Using Cuddle Fleece for Dress Up Bunch Dolls

Using Cuddle Fleece for Making Dress Up Bunch Dolls - from Shiny Happy World

I’ve received a couple of emails lately asking if you can use cuddle fleece to make Dress Up Bunch dolls.

Yes you can!

This is actually a really versatile pattern and I’ve used all kinds of different fabrics for it!

Just to test the fleece I made the Beatrice Bunny you see in that top photo. 🙂

I used camel fleece and the resulting bunny is super cuddly and soft. The slight stretch of the fleece makes a bunny that’s exceptionally squishy. 🙂

A couple of things I did different with the fleece. . .

  • Use bigger eyes – the pattern calls for 9 mm safety eyes but I used 12 mm. The slight pile of the fleece tends to enclose the edges of safety eyes making them look smaller – so going up a size is generally a good idea.
  • Use thicker thread to embroider the mouth – the pattern calls for embroidery thread but I used thin cotton yarn. The reason is the same as the bigger eyes – I didn’t want the thinner embroidery thread to get lost in the pile of the fleece.
  • I used an 18 mm pink triangle safety nose. No special reason – I just didn’t even know about the noses when I designed the original doll. I wanted to try it here and I love it!

For those who want to know the other fabrics – that’s pink satin in her ears and fabrics from the Pretty Pinks bundle for her outfit.

What other fabrics have I used?

I’m glad you asked!

Quilting Cotton

I’ve used quilting cotton for most of the samples. It works just fine.

Mollie - a Dress Up Bunch doll  pattern from Shiny Happy World

I’ve even got a bundle of quilting cottons in people colors that are great for making these dolls.

Flannel

I used flannel to make my Pip the Cat and I love how he turned out!

Pip the Cat made with flannel - a Dress Up Bunch pattern from Shiny Happy World

Be sure to use good quality flannel so your doll doesn’t pill after just a few snuggles.

Stretchy Fabric

Yes – you can use stretchy fabric too.

Using Stretchy Knit Fabrics to Make a Rag Doll - Tips from Shiny Happy World

That requires a little special handling – mostly using a stretch needle and being careful not to overstuff your doll so she still fits into her clothes. 🙂 I share all the tips in this post – plus a link to a source for special “doll skin” fabric used for Waldorf dolls.

Faux Fur

Yep – you can use faux fur too!

Rumples - a Dress Up Bunch dog pattern from Shiny Happy World

Here’s Spot the Puppy made in some really spectacular faux fur. I love this guy and named him Rumples.

One caution when using fur – the furrier the fur, the bigger it makes the doll. It might make the regular clothes not fit anymore.

Rumples is stuffed pretty tightly into his Play Clothes.

Rumples - a Dress Up Bunch dog pattern from Shiny Happy World

So there you have it! Lots of great fabric options for making Dress Up Bunch dolls!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

How to Give Your Softie Stand-Up Ears That Are Still Soft

How to Give Your Softe Stand-Up ears That Are Still Soft - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I usually design my softies with floppy ears – often with a satin lining. I’ve known SO MANY kids who use softie ears like a blankie – clutching them or rubbing them as they fall asleep – that making blankie-like ears is kind of my default setting.

Bertie Bunny and Bartholomew Bunny both have floppy ears, and so does Elliott Elephant.

When I designed Benson Bunny (that spring green bunny you see in the top image) I wanted him to have ears that stood up straight.

I realized I had never made stand-up ears and I wasn’t sure how to do it!

Every stabilizer and interfacing I tried was either too floppy – or downright crunchy and hard. In desperation I turned to Betz White – bag-maker extraordinaire – and she suggested a product called Soft & Stable right away. She even sent me a sample to try and it was perfect!

Here’s what I love about it. . .

  • It’s easy to work with. You can sew right through it.
  • It’s stiffer than batting and really maintains its shape – but is still soft and cuddly. You can fold those ears over and they’ll spring right back up.
  • It’s very lightweight.
  • It’s machine washable and dryable.
  • It gives a really professional look to your finished softies.

I started carrying it in the shop (you can get it here) and included instructions for using it in Benson’s pattern. But I realized I never posted general instructions for it here.

The thing is – you can use this with ANY pattern – even one that I designed with floppy ears!

Since we’re right in the thick of bunny-making season, I think it’s the perfect time to show you just how easy it is to use Soft & Stable with any pattern. 🙂

Any pattern will have you cut an ear front and an ear back for each ear. They’ll always be cut from the same pattern piece so they go together. You need to cut an extra layer of Soft & Stable from that same ear pattern piece.

So for each ear you’ll have an ear front (I do love making that piece satin or other contrasting fabric), an ear back (usually out of the main fabric), and a third piece that will be hidden inside the ear cut from the Soft & Stable.

The sometimes mind-bendy part is assembling the layers. You want the front and back sewn together with the foam in between, but how do you stack the layers so when you turn it right side out it works?

Easy.

Stack the front and back ear pieces just like you normally would – right sides together. I like to start with the main fabric piece face up, then the lining fabric piece face down. Now just add the foam piece to the stack.

That’s it!

Sew around the edge of the ear just like the pattern says.

Here’s Benson’s sewn ear from the foam side of the stack.

How to Give Your Softe Stand-Up ears That Are Still Soft - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

And here it is from the main fabric side of the stack.

How to Give Your Softe Stand-Up ears That Are Still Soft - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

See the lining peeking out between the green and the foam?

When you turn it right side out (I love to use these turning tubes) make sure to reach in and turn between the main layer and the lining layer. That way you’ll end up with the foam between the two layers. 🙂

Done!

Now treat it just like an ear that doesn’t have the layer of foam in there.

If the pattern says to fold the sides in – that’s fine!

How to Give Your Softe Stand-Up ears That Are Still Soft - a tutorial from Shiny Happy World

You can fold and sew through the foam just like batting or almost any other stabilizer. It’s beautiful stuff!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

How to Use Safety Eyes

Craft eyes. Plastic eyes. Safety eyes. Animal eyes. They’re called lots of different things!

craft eyes from FreshStitches

I’ve made a video that shows you how to install them and remove them (eep!). I also talk about why I only use eyes with ridges and plastic washers as well as why you shouldn’t use them on toys for children under 3 years old.

Below, I’ve also included a quickie tutorial for those of you who want to get ‘straight to the point’ as well as some other links you might like!

Ready to get some eyes for your creations? Visit my craft eyes (and noses) shop for the best selection of black, clear and colored animal eyes, comic eyes and craft noses. 

Video Tutorial for Craft Eyes

This is a little 5 minute video. Enjoy!

How to install craft eyes

I started selling eyes because I really like ridged eyes and plastic washers… and I was tired of ordering eyes that showed plastic washers in the picture, but getting metal ones. Or getting eyes without the ridges. Geesh. Those things matter! It’s like ordering a long-sleeve shirt but getting one without sleeves. Not the same.

That’s why every pair of eyes I sell has ridges on the post with plastic washers. There are actually a few styles of eye I’ve wanted to carry, but they only came with metal washers. Nope. No deal. I’m pretty passionate about a plastic washer.

Plastic washers don’t bend as you try to put them on, and if they’re good quality, they’re amazingly strong. (That’s why I recommend you buy eyes from someone you trust, and not just the cheapest ones you can find from China.) And do you see those little points?

plastic washer on a safety eye

Those little ‘barbs’ dig into the fabric and keep the eye from rotating. Which isn’t a big deal if you’re just using a black craft eye, but is crucial if you’re using a comic eye. You don’t want them twisting and giving you googly eyes!

The ridges on the posts of craft eyes help the washer click on (and stay on!) securely. I love hearing the ‘click’ as I press the washer on! The ridges also help to make sure the washer doesn’t back off AND makes sure the washer presses on evenly.

how to attach a craft eye 2

So, let me show you how to install a craft eye with a plastic washer.

First, insert the post of the craft eye between the stitches on your piece where you want it to go. I recommend that you place the eyes first, before pressing on the washers, just to see if you like the look.

monkey with heart eyes

Once your eyes are positioned how you’d like, press the flat side of the washer (that’s the one with the tiny barbs!) onto the post.

Here’s a photo of how it will look (but without the fabric getting in the way… obviously, your piece doesn’t really look like this!):

how to attach a safety eye 3

I don’t want you to stress too much about this, because if you try to put the washer on backwards, it just won’t go.

Now, push! You’ll hear that click, and it’s on!

A note about 6 mm and 4.5 mm craft eyes

The 6 mm  and 4.5 mm craft eyes, because they are SO tiny, have smaller plastic washers without the ‘barbs’. But don’t worry, the same rule applies: flat side towards the fabric.

6mm safety eyes

Other links you’ll enjoy

Here are some other craft-eye-related links you’ll like!

Have fun!

Best,
Stacey

New! Skin Tone Fabric Bundles

People Colors - a bundle of five beautiful skin tone fabrics

Choosing people colors is hard.

Really hard.

Too light and your dolls look ghostly. Too pink and they look feverish or sunburned. Too yellow and they look ill.

It’s the number one color-choosing question people ask me about.

Now I’m making things easy for you with this bundle of pretty skin tones. These are the shades you see me use over and over again – in the Paper Dolls quilt pattern and in all of my Dress Up Bunch dolls.

These are not fat quarters – they’re half-yard cuts.

You need a half yard to make any of the Dress Up Bunch dolls – so this bundle will allow you to make five. One bundle is also enough for all the dolls in a crib size or nap size Paper Dolls quilt. If you’re making a twin size you’ll need two bundles.

Get your bundles here!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi

Two New Rainbows in the Shop!

Solid Rainbow Fabric Bundle - nine vibrant solid fabrics in one easy-to-use bundle perfect for Shiny Happy World quilts

There are two new rainbow bundles in the shop today.

One is the Solid Rainbow Fabric Bundle you see in the photo above. These are the bright, vibrant solids I use in a lot of my quilts – like Cats and Playful Puppies.

But wait – there’s more! I also created a thread bundle that matches this fabric bundle. When I run out of thread I have to drive over an hour to get to the nearest store that sells it. 🙂 I’d love to order it online, but it’s almost impossible to match thread colors on a monitor. So I did it for you!

Solid Rainbow Thread Bundle - nine spools of thread that perfectly match the vibrant fabrics in the Solid Rainbow Fabric Bundle

Update: Sorry – the thread bundles have been discontinued. But you can still get the fabric bundle! It’s one of the most popular things in my shop. 🙂

Happy quilting!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

I’m Giving Away Some Fabric!

Inchworm fabric bundle giveaway

Sometimes I see a fabric and I know immediately exactly what I want to make with it.

That’s what happened when I spotted this adorable inchworm fabric from Timeless Treasures.

inchworms square

I immediately fell in love with those striped worms with their big, happy smiles. And the little hearts! And then I found two polkadot prints that coordinate perfectly (citron and melon) – and a garden outfit was born. 🙂

Make an easy dress, a simple apron (with pockets!) and a garden hat for your rag dolls! Pattern from Shiny Happy World

I know a lot of you swoon over the same fabrics I swoon over – so I’m sharing! Sharing is good. 🙂

Enter the giveaway here to win enough fabric to make your own Dress Up Bunch garden dress. (It’s actually enough fabric to make any Dress Up Bunch dress pattern.)

Update – Sorry. The giveaway is closed now. But you can still make that sweet dress, apron and hat. 🙂

Inchworm fabric givaway from Shiny Happy World

The winner will get 1/2 yard of the inchworm fabric, and 1/4 yard of each of the polkadot prints. It’s even already been washed. 🙂

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World

New in the Shop! Klip It Sewing Clips

Klip It sewing clips - so much better than pins!

Ever since I discovered sewing clips, I rarely use pins anymore.

(I wrote a review about my discovery of Wonder Clips here.)

Don’t like the way pins distort thick fabrics like fleece and felt?

Use clips instead!

Sewing laminated fabrics and don’t want to leave holes?

Use clips instead!

Sewing on a quilt binding and having a hard time with pins?

Use clips instead!

Tired of pins sticking you while sewing or appliqueing by hand?

Use clips instead!

Sewing with kids and they have a hard time managing pins?

Use clips instead!

I love sewing clips and use them all the time!

This pack holds 25 large clips. They’re bigger than basic Wonder Clips – 1 3/8″ long and 1/2″ wide. Here’s a photo of one side by side with a standard Wonder Clip for comparison.

Klip It sewing clips - so much better than pins! Here's one next to a standard Wonder Clip for size comparison.

I have yet to find anything they can’t handle, and 25 is just the right number for most people.

Give them a try – you’ll never turn back. 🙂

You can get them here – choose your favorite pretty color!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

To Prewash or Not to Prewash

Do You Need to Prewash Your Fabric?This is a weirdly divisive question in the quilt world.

It’s also one of the most common questions I get. Do you prewash your fabric?

Yes.

Mostly.

How’s that for a definitive answer?

Let me clarify. . .

I prewash all quilting cottons. Always. They go straight into the laundry hamper when I buy them and they’re not allowed into my sewing room until I wash them.

Why?

I have had bad experiences with the fusible adhesive not sticking to fabric because of the sizing in it.

I have had dark colors bleed onto light colors in a finished quilt, washed for the first time. (Absolutely heartbreaking!)

I have had shrink issues with doll clothes where the fabric puckers badly along the seams because it had not been prewashed.

Sure – most fabrics won’t cause these problems if they haven’t been prewashed. But some do! And you never know which will be the problems until after the heartbreak.

Prewash!

I prewash all knits and flannels.

They have more of a tendency to shrink than wovens and I want to get that shrink out of the way. I’m getting ready to start handsewing some clothes for myself (using this fabulous book my husband got me) and I definitely don’t want those to shrink after the fact.

I don’t prewash faux fur, satin, polar fleece or cuddle fleece.

They don’t have shrink issues. I’ve never had any of them bleed. The ones I buy never seem to be coated with excessive sizing so they don’t feel icky. There’s no real reason to prewash them.

I don’t really use any other fabrics – so I have no advice to give about rayons, voiles, challis, etc.

One more note. . .

A lot of people say they don’t prewash quilting cottons because they like the crinkle effect they get after washing. I’ve found that I get plenty of crinkle – even with prewashed fabric – by using cotton batting. I use Warm & Natural brand 100% cotton batting and I do NOT prewash it.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Using Stretchy Knit Fabric for a Rag Doll

Using Stretchy Knit Fabrics to Make a Rag Doll - Tips from Shiny Happy World

As soon as I wrote this post about sewing softies with stretchy knits, I started getting questions about using knits to make Dress Up Bunch rag dolls. I decided to give it a try and the answer is YES!

With a couple of caveats. 🙂

Everything in the post about stuffed animals applies to rag dolls.

  • Test your fabric with a universal needle and prepare to switch to a stretch or ballpoint needle if needed.
  • Do not overstuff.

The Do Not Overstuff rule is especially important for rag dolls. If you stuff them too fat, they won’t be able to fit into the regular Dress Up Bunch clothing patterns!

Using Stretchy Knit Fabrics to Make a Rag Doll - Tips from Shiny Happy World

The knit fabric will change the proportions of your doll a bit – she’ll be a little wider. You can see the difference here between the knit Poppy (purple hair) and the woven Poppy (copper hair).

Using Stretchy Knit Fabrics to Make a Rag Doll - Tips from Shiny Happy World

I was super careful not to overstuff, but you can see that the knit Poppy still has a slightly wider head.

The other thing to keep in mind is that you’ll also want to use a knit fabric for the hair. If you use felt hair with the knit skin, the hair will not stretch but the face will and it will look like her face is bulging out from under her hair. Not cute. 🙁

I used this peat solid from Cloud9 Fabrics for the hair, and a very high quality Waldorf doll skin fabric in tan (from Weir Crafts) for the body.

So you need to be extra careful with the stuffing, but the finished doll is incredibly soft and cuddly in a way that you can only achieve with knit fabric. Give it a try!

Update – I added a new post here showing a Dress Up Bunch doll made with Cuddle Fleece – and it has an overview of all the specialty fabrics I’ve used for these dolls over the years. Go take a look!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Are buttons a baby-safe substitute for craft eyes?

You’ve probably read the disclaimer: craft eyes are not recommended for use in toys for children under the age of three.

plastic animal craft eyes from FreshStitches

I’m often asked, “can I use buttons instead”?

In short, the answer is no.

To explain why, let’s talk about why craft eyes aren’t baby safe. It’s incredibly unlikely that the washer will accidentally come off of the back of the eye. (in fact, it’s pretty difficult to remove the washer from an eye with plastic ridges, as I showed in this blog post on how to remove craft eyes.)

The danger with craft eyes is that a baby (or dog) could chew through the fabric that the eye is attached to, dislodging the eye.

Now what about buttons? Many people assume that since they’re sewn on, they’re more secure. But it’s not true. A baby can use their set of chompers to chew through the thread attaching it to the piece.

Baby-safe eyes

For a completely baby-safe eye, you’ll want to crochet the eye (follow these directions for a crocheted eye) or sew on a felt eye.

amigurumi crochet owl kit by FreshStitches

Crocheted eyes look fabulous!

(Get that owl pattern here.)

To be on the safe side, you’ll want to watch your little one whenever they’re with buttons. Just the other day, I saw Maddie chewing on the button on her sweater. Oops. Not safe!