Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Our Advent Calendar for 2017-- Quick and Sweet!

When I was a kid, I had a favorite aunt who sent me an advent calendar every year. They were wonderful and special, very cleverly made cards with little treats in them or little games behind tiny windows. But beyond the card, my family didn't really do anything formal for advent. 

This is the 3rd year that we have done an advent calendar. It was such a hit with the kids the first time we did it that they look forward to it all year-- they talk about it more than Christmas itself. This is something of a victory, because our advent calendar is all about making things and doing things together. 


Our first advent calendar was a cute little matchbox calendar, which worked really well for our small space. However, when I pulled it out of storage this year, it was looking a bit scruffy, so I decided to try a new format. These are little white favor envelopes clipped with tiny clothespins to twine hung around the window in front of our kitchen table. I generally start the advent calendar after my birthday in December, so that's why the numbers start at 5.

This year I stuck with some of our favorite activities... gingerbread houses, having a picnic dinner in a fort, and making cookies and ornaments. I also tried to add in a few more "generosity" prompts like "make a card for someone else" and "do something nice for someone else." Oh, and most days there is a little treat to sweeten the deal... stickers or an all-natural sweet treat.

Graham cracker gingerbread houses, dinner in a fort, sandwich cookies

Here's the full list:

5          Find a special present and open it
6          Decorate for Christmas
7          Build a fort and have dinner in it
8          Make popcorn and watch a movie
9          Go to the Nutcracker
10       Make a Christmas ornament
11       Do something nice for someone else
12       Find a special present and open it
13       Make a card for someone
14       Have breakfast for dinner
15       Go downtown and look at lights
16       Make Christmas Cookies
17       Make a gingerbread house
18       Make a birdfeeder
19       Make a present for someone else
20       Make snowflakes
21       Wrap a present for someone else
22       Go look at lights (Watkins Glen)

23       Sing Christmas Carols

Do you make an advent calendar? 
Enjoy the season!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along Day 5: Weighting, Stuffing and Finishing

Welcome back, this is the last day of the Velveteen Rabbit Sewalong. Today we will finish our Velveteen Rabbits!



Add the Eyes

The pattern suggests using 12mm safety eyes. A young child shouldn't be able to easily pull them out and swallow them, and they won't break like traditional glass eyes. I usually use brown eyes, but pink eyes could also work, especially if you are making a white bunny!

Here is a video showing you how to attach safety eyes to your rabbit. Or, scroll down for a description and pictures.


Decide where you want to place your eyes. Transfer the eye markings from the pattern, then lightly stuff the head and place pins with colored heads at the placement points. Adjust the location of the eyes as necessary.

When you are happy with placement, remove the stuffing and make a tiny hole where you want to place the eye. You can use your seam ripper to poke a hole or you can cut a very small X with small scissors. 


Push the rounded portion of the eye into the hole, then turn the bunny inside out.


Place the washer portion of the eyes onto the post. Press it down firmly, and the eye should be secured.



Make the Weight Bags

Sew around the edges of the muslin bags, leaving an opening for stuffing. You don't need to turn them right side out.


Use a funnel to fill the weight bag with your weighting material (I'm using ground walnut shells, but you could also use poly pellets). Leave some space... they should feel sort of squishy like a bean bag, not hard and dense.


Close the weight bags by folding the edge over and machine stitching over the fold to secure it.



Stuff the Head

Now it's time to stuff your bunny! We'll start with the head. Watch the video or follow along below...


If you are working with poly fill, there really isn't much of a trick... just stuff the head until you achieve a firm, but still huggable density.

If you are working with wool, then I have a few tips. If you just stuff wool in without any method, it can get sort of lumpy and have an inconsistent feel.

To get the wool to make a nice smooth, dense head, you want to make a tight ball from your wool. I usually start with a core, which can be either a dense ball of wool or a ball of cotton scrap fabric.

Then, tear your wool into strips and wrap them tightly around this core. Keep wrapping in multiple directions until you have a round or oblong ball about the size of the rabbit's head. Stuff the ball into the head of the rabbit. Use a little extra stuffing to pad out the nose.

Stuff the Body


Before you stuff the body, place the small weight bags into the rabbit's paws. You can add a little  stuffing behind the weight bags, but leave the joint unstuffed so that the paws hang down a little at a natural angle.

Then, stuff the body. If you are using poly fill or something similar, just stuff it right in there. If you are using wool, make a fabric scrap core of about 4 inches by 2 inches, then wrap 6 inch strips of wool tightly around your core to make a cylinder. Keep wrapping until your wool cylinder is about 6-8 inches in diameter... or just small enough to compress down and fit into the hole you have left for stuffing. Use extra stuffing to fill in the belly and back and any soft spots. You want the rabbit to feel relatively firm because wool will compress over time.

Stuff the weight bag base into the very bottom of the rabbit. Fill out the feet and any gaps with more wool.

Hand stitch the opening closed with a ladder stitch.



Embroider the Nose

Use 2 or 4 strands of thread or embroidery floss to embroider the nose.


A simple suggestion of a nose works best.


I usually do the embroidery after the bunny is stuffed. To knot the tails, leave a tail when you make your first stitch, then finish close to this tail and tie the two strands together with a square knot. Take all of the ends and pull them back through the bunny and cut them. This will hide the ends inside the stuffing.



And... we're done!

Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your creation, or revel in the joy of giving a handmade toy to some very special young person.

Share your creations in Instagram with #unlikelyvelveteenrabbit. I always love seeing what you make!



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along Day 4: Sewing the Body and Attaching the Ears

Welcome back to the Velveteen Rabbit Sewalong. Today we will be assembling the body of the rabbit. This is an exciting day, since your rabbit will start looking like a "real" rabbit!

Sewing the Body

For all seams, use a 1/4 inch seam allowance unless otherwise indicated. 

Start by getting your belly piece and sewing the dart on the belly of the rabbit. Fold the belly piece in half, right sides together, and mark the start and the finish of the dart onto your fabric piece. Sew from the wide part of the dart to the point. I usually sew just to the end of the dart, then tie the two sewing strands by hand to secure it.

If you have underlined your bunny, sew a line of basting down the center of the dart first. Then fold your belly piece and sew the dart as described above. This helps to make sure the two pieces of fabric stay together when you sew the dart. 


For the next steps, make sure that you have marked points A and B on both the Belly and the two Body pieces. 

Sew the Belly and one Body pieces, right sides together, from point A (the top of the shoulder) to the base of the rabbit's foot. Use a 1/4 inch seam allowance. 


Then sew the second Body piece to the other side of the belly, also sewing from Point A to the base of the foot.


Next, you will sew the short distance from point A to point B. Clip the tight angles on one of the Body pieces just to the 1/4 inch seam allowance, which should allow you to lay it flat against the Belly. Then sew from A to B. Repeat for the other side.



Then sew the body pieces together from point B around the head and down the back.


Clip tight corners and curves just to the stitching. Turn right side out.



Attaching the Ears


You are now ready to attach the ears to the body. Watch the steps in the video, or follow the pictures below. 



Cut holes for the ears in the body using the markings on the pattern pieces. 


Turn the body right side out. Fold the ears, then insert into the holes from the outside of the bunny. 


Turn the bunny back inside out, and sew across the top of the head, catching the bottoms of the ears and the edges of the ear holes. Baste first to check placement, then sew with a stronger stitch.


Turn right side out and admire your work! Your bunny should be starting to look like a bunny. 


Add the Tail


To make the tail, sew together the two tail pieces right sides together. Clip the curve of the tail.

Turn right side out. Stuff with a bit of stuffing. Baste the tail into place on the rear of the bunny, centering the tail over the center back seam.


Sew the base

Clip the tight corners, just short of the 1/4 inch seam allowance.


Line up the base with the body/belly of the bunny. Make sure your pieces are right sides together. The notch on the back of the base lines up with the center back of the bunny.

Sew around the base, leaving a 5 inch gap for stuffing.



Okay, that's all for today. Tomorrow we will finish up our bunnies with stuffing and details like the eyes and nose.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along Day 3: Assembling the Ears

The Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along is back! Today we're going to assemble the ears of the rabbit.



Before you start assembling the ears, attach the interfacing to Ear Front Inner fabric piece. If you are using hair canvas, baste the canvas to the wrong side of the fabric pieces, using a wide machine basting stitch and staying within the 1/4 inch seam allowance. If you are using a heavy fusible interfacing, follow the instructions for your interfacing to adhere it to the wrong sides of the Ear Front Inner pieces.


Then, sew the the Ear Front Inner piece to the ear front outer piece. This can be a tiny bit tricky, so you can watch me do it in a video, or just follow the pictures below.



First, sew one side, from the point of the ear to the base, right sides together. The stitching line is marked on the pattern piece at the top of the ear, it might help you to transfer this marking to your fabric pieces with a fabric marker. You can see my markings on the picture below. 


After stitching the first side, clip the tight angle of the outer ear piece just to the stitching. This will make it easier to line up the second side. 



Then, pin and sew the other side from point of the ear down to the base. 



After stitching, press your stitching flat. If you are working with a napped fabric, use a scrap of napped fabric as a press cloth, or press it from the back, to avoid crushing the fibers.

Then, sew the Ear Back to the assembled Ear Fronts, right sides together. 



Clip the point and trim the seam allowances to 1/8 inch. 



Turn the ear right side out. Use something pointy like a chopstick (or a point turner, if you have one!) to gently press the tip out. 

Repeat all steps for the second ear, then you are are ready to assemble the body!




Friday, November 24, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along Day 2: Assembling the PDF Pattern and Cutting

Hello there! Today we will be assembling our Velveteen Rabbit PDF files and cutting our fabric.

If you've missed any previous posts, here is what has come before in the Velveteen Sewalong:

Welcome and Schedule
Day 1: Fabric and Supplies

The pattern is designed to be printed on a home printer on 8.5"x11" paper. Make sure that you print the pattern at 100% (I have to turn off "scaling" on my printer). After you print, check the test square on the first page of the pattern with a ruler-- make sure it measures exactly 1 inch or 4 cm.


Some of the pattern pieces are larger than will fit on 8.5"x11" paper, so the first 4 pages need to be taped together. Match the triangles and tape together pages, matching the triangles. For a secure and accurate join between two pages trim off the margin of one page and tape it to the side that still has the margin.


Pages 5, 6, and 7 don't need to be taped because the contain smaller pattern pieces.

Before you cut, prewash your fabrics. This helps remove any residual chemicals or contaminants from your fabrics, which is important if you are planning on making a toy that a child will play with. It also prevents shrinkage when the toy is washed... although a finished stuffed toy should only be hand washed and air-dried.

After you've taped together the pattern, cut out the paper pattern pieces. Arrange your pattern pieces on your main fabric, contrast fabric, and muslin using the cutting layouts in the instructions. When I'm working with lofty fabrics like fleece or some velvets, I prefer to trace around the pattern pieces with a fabric marker and cut them out with fabric scissors. For thinner fabrics like quilting cottons and muslin, I use a rotary blade and a cutting mat.

You can also cut out the heavy weight interfacing for your ears at this time using the Ear Front Inner pattern piece and the cotton muslin for the weight bags.



If you are using a velveteen or velour with nap, make sure to pay attention to the nap. The main thing is to always cut nap in the same direction, so that when you stroke your bunny, the fur will all lie in the same direction. You want to place the arrow on the pattern piece in the direction that the little hairs on the fabric want to lie down. Here's a short video I made to illustrate this:


If your fabric has stretch, you will want to underline or interface it. In the video above about nap I am making a bunny out of cotton velour, which is a knit fabric with stretch. To help the bunny keep it's shape, I chose to underline it with cotton muslin.

You might also want to underline or interface your fabric to provide additional strength. If you are making a bunny that you plan to give to a child who will potentially play with it for many years, the underlining or interfacing will make the toy better able to stand up to the tough life of a well-loved toy.

You can underline with any medium-light weight fabric-- I usually use cotton muslin. If you are interfacing, use a quality medium weight interfacing with minimal stretch. Don't trim the seam allowances on your interfacing: sewing the interfacing into the seam will add strength.

To underline or interface your fabric, cut the Body and Belly pattern pieces out of your underlining fabric or interfacing. If you are underlining, simply machine baste your underlining piece to the back of your fabric piece with a wide stitch. Keep your basting stitch just inside the 1/4 inch seam allowances. If you are interfacing, follow the instructions on your interfacing to adhere the interfacing to the back of your fabric piece.

Tomorrow we start assembling the bunny!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Give Thanks Sale!

If you are in the US, Happy Thanksgiving! 

The Velveteen Rabbit sewalong will continue tomorrow, but today join us for a Give Thanks Sale!
 Unlikely Handmade Etsy Store

10% off PDF patterns in the Etsy Store with code: VELVETEEN through Monday, November 27th.

Have a great holiday everyone!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along Day 1: Fabric and Supplies

Welcome to Day 1 of the Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along. Today we'll be talking about one of my favorite things: fabric! We'll also talk about the other supplies you'll need to make your rabbit.



The Velveteen Rabbit Pattern is made for a medium-weight woven fabric. This is mostly for durability and to help hold the stuffing firmly in place. However, you can still make your bunny out of a stretchy or lighter weight fabric-- you just need to underline it or add a layer of interfacing to your fabric, and we'll talk about that on Day 2.

You'll need 1/2 yard of fabric for the body, then another fat quarter or 1/2 yard of fabric for the belly and inner ears. These could be the same fabric or contrasting fabrics. 

Velveteen is technically an imitation velvet that is a short pile woven fabric. I have yet to find a reliable source of true velveteen fabric-- many of the "velveteen" fabrics being sold seem to be knits of varying composition and quality. 

Far more common are cotton velour fabrics, and this is what I've made many of my samples from. Cotton velour is comfortable against the skin, relatively durable, and comes in a wide variety of colors. It is a knit fabric so you'll need to underline or interface to stabilize the fabric.

plum velour - forest velour - purple velour - pink velour

I'm very partial to natural and organic fabrics for children's toys. Here are some lovely options in sherpa, fleece, and organic velour. 


cotton sherpa - natural french terry - cotton fleece - organic cotton velour

It is very fun to make bunnies in patterned fabrics! The top right is a cotton flannel, and I think it would make a wonderfully cuddly bunny. A medium weight flannel or twill fabric would also be perfect since there would be no stretch and it would be nice and durable. If you choose a lighter quilting weight cotton, you would want to underline or interface for strength.

plaidfloral - dots - stripes


Furry or fluffy fabric would also be a wonderful choice. You would want to choose something with a short pile so that it wouldn't overwhelm the bunny or be too difficult to work with. 

beige sherpa - faux sheepskin - spots - silver fur


You'll also need some other supplies...

Interfacing

Hair Canvas | Fashion Sewing Supply's Pro-Sheer Elegance Medium Interfacing


The ears of the Velveteen Rabbit are stiffened with interfacing. While some vintage models are wired, I choose to design the pattern with safety in mind. If you are making a bunny for display, feel free to experiment with wire!

You'll want a relatively stiff interfacing to help keep the ears up. I use sew in hair canvas, which can be found here or here or might be available at your local fabric store. You could also use Peltex Ultra Firm or a similar heavy interfacing, either sew in or fusible. You only need 1/4 of a yard. 

If your fabric is light weight or stretchy, you will want 1 yard of either a light weight fabric to use as an underlining or a light-mid weight fusible interfacing. 

Cotton muslin works nicely as underlining-- it is cheap, natural, and durable. You could also use any light woven fabric-- repurposed shirting fabric would also be a great option. 

If you want to use a fusible interfacing to support your fabric, choose a mid-light weight fusible. My favorite all-round interfacing is this one from Fashion Sewing Supply, but you could also use something such as this Pellon interfacing that should be available at your local fabric store. 

Eyes



You'll need 12mm safety eyes, I usually use brown ones. If you haven't used these before, they are very easy to install and are very secure. They also look convincingly like the eyes on antique stuffed animals. I usually buy mine locally, but you can also get them on Amazon.

Stuffing

You'll need some stuffing for your bunny. The most readily available and easy to use stuffing is Polyfil, which should be available at your local craft or fabric store.

I strongly prefer to stuff my toys with wool. It does cost more than polyfill. But wool is a natural, re- newable resource. It is hypoallergenic and is often a bedding choice for allergy sufferers since it resists bacteria and dust mites and has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. It creates a toy that warms to a child’s body and has a satisfying firmness.

If you need more convincing, read this article about wool stuffing by one of my favorite doll makers. 

Where to get wool? The best source on the east coast of the US is West Earl Woolen Mills. No website, you have to call them. Other places: Reggies Dolls and Weir Crafts. You will need 1 lb. 

Other natural fill choices include cotton, bamboo, and kapok. I haven’t tested these options, but if you have these fills available, feel free to experiment. 

Weighting

The rabbit is weighted to provide a natural feel and to help it stand upright. 

To sew the weight bags, you'll need 1/4 yard of a woven fabric, cotton muslin or similar.

For the weight, I use ground walnut shells. You can buy them at your local pet store (they are used as bedding for reptiles) or here. You can even get them scented. You will only need about 1 cup of ground walnut shells. 

If nut allergies or washability are a concern, you can use poly pellets, find them here or here. You only need about 1 cup of pellets. 


Preparing your fabrics

Make sure to prewash all of your fabrics, including the fabrics you will use as underlining and weight bags. I generally wash all of my fabrics on cold and tumble dry on hot. For delicate fabrics or wool, I usually hand wash or machine wash on gentle and air dry. 

You might want to pre-wash your interfacing, if it is not already pre-shrunk. For most interfacings, you can soak them in warm water and air dry. 

That's it for today! Tomorrow we'll assemble the PDF and start cutting. 





Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along: Welcome and Schedule

Welcome to the Velveteen Rabbit Sew Along!



If you have never made a stuffed animal before, the Velveteen Rabbit is a great place to start because it has a simple shape without too many curves or tight places. This sew along will help guide you through the process.

The holidays are coming right up and I know many of you makers are getting busy. I wanted to get this sewalong up to help those of you that might be considering making a special toy for someone special on your list!
Velveteen Rabbit in Maroon and Pink Cotton Velour

About the Pattern

The Velveteen Rabbit pattern is a PDF sewing pattern to make a nearly life-size standing rabbit toy. The bunny stands about 14 inches tall when his ears are down, and is weighted to feel like a real rabbit. The pattern is designed for woven fabrics such as quilting cottons and velveteen, but it also includes instructions for how use a stretchy fabric like cotton velour or minky.

The pattern includes downloadable step-by-step instructions with photo illustrations. The sewalong and the accompanying videos provide additional examples and information.

The pattern was first released in Love Sewing Magazine in Spring 2017. The version that is for sale on this website or Etsy includes more detailed instructions.

If you haven't gotten your pattern yet, you can get it at my Etsy store here. Use code VELVETEEN to get 10% off through November 27.

Sew Along Schedule

Welcome and Schedule
Day 1: Fabric and Supplies
Day 2: Assembling the PDF and Cutting (Video: Understanding Napped Fabrics)
Day 3: Sewing the Ears (Video: Assembling the Ears)
Day 4: Sewing the Body (Video: Attaching the Ears)
Day 5: Stuffing, Weighting, and Finishing (Videos: Introduction to Safety Eyes and Stuffing)

Materials

If you are working on assembling your materials for making your rabbit, here is what you will need:

Velveteen Rabbit Pattern
1/2 Yard Main Fabric
Fat Quarter (18”x22”) or 1/2 Yard Contrast Fabric
Matching sewing thread
1/4 yard cotton muslin or similar plain woven fabric (for weighted bags)
Sew-in Horsehair Canvas or medium/heavy fusible interfacing for ears
Two 12mm safety eyes
Embroidery floss
Stuffing (Wool or Polyfill)
Ground Walnut shells or poly pellets for weighting

Optional (suggested for stretchy fabrics or thin fabrics):
Additional cotton muslin for interlining or medium interfacing

History and Inspiration

I've always been a fan of classic toys, and the Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorites! Most of us know about the Velveteen Rabbit from Margery Williams' 1922 book, The Velveteen Rabbit.

It was Williams' first book, and it told the story of a young boy who receives a stuffed rabbit toy for Christmas. Once the novelty of the talking and mechanical toys wears off, the rabbit becomes a favorite toy. Their relationship grows for many years, but one year the boy gets sick, and all of the toys that consoled him when he was sick are discarded. Left overnight in the garden, the rabbit cries a single real tear, then a fairy grants his wish to be a "real" rabbit. The following summer, the boy sees rabbits playing in the yard and remarks on how much one of the resembles his former toy.

Cover of the first edition of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, Illustrations by William Nicholson.

While the book made the idea of a Velveteen Rabbit famous, such a toy might have been commonplace in 1922. There are several stuffed rabbit toys in museum collections that date back to before Williams published her book. One of my favorites is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The Velveteen Rabbit Pattern was strongly influenced by this sweet standing rabbit.

"Toy rabbit called 'Tiny', in an upright stance, printed cream velvet with brown spots," ca 1902, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
There are also several excellent examples of "velveteen rabbits" by the famous toymaker, Steiff. The orange bunny was sold at a Christies Auction for over $2,000!

Steiff Rabbits: Left: Steiff sample, ca. 1929 | Right: Steiff jointed rabbit, ca. 1910 (ebay)
Other examples of upright stuffed rabbit toys can be found on Ebay and collector websites. 

Left: Vintage Farnell Winfred Rabbit, ca 1925 |  Right: Antique Edwardian Mohair Bunny (ebay)

The velveteen rabbit has been around for a long time, so you can be sure that it won't go out of style in a hurry.

Here are a few more that I created from the pattern. The one on the left is made from a silk/rayon velvet with a white ribbed cotton velour ears and belly. The one in the middle is made from a cotton print by Cloud 9 fabrics.




I'll be back tomorrow with the first sew along post where we'll talk about fabrics, hope to see you there!