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 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?
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 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. 🙂
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!
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.
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!
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. 🙂
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.