I actually did finish a sewing project today – grey cords, using Simplicity 2562 again – but alas, every single photo I took is, well, not suitable for viewing. My slightly nicer camera broke a month or so ago, so we’re using my husbands elderly, but still performing 4.0 mp camera. Until it breaks. (oops! sorry I dropped it honey!!)
I thought I’d fill in the gap with a quick tutorial on how I made my wedding cake toppers, Dan-bird and Patty-bird.
|[the glamour shot. the cupcakes were better than they look. for real.]|
For anyone looking at any wedding-related blogs in the last two years (probably earlier than that, I was late on the bandwagon). These little birdies were all over the place, on Etsy, in pretty photo shoots, on every website, but the head bird in charge (HBIC??) is Brooklyn-based artist, Ann Wood, a master of found materials and vintage fabrics. She makes more than birds and EVERYTHING is awesome! If you’re jonesing for a bird of your own, take a stab at making one… and for anyone following the scrap conversation at Diary of a Sewing Fanatic, this is a perfect way to use scraps!**
**Just a note – I’m doing a bird post because this was a fun project that I did for my own wedding and for a very close friend’s wedding. I noticed a lot of very similiar birds for sale all over the web when I was first designing my birds and it irked me. I think it’s fun to see a cool idea and make it work using your own two hands and ingenuity, I don’t think it’s fun to take it, make it, and sell it for less than the originals. I hesitated to even put up this post, but decided to because after all is said and done, my favorite thing about my blog is looking at pictures of my finished projects! Yes. I’m that vain.
Here’s a closeup of our birds. Dan-bird is wearing a dashing full tux and top hat. Patty-bird has a vintage birdcage…. um… crest and a designer gown made from a antique-shop hankie.
|[patty-bird and dan-bird]|
One week after we were married in June, our dear friends, C & K were also married and I made some K and C birds. The C bird wore a light grey tux, with his own tophat and specs. The K bird wore J.Crew with ostrich trimming…
|[C&K birds. we also made those signs! how crafty could we possibly get!]|
OK, enough fun. Here’s what I did. First, an almost completely illustrated materials list.
In the photo above we have…
- The bird body fabric. I purchased silk dupioni in black and cream for the Dan and Patty birds. For the C&K birds, I still had some cream left, and got some grey to match the dashing real-life C’s Hugo Boss [ridiculously expensive] suit.
- Some batting, stuffing, whatever to fill up the birds. If you use dupioni, the fabric’s thin, so batting is good. If you use thicker fabric, you could probably get away with stuffing with scraps.
- Styrofoam balls (one for each bird) to fill out the bird-rump and give a nice base to ram the feet into. I used 1.5″ balls (38mm).
- For the C&K birds, I used ostrich feather bits (left over from my wedding fan) and little calla lilies for the boutonniere. I ended up using paper-covered wire to make the legs for the final Dan and Patty birds (in the photos in this post, I’m showing them with glitter and flocking covered wire legs). You can see the paper-covered wire in the right-hand side of the photo below.
- I used a mixture of orangey-brown glitter mixed with black flocking powder to cover the legs for the final C&K birds and the noses for all the birds.
- Little tiny brads. I got them in the scrapbook section and they’re teeny-tiny. I used them for the eyes.
- Toothpicks. Necessary for the noses, helpful for everything else.
- White paint marker. White-out might also work. I only used it to add a tiny bit of definition to the brads so the eyes looked a little more expressive.
- Floral tape – you’ll need this if you decide to make the wire legs covered with glitter!
- (not pictured) The black flocking powder. This is great if you want to make a little top hat! Plus, it’s cool! It’s just like glitter – you know, spread glue, dump on the powder, tap off the excess. When it’s dry, it feels just like velvet! I got mine at Michael’s – the Martha Stewart brand. I’m not a scrapbooker, so there might be a better kind out there… I don’t know!
- (also not pictured) GLUE!! I had some super-strong glue left over from making my wedding invitations. I used that on the top hats. I also bought some glue with a brush applicator that’s meant for using with glitter of flocking powder that I used for the hats!
- General supplies – tape, paperclips, scissors, a Sharpie would be helpful. If you want to make a top hat, then black construction paper.
OK. First (and hardest) thing is to make your pattern pieces. Here’s a photo of mine.
Once I cut my pattern pieces, I cut my fabric. For the boy birds, I used the black/grey fabric for the sides and white for the front. The girl birds were all white. But I can totally see other cute combinations! I sewed the ‘backs’ together first (I used my machine for this part on the C&K birds, hand sewed everything else). Then I clipped around the curvy part and sewed in the ‘fronts’. It’s NOT EASY! And I recommend a practice bird (or if you’re me, 3 practice birds!) Biggest pitfall: sewing the opening near the tail too small, and not being able to fit the Styrofoam ball in!
Once you get your practice-birds the way you like, start on your first real-bird. Sew together the body fabric, then pack tightly with your filling material (real tight, otherwise they’ll flop over!). When you get to the belly section, add the Styrofoam ball. In the photo below I’ve circled where the Styrofoam ball is in the Dan-bird.
|[this is where the Styrofoam ball should be!]|
When the body is firm and smooth, start pinning the fabric to the Styrofoam to secure. I pinned everything in, then sort of gathered the rest of the fabric around to make the long back tail.
|[all of this tail is part of the back pattern pieces]|
Now just hand sew the long tail so it looks nice. I sort of turned under the edges, slipstitched then added a stitch here and there to shape. You’ve got a bird body!
For my birds I added side-wings to the boy birds, but not the girl birds. I just raided the paper recycling bin for an empty cereal box, cut some wing shapes, used those as pattern pieces, cut some fabric to cover the wings and sewed mostly together, turned so the seam allowances were in the inside, slipped in the cardboard and slip stitched shut. I wrapped the wings on the Dan-bird with batting, but it didn’t do that much so I skipped on the C-bird. You can see in the photo below how differently I shaped the wings – C-bird’s wings are MUCH bigger! I sewed the wings on with a couple of stitches around the top. I have a hot glue gun, but really hate using it (it’s cheating!) and I didn’t trust glue to keep the wings on through the important parts!
Next, I made the legs. For the legs shown in the photos, I used very heavy wire that I found in the flower-arranging section at the craft shop and some pliers to twist into the shape shown below…
|[a three-toed bird. still a little tippy!]|
For the glitter covered legs, I bent the wire, then wrapped completely with floral tape to give them a bit more dimension. I mixed glitter and flocking powder, slathered the floral tape covered wire with glue, and then glittered away. Since we wanted our birds to sit ON our cake, I switched out the glitter legs for the paper-covered wire legs.
Once your legs are prepared, it’s time to stick ‘em into the birds. It’s a little nerve wracking, as you are just ramming the wire through the fabric into the Styrofoam. I found that setting the legs far apart helped with the bird-stability. Also, for the second pair I made, I ‘pre-drilled’ the holes in the Styrofoam with a #2 knitting needle! I think that I may reset the legs with glue, since they’re prone to falling out, but I haven’t yet.
Now that your birds have legs, it’s time to dress ‘em up!
I wanted my birds to have some kind of expression – some of the other ones I’ve seen online range between blank-looks and terrifying looks! I used pins to decide on the position for the eyes and nose prior to attaching them. I also used pins and a sock-darning needle to try to ‘drill’ holes through the fabric for the eyes and particularly, the nose – dupioni runs if you poke it the wrong way!
For the eyes, I used the little brads with a dot of white paint. I just stuck ‘em through the fabric and they stayed just fine! for the noses, I used a Sharpie marker to make the ends of a few toothpick black, then I covered with the same mixture of glitter and flocking that I used on the legs.
|[stop staring at me]|
I found a little lacey hankie to make into my dress and indulge my secret wish for a total Cinderella dress! I tried to mimic the lines of my actual wedding dress and I used a bit of vintage lace to make a little ‘pouf’ for my veil. I tried to fashion a birdcage for the bird, but apart from suffering from the irony of making a birdcage veil for a bird, I just couldn’t get it to look like anything other than a huge mess! For the K-bird, I sewed a little dress (with a tail-slit!) that was in the same style as the bride’s J.Crew dress!
The boys didn’t get much in the way of trimming. The Dan bird was in classic black (just like his wedding suit!) with a bit of green silk lining the underside of his tail and his wings. The C-bird was quite dapper in his light grey suit and ginormous side-wings.
Ann Wood has a tutorial for Tiny Tophats on her blog. I followed it exactly, not changing the sizing from her pattern at all. The only thing I have to add is the amazing flocking, which covers up a multitude of sins (and glue spills) and I added the green band on the Dan-birds hat by just winding some thread around it a couple of times!
The C&K birds got lots of fun extras that reflected the spirit of their wedding. I used a little ostrich feather on the K bird’s head. The bride chose to wear white flowers in her hair rather than a veil. The bird really needed SOMETHING on her head, and I couldn’t get a flower on in a way that didn’t look like a 2nd head growing out of the bird’s neck! The feather was nice and flirty and I added a little fabric ‘pouf’ to it! The C-bird got his calla lily boutonniere and we also made black specs for him, as they’re very much a part of his ‘look’. We just wrapped wire around sticks and squished with needle nose pliers until we got a shape we liked, then we spray painted black. If you choose to do glasses, it works better to make the glasses before you decide on eye placement.
So what do you do with slightly unnerving, long legged birds in formalwear?
Good question, I’m glad you asked! First, like I said before, it was fun for us that we had our bird-doppelgangers that I made myself! Yay! After the weddings, I got some decorative lanterns to serve as ‘birdhouses’ – you can see Dan and Patty birds roosting on the top of my fabric stash hutch! My thought is that I will reinforce them and over the years, they will likely end up in the Christmas ornament box – perhaps a tree-topper?!
Up next… grey cords for scary birds??