Monday, July 12, 2010

Meet the Maker Monday: Raggy Rat

Toymaker extraordinaire Catherine L Owen (The Raggy Rat), doesn’t just stitch front to back. She designs and sews jointed, poseable plush. See all her gorgeous vermin at and get the dirt on the real Catherine L Owen in this interview by Sarah Raymond of Wooldebeast.

Tell us about your process of making plush items.
I love to be busy. Often I start with a combination of fabrics and create a pattern by sketching, cutting, sticking bits of paper back on, and filling up my waste paper bin! I love also adding embellishments and finishing with lovely bright eyes to bring my creation alive ... unless it's a bus or a ray-gun!

Where did you learn your skills?
When I was 6, I made a mouse from a few gleaned scraps from school. My mother found me a book in a jumble sale, full of ideas. I set out to teach myself. I also went away to art college and got a degree, and love to work in mixed media especially. For part of my applied arts degree, I did machine embroidery—a good way to make the change from hand sewing, and an introduction to an appliance I rarely put away nowadays!

Describe your workspace.
I have a very young family, and I work out of my dining room, often along side my young girls doing their paint, play-doh—or even these days, some hand sewing. I make lots of mess and then have to sweep it all aside for dinner, although I do have side tables for longer projects such as a large plush, a costume or a puppet that may lurk in pieces. I have fabric in the bedrooms where I can fit it in! On a nice day, I sit in the garden and sew.

Discuss your inspirations—plushy, artistic, musical, personal ….
About 3 years ago, I fell in love with Flikr, and started collecting favourite images. I learned a lot about what can be done in the art of plush. I love reading blogs such as Penguin and Fish, Softies Central, and The Needle where the content is exciting and varied. I have been a member of The Plush Team for 18 months, where I find juicy challenges. They help me try things I wouldn’t think of if left to my own devices.

I love to sing in a community choir and even perform solos. My musical tastes are eclectic, but must usually be played nice and loud.

How do you promote your work?
I love to keep my blog lively and interesting, and to read comments people leave. Visit
The Raggy Rat also has a facebook page:!/pages/The-Raggy-Rat/352336335045
and a twitter account:
I also list work on Teddy Talk and sometimes chat there.

How do you fit plush-making into the rest of your life?
Three of my four daughters are at home with me daily, but we all get on with our things. I believe it does them good to see me at work, and lends a relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes I wield glue guns when they are tucked up in bed, but I don’t do much in the evenings. I pick up and put down sewing projects all day, in between other 'chores'.

Describe your dreams for new designs or projects.
I still need to make the ultimate jointed, well-proportioned rat. I also keep having to make pigs ... things just pop into my head and ask me to make them ....and maybe a fox? Oh yes - someone asked me to have a go at molly the owl.

What advice can you give makers who dabble in plushiness?
Don’t be afraid to stab your fingers - quite a lot; nor to throw things half done in the bin and not feel guilty. The more you do, the more you learn. And never run out of stuffing. You might cry!

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