Poppy and Blossom

I’m not going to write much today, just show you how I make my Koala stuffed toys, step by step. You can then have a go yourself, or if you can’t be bothered and desperately want one, you can buy them here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/WinterOwls.

To start with, you’ll need some wool fabric, I get mine by upcycling vintage pure wool blankets after throwing them through a hot cycle in the washing machine. You’ll also need some stuffing. When I first started making toys, I used polyester fill, but now I’m using clean washed Merino fleece. It’s eco friendly, but it is more expensive and a little harder to use as stuffing. It tends to jump out of where it has been placed! As well as fabric and stuffing you’ll need some embroidery thread for little details and something fluffy ear like. In the past I’ve used Jumpers, shawls or the fringe of mohair blankets for luxurious ears.

I sew the main outline with a sewing machine, but you could sew up the whole thing by hand easily. I then close the stuffing gap by hand and outline the arms with embroidery thread, once the body has been machine stitched.

You can also gather little scraps of other fabrics, lace or doilies if you want to add accessories to your koalas. Go wild, they love dressing up!

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First cut out your bodies, front and back. Just draw a simple outline and cut around it.

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Choose your front and embroider eyes and mouth. I have sewn on a nose but you can do whatever you like. Hand stitch on any accessories such as collars, buttons, pants etc. Note that here, I’ve shown the front of Poppy and Blossom.

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Next tack on the ears to the front side facing in towards each other and then flip them, so they are facing outwards and you can see what they will look like. I hope that makes sense! You will need to flip them back in, before you sew the two halves together. (They will be covering the eyes when flipped back in)

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Pin the back and front together with the right sides facing inwards. Make sure those ears are tucked in well. Sew around the outside about 1/2 cm in from the edge leaving a 3 cm gap where you would like to put your stuffing in.

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Now turn your koala right side out and remove the tacking from the ears. Use a spoon, chopstick or whatever you have handy to put the stuffing in a bit at a time. When you are happy, hand sew up the opening.

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I like to whip stitch the ears to the head for extra stability and I top stitch the arms to define them, but you don’t have to.

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Finally, make yourself and your koalas Poppy and Blossom, a nice cup of tea. You deserve it.

Giant spiders

Wednesdays is my day for teaching Art to a group of teenagers who’ve become disengaged from school for various reasons. The idea behind the program they are doing, is to create a pathway for them to reenter education at a post school level. Most of them are around 15 or 16. We decided as a group to create giant spiders for Halloween. On the table in front of them I placed black crêpe paper, goggle eyes, PVA glue, foam insect bodies, newspaper, pipe cleaners, wool, feathers, tiny pom poms and wool rovings. While they looked at the materials, I made a web on the window from some wool I had found in an op shop and some spider web stuff I found at a craft store.

They sat for quite a long time, not doing anything. This group has been so used to flying under the radar at school, that often they can be a little afraid to start. One student started reading the newspaper. Oh dear, thought I. Suddenly though, he asked if he could make a Kim Kardashian spider. Of course you can, I replied, as long as she has 8 legs. He busily got to work as did the others. They were happy with their end results and gave me permission to put them online. I think perhaps, Kim might like her spider likeness!

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“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web”           Pablo Picasso 

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Cupcakes and Tattoos

Last year, I lost my job of ten years at a university, our course was cut. I taught young adults with mild intellectual disabilities and I wanted to continue, but felt disenchanted about working for another large education institution. In March this year, with a friend, I was fortunate to be able to set up a group one day a week at a Neighbourhood Community House.

We teach our young adults literacy, numeracy and art and craft. I  love  working there, but just didn’t have enough work. Exciting news for me though. I am going to be running an art and craft class for a group of adults with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities as well as an art class for a group of teenage boys who have become disengaged from education for various reasons. I’ve had the boys for one class so far and we did Zentangle style drawings of our arm and hand which captured their imagination as most are fascinated with tattoos. Some of their drawings were amazing and I think there are definitely a few budding tattoo artists there. I don’t know a lot about tattoos; I think I’m going to learn a lot more from this group. They will be a challenge to keep motivated, so if you have any wonderful ideas, please let me know! If you want to know more about Zentangle drawing then visit here: www.zentangle.com

You might wonder why I have photographs of cupcakes, I think I will not do cupcake decorating with the boys(they wouldn’t even use the pink Sharpie pen on their drawings). The cupcakes were decorated by my group of young adults. I gave them piping bags with coloured frosting and some decorations and then left them to it. At the end of the class, some were busy photographing their cakes for their Facebook pages. The highlight for me, was looking at their proud faces.

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