all my own work by ann

Sewing and textiles with Ann

The menagerie

I blogged about this once before – the Felt Toys book, originally published in 1931, my version being from 1959, the year that i was born. I was looking for some original present ideas, preferably from supplies that i already had in the house.

Nowadays toys come labelled as ‘Not suitable for children under x years’. Well these should be labelled as ‘Not suitable for children under 50 years!’ At least ‘handmade’ is appreciated at that age, which it probably isn’t by the intended age group.

The book is intended for school teachers and provides advice to get relatively young pupils hand stitching. I get the impression it is aimed at age 7 – 8 or thereabouts. So far i have only ever made toys from the earlier sections of the book. I’ve made a couple of ducklings now. They are reasonably easy. The ‘rabbit with carrot’ is a little harder, but probably still achievable by an interested youngster.

Rabbit and duckling – appreciated by the over 50s!

I love the idea of making a felt carrot. This is what life has come to folks! And if you browse through the book a little further, you can see a felt banana, being eaten by a monkey. Needless to say, i love the idea of making a felt banana too, so when a friend with a approaching birthday said he liked the monkey, i had to make it.

I think that the monkey would be quite difficult for a junior school child. There are some fiddly bits, which didnt seem right until you stitch the whole thing together. It is also the first time that i have used wire in a toy. ‘Not suitable for children under 60 years’ in this case! But isn’t he lovely? And it is definitely a ‘he’, don’t you think?

And whilst all this was going on, ‘Make and Sew Toys, Issue 4′ appeared. In general, i do not find toy patterns in magazines to be all that satisfactory. There are usually things missing. In this case, there are no grain lines and no seam allowances specified. In the case of the dog, which is described as suitable for beginners, making the head requires the same technique as setting in a sleeve, which isn’t ‘beginners’. I used plush fabric, which firstly, isn’t cheap, and secondly, is directional, so i had to work out quite carefully how the pattern pieces related to one another before cutting them out. And if you have never used plush fabric, may i warn you that it sheds bits all over the place. Hoping i hadn’t trodden too much into the carpet. It needed a big clean up when i had finished.

Once i had dealt with the above weaknesses, it didn’t take long to make the pig – interestingly called Penelope Pig by the magazine, although clearly a child will call it be another name, unless they notice that Penelope’s features are symmetrical, whereas the similar version on TV has, well, non symmetrical features!

Penelope pig, looking rather similar to cousin Peppa.

Using ‘experience’ as a basis for construction, along with the picture guide, my free pattern, ‘Max the dog’ came together reasonably easily. I tacked many of the seams before sewing, so that small and curved parts stayed in place under the machine, and double checked that the head was pinned into the body the right way round. It wasn’t. Without experience, i think Max might not come together so well! I used felt eyes and nose (as i often do) because he will almost certainly be played with by a new born baby.

The ‘things missing from the pattern’ situation got worse when i had an idea to make Walter Whale, from the same magazine. The instructions for making the whale were not complete. There are no instructions about fixing the tail in place, stuffing it, or sewing up the gap. It strikes me that a whale should be a bath time toy, so why not make it out of waterproof material? The Sewing Bees were making children’s coats out of a shower curtain only last night (as i write) on TV, and i have some shower curtain left, after using one to line wash bags several years ago. So my prototype will be experimental in more ways than one.

  • Can i work out how to finish it beyond the end of the instructions in the magazine? I am definitely not going to buy the book, in case it has the same poor quality editing.
  • Will it float? Probably yes.
  • Will it leak? Not sure.
  • And if it leaks, does it dry out quickly, or does it just get smelly and ultimately mouldy?
  • How am i going to make any eyes for a waterproof child’s toy?

I’m going to leave this post here. It may be a long time until i can prove or disprove the question about mould, in particular, but early tests suggest that the toy filling on its own floats and dries out quite quickly.

Before i go, may i just be clear about the menagerie. … All of these toys are presents. As it happens, the hand stitched felt toys are all for adults, and the machine stitched toys from the magazine are all for children. Really. Some of them have already been handed over into the care of their new owners!

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