It's a historic ceremony dating from the 12th Century, where the Queen's Swan Marker and the Royal Swan Uppers row down the Thames to conduct an annual census of the swan population. They wear traditional red uniforms, row traditional wooden boats, and (as they pass Windsor Castle) stand to attention and salute "Her Majesty The Queen, Seigneur of the Swans".
My hometown is one of the places on the Swan Upper's route each July, but I've never actually witnessed it. I'm hoping to change that this year, and have got the date marked in my diary with a firmly worded Note To Self to make sure I'm not busy with work (like I sadly was last year). I'm rather looking forward to it!
Why am I talking about Swan Upping, you wonder? Well, it's because today I'm sharing a tutorial for making a little swan (or two) out of felt :)
This tutorial originally appeared in a bookazine called Adorable Animals, last year. It was designed as a tutorial for making cute swan collar clips but if you don’t fancy the idea of collar clips (or, like me, just don’t own many clothes with collars) you can just make a single swan and wear it as a brooch.
I chose light blue as a background to my swans as the white and orange both show up clearly against it and it looks like the swan is gliding on some water... but if you're making these to wear with a favourite outfit you could use backing felt that matches your garment instead.
You will need:
The template provided at the bottom of this post
Light blue felt
1 or 2 black seed beads (size 9/0) (one bead per swan)
White, black and light blue sewing thread
Orange and black embroidery thread
One or two brooch clasps (one per swan)
A needle and sewing scissors
Plus (if you're making the collar clips) small pliers and a length of jewellery chain (at least 11cm)
I recommend using embroidery scissors to cut out the felt shapes - the small, sharp blades are perfect for cutting out small or intricate pieces of felt.
To make the swans:
1. Use the template provided to cut out two swans from white felt, reversing the template to cut the second swan. Sew each swan onto a piece of light blue felt, using white thread and small whip stitches.
2. Cut a length of orange embroidery thread and separate two strands from the rest. Use these two strands to stitch the swan’s beak, starting with a line sewn at an angle to mark the end of the beak (as pictured) then filling in the beak with a series of single stitches. Sew over the white felt until it’s covered, starting and finishing each stitch flush with the edge of the white felt and sewing the stitches close together to create a solid block of orange.
Repeat this step for the second swan.
3. Cut a length of black embroidery thread and separate two strands, as before. Sew three stitches at the end of the swan’s beak, marking out a triangle (as pictured) then fill in the triangle with more stitches. Make sure you leave space to add the swan’s eye in the next step!
Then sew a small black stitch on the orange beak as pictured – in line with the top of the beak, and close to the wide end. Take care not to pull it too tightly and distort the orange stitches.
Repeat this step for the second swan – the swans should be roughly symmetrical but don’t worry if they look a little different!
4. Add a black seed bead eye to each swan, sewing each bead flat like an o with three or four stitches. Each eye should be positioned at the point of the black triangle, as pictured.
5. Cut out both swans, so they are framed by a few millimetres of blue felt. Use the newly cut out shapes as templates to cut matching pieces of felt – these will be the back of the clips/brooches.
6. Turn over the backing pieces of felt. Add a brooch clasp to each shape near the top of the swan’s body, making sure you leave space to sew around the edge of the felt later. Sew the clasps in place with a double thickness of matching blue sewing thread.
(If you're just making a swan brooch, skip to step 9)
7. Use a pair of small pliers to cut a length of jewellery chain approx. 11cm long (or sized to suit your collars).
8. Place the swan backs in front of you so they are facing each other. Hold one end of the chain in position (just under the “inside” end of the brooch clasp, as pictured) and use a double thickness of blue thread to securely sew the end link of the chain to the felt. Repeat to sew the other end in position on the second swan back, joining the swans together.
Tip: When sewing the chain to the second swan, make sure the chain isn’t twisted!
9. Place the front and back of one of the swans together, and sew around the edge with blanket stitch (or whip stitch) and light blue thread. Lift the chain out of the way as you sew past it. Finish your stitching neatly at the back, then repeat this step to finish the second swan.
Click here to view the template sheet & print it at 100%.
This tutorial is for personal use only: you can use it to stitch as many swans as you want for yourself or as gifts, but please don't make any for sale. You may borrow a few photos if you want to blog about this project, but remember to credit me and link back to the original source, and do not reproduce my entire post or share the pattern itself on your site. Thanks!
Fancy some more free patterns? Check out my tutorial archive. If you're a bird fan, you might want to sew some felt blackbirds, mini felt ducks or felt owl ornaments.
For even more crafty goodness, check out my books: Super-Cute Felt and Super-Cute Felt Animals.