Handmade Gift Idea: How to Make Fabric Birds

It’s Black Friday, and that’s means two things: big sales and the official start of the holiday season. If you have a Christmas list that seems to multiply each year, it can be difficult to continually come up with new gift ideas, especially those that are both affordable and show your sincerity. That’s why handmade gifts are always a win.

A bird is one of my favorite symbols, especially for Christmas ornaments since they represent peace. With so many varieties of birds in the world, it’s only natural that birds would inspire a mixed-media project that also makes a great handmade gift. When I came across this paper and felt bird pattern in Cloth Paper Scissors (November/December 2012), I couldn’t resist sharing it with you!

Follow this fun step-by-step project to make hand-printed and sewn birds that you can use for decoration or to give as gifts.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com

How to Make Paper and Fabric Birds by Sharon Gross

I enjoy making relief prints and I love the textures that can be achieved through the printmaking process. I often print without a press, using the back of an old wooden spoon to transfer the print to paper. My decorative birds begin with either hand-printed or painted paper. I add some details, stuff the birds, and then sew them together by hand.

First a word of caution: Always make sure to cut away from your hand when carving linoleum. Other products like soft carving blocks can be substituted.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
How to make fabric birds: bird pattern

Materials:

  • Pencil
  • Linoleum block, 3½” × 6″
  • Lino cutting tools (I use Speedball® tools.)
  • Block printing inks, water-soluble (I use Speedball inks.)
  • Tray or palette
  • Brayer
  • Cardboard, thin, 3½” × 6″
  • Printmaking paper, 2 pieces at least 4″ × 7″ (I use Rives heavy-weight white paper.)
  • Wooden spoon or barren
  • Pattern pieces: body, wing, beak
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Felt, small pieces and scraps, a variety of colors
  • Embellishments: sequins, buttons, rhinestones, etc.
  • Embroidery floss (I use 100% cotton.)
  • Embroidery needles
  • Polyester fiberfiill (I use Poly-fill®.)
  • Found papers
  • Glue, white
  • Cord, thin
How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Tools for making mixed-media decorative birds (Above, left: figure 1. Above, right: figure 2)

Basic Linoleum Carving

First a word of caution: Always make sure to cut away from your hand when carving linoleum. Other products like soft carving blocks can be substituted.

1. Draw a simple design on the carving block in pencil–simple being the operative word. (figure 1)

2. Carve the design using the lino cutting tools. What you carve away will be white in the print and the areas you leave will create the printed design. (figure 2)

 

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Above, left: figure 3; Above, right: figure 4

Background Print (See Painted Background Papers, toward the end, for another background option.)

1. Squeeze the printing ink onto the tray. Roll the brayer in the ink and then ink the cardboard with the brayer. (Figure 3) With the cardboard inked-side up on the work surface, place a sheet of printmaking paper face down on the inked cardboard and rub the back of the paper in a circular motion with the back of the spoon or the barren. (Figure 4)

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Figure 5: Background print for fabric birds

2. Remove the paper from the cardboard to reveal the background print. (Figure 5)

3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 on the second piece of paper for the second print.

[Get a free eBook when you sign up for our newsletter! Download “Exploring Fiber Art: 4 Free Contemporary Fabric Art Projects” today!] 

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Bird print: figure 6

How to Make Fabric Birds: Bird Print

1. Add a different color ink to the cleaned ink tray. (I like to use black). Roll the brayer in the ink and apply the ink to the carved linoleum block. (Figure 6)

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Bird print: figure 7

2. Place 1 of the background prints face down on the inked block and rub the back of the paper in a circular motion with the spoon or barren to transfer the carved image, and then gently remove the paper. (Figure 7)

TIP: Always lift a corner of the printing paper to see if the image transferred well before removing the entire sheet. If the print is not good, return the paper to its original position and continue to rub.

3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 with the other background print. Allow to dry overnight.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
How to make fabric birds: figure 8

Assembling the Bird

Note: You must sew on all body parts and decorative pieces before sewing the main body pieces together.

1. Using the marker, trace the main body pattern pieces onto the printed paper and then cut them out.

2. Cut 2 wings and 2 eyes from the felt. Use embroidery floss and the needle to whipstitch the wings and eyes to the body pieces.

3. Cut small shapes from the felt and use the embroidery floss and needle to cross-stitch these pieces to the body. Add sequins, buttons, etc., with cross-stitches as desired. (Figure 8)

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Decorative birds: figure 9

4. Place the front and back body sections wrong sides together. Whipstitch the body pieces together using embroidery floss and the needle. Begin at the bottom of the bird, inserting the needle ¼” from the edge and continue sewing toward the head.

5. For the beak, fold the beak triangle in half and insert a threaded needle into the tip of the beak. Sew the beak together with a whipstitch. (Figure 9) Place the beak between the front and back parts of the body, centered on the face, and secure it firmly with a few stitches.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Fabric bird pattern: figure 10

 

6. Continue sewing the front and back together, leaving an opening at the bottom of the body for stuffing. Fill the body with fiberfill (Figure 10) and then whipstitch the opening closed. Knot and trim the thread, and dab the knot with glue, securing it to edge of the body.

7. Insert a length of cord through a stitch in the middle of the top of the body, make a loop for hanging, and knot the cord.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Painted background papers for decorative birds: figure 11

Painted Background Papers for Decorative Birds

Painted papers can be used in place of the printed background papers.

Materials:

  • Printmaking paper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Gesso
  • Acrylic artist ink (I use Daler-Rowney FW inks.)
  • Plastic cups and water
  • Ink pads
  • Mark making items: rubber stamps, bubble wrap, corks, found objects, etc.

Directions

1. On a protected work surface, dapple gesso around the printmaking paper with a paintbrush, leaving spaces for the inks. Let dry.

2. Mix the inks and water together in the cups. Apply the inks to the paper with a paintbrush, creating thin color washes and allowing the colors to blend. Allow to dry. (Figure 11)

Note: The ink will not adhere to the gesso; it acts as a resist, but the gesso pattern will show through the wash.

How to Make Fabric Birds | Sharon Gross, ClothPaperScissors.com
Decorative birds: figure 12

3. Add layers of color and decorate the paper with the stamps and mark-making tools. (Figure 12)

 

[Get a free eBook when you sign up for our newsletter! Download “Exploring Fiber Art: 4 Free Contemporary Fabric Art Projects” today!] 

Categories

3D Art and Assemblage, Blog, Fabric Art, Mixed-Media Techniques

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