blog tour

blog tour: puppet play

by kath_red on 09/05/2011

in Books


I am very happy to welcome Diana Schoenbrun the author of Puppet Play to whipup today as part of her blog tour to celebrate and launch her book.

I asked Diana a few questions about her new kid friendly recycled puppet making book:

All the projects in the book are made from recycled materials – can you explain a little about your process of selecting the right material for the project?

Sometimes I’ll have an idea for an animal or character or sometimes I’ll start with a material that inspires me. I’ll ask myself ‘what can I turn this into?’ The salt and pepper colored grey mitten that I used in the book had a very simple shape it could have become anything but I picked the Raccoon because of the color and because the mitten’s thumb was perfect for its tail. The idea for the kangaroo puppet came from reusing my turquoise glove/mitten. I wanted to use the pocket as the focus for the puppet’s character. In contrast, the banjo player puppet was inspired by the pattern of the plaid dishtowel.

What sort of recycled materials are you most attracted to?

I like textiles and paper because you can cut, sew, and glue them (and tend to be non-toxic- which is essential for children’s toys). You can bring new life to something tattered and worn by transforming the fabric easily through cutting, sewing, and creativity. A polka dot dishtowel can be made into a funny clown puppet. A paint stained shirt can become an artist hand puppet.

Where do you find your materials and how do you store them?

I re-purpose household items but I also buy additional fabrics and supplies from art, craft, vintage stores, and flea markets. I keep my fabrics color organized in large containers inside an armoire in my workroom. I also organize buttons in small glass mason jars. I have come to realize the benefits of seeing what is inside the storage container or I forget where I place things. But I am attracted to old cigar boxes and use these to store my trims.

What comes first – do you sketch and then search for appropriate materials or do your materials speak to you and sort of become a creature?

There is a usually a transformation that occurs while creating the character. The creation can be impromptu. I may begin to work on something and realize I need a more specific material. For example, I was making the pirate puppet from a striped sock, clothespin, and pirate bandanna I had and I had trouble deciding what to use for the head. I looked in my medicine cabinet and found a dental floss container – perfect. The robot came directly from my recycling bin that had too many cans piling up. Somehow in my mind aluminum cans equaled robot puppet. I also looked in my recycling bin when I was trying to figure out what to use for the eyes of the frog puppet and pulled out an egg carton. So while it is the materials that speak to me directly I do also sketch while I work in order to explain the how-to part of a project so someone can understand the process.

Try out this sample project from the book and follow along on the rest of the blog tour. Watch the Puppet Play book trailer here and Diana has a blog too.

Blog tour schedule:

May 3rd Oh My! Handmade
May 4th Craft Sanity
May 5th Sew Mama Sew
May 6th Little Birdie Secrets
May 7th This Mama Makes Stuff
May 8th Roots and Wings
May 9th Whip UP
May 10th Fiskateers
May 11th Zakkalife
May 12th Prudent Baby
May 13th Make + Do
May 14th Craft Test Dummies
May 15th Cute Everything
May 16th Schmancy
May 17th Progressive Pioneer
May 18th Pink and Green Mama
May 19th Arrow Cabinets
May 20th The Happy Honeybee
May 21st Craft Gossip


Very happy to have the honour of kicking off the book/blog tour of Amy Adams new book Countryside Softies: 28 Handmade Wool Creatures to Stitch published by Stash books. So welcome Amy!

Writing a craft pattern book has it’s ups and downs.  Some days the ideas flow to a point where you realize you can’t possibly fit all this into just one book.  And then, once it’s all over and with the publisher, new ideas pop up which make you think ‘why didn’t I do that at the time!’.  The pond was one of those new ideas, and I’m delighted to offer it to you as a free pattern here…

You will need:

  • Blue felt for the pond (plus extra or another colour for the base)
  • Light blue felt for additional pond area
  • Green felt for the lily pads
  • Pink or white felt for the lily
  • Selection of embroidery threads in blues and greens (I used pearl cotton 8)
  • Small button for the centre of the lily
  • 1” (2.5cm) of Velcro
  • Sewing needle, pins, scissors and the patterned out templates
  • Plus: A Riverside Softie made from the book ‘Countryside Softies’ by Amy Adams (Otter, Swan, Kingfisher or the Duck) [or maybe the dragonfly which is offered as a free pattern via the Stash books website]
  • Pattern/template

What to do:

First, print out the templates provided (use the scale indicators to check you have them the correct size) which will help you work out exactly how much felt you’re going to need. Cut out the blue pond shape, and also the largest lily pad.  Position the pad on the pond, and fix in place by stitching some veins on the leaf in backstitch.

Stitch blanket stitch around the edge of the lily pad leaf.  This will make the edges of the leaf curl up slightly.

Next, cut out the lighter blue pond area, and anchor in place onto the pond base with some backstitched wavy lines.  Add a few more ripples to the pond in other areas too.  Cut out 2 small lily pads, and also sew them in position by adding backstitched veins to the leaves.

To make the lily, cut out the 3 petal shapes, place them in a pile in order of size with the largest at the bottom, and secure the flower in place by sewing a button in the centre through all of the layers of felt including the pond base.

In the centre of the large lily pad, attach one of the pieces of Velcro.  The other piece will need to the sewn onto the base of your chosen Softie to attach it to the pond.

To finish off the pond, cut an additional pond shape, place it underneath the pond, and secure the 2 together by sewing blanket stitch all the way around the edge.  I used the Otter Softie on mine (he is one of my favorites from the book!) and finished off my pond further by making a little fishing rod from the stick.  I attached the fish (the pattern for this is in the book) to one end with a little embroidery thread, and also added a ‘No Fishing’ sign to the other end.

Naughty Otter, I don’t think he can read!

Disclosure: was provided with a pdf review copy of this book, and the link to Amazon is an affiliate link.


Sarah Fielke – one of my quilting heros has a new book out Quilting from little things published by Murdoch books. Sarah previously has coauthored two books with Kathy Doughty titled Material Obsession, these books are just beautiful and I reviewed the first one here. But now Sarah has taken the plunge and is going it alone. Her new book is based on the premise of ‘From little things big things grow’ and so she has designed 10 ‘Dolly’ / mini quilts using a technique or block design that allows you to practice your skills and then she takes these techniques and explores them further as 10 full sized quilts using the Dolly quilt as a jumping off point. Of course you could only make the Dolly quilts or only make the full sized quilts if you like too. They are all quite beautiful and inspirational.

I asked Sarah a few questions about the quilts and her design process and her love of fabric and quilting and this is what she said.

1. You describe your aesthetic as being traditional meets modern – with a mix of traditional designs and eclectic fabrics – can you explain your design process a little more?

I have a huge library of quilting and design books, all with little tags sticking out of things I find interesting, and I also keep a load of sketch books and notebooks. Often when I start a new quilt I don’t even look through those things, I have just an idea in my head and away I go. I don’t usually draw quilts up before I start, unless it’s something that I need precise measurements for. Usually I just cut and sew. I have process books too, where I write everything I do for a single quilt down as I go along – that way I know how much fabric I used, how many pieces I cut etc when I get to write the patterns.

If I am stumped about starting something in particular or need more inspiration, I sit down in my studio with my books and just leaf through things, and sketch as I go. Sometimes that’s enough just to get me thinking in another direction. And sometimes just a piece of fabric or a colour combination is enough.

The quilts frequently don’t end up where they started out going, but that’s one of the things I enjoy. I began making a Philedelphia Pavement recently for example, and it’s ended up with applique borders and white diagonal lines that I didn’t plan. Using a design wall is the best way to work for me, I leave things to percolate and move blocks and colourways around a lot until I’m happy with the result.

2. You have a lovely big fabric stash and talk a bit about it in the book – you obviously have a big love of colour and pattern – can you tell us what your all time favourite 3 fabrics are – ones that you keep coming back to over and over?

Oh my gosh, that’s like choosing one of my children. I love my stash and I cultivate it at every opportunity. I tell my husband that he wouldn’t stop a painter buying paints – but I dont think he’s buying it :) Favourite all time 3 fabrics. OK…

1. Cath Kidston little floral print thingy – have used this over and over and over. Nearly all gone but I hoard it like gold.
2. There’s a piece of this old fish fabric in so many of my favourite quilts. I used it first in a quilt called Ponds in Jane’s Garden which I adore, and because I loved making it so much the fabric stuck with me. I’m down to about a 6″ square.
3. Kaffe Fassett’s big florals. I can’t pick just one, I love them all. The current obsession is this one from his latest re-colouration range of old favourites. The pink and yellow is killing me.

3. Again on fabric – you say that dots are your go-to fabrics for backgrounds and fillers and that you rarely use solids – why do you love pattern so much – what is it that attracts you and what do you think that it gives the quilt that a solid background wouldn’t?

Awesome question. And for me it’s very simple, although some will undoubtedly argue! I like to use pattern because it moves. To me a solid is a dead spot. When you look at a quilt that engages your eye and makes it travel around the quilt, you know you have balance right. There’s a place for solids in my quilts – I do use a lot of white and plains for applique backgrounds, but even those usually have a tone on tone spot, a shot cotton or are a textured linen or something interesting. Of course, you can have too much pattern and have everythng be a mish mash, so it’s important to give the eye a place to rest as well. No matter how busy my quilts are there is always something consistent to hold everything together. Having said all that, there are two quilts in the book with a fair amount of solids in them!

4. I am a huge fan of your designs – I love the bright colours and crazy mix of fabrics – but I am especially attracted to the Dandelions quilt, one of the few quilts in the book that does indeed use solid fabrics. Can you explain your design process here and why you used solids in this quilt?

I started out making this quilt with a picture I saw of a beautiful sunny patch of grass covered in daisies, and a little girl running through it. The different colours in the grass and the innocence of the little girl got me thinking about a single bed quilt for a little girl’s room. I played around for a while with the Dandelions and a load of different backgrounds, but decided to get the fresh effect I wanted of the grass and the little flowers scattering, I needed solids. Thank heavens for the Kona Cotton colour card and a million shades of green to choose from :)

5. Another quilt in the book that I am drawn to is ‘A wing and a prayer’, I love the use of the text print in the background and the solid fabrics on the bird heads – and it looks like you might have used some vintage fabrics too?. Again how did you come to design this quilt, what design decisions did you make along the way?

This is my favourite quilt in the book. I don’t know why, I just loved making it. I have always loved the antique American Eagle quilts you see in US museums, but I didn’t feel Eagles were really relevant to me, so I came up with the fantasy birds. Their heads are bright Essex linens, and the other solids in the pieces borders are from Oakshott which are some of my favourite “solid” fabrics in the world. This is one of those quilts that just fell together. I happened to order the text print fabric and leave it on the bench with the Essex linen… I was sent a present of the Kaffe border print… I was doodling and the birds and the colours just jumped into my head fully formed. I would have quilted it forever but I had to stop to make the deadline :)

6. Many of the quilts in the book are hand quilted by you – and they are so beautiful. I am quite in awe of your skill and patience. Can you tell me when you get the time to hand quilt and how long it takes you to hand quilt a quilt? Any secrets tips you can share with the Whipup audience about your method?

I love hand quilting. I would rather hand quilt than do anything else. Even though I have a fantastic machine quilter who I love to bits (Kim Bradley), I am always disappointed when I have a quilt done on the machine. Only that when I’m piecing, my mind is already working to where I will quilt it. I press my seams in directions on purpose depending on where I want to quilt, on the up or the down side of the seam. I quilt for hours and hours when I’m working on a big quilt, I just put in a DVD and off I go. Working at the sewing machine for long hours gives me backache but hand quilting never does. I always get asked how long it takes me to hand quilt something and it’s such a hard thing to answer, because each one is so different. To give you an indication though, the quilt that took me the longest to quilt in the book was probablyThe Night Garden, and it took around 80 hours to quilt I think. Stopping and starting is always slower than straight lines.

Tips for hand quilting:
– DO use a hoop AND a thimble, no matter how much you think you don’t need them, you will get a better result. Take the time to get used to them. Don’t rush – it’s the journey, grasshopper!
– and don’t pick out every single stitch that you think isn’t perfect or you will just make yourself cranky and never get the quilt done.
– Quilting needs practise, and the more you practise they better you will get. You’re much better off quilting something all over and have it feel handmade, than trying to be perfect and it ending up in a bag in the cupboard.

Follow along on this Aussie Quilting Blog Tour –

Monday, April 11: Red Pepper Quilts
Tuesday, April 12: Patch Andi
Wednesday, April 13: Rosalie Quinlan
Thursday, April 14: Whip Up
Friday, April 15: Fat Quarterly blog
Saturday, April 16: Cinderberry Stitches
Sunday, April 17: One Flew Over


I am so happy to be part of Kajsa Wikman’s blog tour for her new book Scandinavian Stitches, published by the wonderful Stash books. Kajsa is such a talented and kind person and has had her designs featured in many different books including Whip Up Mini Quilts, so its about time she did her own book. Stash books and Kajsa are giving Whipup readers a chance to win a copy of this book and a set of Kajsa Christmas cards. Tell us your crafty influences. You have 48 hours. closed now – winner will be contacted via email.

Kajsa answered a few questions about her inspiration and designs for the book:

1. Your designs have a wonderful childlike intensity, I know you get a lot of inspiration from your children – can you tell me more about how being a mother informs your work?
Kajsa: Not only do my two little E’s inspire me, they also help me to be much more organised! I think it is very good to have a family when you have a creative job, my children keep my feet on the ground and help me not to spend all my time working. I also think having kids made me more efficient, I know I have to finish projects before they come home from school! I love having a job that I can involve my children in, or just inspire them to create for themselves.

2. You use a lot of vintage and found linens and fabrics, why do you like working with these so much? Can you tell me more about how and where you collect fabric and what sorts of fabric attract you the most?
Kajsa:The world is filled with stuff and sometimes I have a hard time explaining to myself why I should be making even more things! Using materials that have had a previous life is good for my ecological conscience, but I also believe that we have to go back to small scale production if we want to save the world! The challenge of turning a piece of textile someone has abandoned into something new and beautiful inspires me a lot! I recommend going to thrift stores or yard sales in small towns to find vintage linen to a reasonable price! Cotton from 30-50 years back tend to be of much better quality than many of the fabrics you find for sale today. Stick to natural fibres!

3. Your design style seems to sit somewhere in between whimsy, folk and naive art. Can you tell me more about your art background and your influences? Who are your favourite artists and art movements? And can you tell us a little bit about your process – how do you translate your ideas from inspiration to the finished product?
Kajsa: Your definition sounds very nice :) I have no formal art education and feel more comfortable with calling myself a crafter than an artist. I studied Ethnology at the university and this is where I feel I have my roots, I always go back to traditional crafts and with all the international contacts I have I am getting even more interested in digging into my Finnish heritage. Many things inspire me: things I see around me, in books, museums, magazines and on-line. It can be a shape, a person or a beautiful colour. Sometimes my customers and blog readers come up with new ideas for me. Whenever a new idea pops up I scratch it down in one of my many sketch books. One of the motifs for my new yule postcards, the tulip and bird that is now on my blog banner, was found in a painted ceiling in and old manor and museum last Summer. The colours were quite different of course! My favourite art can be found in picture books for children, here are some of my favourites: Tove Jansson, Stina Wirsén, Ilon Wikland, Lena Andersson, Elsa Beskow, and Lauren Child

Find out more about the book and Kajsa on the rest of the blog tour:
November 15th – Fat Quarterly
November 16th – I heart Linen
November 17th – Tall Grass Prairie Studio
November 18th – The Sometimes Crafter
November 19th – Pikaland
November 22nd – LucyKate Crafts
November 23rd – Whip Up (thats me)
November 24th – PeikonPoika
November 25th – Patchwork Pottery
November 26th – All Sorts

Leave a comment here for your chance to win a copy of this book and a set of Kajsa Christmas cards. Tell us your crafty influences. You have 48 hours. closed – winner wil be contacted via email

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Oops seems I missed my scheduled spot in the blog tour – so terribly sorry for all of you expecting to see some knitting love here a few days ago. But better late than never!

Modern Top-Down Knitting: Sweaters, Dresses, Skirts & Accessories Inspired by the Techniques of Barbara G. Walker by Kristina McGowan. STC Craft/A Melanie Falick Book (October 1, 2010).

Inside this beautifully presented book you will find some beautiful patterns – here is a sneak preview:

Yarn talk– please leave a comment here telling us your favourite yarns. According to ravelry – amongst the most used and popular yarns are:

Wool of the Andes from Knit Picks: 100% Peruvian highland wool (Corriedale/Merino cross)

Malabrigo Yarn: Hand Dyed incredible soft Merino wool. With the subtle variations in color and texture only hand dyed yarns have. Beautiful, soft kettle-dyed pure Merino from a small family-run company in Uruguay :: Cascade Yarns – 220 wool: 100% Peruvian Highland Wool :: Kureyon – Noro – Kureyon has two plies with a “rustic” loosely spun effect. くれよん (pronounced coo-ray-oh-n) is the Japanese pronunciation of the English “crayon;” thus, the literal name of the yarn is “crayon.” Noro Silk garden is 45% Silk, 45% Kid Mohair, 10% Lambswool.

Socks that Rock from Blue Moon Fiber Arts: 100% superwash merino wool

Classy by Dream in Color: 100% Merino Superwash

Cascade yarns – eco wool : Lion brand – fishermans wool : RYC Cashsoft DK from Rowan : Ultra Alpaca from Berroco: 50% Super Fine Alpaca 50% Peruvian Highland Wool : Organic Cotton from Blue Sky Alpacas – Organic Cotton is grown and harvested without the use of agri-chemicals. The colors are naturally occurring shades free from bleach or dyes. Made in Peru. :: Sock Yarn from Sundara Yarn

100% Merino Superwash from Wollmeise

More from the blog tour here. And find out more about Kristy on her website.