Today I'm excited to be a part of a blog hop all about the design process. Eight designers have come together to talk about how we turn new ideas into new things. Designing is a highly personal process, and it's somewhat mysterious, too. It's really special to have this chance to show you how it works for me and I'm looking forward to hopping along with everyone's posts today.
Recently, I've been working on making plush toys that illustrate popular nursery rhymes and this week I've been focusing on Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary. The most common version of this rhyme goes like this:
Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row
I remember seeing illustrations of this nursery rhyme in which the "pretty maids" were flowers with faces in the center. That made me think about my Flower Power Rattle. When I designed that toy I considered putting a face in the flower's center, but decided in favor of keeping it very simple. Now I wanted to explore what more could be done with this idea.
When I begin a new design I almost always start with something I've already created. It might just be an old sketch in my sketchbook or it might be a fully-developed pattern that has some of the features or shapes I'd like to reuse. I'd much rather start with something I've already begun than face a blank page!
This was my starting point:
My first thought was to try sewing it in quilting cotton. Lots of people like to sew toys with quilting cottons because quilting cotton come in so many pretty prints. I actually really don't like quilting cottons for toys. You can see every lump of stuffing because they have no give and they aren't soft. What fun is that? But from time to time I give in to what I think customers might want and I try sewing with cotton.
Having too much faith in myself, I spent time embroidering the face and sewed a sample in nice fabrics.
From this first try I learned:
- No more dots.
- The center needs to be flesh-colored.
- The face needs to be rounded, more like a doll's face.
- If the petals were all one piece the toy would be easier to assemble.
I tried again.
I didnt' waste time adding features or sewing on hair this time. I just drew them on in marker.
From this try I learned:
- A rounded face is great, but it needs to be proportionally smaller.
- I don't love the seams that run down a face made with three pattern pieces. One piece with darts will make a smoother face.
- Petals that are all one piece are certainly easier, but they need to be proportionally larger.
- Topstitching the petals is important to keep them flat.
I gave up on the quilting cottons because I knew this toy would be so much better in fleece. Whew. That cotton was bringing me down! I'm pretty pleased with this flower lady. She's simple to sew and she's like a doll inside a flower. That's what I was going for.
Looking at her closely I thought it might be neat to see if I could imitate a specific flower. What if her hair was black and her petals were yellow so that she looked like a sunflower?
I tried again.
I find this color combination to be really pleasing. It's bright and attractive and a baby can focus their eyes on the black and white of the face. I also think it was interesting to change the petal shape so that now I have two petal options: roudned and pointed. I ran out of yellow fleece so the back of the flower is a bright green, but I actually love that. It looks freshly picked.
I'd like to make another with pink or red petals and blonde hair. The three together with be the "pretty maids all in a row" that initially inspired this design.
I have to say that it felt pretty uncomfortable to show you the sorta terrible looking creatures that preceeded my Pretty Maids Rattle. It's much nicer to just say, "ta da!" with a finished project in hand that I'm proud of. The truth, of course, is that all kinds of awkward failures come first.
My best design advice? Persist. The hours spent drawing and cutting and sewing those failures are never a waste of time. They are the process of taking a thought and making it into something that you can hold in your hands. It's a wonderful way to spend your day.
If you like seeing the design process unfold I invite you to hop around to all of the bloggers who are giving a behind the scenes look at their design work today. Here they are and thank you!