On Sunday I taught a 4-hour workshop called, "Design Your Own Softie." This class is by far the hardest, and most rewarding teaching I do. It's radically different from a project-based class in which you know, more or less, what everyone will be making.
In fact, it's the opposite.
When each student walks in I know they'll be designing a soft toy, but that's all I know. What they'll make, what approach they'll take, how difficult or straightforward it will be, is all entirely unknown. The workshop is a completely open-ended pattern drafting class. It's incredibly fun.
I love this sign. I hope you'll excuse all the phone photos today.
This time we worked in the annex at Gather Here. It's a very quiet, sunny upstairs space next door to the shop and was a great setting for a Sunday afternoon of sewing together (this is the same space where we shot my book trailer).
To start off we tackled our fear of not being able to draw and just sketched out some basic shapes. 10 minutes into sketching everyone had a subject in mind for a toy. What did people make? This time we had an anteater, a cupcake, a manatee, and a tree frog. Oh, the challenge!
Working with Julia on her manatee.
The next step is a big one: taking the sketch and turning it into a sewing pattern. For me, this is the most exciting part. I love thinking in three-dimensions and helping other people see how to draw shapes on paper that, once sewn together, will create just the right bulge for a tree frog eye or curve for a manatee snout. The cupcake was perhaps the biggest challenge. We used a series of darts to shape the top, and then made drips of icing that extended down the cake. Lots and lots of measuring!
Everyone cut and sewed a prototype and we edited things along the way. We added darts, made parts wider, bigger, narrower, less angular. And then we stuffed the prototypes and edited the pattern templates further. I brought a few special tools along, including freezer paper, hemostats, and some circle templates. Most of the work, though, just comes from playing with shapes.
After four hours this is where we ended. Everyone went home with an original sewing pattern they'd drafted themselves and a stuffed prototype. Some students had drafted a few patterns on their own before taking the class, but for some this was their first original design.
I felt so honored to work with these four women, and to see their creative ideas come to life as soft toys. Project classes are great, but nothing beats a truly open-ended workshop in which each attendee designs something uniquely their own.
You can find many of the techniques we used in this Design Your Own Softies class in my book about soft toy design, Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction. We referenced the book throughout the class. It's a great resource.