Today we have a guest post by my favorite reader: my sister, Arianne, from Little Pink Houses. She and I (and my brother, too) were ingrained from the time we were born with the notion of “I can do it myself and probably cheaper”. Arianne saw a cute vignette of stuffed fabric birds mounted on a branch and decided to make something similar for her daughter’s nursery. They turned out really adorably and would be completely easy to customize to any sort of decor. I asked her to do a tutorial for my blog because I knew these would be a not-too-difficult sewing project; plus I LOVE BIRDS! OK, Arianne, show us how to put a bird on it!
First you’ll need to pick out some fabrics. Any fabric will work, but some are easier to work with than others (lightweight quilting cotton is easier than denim, for example. Silk would be a really lovely and elegant choice.) You can use fabric scraps you have on hand, you can ask someone you know who sews to look through their extras, or you can buy fabric quarters (called “fat quarters”) in coordinating fabrics. Most fabric stores sell these for around $1.50-2.00/piece, or in pre-coordinated packs for $5-10 for 5+ pieces. You need 2 fabrics for each bird. A safe amount is 8” square for each section of the bird.
I recommend laying out your fabrics in pairs before you start, one piece for the top/head/wings and the other piece for the belly of the bird. If your pieces are different sizes, the larger piece should be for the top of the bird.
Print out your pattern. I used one from SpoolSewing; you can download their free PDF here. Cut the patterns out of the paper.
I made these patterns a little bigger because I found the 1/4″ hem to be a little too tight. It was very hard to sew a ¼” hem on such a small shape, since it requires a lot of turning as you sew. A few of my birds had to be re-sewn because I missed an edge. Give yourself a little extra room around your pattern so that you can allow for a bigger seam allowance.
Next grab your first pair of fabric pieces . Choose the piece to be the top/sides of the bird. Make a fold in it, about 6” deep. Lay the bird top pattern along the fold of fabric 1 so that it will double itself when you open the fold up. Pin it down with a couple of pins. Lay your bird belly pattern on fabric 2 and pin it down. Cut them both out. (If you didn’t leave an edge around the paper pattern, just leave an extra edge around it now as you cut it out. I promise you won’t be sorry for giving yourself an extra ¼” allowance once you start sewing.
Repeat this process with all your birds.
Iron your bird pieces. The last thing you want is to get them sewn and stuffed and THEN notice that they are wrinkly, or that the fold is still showing across the top of one.
Lay the top and bottom bird pieces together PRETTY SIDE IN. In other words, the sides of the fabric you want to show when you’re done should be facing each other.
Starting at the tail, pin together one edge of fabric 1 and one edge of fabric 2. Pin about every 1-1 ½” and stop when you get to the end of fabric 2. Remember that these will be 3 dimensional birds, so the fabrics won’t lie exactly flat. You’ll have to sort of bunch the top piece a little, with little folds between the pins, to get the edges flush. They’ll sew up just fine, so don’t worry.
Sew one edge of your first bird. (Although it’s generally easier to work in a sort of assembly line fashion—cutting all of the pieces at once, ironing all of the pieces at once, etc.—I found through trial and error that you should sew one bird completely and then turn it inside out to check it for seam holes before moving on to the next bird.) I used white thread, but you can use any color you want. The stitching doesn’t show much except on the tail.* GO VERY SLOWLY. You have to turn these babies a lot, and they are very small. It can be kind of hard to get them turned in time if you go fast, and the attractiveness of your bird, especially the head, depends a LOT on how evenly and carefully you sew these seams. Sew it poorly and your bird will end up looking more like a vulture! (Ask me how I know.) Also, remember to sew a little bit bigger hem than the pattern shows (if you’ve cut it with extra room) so you don’t miss any edges.
Remove the pins and pin together the other edges of the two fabrics, again starting at the tail. These two will lay even less flat, with even more bunching between the pins. Just do your best to keep the edges aligned.
Sew the second edge. Now keep in mind, when you get to the end of the belly fabric (#2), you can just keep going and sew up the bottom side of the head of the bird. I found it easiest to keep going up the breast, up the head, and right off the end of the beak.
Then to come back and do the top side of the head separately. If you try to take that corner (around the beak’s point), you may end up with a weird-shaped beak.
You probably won’t need to pin the bird’s head to do the rest of the sewing—it’ll be pretty well held together. Just make sure your two pieces of head fabric are lined up right. This next part is very crucial: STARTING AT THE BIRD’S BACK, TAKE AS SHALLOW AN ANGLE AS YOU CAN COMING IN TO FINISH OFF THE BIRD’S HEAD, almost continuing the line of its back. If you come in steep, you will create a point on the bird’s back, and your bird will look like a vulture! I had to unpick my first 2-3 birds before I got the correct angle. This is why it’s crucial to turn the bird inside out before you move on to the next bird. I even recommend using a pencil point to get the whole beak turned out so you can see its shape. (Sewing around that beak is tough. Just remember, go very slowly. And stop every few centimeters, with the needle still IN the fabric, lift up the foot slightly, turn the fabric, and continue sewing. I can’t stress enough how important it is to do a very rounded seam around the bird’s head to avoid it having a vulture-like neck or beak.)
Note from Jennie: To keep any puckering from happening at the birds neck, make three little snips about 1/8″ away from each other right where the neck arches. You’ll cut from the edge of the fabric right up to the seam (but don’t cut the seam!).
After you’ve sewn both sides and the head (the tail is left open), turn your bird inside out and check to make sure you haven’t missed an edge and left a gaping hole. If you haven’t, good! You’re a better seamstress than me. Now move on to your second bird.
Once you’ve sewn up all your birds, and they’re right-side out, it’s time to start stuffing! I bought one 12oz bag of ultra plush fiber, and it was plenty to do about 14 birds.
Use the eraser of a pencil to push the fiber down into the beak first. You don’t want to get done and find you have a floppy beak! Leave about ½” of the tail empty so that you can sew it closed.
Finish the tail. You can do a fancy hand-stitch here to make the thread invisible. But after doing that with one bird, I found it way too time consuming. Instead I decided to just fold both pieces of fabric over, inward, ¼” and sew a straight stitch across the tail. You can see the thread, but once the birds are up on the branch, it won’t show much. And I actually think it looks pretty cute!
You’re done with the sewing! Aren’t your birds so cute?
Next select a good branch. You can buy fancy polished branches at the craft store. Or you can pick one off a tree in your yard. I recommend one with at least a ½” diameter on the main branch with ¼” diameter shoot-offs; too flimsy and it will bend under the birds’ weight.
Lay out your branch on the ground and position your birds before you glue them on. That way you can be sure you like the final look without having to peel off mis-placed birds. I also recommend taking a picture because once you pick up the branches to mount them, you’ll forget where your birds went.
Mount your branch. You want your branch to be at least an inch or two from the wall so your birds’ tails will fit behind the branch. So if you can find or buy some really long nails (3-4 inches), that will allow your branch to sit away from the wall. Hold your branch up to the wall and mark where you want it to go with a pencil. Put in a couple of nails to support the branch—allowing your branch to lie on them. Use some clear fishing line or thread to lash the branch to the nails.
Hot glue! Use a dab of hot glue on the branch (not on the bird) where you want each bird to sit. Right where the body meets the tail is a good spot for balancing the bird (it’s where the feet would be on a real bird, after all). Stand back and check each one as you go to make sure it’s
sitting level and looking the right direction. It’s a lot harder to move them once the glue has hardened. Put all your birds on and…voila! Birds on a branch!