Art & craft

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Turtle Project by Babou



This design is a tribute to the toymaker Renate Mueller

I love to sew toys for my lttle grandsons and their friends. I like to use utilitarian fabrics, as you can see on the photos, like cotton, canvas-duck, denim or homespun. I even like to use pre-loved fabric like once-favourite shirts. I wash and iron everything before I use it, just in case it shrinks or the colour runs. I’m not using fun-fur any more because of allergies, and I don’t use button-type eyes that could come off, but the utilitarian creatures seem to have more character than soft fluffy toys – a different kind of character anyway.
I’d like to invite you to share my turtle design – I’ll include a bit about the way I designed it so that you can change the design if you like and individualise the body, for instance. After a bit about concept and materials I shall show you TEN EASY STEPS to make a turtle like mine.

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Little Seal Project by Babou



This design is a tribute to the toymaker Renate Mueller

One Sunday afternoon two years ago, we saw a toy seal on a lower shelf in a gallery in New York, not even fully on display but it caught our attention. The seal was accompanied by a whale, a rhino and a turtle, all equally gorgeous, but at the time it was the seal that caught our attention. It was such a strong, positive creature, and comparatively large for a toy. It was made of robust materials, seemed to be made of leather and sacking, and we sketched it and determined to try to make a seal like that when we got home.

We later found out that the animals are the designs of Renate Mueller, and were produced in the late 1960’s for the German manufacturer H Josef Leven. They were intended for therapeutic use, they were not toys at all. They have all sorts of handles and tabs for tugging, wrestling, hugging and riding. Renate Mueller designed these animals and made them by hand in jute and leather, in the same tradition taught by German toymakers since the 1800s. There have been exhibitions of her toys more recently, and you can find references to them on the internet. Well, we did work out a pattern for a little seal that looked a bit like Renate Mueller’s one, and we would like to share it with you today as a tribute to this amazing toymaker. I will begin with a brief discussion of the concept, pattern pieces and materials and will then give you TEN EASY STEPS to make your own little seal, maybe not in jute and leather but perhaps in materials that appeal to your own taste. Thank you, Renate Mueller for the inspiration for this entirely different type of toys, not soft and fluffy but strong and full of character.

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