Kate from the The Men’s Room charity approached me to work with their Blue Room group which works specifically with young men vulnerable to sexual exploitation and those who were surviving by selling sex. They wanted to work with artist to look at a variety of craft skills with an end product that they could take home. Many craft products are traditionally thought of a feminine. I suggested soft toy making as hey, who doesn’t love a teddy?
I showed them some of my Wotnots and a simple sock alien as inspiration. I created a basic pattern to make their own mini mascot. I did variations on the pattern for bunny, cat, owl and alien but was able to help them adapt the pattern to create any animal. A dog and a monkey were requested. I brought a variety of brightly coloured fleece fabrics. I chose fleece as it does not fray and is lovely and cuddly. Once they had cut out their pattern from their chosen fabric, I showed them 2 styles of stitches – back stitch on the inside to create a smooth finish and whip stitch on the outside for a rough homespun feel. The toys were stuffed with polyester fibre with chickpeas at bottom to give them a bit of weight for sitting. From this point they could choose how to embellish them – buttons, felt, ribbon, embroidery. They could also add arms, legs and/or tails.
Initially everybody had various children and loved ones in mind to receive their toys but by the end they seemed to have become too attached to give them away. Hopefully they feel confident to make more as gifts.