Tutorial: Sewing Fabric “Block” Animals

***Just a reminder, the giveaway for the 3-piece nativity set is still going on, and there are a few full copies of the nativity template left and you can now purchase the full template in my brand new Etsy shop. Be sure to leave a comment on that post to get a chance to win and to get your free template.***

So, you’ve got your Nativity template, and you’ve been happily stitching away, and now you want to make those little guys into fabric block animals (like wood block animals cut out with a jig saw). Well, it’s a pretty simple process, so for all you seasoned sewers out there, just scroll down to admire the finished product. But if you’re like me, still feeling my way around the sewing thing, then you might want a quick tutorial to get you on track.

First things first, I got a question a little while ago about what kind of fabric I used, and my answer is a medium weight 100% natural colored linen from Joann’s. Nothing special (but if I had unlimited resources, I would have liked a nice, expensive, made specifically for embroidery linen). I also think a good cotton (Kona is my preferred choice) would work perfectly well, too.

  1. Once you have your image embroidered, you are going to want to remove any marks you may have used to create the pattern, then iron your piece flat (I use a scrap of muslin when I iron my embroidery to protect it).
  2. Then lightly trace an outline about 3/4th’s of an inch around your piece. I like to keep my border fairly well-rounded, because tight curves are much harder to sew (maybe that’s just me, though).
  3. Cut around this traced line. You can use a good, sharp pair of scissors, or lay your fabric down on a self-healing mat and then carefully cut around it with a small rotary cutter.
  4. Lay your cut-out piece on top of your back embroidered piece, or just on another piece of fabric if you don’t want your block to be double sided, right sides together. Make sure to line up the two designs as closely as possible ( I feel for the “ridges” made by the embroidery).
  5. Trace the outline on your back piece of fabric and cut it out. If you are using a rotary cutter, you can skip the tracing step, and just follow the outline of your top piece as you cut out the back.

  6. Cut a long strip of fabric, making it the width you want your finished block to be, plus a 1/4 inch seam allowance on both sides. The length will vary depending on which figure you are sewing, but you’ll probably need at least 18 inches, to be safe.
  7. Sew the long strip all along the right-side edge of one side of your piece.
    You can pin it if you wish, but I found it easier to just manipulate the fabric around as I went.
    Leave at least a 1-inch tail at the beginning and end of the strip, and leave a slight gap between the beginning and end of your stitching so you’ll have enough room to turn it out later.
    (I didn’t leave extra room, so my fabric tore a little when I turned it out. p.s. I didn’t mean this to be a close-up of my pomegranate-stained finger. Sorry about that!)
  8. Pin you other side to the edge of your strip, with the right side facing in. You’ll want to make sure you’re laying over the other side in mirror position so the sides will be straight look right (sorry if that’s a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out a better way to word it, so just look at the picture.)
  9. Sew all along the edge, with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Your stitching will be parallel to your previous stitching along the side strip.
  10. Turn your piece out. If you are using hemostats or any pinging implement, try not to grab your embroidery, go for a blank piece of fabric.
  11. Stuff your piece with little pieces of poly fill, wool, or cotton. I like to stuff mine pretty firmly.
  12. Leave a little room in the bottom to pack in your weighting implement. This can be a few fishing weights, some beans, rice, or anything heavy, small, and nonperishable. If you want, you can sew a narrow weight “pouch” out of a scrap piece of the side strip and fill it with your weighting device, then stuff the pouch into the bottom your piece; this method helps keep all the weights at the bottom. Something to keep in mind: the bigger your piece, the more weight you’ll want right at the bottom to keep it upright. I didn’t get quite enough weight in my donkey to keep it really stable, so it’s a little wobbly, but it works.
  13. Once you have your weight inside, sew up the opening with a ladder stitch (see my tangram tutorial for an example of that—I think I called it slip stitch there,  or just google it).

You may have to smoosh it around a bit to get it to sit right.

You’re done! (Only 23 to go. . . .) If you don’t have a nativity template, go get one here, or use whatever design you want for your fabric blocks. Enjoy!
ps. I’m linking this up at the weekend wrap-up party and at skip to my lou.

100th Post: A Giveaway and a Psuedo-Stitch-Along

Welcome November and the holiday season! I love this time of year. In risk of being redundant, I will tell you that this is my 100th post here at Beauty All Around, and in honor of that I’m giving away a little something to you, my esteemed, devoted readers. I just wanted to say thanks for joining in my efforts to create a beautiful life all around me. I love hearing from you and knowing that you’re there. Thank you!

So, what is the giveaway? Well, I have been working on a project off an on for a year (yes, one of those) and I’ve been dying to share it with you. So when I started getting close to my 100th post and thinking that I wanted to give a little back to my readers, I decided I would really share this project with you.

So here it is, a project that we can all do together. A 24-piece nativity set. Hooray! I hope you’re all as excited about this as I am. I’ve drawn and redrawn these little guys at least a dozen times now, and I finally think they’re ready to share. I had originally intended this to be simply an embroidery pattern, but as I was making it, I thought of several other applications.

My favorite non-embroidery idea was to print these out on cardstock, color them (get your kids involved with this!), cut them out and then glue them onto popsicle sticks for a set of nativity puppets to use when you share the Christmas story with your family. They would also be great as Christmas ornaments, printed on paper or embroidered. One other idea I had was doing CitraSolv transfers (like the great tutorial here) of the template  to wooden blocks for a blocky nativity set. I bet you can think of other ways to use these, too.

I chose to make a 24-piece set so that this could also serve as an Advent calendar, with one piece being added for each day leading up to Christmas. In order to make it up to 24 pieces, I had to include a couple extra characters beyond the standard family,  wise men and shepherds. The set includes

  • Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus;
  • 3 angels;
  • 3 shepherds;
  • 3 wise men;
  • Anna (read about her in Luke 2: 36–38; I decided if the wise men are included in the nativity, even though many believe they didn’t get there until Jesus was a toddler, see Matthew 2:11, I would include her, too; since she was a witness of the baby Jesus when he was just 8 days old.)
  • Simon (read about him in Luke 2:25–35; included for the same reason as Anna)
  • 1 sheep and lamb;
  • 1 goat and kid;
  • 1 cow
  • 1 donkey;
  • 2 camels;
  • a star; and
  • a manger.

Here’s a little preview of the template:

My original idea for the nativity came from several areas. I knew since I’ve been married that I wanted the nativity to a be a focal point of our Christmas decor, since the nacimientos were a big part of Christmas for my husband growing up. I knew I wanted to make one, but I wasn’t sure what form it would take until I got an idea looking at a wood-block nativity that my aunt had made. I like the overall idea of a sturdy nativity that kids could actually play  with, and I also liked the simplified figures, but I didn’t want to do it in wood (I confess, it’s mostly because I don’t know how to use, or have access to, wood cutting implements). Also, I didn’t want any decorations to become dangerous projectiles, since I wanted the nativity to be something my kids could safely play with. So I decided to make fabric blocks, with just enough weight in the bottom to make them stand upright.

To make it a decently ambitious project (and hence why I only have 3 pieces semi-completed), I decided to make each piece double-sided so that there was a front view and a back view. Though it’s more labor for me, I really think this adds a nice dimension to the finished pieces.

What do you think?

Would you like a copy of your own 24-piece nativity set template to color, embroider, or transfer? I am giving away a copy of the 18-page black and white nativity template to the first 20 readers who leave a comment with their e-mail address. You can now purchase the full template in my brand new Etsy shop. I will also be giving away a 3-piece template of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus to the next 50 readers to leave a comment with their e-mail address. After that, I’m hoping to make the full template available for sale in my soon-to-be-opened Etsy shop . Should I throw one more thing in? Sure, why not? I’m also giving away this (completed) prototype of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus to one reader, who will be selected at random from all the comments (US residents only, sorry, if someone international wins, I’ll definitely give them the full template, and choose a different reader for the prototype set).  I will leave comments open from now until Monday, November 14th at midnight, and I will announce the winner Tuesday.

So here’s where the psuedo-stich-along comes in. I would love to see you guys using these templates to stitch up a great set of nativities. I know, realistically it’s very unlikely that any of us (me especially) will have the full 24-piece set ready for Advent, but I think it would be great to see how far we can get in the next (almost) two months before Christmas. If you would like to join in the stitch-along, I would love for you to share your photos of your work in progress in the Nativity Stich-Along group.

ps. I’m linking this up on skip to my lou and at the weekend wrap-up party..