Saturday, 21 July 2012

Besotted with birds

Kathleen, of Murgatroyd & Bean, introduced us to the delights of making little birds on our summer gathering at the Blue Ginger summerhouse.  We had a couple of patterns drawn on tracing paper, which we used to start with.  I had bought some wire from a hobby store, and also brought some galvanised garden wire left over from making supports for raspberry canes and a wall trained fig tree. I had also brought some of my jewellery tools, pliers of various shapes and wire snips, and safety glasses, so that we could make wire legs if wanted.

I had tried various patterns for birds ahead of this session, and had come to the conclusion that stitching little birds where seams were on the outside would be quicker and easier, especially when finishing off the bird after stuffing.  To make it easier to add wire legs it is better to make a two part belly, so that you can stitch from beak to middle and tail to middle, insert the legs and then close this final seam.  You can either do this with the frayed edges out like the rest or tuck them in to give a smooth belly.

first bird, silk scraps
I made a lot of legs; I discovered I really enjoyed the process.  The fine copper and gold coloured wires I bought from the craft shop turned out to be easy to work but a bit too soft for good stability of the bird.  You can make the legs any size, and a couple of the birds I made were large and weird and built up from the legs outwards in an emergent fashion.  Have fun with this, but I have included instructions for some simple legs that will work well for a small bird.

Working with wire is much easier if you have the right tools.  As a minimu you need wire snips and small pliers to allow you to bend the wire precisely. It would also be good to wear safety goggles wehn cutting the wire.

Cut the pieces of fabric to form the bird.  Chose patterns that you like for each piece, but remember that the two sides need to have the pattern facing opposite ways.

If you want to stitch any patterns on the bird before assembly do it now.  Both types of embelishment can look very good; do whichever you want.

Stitch the head onto the two side pieces, starting from the beak each time.  If you dont return to the beak each time ou will get a twist in the pattern, much like if you fit a zip by starting at the top of the fly and simply running down and then back up the zip.

Stitch the front belly on, stopping with a gap before the point you want to insert the legs.  You can change the way the bird stands by changing where the legs are inserted.

Stitch the second belly piece on, starting from the tail. If you want a tail piece you cna stitch it into place before joining this seam, or add it afterwards.  Which you choose to do will depend on teh nature of the material you want to add.  The birds with merino wool scraps as tails had these sewn into place before I closed this seam. I have made all the birds shown here by having only one belly piece and stitching the second half of the belly piece after the legs are fitted, but it is quite awkward.

Stuff the head and the tail of the bird.  Wrap some stuffing around the legs, tieing on with some thread or fine wire.  Insert into the bird, making sure stuffing goes all round the leg device.

Stitch the remaining side seams if any, and stitch the front and rear belly together.

Adjust the legs and feet to give a stable position that you like.  Stich on eyes.

You can wrap the legs with florist tape if you dont want to see the wire. I could only find green - brown would have been better.  Many colours are available on the internet.  You could also use threads or fine cloth, but you would then have to stich or glue the ends in place.

Cut 55cm of wire
Mark the midpoint of the wire.  Start making the foot about 5cm from this point
Bend the wire at right angles to begin forming the big toe.  I make the toes between 1 cm and 1.5cms long - bend again to make the toe flat to the ground.  Go past the leg the same distance and form the middle front toe. Make one outside toe, curve the wire behind the leg and around to the other side of the foot to make the final toe.  Complete the final toe and wind the wire around the leg and up to the middle.
Repeat on the second side.

If you have floppier wire you may need to wind the wire around itself more to give stability.  YOu can alsways reinforce the legs with another piece of wire if need be.

You will have some spare wire in the middle.  I make two curly loops to make sure the birds sit neatly and sturdily on the legs.  You can uncurl these loops later to make the bird take a different shape or to form a beak if you want.  The legs look like little creatures as they are, the top curly bits giving them lots of character.

Once you have made a bird or two you may want to change the scale, shape or even build mad freeform birds like the two shown here.  These little birds are full of charm and character, and a great way to use up small scraps of fabric.

Anni's spectacular flower

I need a flat-pack hat for a wedding in Sweden.  All the space in the suitcase is full of baking equipment and flour, so clothing has to able to squeeze into the gaps.  As I am making the wedding cupcake tower in purple, I asked Anni to make one of her lovely flowers for me to wear on my head.

Yesterday we met at Cafe Salvation near Ledbury for a morning of stitch and chatter.  Kathleen showed us how to do some of the handwork which appears on all her fabulous creatures and badges.

With two weddings next weekend, and Lindsay being mother-of-the-groom, talk turned to fascinators.  I had bought a cheap hairband and brought it along to the session.  A quick bit of stitching and the flower was fixed in place.  Lindsay modelled it so that I could see how it looked. Flamboyant without being fussy, this flower is a wonderful completion of the commission, and made at top speed too.

Anni has done a spectacular job and this headpiece is vastly more lovely than all the silly feathery things I have seen in the shops.  It also folds against the headband to make an easy to transport item.  Photos from Sweden have been promised, but in the meantime I present...Lindsay and the purple flower.

and here is a preview- I tried on my clothes before packing...and yes, it is actually sunny!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Bird fever spreads through TWG.

A few weeks have passed since that rainy day at 'Blue Ginger' when we sat huddled under a gazebo in the pouring rain trying to stitch a bird in four hours. It was obvious we had all been bitten by the bird bug when we met up last week!

The first thing to make us laugh was the sight of lots of body-less (bird) legs grouped on the floor! Ann managed to get a shot of them before they dispersed to new homes. Lois has the knack of twisting the wire and made a whole flock for us and is therefore the proud owner of a badge ( made by Kathleen) bearing the immortal words "Lois with the lovely legs".

Lois has even made a short film of the legs waltzing. Having seen them I bet they get up to all sorts of things after dark.

Over on a window sill, Lois and Alison's owls met up. You could tell they were going to be good buddies by the way they exchanged old hoots.

Even a Hoo-poe popped over from the floods at Diglis to take advantage of the brief sunny spell and dry his feathers. You have to admit, the creations are wonderfully diverse.

The little 'Brit Bird' with his patriotic plumage muscled in alongside the rest, refusing to be intimidated by razzle-dazzle.

Earlier on, three from the same nest decided to consult a reference manual to put an end to speculation as to their species.

One particular exotic bird had a hop round the garden before she left, and got a bit of a say the least!

We may have to hire an aviary next time we meet if this carries on.