A razzle-dazzle of wrens


One of my favorite things in the English language is this list of all the different collective nouns to describe a group of animals: A murder of crows. An obstinacy of buffaloes. A blessing of narwhals. A sneak of weasels. They’re like very tiny micro-mini short stories, in and of themselves. I looked the list up recently to find a name for my wrens, here.

I despaired of producing serious miniature artworks, succumbed to the Call of The Cute—and ended up making these tiny little wrens for The Goddesses of Small Things show (this is just a sneak peek…)

A group of wrens, according to the list, is called a cabinet. Hrrm. That’s not a baaaad image, if you can steer your mind to imagine a small medicine cabinet full of tiny, tail-bobbing birds.

But these are Sparkle Wrens…painted with metallic and glitter paints, in very un-wren-like colors, then stitched with variegated, glossy and metallic/holographic threads, so that they look like little bits of jewelry…hence my fanciful collective term for them: a razzle-dazzle.

Because it isn’t degrading enough that I have failed at making grown-up art, and sold my soul to Bubbles the Demon…I must debase myself further and give my wrens a twee little collective name.

And, with just five frigging days left before Show Time, I’m finally having fun. Blimey, why do I always have to learn these things at the very last minute, the hard way?



The finished wren softie

nutmeg done2
Put the wings on this morning. Nutmeg is done.

Did I say something about the wings being “the easy part”? Hah. I was cursing and swearing, and nearly ruined the embroidered wings when I tried to turn them right-side-out. You can see the rough patches on the front of wings, where the machine stitching came undone (all that pushing and stretching opened it up) and there were no seam allowances left to stitch back up after I’d gone and clipped them with pinking shears (Doh!)

For a while there I really thought I would have to embroider the wings all over again. But I managed to whip-stitch the openings, and he looks a bit ruffled, but still cheeky.

And this is just the prototype! Now I have to go back to the start and make up the real one. *sigh*…when the only thing I’d truly like to make at this moment is a martini…)

nutmeg done3

nutmeg done1

High and dry

giant moth rises over Tipperary Waters

Started the morning with this Radiohead song, apt for the weather we’ve been getting lately. 20°C in Darwin this morning…although on the water it is probably a couple of degrees lower, in this gusting south-easterly wind. It’s not painfully cold or anything, but it certainly is a chilly morning—my fingers couldn’t properly feel the needle I was stitching with—and the May we’ve just had has been the coldest on record since 1960.

I found this furry little wedge of gold pressed to the outside of our window, peering in with those beady eyes as though wanting to come in and get warm. It’s the same color as my marigolds, and I wonder whether this is the culprit who seeded my plants with voracious caterpillars, two weeks ago. My poor marigolds had gone from being lush and green, to looking like naked umbrella skeletons, in a matter of days. I had to inspect them with a torch every night for nearly a week, and pull the tenacious little buggers off the leaves…

wing for a wren

I started stitching the wings for Nutmeg The Wren after breakfast, and finished one by noon. *sigh* It seems to go so slowly, sometimes, all this hand-embroidery…sometimes I just want it to be over and done, so that I can move on to another thing on my To Do list, which is growing exponentially every week. The To Do list gets me every time: I am chronically worried that people, or the situation, will give up on me or pass me by before I can do all the things I am supposed to do. How do you speed up something like an embroidered bird’s wing, without abandoning the idea to embroider it at all? Craft is such a slow process: building the design up with lines of thread…a stab down, a stab up…the minutes and hours vanishing at an alarming rate. Even stitching two-handed, it took me half a day…and for what? One little golden brown wing.

It’s pretty...

At least it’s pretty. 🙂 “Rearranging the deck chairs aboard the Titanic,” Kris would call this. There are major deadlines and big scary projects bellowing like the monsters in Tartarus for my attention, and I chose to finish a little bird’s wing, instead. Avoidance tactics, of course. I employ them brilliantly.
wing for a wren


Scribbled a short letter to a friend last night,  and when I went to dig up her postal address I found the little packet of googly eyes that I bought a week ago at the dollar shop…my first-ever googly eyes! Can you believe that I’ve never played with these things before? I stuck some on the envelope, and it magically turned into Mr. Letter. I just love his expectant, guileless expression. It’s so true, everything looks better with googly eyes stuck on.

Mr. Letter

Nutmeg The Wren

It’s slow going, but I am enjoying the challenge and all the different aspects of softie designing. Like wire feet. What a pain in the butt it is to design tiny posable bird feet that also look convincing and are structurally sound!

Still just a prototype, but this one I am not going to cut apart with scissors and a scalpel, like I did the other two. Pretty happy with the pattern shapes, at this point, so I am keeping this one., and took the time to try an embroidery pattern out (Gah! embarrassing closeup! what terrible stitching along those seams…too much in a hurry!) on his back.

I’ve also given him a name: Nutmeg.

sewing : : Reinventing the wheel

I spent this entire day designing a little bird softie from scratch. While it’s true that there are quite a lot of patterns for bird softies, plushies, stuffies, and more on the internet, I couldn’t quite find the one I wanted. Besides, there are copyright issues, patterns that you aren’t allowed to sell the finished products from, and so on and on. So I set out to design my very own pattern. I wanted a small bird…delicate and mouse-like, something that could make a nest in a dainty teacup. I wanted a wren, with their short bodies and long tails sticking straight up in the air like flags.

Probably a good thing that I have never designed a pattern for a 3D object, before…I had no idea what I was getting into. Compound curves like crazy! My back hurts from sitting hunched over this little guy for such a long time.

These are the prototypes…a felt one, above (he has a plastic spoon handle for a tail), and a bare-essentials flannel one, below.

Happy with the work, so far, and proud that he’s a homegrown softie—based on nothing more than an Australian bird identification guide—and not a mutant of craft book and internet patterns. Mine, he’s mine…and I am in love with the little fella, all ready. 🙂