Monday, 2 April 2012

Making puppets


Several months ago Cico Books sent me a copy of Super Cute Felt for potential review (I love these surprise packages that land on my doorstep). I rarely work with felt though and at the time it arrived it was beyond my children's hand-sewing skills, so although it's a beautiful book, it didn't feel sufficiently relevant to the areas of sewing that I tend to focus on to write a review of it. However, my daughter has recently been making puppets from a vintage Ladybird book that a friend bought for her and on Friday night she asked me if I had any more sewing books featuring puppets. We went and had a look on my shelves and found the Super-Cute Felt book by Laura Howard (who you may know from her lovely online shop, Lupinhandmade), which features a wonderful set of puppets including a ginger cat, several mice and a piece of puppet cheese! (I am now in love with the concept of making a piece of cheese to be puppeteered. It is delightfully bonkers).


My daughter and I spent much of Saturday sitting on the floor sewing together. We chatted, made a huge mess and I wondered at why I don't make the time to do more hand-sewing - it is so relaxing. We both made several mice and she made a piece of cheese and gave me the task of sewing up a bird puppet to keep me entertained while she did this.


I spent Sunday working in the garden, so my daughter moved stitching works outside and spent the day stitching the larger cat puppet. Her sewing skills improved dramatically over the course of making these puppets and she's now mastered unsupervised backstitch, running stitch, blanket stitch and straight stitch.


Super-Cute Felt is a really lovely book and I could totally appreciate the appeal of it having worked through some of the projects with my daughter, but more so, it's a super book for my daughter to use independently as the instructions are excellent, the finished photos and illustrations are wonderful and clear, the projects are full of detail which make them really satisfying to create and we both liked the way that the book was written by Laura in the first person, rather than presented as a set of detached, impersonal instructions (Laura tells you what she used or how she did something, but then suggests ways that you could vary it).


My daughter picked out the two projects above that she's keen to move on to. When she'd finally finished her puppet set last night and she sat in my bed excitedly talking about what else she could make. I asked her whether it was the construction elements that she'd most enjoyed, or the many hours spent sewing the details of the cat's features. She said it was the latter, so I went and found a book called Doodle Stitching: Fresh and Fun Embroidery for Beginnersthat the inscription in the front tells me was bought for me by my mother in 2007.


It's not a book that I've ever used, as embroidery has never been an area that I've really ventured into (aside from, rather randomly, this carousel which I suddenly felt compelled to embroider from metallic threads several years ago). My daughter's reaction to the book was adorable. It included gasping, squealing and, at times, stunned silence as she turned the pages.


She has fallen for this picture of a tree and a squirrel standing at the top of a hill that shows the face of a sleeping giant. It utilises some new stitches and she's decided to practise these before starting on the actual embroidery. Embroiderers: I've never found an embroidery hoop a comfortable place to work, but equally, I don't enjoy the puckered look that would inevitably come from working on unstretched material. Do you think a solution could be to get her to work on a sheet of white wool felt that would suffer less from puckering...or is there something that I'm missing about the embroidery hoop - sometimes it feels so taut that the needle can't easily be run in and out of the fabric. Any ideas or tips?


The book is really well instructed with diagrams breaking the picture down into its constituent parts, detailing what stitch should be used where. Again, although it's not a child's book, it's a book that I'd failed to appreciate before seeing it through my daughter's eyes. If it's a book that you're interested in, you may want to also look at Aimee Ray's follow up book, Doodle Stitching: The Motif Collectionwhich has excellent reviews on Amazon.

It's now the Easter holidays (hurrah!) and I've agreed with my children that I'll work for the first few hours of the morning and will then be at their disposal for the rest of the day. This may mean that my inbox becomes even more disorganised than usual - I'm issuing an advance apology for this. Anyway, my time for today is now up and, having made a mouse puppet with my little boy yesterday evening, both children are requesting that we do some more sewing. What will you be doing today?

Florence x

19 comments:

  1. These are cute!
    You've reminded me I must get off the computer and get on with our holiday! X

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  2. It's such a tricky thing, judging when kids are old enough to enjoy making projects from a book without so much hassle it sucks all the fun out of it. My 6.5 year old often has bursts of enthusiasm for projects that are too complicated, leading to frustration and me finishing them. If you had to put a lower age on the felt book, what would it be do you think? I have the subsequent Doodle Stitching Motif Collection and it makes ME gasp and awww... so I'd say your daughter would appreciate it too :) Lots of cute animals and little projects.

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    1. My little boy is nearly 8 and I found that some of the bits were so small (mouse's nose and tail) that he needed quite a lot of help with it, but it depends on how able your child is. I think one of the nicest things to sew with young children are the monster kits that I mentioned in this post here ( http://flossieteacakes.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/stitchery-from-small-ones.html ), because there's no right way of doing it or preconceptions about how it should look, so it's high on creativity and low on feeling demoralised!

      If forced to say a lower age, I think 8+ would get the most out of the Super Cute Felt book.

      I'm so pleased you've said good things about the Doodle Stitching Motif book as I've ordered it to give in the future! x

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  3. I also have doodle stitching and I love it, I always use it in conjunction with your pouch pattern to make girls purses for birthday presents.

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  4. Hmm, I've always used an embroidery hoop, even as a little girl, so not sure what to suggest here - you aren't meant to stretch it into submission though, just hold it in place ;o)

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    1. Mmm, maybe I could be guilty of doing that. I find that the material has so little give in it that I find myself having to come at things from a very specific angle. However, I may be odd in feeling this, so perhaps we should start with a hoop and see how she finds it.

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  5. Oh what fun!! I've forgotten all about felt puppets :-) www.dashesoflove.blogspot.com.au

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    1. I know, it reminded me that I was exactly the same age when I started making puppets - although mine were knitted, not felt.

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  6. My big kids have been getting reacquainted with embroidery lately. They're 5 & 8, and have thus far done very loose projects. My son (5) just chooses a thread color and sews randomly. My daughter has been drawing a simple picture and then tracing it on the fabric (heart, bird). They both drew new pictures this weekend. They use hoops without problems. The plastic ones are less splinter-prone.

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    1. More evidence that I need to try using a hoop again and stop being weird about it!

      That's a lovely way to start embroidery isn't it, as they can instantly get on with their own ideas and creativity.

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  7. I keep seeing the doodle stitching on Amazon and wondering. My son loves sewing, I cant wait until he is old enough to tackle some embroidery. I still have the sampler I did when I was eight and am impressed by some of the stitches I managed. And I use a hoop, I find it much easier, I suppose it I just what you get used to. X

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    1. That's so nice that you've kept it.

      Reviews seem to suggest that the Motifs collection is the better book, so if you decide to buy then I'd go for that one! x

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  8. You have inspired me to do some embroidery now:) I must say I love the puppets your little people have created, how adorable! I must do some felt sewing with my younger siblings during the holidays, felt is so good for children's hand sewing projects!

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  9. I think it's so great that your children are hand sewing, my interest wasn't sparked until I was about 13 and I went on a free machining day course with my mum. Fast forward 10 years and I can proudly say I am a graduate in BA (Hons) Embroidery and my specialism was hand stitch!

    With regards to the hoop issue though I would recommend setting your hoop to the correct tension before your catch the fabric, this should create a more even 'pull' rather than your pulling it from every angle once it is inside the ring.

    Hope this helps!

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  10. It's really nice to see both those lovely books get such nice reviews. I think they are very nice too. I've currently got the follow-up doodle stitch one on order from Amazon's after seeing it in Foyle's the other day. The author of Super cute felt has a blog too, here
    http://bugsandfishes.blogspot.co.uk/ I purchased some embroidery threads from her shop which would be perfect for children, as there are lots of different colours very well priced. The deer on the cover of the embroidery book apparently isn't in the book but there is a similar design in Aimee Ray's etsy shop (she's called littledear. She also has patterns for little felt animals which are lovely too.

    I do like using a hoop and it does make a difference as it allows your hands to be more free. Just a little one is all that you need - about 4 inches wide. Don't forget to take it off the fabric when you are not stitching or it will mark it.

    I think your daughter's puppets are lovely, it's so important that the things they get to make are actually nice to look at as they don't see the point otherwise.

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  11. I managed to borrow the book from our local library. There are so many adorable things to make... wow your little ones made those lovely hand puppets. just love them all

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  12. Thank you so much for the book suggestions. My daughter has just completed her first embroidery and she's done a great job too but my repertoire of hand drawn designs is rather limited to flowers, toadstool houses and little gnomes. She started sewing last summer on binka with cheap floss and a big darning needle and has mastered unsupervised backstitch, running stitch and blanket stitch. She would love some real patterns so one of those books would be a lovely gift for her along with her very own hoop and a nice set of threads (then I might get mine back!).

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Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a message - it's always really lovely to hear from people.

I now tend to reply within the comments section, so please do check back if you've asked a question or wish to chat.

Florence x