1.10.10

Toy books and glass dogs

Are these not adorable? Beautifully ugly glass bauble dogs; they are a wonderful gift from my extraordinarily talented friend and cartoonist Chichi Parish, one of the wittiest, most delightful people I know. They are from this year's Paperchase range and I think Chichi knew that although I love them, I would never venture into a large town to actually buy my very own. Thank you so much, Chichi - they have been keeping me company this long, wet Friday while I have been treating myself to a browse of my toy making book collection.

I've been picking these up for a couple of years now, but sadly my pattern making has not improved. It's so much easier to pick up a felting needle and stab a wodge of merino into shape. However they are full of useful tips and one in particular is my favourite, as I used to own a copy when I was about seven years old. I was just starting to sew doll's clothes and make things when I found a copy of 'Toys for Your Delight' at a jumble sale and it soon became on of my best loved books. Seen here open with the photo of the extravagantly embroidered felt dragon.


The projects then (and now) were way beyond my meagre talents, but true to form, I always aspired to make the most difficult thing - the dragon. Sadly my first copy was *disposed* of, along with most of my other books and treasures, by people who were supposed to be looking after them when my parents died.


I have longed to find it again and found it last year on ebay - as soon as I saw this plate I knew I'd struck gold - it is so good to have it again, even though my sewing skills are still not up to making this chap.


I am not one for reading a reference book from cover to cover - I prefer to dip and dive into my favourite ones.


They range from 1920's/30s editions up to the early 1980's and show that there is nothing new under the sun. Things come around and come around - I know that there is often much fretting about whether making such and such, one will be seen as copying - but there are only so many ways of making, for instance, giraffes...

...or dear little birds with wire legs...

...in fact looking through them is a rather like looking at an Etsy front page treasury of softies. Which is not to say that everyone is copying, but doing what artists and crafters have been doing for centuries - adopting and adapting. Owls, mushrooms, birds in cages, matryoshka dolls, little houses, fish - they have their trends in the ebb and flow of crafting and design.


But it's hard not to get hung up about making things - a couple of years ago I held off making a shoal of stuffed fish, fearing that as there are so many variations on this, I'd be accused of stealing ideas. But here we are circa 1957, a Christmas decoration idea of - a shoal of felt fish.


So I think I will make some little textile birds with wire legs, as they seem to be part of a time honoured toy making tradition. Maybe I'll even be able to do my own take on them. By the way, there are many toy makers that I admire hugely who stamp their own personality all over their work; here are just a few;

Just a few, mind!


I was terribly pleased to be featured along with other great UK needle felters on the UK Handmade blog - needle felting is still a fledgling craft over here, so we need to spread the good word of stabbing little bits of wool.

15 comments:

Elizabeth Rhiannon said...

What a FUN collection! I love your posts, they're always so interesting...and yes, the saying "Whats old is new again" applies to everything, doesn't it? Have a wonderful day in my country (sniff, sniff) and Happy October!

Natasha said...

I'd love to see you needle felt version of the dragon!
xx

janet said...

Oh Gretel...I adore Abigail Brown's lovely birds! Thank you for verbalizing what I have been thinking for so long..some crafters get a bit carried away with the whole 'original' design concept. Come on folks...how can you copyright a painting of an apple!! Only so many ways to sew up a stuffed bird or owl.
I am looking forward to your softie creations...I'll place my order right now...save me one ;-)
Thanks for another inspiring post.

Janet xox

Sweet Birdy Love said...

Hey Gretel, so glad you 'found' your book again, you certainly have a wonderful collection of them.
That dragon is fantastic and I can see a needle felted version in the making!
Love the pictures of the birds toys and it is interesting to see them with little wire feet. As you say there is nothing new under the sun and there are only so many ways of making things, but we all put our own stamp of creativity on them.
Congrats on being featured on the Uk Handmade blog. Love your little glass dogs, who could resist those little faces? Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting, sending warm, sunny wishes for an enjoyable weekend.

Frances said...

Well, PG, what you have shown of your toy making book collection just makes me wish that I could have been looking over your shoulder, and saying, "Oh, please, could we see that page for another few minutes?"

Isn't creativity full of the best energy? Lately, I feel as if I am always trying to steal away an hour or two to play with various projects, and then being just a bit angry when I realize that those particular minutes are up.

Hoping that you are finding plenty of time to be playful, and to let those ideas blossom. And, of course, also to find time to get out doors for some walks and rides round your landscape.

xo

twocheeseplease said...

Such an interesting discussion, and I think you've hit the nail right on the head with what you've said. There is nothing 'new' in this world. Every idea we can think up has been done before in some way or fashion - what makes our idea unique is the personal stamp we put on things.

Like the ever-popular owls, or moustaches, or birds with wire legs - none of these are new ideas, but you can make them your own by making them in your own style.

So I wouldn't worry too much about what's been done before, or what's on trend, or anything like that. If you're having fun, keep crafting and trying new things!

PS: Your book collection is simply lovely!

Holly xx

Twiglet said...

What a wonderful collection of books there Gretel. I am sure they will be a great source of inspiration for more of your fabulous little felted creatures - giraffes are so appealing aren't they!!!

acornmoon said...

How lovely, I enjoyed browsing your collection of toy books. I recently picked up some facsimile books with paper doll plates, sort of cautionary tales with a play element.

Well done on your inclusion in the UK Handmade blog.

BumbleVee said...

oh, i can hardly wait til i can stab some wool.... and type with both hands...

it is indeed strange to see today's works look not so different from yesteryear's..

Caroline B said...

Ooh I wish I lived near you so I could come and browse through all your fascinating books! I was hankering after the giraffe on the very right of the 6th photo, but by happy chance yesterday I found a Japanese pattern book on the net with lots of lifelike felt animal patterns, including a giraffe...and a rhino..and a flamingo...so that is winging it's way to me soon!

Love those glass dogs - Paperchase do have some little treasures!

frayedattheedge said...

I love your little glass dogs! I agree with your comments about people producing similar work, but not actually copying someone else. Owls are very fahionable at the moment - having seen them on all sorts of items, Malcolm then drew one for me for my current patchwork project ..... he didn't copy anyone's design, he just drew his version. I have a pattern for a fabric bowl which I drew after making one from a pattern in a book - it was so over-complicated, I made it in a much easier way!

rossichka said...

I can't believe my eyes - so many books on how to make dolls and toys! This is wonderful! I haven't seen any here in Bulgaria. In fact we have no traditions in such kinds of crafting. But during the last several years more and more young people make dolls, cards, jewellery, etc. and organize market days for selling them. It's unbelievable what are the products of their imagination!!

mimi k said...

I have a lot of the same books in my collection- found first in the library and then hunted down online! Thanks for the link :-)

Cathy Holtom said...

Thank goodness for ebay! Just looking at these books is enough to give you inspiration for your own toys. Well done for getting into the Toy makers Guild!

veryberryhandmade said...

Love love love your books! I collect old craft books myself - and rather coincidentally posted some pics from them just yesterday... They're full of inspiration (but sometimes you need a bit of imagination to see it!).

I find that one of the difficulties with Handmade is that there is sometimes a fine line between inspiration and copying, and sometimes I worry that I might accidentally cross it...