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How I Design Softie Faces

How I Design Softie Faces

Time for a process post – showing a bit behind the scenes of how I do some of my design work.

Today we’re talking faces.

I think the face is one of the most important parts of any softie. It’s where the personality really shines through!

I want to make it easy for you to get the face just right in any pattern you’re making. But sometimes just right isn’t clear until after the softie has been stuffed.

Stuffing changes the curve of the surface, so eyes that looked great when it was flat might now look too far apart. Or a smile that was clearly visible is now kind of hidden under the curve of the chin.

What to do?

Well – I usually work through several prototypes of each softie – getting the shape of the body right – before I even start on the face.

Then I draw the face on the already stuffed prototype.

Caterpillar Phil face in progressI usually sew my prototypes from plain white cotton. It’s easy to draw on that with a soft pencil. I can even erase and redraw it several times until I like what I see – though the surface gets a bit grubby after a few erasings. For Caterpillar Phil I tried features positioned very high on the face (to make him look chubby), very low (to make him look younger), and centered (even though I almost never like plain centered). I finally settled on something just a bit below the center line. (If you want to learn how to draw faces read Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces. It’s awesome.)

Caterpillar Phil face in progressAfter I’m happy with the face I go over it with a black marker, Then I unpick all my stitches to remove the face piece(s) from the prototype. I iron it flat again and trace the face onto my final pattern piece. That way you’re getting the pattern and the placement exactly like what I worked up in my sample.

Update – I wrote a post here showing my favorite way to transfer those pattern markings to your fabric.

Caterpillar softie pattern

That’s how I do all my faces – even if it’s just placing a couple of safety eyes.

Are you curious about any other part of my design process? Leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list for a future post.

Happy sewing!




  1. Shawn SAYS...

    Thanks Wendi for sharing all your ideas I love it, keep up the good work!! Thank you

    (smjohns63 at yahoo dot com)

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! 🙂

  2. Nancy SAYS...

    Thanks for the great tips on face design. It almost always pays to hear what a pro has to tell us.
    Faces are so hard!!!
    I love your designs…they make me smile.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! 🙂

  3. Jennie SAYS...

    I love the Embry books, they really make whimsy easy. It so fun to know how your pattern process happens. Do you sketch your projects before making them?