A sad cat & a wonky bird

Pumpkin doesn't understand where Andy is. He is more dog-natured than cat- natured and he follows Andy about like a little ginger hound. He looks at me with large, questioning owl-eyes, as if I could magic our beloved from my pocket. He has taken to sitting in the bay window, watching the lane, which is something he never does. (The other cats just sleep...and sleep...and sleep).

The weather hasn't improved and at first it looked as if we wouldn't be seeing him until Christmas Eve, but he rang earlier to let me know he is going to try to make it back this afternoon, Wednesday. So all fingers and paws are crossed.

The temperatures have been so low that there is ice inside the windows - which is quite pretty here with the bottles, if a trifle frigid. And the heavy snowfall has felled our lovely polytunnel. Hopefully the poles have just tilted at the joints and no real damage will be done. My herbs and geraniums are in there - I am hoping that at least some the roots will survive.

To take my mind off things, I have been putting my clumsy sewing skills to making a little bird - at last. It took me a whole afternoon and much cursing. I made a lot of initial mistakes, as I am completely out of my comfort zone and despite all the reading I've done, all the mental planning, I am still hopeless at making patterns.

It's been a humbling experience. I had tried making a bird a couple of months ago, but was too ashamed to 'show and tell'. The curved seams were wonky, the bottom gusset was so fat it turned into a hen and my *primitive sewing* just looked plain bad. But it made a handy pin cushion.

This time I thought I'd try assembling one by hand, patchwork style and be 'proper' by making a plain cotton dummy which I would tack onto paper and stitch together.

It didn't work. It really, really didn't work. Frustrated, I got the machine out and cut into some nice print fabric. The first way of putting in a beak was a disaster and had to be unpicked.

Once I finally had a bird ready for stuffing, I tried using woodwool which I'd thought would give a firmer finish but the body was too small and it came out a bit lumpy and mishapen. Or maybe that was down to me.

The tail design needs flattening out; it's too small to cut darts (?) into, but puckers on the too-sharp inside bend.

I made these legs when I made the 'hen' and it seemed a shame to waste them. This was my biggest mistake - of course, because they are separate, they wobble and slide away from each other. Why I didn't realise this when I always put one single strong strand of wire through my needle felted geese's legs and feet is anyone's guess.

However I was determined to finish the darned thing and hopefully learn from my mistakes. The belly gusset is too wide again and I still don't like the beak. It's a poor effort, lurching drunkenly and precariously on unequal legs; one wobble and it falls down. But, dammit, I made one! Let's hope the next one will be an improvement.

So today is a mad whizz of tidying the cottage, baking a big fruitcake,
counting up this year's cheese pennies and cashing in my dividend vouchers at the village Co-op, if there is anything left. Thankfully I've got a local farm chicken reserved at our great little deli, or it would be cheese and crackers for Christmas dinner. We aren't having decorations this year, the only bauble I want is Andy safely snoozing on the sofa with Pumpkin sprawled on his lap. And besides, our poor little pot tree has been encased in an ice palace -

Without my online friends and contacts, real - and virtual - the last few days would have been even more lonely; you have no idea how your kind words and support have helped. Thank you.


Gail said...

Strange how animals sense something isn't right .... It must be a relief to have him coming home ... I bet you'll be waiting with baited breathe for the sound of his key in the lock! ((((HUGS)))) xx

The fabric of my life said...

Ohhhh Gretel. I love your wonky bird. I really do. It's amazing how something that looks so simple can be so difficult isn't it? I am sure with trial and error you will come up with something that YOU are happy with.

Keeping my fingers firmly crossed for you and Andy and the poor sad puss that your man gets home today and that you can celebrate Christmas together.

We have a male cat, Hebe, who follows Paul around like a dog too.

Anonymous said...

I hope all goes well and he returns today. I wonder what the cat will do , when he sees Andy walking towards the house? Happy dance, maybe? ;-))

Gerry Snape said...

Oh the frustration of things!
Our poly sheddy thing collapsed as well. Too much snow on top. So that the last time that Alan can mend it I think. The joints have had it...a bit like my own!

clare said...

Wow - beautiful photos as always, Gretel! I do hope Andy gets home safely today.

Your toy bird-making trials are most impressive : ) Looking forward to seeing how you develope these in 2011.

A couple of nerdy tips for sewing tiny items, especially with curves: 1. Counter-intuitive, but sew the seam, then use a pair of very sharp scissors to cut from the raw edge to almost the seam at 1/4" (or as suitable) intervals. Doing this helps the fabric curve smoothly. 2. Iron the seams flat as you go! (My granny was a tailor, so I learnt these things from her)


Sweet Birdy Love said...

Hey Gretel, love your little bird, specially the feet. I have some bird making plans of my own for the hols. so was interested to see yours.
Your suncatcher with hare looks lovely hanging in the window.
I hope you and Pumpkin doesn't have to wait too much longer, till Andy comes through the door.

Jane said...

Hope Andy gets home safely. I like the little bird - it has character. Was going to say what Claire said about curved seams, and use a knitting needle or similar to push the shape of the beak out as much as possible.
I'm sure Pumpkin will be delighted to see Andy, but our cat always used to go off in a huff to pay the returning person out for being away!

Twiglet said...

Keep going with the little birds - you will master it. I love the idea and really it doesn't need much tweaking does it? Hope you have a cosy Christmas and a healthy and crafty New Year!

Jinksy said...

Good lord! You really are snowed under!
I've made a fair few animals in my time, and found the neatest way to sew is by using an extremely small machine stitch. When trimming seams to their bare minimum, I've often used watered down PVA to stop the edges of the fabric fraying, which helps, especially with tiny items. Wish you were nearby - I like making patterns!

Emm@ said...

I don't know, I think the wonky bird is kinda cute! I love the legs. There's a great bird pattern here that you could have a go at and then use the practice you have gained as a basis for making up your own. I've made loads of these: http://www.spoolsewing.com/blog/2008/05/16/bird-mobile/

Tonia said...

I hope Andy gets back safely. How lovely to have a cat that actually looks out for you - I'm sure mine would only notice if his food source dried up, even then not so much as he seems to have a holiday home down the road!
I love the bird, wonky legs and all!

crazyjane said...

oh I think the bird is sweet!!
I do hope your man gets back safe and you all have a fine and cosy christmas and New year.

Rosie said...

A great wonky bird. I cannot make anything in 3D. Have a very merry christmas with all animals in their rightful places.

Penny Schenk said...

Love those birds! Hope Andy makes it back soon and you have a happy cat.

Caroline B said...

I didn't realise Andy still wasn't back - hope he makes it safe and sound this afternoon.
Your bird has tons of character at least! This is why all my small creatures are painstakingly sewn by hand because the sewing machine hates me.....

Frances said...

PG, your checkered little bird has got lots of personality! I look forward to seeing your flock increase.

The frosty window picture is so beautiful. But...I imagine the indoor chill is unwelcome.

I am hoping that by the time I'm typing this message, Andy will indeed have arrived home.

Best wishes to you all. xo

Cissie said...

Your bird looks a very fine fellow indeed. You're just seeing it with 'makers' eyes. Happy Christmas.
Cissie x

Sarah said...

I have my fingers and toes crossed Andy gets home tonight. I am truly impressed with your perseverance with the bird - the last time I tried to make something 3d from fabric I got as far as the calico mock up which took forever and didn't work then decided maybe I wasn't so keen on this whole sewing lark after all! Mind you, for my first project I did decide on an elephant...perhaps something simpler would have been more sensible.

Merry Christmas, Gretel

Janet Metzger, Artist said...

I would love to be a little fly on the wall for the happy reunion!
your wonky little bird is delightful...of course. I think all the effort that was put into his birth makes him all that more beautiful. Perfection is highly overrated!!

Tell Chris at the Deli that Janet says hello and Merry Christmas!!

Janet xox

PS...Please send me pumpkin ;-)

tlawwife said...

The important question is have you made a snow man. Looks like you have a lot of material for that. I love the birds and that you stuck to it for that long. I would have gotten frustrated and gone on to something different.

BumbleVee said...

Hahahahha..... oh, ...... sorry.....but, the only reason I'm laughing right out loud is.... you could be me!!! I mean... in reality, my sewing leaves a lot to be desired, so I definitely feel your pain.

The way I "sew" around tight corners is to set my machine to veeerrry tiny stitches........ take a few stitches...usually turning the wheel by hand, forget the floor pedal...then...lift the presser foot and turn the fabric.. then turn the wheel a few more times..etc.... til I get to a spot where I can use the foot pedal. And..even then... my friend Maggi laughs at my "speed"... which she calls molasses in winter. She absolutely whizzes along...but, me...well... let's just say it's agonizing for her to watch. However,.... I get some things accomplished that finally look pretty good.

And... the other day.... she made me do some teensy hands for a teeeensy dolly we are trying... becuz she hasn't the patience. Hah!!
I do have patience with crafty stuff...just forget having any with people! Most people make me crazy...I'm a great hermit.

I like your little wonky birdie.... next one will be just what you envision....I have faith in you.....

and...I'm sure glad Andy is making a try for it....

oh...and... I have some frost on the doors to the garage..but, thankfully... it is more of dry cold here and not too cold and not much frost at all righ tnow....but...it's early days yet for our bitterly cold portion of winter.

Soozcat said...

Aww, poor Pumpkin. And poor you without Andy. Hoping he gets back soon to enjoy your company and smile at your new bird.

Anonymous said...

I hope Andy is home safe and sound by now! I've had a quick read through the comments and see you have been given all the advice that I would have given you about very small stitches and snipping into the seam allowance on the curves. What a shame about your poly tunnel - although I am sure you will be able to fix it. Our poor garden is looking most unhappy - after two hard winters, I think we are going to lose some more shrubs!

Natasha said...

Glad you both made it through and I hope Andy doesn't smell too much!
I'm sure your roots will be fine and you'll have some glorious blooms in the summer, if it ever comes!

jfidz said...

Here's hoping you all have the great Christmas you deserve Gretel.

Anonymous said...

I heart you. I heart both of your precious little birdies. So adorable and endearing in their bid for life no matter how imperfect. Perfection can be overrated.

Although I must say you get darned close with your lovely needle felting.

I love reading about your life as much as your craft. Safe journey to your man, may he be home and warm soon.

Seattle, WA

Southern Lady said...

You do have a lot of snow. I am praying that you have a very Merry Christmas! Carla

Anonymous said...

Funny to think someone halfway round the world is doing the same thing I am. I just threw my "bird" experiment in the bin. I can still see her in my head and will try to bring her out with one more attempt. Two have gone by the wayside, but the third one is the charm. Hope the weather lets up for you and Christmas is grand.

knutty knitter said...

A little perfecting and that bird will be the cutest thing!

Its heatwave round here although we are promised stormy rain etc for Christmas.

Hope Andy gets back - that poor cat and poor you too.

viv in nz

Cristina said...

My cat Cleo is like Pumpkin, she always wants to be near me and follows me everywhere in the house, so sweet...hope Andy gets back home safe.
Your little bird is so cute! And I love the coloured bottles on the window sill (not the ice tough, brrrr...).

Puddock said...

Hope Andy's back safe and sound by now and that you, he and the cats are all snuggling down for Christmas. :)

Charlotte said...

Best wishes to you, I do hope your Andy is home with you as soon as possible.
PS all the best birds are wonky!

Janet said...

Hope by now that you and Andy are safe at home together. We have no snow at present but have had another gale and heavy rains. Each day the snow holds off is a day closer to spring now that solstice is past!
Merry Christmas!
Janet in coastal Nova Scotia

Laurel said...

I love your adorable wonky bird. He (she?) is wonderful.

Wishing you an Andy home soon, safe and sound. I have been following the news of the snow in the UK with interest. We live in Vermont, a very snowy place, but I think you have had more snow than us so far this year. (And I certainly know that about three-quarters of coping with snow is having the tools and systems in place to deal with it ... not something that's likely if you don't receive such weather on a regular basis.) I hope everyone's shoveled out and back to normality soon.

School on the Heath said...

Here's trusting that by now you are all safely gathered in and that Pumpkin is purring on Andy's knee.
The bird has character,you will keep him of course, a memento of the Christmas of the big snow.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I do hope Andy is now dozing with a cat on his tummy. Edward and I send our warmest wishes that is so, and that you all have a most Happy Christmas.

Love that bird, by the way!

Frances Tyrrell said...

Dear Gretel, I hope you are all safely home and snug and enjoying the Christmas interlude.
Sometimes Christmas comes down the essentials, just being together, and those can be the best ones of all.
Love your little birds, they have personality and poise.

rossichka said...

Hello, Gretel! I hope Andy succeeded to reach home in time and you spent your Christmas relieved and in a cosy atmosphere! You have a severe winter there, don't you? Sorry about the pot-tree - the Ice Queen has obviously liked it!
Your doll is very pretty! Don't lose courage, try again and again and soon you'll "swim in your waters", as we say in Bulgaria.
Last year I liked so much your idea of spending the "cheese pennies" on something special, that my husband and I, we bought with our this year's "collection" plus the rest of the last year's one a lovely calendar by a Bulgarian blog-friend of ours! I'll have a special post about it very soon!
I wish you both a very Happy New Year, full of health, good luck, new travels, love and inspiration!xx

auntpearl said...

Oh I am so sorry you were lonely but I am sure by now your hubby is home and the cat is purring again.

I think your you are too hard on yourself...those little birds are adorable.

All the best to you in 2011.