Have you met Gary the Greenfinch yet?
He’s the newest addition to our gang and Benji the Bullfinch’s new BFF. Benji is super excited to have a new birdie chum to hang around with – so excited that he wanted to give you the inside scoop on Gary.
So today I’ll take you behind the scenes to see exactly how a greenfinch decoration is made.Have you met Gary the Greenfinch yet? Find out how he's madeClick To Tweet
Step 1: Sketch it out
Every design starts off on paper. I find it so much easier to think and plan using pencil and paper, rather than jumping straight onto the computer, so my sketchbooks are full of ideas and designs.
It’s also easier to make changes and explore options when it’s just a sketch (you can see I often make little notes around the sketches to remind myself of thoughts, ideas and adjustments later). And using coloured pencils means I can plan out colours too.
Step 2: Create a template
Once I’m happy with the sketch, it’s time to hit the computer. I make the templates using Adobe Illustrator; it’s one of my favourite tools and lets me create a precise template and plan out all the shapes.
Plus, by making the template digitally, it means I can print off more copies later if the first one wears out (like my robin template did; I’ve made so many robins I needed to replace the template!)
The sketch is scanned in and then traced over in Illustrator. I use Illustrator’s Pathfinder tools to easily make complex shapes and make sure the various pieces of felt will fit together properly when the greenfinch is made.
Step 3: Prototype
When the template is ready, I’ll print off a copy and cut out the paper shapes. Then each template is used to cut out felt shapes.
Putting them together is kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. And I also need to plan out the best way to layer them up and fit them together. And figure out in which order to sew them so that I’m not switching back and forth between different colours of thread too often.
When the prototype is being made I often see little tweaks that are needed. Like adjusting any of the overlapping shapes, or the order in which the pieces are put together. Little details like that mean that I can make the birds slightly faster and get a neater result 🙂
Step 4: Adjust the template
If I need to change any of the shapes, I’ll go back to Illustrator and adjust the template. Then print out a new copy and make another prototype. Usually this second prototype is spot on and becomes the first proper product, ready to sell.
Step 5: Production line
The next step is a mini production line! I make the birds in batches, usually 3-5 at a time.
Batching the work means that each greenfinch takes slightly less time to make, and means I have some stock on hand ready to post out when it’s bought. That means you can get your decoration faster than if everything was made to order.
It’s all really technical at this point! 😉 Joking, of course, it’s all very simple – the felt shapes for each bird are laid on a tray along with the different threads I’ll need and the tools (scissors, needle, pins) I’ll be using.
The decorations are all completely hand-sewn; I don’t use glue to pin things in place (tried it once, but didn’t like the results).
The features of the bird are sewn to the front of the bird, using thread that will tone with the felt (ie, grey thread to match the grey pieces, yellow thread for the go-faster stripes on the wings). I’ll sew all the pieces of one colour at a time, so each grey beak and wing are sewn onto all the birds, then all the the yellow stripes and so on.
The black thread is saved for last. I’ll sew on the eyes then add the smile on the beak, leaving just the outline to do.
The black outline is used to attach the back of the bird to the front. I’ll sew almost all the way around, leaving a small gap at the end. This is where the bird is stuffed (sorry Gary, it’ll all be over soon!). Small pieces of toy stuffing are added to the bird, using the end of a paintbrush to gently tease the stuffing into the small nooks, like the wing tips and beaks.
And when he’s nicely full the remaining gap is sewn up and Gary is ready to come out to play.
Step 6: Gary comes out to play
Now that Gary is ready, I need to take photos and list him on my Etsy shop. Taking photos in Aberdeen can be tricky as we don’t always have great light (like today, it’s positively pouring with rain!). Luckily, I took photos earlier this week, when we had sunshine 😉
If you’d like to adopt your very own Gary the Greenfinch, you’ll find him here, along with Benji and the rest of the gang.
See you next time,
Fi, Benji + Gary
P.S. Here’s the obligatory legal stuff: The greenfinch template, design and images are copyright © 2018 Fox + Finch / Fiona Robertson. No pinching please 🙂