Tortoise Tree Decoration

So it's starting to get a little cold and frosty out there, the lights and songs are creeping into the shops so perhaps it's not THAT early to make a few tree decorations?!

I am tortoise obcessed therefore tortoise tree decorations it is - it also happens that Swell Reptiles are having a blogging campaign for reptile lovers - take a look!

Here is a little tutorial to make some very simple tree decorations - I've made tortoises but the same rules apply to any design you choose. I've sewn these by hand however if you favour the sewing machine or are short on time, by all means whizz them up on the machine instead. Hand sewn decorations just feel more 'homely' to me - even if they are a bit shaky and dodgy, that's the point! My hand sewing skills are awful - so if I can do it anyone can.

You will need:
  • Cardboard and pen
  • Felt (1 dark green, 1 light green plus small pieces of white and red for the hat)
  • Green thread
  • 1 x black bead
  • Wadding/Stuffing/Cotton wool etc
  • 10cm ribbon
  • Superglue (optional)
  • Sequins (optional)
Step 1
Draw the shape of your chosen decoration. I free handed this tortoise outline - you could look up a silhouette on the Internet and use that for a template if you aren't too sure. Or copy and paste this image and resize as you wish

Cut out your template. This guy has a green shell detail and a little Santa hat, so cut these pieces out too.

Step 2

Fold your dark green felt in half so that you can do 2 pieces at once. Draw around the tortoise (the cardboard one).

Cut out 1 inner shell piece in light green and 1 of each part of the Santa hat from the red and white felt.

 Step 3 
Once your pieces are cut out, its time for a bit of hand sewing. Put the inner light green shell on top of one of the dark green tortoise pieces and attach with a running stitch (the really basic 'straight stitch'). If you can't be bothered or if you decide its all too much - whack it on there with a bit of glue! (Its OK, noone is looking and I won't tell).

 Step 4
Time to attach the 2 sides together.Put the tortoises next to
each other and then start to stitch them around the edge. Start at the top of the shell, just to the right. You'll need to go all the way around and stop sewing just to the left of top of the shell - leaving a gap to insert the wadding and ribbon. I have used a blanket stitch - you go over the top of the fabric, through both pieces and form a loop with the thread, you then put your needle through that loop and pull. A little demonstration can be found here.

Step 5
Stuff the tortoise with the wadding into the hole you have left at the top of the shell. This gives it a nice squishy 3D effect.
Step 6
Take a length of ribbon, about 10cm and form it into a loop. I used a bit of festive 'Merry Christmas' ribbon I found in my stash of sewing supplies. Trap this ribbon loop between the 2 layers of tortoise (what a weird sentence). Hold it in place with a pin if you feel the need. Then stitch the gap closed, trapping the ribbon in there nice and securely.

Step 7
Create your little Santa hat. Now you can just glue this together then glue it onto the tortoise. I tried this but the glue I used was a bit rubbish and I ended up sewing them all together anyway! Your choice :-)
Step 8  
Give him a little cheeky eye! These black beads are rather nice. Stitch one on (or use a little bit of black felt or draw one on - depends on how fabulously crafty you're feeling).

Step 9
Your tortoise is complete! Now go to town decorating if you wish - I've used green sequins to create a scaly kind of look - a glittery tortoise. All hand stitched on! (Due to having glue related issues - at this point my hands were covered in red fluff and the needle physically stuck to my fingers). 1.5 episodes of 'Fringe' later, here he is!

Here are some I made last year for members of the Norfolk Tortoise Club. Personalise your tortoise (decoration)!

If anyone has a tortoise, is thinking of caring for one - please get in contact with these folks if you haven't already. Not just people in Norfolk, worldwide! They provide a world of information on tortoise husbandry to ensure that people are well educated and informed on how to do this. Its important these little shelled guys and gals are looked after properly. See the Norfolk Tortoise Club Facebook page for more details.

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