I’ve been itching to make Mimi Kirchner‘s Fresh Fish pattern since I bought it from her Etsy store in January. I finally got a chance to play with it at the weekend, prompted by a Piscean member of the family’s birthday this week.
Mimi fully deserves your custom so I won’t divulge too much about the making. I’ll just say that it’s a thorough pattern. And Mimi’s experience of using recycled elements (pre-felted woolen garments etc) fundamentally informs her approach, so if you’re motivated to recycle old materials in a way that exploits their full creative potential, you should get right over to Doll, Mimi’s blog, without delay. I first became aware of Mimi’s work when I saw one of her kitty series and was blown away by what she managed to make from a straightforward old sweater. Her latest series of tattoed ladies, made with dyed-over old toile de Jouy (of all things), is a triumph. She invests such personality into all of them.
I can divulge that you actually get two sets of pattern pieces for the price of one with Fresh Fish: one for stretchy materials, one for regular woven fabric (furnishing fabrics or medium-weight cottons). Both types of fish are well featured on the Flickr Fresh Fish group. I was going for the stretchy version; the fins are the things that need a lot of give, and my merino wool sweater met that brief perfectly. I worried that I might have picked something too stretchy for the main body section, but my choice worked out just fine.
Something went awry when I cut out the bottom fins – they ended up angled in the wrong direction. I also slipped into auto-pilot part way through and forgot to read the instructions somewhere around the fins, so I didn’t sew the edges together as I think I should have done. This has made them a bit more fluffy and feathery, but I like that. Just as with cooking, the real art of sewing is knowing how to rescue a project when it starts to go pear-shaped.
I cheated right at the end as I didn’t use the recommended felt backing for the eye. Nor did I stitch on a mouth. I could say that I didn’t want to gild the lily, but in truth I simply felt I could get away without adding them. Now that I’ve looked through the Flickr group of fish made using Mimi’s pattern, I wonder if the pale blue cloudy eye on this one doesn’t make him look like he’s a lot less fresh than he might be. He definitely has a distracted, otherworldly, head-in-the-clouds quality which happens to suit the recipient right down to the ground.
What really pleases me is that this fish is entirely upcycled and/or vintage. 100%. Even the stuffing was an old synthetic pillow which had wadded into an unpromising non-pillowish lump in the wash (I know, I know, the things I hang onto…). I’ve mentioned the fabric (old sweaters) already. The buttons were old (they don’t actually match – poor fish has one eye a little bigger than the other, but don’t we all, and you only see one at a time anyway). All the threads used are at least 20 years old too.
And here is our cat, oblivious to her potential catch. I’ll bet she has this video and song running in her dreams. [Song itself kicks in about 2 minutes in; it's worth wading through all the preliminary surreality, even if you'll be humming the tune for days. Sorry!]