Toys+Plush

Crochet is the perfect medium for making toys — here are some easy beginner patterns to get your started …

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Jennie of A Little Vintage started making hand painted dolls about 3 years ago. The decision to make them custom made from her clients sentimental items has turned her craft into something much more meaningful. She talks about her creative process here. Pop by Jennie’s blog or Etsy shop to see the latest dolls and other new makes!
Hmmm … the creative process for me, really starts with getting a feeling for something. There is an ‘urge’ to create. Even with custom orders – where I’ve been given a certain amount of information (or even sentimental fabric) this gives me some direction. But then the rest is just what feels right – creative instinct? I’m not a doll maker who has a stack of arms and legs ready to sew on at any given moment. There isn’t  a ‘production line’ of limbs. I’ve never been able to work that way – it just doesn’t feel right.
I begin by tea dyeing my fabric to different shades (apart from the much darker skin tones). Then I draw their faces — not drawn from a template — each face is individually sketched out and hand painted. They are then heat set in the oven! (only 5 minutes at a very low temperature). When I first started, the whole doll would go in, as I was painting the shoes on too. But now it’s usually just the faces that get baked.
Colour is a huge component in decision making (probably for all crafters). The eye colour, the skin tone and the shade of lip colour. I’ve been known to change the eye colour with a very fine brush once everything else is finished. I love it when I get to put pattern on pattern or put colours together that you wouldn’t normally, in your own outfit. That is very freeing and exciting — coming from a background where I was told things had to be even, matching and not to mix pattern…
Making a doll for someone from their sentimental items can make the creative process quite nerve wracking sometimes. I think my all time favourite order was for a 40th birthday present. (Before I started blogging) I made the doll from the birthday girl’s 1970′s toddler clothes. A short polyester aqua dress with cream crochet neckline and sleeves. In the photo I was given, the little girl was wearing the dress with some white knee high socks, so the crochet part became the socks on the doll too. Another doll I was particularly pleased with, was for a girl with Downs Syndrome. Her mother wanted her to know that not all dolls (or people) are the same – and that it’s okay to be different.
The face painting takes a good deal of time, but something else that is time consuming is deciding the details to add once the doll is made up. Neck wear, earrings, hair clips, collars, scarves and ponchos. These are the things that pull everything together. Sometimes it’s a matter of too much choice, and I have to be careful to not over think things (which I tend to do sometimes).
This is where having a blog has been the best thing ever. Apart from the wonderful friendships it has created for me, it is a huge part of the creative process. The opinions, feedback and support is fantastic. But it has also been a portal to new and exciting projects and challenges that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.
So, that’s my creative process — ever changing, but always fun and interesting!

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November: Month of books at Whipup.net

Hop Skip Jump, by Fiona Dalton, Published by Penguin Australia.

Do you know Fiona Dalton from Hop Skip Jump? She makes the most loveliest and put together soft toys – she has a little shop where she sells some of her patterns – but now you can get the whole book instead.

Fiona’s book by the same name as her blog “Hop skip jump”, shows us how to sew 25 different toys in Fiona’s unique style of cute and retro but always stylishly dressed and finished. The toys are all different characters and use recycled or eco fabrics. There is the Quick Red Fox, inspired by Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox; Monkey man (pictured on the cover) is one of Fiona’s first ever toys and so you may recognise it if you have been reading her blog for a while, it is made from wool flannel with tweed overalls; Gordon is a donkey with a very large snout and a very cute knitted vest; Eddy is a cheeky mouse with jointed limbs made from a wool kimono; Clothtopus is a scrappy fellow made to hang from a bookshelf or ceiling, and Basil is a sweetly serious rabbit made from tweed with a little scarf to match his pink nose.

There is more of course including rockets, robots, dolls, a cloud and more animals, but as well as the cute patterns, Fiona also talks about her passion for sustainable sewing and recycling materials as well as introducing makers to the basics of toy making. Each pattern includes step by step directions, a series of clear illustrations and lots of very sweet photos. The book itself lays out in a strange gatefold configuration (taking a little more room on the bench than I have available) but the patterns are neatly tucked away inside the back.

Now because I know you are dying to get your hands on a copy of this book – Penguin are offering TWO whipup.net readers a copy of this book. So please leave a comment letting me know your favourite toy to sew, stitch, glue, nail or make in some way. You have 48 hours to enter and winners will be chosen at random and contacted via email. ENTRIES ARE NOW CLOSED. The two winners are: #48 + #4 Lisa – I have emailed you!

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November: Month of books at Whipup.net

Made to Play!: Handmade Toys and Crafts for Growing Imaginations By Joel Henriques, Published by Roost Books (October 11, 2011).

I have a been a big fan of Joel Henriques blog for a while now – even though my kids are a little older than his – I really appreciate his style, design, colour, and imaginative sense of play. On his blog he regularly posts projects, colour in sheets, and templates for simple toys that he makes for his twin pre-school age kids. The toys are all pretty simple but ingenious at the same time – often made from recyled materials – bits of wood, wire and cloth, they are glued, stitched or nailed – all really accessible projects.

His book follows on from his blog with fresh toys and projects to make for that pre-school age and older (my 11 year old daughter found a few wire dolls and simple toys that she is planning on making herself). The animal finger puppets on the cover are an example of simplicity and cleverness all rolled into one – all you need is paper, tape and crayons – the kids can do most of it themselves too. More projects incude little carved wooden animals and those birds pictured above which are made with feathers, card, wire and a wooden thread spool. Joel also makes a wooden dolls house out of bits of timber with some modern furniture made from wire and cloth to go inside.

My personal favourite are the slotted building discs – which Joel recommends for older kids as they are little bit trickier to build with (but simply made with notched paper circles). My son has made the rubber band racing cars. There is also a chapter on homemade pretend and real musical instruments and another chapter on dress-ups – this project excerpt – modular leg bands is from this chapter. The last chapter is about making art – from simple animations to 3D drawings to little wood and wire sculptures.

Now because I know you want one of these books – Roost books is kindly giving FIVE whipup.net readers a chance to win one – Yay! Thank you Roost.
So please leave a comment here – telling us one toy you have made with/for your kids. You have 48 hours to enter, winners will be drawn at random and notified by email. Thanks – and good luck! Comments are now closed the winners are #63 Abbington, #50 Bethany, #156 Mountain girl, #103 Nichole, #33 michelle: and you have been contacted via email. Thanks so much for entering.

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For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website
Lisa Ramsey Whitesell enjoys being a stay at home mom of 2 girls. Vegetarian cooking, sewing, gardening, and living the “natural way” is her bliss. She shares her lifestyle at her blog and runs an Etsy business where she makes plush and pillows.
materials:
 
steps:
  • 1. Cut out pieces from pattern.
  • 2. Whip stitch the body pieces together.
  • 3. Leave a space open to stuff the ladybug; stuff, then whipstitch closed.
  • 4. Stitch the spots onto the red wings.
  • 5. Whipstitch the wings to the ladybug.
  • 6. Stitch on the antennae.
  • 7. Sew black pupils onto the eyes by using a running stitch. Add a little white “x” for a little sparkle in the eye. You can add a wink to one of the eyes by using a backstitch.
  • 8. Stitch eyes onto the ladybug.

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