Here a Hen, There a Hen, Everywhere a Hen, Hen

>> Wednesday, March 24, 2010

So Alan leaves for Japan very soon and we've been doing our research and making our plans. One thing we found out is that lots of individuals and businesses (like the owners of inns we'll be staying at) often give little gifts to people. We wanted to be able to reciprocate and we racked our brains to think of something appropriate. We wanted it to be handmade and to say something about us or where we're from. I had just bought some new wool felt in yummy colors for doll hair, and I was in the mood for hand-sewing some of that felt - so we decided to make some little hens. It took an afternoon to develop the pattern - and I thought I'd take you through some of the steps in designing a felt critter.
I started with my standby favorite, Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals. But something wasn't quite right. Maybe it was the size of the neck and tail? I tried shorter, but that was worse.
 I decided to make it curvier - lose some of the sharp angles.
Success! See the graceful swoop of her tail? The proud tilt of her head? This was one of our hens.

Now - to translate into 3D. I knew I'd be sewing felt with seams on the outside and teeny-tiny seam allowances - so I decided to try it without any additional seam allowances added. I could have cut two pieces of felt and stitched them together for a very flat chicken, but I wanted her to have a wide bottom to allow her to sit upright - like she's sitting on a big pile of eggs. So I needed to add a gusset to the bottom.

I used a cloth measuring tape to measure the distance around the curve of her body from her chest to the base of her tail - that's the length of the gusset. Then I cut two body pieces out of paper, stapled them together at the top, and played with it to figure out how wide I wanted the spread across her belly - that's the width of the gusset. Then I sketched in symmetrical curves - and that's a gusset.

I stitched up the first prototype.
The comb is set too low on the back of her head, and the embroidered wing scribble looks like a three. She's stuffed with polyfill, which plumped her up nicely, but left her almost weightless.
Test 2. The comb and the wing are better. I filled her with plastic pellets and I like the weight, but her head and tail are too flat.
Test 3. Polyfill stuffed tightly into the head and tail and pellets filling the rest seem to be just the right combination. She's pleasantly plump and has a nice heft to her. Now - I just need to make 49 more. . .


Fourteen Countess March 25, 2010 at 10:31 PM  

Saw these on Flickr, and I think they are adorable! I was a huge Ed Emberley fan growing up and had a few of his books-- what a great starting point for this project! Love it.

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