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!
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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!
Time for a process post – showing a bit behind the scenes of how I do some of my design work.
Today we’re talking faces.
I think the face is one of the most important parts of any softie. It’s where the personality really shines through!
I want to make it easy for you to get the face just right in any pattern you’re making. But sometimes just right isn’t clear until after the softie has been stuffed.
Stuffing changes the curve of the surface, so eyes that looked great when it was flat might now look too far apart. Or a smile that was clearly visible is now kind of hidden under the curve of the chin.
What to do?
Well – I usually work through several prototypes of each softie – getting the shape of the body right – before I even start on the face.
Then I draw the face on the already stuffed prototype.
I usually sew my prototypes from plain white cotton. It’s easy to draw on that with a soft pencil. I can even erase and redraw it several times until I like what I see – though the surface gets a bit grubby after a few erasings. For Caterpillar Phil I tried features positioned very high on the face (to make him look chubby), very low (to make him look younger), and centered (even though I almost never like plain centered). I finally settled on something just a bit below the center line. (If you want to learn how to draw faces read Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Faces. It’s awesome.)
After I’m happy with the face I go over it with a black marker, Then I unpick all my stitches to remove the face piece(s) from the prototype. I iron it flat again and trace the face onto my final pattern piece. That way you’re getting the pattern and the placement exactly like what I worked up in my sample.
Most people learn how to sew a dart because they’re sewing clothing. Darts are one of several ways to shape the clothes to the body.
But sometimes I use darts in my softie designs. Just like clothing, they can give a softie a nice rounded shape. You can get rounded shapes with curved seams too – but sometimes a dart is just right. Especially if I want to suggest a belly button!
Darts are sort of like partial seams – little tucks in the fabric. I’ve met a lot of folks who find them intimidating, but they’re actually very easy to sew. Watch the video to see how easy.
See? Learning how to sew a dart isn’t hard at all! And – unlike clothing where you really want those tapered ends of your darts to be PERFECT so they lie nice and flat, any imperfections in a stuffed animal’s belly dart just makes it look even more like a belly button. See where I positioned the end of the dart on Munch here?
I talked about fabric grain in this video about working with polar fleece. Fleece is stretchy across the fabric (when you stretch from selvedge to selvedge) and much less stretchy when you stretch the length of the fabric (along the selvedge). Watch the video to see that stretch in action.
But what difference does the grain of the fabric make when you’re sewing softies?
I thought I’d make two softies – one with the pieces cut on the grainline indicated, and the other cut the exact opposite way.
I made both of these elephants from the same pattern. I made them both from similar weight polar fleece. I stuffed them with the same amount of stuffing. The dark grey ones has larger eyes, but other than that they’re identical.
Except for the grain of the fabric.
I made the light grey one exactly as the pattern indicated – with the stretch running across his body. I wanted to emphasize his fatness. 🙂
I made the dark grey one with the grain running opposite of what the pattern indicated – so the stretch was running up and down his body.
Can you see the difference?
Jo said the light grey elephant looks fat, and the dark grey elephant just looks bloated – which I thought was pretty funny. 🙂
The dark grey elephant is clearly taller – that up and down stretch made a big difference there. And there’s a subtle difference in the seam between his face and his body. It’s a tiny bit more defined, because his body bulges a bit more above and below it. It’s also clear in person that the tummy of the light grey elephant bulges out more than the dark grey.
The dark grey elephant doesn’t look bad. And if you make a softie (especially a big bulky one like this) with all the grainlines cut wrong you won’t have a disaster on your hands. But your finished softie will look subtly different from the one on the pattern cover – and the results will be much more pronounced on a softie with skinnier, more precisely shaped parts.
So now you know!
Any other fabric mysteries you’d like me to tackle? Leave a comment or send me an email.
Oh – and if you want to make that elephant yourself – you can get the pattern here. It comes with a pattern for her little mouse friend too. 🙂
You might be a little daunted at sewing a flat bottom to what is essentially a tube of fabric – but it’s really not that tricky.
There are two techniques – one for use with larger pieces going through the sewing machine, the other for smaller, hand sewn felt softies. I’ve got a photo tutorial for the first one and a video for the second one – because the second method involves faith and I know some of you won’t believe it until you see it. 🙂
Sewing a Flat Bottom With the Sewing Machine
Cut your round foot and sew your leg or body into a tube. Do not freak out when you think about putting them together. We’re going to break it up into sections and take it one section at a time.
Fold the round part in half and put a pin in the fold at each side. Open it up. Fold it in half the other way, so the pins match up, and put pins in the two new folds. You’ve divided the circle into perfect fourths without using a protractor. 🙂
Now we’ll divide the leg into fourths. Fold it in half so the seam is at one fold. Put a pin in the opposite fold. Now refold it so the pin and the seam match up and put two pins in the new folds. See? Perfect fourths – no measuring.
Put the two pieces together, matching pins.
Now take it just one quadrant at a time, fitting the curve of the round piece to the edge of the tube. Add more pins as needed. Fleece (like I’m using in this photo) is a dream to do this with. The fleece just stretches right into the curve and doesn’t need many pins. Non-stretchy fabrics might need a few more. I like to divide the quadrant in half and put in a pin. Then if it needs more, divide each half in half and put in a pin. Keep going until you feel like it’s all held together neatly – then run the thing through the sewing machine. I like to sew with the flat part down so I can see (and control) the excess fabric in the tube.
Sewing a Flat Foot by Hand
For smaller, hand sewn felt softies it’s even easier – but you do need to have faith in your pattern designer. It looks like there’s NO WAY this the little round bit will fit on the tube – but it will. I show you the whole process in one shot from start to finish.
See? That flat bottom fits right on there – almost like I used math or something to calculate the exact size needed. Which is exactly what I did – and then I tested it a couple of times to make sure I did that math right. 🙂
(In case you’re curious, that’s whipstitch I’m using to sew the foot on. There’s a tutorial here showing how to do it.)
Ready? Go give your softies some flat feet and cute sittable bottoms. 🙂
I love to use a bit of fake fur in my quilts and stuffed animals, but I get a lot of questions about how to make the eyes and other features work. How do you applique ONTO fake fur?
See the eye on the crazy blue bird monster, above? Or the giant eyeball on this monster made with the Eggheads softie pattern?
That’s the kind of thing people are asking about.
I get the same question about working with fleece, like the eye on this fleece bird/monster.
All of these use appliqué onto fake fur or fleece to sew on those eyeballs.
This video showed you how to cut faux fur without leaving your sewing space looking like a Muppet abattoir, and how to sew the pieces together so all the lovely fur ends up on the outside of your softie (without tedious seam-picking).
Now I’m showing you how to appliqué directly onto the fake fur. This is a good way to attach eyes, mouths, bellies, spots, stripes – any smooth surface you want on top of all that fur. It’s surprisingly easy!
Using faux fur (or fake fur) can add a really special – and professional – look to your handmade stuffed animals and quilt. Furry dogs! Furry cats! Furry monsters! They’re all wonderful!
But fake fur is not an everyday fabric, and a lot of people feel like it must require a lot of special knowledge or skill to use it, so they avoid it. That’s such a shame because it’s actually fairly easy to use – if you know just a couple of simple tricks.
So here’s the first in a little series of videos showing you some tips and tricks for working with faux fur. This video covers the most basic basics – how to cut it out without having fur fly all over your sewing room, and how to sew it together so the fur ends up on the outside of your softie, instead of hidden inside your seams. 🙂
Here are a few more helpful posts about working with faux fur. . .
And here are some of my favorite patterns that can be used with fake fur. . .
Spot the Dog – that’s Spot made up in a fabulous scruffy grey fur in the top photo. He’s actually a dressable rag doll, so you do need to be careful when making him with fur. If your fur is too full and shaggy, his clothes will be quite tight. 🙂