I’m super excited to let you know that my new kit, Felt Menagerie, is now available in stores. This kit is published by Quarto and contains a pattern booklet showing you how to make 10 taxidermy animal heads from felt, plus all the materials to make a fox and a peacock (felt, floss, stuffing, a needle, eyes, and backer boards for mounting). Get the kit now at Barnes and Noble, Costco, and on Amazon (affiliate link). I’m also hoping to have them in my online shop in time for the holidays.
I wrote about the development of this kit last year. Here’s how I decided to take on this project and here’s an update from about halfway through the design process when I was struggling a bit. After months of waiting, I got an email from the book packager last week that the kits had arrived. My copy came on Friday and, as you can see from the photo Charlie took of me in our front yard, I was pretty thrilled!
One of the unexpected delights of this project was an email I received from South Africa-based embroidery artist Kelly Fletcher a few weeks ago.
I realised last week that you’re the designer behind the Felt Taxidermy kit. I did the pattern test on it for becker&mayer and had such fun making the stuffed heads and the backboards – I should have known you were behind the clever construction.
I love Kelly’s newsletter and it was such a nice connection that she had done the pattern testing for the kit. I asked Kelly if she would share what the process was like, and she happily agreed. So, here’s Kelly with some behind-the-scenes looks at Felt Menagerie!
One of the trickiest parts of pattern testing is getting into and then staying in a novice mindset. You have to put aside everything you know and follow someone else’s instructions to the letter, even if you think you can foresee how it’s going to turn out.
If you’re not familiar, the work entails recreating a design step by step to catch any errors that may have crept into the instructions or templates – there are a number of people involved in creating kits like these and information is rewritten, edited and changes format as the project progresses.
Fortunately Abby is super skilled at what she does and creating 3D animals was pretty new and intriguing to me, so it wasn’t difficult to approach her Felt Menagerie kit with a beginner mindset.
I’m used to working with mainly cotton fabric, so switching to felt was quite freeing in a way. There’s no worry about it unravelling, it’s easy to draw on to trace around templates with a lead or chalk pencil and quick to cut out because of the stiffness of the material.
I learnt a really good way of stitching the various pieces together. It’s not as visible as whipstitching and much neater. It’s a stitch you’d usually associate with hand embroidery rather than hand sewing, so I was pleasantly surprised at the mechanics of it. I think I may even have laughed out loud at the ingenuity. And I can see how stuffing something and watching it come to life as it takes shape could become addictive.
I used plastic eyes for the first time, instead of embroidering the eyes. I really liked the professional look it gave the animals, but wasn’t expecting just how much strength it took to attach the washers to the back of the eyes. Once they’re in, they’re permanent – there’s no unpicking option as with embroidered eyes if you’re not happy with the positioning or look of them.
The backboards provided an opportunity to dabble in a bit of paper craft, which added another fun element to the projects. I stuck with Abby’s idea of covering them in faux wood, buying a pack of digital paper containing different wood looks and matching them to the various animals.
Obviously, my favourite part was the embroidery. It’s fairly easy (and quite forgiving) to embroider on felt and such fun to stitch the noses and other facial features in this freeform way, adding to the animal’s character as you do so. I particularly enjoyed embroidering the whiskers on the rabbit, so clever.
Mostly though – although it was work for me, with all that that entails – testing Abby’s designs allowed me to experience the pleasure of simply following someone else’s instructions and knowing it would all work out. I didn’t have to think about design or colour or structure or detail and it definitely upped the fun factor. I love the challenge of designing and the excitement and satisfaction that it brings. But sometimes you just want to sit down and make something from start to finish in one pleasurable afternoon. And you can definitely do that with these designs.
Thank you so much for all your hard work on perfecting the patterns, Kelly, and thank you for sharing the process with us!
Felt Menagerie is a great kit for teenagers looking to add some cuteness to their bedrooms, for grown-ups wanting to customize a cubicle or work space, and for new parents looking for something fun to hand-stitch for a nursery. I hope you’ll check it out! (affiliate link)