At least once a week a confused parent stands in my kitchen (sorry about the mess) and asks me, ‘Which items do you think will look the best?’
They look down hopelessly at their often huge pile of clothes and tenderly search through for what they think will be the most appealing, memorable or just plain cute.
Should it be the butterflies or the spaceships? The robots or the dogs?
And my answer is always the same. It doesn’t matter. Truly it doesn’t!
The most important thing is that you choose clothes that mean something to you.
They can be made of any material at all. I have made animals out of blankets, baby grows, knitted cardigans, fleece, rain coats, towels, sports wear, silk, net, fur and pretty much everything and anything you can think of.
Whatever fabric you choose to give me I back onto non stretchy cotton which stops the fabric warping and changing shape when the animal is stuffed. If the fabric wasn’t backed onto something non-stretchy then the final animal will look misshapen and will not last a lifetime, let alone being able to pass it through the generations. It’s an essential step and should definitely not be missed out. If you’re not having your animal made by me then please, PLEASE check that the person making it does this very simple (and time consuming) step. I do it for all my animals, for every fabric. This means I can work with practically anything you give me without it impacting the quality of the animal.
It’s also helpful to include one fabric that is plain so that I can use this as the backing for the feet (or ears) where the embroidery is going to go. I can embroider onto patterned fabrics if you don’t have a plain item but the words will stand out better if they are embroidered onto a single colour fabric. That’s not to say that the embroidery looks bad on a patterned fabric – it doesn’t – it can just be a little more challenging to read.
Most people have particular pictures or motifs on their clothes that they’d like to preserve and there are two ways that I can get them onto the keepsake. These motifs and pictures are often on the front of the baby grow and frequently don’t have a lot of space around them before you hit a seam.
There are two ways I can deal with this. The first is I can try and cut the pattern pieces to include the motif. This looks great and can be very pleasing once it’s on the animal as it has a beautifully cohesive feel, but you may find that you lose the edges of the picture into the seam of your animal. This is because there isn’t usually a lot of wriggle room around the motif for me to allow for the seam allowance (this is the amount of fabric that is on the inside of the keepsake – the other side of the stitching) and therefor parts of the picture may disappear into the seams.
The other option is to back the motif onto interfacing (usually iron on and again is essential to make sure the picture doesn’t stretch during the sewing process) and sew the motif onto the keepsake by hand (known as appliqué) once the animal is complete. This way works excellently if you don’t want to lose any of the motif. It also means that I can precisely choose where the appliqué is going to go. This is a really useful tactic if you want a picture in a precise location – such as on the bottom or the chest.
Lots of the clothes I am given have an aspect of them that my customers really love.
This might, for example, be a hood or a skirt. These items can usually be attached to the animal in their original state, or perhaps with a little alteration to make them the right size or shape. So if you’ve got a hood that you loved on your baby, then there’s a good chance I can incorporate it into your final keepsake in some way. If you’re not sure, then please feel free to ask.
I can also make you an item to go on the animal such as a coat, hat, scarf, bow, skirt or even knickers. I can make pretty much anything that you’d like as long as it’s actually physically possible and there is enough fabric to do so. I’ve never made a pair of knickers for a giraffe but there’s a first time for everything. I’d quite like to be able to say, ‘I make giraffe knickers for a living.’ So please do go ahead and use your imagination! If it’s not possible (or I think it really won’t look good) then I will tell you. More than anything I want you to be happy with your keepsake and not regret having your precious clothes cut up.
If you’re still not sure then please do feel free to discuss your clothes with me in greater detail either when you drop your clothes off, through email or on the ‘phone if you don’t feel like you can figure it out without talking to me directly. We can also arrange a Skype call if you’d like me to be able to see the clothes you have but don’t live locally to Portishead.
I look forward to hearing your wild and wonderful ideas for your keepsake animal!