Tuesday, December 20, 2016

How to make a stuffed cardinal

December for me is pretty quiet on the growing front, outside chores are completed.  Even if I wasn’t done, it has been pretty much decided for me to be done, as we have a foot of snow and I don’t do cold well.  Inside, all I really have to do is water and tidy dropped leaves.  My amaryllis are still waking up and I haven’t acquired any new plants to play with this month yet. So instead of a tutorial on shoveling snow, I’m going to delve into one of my other loves: creating.

Introducing Chippy's new brother, yet to be named.

I have a pine tree branch on top of my hutch that is a part of my seasonal decorating.  My dad noticed it and told me that I needed to put a red bird on it.  Almost a year later I have finally done it.  While I did go to Pinterest and actually printed out a pattern of a bird, I wasn’t really satisfied with any of the examples there.  The nice pudgy ones I did like weren’t cardinals with the distinctive tuft on the head and mask.  The ones that were cardinals were flat and two dimensional.  So I made one up.  After posting my little guy Chip on FB, I had several requests for the pattern and instructions.  Thus, the reason for my non-gardening how to tutorial.

All the items needed to create one cardinal

The pdf for the pattern can be found here.

Collect all the items needed for the cardinal.  It is better to find out now what you are missing than when you are in the middle of making it.  Cut out the paper pattern pieces and trace them onto the felt. After tracing one side, I flipped the second side piece over so that I would have two “good” sides without pen marks on them.  I did the same with two of the wing pieces as well.  While I tried to cut just inside the tracing marks, there was still black on the edges, thus the “right” and “wrong” sides.

All the pieces cut out and laying “right” side up.

Match up two of the wing pieces and blanket stitch around each pair with red embroidery floss.  Start anywhere but the tip of the wing as it will be a tidier turned corner.   This will make them stiff and stick out from the body a bit to add some dimension.  Hide the knots in between the two layers.

Insert quirky mustache quip here...

Next, take the belly, tail middle and back and align the tail sections.  The belly should be on the bottom and the back on top with the tail middle in the middle.  Blanket stitch around the tail section with red embroidery floss.  The diamonds on the paper pattern show where the blanket stitch will start and stop on the tail, which is at the narrowest spot.  Again, hide the knots in between the layers.

The middle layer should be a little smaller than the belly and back.

Completed blanket stitch around the tail section and starting the tail lines.

Once the blanket stitch has been completed around the tail section, we now want to make two running stitch lines down the middle of the tail to help stiffen it and to add some detail.  After the last blanket stitch, put the needle between the back and middle layer to come out as you see in the picture.  You could tie off the embroidery thread and start with new for the lines but this was faster and tidier to do.  We will start the running stitch from the base of the tail and go toward the tip.

Running stitch toward the tail tip and beginning to come back to the base.

Upon going to the tip, put your needle back into the holes made on the outward trip to fill in the line going toward the base.  This will create a nice line.  Repeat in the same manner for the second line and tie off keeping the knot inside the layers of felt.

Completed tail section.

Now we work on the head part.  Take the two side pieces and put the “wrong” sides together.  The non-inked sides should face out.  With red thread do a whip stitch from the top tip of the crest, around the face down to the base of the beak.

Whip stitch from the tip of the crown to the base of the beak.

Now we are going to attach one of the sides to the belly / tail / back piece.  Match the point of the belly to the base of the beak.  Whip stitch from the beak down to the tail, matching the diamonds shown on the pattern at the tail.  Keep stitching around the back and up to the tip of the crest.  You will need to adjust for the curve as you sew to make the pieces line up correctly.  Continue sewing down the other side of the back until you reach the middle of the top of the back and stop.

Whip stitch the belly tip to the base of the beak.

Continue on around the belly to match the back of the side up with the tail as shown as a diamond on the pattern.

Stop sewing about the middle of the back to allow you finish the face and sew on the wings.

Before sewing the body closed, we are going to assemble the face and attach the wings.  Take the mask and fold it in half and whip stitch with black thread the two short edges to create a cone.

Sew the top two short edges together to form a cone.

This is how the mask goes onto the cardinal.  The paper pattern piece shows the orientation.

Use a hemming stitch to attach the mask to the body.  You should not be able to see the stitches and the mask will fit snugly onto the body.  Repeat the same steps with the beak using yellow thread and attaching it to the mask.

Sew the beak on the same way as the mask.  The paper pattern piece shows the correct orientation.

After sewing on the beak, I stuff the head area with scraps of felt before sewing on the eyes.

Once the mask and beak are completed with all knots and messy thread inside the body, I stuff the head area with scraps of felt left over from cutting out the pieces.  I try to shape and form the head as I stuff it and flatten the seams a bit.  Now, you sew on the two black beads for the eyes.  I start my black thread from inside the head and poke the needle out where I want the eye to go.  Thread the bead onto the thread and push the needle through the stuffed head to come out on the other side where the second eye will go.  Thread the second bead on and go back through the head out the center of the opposite bead.  Put the needle into the head outside the bead underneath it and poke it out the center of the opposite “eye”.  Repeat until you have at least three sets of threads anchoring the bead to the head and tie off the thread inside the head.

Next we attach the wings.  Match the appropriate wing to the correct side starting on the side that is already sewn to the back and belly.  It is easier to do this side first rather than second.  Make sure that you catch only the inside layer of the wing so that the stitches are not seen on the outside layer.  Sew in a circle in the middle of the wing so that the edges can stick out after being stuffed.  If you would rather your wing be flush with the body, sew closer to the edge of the wing.

Sew in a circle to attach the wing to the side.

Attached wings, eyes, mask and beak.  We are ready to sew the last seam and stuff with beans.

Another view of attached wings.

Starting on the back where you left off sewing the seam, whip stitch to the tail and around towards the head leaving an opening to fill with beans.

Ready to fill with beans.

I filled my cardinal with black turtle beans because they were the oldest ones in my pantry.  You can use any type of bean or stuffing.  The beans give the bird some weight which will counter balance the heavy tail.  If you fill it with lighter stuffing, it may tip backwards rather than sit up.  I also like the slightly slouchy look the beans give the bird.

Filled with beans and ready to be sewn up.

Finish the seam with a whip stitch and tie off at the base of the mask.  Now gently shape the bird a bit, flattening seams and straightening the wing tips.

Chippy’s brother is now done.   Hmmm… gotta come up with another cardinal name.  Suggestions?

There you go, something cute and not too hard or expensive to make.  Have fun and post pictures of your little guys so I can see what you did.  Fun fact for you: a group of cardinals has many collective nouns, including a "college", "conclave", "deck", "radiance", and "Vatican" of cardinals.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wandering through the start of winter

While winter doesn’t officially start until the 21st of December, for me the beginning of December is the start of winter.  Thanksgiving is done, all the fall decorations are packed up and put away and now it is winter, even if there isn’t snow yet in some years.  This year snow came early in November despite the fact we had a very mild fall.  This week we have had lots of talk about a winter storm we were going to get so I took a couple of pictures on Thursday morning.  The warning said 8” to 12” of snow for our area.  While some areas were indeed covered with snow (17” in the East), we were not.

The backyard with a dusting from earlier in the week.  12/8/16

The front yard waiting for its white blanket.   12/8/16

Snow came but it was not the lake effect “big” snow, just pellets.

We got a bit of snow but the best part was when the sun came out.  Our winters tend to be grey affairs with the difference between day and night just being a change in gloom.  However when the sun does come out and we have snow, it is glorious.

Beautiful!  I love all the shadows on the snow.
The sun was out for about 20 minutes, just enough to make me smile and take pictures of course.

Saturday morning  12/10/16   Ah, yes back to our grey gloom.

Not too shabby, a couple of inches.   12/10/16

Now there is another storm of the name Cary heading our way with warnings and advisories of large amounts of snow starting this evening through Monday morning.  We’ll see if we get some more snow this time.  I actually appreciate the snow as it protects the plants from the cold air.  The forecasts say that with the exception of for a couple of hours on one day where we will make it to the high temp of 33 degrees, the temperature will not be above 30 degrees all next week.  This will definitely get the ground heading toward frozen.  I am glad that I have all my chores done outside.  It is time to be INSIDE now.

Inside I have flowers!  Cactus plant (Schlumbergera)

I love the colors and shape.  Such an interesting flower.

Orchid flowers ahead!  This one will have smaller purple flowers.
This is from my dear sister-in-law in memory of my dogs.

This orchid will have large purple and white flowers.
This one came from a friend of mine who lives in Alaska as a Sukkot feast gift.

German ivy cuttings.  This plant was also given to me.

I have a problem inside my house.  I do not have enough windows.  Thus I composted many plants that I would normally bring in or older house plants that were duplicates to make room for all that I really wanted to keep.  These German ivy cuttings came from a 10” pot with 2’ trailing stems that I just had no space for.  Since this was a gift from a friend from Iowa, I took cuttings.  It is a very easy plant to grow from cuttings so I was not worried about tossing the original.  I normally choose tips that do not have flower buds or pinch them out but I missed these ones.  How cute!  This is a 4” pot so the flowers are tiny.

Birds, butterflies and watering cans are my garden trinkets, besides pots of course.   Sir T thinks I have too many pots.  He might be right but, oh look, here’s another one at the second hand store for 50 cents!

So now that it has officially snowed, I put out all my winter decorations.  I don’t do “Christmas” as much of the finery surrounding that holiday doesn’t seem to honor my King, but I do put out snowflakes, lights and sparkly.  This year was white and silver themed with a touch of red.

My hutch top with the little cardinal I made per my Dad’s suggestion that my pinecone branch needed a red bird

My art project for the week, designing and making this little guy whom I shall call Chippy

A couple lanterns on top of the plant rack

My snowflake collection

My version of a mantle, the top of our bookcase

This is my favorite hanukkiah.  It has blue crystals in it.

Now let’s wander down to the basement for an update on the guest room.  We found a bunk bed on Craig’s list that had a full bed on the bottom and a twin on top.  We wanted a couple to be comfortable as well as facilitate multiple future interns.  Much decluttering, rearranging and organizing went on to culminate in what you see.  We don’t have a dresser but hopefully the shelf and the large walk in closet will suffice until and if I find an upright one that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.  Apparently I have expensive tastes, even for second hand.

Two beds and two desks will allow for two interns

Our “new to us” used bunkbed and storage cubes.   I got the 3 cubes on clearance for $2.50 each (90% off!)  and they have removable tops.  Yes, it is wonderful when the sale’s clerk that you smile and say hi to every week, gives you the tip that she just marked them down. 

I just realized that my games and cubes match.  Yes, I totally planned that.  Mattresses are on order from Amazon.

Thanks for wandering around my house with me through pictures.  We’ll see how the weather treats us this weekend.  May everyone be safe and drive carefully where ever you are.  Or walk, walk carefully too, ice is not nice!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Head in the clouds

Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

I have had a blog on my mind since this past summer, inspired by my wonderful Uncle Mac who lives in a large city in Texas.  He walks or takes the bus everywhere and seems to always travel with his camera.  I do not prefer the city; too much black top, exhaust fumes, noise and often ugly buildings in my opinion.  I prefer my suburbia, the sweet smell of my Lake Michigan, my trees and gardens.  Usually the worst noise is the neighbors’ lawn mowers and leaf blowers.  I imagine that I could easily be very unhappy if I had to exist where he does.

However, the pictures he takes of his home and neighborhood are amazing.  He does not focus on the ugly or crowded.  He determinedly SEEKS the beauty in his surroundings and finds plants in a deserted field blooming, vines that hang over fences or grow through concrete, interesting paint jobs on the houses he passes and funny ways people have decorated (sometimes unintentionally) their homes.  His focus is on finding peace and beauty where he is and I believe that he succeeds admirably.

One thing he likes to photograph is the sky and specifically the clouds.  Juxtaposition of wires, trees, branches, shoes hanging by laces over the lines and shapes all lend to interesting compositions and stories.  These stories are often elaborated on by the others in my family on Facebook where he posts his gallery.  I see his beautiful cloud formations and think that the sky must be more beautiful where he lives.

I tend to look down, both physically and emotionally.  I can very quickly forget to look up and appreciate the incredible day, the beauty around me and the sheer joy of just taking a deep breath and letting it go.  Even in my gardens, I can look around and only see the weeds, the jumbled mess, the to-do list and the failures.  The blossoms get overlooked as I focus on what is wrong.  This year, there was a LOT wrong in my gardens as we had our rest year and the gardens were a mess.  I didn’t want to go in them because I found it hard to appreciate anything.

I was having a particular grumpy frumpy day and was actually startled to see amazing clouds as I walked out onto the deck while taking out the compost bucket.  I came to a complete stand still and just stared.  I immediately thought of Uncle Mac and his gorgeous display of cloud photos and thought, “I have beautiful sky too.”  Of course I put down the bucket, hurried in to get my camera and starting snapping.  The sky was too big; the large cumulonimbus formations were too grand for my camera lens.  The skies were declaring something much bigger than me and my meager woes.

I was humbled, I began to smile, I found joy in the beauty and I whispered a thank you to my Heavenly Father for reminding me, gently, that I am loved... even when I am grumpy and frumpy.

His heart for me