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!
I try whenever possible to have my pattern pieces print out on a single sheet of paper – but sometimes I just need to go a little bit bigger. In those cases, you need to tape two pattern pieces together to make one larger piece.
For clothing patterns you can get into taping LOTS of pieces together, but for my softies and applique patterns it’s almost never more than two pages – and it’s easy!
Here’s how to do it. . .
Print out both parts of the pattern. Make sure you’re printing at 100%!
This shows two halves of a new Dress Up Bunch shirt pattern. It’s a one piece pattern (no separate front, back, sleeves, etc.) so that makes it just a little bit too big to fit on a single sheet.
There’s also a pattern piece for the bib to a set of overalls. You can ignore that bit. 🙂
Cut off the blank edge of one of the pieces.
Printers don’t print all the way to the edge of the paper, so you’re always going to have a blank strip at the edge of your pattern pieces. Just cut your pattern piece a bit so that the edges of the piece go right up to the cut edge of the piece of paper. In this case, you can cut anywhere between the line between the two hearts and the edge of the paper. I like to leave as much pattern as possible in there because it gives me more lines to match up, which keeps things accurate.
Overlap the two pieces.
I like to do this step in a window so I can really see the lines on both pieces of paper.
Line up as many points as possible – the line, the two hearts, and the edges of the pattern. Now you can see why you cut away that strip of blank paper – it would have broken up the continuous outline of the pattern piece.
Once you get everything lined up perfectly, tape the pieces together.
Cut out the pattern piece.
Two pattern pages have become one pattern piece. Easy peasy!
Why do I need to know how to sew boxed corners? I don’t even know what a boxed corner is!
Well – it’s a simple way of adding depth to a fabric shape. It’s what makes this mini tote bag (there’s a free pattern here) fat instead of flat.
And it’s what gives these little mice nice fat bottoms.
Look – this guy will show you his.
I describe how to sew boxed corners in the Mischief of Mice pattern, but someone asked for a video to help clarify the process.
Ask and you shall receive!
See how easy it is?
The trickiest part is getting the seam aligned, but if you open the seams (like you see in that photo above) it’s really easy to see where they line up.
You’ll run into instructions to sew boxed corners in a lot of pillow and cushion patterns, but I don’t often sew pillows and cushions. I prefer to sew covers for ready-made pillow inserts. But I use the technique a lot for bags and softies!
Here are a few more patterns that use this technique. . .
I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for a pattern for a topsy turvy doll.
Weird. I have no idea what has prompted the sudden influx.
I’ve had a topsy turvy doll on my Big List o’ Things to Make for a long time now, but the number of requests recently made me move it to the top of the list.
As soon as I mentioned it to Jo, she was full of IDEAS. She immediately started lobbying for a day and night doll. Not an awake and sleeping doll, but a doll with one girl all sunshine and bright, and another girl all deep indigo and starlight. She specifically asked for the night doll to have “dark blue hair – the darkest blue felt you have – sprinkled with tiny little embroidered stars in pale yellow.”
OK then. I can do that!
Instead of creating a pattern especially for one topsy turvy doll, I thought it would be more fun to show you how to turn any of the Dress Up Bunch dolls into topsy turvy dolls. You can apply the same basic technique to work with any rag doll pattern.
So here we go. . .
To make a topsy turvy doll you’ll need to make two identical doll tops and no legs. The body will need to be chopped off at the waist so you can sew two bodies together.
Prep the Pattern
Measure down 4 1/2 inches from the top of the body front and body back pattern pieces of any Dress Up Bunch doll pattern. Draw a line parallel to the top of the pattern piece and cut off the bottom of the pattern. (if you’re using another pattern you’ll need to figure out where the “waist” of the body piece is and add 1/2 inch seam allowance before you make your cut.)
Cut Your Fabric
Cut out all the pattern pieces for two dolls except the legs. I usually use skin-colored fabric for the body, but I don’t like having to put a shirt on a topsy turvy doll so I cut the body pieces from fabric to match the dress. Only one doll half needs to have a stuffing opening, so cut a total of 3 doll front pieces and 2 doll back pieces.
Cut two pieces of fabric for the reversible skirt – each 10 1/2″ tall and 30″ wide. (You’ll need to calculate your own measurements if you’re using a different rag doll pattern.)
Leave One Stuffing Opening
Sew the two body back pieces together leaving almost the entire seam open for turning and stuffing. Don’t skimp on the size of the opening! You’ll be pulling a lot of fabric through here! I only sewed about an inch at the top and an inch at the bottom.
Press the seam open, then sew it to the back head piece. I stuck my turning stick through the stuffing opening so you can see it.
Sew Two Doll Tops
Follow the regular pattern instructions to make two doll tops, leaving the bottom open.
Man – these dolls look so creepy from the inside!
The second doll (the one without the stuffing opening) will use body front pieces on the front and back.
Make the Skirt
Fold one skirt rectangle in half so the short ends are lined up, right sides together, and sew those short ends together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press the seam open. That makes one (ungathered) skirt.
Repeat for the second skirt.
Turn one skirt tube right side out and put it inside the other tube, lining up the seams you just sewed. Now the right sides are together. 🙂 Sew the two skirt tubes together around the bottom of the skirt using 1/4″ seam allowance.
Flip the skirt so it’s right side out and press that bottom fold nice and flat.
Oooh! It’s looking nice! Both sides of the skirt are the “right” side. For now make sure it’s turned so that the fabric on the outside is the one matching the doll with the stuffing opening.
Gather the Skirt
I’ve got a video tutorial here showing how to gather. For this project I used the “old-fashioned” method of sewing two rows of basting stitches around the top (raw edge) of the skirt – sewing through both layers as if they were one – then drawing up the bobbin threads to gather up the fabric.
Fold the top of the skirt in half and half again and use pins to mark the four equal sections.
Fold the center front of the doll with the stuffing opening and mark the center front point. (The sides and center back are already “marked” with seams.)
Gather up the fabric of the skirt and stuff the skirt inside the doll with the stuffing opening, matching the center back seam of the skirt with the center back seam of the doll. Match the remaining pins to the remaining seams on the doll. Adjust the gathers so that the top of the skirt fits the bottom of the doll, adding additional pins as needed.
I’ll be honest. This part isn’t much fun. It’s not hard, but it takes some patience and fiddling.
Sew the top of the skirt to the bottom of the doll using 1/4″ seam allowance.
Add the Second Doll
You’re almost done! Turn the second doll right side out and stuff it inside the first doll and skirt. Make sure the back of the head is on the side where the stuffing hole is, and line up the side seams.
Sew around that same opening, this time 1/4″ from the first seam you sewed joining the skirt to the first doll. That means your seam allowance this time is 1/2 inch. This way you double-sew the skirt (extra-strong!) and also make sure all your basting stitches from gathering are well-hidden.
Turn Everything Right Side Out
You can do it – just be patient and go slowly. First pull the second doll outside of the first one, then pull the skirt through the stuffing hole and keep going until everything is right side out.
Stuff the doll, sew up the opening as instructed in the pattern, and you’re done!
Normally the Dress Up Bunch dolls are very easy patterns. Turning them into topsy turvy dolls bumps them up a notch in difficulty. It’s not hard – it’s more about patience than actual skill – but I do NOT recommend this as a first project. Make a regular doll first, then start practicing radical, Frankensteinian surgery. Ok? 🙂
The Dress Up Bunch is a collection of cute and cuddly rag dolls. Get patterns for the dolls, plus all their fun outfits and accessories!
I discovered it at Quilt Market last year and fell in love – and then couldn’t find it in any shops. It was even hard to find online! So I ordered a few bolts to carry in my shop and I’ve been using it for softies and quilt backs ever since.
Update – I’m not able to carry Cuddle Fleece in the shop anymore, but I found a good substitute! More details here.
It’s mostly very easy to work with – similar to polar fleece – but I do get some questions about it. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions. . .
It’s so shifty! How do you keep the layers from moving around?
The layers come in two times in the process – when you’re cutting and when you’re sewing. I prefer to cut mine one layer at a time instead of folding and cutting through two layers. That way I get the most accurate cut possible. Do be sure to flip the pattern pieces for the second cuts so you’re still getting one reversed!
When you’re sewing two layers together you have to deal with layers. There’s no way around it. That’s when I use Wonder Clips. You can use pins instead, but Wonder Clips handle the fat fabric really well and without distorting the layers at all. You can clip them really close together (every inch or so) and just sew slowly, unclipping each one as you get to it.
It’s so fat! Do I have to do anything special to sew through it?
Cuddle Fleece shares one of the same challenges as polar fleece.
The thickness of the fabric can make the layers shift while you’re sewing – especially when you’re sewing through two layers plus the additional layers of an arm or leg in there. There’s a video showing how I deal with the fatness here. It’s specifically about polar fleece, but all those tips also apply to Cuddle Fleece.
Do I need a special needle?
I sew mine with a basic universal needle and have no problems. If you find your machine is skipping stitches I recommend switching to a stretch needle.
If you have a walking foot – use it!
If you don’t have a walking foot – pin like crazy.
Which is the right side of the fabric?
They’re both good – but they are different. You just have to choose what works best for you for a particular project. One side has a shorter, smoother pile. That’s the one I often choose as the “right” side. It’s what you see on the bunny up there.
The other side is a little shaggier looking. The pile is a bit longer, and a teeny bit more irregular. Use this as the right side when you want a rougher look.
You can also combine the two textures in one softie like I did with that green Bailey Bear. I used the shaggier side on his belly patch.
How do you mark on it?
Cuddle Fleece, like polar fleece, can also be difficult to mark on. With polar fleece the problem is that it’s basically made out of plastic, so markers tend to bead up on it, take a long time to dry, and smear easily when wet.
The problem with marking on Cuddle Fleece is that it has a bit of a nap to it.
Seriously – is there anything this stuff isn’t good for?
For the bunny you see at the top of the post I marked the eyes as mentioned above. I could have eyeballed the nose and mouth, but I wanted to make sure I got those whiskers balanced. That meant sticking to my pattern piece exactly as drawn. 🙂
I traced the entire face on a scrap of Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy and then stuck it down to the fabric, using those eye markings to guide my placement.
Yes – it sticks just fine to the Cuddle Fleece. It’s amazing stuff!
I embroidered right through the stabilizer, then soaked it away in cold water and tossed it in the dryer for a quick dry and fluff.
Perfect! And since I used a fabric marker to mark those eyes, the dots are still there after rinsing The Magical Embroidery Stuff away.
The fluff! Is there any way to keep the fluff under control?
That’s the most common question people have. Cuddle Fleece is fluffy and soft – and when you cut it that fluffiness can go everywhere!
When I cut pieces to make a softie, I walk them straight to the dryer and toss them inside. I tumble it all with no heat for about 10 minutes. When I pull them out – all the fluff is gone. The edges won’t fray after cutting, so once you get that initial cutting fluff off, you can continue work on the rest of the project with no more shedding.
If you have any other questions about this lovely fabric, just let me know in the comments. I’ll either update this post or (if there are enough additional questions) I’ll do a follow-up post.
Here’s one of those follow-up posts. 🙂 A video answering lots of reader questions about using cuddle fleece for quilt backs. Watch it here.
The face is really important, and I usually spend a lot of time on it, trying a lot of variations until it feels just right.
I always try things out on an already-stuffed softie. That does two things.
I don’t have to visually erase the seam allowance. Even when I draw the sewing line on my pattern pieces, I think it’s hard not to see that extra bit all around the edge and place features accordingly. When the softie is already stuffed, that seam allowance is gone.
I can account for the curve of the finished softie. Let’s say I place the eyes, nose and mouth up high on the softie (that can often make it look extra-plump). That might look super cute on the pattern, but once I stuff it, the face is actually on the curve facing up instead of facing out. That’s no good.
I’ve found I get the best results when I draw my face on the finished prototype, then pick it apart and trace it onto the pattern piece.
So what’s the best way for you to transfer that face to your own softie piece?
It’s all about the eyes.
You can play around a bit with the placement of the nose and the mouth, but I really recommend putting the eyes right where the pattern tells you to.
And the easiest way to do that is by punching holes in your pattern piece. I know this is crazy obvious to many of you – but it took me a long time before the light-bulb went on. 🙂
This is the pattern I made when I taught a recent softie-making class to a bunch of kids. They made Warren the Charity Bear.
I used a hole punch to punch holes right at the pattern markings for the eyes. That way the kids could just pop in a couple of dots with a marker while they were tracing around the pattern. Easy peasy!
For my own use I don’t bother with cardboard and I don’t trace the pattern pieces – I use pattern weights and just cut around the piece. But I still punch holes where the eyes go so I can mark them very easily and very precisely.
If the eyes are too far from the edge of the pattern piece to reach them with a hole punch, I just punch a messier hole with my awl. You could also cut them with an X-Acto knife. Whatever works best for you – just make a hole in the pattern piece so you can easily mark dots exactly where the eyes go.
This works with any kind of fabric and you’ll always get the eyes just right. 🙂
A while back, someone suggested that one of the rag dolls (I think it was Poppy) needed freckles. I made a note of it, and when I started working on the new Dress Up Bunch doll pattern for Emily – I added freckles!
It’s really easy – you just need to do some testing to make sure your marker looks good on the skin color fabric – and that it doesn’t bleed!
I’ve been working on some cat applique blocks for a kitty quilt that matches these puppies. I’ve been posting some of the blocks as I finish them – and I’ve been getting some questions about them.
All of the blocks so far use fusible adhesive. It’s so quick and easy and I LOVE using the printable sheets. They’re worth every penny (in my tracing-hating opinion). I use Heat & Bond Lite weight for all my quilts.
All of the stitching is done by machine. Every bit of it. The eyes and nose are appliqued on and stitched in black thread – just a simple straight stitch. I stitched around the edges in a simple straight stitch too – in black thread for a loose, cartoony effect. I love it!
And then there’s the big question from the folks who are clearly zooming in on the image for a closer look.
How are you getting a thicker line on the face and whiskers?
Very observant, my friends!
I’ve been doing some experimenting and I’m getting the thicker line in two ways. Sometimes I stitch over the same line three times. And sometimes I use thicker thread. I’m demonstrating both with these Oscar blocks.
In the brown cat I used thicker black 12 weight thread for all the stitching. In the orange cat I used regular all-purpose thread once around the body, then three times for the whiskers and mouth.
You can’t just change the thread weight all willy-nilly. In my very first sewing project I used some really thick stuff called buttonhole twist and had all kinds of problems with it. I had just grabbed it because it was a small spool and I liked the color. I didn’t know there were different kinds of threads!
Now I know – and I did some deliberate experimentation with some spools in different thread weights I brought back from Quilt Market. Here are the results. . .
This is a really big photo I loaded up, so you can click on it to zoom in super close.
Just like needles, thread sizes get smaller as the numbers get bigger.
This is crazy fine thread – noticeably thinner than the basic all-purpose stuff you can get at any of the big box stores. Use a thinner needle with it (I used a Microtex/Sharp size 80/12). You’ll get a nice, subtle thin line of stitching. This would be great with thinner fabrics or subtle quilting – like stitch in the ditch where the thread won’t be so much in the spotlight.
A little bit heavier than the 50 wt, this feels like the most “normal” thread in the bunch. I used the same needle as the 50 wt.
This one was noticeably thicker than the others – and is where I started having trouble with a couple of skipped stitches. It turns out I just needed to sew a little slower which, frankly, I’d be doing anyway if I was stitching around an applique shape instead of just zipping down a quick row of straight stitches to see what it looked like. I did an extra couple of rows of stitching here to get the hang of it and you can see the results – no more skipping.
For the 28 wt I used 50 wt in the bobbin and a new needle – a topstitch size 90/14. I like it. But I love the next one.
This is the equivalent in thickness of two strands of embroidery floss. If I were hand-embroidering these faces it’s what I’d use – but I didn’t know you could use such thick thread in the machine. What a revelation!
Just like the 28 wt – use lighter weight thread in the bobbin and a topstitch needle size 90/14. You’ll probably need to play with the tension just a tiny bit since the top and bobbin threads are so different. Stitch up a quick sample using the same weight batting you’ll be using and different color threads in the top and the bobbin. Adjust the tension as needed until the bobbin thread doesn’t show on the top and the top thread doesn’t show on the bottom. In this sample you can see the tiny green specks of bobbin thread showing on the top. It’s easy to fix. Make a note of the new tension and use that every time you’re topstitching with your heavy threads and you won’t need to test it again.
So which one is better – thicker thread or more passes?
I think this is totally a matter of preference. Scroll back up to the two cats side by side. Click on the image to see it bigger and zoom in. Which do you like better?
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Usually my patterns include instructions for embroidering the face before you sew your softie together. That makes it easy to transfer the pattern and position it correctly, and easy to hoop it for stitching.
But sometimes it just works better to stitch some features on after it’s all sewn up. This mouse doll is one of those times. And it’s really not hard at all! But you do need a couple of special tools. Nothing expensive or hard to find – just a doll needle and a water-erasable marker.
I show you the tools – and how to use them – in this video. Watch Miss Squeak get her smile!