Christmas Sewing – Samsara Birdie

It rained all day yesterday so got on with a bit of sewing for Christmas. You probably know that I have a real passion for making little Samsara birds. A circle of fabric folded in half! Tuck in a triangle for a beak and stitch looped ribbons at the other end for a tail. Lots of stitching with different coloured glittery threads topped with hand-stitched bugle and pearls beads. Loved every second of it. And scented with cinnamon. All good! The photo just doesn’t pick up the glints and glitter very well but IRL if looks lovely. I’m not one for brights, as such, and like things a little ‘rustic’ and prefer a subtle bling – that an oxymoron?


Salt Dough

I also made a tray of salt dough hearts last week and got them painted and finally varnished at the weekend. I have an old wooden cutlery drainer from Ikea that works perfectly as a drip stand for when I brush them with varnish. I could buy a spray can of varnish, I suppose, but my tin of yacht-varnish has lasted me a few years and there’s still plenty left. Guess not actually having a yacht to varnish has helped me a bit there.

My drying rack is like the one below but is wooden (and a bit ramshackle now). It works perfectly to paint and varnish the dough shapes. Just open out some paper clips and hook them along.


Want to make some? Here’s How.

Salt Dough Recipe – Microwave Method

Salt dough is simple, cheap and fun to play with – for you and the kids.

You need

  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 cups of plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 cup of water

Mix and knead all the ingredients together till it’s a tacky but pliable lump – like bread dough. If it’s too dry, add a squinch of water; too wet, add more flour.

You can add food colouring if you want to jazz things up or leave them natural and paint them afterwards.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and roll out till it’s the thickness you want – not too thin and not too fat… too thin and it will become brittle and snap easily. Too fat and it might not dry out and end up crumbling.

Get a selection of cutters to make shapes from, eg,  biscuit cutters (cookie cutters).  A garlic press is great for making doughy worms; they are super  for making wooly beards, hair and and moustaches –  or lambs for nativity scenes. Just glue on with a thick flour and water paste.

If you want to make hanging decorations, poke a hole though with a knitting needle or skewer so you can thread through some twine or string later.

Cover a flat dish with parchment or greaseproof paper and place the dough shapes in the microwave. My oven is a 650W so I cook on full power for roughly 2 minutes. You’ll have to experiment a little with your oven if it’s a different rating. Just remember to stop and check every 30s or so.

They’re done when they feel pretty firm. You might find a little yield in them but that will go as they cool. If it doesn’t, you can always pop them back in the microwave. Feel them to see if they’re still squashy – if so, put them back for another 30s – 1 min but check them regularly during this extra time as they can burn. Take heed!

Take them out and leave them to cool, then paint them with acrylic, poster or other paint. Add some glitter if you like. When the paint is dry, spray with a coat of varnish or brush on a coat of varnish to seal and make them water / damp proof.


Looking nice on the bedside cabinet that got a terrific makeover recently.

Bye all – speak laters!

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  • beth foster
    February 20, 2016 3:48 pm

    Hi Ellie

    Sorry, but I just wanted to point out that your Samsara birds are EXACTLY like my lavender and little birds, that I have been designing, making, selling and blogging since 2009. I know mine have featured in quite a few magazines over the years and are pinned like crazy, so do appear all over the internet but I work really hard to make a living from my sewing work and yours are just too similar for me to not at least point that out.

    Beth, The Linen Cat

    • webmaster
      February 20, 2016 9:05 pm

      Hi Beth,

      Having been to your blog to see, I agree they are similar – in that they are made from a circles of fabric folded in half with ribbon tails. Mine also have rows and rows of concentric embroidery stitches with sequins and tiny bead eyes.

      Mine are not themed by colour as yours are. I don’t sell the finished Samsaras on-line or the ‘templates’ and do not give them away as freebies so am not competing with your business. As far as I can see, you are the only person selling this type of bird.

      I buy dried lavender in packs of two half-kilo bags and fill all the stuffies I make with lavender, birds, foxes, owls, mice…so another similarity…

      I notice that my ribbon hanger is also inserted from within the body and not stitched to the top of the bird, like yours. I also use a long, flat bead to feed the hanging ribbon through inside the bird and the bead on the top is both functional, in that it ‘closes’ the aperture and is also decorative.

      Mine are made from a wool fabric, not felt, and all made right way out. After stitching the fold down, I edge them with pinking shears. No fraying with the fabric I use. I see yours are made inside out then turned the right way out after sewing them together. So, obviously, there are differences.

      For what it’s worth, mine came about as the result of buying a Janome Circular Foot attachment and being able to sew perfect circles of embroidery stitches and that I could also use with a Cording foot to stitch down lengths of decorative cord.

      The leap from making a circle of decorative fabric to folding in half to make a bird shape was almost self-suggestive – having made birds this way from when I was in junior school from paper! The tails were made from strips of paper that we curled with scissors.

      I have added links below to show similar ideas.

      I will add that my blog is not the only one that has such bird shaped stuffies. Maybe I saw yours and they were the ones that inspired the ribbon tails; I cannot say. Ribbon tails are not unique.

      The design concept behind my birds comes from the Sanscrit word ‘Samsara’ and defined below:

      This uninterrupted cycle of death and rebirth without choice is called ‘cyclic existence’, or ‘samsara’ in Sanskrit. Samsara is like a Ferris wheel, sometimes taking us up into the three fortunate realms, sometimes down into the three lower realms. The driving force of the wheel of samsara is our contaminated actions motivated by delusions, and the hub of the wheel is self-grasping ignorance.

      Hence the concentric circles of decorative stitches to depict cycles of existence.

      The basic design itself is a simple one and can be found here:
      Golden time sewing with Mrs Clark, Mrs Binns and Mrs Card The

      And if you wanted a paper template:
      Or a pattern and tutorial but with feathers for tails:

      Again, for what it’s worth, I have no intention of selling them online or the template not that there is any need as the template is already ‘out there’.

      All the best with your business.

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