Nellie"s Needles

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bird Tutorial

The pattern is posted HERE as a down loadable PDF file for you to print out. Instructions are also available to download HERE for you print out on your printer.

Please note that it is necessary to click on those links (red colored "HERE") to go to another website in order to download the documents to your computer to print out the pattern and instructions.

After printing out the pattern, I recommend that you trace the pieces for the bird's body onto freezer paper. Ironing the waxy side of the freezer paper pattern to the fabric will be easier to work with than just pinning it in place. I have used just the one pattern for all the birds I've made and it still sticks to fabric.

To trace, use a light table or a window. I've placed a lamp under the acrylic extension for my sewing machine to create a light table.Lay the body piece over the fabric. It helps to see your placement if there is light behind the fabric. Move the pattern around, be aware of how the eye of the bird is placed as well as the patterns along the back, tail, and breast (wings cover up the rest). You are figuring out just one side of the body at this point.
Alicia and I have cut a number of bird parts from this particular fabric. See all the holes from where we found desired patterning? The design pattern placement is more important than grain lines.
Secure the pattern in place with a couple of pins. Iron the wax paper pattern to the fabric and then cut it out.
Determine the other side of the bird's body. Remove the paper pattern and lay the right side of cut out piece to right side of the fabric. Use a light source to match up patterning. Some fabrics make it easy by having reverse images. For others, like this one, you need to look for an area that almost repeats the patterns.
Pin the cut out bird body piece to the desired area for the other half of the bird's body. Do NOT cut out the pattern shape. If the fabric piece is large, cut it well beyond the pattern lines. Take the layered pieces to the machine and stitch the top seam between the beak and tail. Be sure to leave seam allowances at the beginning and end of that seam.
Cut out the other half of the bird using the already cut out bird as a pattern.
Trim the top side seam with pinking shears OR clip all those curves with regular scissors.
Cut out the stomach pieces. Use a light source to select appropriate patterning for the breast and end of the tail.

Open the bird and pin the breast pieces to the bottom seam of the bird's body. The shorter one goes to the beak end. Note that the seam allowances are turned where the two pieces meet. Stitch this seam leaving seam allowances at each end.
Pin the bird body to the other side of the breast pieces and stitch.
Clip the curves in the seams with scissors. Trim the points off the beak and tail ends.
Turn the body right side out, being sure the beak and tail are fully turned. Stuff the ends with fiber fill leaving a hollow at the opening for the legs to fit into.
The material for the legs of the large birds that I found is wrapped florist wire. It is fairly stiff and requires wire cutters.

Cut an 18" length plus two 3" lengths. Bend the long one in half with a gentle curve that is the width of the birds body.
Insert the bend of the long wire into the hollow cavity. Continue stuffing the body until you are satisfied with its fullness.
Making sure the legs piece is pushed up into the body secure the wire to the opening of the seam with a stitch or two through the wrapping around the wire.
Take a stitch through the fabric to get to the other side of the wire.Take another stitch through the wrapping on the wire at the inside of the leg. These stitches secure the wire so the bird will be stable when it stands.
Use the ladder stitch to close the seam. Alternate running stitches in the folded edges of each side. Take a few stitches before pulling the seam shut. This stitch was created for closing the last seam on stuffed bodies of toys.
Secure the body to the other leg with a few stitches through the wrapping on the wire. Run the thread through the stuffing to exit about 1" above the seam in the wing area. Make three stitches that catch the wire. Knot off and secure the wire at the same level on the other side. This stitching will ensure that your bird is stable when it stands.
I have found it's easier to choose fabric for the wings at this point. Use a light table, etc. to position wings on the fabric if a large patterned fabric is used ... paisley's are wonderful. Iron the wax paper pattern to the fabric. (Note that a bird's breast pieces were previously cut from this piece of fabric that has various densities of dots.)
Cut the wings out. Choose a fabric for the underside of the wings. Layer the cutout wings and that fabric right sides together. Place a layer of batting under the wings. Pin the layers together and stitch completely around each wing.
Cut out the wings with pinking shears. If you use regular scissors, clip all the curves. Cut a slit through the batting and lining (back side of wing) for turning it right side out. It is easiest to use tweezers, especially the kind that locks shut.
Insert the tweezer and grasp the pointed end of the wing. Gently work it toward and out of the slit. Grasp the fat rounded end and pull it through the slit.
Gently steam press the wings being sure not to flatten them.
Machine (or hand) quilt feather-like patterns or follow the printed design in the wings. I was so anxious to take photos of the process for this bird that I forgot to quilt his wings. I think they look just fine, so quilting is optional.

Attach the wings to the body. I play with positions by pinning them on and assessing how they look for that particular bird. Each one develops a personality as it's constructed. Use tacking stitches in the approximate locations of the x's marked on the pattern pieces.
Now, for the face. Use a fine thread to slightly indent the eye sockets on each side.
Sew beads in the sockets. Anchor them on several sides so the holes stay centered.

Alicia and I used a lightly felted wool used for rug hooking to fashion the birds beaks. Any slightly heavy fabric could be used. If you look closely at the flock, you'll see a variety of beak styles. We found this one to be most realistic and easy to do.

Cut one piece of each pattern. Both pieces will be pinned into position before they are adhered with glue. Pin the bottom beak in place. Begin with the center. Pull the beak ends "into a smile" and pin.
Pin the top beak in place. Begin with the center, then pin the sides. It may be necessary to trim one of the beaks so they meet. That is unless you find an under or over bite appealing.
Now, it's time to glue. I use a basting glue made for applique in quilting that has a wonderful applicator on the squeeze bottle. Any fabric glue could be used and applied with a pin.
Loosen the pins (do not remove) of the lower beak and apply dots of glue on the bird fabric under the beak. Push the pins back in place until the glue is dry. Repeat with the top beak.
Open the end of the beak and apply a few drops of glue near the end of one beak. Lightly pinch the beaks together. This gluing will stabilize the shape of the beak.
Now, how tall will your bird be? Determine its height and bend the leg wires forward at a 90 degree angle.
Bend the two short pieces in half to make the front toes.
Place the toe piece on top of the bent leg piece. Wrap the leg extension piece to the back and then around one more time. The front toes should not wiggle. If they do, give the "knot" a pinch with pliers.
It's fun finding each bird's balancing point. Experiment with leg positions, including adding a bend. We found that the shorter the legs the more easily the birds stood. No two out of 23 birds have the same posture.

PS: Eventually, I gave up making the birds stand on just their feet alone.  
 I began glue their toes to pieces of driftwood, stones, or shells.

The little birds are made from a 75% reduction of the same pattern. I know this can be done on a copy machine ... don't know if it can be reduced in the printing process from the PDF file. Note that the seam allowance is also reduced. Their legs use the full length of a big sized craft pipe cleaner. They will stand precariously on those little circle or feet made like the big ones. My intent for them is to perch on branches.

Whew! Have FUN!

PS: The original idea is from Terry Grant's blog. I felt the same way when I saw her birds as a lot of you are feeling when you look at mine and Alicia's. Pop on over to her blog and scroll down to her March 30th and January 6th posts to be further inspired by her birds. I find the differences in our choices of fabric interesting. Are her choices more subdued because of the time of year she made them? and where she lives? while we made ours during the full flowering of spring?

Terry replies:
"Great birds! I'm glad you took the idea and ran with it. I just have not had the time to get a pattern put together for my birds. Similar, but some differences. And the fabric choices? Ah, I think fabric choice and color choices are very personal. I made my birds from fabrics I love, which tend to be subdued. I love your bright Springtime birds."

PPS: WOW! There's been a lot of interest in these birds. Someone posted about them on public forum sites in Germany and France. I welcome all who have come here to read about them and have gone on to download the pattern and instructions to make their own. I would very much like to see any that are made. If they are posted on a blog, please email me or comment here where they can be seen ... or email a photo to me. I shared mine, now please share yours.


Elaine Adair said...

oh girl -- fun, fun, fun!!!!

arlee said...

AWESOME!!! Can't wait to try them--and MIL looks really interested in them too :} Thank you for posting a clear wonderful tute!

Di said...

Fantastic. TRhank you so much for the extremely clear instructions. Now to clear some time to have fun!!!!!


Thank you for this wonderful tutorial!

Doreen G said...

Wow Nellie this is fantastic.
Now I will have to wait for a week or so to try them as I'm going on holidays---that's what I call bad timing.

Vicki W said...

Thanks for the great tutorial! I've got to give thsi a try - they are just too cute!

Joyce said...

Excellent tutorial. I see some birds in my future. Not that I need any more projects, but who could resist?

Donna said...

thanks for the directions and pattern! I imagine a whole flock will be arriving soon :-)

Magpie's Mumblings said...

Thank you so much Nellie! I can't wait to make my own flock. I'd do one tomorrow, only I'm having a 'group' here and can't. Hmmm...maybe I could just tell them to stay home??

Terry Grant said...

Great birds! I'm glad you took the idea and ran with it. I just have not had the time to get a pattern put together for my birds. Similar, but some differences. And the fabric choices? Ah, I think fabric choice and color choices are very personal. I made my birds from fabrics I love, which tend to be subdued. I love your bright Springtime birds.

Teodo said...

thanks - thanks- thanks,
and thanks for the COLLAGE MANIA too.
Collages are wonderful.
ciao ciao

jenclair said...

Thanks for the tutorial! Can't wait to try some of these colorful and adorable birdies!

Cathie said...

Woooah Nellie!!!
You are a kind and generous soul to put all this work into a tutorial for us. I can't wait to make one of these adorable creatures -- maybe on a bit larger scale to stand on the floor???
Sabrina would love to have one for her room!!!

Nadia said...

E' tenerissimo! grazie per la spiegazione! Proverò a farli anch'io!
ciao Nadia

Bunny said...

Wonderful tutorial! I was inspired to google you after having just read "Creative Smocking". Your work is incredible. Your blog will go into my blogroll and will be checked often. Thanks for the inspiration.

Nellie's Needles said...

English translation (according to Google) of Nadia's comment:

E 'tender! thanks for the explanation! Will try to make them too!
Hello Nadia

Micki said...

Wonderful tutorial. Thanks for sharing, Nellie. These little fellows are just adorable.

Anonymous said...

Now I want to head for the scrap bin and see what little birds come of it! As if I am not all ready over extended!!LOL! Thank you so much for the wonderful tutorial. I have admired Terrys birds and was also trying to see how to make one!
Karen (threadstory) not at my own computer,hence the anonymous

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this tutorial.
Merci beaucoup


Anonymous said...

Thank you SO Much for your generosity in providing the pattern and instructions with such a clear step- by-step-with-photos post! Your birds are just gorgeous - I can't wait to try some of my own.

Shelina said...

Thank you so very much for sharing these instructions. I have been admiring the birds on Terry's blog and thinking to myself that I should try to make them, but didn't think I could do it.

Anonymous said...

Last week was Teacher Appreciation week at my kid's school. I wanted to make a Cardinal for each teacher, as the school mascot is a Cardinal. I googled bird pattern and found your site.

I made 5 birds. Two using your pattern and the other 3 using your pattern, but modified to make it more "me." Check out the pictures at my blog -

Thanks for the tutorial. Fast and EASY!!!!!


Nellie's Needles said...

Linda at
has pictures of the birds she has made from this pattern. She plans to make a lot of them for children at the leukemia treatment center in Italy.

Nellie's Needles said...

Another pretty bird can be found here:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I think I'll make some this weekend, if I do I'll let you know.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tutorial. I especially like your clear instructions on how to make the legs/feet for the bird.

Thank you for sharing.

Clothmatters said...

Beautiful tutorial. Your bird pattern is adorable and I like the colors you chose. Thank you for sharing.

JessicaSews said...

I wish I could come up with an original compliment...but, I have to say the same as everyone here!
I love your birds!
I really love the colors/fabric you've put together!
Very inspirational. I've been visiting your blog and have now decided to make a little bird!

I'll be sure to visit
Terry's blog!

Enjoy Sewing & Creating!
~ Jes

mel m. m. mccarthy said...

This is just SO cute! Thank you so much for the tutorial! :O) mel said...

Aww, he is SO sweet! I'll be linking to this!

Sandhya Karandikar said...

As is my habit I first check the TipNut mail and visit the first few sites recomnded.
I was so happy to see your birds.
What a beautiful way to use scraps. I just love your birds and the tutorial.
I will now visit your blog more often.
Thank you.

Cindy said...

Awesome cute bird! Printed out these instructions (25 pages ouch!) but the patterns aren't printing out right, hope i'm not the only one) will handsketch and give this pattern a try for sure!

Jen said...

Thank you Nellie for the fantastic tutorial. I appreciate you taking the time to share. I left a link to your site on my blog. Hope this is ok. Again, thank you and here is the link to my bird,

Moonwillow said...

Thank you for posting this tutorial about the bird. I have plans to make quite a few all different using different materials. The first one of course is made of fabric so I can get a feel for it. Your very kind to share.

Sew Magic said...

Thanks for posting! Can't wait to make my little bird.

Anonymous said...

wow lovely birds actually i started to make my own bird inspiration from ur birds.
thanks alot!
samar mustafa.

Bonpetitepoodles said...

wow, what a tutorial! I am new at blogging, so when my daughter shows me how to put pics on the computer I hopefully will have one of these little guys on there. my site is if you ever want to visit! Shirley

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Anonymous said...

Hi nellie
Can you help please ? When i click on the links , i arrive on a SCRIBD page, i log in, and when i click on "download" , it ask me to pay . Is it the right way to do ?
thanks a lot
Marie from france