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Crafting Tilda’s Friends Book Review

How do you make a decision and pick one of Tone Finnanger’s Tilda books to review? There’s an amazing choice! Should I choose Crafting Christmas Gifts, or Tilda’s Winter Ideas, or one of the other books? I had a long look at the cover of each one, and eventually decided on Crafting Tilda’s Friends. With different 30 sewing projects, it sounded like a great choice. There’s plenty to keep me busy and who knows, it may even solve my Christmas present ideas!
The first two pages include guidelines on how to turn and stuff the characters as you make them, plus how to add detail to faces. As the characters are designed as decorations not children’s toys, there are even instructions on how to mount the figures on a stick so they can ‘stand’ in a plant pot. I felt the fabric requirements were a little vague - there are no details on the amount of fabric you’d need, and I haven't a clue what fabric "with a flaxy structure" is! Instead of hunting for this, I decided to raid my fabric stash and make a few of the characters from various fabrics, so you can see how they turn out. You definitely don't want to pick a cheap fabric, or one that frays easily.
The patterns are included in the back of the book for each character, from cats to bunnies, and flowers to snails. They are full size which is helpful, but you do have to trace them off and add in a seam allowance. A couple of the pieces are actually labelled incorrectly - the bunny ear piece is labelled as "leaves" while the flower leaves are labelled "ears", and the small centre and large centre for the flowers are mixed up on the labels, so you do need to be careful when tracing the pieces!
To add in the seam allowance in the relevant pieces, I taped two pencils together which gave me just over 1/4” for the seam. That meant the seam allowance would line up to one of the lines on my regular sewing foot, so I could align that with the edge of the fabric to make it easier to sew the curved shapes.
Let's start with the snail as that's one of the easiest characters to sew. Because the snail shell and the snail's head contain some fiddly shapes, I actually traced off the pattern on a couple of sheets of A4 printer paper without a seam allowance.
The snail uses less than a fat quarter of fabric, and a relatively small amount of stuffing.
Cut two pieces of fabric that are slightly larger than the snail's shell. Pin the fabric pieces right sides together, and draw round the no-seam-allowance pattern to mark the sewing line. I used a regular biro for the snail, but really you should use a proper washable or air dry marker.
Starting from one side of the base part, using a short straight stitch, carefully follow the traced line around the shell until you reach the opposite side of the base part.
Trim the seam allowances, following the line of stitching around the inner curve of the shell, but making sure to not cut too close to any of the stitches.
Turn the shell the right way around. The very end of the shell can be quite fiddly to turn out, so I used a cotton bud to gently push the fabric without risking the stitches being damaged.
Now it’s time to start stuffing! It's tempting to just take a large handful of stuffing and cram it into the shell in one go, but it's much better to use smaller pieces. Using the cotton bud again, push the small pieces right into the far edge of the shell. Once that bit is stuffed, you can use slightly larger pieces and just push them in by hand. The amount of stuffing is partly down to personal preference – I was aiming for a “just squeezable” amount of stuffing. Using less stuffing would give a very cuddly feel, whereas cramming in more stuffing would give a very firm figure.
Because my snail’s body and shell are identical colours, I decided to stitch a ribbon to the edge of the shell just to break up the block of colour. I stitched it onto the right side of the shell, with a small amount overhanging. Then, when the base of the shell is turned in, you get a small ridge of the ribbon showing.
The snail’s body is slightly unusual in that the turning gap is at the top rather than the bottom seam. But there's a good reason for that, as the shell will cover the gap once it's attached - so strictly speaking, there's no need to stitch that gap up. However, I prefer to sew the gaps and not leave them open.
As with the shell, cut two rectangles of fabric that are slightly larger than the body pattern, and pin them right sides together. Starting from one end of the turning gap markers, and using a short straight stitch again, sew around the body following the traced lines, stopping at the opposite end of the turning gap.
Carefully turn the snail body the right way out, using the cotton bud again to turn the head turned accurately.
Stuffing the head first, I used very small pieces of stuffing and pushed them into place with the cotton bud. You want to make the body reasonably firm, but the smaller the pieces of stuffing, the easier it is to get a smoothly stuffed body.
You can leave the body with the turning gap open, but I chose to stitch that up with a ladder stitch. It doesn’t need to be particularly neat looking, as the shell will cover the stitches. I used a dark green thread to hand sew the shell onto the body, as I wanted the stitches to be visible. However, if you used a matching thread, those stitches would end up being almost invisible.
Last but not least, this little snail needs some character, and what better way to achieve that, than giving him some eyes? For the true Tilda look, these should be painted on, but I’ve never had much success with painting on fabric, so I decided to stitch some French knots for eyes instead.
Tone suggests a way of mounting the snail onto a piece of wood, and even attaching a small cart if you wanted to use it as a practical decoration for storing sewing supplies. I like sewing rather than woodwork, so mine is left plain to either be used as a decoration, or sit on the table and help out as a pin cushion when I’m sewing.
Moving on to the bunnies, this pattern is a little more challenging than the snail, although there’s not any tiny fiddly pieces to sew. I traced the pattern off with the added seam allowance, but on the back piece, I traced off the sewing line for the inner leg seam, and left that particular seam uncut. The bunny pattern uses less than a fat quarter of fabric, and a small amount of stuffing.
I made one bunny in a polycotton fabric, and decided to try using a textured lightweight fleece fabric for the second one. That fabric did have a small amount of stretch, which results in a slightly fatter bunny once it was stuffed. This meant the dress looks a little snug compared to the version in the book!
The front two bunny pieces are sewn together from the top edge of the head, down to the top of the leg. I found it challenging to know just how far that seam needed to go – the instructions are mostly line drawings, with little detail in the text. I think I struggled with this part because I’m unfamiliar with the Tilda books. If the stitches don’t go quite far enough, it’s not too challenging to just add in a few stitches before turning the bunny the right way round.
The instructions say to sew the arms, turn and stuff them, then stitch them to the body before turning the body the right way around. I find it more challenging to stuff the arms first like that, as I never know quite how much stuffing to use! So, I changed the sewing order a little at this point.Take one of the arm pieces, placing it on the body front, right sides together.
Sew the body/arm seam, so the arm is joined to the body. Repeat for the other arm, and do the same for the back piece with the other two arms.
Lay the arms out flat, and place the front and back pieces right sides together. The front and back arm seams should line up with each other. Add lots of pins to ensure everything stays lined up correctly! If you have the back piece facing up, it’s easier to get an accurate sewing line on the inner legs.
Using a relatively short straight stitch, sew around the bunny starting on one side of the marked turning gap. Once you get to the heel, follow the marked seam line for the inner legs. When you reach the start of the arms, the first turn is quite a sharp angle, but using one or two diagonal stitches rather than just going straight into the angle, should make the seam look more natural once it’s turned out.
Once you reach the other side of the marked turning gap, turn the bunny the right way around, and check all the seams are accurately sewn before stuffing.
As with the snail, use small pieces of stuffing, gently pushing them into the arms, legs and face to get the correct shape.Trace off the ears (remember they were actually labelled as “leaves” in the patterns!) with a seam allowance. I stuck with the short straight stitch for the ears, but you could use a slightly longer stitch if you wanted.
Turning the ears is slightly more fiddly, but you can use a cotton bud to help poke the fabric out from the inside. Tone recommends using a stick, but if you’re using thin fabric, or a fabric that has a high chance of fraying, you want to use something rounded to ensure you don’t jab a hole through it!
Sew the turning gap with a ladder stitch, and if you’ve used a long enough thread, you can continue the stitches to sew the ears onto the head. I folded the ears up, so I could stitch underneath them which meant that the stitches aren’t visible from the top.
The bunnies are designed to stand unaided, but to achieve this they need a few stitches to sew the base of the legs together. I found that I needed to sew the base of the heel as well, otherwise my bunny just toppled over. The polycotton bunny stood much better than the Fleece bunny, so Polycotton Fabric is a better choice if you want the bunny to stand on a shelf without needing to lean against anything.
Because I used a fleece fabric, I didn’t want to risk using interfacing to attach a nose, so I stitched it on before adding in French knots for the eyes. It’s not quite the same look as in the book, but part of the fun of making characters like these, is adding in your own style to what you create.You can either leave the bunny like this, or make a pair of dungarees, sun hat or a dress for it to wear. I decided this fleece bunny needed a dress, and I had a small amount of a summery fabric in my stash that looked the perfect shade of blue to compliment her fur. I was going to add in a sun hat as well, but I couldn’t figure out the fabric origami involved to get the hat shape working properly. I left out the pouch pocket, so the dress is simply made of two identical pieces. Again, I traced them off with the seam allowance. I was curious to see how they avoided any sign of visible stitches on the hem, and it was a surprise to find iron-on interfacing used to achieve this!
Sewing the dress itself it quite easy, compared to the bunny. Marking off the openings for the head, arms and body, simply sew the other seams. You can use a longer stitch than on the bunny itself as these seams don’t need to hold the stuffing in place.
I zigzagged the edges of the fabric, although if you’re using the creatures as decorations like Tone suggests, it’s not really essential to do that. At this point, I deviated from the instructions, and added in the strip of interfacing before folding the hem at the base. However I didn’t find my hem stayed in place without any stitches, so it’s probably better to stick with the instructions for this!
Fold the hem seam allowance and slip the small strip of interfacing into place. Iron it on, so the hem has a crisp edge. Do the same with the neck and sleeve hems.Turn the dress round the right way, and press to make sure the hems are neat. Once the dress is on the bunny, you might need to add a few stitches just to hold the base hem in place. If you followed Tone’s though, you shouldn’t need to add any.
And there you have it – a dressed bunny!
Decorations are commonly arranged in threes, so the bunny and snail needed a friend. The Whimsy Cat looked cute, but I didn’t think a cat really would work with the bunny, so I settled on a frog.
I started making a frog with 100% polyester craft fabric which frayed like crazy. Unfortunately once I got as far as turning and stuffing the arms, the fabric split open at the seams. So, it’s especially important for the frogs to be made from a fabric which doesn’t fray quite so easily. You can’t zigzag the edges as you need to clip the curves on some of the pieces to get them to turn properly.
For my second attempt at frog making, I used lightweight fleece fabric, as I knew it could be turned without fraying. The frog requires almost an entire fat quarter of fabric in total, and much the same amount of stuffing as the bunny. I used the same colour for the body front and back with a contrasting colour for the face and legs, but you could make the frog entirely in one colour, or use a contrasting colour for the body and face.
Trace off the face and both body pattern pieces with the added seam allowance again. I marked off the sewing lines for the inner leg seams (like I did for the rabbit). Trace off the arms and legs with no seam allowance – those digits are too fiddly to sew accurately unless you have the stitching lines drawn in place! Sew the face to the front body – although the seam is curved, both pieces curve in the same direction so the pieces lie flat while you sew them.
Cut two rectangles of fabric, slightly larger than the arm pattern piece, for each arm and do the same for the legs. Place two of the arm rectangles of fabric right sides together, and pin the arm pattern piece to one side. Starting at one end of the arm, sew around the pattern piece with a very small straight stitch. Because I used a fleece fabric, I picked a straight stretch stitch for the arms and legs, but a regular straight stitch should still be fine for non-stretchy fabric. Do the same for the other arm, and both leg pieces. It doesn’t matter which way you have the pattern piece facing as both arms and legs are identical. As long as you have sewn two arms and two legs, it will be fine.
Turn the arms and legs out, using a cotton bud to carefully poke the digits out fully.If you have used a fabric which frays easily, this will be really challenging. I gave up with my first attempt, as after I’d turned and stuffed the fingers, I realised the fabric had frayed past the seams.
Using very small pieces of stuffing, poke the stuffing into the digits then stuff the arms and legs. I left a gap at the body end of all the limbs, to allow for a little movement – if you stuff right to the edge of the limb, the arms and legs will stick out at a sharp angle from the body, rather than dangling casually.
If you follow the instructions exactly, you would now sew the frog’s front and back body together, leaving spaces for the arms. However, I found it quite awkward to get the arms positioned correctly this way, so I would recommend tacking both arms to the body back piece now, so you know they’re lined up properly.
You obviously would have the arm right sides together with the body back, but this is the angle you’re looking for.
Starting at the base, and leaving the leg seams open for the moment, sew around the frog’s body. If you tacked the arms in the previous step, you can just sew over that seam as well, but if you’re following Tone’s instructions, you need to leave the gaps for both arms.
Once the main seams are stitched, the inner legs need sewing – I pinned the body pieces together at the legs just to make sure they didn’t slide around as I was sewing. Follow the sewing line you traced off, using a short stitch to allow you to follow the curve.
If you haven’t done it already, now’s the time to add in the arms. It took me a couple of attempts to get them to line up just so, but once they’re aligned correctly, it’s just a question of sewing a line to join the side seam from the neck down to the body.
Unlike the bunny and snail, the turning opening is actually the gap left for the legs. Turn the frog the right way round, making sure the face seam is poked out from the inside. Starting with the head, stuff the frog using small pieces of stuffing. I stuck with stuffing all the way through mine, and he doesn’t always stay seated on the edge of a shelf, so I would recommend using some plastic pellets in the bottom of the frog just to help weigh him down a little. You can use rice, but over time that could go mouldy, so personally I’d stick with plastic.
The legs are added in a relatively unusual way – the base of the body has a gathering stitch run around the leg opening.
Then the legs are inserted, and the gathering stitches are tightened to hold them in place.
I wasn’t convinced that just gathering the stitches would make the legs secure enough for my liking, so I ran a few small hand stitches through from the front of the body, through the legs, and out of the body back just to ensure they would stay in position.
That just leaves us with the face of the frog to go! Again, I chose to sew two French knots for the eyes, but you could use some fabric paint on the head of a small pin, and dab that onto the face for the authentic Tilda-style appearance.
Overall, the book was a really great choice. Although it is mainly based around sewing, there are also patterns for card making, plus a couple of suggestions for painting the characters - such as the snail being painted onto a watering can!
It was fun to step out of my comfort zone of detailed written sewing patterns, and dive into the quirky characters of this Tilda book. None of my characters look exactly the same as they do in the book, as there’s plenty of scope to use different types or colours of fabric, or add a different facial expression, to make your characters look truly unique.
I’d never made any Tilda patterns before, and did find some of the instructions a little challenging to follow at times (like the angle for the arms to be attached on the frog), so a little knowledge or prior experience of sewing a plush toy, while not essential, might come in handy for the more complex characters. Perhaps I’ll add another Tilda Book to my wishlist and try some new characters to add to my sewing corner unit!
Thanks for reading,
Paddy @ Dragons Flame Designs

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