Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tutorial: How to Make a Simple Softie or Stuffed Toy - Part Two - Stuffing and Decorating

Welcome to the second part of my tutorial. Part one of the hand stitching tutorial is here .

I should preface this section of the tutorial with a disclaimer: no happy bunnies were harmed in the making of this tutorial. Felt creatures enjoy having faces sewn on, no matter how gruesome the photographs might make it seem.

So, at this point you should have stitched all the way around your softie, leaving a hole that is a couple of inches big for stuffing.
Take a handful of polyfil out of the bag:

Squish it a few times until it gets smaller, like this, and then stuff it into the hole. Stuff the extremities first: legs, ears, tails, that kind of thing. You want to stuff it firmly enough so that it is 3 dimensional, but not so firmly that it looks like it is about to burst.
If you are finding you can not pack the stuffing in as much as you would like with your hand, use the flat end of a pen or the eraser end of a pencil. I did this for the ears:

See, I stuffed the legs and the ears first, since they are almost impossible to get to once you start stuffing the middle. If you find you have a section where you stitched too loosely, so that even a tiny bit of stuffing is pushing the two sides apart, go back and re-stitch it with a new piece of thread.

Once you have done the legs and ears, stuff the arms, and then the middle. You will find that the fabric stretches. This is okay, so long as it doesn't thin out so much that you start to see the stuffing through the fabric. You can see that my bunny is now taller than he was before. When it is nicely full but not overstuffed, stitch up the hole. Start about a cm. away from the beginning of the gap, and stitch 1cm over the other seam on the other side.

You should now have a softie that looks something like this guy below.

 It is now time to embellish!  I will show you how to do basic embroidery (a back stitch), put on buttons, and add contrasting felt decorations. You should know that I have sort of learned all these things on my own, so my techniques are not professional. They do, however, get the job done.

Thread your embroidery needle with your embroidery floss. If you want a thinner piece of thread, you can divide your floss. Cut the length you want, and then pull apart the number of strands you would like to use for the project. Because I am lazy, I usually use all 6. You might have to lick the end of the floss and flatten it with your finger to help manouver it through the needle. You could use a little bit of lip balm on the end if you are averse to giving away a creature that contains your saliva.

 After your needle is threaded, tie one knot of the end.

Decide where you want to place your first button eye.

Poke your needle into and out of the fabric. Hold the button nearby, so you can make sure that your stitch will be hidden under the button.

Pull the thread through. Try to pop the knot to the inside of the fabric by tugging gently. If it doesn't work, clip the thread close to the knot (but don't cut into the knot or it will unravel). Put your needle through the hold in the button, and pull the thread through.
Lie the button flat against your guy's face. Poke the needle through a button hole opposite to the one you just used and into the fabric below it.

Then push the needle kind of flat and poke it back out of the fabric. Make sure all of the stitch will be covered by the button, then pull it tight. Now push the needle through the button hole you started at and pull tight. Repeat two or three times for each set of holes. This takes a bit of needle wrangling, but its the best way I know to secure a button.

Now, poke the needle through any hole. If you want the buttons to be a bit more secured (and your mass of threads to look a bit tidier) wrap the thread around all your previous stitches once or twice. Then tie a knot the same as you did when you were ending a thread while stitching along the sides. Make sure the knot will be covered by the button as well, and clip your thread very short.

Congratulations! You just sewed a button on. If you are not making a cyclops, sew on a second button.

Now for a mouth. The simplest way to do this is by using a basic embroidery stitch called a back stitch.

Figure out where you want your mouth to be. Draw it on with some chalk or a light white crayon line if you want. Tie a knot on a fresh piece of embroidery floss and thread it into your needle. Now insert your needle at the very edge of the line.

Push the needle through about .5 - 1cm, depending on how big you want your final stitches to be.

Pull the thread through. If possible, pop the knot inside the fabric or clip the thread close.

Now, reinsert the needle in the spot where you want the mouth to start (this is why it is called a back stitch). Push the needle back out where you want your second stitch to end.

Gently pull your thread through. Don't tug too tight, or you'll just pucker the felt and you won't be able to see the embroidery stitch. Congratulations. You have achieved a backstitch.

Now back stitch again, putting your needle into the fabric right next to your first stitch, and pushing it out of the fabric where you want your third stitch to be. Repeat until you have a mouth the length you want.

If you don't like the shape of your finished mouth (it takes practice to not make a really evil looking or just really crooked mouth), cut the string off and pull the stitches out. You can do this by sliding your needle under the stitch and using it as a lever to pull the stitch out. If you sew for any length of time, you will become really good at taking stitches out.

Now, for your last stitch, you want to put the needle into the fabric close to your last stitch, like before, but push the needle through a lot of stuffing and out somewhere else on the head. Pull tight and clip the thread close to the fabric. Push the thread around with your fingers until it disappears into the fabric. This should keep the stitching in place. Congratulations, you have just done your first basic embroidery.

You can also use backstitches to add any other details you might like. If you want to make circles, or fill things in, do a vertical backstitch (where the stitches are next to each other instead of end to end).

Now I will show you how to add felt decorations. If you are a pro stitcher, you can use a blanket stitch. If you are not up for learning another new stitch right now, follow my stitching hack below (note that this only works for fabric that will not unravel).

Cut out your felt shape, and decide where you want it to be. Thread your needle with a fresh piece of thread and tie a knot on the end.
Put the needle into the fabric in a spot that will be underneath your felt piece. Push the needle out through the fabric and the felt piece about .5 cm in from the edge.

Pull your thread through. Push the needle into the fabric just behind the felt piece.

Push the needle so that it comes out through the fabric and the felt piece. It should be .5 cm to one side of your original stitch, and .5cm from the edge of the felt piece.
Now, pull it gently, so it is flat but not too tight, and you have your first stitch. Repeat this until you have gone all the way around your shape.

When you are done, make a small loop and tie a knot just underneath the felt. Clip the thread close to the knot.

You are finished! Congratulations on completing your first sewing project!

If you make one of these little guys, please leave me a comment and let me know.

Happy stitching!

1 comment:

  1. I love this! Looks like the bear that my son made! see it here: