Last week, I shared my toymaking journey with you. Here are some of the books in my craft library for the aspiring toymakers amongst you!
Sewing Sculpture by Charleen Kinser 1977
One of my very first books on soft sculpture and still a favourite for its originality, its notes on design and its patterns.
The first two chapters discuss the inherent qualities of the craft; developing visual awareness and clarifying your perception; and recognizing symbols and form.
The next chapter takes a comprehensive look at the nature of different materials:
Fibres: Cotton, linen, wool, silk, acrylic, nylon and polyester;
Fabrics: Woven, knitted and felted fabrics;
Other materials: Leathers, fur, fleece and vinyls;
Threads and Yarns, both utilitarian and decorative: Mercerized cotton, linen, silk, nylon and polyester; and
Fillers: Cotton or polyester batting; down; foam rubber and polyurethane foam; styrofoam pellets, dried straw and grasses; excelsior; wood shavings and sawdust; sand and pebbles; sewing and knitting scraps; and aromatic dried herbs and flowers.
It also discusses the workplace and the tools of the trade: Sewing machine; shears; needles; pressing aids and stuffing aids.
Design is a major part of sewn sculpture and is covered in two chapters with notes on:
Idea and concept;
Elements of surface design elements: Colour; pattern and texture; theme; contrast and comparisons; transitions; variation and repetition;
Elements of drama: Proportion; composition; and staging;
Seams and darts: Placement and type;
Borrowing shapes from objects and patterns; and
Materials as a point of departure.
The thoosing fabrics; pattern and fabric preparation; stitching and types of seams; stuffing; special considerations for working with leather, fake fur and knits; surface ornamentation and batik; and making geometric forms (box, cone, tube, opposing triangles and squares, softball, closed doughnut, spiral and globe) are all discussed in the next two chapters before presenting a variety of wonderful patterns:
Floor cushions and nest chairs; scallop and marble cone pillows; pillow dolls; tiny witches and life-size grannies; floral toads and huge grizzly bears and seal sliders; some wonderful ogres and an orphan Annie doll; an Art Nouveau plant form and a beautiful leather gentle beast; and finally, a set of soft sculpture heads.
This book is full of wonderfully creative ideas and possibilities and is a terrific book for toymakers wanting to design their own original patterns!
Toys For Your Delight by Winsome Douglass 1962
Another excellent old book, written by embroidery expert Winsome Douglass, which has a similarly broad scope, allowing for plenty of creativity and personal self-expression. The introduction covers the basics:
Tools and equipment;
Materials and the use of paper mounts with fraying materials;
Surface decoration: embroidery, appliqué, beads and sequins;
Embroidery stitches; and
The majority of the book is devoted to patterns, but the instructions are general and allow for lots of variations. The simplest form of toy is a ball, with patterns given for four-sectioned, six-sectioned and eight-sectioned balls.The chapter on animals starts with notes on wiring, manes and tails, ears and eyes, horns, decorated heads and moveable legs before describing a variety of separate animals: a dachshund, reindeer, cow, horses and deer, a sitting cat and a tiger, a lizard and toad, and a magical griffin.
The chapter on birds starts with notes on beaks, heads and crests, tails, wings, and feet, legs and stands with patterns for sitting ducks and hens, small birds on conical stands and cockerels on cotton reels, and two standing birds, all magnificently embroidered.
Insects and fish are also covered with notes on insect wings, legs and feelers and hints on design and patterns for wasps, flies, ladybirds, butterflies, fish and sea-serpents. More complex creatures include a rocking bird, a tortoise, a pig, a camel, a donkey and cart, a French poodle, an elephant, an alligator and dragonflies.
Papier-maché toys, Christmas decorations and dolls and their toys are also covered in depth. Below are a few photos of Christmas decorations I have made using this book: While many of the toys shown in the colour plates look a little dated now, the use of modern materials and bright colours would totally revolutionize their appearance and I love the bold black-and-white designs in this book. It allows for plenty of individuality and creativity in the execution of its patterns.
However, if you would prefer more detailed precise patterns, so you can reproduce exactly the same toy described, then the next suite of books are perfect for you!
Titmouse Cottage Designs by Christine Brooke 1992 is an Australian book, based on an original range of woodland characters for her shop Titmouse Cottage: Mr and Mrs Nibble, Amelia, Miss Poppet, Rosebud and Missy Mouse. Patterns and step-by-step instructions for making and dressing these delightful little felt mice make it easy to reproduce them.
The author also gives introductory notes on equipment, materials, working with felt, stuffing, attaching beads and lace and general instructions for making ears, paws, heads, noses and eyes, whiskers, tails, glasses, mob caps and sleeves with patterns and pattern layouts in the back of the book. Each specific pattern details the mouse’s size and personality, materials used and method, including black-and white sketches and colour plates. They are very sweet little characters, which I would love to try making one day, especially Rosebud and seamstress, Miss Poppet!
Little Grey Rabbit’s Pattern Book by Pamela Peake 1988 is based on the world of Little Grey Rabbit, created by much-loved British children’s author Alison Uttley with patterns and clothes for five characters: Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel, Old Hedgehog, Weasel and Hare.
General directions include notes on patterns, fur fabric choice, layouts, cutting, seams, ladder stitching, stuffing, safety eyes, whiskers and tape hinges for limbs. They are lovely patterns, though those in the next book are even more attractive.
Sue Dolman’s Book of Animal Toys by Sue Dolman 1994 also features mainly British animals, the exception being Kenny the Koala! General notes are provided on fabrics and furs, equipment, patterns, cutting out, trimming fur, stitching, trimming seams, turning, filling and the assembly of body parts.
Characters include: Freddie and Freda Fox, Brewster and Bertha Bear, Kenny Koala, Reggie and Rosie Rabbit, Bertie Badger and the entire mouse family: Mrs Maisie Mouse, Baby Mouse, Miss Molly Mouse and Master Monty Mouse.
Each project includes actual-size patterns, notes on materials, step-by-step instructions and drawings and clothing. I used the pattern for baby mouse to create these cute felt mice in the photo below and could easily make up some of the other patterns, especially Bertha Bear and Baby Mouse’s mother, Mrs Maisie Mouse.Countryside Softies by Amy Adams 2011 is another favourite toymaking book with 28 very cute and whimsical woollen creatures made out of recycled felted old jumpers or blankets, though I prefer to use ordinary felt, having had to do a major clean-out of my severely-clogged front-loading washing machine after trying to felt an old jumper. I think having an old top-loader expressly for felting would be ideal!
Tools and equipment, materials and notions, embroidery stitches and detailed notes on felting wool and making weighted bodies; tummy and chest patches; snouts and beaks; eyes, mouths and ears; wings, feet, claws and arms; tails; whiskers; and insect legs and antennae are all discussed in the introduction, before presenting groupings of patterns according to their home environment:
In the Hedgerow: Fox; rabbit; hedgehog; robin; bumblebee; and butterfly;
Amongst the Woodlands: Squirrel; badger; owl; mouse; and toadstool; and
Along the Riverbank: Otter; swan; duck; kingfisher; and dragonfly.
There are patterns for baby versions, as well as related plant materials and props like bulrushes, carrots, chestnuts, fish and eggs, and notes on making mobiles and finger puppets. Each project details requirements and assembly instructions, while the patterns are in the back of the book, along with a list of resources. You can see more of her work at: http://www.lucykatecrafts.co.uk/ and http://lucykatecrafts.blogspot.com/.
I just adore her style, the mixture of felt/ wool with floral patches; her recycling ethics; and her patterns. They are seriously cute! I have made her Baby Rabbit for my daughter for Easter one year, but am keen to try my hand at her Fox; Robin; Badger; Owl; Mouse; Toadstool; Duck and Kingfisher.
I have mentioned the next book briefly in my post on Fabulous Felting Books: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/07/17/fabulous-felting-books/, which also describes a few other books on toymaking, as does my post on Knitting Books: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/06/26/books-for-winter-knitting-part-two/.
Sew Soft Toys: Using Natural Fibres by Karin Neuschütz 2007
A lovely book from our Steiner years using cotton, drill, flannel, towelling, wool gabardine, wool felt, fur and dupion silk to make dogs and cats; mice and bunnies; horses, donkeys and zebras; cows, sheep and pigs; seals and penguins; red and polar foxes; brown bears and polar bears; weasels; and elephants, camels and giraffes, all with baby equivalents and notes on variations (eg transforming the bunny into a squirrel)! I used this book to make Jen a camel and Caro an embroidered piglet. There are introductory notes on fabrics and stuffing materials; washing instructions and storage; and sewing and stuffing with detailed notes on materials; patterns and step-by-step instructions for assembling and stuffing each project. They are lovely patterns and I am keen to make more, especially the mice (little grey mouse in photo above); the donkey; and the African elephant.
It will be a very useful book for pcreating my Noah’s Ark Christmas ornaments!Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Soft Friends From Cast-Off Socks and Gloves by Miyako Kanamori 2005
This book also appealed to my recycling and thrifty instincts, as well as being exceedingly cute!
Written from the point of view of the characters created, it is a charming book, which introduces all the sock creatures first and tells their stories, before getting down to the details of their assembly in the back of the book with detailed notes and sketches. Gloves were used to make Billy the Dog and the rabbit, bear, pig and panda, while mittens were used to make the mouse and bonus fish. Marcus the Monkey and the dog, cat, sheep, bird, fish, elephant, zebra and girl were all made from old socks.
I just loved Billy the Dog, who features on the front cover and whose face can be portrayed in so many different ways, changing his character totally. I also loved the sheep, the mouse, the sock fish, the bear, the elephant and the zebra. Clothing patterns are also provided to dress the characters.
Steampunk Softies: Scientifically Minded Dolls From a Past That Never Was by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman 2011
And now, for something completely different…! I just love the originality and creativity of steam punk and the fact that anything goes!! Materials and accessories; cutting out; gluing; and ageing fabrics with wax, toothpaste, chalk, scratching and bleaching to give that essential timeworn appearance and ‘authenticity’ are all discussed in the introduction, followed by detailed notes on each project’s personality; materials and equipment; and assembly and construction.
Characters include: the mysterious illusionist and teleporter, Tompion Zeitgeist; the deep sea diver, Fathomless Tilt *; the Steam Punk Lady, Marveletta O’Houlihan; the mining prospector, Geronimo Bore; the intrepid explorer, Floyd Fastknight *; the aviatrix, Charity Storm; the lady detective, Minerva Dupine* and the steam punk doctor, Ferris Scapula. They are all delightful characters, with my favourites highlighted with an asterix *.
It’s a wonderful way to use up all those obscure bits and pieces in your hoard and letting your creativity run wild!
Finally, a book on top dollmakers and the secrets of their trade:
We Make Dolls: Top Doll Makers Share Their Secrets and Patterns by Jenny Doh 2012
After a brief section by Jenny Doh, in which she discusses templates, seam allowances, doll making tools, embroidery and hand stitches and tips and techniques, including clipping and notching curves, turning and stuffing, raw-edge applique and rotating joints, the doll makers themselves are introduced, complete with websites; notes on their dollmaking journeys; tips and secrets; and patterns with finished sizes, materials, preparation and step-by-step construction notes.
I particularly liked the style and work of Mimi Kirchner (http://mimikirchner.com/blog/) and Denise Ferragamo (http://deniseferragamo.blogspot.com/). I particularly liked Denises’s Matryoshka dolls, which can be seen on: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/374784000213602208/?lp=true and https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/864409722201944266/. It is also well worth exploring Mimi’s blog with links to other useful and inspiring craft and art blogs.
Next week, I will be sharing some of my favourite dollmaking books.