Wednesday, October 3, 2012

 A little DIY on today's blog post...

In our house, we have a tradition known as "lunch pets". 

From her first days of preschool, Q would ask whichever one of us was preparing lunch to draw a "secret" note for her lunch kit, declaring that we loved her and, preferably, including some sort of drawing and a few gratuitous hearts. 

We really could not refuse such a sweet request, so my husband started a tradition of drawing her a lunch note featuring a sketched cartoon of the TinMan from the Wizard of Oz (her favorite character). Since the Tinman is his specialty, I took to spending my early mornings creating small sketched characters for her on cardstock, which I tucked in with her lunch. They have ranged from cats to robots to "ghosties" (another personal favorite of hers). 
This week, one of my lunch pet characters, an owlet that she dubbed "Owlie", took on a third dimension. 
It was such a resounding success that I thought I'd do a little tutorial for a quick-ish Owlie lunch pet. 

You will need: 

- Two pieces of fabric (one for the backside, one for the frontside) measuring roughly a square foot each. Use untreated, neutral-colored, natural-fiber fabric. I used unbleached cotton broadcloth, but muslin or  plain, thin cotton would work just as well. A piece torn from a white cotton sheet works as long as it is translucent enough so that you can see your pen sketch through it, like tracing paper)

- A large piece of stiff cardboard or heavy mounting board for backing

- artist's tape or blue painter's tape for stretching (you can find blue painter's tape in the paint department at Home Depot, or white artist's tape at any art store)

- a Sharpie or other permanent marker

- liquid acrylic paints in any range of colors that strike your fancy

- a couple of relatively fine-tipped, stiff paint brushes appropriate for acrylic paint (synthetic bristle is fine)

- a jar of water

- sturdy, neutral-color thread and an appropriate needle (or sewing machine)

- sewing pins

- stuffing of your choice (poly-fill, recycled, or natural fiber, depending on your preference)

 I begin by sketching my design on the stiff cardboard or mounting-board backing, and then tracing over it in Sharpie or any other heavy black marker. The sketch needs to show through the fabric so that you can trace it. 

"Stretch" your fabric over the stiff backing by attaching tape to the edges, and pressing down. This doesn't have to be a perfect "stretch", just strong enough so that it won't shift while you're tracing/painting. 

Once your fabric is taped down, trace your original drawing carefully in permanent marker on the fabric.
 Now you're ready for painting! 
I use a child's plastic plate with sticky saran wrap over it, but you can also use a regular paper plate as a palette. Squeeze out your paint colors, and have your water jar handy for moistening and rinsing your brush. Fill in the outline of your sketch with colors that make you happy. Black and white would work just as well on a design like this!

When I'm finished painting, I like to draw a dotted line around the image, leaving about 1/2" margin, just like a sewing pattern. This reminds me where to cut and sew.
The back side is far easier. Remove your (dry) frontside from the board. Take your second piece of fabric and  tape it to the board over your original sketched image. Trace only the outer outline of your animal onto the fabric scrap (I wrote Owlie's name along with a heart to please Q).

When both your front and your back side are drawn and painted, cut around your image, leaving about 1/2" outside of your dotted line.
 Proceed to pin the two sides of your critter together, color sides facing in. Place pins inside of the dotted line, and make sure that your outlines match up.

Now, you're ready to sew!
I have to (guiltily) admit that I usually sew my critters by hand. I do have a machine, but sewing is not my favorite thing. I prefer to sew by hand while I watch a movie. That's just me. 

Either way, start in the middle on the right or left side, depending on your preference, and sew around leaving about a two-inch opening on one side. 

Once your critter is sewed, use the blunt end of a pencil to help you turn your critter right-side out. Then take your stuffing and begin filling in, starting with the extremities (legs, arms/wings, ears) and progressing toward the middle. 

Once you have your critter filled to your satisfaction, tuck in the edges of the fabric around the opening, and hand-close the opening with close, tight stitches. 

Tie off your stitches, and....

 Presto! Your 3-D lunch pet is ready!
Sit back and prepare to bask in the joy of your child and his or her schoolmates!


  1. In step 3 you forgot to add "be a very good artist to begin with". Voila!

  2. Q looks lovely with her hair like that! It makes her look older...Love your tutorial. I might have a go, because although Hâuie is a tall, lanky 11-year old secondary school girl, she still selects a different stuffed animal to sleep with every night! And it will keep my brain off this never-ending saga of our (probably failed) adoption...
    Carole x

    1. Carole, I've been meaning to email you, I miss "chatting"! Sorry to hear your saga continues. I wish you could find resolution. Send me a picture if you end up making a softie! I've been having so much fun with them!!

  3. Have I ever commented on your blog? I can't seem to remember. But I've often wanted to ! Your family is such an inspirational one ! The care and creativity you instill in the everyday is mind-blowing. I do not have children just yet but when I daydream and imagine how I would live my family life, I often think about you. What sweet memories you are building for Q ! And this tradition of lunch pets is no exception, especially with such an owl !

    1. Lucie, thank you so much for brightening my morning! Lovely to hear from you. I wish you all the joy that I have experienced as a mother when you do decide to have a family.I waited much later than many people to have a family, and I'm glad I did - it was right for me. I had a lot I wanted to do with my life before this adventure, but now that I'm on it, it is the most amazing thing. Sending you much joy!