this blog and I’ll get back to you.

Foxes cost £30 plus £3 P&P, hopefully some will make it to Folksy and my on-line store, they may cost a little more when they do and I do have quite a few pre-orders, but if you would like one now, I am happy to raise a PayPal invoice via email and pop one in the post to you.  Oh, finally they are 36 cm high by 32 cm (which includes their little tails).

Well, that’s all a bit blurby isn’t it? (today is making up words day :)) but I know that quite a few people are waiting on these and I want to make sure all the relevant info is here.

I was going to wait until each one is ordered before dressing them, I have become rather attached and I do love the dressing bit best, that and adding the final details (such as the flower in the hair), but I had a rough couple of weeks with the boys being ill and treated myself to a Fox dressing session, which cheered me no end.  With all my Foxes ready to go to new homes, I finally have time to de-fluff (remember, it is making up words day) the studio and attempt a tidy up. To top off my day, M is back and Friday night is takeaway night so I get to sneak upstairs soon and have an evening off and for the first time in a while, relax 🙂

Is it a mouse, a cat, a bear…?

For those who know my work, The Linen Cat started with, in fact, a linen bunny which quickly progressed to a cat and these are still my favourite things, I especially love the mix of linen against the bright cotton prints.  The cats/bunnies are, however, one of the most expensive things that I sell as there is a lot of work and fabric involved (all the tweed trousers and dresses are removable and lined) and although I go to every length to make sure they are hard wearing and washable the buttons mean I have to state they are unsuitable for children under 36 months.  I have thought for a while about making something that mixes the same combination of fabrics but is a bit smaller, simpler in construction and young child friendly and also has a hint of my mouse egg cosy.

Some designs are very organic and ‘just happen’, others I think about, draw down and tweak a lot before I am happy.  In this case my starting point was the linen cats/bunnies, the mouse egg cosy and existing patterns (as I have written before I like to try and keep some continuity with shapes and sizes – the latter to make easier packaging and posting!).

Pattern one is based on the one used for the Wool Bunnies, and it’s passable but not right.  The head doesn’t work, I quite like slightly weird shaped heads but I know from sales, not to go too abstract.  By the way, the cute owl fabric is from the new additions at Fabric Rehab and was an extra sent to me on my last order (thanks Sally), I am rather smitten and will have to buy more.

Apart from the head shape, I struggled to stitch up the body, there wasn’t enough room to tuck the arms and legs in (the legs in the corners of the triangle dress were a nightmare) so I have made pattern two wider at the top and I’ve moved the legs in a bit.

I am also trying out new heads in cotton, so I can draw on them and not waste good linen and also because the shapes change so much once stuffed.  I think the cat is the winner but I am worried about making my lovely full size Linen Cats redundant if there is a cheaper smaller more ‘young child’ friendly version.  As always any opinions greatly appreciated.

Hummm, plenty to think on, in the meantime I am waiting for fabric ordered for the project and I need to pre-wash and dye some existing linen.  Little mouse has gone to live on the shelf with some of my other samples…she may get buttons on her dress, just for fun, at a later date.

Folksy Upcycle Competition – Foxy Twins…

I have finally finished my entry for the Folksy Christmas Upcycle Competition which is being run to raise money for the Sue Ryder Care Charity, with all the entries being put into an auction to run from 7th – 13th December.  I had hoped to make something different to my ‘usual’ work, such as re-blocking and decorating an old felt hat or making some new/old clothes (I don’t get to use my millinery or pattern cutting skills very often), I even considered making a corset based on a period pattern.  Could have, would have…but didn’t.

My final decision was largely influenced the materials I found in our local village charity shops plus I have foxes on the brain at the moment as they keep wandering around our garden.  So, here we have the Foxy Twins, Florian and Florence.

They started life as a polyester fleece shirt, a rather lovely floral cotton lawn shirt and a blue cord skirt all from the ‘Heart of Kent Hospice’ charity shop, bought especially for the occasion (£5 + £3.50 + £3.50).

To this I added some floral fabric bought last year from the ‘Mind’ charity shop  (£3.50…I think most things are priced £3.50!), polyester stuffing from an old cushion, which meets safety regulations I should add and some wool on the tail from my scrap box.

Florence has a cute dress with straps and blue shirring running along the top and a cape with collar made from the cord skirt, lined with the floral fabric and old Laura Ashley ribbons stitched together for ties.

Florian has smart trousers made from the cord skirt in a sailor style, with shell buttons taken from the shirt (the popper fastening came from a stash belonging to my Gran so must be rather old).  He also wears a top made from the lovely (honestly, I didn’t really want to cut it up) blue floral shirt with bias binding trim.

There was a lot of morphing along the way, the original foxes were front facing and I had planned a skirt for Florence with a shirring top, but I am happy with the result.  It was a fun project and it is after all for charity!