Green Foxes and Country Living

I’m ridiculously pleased to have made it into Country Living magazine this month with Mr Badger.MrBadgerCountryLivingI’m very lucky that I’ve been in the magazine before (a few times, actually) but not for some time. In fact, I think it’s a lot harder to get into magazines in general these days, there is so much competition in the handmade market that it’s difficult to stand out and it’s increasingly important to keep up any marketing which is an area I really struggle to find the passion to maintain.il_570xN.509627634_4hdz

It’s given me a well needed kick up the bum to get on with some neglected jobs including listing some things that have been finished for a while but where I simply hadn’t edited the photos (it all takes sooooooo long!)IMG_20170607_135833So, welcome, Mr Fox (in a Green Dandy Suit!).DSC_0003These started with some amazing Liberty Tana Lawn that I bought and imported from Japan. Why are all the nicest Tana Lawns only available abroad? I’ve never figured this out, it seems wrong, especially as it’s such an iconic British brand. Anyway, at much expense my single meter arrived (back in 2010!!!) and it was yelling animal cravats at me, so that’s what I made.GreenFox1With the addition of real leather buttons (I bought the entire remaining stock from Cath Kidston a few years ago when they went into the sale at a silly low price – one of my best buys as before that a lot of the leather buttons I used were vintage and they were getting hard to source at a sensible price).MrFoxNewGreen3There isn’t a lot else to add. Of all the foxes I’ve made, these are my favourite combination (but they don’t beat the wolves!), I really do adore the cravat fabric and bright green is very much my colour. They seem like a summer animal to me.FoxesIt’s likely that the remaining ‘Woodland Animals‘ will be my last.

I love them and they are very much in keeping with The Linen Cat. DSC_0269I’ve been making them in some form or another since 2010, but they take an enormous amount of time to make and the fabric alone is quite expensive so there is little profit.DSC_0017They really are a labour of love.DSC_0019There are still a few to be found in the shop (the badgers are almost gone now!) and some were moved into the Sale section a while ago so there is a bargain of two to be found there.DSC_0017Christmas things are coming next!

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 🙂

Mr Badger…

Update:  Thanks for all your lovely comments, all the Mr Badgers have now sold and I am thrilled at such a positive response.  Thank you 🙂

Yesterday I finally finished the badgers.

The finishing touches such as making up the rose brooches, stitching noses and sewing on buttons have taken me a lot longer than I’d imagined,

in fact I still have one badger body to complete, I ran out of stuffing and he needs a bit more in his belly,

on which note, I should say that the only disappointment in the lovely badgers is that their waistcoats are a bit too snug.  This is partly because the tweed I’ve used for the bodies is very stretchy and soft and has expanded more than expected when stuffed and the corduroy doesn’t stretch in the same way the linen does, I’ve also opted for very chunky buttons that don’t help the situation.  I did um and ah about whether to re-make them but I don’t have enough time or fabric and I’m pretty sure it’s just me being a perfectionist.

The cravats are in Liberty ‘Claire-Aude’, a nice red and gold floral print which compliments the yellow corduroy suit very nicely.

I’m really, really pleased with these.  I only had enough of the tweed to make 5, and I decided to add a little rose brooch to each, they have been listed here and I do hope you like them 🙂

Boy Bunnies and Squirrels…

The eagle eyed amongst you spotted some new additions to my animal softies when you were looking at the updated Folksy store and I feel like a post on them has been long overdue.

Earlier this year…a lot earlier, this one has taken me a while…I decided to re-design my Wool Bunnies, although I love them I think they might be a bit too ‘odd’ looking for some customers and I decided going forward to only make girl versions as people tend to buy linen mice as gifts for boys and not the bunnies.  I had a couple of the original pattern bodies cut but not sewn up so I used them as a startling point to re-design the head, it’s simply the original but with ears added on separately, in this case using the legs as ears (I know, poor bunny I did feel bad cutting it up).  I then ‘jointed’ the arms and legs, this adds a lot of time and fabric onto the making of each one but I’ve decided in this case it’s worth it.

At the same time I started working on a squirrel in tweed, using the same base pattern, above is my first sample and a doh! moment to show that I often make mistakes, I did laugh a lot when I realised what I’d done.  I’ve been planning squirrels since last year, just one of many animals in my head trying to get out.

I then made some waistcoats for the new squirrels, this is again back in the summer holidays, I had envisioned red but the bright green worked better with the tweed fabric, so I made some of both with the plan to make up some plain twill squirrels as well as the tweed version at a later date.

In the end the bunny bodies were made out of the same cashmere wool mix that I use for my bears, I have limited amounts but the texture is so unbelievably soft that I couldn’t resist and I’ve decided to save all the remaining cream for these wool bunnies and worry about what to use when it runs out some other time. I then found myself with lots of flat bodies and finished clothing but not necessarily ones that match.  The same story runs pretty much across the board, I also have loads of fox bodies with no clothing and clothing with no matching body.

So I was now beginning to panic slightly at the sheer amount of work needed to get done, and with the life getting in the way I had to cut back the list, the result?  Wool Bunny boys wearing red waistcoats (you know, the squirrel ones, are you still with me?).  I’m so glad I found this solution as they are so amazingly cute and it works really well, the jackets are  a little big (I made the squirrel body slightly wider so I could fit the tail in when turning them through) but it’s not a problem I think it just adds to appeal.

I only have 5 and it’s unlikely I will make more, I do plan to add a girl version in coming weeks but I probably wont make any more boys.  You can find them here and a couple on Folksy.

Mr Squirrel has also been listed, again this is likely to be a winter only product, I have only made a few.

The waistcoats are lined with Liberty Tana Lawn in Mirabelle print and have real leather buttons, again, these come at a price but I so badly wanted leather and as a finishing touch each has a hand-woven flower.

Job done.

Foxes and badgers coming next 🙂


Bright Little Waistcoats…

I have lots of open projects at the moment and despite my attempts to finish one before starting on another it’s not really working out that way.  There are lots of piles of little clothes without bodies and many naked woodland animals needing clothing.  I was also given a stark reminder of what’s to come when we had a few days of rain last week (hurrah!) and it became so dark I struggled to see what I was sewing, even with all the studio lights on so it really is important that I get all my shop photographs taken in the next few weeks.

My mission, then, is to finish and photograph at least one full sample of each planned item and better still, complete all my early Autumn work ready for listing in September.

I started with some jolly coloured waistcoats.  I am definitely moving into stronger colours with plums and deep reds as I eagerly await colder weather, but I couldn’t resist a last splash of late summer brightness, especially after making a recent waistcoat for the ‘Gone Fishing‘ squirrel (yes, he is a squirrel and not a fox although he does look very fox-like, especially with the original pointy ears in the sample version, which I have changed for the final design in an attempt to make him more squirrel-like).

Each waistcoat is stitched from 7 pieces and each seam is stitched twice and overlocked, it really is important to me that anything I made lasts, especially if there’s a chance it’s going to be played with by little hands and so this is a standard for the softies I make and their clothing.

I raided my hand dyed linen stash for the outsides and already knew I wanted to use some Liberty Tana Lawn in Mirabelle for the lining, it’s a bit light weight for lining, especially paired with the linen so I backed it with some Vilene Supersoft iron-on interfacing, which I buy in bulk as I use it often.  Oh I love this print, which is why it pops up so often in my work, it’s the perfect mix of retro, nature and block colours which works well with my designs.

I splashed out on real leather buttons as I’ve been desperate to use them for a while.  I have quite a few vintage ones but I’ve stopped using these generally, especially from my Gran’s glass jar as I’d rather save them for personal projects and special items, or even just keep them so I can tip them out to admire.

Finally, the jolly little jackets required a little something else so out came my Hana Flower Loom.  I’d forgotten how much I enjoy weaving these, it’s quite therapeutic just sitting working on them.  I had quite a few ‘I’m very tired, please stop now boys’ moments over the last week and so forced the boys to watch Narnia movies giving me an excuse to just sit on the sofa weaving.  It was fun snuggling up together and having a calm moment (my boys, like most boys are mostly in loud crash bang mode) whilst it rained outside.

Now all I have to do is make all the little bodies to go with the clothing!