Saturday, January 17, 2009





  • Fabric, you don't need much, a piece about the size of an A4 sheet of paper should be enough for the actual birds. Of course you need about three times as much to account for all the bits that you will bugger up. Cotton or linen is much easier to work with than silk. I used dupion silk which didn't pucker like silk satin would but it did fray a lot and it was quite easy to pull the fabric.
  • A polystyrene ball, about 4cm across. To throw at anyone who offers 'helpful' suggestions.
  • Wire, about 1mm thick. To poke said person.
  • Dressmakers pins to hold everything together, including your sanity. I didn't have any when I made Norma Jean and I nearly lost my mind trying to hold the pieces together and sew them at the same time. If you're using white fabric be careful of old or cheap pins which are quite often tarnished and will leave marks on light coloured fabric.
  • A kebab skewer or cocktail stick, painted or coloured whatever beak colour tickles your fancy. I've also heard of people using golf tees, but I don't like plastic. Or golf.
  • An outfit of some sort or another which will be very handy in covering your mistakes. And the blood stains from where you prick your finger and don't notice until after you have smeared blood all over the expensive white silk that has taken three days to fashion into a bird shape.
  • Stuffing. I used filter wool from The Boy's fishkeeping supplies as it's almost identical to the polyester stuffing you can buy for the purpose and he didn't want it.



I'm really bad at working to a pattern, I tend to cut bits out then pin and tuck and fold until they are the right shape, but I did figure out some basic shapes that worked as a starting point -

Part B is the body and the dotted line marks the bit that is actually visible at the end, but I discovered that you need a lot of extra fabric to play with to get the right shape and to leave room for stuffing the bird.


Parts A and C are the sides of the bird, again the bottom half is little like the actual shape that is sewn but it was much easier to have extra.

Sew part A to part B first, up to point (a)

then part C to part A, up to point (b)

then finally parts A and C to each other, to point

(are you following this?!)

The point where the three pieces come together to make the top of the head was a right nightmare and required a lot of fiddling about to get it lying right.


Then stuff the top half of the bird with whatever stuffing you're using. Put the polystyrene ball in at the fattest part of the body then fold and tuck the three pieces of fabric until it all looks bird shaped, holding everything in place with the dressmakers pins. The ball will do all in its power not to stay in the bird. Hold the f*cker in with pins while you sew it all up. I left quite a few pins in the bird, holding part B to the polystyrene ball, they were all covered up with other bits of fabric or will be covered up when I put a dress on her. Pins are your friend while doing this project, use them liberally!

Remember to leave the end of the body open for a tail)



It is a good idea to figure out the placement of the eyes and beaks with pins first, pushing them in to make features and work out the spacing. They are a lot less permanent that thread or the hole that a beak will leave should you decide it's in the wrong place. And pins leave handy little holes as guides for where to sew.

I sewed eyes on with thin black thread, essentially making a knot and then sewing over the top of it until they were the right size and shape.

Poke a hole in the face with a pin and wiggle it about a bit before trying to put the beak in as it is very easy to pull the fabric while trying to get it in. We made our beaks with wooden kebab skewers, cut to about an inch long and whittled at both ends so they were easier to poke through the fabric, and coloured in with permanent marker. Make sure you leave it plenty of time to dry before putting it anywhere near your white fabric....


We made legs out of pieces of wire about 10 inches long and bent feet at one end. The Boy patented a three 'toe' system (do birds have toes? Are they called something different? I've never heard anyone mention birds having toes.....) which made the legs stable enough to hold the bird up.

The wire was bent like this, starting at point A


...and at point B (my favourite part of this whole 'instructions' process is labelling!) the wire was bent straight up to make a leg, then cut them to the right length for your birdie, leaving about an inch to be put into the body.

We wrapped the legs in embroidery thread as I thought the wire was 'too shiny'. We tried wrapping them in thin black wire but it was 'too ugly'. I super glued down the tufty bits of thread at the top of the legs. Super glue dries faster than you might think. Pulling legs off your fingers is more painful than you might think. Just sayin....

Then we shoved them rather forcefully into the body, through the many layers of fabric and into the polystyrene ball. This bit was quite difficult and I bent the legs over and over again. Using a really big needle to make a hole before trying to get the legs in is a good idea, as is trimming the end of the wire into a sharp point with wire cutters.



I made the wings by cutting out cardboard wing shapes, wrapping them in a very thin layer of stuffing (glued on) then wrapping them in fabric which I sewed together at the back, very messily.


Then I sewed them in place with a few tiny stitches round the edges. You could of course use glue instead. Boy Bird's are done but Girl Bird's are waiting until after she is dressed. Boy Bird's are slightly bigger, at the request of The Boy....



The tail was surprisingly easy to sew together, I made the feathers into a little bunch first, tying them with thread, then poked them into the hole, tucked the fabric under and sewed it all up. Feathers are quite difficult to arrange, they seem to have a mind of their own, so the tails aren't quite as flat as I would have liked, but that gives them character me thinks.

You could also make tails in a similar fashion to the wings, with cardboard and fabric, if you didn't want to use feathers.


(You can see the hole left at the bottom of Boy Bird for the tail feathers. You can also see my dodgy sewing in the delightfully squint seam running down Girl Bird's back. That, along with the blood stain a couple of inches above her tail will be covered with the offcuts of my dress though. Phew)


He stands up all by himself. I was most surprised at this! But I think we're going to stick them to a little base to sit atop our stack of cupcakes on glass stands, just in case they fall over. Because they're not that stable.



Do this before putting the legs on. For my first bird I used a length of lace about 4 inches wide and 8 long and wrapped it around until it looked alright. Then I used a couple of small stitches to hold it in place. Same for the veil. For the veil I used a bit about 4 x 4 inches.

I think that's everything. You're on your own now. (I am only joking of course, if you have any questions please do ask and I'm um and ah a bit before telling you 'left a bit, no right a bit. Well I don't know, do I?' )


And there you have it. Not quite as chic and flawless as their $300 counterparts

Saturday, November 10, 2007

No Knit Scarf

Here's a cozy yet speedy project. Cut 12 pieces of bulky-weight yarn to about 1 1/2 times the desired length of the final scarf. (We used 140-inch pieces to make an 86-inch scarf.) Divide yarn into 4 bunches of 3 strands each. Tie 2 bunches together with a square knot, leaving 6 inches of fringe at end; repeat with remaining bunches. Pin the knots to a piece of foam board. Knot inner 2 bunches of yarn together, spacing knot about 1 inch from existing knots, then knot left and right bunches together. Alternate knotting the inner bunches and the left and right ones, spacing knots evenly apart, until about 6 inches of yarn remain on the end. Finish so that final knots mirror opposite end, and trim to even the ends.

From Martha Stewart

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pumpkin Lanterns

Take an ordinary paper lantern, dress it up with leaves, a stem, and tendrils, and it will assume a totally unexpected identity: a Halloween pumpkin. A few craft supplies are all you need to transform these inexpensive, light-as-air globes.

Pumpkin Lantern How-To
1. Download and enlarge the Leaf Template as desired; cut out, and trace onto green paper. Cut out.

2. With white craft glue, attach a dark-green pipe cleaner to the leaf's center. For curly tendrils, spiral two brown pipe cleaners around a marker, then slide off.

3. Attach leaf and tendrils to a paper lantern by winding the ends of the pipe cleaners around the wire frame. For stem, roll a few sheets of newspaper into a tapered shape; cut off wider end, then wrap other end with brown floral tape.

4. Wrap another brown pipe cleaner around base of stem; secure ends to wire frame. Hang lanterns with fishing line.

From Martha Stewart, First Published: October 2004

Saturday, October 6, 2007

It is Pumpkin Time...

From Martha Stewart, First Published: October/November 1993


I think I need to have a pumpkin carving party!
How cool are these Jack-O-Lanterns. They are all from (How is it possible that everything she does is spectacular? Who creates such perfection?! I always think if I were to do the same thing, it just wouldn't be as cool...It has to be the photography...)...

Tools and Materials
Miniature carving saw
Plaster scraper
Masking tape
Black floral spray
Battery-powered light
Needle tool or awl
Waxed paper Straight pins

Carved Pumpkins How-To
1. Make a 4-inch round hole in the bottom of your pumpkin with a carving saw; scrape out flesh.

2. Place pumpkin on newspaper in a well-ventilated area. Wrap masking tape around stem, and coat pumpkin with black floral spray. Let dry for 30 minutes; remove tape.

3. Print desired template enlarged or reduced to fit your pumpkin, and cut outside the perimeter. Tape to pumpkin.

4. Use needle tool to outline the shape with close-set holes. Cut out design with saw. (If necessary, touch up pumpkin with floral spray.)

5. Place battery-powered light inside. For a muted glow, affix a sheet of waxed paper behind the cutout with straight pins before adding the light source.

1. Cut a hole in the pumpkin's base, and hollow the pumpkin out. Hammer small cookie or canape cutters into the skin to create a pattern of deep outlines. Remove cutters with pliers; finish holes with serrated knife.

2. Line your walkway or front porch with Christmas lights, plugged into an outside socket or heavy-duty extension cord, and position a pumpkin over each lightbulb.

3. When you're finished carving, conceal the utility cord with pine needles or leaves.

The owls' extra-large eyes are made from halved miniature pumpkins and gourds. Their feet and ears are curved pieces of pumpkin.

Pumpkin Owls How-To

These instructions can be adapted to create the facial details of other animals.

1. Cut a large hole out of the top of a pumpkin, scoop out insides, and keep top to plug hole
later; cut a 1- to 1 1/4-inch hole in the
back for ventilation. Make eye holes: First
mark with a pen, then drill (with a 5/8-inch bit) or cut with a large hole cutter. Next, in the tops of two mini pumpkins, cut holes slightly larger than eye holes; scoop out insides. Drill a small hole in the bottom of each mini pumpkin. From inside larger pumpkin, push four lights through each eye hole, securing the bottom of the bundle with a rubber band to keep the bulbs from touching one another. Attach
mini pumpkins over lights using toothpicks. Wrap more lights around a glass, securing wires with tape, and place inside body.

2. Add "feathers": Use a wood gouge or linoleum cutter to make half circlesin the skin.

3. Cut ear, nose, and feet shapes from other pumpkins with a serrated knife; attach with toothpicks.

The Tale of Three Squashes

Legend has it that the luckless souls who hear the Three Squashes' song of woe shall vanish into the nearest vegetable patch, never to be seen or heard from again. Since narrow squashes are easier to hollow out if you work from both ends, these guys had the tops of their heads cut off.

From Martha Stewart, First Published: Special Issue 2004


This ravenous pumpkin is cursed: He must offer up sweets to children all evening, yet he is not allowed to eat them (neither the sweets nor the children). A treat-filled bowl was placed in his cavernous mouth, and miniature flashlights were tucked on either side, against his jowls.

Click here for the template.

From Martha Stewart, First Published: Special Issue 2004

Peek-a-boo Pumpkins

Being trapped in a candy dish is vexing, to be sure. The mini pumpkin at right had his stem sliced off, then was placed in the bowl. His eyes and nose were penciled in; he was removed, carved, and cruelly confined again. The one at left was carved, then balanced on a teapot.

From Martha Stewart, First Published: Special Issue 2004

Translucent Pumpkins

Halloween custom calls for a fiercely lit, glowering jack-o'-lantern, but you might also consider the more subtle glow of an elegant monogram, playful spirals, or a whimsical harlequin pattern. By paring away the skin and only part of the flesh rather than carving all the way through, the lantern becomes translucent when lit from within. The harlequin pattern combines both techniques, resulting in a multicolored effect.

1. Cut a hole in the pumpkin's base, and hollow the pumpkin out. If you're using a candle, cut a lid out of the top using a keyhole saw; for low-wattage lightbulbs, cutting a hole in the top is optional, but you must also cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin for the cord. Apply petroleum jelly to any exposed flesh to keep it from drying out.

2. If you're carving a monogram, find an example of typeface to use and enlarge it on a photocopier to the desired size. Tape the monogram to the pumpkin with masking tape. Using a needle tool or pushpins, poke holes through the monogram and into the pumpkin around the outline of the letters at close intervals. Remove photocopy, and connect the "dots" by pen. Pare the flesh down with a gouge in open spaces and a linoleum cutter in tight spaces, leaving about half the thickness of the translucent flesh intact to allow sufficient light to show through. (You don't need a template to create spirals or a harlequin pattern, spirals can be carved freehand, and the harlequin diamonds can be drawn, prior to carving, using a felt-tipped pen.)

3. Wrap Christmas lights around a glass for a radiant light source. To even out the light, affix a piece of wax paper with tacks to the inside of the monogram.

From Martha Stewart, First Published: October 1998

Friday, October 5, 2007

Silver Pumpkins

Use silver floral spray to coat pumpkins

From Martha Stewart, First Published: October 2007