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Getting the Eyes Just Right

An easy tip showing my favorite way to transfer those dots on the pattern making the position of the eyes.

Last summer I wrote a post about how I design softie faces.

The face is really important, and I usually spend a lot of time on it, trying a lot of variations until it feels just right.

I always try things out on an already-stuffed softie. That does two things.

  1. I don’t have to visually erase the seam allowance. Even when I draw the sewing line on my pattern pieces, I think it’s hard not to see that extra bit all around the edge and place features accordingly. When the softie is already stuffed, that seam allowance is gone.
  2. I can account for the curve of the finished softie. Let’s say I place the eyes, nose and mouth up high on the softie (that can often make it look extra-plump). That might look super cute on the pattern, but once I stuff it, the face is actually on the curve facing up instead of facing out. That’s no good.

I’ve found I get the best results when I draw my face on the finished prototype, then pick it apart and trace it onto the pattern piece.

So what’s the best way for you to transfer that face to your own softie piece?

It’s all about the eyes.

You can play around a bit with the placement of the nose and the mouth, but I really recommend putting the eyes right where the pattern tells you to.

And the easiest way to do that is by punching holes in your pattern piece. I know this is crazy obvious to many of you – but it took me a long time before the light-bulb went on. 🙂

This is the pattern I made when I taught a recent softie-making class to a bunch of kids. They made Warren the Charity Bear.

Warren the Charity Bear pattern piece

I used a hole punch to punch holes right at the pattern markings for the eyes. That way the kids could just pop in a couple of dots with a marker while they were tracing around the pattern. Easy peasy!

For my own use I don’t bother with cardboard and I don’t trace the pattern pieces – I use pattern weights and just cut around the piece. But I still punch holes where the eyes go so I can mark them very easily and very precisely.

If the eyes are too far from the edge of the pattern piece to reach them with a hole punch, I just punch a messier hole with my awl. You could also cut them with an X-Acto knife. Whatever works best for you – just make a hole in the pattern piece so you can easily mark dots exactly where the eyes go.

This works with any kind of fabric and you’ll always get the eyes just right. 🙂

Happy sewing!

That's me!


  1. Emily SAYS...

    This is a great tip! I had a bad experience with one of the first stuffed animals I ever made – it was perfect except the eyes were way off! I had no idea it made such a big difference. After that I was really timid about inserting the eyes. Eventually it occurred to me to just poke holes in the pattern piece! I usually just poke a pin through the pattern and wiggle it around a bit, and then mark the spot with my pen directly onto the fabric.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I did that EXACT pin trick for years – and it mostly works just fine. But when I started working with kids I realized I needed something a little less fiddly and now I love the ease of punching holes in the pattern for myself. This has been especially helpful with some of the smaller felt toys I’ve made, where shifting the eye placement even 1/8 inch can make a HUGE difference in how the final toy looks.