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Saturday, 1 June 2019

Scrap Busting: Birdies & Butterflies

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
A pair of scrappy birdies...
Every now and then, someone in our online sewing community will ask, what's your favourite thing to make with scraps?

Normally, I wouldn't have an answer, since there's no "go to" project that I make with scraps. I'm also burdened by (usually) not wanting to make things more than once.

But when I saw this "Little Birdie" pattern (a freebie from Sharon Holland, an Art Gallery Fabrics designer; google her and you'll find the link to her website), it was an immediate excuse to go into my pile of scraps and make some birds. That's right: birds, as in plural.

Aren't they just the cutest?

The pattern is remarkably intricate; you'll have to deal with ten — count 'em — ten pieces of fabric to make one bird, but that means that you can use a lot of different sized scraps. Never one to forgo some sort of order in my creations, I did plan how to make my twin birdies in terms of fabric use.

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
Birdie #1...

Four different (Robert Kaufman) fabrics are involved here. The body features a selection originally used on my second Diva Envelope Clutch test project (also used on my mini mannequin and Summit Pack). The tail and underside fabric was also used for the interior of that same Diva tester, as well as for the lining of the fabric version of my Portable Pocket Pouch. Finally, the two fabrics used for the wings (underneath is different from the top) appeared on the inside of one of my Retro Reticule test bags.

These are actually the second and third birds that I made. (The first will be featured in a separate post dealing with the concept of "fussy cutting".)

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This pattern is classified as an intermediate level project. Even though it's often difficult to grade a sewing pattern, this one may have been passed over as a beginner project due to the small pieces and the curves that are required.

That said, if you're a confident beginner and want to give this a go, let me pass along some tips to help you out. (The PDF itself is very good. The bird is actually designed to be a weighted pin cushion, complete with a nest to sit in.) It won't be a five minute project, but it won't take you five hours either.

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
Birdie #2... this was taken in late April, btw; the brown has now turned green!

This first tip is a general sewing tip; i.e., not just to be applied to this project. Whenever you need to join two pieces of fabric together where one side needs to be fitted to the other, pin judiciously, and then sew with the smaller piece underneath against the feed dogs. This gives you better control of the larger piece of fabric — because you can see it — thereby minimizing puckering.

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
Sew from the side with the excess fabric...

This applies to the first two steps of sewing the underside of the bird to the two body pieces. You likely won't avoid all puckers (as you can see above), but the ones that do occur will be small and virtually unnoticeable once the item is stuffed.

I also have a suggestion for the tail that doesn't involve stuffing it. Apply scraps of fusible fleece — you have those too, right? — to the two pieces of fabric (just inside the 1/4" seam allowance) and it will have just the right amount of puffiness to provide structure when you sew those three lines.

The pattern calls for the wings to be sewn down completely against the bird's body. I liked the added dimension of having the pointy ends sticking out, so I only sewed along the front edge of the wing. If you want to do this, cut the opening for stuffing the wings closer to the rounded edge (as indicated by the red arrow in the picture below) to keep it hidden from view.

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
Cut the hole for stuffing the wings closer to the rounded edge
if you want to keep the ends of the wings "loose"...

The trickiest part of the sewing will be at the "dip" along the top of the body pieces that creates the neck of the bird. The back is one long straight piece, so this is again an instance of one piece needing to be fitted to the other; i.e, you should sew from the side of the back piece. However, you will need to know where the dip is located so that you can pivot the needle at that position, to create the required "v" shape in your stitching.

I addressed this problem by putting a yellow pin right at that pivot point.

Sharon Holland's Little Birdies crafted by eSheep Designs
Each one of these little birds needs a lot of fill!
(The inset photo shows how much is left after stuffing one bird...)

After turning and stuffing the bird — I harvested the fill from an old pillow — the rest is all hand-sewing of the tail and wings. I haven't made a final decision about the eyes, but since I will likely be hanging these mobile-style, I may just keep the pins. (The pattern calls for French knots.)

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Are you wondering about the "butterflies" part of this post?

Well, also on Sharon Holland's website, I saw a tutorial for making fabric butterflies. It seemed like yet another scrappy project idea (if they're small butterflies), so I sat down to draw a couple of templates and see what I could come up with. (By the way, if you create your own templates, draw half of the butterfly and cut the fabric on the fold for best results.)

Fabric butterflies by eSheep Designs
Fabric butterfly next to my designer paper flowers...

Not that there's anything proprietary about how to make fabric butterflies, but I followed my own method in making these. The ones you see here were made out of fabric backed by Decor Bond and some strategically placed strips of Peltex to prevent flopping.

Fabric butterflies by eSheep Designs
The big one is probably about 12"...

I decorated with reverse appliqué and glued on some trims. Fabric was left over from my Oriole bag and sun hat.

While the butterflies add some colour to my window and door sills, I wasn't as enthused about them as I was about the birds.

Whatever the case, you now have two more ways to bust your scraps! (FYI, both of these projects were part of my Quick Craft Mondays that I posted about last week.)


  1. Those two little birds are adorable, Rochelle!!! Great job with the fussy cutting. I have to admit it does rather look like a fiddly project, but well worth it judging by your first two birds. Look forward to seeing the next two.

  2. Cute birds! Would make a nice pincushion too.

  3. I love the bird! I am pinning it for later.
    Happy sewing,

    1. Thanks, Kippi — hope you enjoy making one (or two, or three)!


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