I think Sally Dixon’s book Pipsqueaks—Itsy-Bitsy Felt Creations to Stitch & Love might be the cutest book I’ve ever seen.
Take a look for yourself:
Her creations—pipsqueaks!—are obviously adorable. But they’re also very well crafted, with an incredible attention to detail. In the technique section of the book, Sally gives helpful tips about how to help your pipsqueaks survive playdates with even the roughest kids. But, of course, these are not just children’s toys—you can go ahead and make one or two or ten pipsqueaks for yourself, too!
I asked Sally a few questions to learn more about her, her book, and her process.
You write in the book’s Foreword that you were inspired to start making tiny felt creations when your Aunty Elizabeth gave you a small teddy-bear brooch when you were ten … and that you soon created an “army of tiny felt teddy bears!” Do you still have that original teddy bear?
Oh, I wish I did! I've moved many times over my lifetime, and somewhere, somehow, my aunt's little bear, and my army of homemade bears, were lost along the way. But I can still picture that original blue-and-red bear (made by my Aunt Elizabeth) in my mind. He exists in my memory.
I really love that you included projects for making Australian animals, like the koala and the platypus! Living in Australia, how often do you see those critters in the wild? And do you have any stories about them that would surprise readers in the States?
I've never seen a platypus in the wild, as they are very shy. I've seen them in the zoo, but one day I hope to see a platypus in the wild, because that would be a special sighting!
But ... I have seen one wombat, a few echidnas, many koalas, and kangaroos galore. The sightings have mostly been in the Australian bush, and along country roads, but koalas have visited the trees along my suburban street from time to time. I live close to the Adelaide Hills in South Australia where many native Australian animals abide. My proximity to the hills is probably why they visit my home; koalas are certainly not a common sight in most city suburbs.
I once had a British friend, Suzy, visiting with me. One day, while she was around, I went to the front door to call my cat inside. I saw something climbing down one of the gum trees at the front of my house. “It can't be a cat,” I thought to myself, “it's the wrong shape.”
I suddenly shrieked with excitement. It wasn't a cat. But I knew exactly what it was. “Suzy!” I called, “There's a koala outside!”
We raced outside, and by the time we reached the foot of the gum tree, the koala had reached the ground. Not only was the koala cute and gray, it was also a baby! We glanced upwards and saw its mother snoozing in high branches. She didn't realize her baby was having adventures all alone.
Suzy and I stared at the baby koala. The baby koala stared back at us. Then, with an expression of terror, it scampered to another nearby tree and climbed quickly to the top.
We didn't manage to capture the baby koala's picture with a camera, but I did take a photo of another koala I met while on a recent walk through a local park.
Photo by Sally Dixon
I love how versatile all your projects are—they can be toys, brooches, earrings, ornaments, and more! What is your favorite type of project to make? (And/or favorite animal?)
Brand-new projects from scratch are probably my favorite type of project to make. I love the process of thinking up fresh designs. My brain continually brims with new ideas; there just isn't enough time in the day to make them all!
I enjoy the challenge of being confronted with custom creations from my customers. Many of my projects have sprung into existence because someone has approached me with the question, “Do you think you can design a ... horse, elephant, hedgehog, chicken …” or whatever the item might be.
I'm partial to felines—I’ve always been a cat person—but I love all creatures. I'm a regular Doctor Doolittle, and make a fuss of any animal I come in contact with. Animals make me happy.
What is the tiniest pipsqueak you’ve ever made?
The pipsqueakiest pipsqueak I've ever made is a rabbit. It was made for a customer who ordered a felt “mouse family” for her daughter. The rabbit was a “toy” for a baby mouse to cuddle. The rabbit is pictured resting against my thumbnail. That's how tiny it was!
Photo by Sally Dixon
Do you have any tips for people who want to make adorable, tiny felt creations, but are too intimidated by their size to try?
I suggest you increase the size of the patterns with a photocopier. Once you’re comfortable with the steps involved in making a particular project, reduce the size and then try sewing the original, smaller version.
It's also important to have the right equipment. My tiny embroidery scissors are the most valuable tool I own. My advice is to invest in a high-quality pair of embroidery scissors with sharp blades; they make it easier to cut out little felt patterns.
And my final advice is: Have a go! You'll never know what you can achieve unless you try.
Pipsqueaks—Itsy-Bitsy Felt Creations to Stitch & Love comes out in October 2015. Pre-order Pipsqueaks now at ctpub.com!