I love solving mysteries.
Specifically, crafting mysteries.
Each mystery solved adds another super power to my crafting arsenal.
My biggest crafting mystery to date:
How to make professional looking stuffed animals.
My first stuffed animal was a bunny made out of 2 circles of white felt, purple felt ears, an embroidered face and a pom-pom tail. I think I was about 11 years old.
The 2 circles stitched together for the bunny’s body made a flat, disc-like shape.
It was nothing like the commercially manufactured toys that could stand on their own and had 3 dimensional bodies and heads.
How did they do it?
It was a mystery that I needed to solve.
Since then, I’ve spent years experimenting, sewing, researching patterns, and looking at commercially manufactured toys in an attempt to decode the secret of stuffed animal making.
My education was a disjointed struggle of trial and error.
Why wasn’t there one place with all the information I needed to make my own stuffed animals?
Then a few months ago I heard that toy maker, pattern designer, and teacher, Abby Glassenberg (of While She Naps fame), wrote a book about everything you need to know to design and construct your own stuffed animals.
The book I wish I had when I started my toy making quest was here.
I am so happy to share Abby's book with you today and the cute project I made from it.
The book is:
Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction
by Abby Glassenberg.
Stuffed Animals is not just a book with some projects to sew.
Stuffed Animals is a complete education in toy making.
It contains 16 projects and 52 lessons.
By following the lessons in Stuffed Animals, you won’t have to go through the years of struggle that I did.
You’re so lucky!
Part 1: Getting Started shares the tools and materials of the trade, as well as the process of designing and making stuffed animals.
Even though I’ve made a lot of stuffed animals before, I still had an “Ah Hah” moment in almost every paragraph.
The real heart of Stuffed Animals, however, is in the lessons which are in Part 2: Projects.
There are 52 lessons that cover everything from making basic shapes, through advanced construction with specialty materials.
You get a chance to practice the lessons as you make the 16 adorable projects included in Stuffed Animals.
I decided to make the the Ram because it tackled one of the biggest mysteries I had when I was learning to make stuffed animals before this book.
The head gusset.
A head gusset is what gives the head of a toy its fullness and shape.
The Ram is project 3 in Stuffed Animals and contains
Lesson 12: Head Gussets (Abby clearly explains the “what, why, and how” of making head gussets),
Lesson 13: Safety Eyes,
Lesson 14: Increasing Your Success with Long, Narrow Parts,
and Lesson 15: Embroidering a Nose and Mouth with Long Straight Stitches.
It also answers the question: How much stuffing is enough?
Since I wanted to focus on the head gusset, I decided to skip making the Ram’s body all together and instead make my Ram into a faux taxidermy (which Abby actually shares how to do later in the book).
I traced the pattern for the Ram and extended the neck a little bit (as suggested).
I used fuzzy fleece for the Ram’s neck and back of the ears, and felted woven wool for its face. Both fabrics I already had in my studio. I didn’t have any white wool for the face, so I used a light grey herringbone instead.
I also already had safety eyes. Stuffed Animals has a resource list on where to purchase safety eyes and other toy making materials and tools.
The sewing instructions for the Ram were easy to follow and included helpful step-by-step photos.
Below is an image of the two sides of my Ram’s head and the head gusset so you can see what the head gusset looks like before it’s sewn.
If you were to just sew the two sides of the head together without the head gusset, you’d get a very flat head (like the bunny I made when I was 11).
By adding a head gusset, you’re widening the space between the two sides of the head, giving the head a 3 dimensional shape.
The below image shows the two sides of my Ram’s head and the head gusset all sewn, turned right side out, and stuffed.
Stuffed Animals has instructions to make the horns for the Ram extra cute by adding a machine stitched, striped surface texture. I decided to skip adding the extra surface texture and used fabric that had big stripes already on it.
Instead of mounting my Ram faux taxidermy onto a wooden plaque (which I didn’t already have in my studio), I mounted it in an embroidery hoop (which I have tons of).
I stitched the Ram to a piece of dark fabric, then placed the fabric into the embroidery hoop.
With a couple of stitches, I attached a circular piece of cardboard to the back of the fabric in the embroidery hoop to help counter-balance the weight of the Ram.
Below is a pic of my finished Ram.
I can’t begin to tell you how much I love it!
I named it “Ally” because I watched a season of Ally McBeal while making it.
Also, I figured the Ram could be “Ally from the Alps.”
I stitched her name onto a little golden plaque made out of felt, then glued it to the fabric in the embroidery hoop.
It’s cold up there in the Alps so I knit Ally a scarf and hat.
What do you think of Ally?
I’m over-the-moon happy with her.
There were several techniques used in the making of Ally that improved on my current knowledge, and even looking at the pattern for the Ram was informative.
I can’t wait to try another project and learn more.
Here are a few other lessons from Stuffed Animals that I wish I knew a long time ago:
Lesson 4: Sewing a Sphere
Lesson 11: Eyelids
Lesson 19: Dressing and Accessorizing Your Softie
Lesson 31: How to Design a Jointed Animal
I can tell that Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction is going to be one of the most used resource books on my craft shelf.
Click here to order and take a peek inside Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction.
Also be sure to check out Abby’s wonderful blog, While She Naps, where Abby talks toys, sewing and business. Listen to her podcast and sign up for her newsletter (you’ll love it).
Click here to check out Abby’s blog, While She Naps, and pattern shop, Abby Glassenberg Design.
Have you already made a project from Abby’s book, Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction?
Have you had any struggles or “Ah hah” moments in your own toy making quest?
I’d love to hear about it.
Leave a comment below to share.
And good luck solving your next crafting mystery.
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