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 finally discontinued the line completely. 😢
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.
I’ve received a couple of emails lately asking if you can use cuddle fleece to make Dress Up Bunch dolls.
Yes you can!
Update – the cuddle fleece I used to carry has been continued. You can find more info here (including a link to a good substitute). You can also use polar fleece. If you go with polar fleece, I STRONGLY recommend getting the no-pill kind.
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 cuddle 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 cuddle 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!
Be careful not to overstuff your softie! The slight stretch of the cuddle fleece allows you to pack in more stuffing – enough that the clothes will be too tight.
What other fabrics have I used?
I’m glad you asked!
I’ve used quilting cotton for most of the samples. It works just fine.
I used flannel to make my Pip the Cat and I love how he turned out!
Be sure to use good quality flannel so your doll doesn’t pill after just a few snuggles.
Stretchy Knit Fabric
Yes – you can use stretchy knits too.
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.
Yep – you can use faux fur too!
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.
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.
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 a stuffed animal with ears that stand up 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!
So – here’s how to give any stuffed animal ears that stand up – but are still soft and cuddly.
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?
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.
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.
And here it is from the main fabric side of the stack.
See the pink lining fabric 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. 🙂
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!
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.
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!
Craft eyes. Plastic eyes. Safety eyes. Animal eyes. They’re called lots of different things!
You can use them for both sewn and crocheted softies. I’ve even used them in applique wall hangings. I just use a pair of wire cutters to snip off the post that sticks out after you attach the washers.
I’ve made a video (below) that shows you how to install them. In the video I’m demonstrating on a crocheted stuffed animal, but you can use these eyes in sewn softies as well. You just need to poke a hole! I like to use this ball point awl. It creates a hole by stretching the fibers around the opening instead of by cutting any of the threads. If you cut a hole in stretchy knit fabric, that hole can run over time, just like a ladder in your stockings.
I prefer eyes with ridged shanks and plastic washers. I feel like they hold the best BUT they’re harder to use with smaller size eyes. It’s just really hard to hold such tiny pieces straight while you push the very tight washer on! So for the smallest eyes (4.5 mm) you’ll get smooth shanks and metal washers instead. They’re still small, fussy pieces, but they’re not nearly as hard to work with. Also – 4.5 mm eyes are so small that I really only use them for small felt softies – the kind of softies that stand on a shelf instead of being played with a lot.
Speaking of safety – just because they’re called “safety eyes” doesn’t make them safe for babies. The eyes themselves will never come apart (here’s a video showing how to remove safety eyes – you’ll see how hard it is to do). But babies can chew through the fabric around the eye, which then frees the eye (along with the still-attached washer) which is a choking hazard. So only use these on toys for kids over three, or toys that will be played with under supervision.
Below the video I’ve also included a quickie photo 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
Do you see those little points?
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 presses on evenly.
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. For sewn softies, use this ball-point awl or a small knitting needle to poke a hole. I recommend that you place the eyes first, before pressing on the washers, just to see if you like the look.
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!):
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 craft eyes
The 6 mm craft eyes, because they are SO tiny, have smaller plastic washers without the ‘barbs’. And the 4.5 mm eyes (as mentioned above) have metal washers. But don’t worry, the same rule applies: flat side towards the fabric.
Other links you’ll enjoy
Here are some other craft-eye-related links you’ll like!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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 get a lot of questions about what stuffed animal eyes are safe for babies.
Even though craft eyes are often called safety eyes – they are not recommended for use in toys for children under the age of three.
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 for stuffed animals. 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. A plastic eye securely attached to a scrap of shredded fabric is still a choking hazard.
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. It’s actually easier for a abby to chew through the threads holding a button eye in place than it is to chew through the fabric surrounding a craft eye.
Baby-safe stuffed animal eyes
For completely baby-safe stuffed animal eyes you have a few different options.
For crocheted stuffed animals, the easiest solution is to crochet the eye.
One more option for baby-safe softie eyes is to embroider them! This also works on both crocheted and sewn stuffed animals. On small stuffed animals you can use this stitch, and for larger eyes I recommend satin stitch or split stitch as fill stitch.
So many options- and all baby safe. Choose the one you like the look of best!
Crochet an adorably cuddly hound dog. Get the pattern here.
I stock lots of pretty colors of craft eyes in my shop. But, what do you do if you want something I don’t have? Like pink eyes? Or glitter eyes? Or polka dot eyes? Hmm… those would be hard to find.
You can paint them yourself! Today, I’ll show you how to paint your own craft eyes! All you need is clear craft eyes and some paint. And since there are oh, about a thousand, colors of paint available… the possibilities are endless!
Scroll down for the video!
Have you seen Beanie Boos? They’re the new generation of Beanie Babies… and they have glitter eyes!
I’ve been getting lots of requests for glitter eyes, because you want to add this awesome touch to your own stuffed animal creations. I can’t find anywhere where they are commercially available… but, I have found the perfect glitter paint!
Aren’t these amazing? And they’re even more sparkly in person!
Painting your own craft eyes is easy! All you need is some acrylic paint and clear craft eyes.
You’ll get more details in the video below, but here are the basic steps:
Apply a thin coat of acrylic paint to the back of the craft eye
Allow paint to dry
Repeat. I’ve applied 2-3 thin coats for maximum glitter
Of course… you can do fun patterns or stripes. Your imagination is the only limit! (and keep following the blog, I’m planning on posting some more tutorials… I’ve already painted some great 2-color ombre eyes!)
I filmed this tutorial before I got the fancy palettes, and I realize my thumb is often in the way… oops! But, I think you get the idea!
Isn’t that easy? And here’s the result!
Ready to paint your own?
Get a glitter eyes kit or just some glitter paint and give it a try!
The kit contains 3 colors of clear eyes: 12mm, 15mm and 18mm. I’m working on making these available individually, but for now, the only way to get all three sizes is to get the kit!
Sorry – the kits are no longer available, but you can get the paint here.
Everyone knows not to use your good fabric scissors on paper, right?
Today I thought I’d go beyond that very basic info with some extra detail on how I manage my scissors. This is going to answer a few questions that I get all the time.
Do you use expensive scissors?
Nope. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of high quality tools. I KNOW that quality scissors are better than cheap ones. But I also know that I am terrible at things like. . . bringing scissors in to get them professionally sharpened.
Good quality scissors that are painfully dull because I don’t know how to sharpen them myself and I can’t seem to coordinate my life well enough to get them professionally sharpened are worse than cheap scissors.
I can get a decent pair of Fiskars sewing shears at any big box fabric or craft store for under $20 – and then replace them every year. More on that replacement in a bit. . .
Which scissors do you use for cutting fabric and paper together – like with fusible adhesive or freezer paper?
Ah – that brings me to The Great Scissor Rotation.
I keep three pairs of big scissors in my fabric room. (This is only about the big scissors (shears, if you want to get technical) – I also have spring-loaded snips at the sewing machine and an assortment of tiny scissors for precision work.)
My newest pair of scissors is for fabric only.
When I bring in a new pair, the old fabric scissors become the scissors I use for fabric and paper together.
The old fabric and paper scissors become my paper scissors.
My old paper scissors move into the kitchen for snipping herbs, cutting waffles into dipping strips, cutting open packaging, etc.
And my old kitchen scissors move into the toolbox for real heavy duty work.
The scissors that were in the toolbox are usually totally destroyed by this time and they finally go in the trash.
I buy a new pair of scissors about once a year. While that may seem wasteful at $20 a pair when I could buy a quality pair that will last a lifetime for just under $100 – every pair of scissors I bring in gets used for about five years. Not bad at all! And I never need to coordinate bringing them in to be sharpened. 🙂
By the way – because I know someone is going to ask. I do sharpen my kitchen knives – but sharpening scissors is a different matter, one that I’ve been told repeatedly is best left to professionals. The angle of the sharpening is very different and you need to get both blades to work together. It’s more complicated and beyond my rudimentary knife-sharpening skills.