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Friday, March 13, 2009

The Rouse Mouse

With my youngest of an age where I can now begin to take more time for myself, I decided to return to quilting. In the twenty years I had put my sewing aside in favour of small people, who are not compatible with projects requiring either pins or concentration, quilting has utterly changed. Cardboard templates and scissors, and the debate over whether it is really quilting if you use a sewing machine, are long gone. Facing rotary cutters, strip piecing, Roxanne's glue and specialty rulers, I decided it would be best to start at the beginning again. I enrolled in a Quilting 101 class, this one by Brenda Brayfield of "Log Cabins Rediscovered by Machine" fame, followed it up with her Quilting 201 class...ok, that was humbling...and have become absorbed by my new, or at least rediscovered, passion.

I have quickly discovered that while I love working with colour, I am very bad at thinking up colour schemes in my head. So one day, whilst trolling through the internet researching 5.5 mm feed dog Bernina sewing machines (which are fab for piecing), I came across the delightful website Here, Shirley posts her daily work in sketches and watercolours, and instantly I could see that her explorations of colour could help me refine my quilter's eye. Shirley also quilts, by the way!

But as I scanned her diary of sketches, I was riveted by her photos of small toys she had made for her grandchildren. Rice mice, she called them, and documented the very touching story of their appearance in her life. Years ago, one of her professors learned that his young wife was suffering from a terminal disease. Her name was Gunvor, and she was determined to leave behind mementos of her life, so that her young children would remain connected to both Gunvor and her heritage. To that end, she wrote Rice Mice are Nice and How to Make One. Long out of print (a reprint is currently being considered), Shirley still distributes the pattern to interested parties on the condition a photo of the finished Rouse Mouse is sent back to her and on to Gunvor's husband Sam. I agreed to that condition, and produced this little fellow for my little cousin Amber. I went on to make one for niece Madeleine, and more for myself. I like to tuck them into the gifts I send new babies; they are perfect for the new older sibling. And they are cheery, perched on my worktable.

Fabric used was Timeless Treasures Cuddle Flannel Swirls; eyes are bulk purchased from a bowling collection, and the whiskers can be crochet cotton, tatting yard, waxed thread, whatever you prefer. A piece of narrow leather lacing works well for the tail...I used chenille wool but it is not durable. Shirley stuffs her rice mice with the traditional 6-8 oz. of rice. If you stuff yours with poly as I have (for the cuddle factor), consider using a small round disc stuffed with rice in the bottom of the mouse to weight it slightly.

Update 19 October 2010
The book from which this little mouse is made is back in print!
Rice Mice are Nice and How to Make One
is available from
Publish Post


Vivian said...

Hi Janet:
email me at

about the Innova.

robin said...

Hello, I just love visiting your blog. I esp like the rouse mouse. He looks so sophisticated sitting there next to the window. I visited the paperandthreads site and replied to get the pattern, but haven't gotten any reply. Ihave looked for her book but have reached a dead end. Would you be willing to share the rouse mouse pattern? I really would appreciate it. Thank you Robin Corvin Oklahoma

robin said...

Hi Janet! Please email me at Thanks .it's about your rouse mouse.

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