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Evolution of a Mouse – a Peek at the Design Process

I designed a cute little mouse pattern, and I thought I’d share a bit of the design process with you.

The Head

I knew that I wanted to have his head be part of the body structure, just folded over. The original inspiration was this owl.

Orville the Owl softie pattern from Shiny Happy World

I designed it especially for quick and easy sewing (I need to make them with twenty kids at a Harry Potter Camp I was teaching – you can see all the details here).

When I was playing with that design I noticed that sometimes the bit folded over for the top of his head looked kind of mouse-like. If I stuffed it before folding it over it just might work – and I filed that thought away for later.

Well – now was later!

The Bottom

I also knew I wanted his body to be fat – so that his feet would disappear when he sat up on his back legs. (He actually has no feet – but the shape of his body makes them look like they’re just hidden.)

Usually if I want a fat bottom I design a flat pattern piece for the base and set it in, but that can be fussy sewing on a softie this small – and I avoid fussy sewing whenever possible. 🙂

I decided to use a technique that I use on all my tote bags. You’ll see it too in pillow corners – to give the pillow more fatness. It’s a way of boxing in the corners to add depth. I’ve used it before on these monsters and it was really easy to sew, so I decided to try it here. The final result looks like this.

Mischief of Mice - softie sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World

He’s not dead – he’s just lying on his back so we can see his bottom. 🙂

See how the “corners” of the body are boxed in? This is very easy to sew.

The Ugly Part of the Design Process

So – that was two design decisions made. Time to start some prototypes.

I sew these out of a yucky white sheet with whatever thread I happen to have in my sewing machine. They’re not pretty, but they let me work out the details of the pattern pieces.

Three Mice - prototypes of the Mischief of Mice softie pattern by Shiny Happy World

Sometimes the very first prototype is just right, but usually I have to try at least a few variations before things get good. I lost track of the number of prototypes I tried for this “simple” mouse – but these were the three still sitting on my table when I was done. Sometimes I take out the stuffing and resew a couple of seams – like to take in the sides a bit – instead of starting a whole new prototype.

The proportions on the first one were pretty good. I would have done a second round to make his body a little wider – but overall he was just too big.

The second one was better size-wise. But when I stuffed him properly he was just too tall, and when I took out some of the stuffing to make him shorter, he just looked hunchbacked.

The third one was just about right.

Time to add some details – ears, paws and a tail. I usually leave them off in the first round so I can just focus on the basic body shape.

The Details

When I start to add all the other bits and pieces, I usually cut them out of paper first and pin them to the softie. That’s a quick and easy way to check proportion and placement. Then I use those as pattern pieces and make up another prototype all from fabric.

It usually takes a bit of tweaking to get things just right – the size of the ears, the length of the paws, the thickness of the tail. In this case my original tail was too skinny to turn right side out. I had to redesign it so my favorite turning tubes would fit inside. 🙂

Mouse prototype - one step in the design process at Shiny Happy WorldI’m picky about eyes – I’ve written about my obsession with eye placement here and here. The main thing to remember is that the shape of the face can change a lot after stuffing – so I always just draw the eyes on a stuffed prototype. Usually I’ll also poke holes and try out a few different eye sizes. I pick the final prototype apart and trace that eye placement onto the final pattern pieces.


The final step, of course, is to make him out of cute fabric. 🙂

I knew that I wanted him to be made of quilting cotton, because I wanted to use colorful, patterned fabric.

I couldn’t choose a color, and I couldn’t stop at one. I made a whole mischief of mice in a rainbow of colors – and I love them!

Mischief of Mice - an easy sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World


So now you’ve seen the ugliness behind the scenes in the design process. 🙂

You can get the finished pattern here.

Happy sewing!


  1. Amy Samin SAYS...

    Loved seeing your behind-the-scenes process! You are not only so talented design-wise and sewing-wise, but your tutorials, explanations and videos are the most clear and helpful I’ve ever seen. Thanks for all you do!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! 🙂