Friday, August 8, 2014

A Realistic Styled Canadian Goose: My Process

Oh I had to rest a day or two before I could even summon the strength to write this. I first started this project a month ago and came up with a plan:

  • ultrasuede beak & feet
  • pose-able anatomically correct folding wings
  • armatured neck and wired feet
I gathered a variety of photos of Canadian geese in different poses, looked at plush birds, and finally looked up wing anatomy. 

Goose body with one wing structure
I started with the head first before making the  body and estimating the distance needed for the neck. I had sewed the minky part of the head together with the intention of being able to machine sew on the finished beak. Alas that wasn't possible given the tough to pin nature of the ultrasuede, so I had to settle for hand sewing it. I bent 2 straight needles and just had to give both my hands a rest from the stress of sewing through layers of ultrasuede. 

Upon finishing the head, I noticed that a goose's body has a gradation of colors, so I chose three tans/browns to use for the wings. The commissioner had requested for something more huggable than a doll for display so I decided to do the main structure of the wings with wire. I had played with ideas of steel spokes already made to bend, plexiglass, and foam core, but none of these suited my use. 

To make the wing structure, I bought 12 gauge aluminum wire and with a sketch I drew of the bone structure, I wrapped one wire around the other to form a stronger wire that will stand up to much posing. The downside to that is when I went to sew the wire into the plush lining, every time I hit a wire, I broke a sewing machine needle. It ended up being the limit to my machine's foot with two pieces of minky, quilt batting, and a thick wrapped wire, but using a total of four pieces (two for the outer most structure and one more for the inner bottom) and several hours later, I had two complete wing structures. 
Start of feathering with two of the colors
Now time for the feathers: It was my first time attempting this sort of wing, so I did not really have a plan for where to start feathering. I decided to do it in four sections according to where the wing would need to bend when the wing would close. I used the middle to provide a sense of scale and also because the wing centered around everything else folding over the middle. 

Next up: outer section

Finishing up with the inner section & another bent needle
It is important to note that I drew feathers of varying shapes depending on where in the wings they were. I had looked at drawings of feathers and was warned by anatomy books against using just one single pointed shape. The shapes of the feathers ultimately helped shaped the overall structure of the wings for a finale that I'm quite pleased with. The inner most part blended perfectly with the tan back I had originally incorporated in the design

Finally the last part was to do the "drumsticks" and legs.
Attacking the legs
This was fairly simple: using the same 12 gauge wire, I wired the legs and stitched the wire into place using my machine, then had the lovely task of hand sewing the wired legs to the body. First I attached one side to the body, following that with the unstuffed drumstick. By sewing the drumstick over the legs, I had the legs attached to the body on one side and the drumstick on the other and once stuffed, the drumstick provided structural support for the legs. 

The finish project measured 20 inches from beak to tail and 1 yard/meter in wing span. I had crammed the remainder of the project right in after I got the boxes from my old apartment into my new and sewed for a minimum of 10 hours for 5 days straight in my desire to finish this (I actually would forgo eating just due to concentration) I learned a lot about wire, quilting, and ultrasuede in this project. I'd have to say I am well exhausted and have no desire to attempt such a project until I recover, but it was definitely an experience. 

I'd like to thank the person who commissioned this! Each piece is always to learn more.

Now for some brunch and possibly some livestreaming later.
Have a wonderful day and thanks for reading,


  1. This is very very beautiful! I like it very much to sew birds like this. Do you perhaps have the pattern of this nice bird? Or am I not aloud to ask you this:-)?

    1. Thank you for your nice comment. This was a OOAK commission for someone so I did not make a pattern for it. I rarely make patterns for my full skeleton art dolls because it depends on the skeleton you build. I did give detailed explanations in the blog post. If you'd like to make some of my other pieces, my patterns are available here