Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Tengwar (Elvish) Sampler, Inspired By The Hobbit

Have you seen The Hobbit yet? I have. Twice. And one of the things that struck me about it, much as with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, was the beauty of the production design. Every element of every costume and set is designed and worked carefully in minute detail - Peter Jackson's film-making techniques are a revelation and his attention-to-detail is legendary.
It's not surprising, then, that I'm inspired by the look of the films and the books to create something just as beautiful. Below you'll find my effort; Tolkien's Misty Mountains poem, rendered in Elvish (Tengwar) script. The border is taken from the outfit of one dwarf member of Thorin's party - five Internet points to the first person to identify which one!

Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek our pale enchanted gold

Below is a Tengwar alphabet and key which you could also sew as a sampler, or use to make name-plates, personalise other projects, or write your own passages in Tengwar!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Sock-Cats and Dogs - Make Soft Toys From Socks

This is another simple, inexpensive  project that is relatively quick to make, and a great way to spend a rainy afternoon with older children. You will need:

A pair of ladies ankle-socks (preferably new!)
Some hollowfibre filling
Some scraps of felt
Embroidery threads

When choosing socks to make your kitten/puppy, try and find a pair that has a simple repetitive pattern (flowers, stripes) and that is patterned all over the foot. Many socks only have the pattern on the top of the foot, not the sole, and the sole part will form the back of the animal, and be the most visible part of your toy.

This tutorial will initially show how to make a cat, variations will be shown at the end. To start, turn the socks inside out, and lay them flat, as in the picture below.

With the first sock, pin and sew the front and back legs as shown, remembering to leave a gap between the back legs so that you can turn your toy right way out and stuff it.

Do not cut the sock until after you have sewn the seams. 

Turn right-side out, ready to stuff

Take the second sock and pin/sew the ears and the top of the head. Then cut straight across the sock, underneath the heel, and turn right side out.

Stuff both parts with the hollowfibre filling. Do a small amount at a time, and make sure to push it right into the ends of the legs, ears etc, using the blunt end of a pencil or knitting needle if necessary. The sock will hold a lot more filling than you think, and will stretch as you stuff it. 

When the body and head are nice and full, neatly sew up the hole between the back legs and sew a running stitch around the 'neck' at the bottom of the head. Draw the running stitch tight, adding any extra filling that may be appear to be needed before finally sewing the neck closed. Roll the body and head between the palms of your hands to help the stuffing settle evenly.

Position the head just above the point where the front legs meet, and begin to sew it to the body. I usually do about four or five circuits of the neck and head, sewing each successive circuit slightly further out, anchoring it more securely, and stopping it from wobbling about too much.

Using one of the leftover parts of the sock, sew a long, narrow section to form a tail, cut out and stuff. 

Attach to the cat's bottom in the same way as you attached the head, again, sewing around it several times to ensure it is firmly anchored (Especially important if the toy is for a young child) 

Finally, using felt, embroidery, or buttons if you prefer, add the facial features. Then all you have to do is think of a name for your new pet!


To make a dog instead of a cat, follow exactly the same instructions for the body. For the head, you will need to make the ears longer, and almost 'rabbit shaped'. 

When you come to stuff the head, make sure no stuffing goes into the ears. Once the head is stuffed and sewn closed, fold the ears over, and pin. 

Then sew a few tiny stitches down the outside edges of the ears, to hold the folds in place.

You can try experimenting with the length and shapes of the dog-ears, to make different types of dogs, shorter, pointed ears will give it a terrier-like appearance (above right), while wider, spatulate shapes will make it look more like a labrador. (above centre) I also make the dog's tails slightly shorter and fatter than the cat's.

Rabbits. To make a rabbit (a good idea with Easter not far off) make the head and ears as for the dog, but this time, when stuffing, fill the ears as well to make them stand up. Then, instead of making a long, narrow tail, simple cut a circle of fabric from one of the leftover parts of the second sock, sew a running-stitch around the outside, then pull the thread tight, stuffing the tail as you do so. This will form a small 'bobble' bunny-tail which you can then sew on, as for the cat and dog.

You can even use the leftover parts of the socks to make things, I quickly stitched and stuffed one of the sock-tops to make a pin-cushion (or you could even add some dried catnip to the stuffing and make a toy for your real cat!)