Cuddle Fleece Is Discontinued

I have sad news today. I can’t reorder cuddle fleece any more, so it’ll be going away from the shop.

The company has been discontinuing colors over the last few years, and they are finally down to so few colors that I can’t meet their (extremely large) minimum order.

I love this stuff! I use it for softies and all my quilt backs. It’s not hard to sew with, and it wears beautifully. But I just can’t get it anymore. 😢

The good news is – I’ve found a good replacement. I can’t sell it in my shop – it appears to be exclusive to Joann’s. But I can point you to it and let you know that it appears to be the same as my beloved Cuddle Fleece. It’s called Sew Lush and it comes in some really terrific colors. Here’s what the bolt end looks like.

At $14.99 per yard it’s a dollar cheaper than what I carried – and Joann’s always has good coupons. You’ll find it near all the polar fleece. In my local store there’s a short case near the aisle that has their “specialty” fleeces – the ones that are really nice quality.

For most of my softies, you need just 1/2 yard.

For bear and bunny lovies you need a full yard.

For most of my quilt patterns you need 1 1/2 yards to back a crib quilt, 2 yards to back a napping size, and 4 yards to back a twin size.

I hope Joann’s continues to carry/manufacture the Sew Lush fleece. It really does come in some lovely colors!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Try my bestselling softie pattern – an easy monster with a fun pocket mouth.

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

The Dress Up Bunch is a collection of adorable rag dolls with a wardrobe better than mine! All the dolls can wear all the outfits for terrific play value! Shop the pattern collection here.

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!

You can use the same method to add 3D parts to quilt blocks! See that tutorial here.

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Try my bestselling softie pattern – an easy monster with a fun pocket mouth.

My Sewing Machine and Why I Love It

My Sewing Machine - a Bernina 710 - Shiny Happy World

I get a LOT of people asking me to recommend a sewing machine and I never really feel like I can answer that.

Before I recommended a fusible adhesive – I tested a bunch of different brands.

Before I recommended fabric paints or markers for eyes, I tested a bunch of different brands.

I just haven’t sewn on enough different sewing machines to recommend one. Plus – a machine that’s perfect for me might not be perfect for you. It all depends on what you like to sew!

What I CAN do is tell you what I sew on and why it’s perfect for me. 🙂

My current machine is a Bernina 710.

Before that I had a Pfaff Lifestyle (no longer made) that I really liked, but I went shopping for a new brand when we moved to the mountains and I was suddenly 3 hours from the nearest place that would service Pfaffs. So – number one – make sure whatever brand you buy is one you can easily get serviced. You should take your machine in once a year for a deep clean and you don’t want to have to drive for hours. 🙂

So – back to my Bernina.

I LOVE HER!

Here’s why. . .

I mostly sew quilts – and mostly applique – so these features knock my socks off:

  • I can set my machine to stop with the needle down and it automatically raises the presser foot halfway so I can pivot my work. This is my favorite feature!
  • My machine ties knots for me at the beginning and end of my stitching. And at the end of my stitching it also pulls the threads to the back and clips them. Magic!
  • I can adjust the amount of pressure on my presser foot – which is handy when I’m quilting really wavy lines without basting the layers first. This is also nice when I’m sewing softies and sometimes need to sew through 6 layers of cuddle fleece. 🙂
  • I love the built-in walking foot. I basically keep it engaged all the time.
  • It has a supersized bobbin which is great for quilting. Not as much running out of bobbin thread in the middle of a long line of stitching! (The next level up has an alarm that lets you know when you’re about to run out of thread – but I wasn’t willing to pay extra for that.)

It’s got a lot of general features that I really love too – not specific to quilting:

  • It’s quiet (for a sewing machine) and doesn’t shake the table too much.
  • It’s easy to change the needle and the feet.
  • It has a nice big slide-on table (not shown in the photo).
  • I don’t sew much clothing, but the free arm is great for sewing softie heads. (Most people use it for hemming pants and sleeves.)
  • It’s got a good strong light.
  • The controls are easy to use. (Though – honestly – it has a LOT of features that I never use.)
  • It handles any fabric I throw at it with no problems.

It does NOT have the built-in Bernina Stitch Regulator. I’ve tried it and think it’s pretty awesome, but I don’t do free motion quilting so I didn’t want to spring for that expense. I might try free motion in the future, though, so I made sure to get a model I could add that to at a later date.

My advice if you’re shopping for a machine is to test sew – al LOT. Do not be afraid to take up the people’s time at the sewing machine store! It’s a big investment and you should make sure you’re getting something that will work for you.

Bring in swatches of any specialty fabrics you like to sew with and make sure the machine you’re considering can handle them. I’ve heard several reports of Brother machines simply not feeding cuddle fleece through. We think maybe their feed dogs are less grippy than other brands? I LOVE using cuddle fleece for quilt backs so that would be a deal breaker for me – but it might not matter at all to you.

My last bit of advice is to ask other sewists. Nobody can recommend one machine above all others, but we can all tell you what we like and don’t like about what we use. The Shiny Happy People group is a great resource and I’ve seen many helpful discussions of different machines there. Hop in and ask about a machine you’re considering!

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

How to Use Safety Eyes

Craft eyes. Plastic eyes. Safety eyes. Animal eyes. They’re called lots of different things! And you can use them for sewn or crocheted softies. I’ve even used them in applique wall hangings!

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!

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!