Stuffed Animal Ears That Stand Up But Are Still Soft – Tutorial

Green stuffed bunny on a blue background. Text reads: How to Give Your Stuffed Animal Ears that Stand Up but Are Still Soft

It’s to give a stuffed animal ears that stand up!

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 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?

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.

Bunny stuffed animal ear shown after sewing and before turning it right side out.

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

The same ear show from the other side

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. 🙂

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!

Bunny stuffed animal ear - folded in on the sides and ready to attach

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

How to Make a Pompom Tail – video tutorial

How to Make a Pompom Tail (and attach it to amigurumi) - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

We’re hopping into spring – which means it’s a useful time to know how to make a quick and easy pompom tail. 🙂

There are lots of great pompom tools out there (I especially love this adorable llama-themed one from Betz White) but sometimes you just have your hands and a pair of scissors on hand. That’s all you need for this method. 🙂

Be super careful not to cut those long tails! You saw how useful they are for attaching your bunny tail. 🙂

Want the pattern for that bunny? Get the Ringo Rabbit pattern here.

Here are handy links to all the posts about faces and details. . .

Return to the main table of contents for Let’s Learn to Crochet Amigurumi.

Move on to the lessons about eyes.

Happy stitching!

What size are my craft eyes?

Do you have some plastic craft eyes in a box somewhere… and you aren’t sure how to tell what size they are?

Umm… yup, me too. Don’t worry! Today, I’ll show you how easy it is to figure out what size they are!

All you need is a ruler with millimeter measurements. A craft eye is sized by its diameter in millimeters. So, to determine the size, place the ruler across the widest part of the eye.

Using a ruler to measure plastic safety eyes

You can see that this eye is a 24mm. Easy!

If you have a needle gauge and small eyes, I have an even easier way. Knitting needle measurements are determined by the diameter of the needle, so you can simply stick the eye in the gauge!

Measuring a craft eye with a needle gauge

This is an 8mm eye, and it fits fully in the 8mm slot (size 11 needle).

Here’s a look at the back view:

Note that the eye fits snugly in the hole, but does not go entirely through like a knitting needle would.

Now you can organize your craft eye stash!

Use Stretchy Knit Fabric to Make Extra Soft Stuffed Animals

Use stretchy knit fabric to make extra soft stuffed animals - tips and tricks from Shiny Happy World

Did you know that you can use stretchy knit fabric to make extra cuddly and soft stuffed animals?

You can! And even though sewing with knits has a bad reputation – it’s really not any harder than sewing with woven fabrics.

Cloud 9 Fabrics – makers of all-gorgeous, all-organic fabric – recently released a line of deliciously soft knit fabrics perfect for comfy clothing, cozy pajamas, and cuddly soft stuffed animals. (That’s their adorable photo up there with the cozy jammie pants.)

They exhibited those knits at Quilt Market this fall and asked me to use them to make some squishy stuffed animals to add to their display. Fun!

I’ve used knits to make softies before (mostly old T-shirts to make Bartholomew Bunnies) and they make exceptionally soft stuffed animals. For this batch I decided to use patterns I had designed with fleece in mind. I love how they turned out!

My favorite is Franklin the Fat Cat made in an awesome striped knit that really accented his fatness. 🙂

Use stretchy knit fabric to make extra soft stuffed animals - tips and tricks from Shiny Happy World

Munch was also easy and fun and I liked playing with the different coordinating prints for him.

Use stretchy knit fabric to make extra soft stuffed animals - tips and tricks from Shiny Happy World

Benson Bunny was a little trickier.

Use stretchy knit fabric to make extra soft stuffed animals - tips and tricks from Shiny Happy World

See how his shape nips in a little around the neck? He’s not one roundish shape like Franklin and Munch – and that’s what makes him slightly tricky. He’s not hard to sew – that’s easy. It’s the stuffing where you have to be careful.

Like I said – the sewing is easy. I have a whole video here about sewing stretch fabric with a regular machine, but it really comes down to just two things. Use the right needle and don’t stretch it while you sew.

What’s the right needle? Well – I sewed these guys all with a basic universal needle – and that’s usually what I start with. Sew a little test seam on some scraps and take a close look. Usually everything looks just fine and you can move on to your real project, but sometimes there are potential problems.

If you’re skipping stitches, switch to a stretch needle. It has a longer scarf (the groove that the thread rests in) and that helps prevent skipped stitches.

If you’re getting runs or snags in your fabric, switch to a ballpoint or jersey needle. It has a slightly blunt tip that makes the needle slide between the fibers instead of poking into them.

Those are the two potential problems to sewing with knits – both easily fixed with a new needle.

But the stuffing! The stuffing is where you really have to be careful. A softie made with woven fabric can sometimes be lumpy and bumpy – and that problem is a million times worse with stretch fabric where the fabric will just stretch around any lumpy stuffing. You must keep things smooth as you go. Also – usually understuffing is a problem with softies – but if you make them with knits you need to be careful of overstuffing. Use just enough stuffing to fill out the shape and keep it very smooth as you go.

Use stretchy knit fabric to make extra soft stuffed animals - tips and tricks from Shiny Happy World

That’s it! Use the right needle, don’t stretch the fabric while you sew, and keep things smooth while you stuff. The yummy Cloud 9 knits I used to make these cuties is in shops now. Make an extra squishy and soft stuffed animal today!

Happy sewing!

Best,
Wendi
That's me!

Make a Totoro Stuffed Animal

Cute stuffed Totoro - adapted from the Franklin the Fat Cat sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World

Jo wanted to make a Totoro stuffed animal for a friend from school – and she had a pretty brilliant idea of how to do it without drafting a whole new pattern.

Start with Franklin the Fat Cat! It’s one of her favorites and she’s made it a few times, so she knew it was an easy pattern to work with.

She used Cuddle Fleece in charcoal and camel for the body, plus some felt scraps in black, white, and smoky marble.

She drafted new patterns for the ears, eyes, nose and those things on his chest. (There’s a link to download those pieces at the end of this post.)

She used the tail pattern from Eddie the Teddy Bear to give him a stubby little tail.

Turn Franklin the Fat Cat into Totoro

And she gave him no feet/legs.

Want to make your own? It’s pretty easy. The only part that’s really different from Franklin (as far as construction goes) is the ears.

Jo wanted them to stand up really well, so she used Soft & Stable foam inside.

Stack a piece of foam, then one ear piece right side up, followed by one ear piece facing down. Sew up and around the top of the ear, leaving the flat bottom open for turning.

Making a Totoro stuffed animal - photo showing partially sewn new ear piece

Sewing through the foam is super easy. Here’s what that piece looks like from the bottom.

Inside-out Totoro ear shown from the foam side.

Reach in between the two fleece layers to turn it right side out – the foam will end up between the two layers. Neat!

Fold the sides of the bottom of the ear in to the center and stitch it across the bottom to secure the folds.

Totoro ear - folded and ready to attach to the stuffed animal

Now it has some shape.

Repeat for the second ear and then treat them just like the cat ears in the pattern instructions.

Applique the eyes, nose and chest thingies onto the body front. Jo stuck them down with a glue stick to hold them while she sewed. Clever!

After you stitch around the edges of all the pieces, insert 9 mm safety eyes into the middle of the whites. (If you do that sooner, the shanks of the safety eyes will make it impossible to sew around the whites.)

After that, the assembly is just like Franklin. Easy peasy!

Young girl holding a finished Totoro softie she made - adapted from the Franklin the Fat Cat pattern

One cute Totoro stuffed animal and his maker, ready for delivery to a friend. 🙂

If you want to make your own, here’s what you’ll need. . .

Happy stitching!

Best,
Wendi

Which eyes should I use for Amigurumi?

What Kind of Eyes Should I Use - Tips for choosing eyes for sewn and crocheted softies from Shiny Happy World

I love crocheting stuffed animals. And do you know my favorite part? Putting the eyes in! It’s when the animal comes to life!

Eyes are what gives the animal an expression… and my heart always fills with joy when it’s time to add them!

There are lots of choices for eyes, so today, I’m going to talk about your options!

This post was originally written about amigurumi eyes – but all the tips and info apply to sewn softies too!

Plastic Craft Eyes

plastic craft eyes from FreshStitches

In most of my animals, I use plastic craft eyes. I think they add a ‘professional’ touch to the animal, and they’re really easy to insert!

The downside is that plastic eyes are not recommended for children under the age of three. Although the washer is nearly impossible to take off the back of the eye, the eye could come out of the fabric if the animal is chewed or fabric is torn.

Felt

duck with felt eyes

Felt eyes are a great option! They’re baby-safe and since felt comes in lots of different colors, you have lots of choices! Read this blog post for a tutorial on how to add felt eyes to your cutie!

Buttons

big_bear_medium2

Any button can be sewed on for a great-looking eye! (In the photo above, I used a buttons on top of felt). I’ve seen some great monsters on Pinterest that make use of mis-matching buttons… so cute!

Some people use button eyes as a ‘safe’ alternative to plastic craft eyes, but I don’t feel comfortable making that recommendation. If a button is chewed on, it can become dislodged in the same way as a plastic eye.

Crocheted Eyes

crochet owl

This is my second-favorite technique… it’s quick and easy! I mean, you already have the yarn!

For instructions, visit this blog post!

Embroidery

You can either embroider the eyes directly on the head, or use embroidery to add flecks of light to felt or crocheted eyes!

Which are your favorite?

What kind of eyes do you like to use?

And let me know if you have an idea I haven’t listed here!

Here are handy links to all the posts about amigurumi eyes. . .

Return to the main table of contents for Let’s Learn to Crochet Amigurumi.

Move on to the lessons for standing legs.

Happy stitching!

Video – How to Do Turkey Work Embroidery

How to Do Turkey Work Embroidery - a video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Turkey work is an unusual embroidery stitch that gives you a special effect. If you make long loops you can get a hairy or fringy look. Shorter loops can be trimmed to look like the pile of a rug or shorter hair.

Neat!

Turkey work stitching isn’t difficult, but it does require a bit of focus so you don’t lose track of what you’re doing. I tend to mumble to myself while I do it. . . flat stitch, loopy stitch, flat stitch, loopy stitch. . .

Here’s what I’m talking about.

See what I mean?

You can work this stitch on flat embroidery – you’ll often see it as the center of flowers, for example.

But I use Turkey work most often on little felt softies. It opens up a whole range of possibilities for hair, manes, tails, bushy eyebrows and more. 🙂

I used it here for the mane on Zoey Zebra.

Zoey playing Pin the Tail on the Zebra

In the video you saw me working on Leon Lion’s mane. Here he is all finished.

Leon Lion - felt lion softie holding a birthday cake. I used Turkey work embroidery for his shaggy mane.

You can get the Leon Lion pattern here.

Want to see another way to add longer hair to a softie? This tutorial shows how to add yarn hair to a crocheted amigurumi, but you could use the same method with embroidery thread on a smaller felt softie.

Here are all my lessons for fill stitches (besides satin stitch).

Return to the Learn to Embroider main Table of Contents.

Move on to the lessons for all the other stitches.

Play with some felt! Try the Oddballs – a fun pattern for silly monsters.

Video – How to Sew Boxed Corners

How to Sew Boxed Corners - video

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.

yellow tote bag with an embroidered pink bird - demonstrating how to sew boxed corners. Mini Tote Bag - a free pattern from Shiny Happy World

And it’s what gives these little mice nice fat bottoms.

Blue and green mice made with the Mischief of Mice softie sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World

Look – this guy will show you his.

A closer look at the boxed corners at the bottom of a mouse softie, demonstrating how to sew boxed corners.

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. . .

Goody Bags - free sewing pattern from Shiny Happy World

These goody bags are great little gift bags or party favor bags.

The Big Bag - a free tote bag pattern from Shiny Happy World

This big tote bag is my favorite for grocery shopping.

Knuckleheads - monster softie pattern from Shiny Happy World

And I love these fun and easy monsters. You can mix and match the parts to create your own variations.

Lots of ways to use easy boxed corners!

Happy stitching!

How to Sew a Button Joint – video

How to Sew a Button Joint - an easy video tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Using a button joint allow your softies to sit, stand, wave, and be posed in other fun positions. Here are a few examples.

Here’s Rhonda Rhino, carrying a pretty balloon to a birthday party.

Rhonda Rhinoceros - a cute felt softie of a rhino wearing a polkadot dress and holding a balloon

You can just barely see one of the buttons on her shoulder.

Benedict Bear‘s buttons are almost completely covered by his fancy coat – but they’re there.

handmade felt bear with juice box

They’re what allow him to raise that adorable felt juice box to take a sip.

You can see the button joints much more clearly here on Carlisle Crocodile.

felt crocodile with button joints wearing a birthday hat and carrying a gift - made with the Carlisle Crocodile pattern from Shiny Happy World

All those button joints are not hard to do! Watch this video and see how. . .

See how easy the button joint is? It actually makes the construction of the rest of the animal super easy – most of the parts are just two pieces sewn and stuffed! the feet usually have a flat part added at the base that makes them easy to stand – but that’s easy too. There’s a video here showing how to give softie feet flat bottoms.

The pattern for the elephant you see in the video is available here.

You can get those looooong doll needles here.

The thread and buttons I use are easy to find at any fabric store.

Happy sewing!

Play with some felt! Try the Oddballs – a fun pattern for silly monsters.

Video – How to Needle Sculpt Softie Toes

Kissable bunny toes made with needle sculpting

Needle sculpting!

That’s how I made the cute kissable toes on that softie?

Do you think that’s probably really hard to do?

Not at all! Take a look at the video and see how easy it is. 🙂

See?

You will need one specialized tool for needle sculpting – a long doll needle. You can find the ones I use here. That’s it! Now you just need some thread – and a softie that’s ready for sculpting.

Those adorable toes belong to Bertie Bunny.

Bertie Bunny - an adorable bunny pattern from Shiny Happy World

Happy sewing!

Wendi_Gratz_Shiny_Happy_World

Best,
Wendi