Friday, May 10, 2013

Links: Creativity With Yarn!!

Don't have any ideas of what kind of plushie to make?  Need a new crafty project?  Look around you for ideas!

In the mood for something goofy AND cute?  Check out these fun photos of animals with their stuffed animals...

OK, so you know what a "cozy" is, right?  It's a functional and decorative "sweater" for your household objects, a beautifying and insulating layer that helps warm things stay warm longer.
Here is a modern example of the classic "tea cozy" that uses 2 colors of yarn to create an optical illusion.

In a completely different take, this blogger features cozies as a friendly and comforting feature that can transform and draw the eye to teapots, books, and even urns.

Too static for you? (Sorry, couldn't resist a good fiber pun...)  Cozies don't just have to be for teapots or stationary objects!  Check out this link to a video a friend turned me onto of...Turtles...and Tortoises...and Cozies?!

In a more mathematical  state of mind?  Check out this interesting website full of "Mathekniticians" who are all about combining love of fibercrafts with love of geometry--their latest venture is called "illusion" or "shadow knitting." Lots of fun plays on words. The website name and the tag line are "Woolly Thoughts: In pursuit of Crafty Mathematics."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013



8. FOOT PADS (4)

10. CLAWS (4)
11. EYES (2)


 When designing your creature, it helps to think of a plushie as a series of 2-D pieces stitched together to form a 3-D object.  
THE BODY: This is the main piece of your creature.  In this case, it is composed of 2 mirror-image side panels and one belly panel, or "gusset," which are joined together to create a sort of pyramid shape.  This pyramid is sewn onto a base panel that helps maintain the overall shape of the plushie.
GUSSETS: A gusset is basically a tapered panel (frequently sort of a diamond or ovoid-shape) that gives your object increasing volume in a specified area, and then decreases it again.  By tapering at corners, you are able to decrease the diameter of a section at will.  This is helpful in forming necks and tails.  For this creature, I have a belly gusset and nose gusset.  In many cases, I would also have a chin gusset, to round out the face and then decrease the chin into the neck, but in this particular case I have included the chin gusset as the pointy top of my belly panel.
LEGS: The legs are basically an inner and outer panel that are sewn together to create a tube.  This tube is then sewn to a foot pad, which can be round/triangular/whatever.  The shape of the foot pad helps determine the shape of the overall leg. In case of the green dragon, the small arms end in round foot pads, while the hind legs have more definition by ending in large, triangular foot pads.
LEG PANELS: The outer leg panels are frequently part of the side panels, so there is no obvious leg seam to draw the eye.  But sometimes it can be helpful to have the leg panels be separate pieces, as with the green dragon's arms.  This can give you more flexibility in placement of legs later, when assembling your plushie.  If you are using different colors for the sides and belly, you might want to have 2 pieces of fabric to make up your legs, so that the inner leg can match the belly.  If the leg is all one color, you can just use one piece of fabric to make the tube, as long as you are fine with incorporating the single seam into your design.

DECORATIVE ELEMENTS:  These are not necessary for the structure of the plushie, but they help create an identity for your creature.  You can simply use a contrasting color or texture in certain panels of your little guy.  Or you can add actual decorations, like:
RIDGED CREST: You can sew a crest/mane/wings/etc. into the spine seam that joins your two side panels (or any seam, really, but this one is simplest, because it is basically a straight line).

CLAWS: Give your creature some flare with toenails!  If different pairs of legs are different sizes, do something different with each pair.  With the green dragon, the hind legs were so much thicker than the "arms,"  I felt it would be appropriate to make the hind claws correspondingly large.

EYES: I like to sew eyes onto my creature when the body is almost complete, so that I have more of a sense of what kind of eyes would go best with the finished product.  I have a pouch of patchwork eyes that I constantly make so that I can play around with my color, size and shape options.  You can also sew on beads for a different kind of eyes or pupils.

MOUTH: Why not have something coming out of your creature's mouth?  Even if you don't want to add an actually opening maw, you can sew lips and teeth onto your plushie, or have a serpentine tongue or flame coming out of its mouth, just by adding a scrap of forked fabric to the nose seam...

1. Remember: You will always have to allow an extra 1/4 to 1/2 inch edge to your fabric, for your sturdy seams.  If you do not allow for this, parts of your plushie will come out elongated or smaller than you intended.
2. If you ever get confused when cutting fabric for your plushie, remember that you can cut out paper shapes--or scraps of fabric--and tape or stitch them together to get an idea of the finished product.
3. When in doubt, remember that you can always cut down a piece of fabric to create a narrower shape, over and over if necessary, in order to create a silhouette that you're happy with. But in order to make a section bigger (make a leg or neck wider, etc.), you would need to cut a new, larger panel to replace the one you are fixing or add another gusset (or other panel of fabric) to your piece to increase the overall surface area and volume of your creature.  You can always do this, but you will need to incorporate the extra seams into your overall design...Which leads to:
4. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Any "mistakes" or "repairs" are actually "experimental design elements" or "features!"

Saturday, May 4, 2013



1. Fleece. I use this for the main body of the plushie.  It's soft, and, as I've said before, it's very forgiving.  Its edges do not fray, and it's machine washable.

2. Felt.  I like this sturdier material for eyes.  I sew the layers of the eyes together before adding them to the body, to help give them structural integrity.

3. Stuffing.  The more you stuff (within reason, of course), the sturdier your plushie will be and the more it will able to literally stand on its own.  It will also be less lumpy after a trip through the washing machine, because the stuffing won't have been able to move around as much.  You can use a "50% off one item" coupon at Joann's for one of these 5-lb. babies, and you're good to go.

4. Thread. Your piece will have a better life-span if your thread is reliable.  And you won't have to deal with breakage as you work.  I sometimes use more delicate, colored threads for accents, but it's not really worth the hassle if you want to make sure your piece will stand up to actual use.

5. Sewing needles. You never know when you'll need to sew some accent pieces by hand, or repair a small structural issue that your machine can't access.  You can use basic needles or long, doll-making needles.  Whatever works best for you.  I like to have a little needle-holding capsule that can hold a few needles on the go.  And magnetic needle cases are awesome!  They keep your needles from straying...

6. Sewing machine!  Your best friend.  It's fun to sew by hand, but for nice, strong seams, and a speedy job that gets you to the fun accent-work more quickly, the sewing machine's the way to go.  I use a basic, foot-pedaled Singer Touch & Sew.  It has 69 pre-programmed stitches (both functional and decorative), with a handy pull-out stitch guide.  It also has a button for reverse-stitching or knotting the threads
together (like making a knot when hand sewing to prevent unraveling).  The front of the base opens into a compartment for storing bobbins and other small "notions," and the entire left side of the base pulls offwhich can be handy if you're working on a narrow-diameter piece like a sleeve tube or plushie.  And always have extra sewing needles!  You never know when you'll need them.

Friday, May 3, 2013



I have tried a couple different materials in making stuffed animals.

Yarn: It is easy to crochet or knit a plushie, because crochet is just a series of yarn loops.  You can unravel or work over any section you don't like.  The creature does show off any shaping mistakes (or, as you can also call them, "experiments"), so it's helpful to use or make a pattern if you care about symmetry...  If your yarn is very loose, the stuffing will show through, so some people line their projects with a thin fabric to hide any cotton/beans/whatever filler they're using.

Felt:  Felt works fine, because it's a relatively sturdy fabric. I did find that if I stitched too close to the edge of my fabric, the pressure of the stuffing would make my stitches start to strain the seams, to the point where I had to go back and re-stitch a few bursting spots by hand.  I could see the stitching when I used felt, so I made sure to use a complementary thread color.  Felt's a good material to use if you want a more sturdy end-product that can stand up on its own once stuffed.

Faux Fur: This fabric has a wonderful feel, and makes a great plushie.  It can be very annoying to work with, though.  All of the edges shed crazy amounts of fuzz, which gets on you, your floor, into your sewing machine, etc.  But the result can be very rewarding. Hugging this giant pillow can get addictive.

Fleece:  This is what I currently use.  My sewing machine still collects a little fuzz around the bobbin cradle, so I'll eventually have to get it professionally cleaned, but so far it's been worth it.  The fleece is soft and very cooperative, and it's edges will not fray.  I find that it also tends to hide seam stitching better (although if you stuff anything tight enough, it's seams will show, because the piece will literally be thinking about bursting).  It also makes a cuddlier end product than felt or yarn.  And it's machine washable!




I love getting really hands-on with my materials.  As a child, I made up a knotted yarn project with two knitting needles because I didn't actually know how to knit (and really, what else do you need yarn to do in order to make something?), and while I was in school I made a plastic quilt out of patterned grocery bags and different colors of trash bags (all the stitching with fishing line was actually very soothing...).  I LOVE trying out new materials (welding is sooo fun!), but I always come back to Fiberarts.  There's just something so satisfying about sewing or crocheting something free-form and crafting it into an actual, 3-D, interactive object.