I like scraps of fabric. Give me your tired shirts and I will happily stitch together some kind of lumpy figure while watching a dumb movie. I don’t have a sewing machine and most textile art befuddles me, but I can handle making small cloth items by hand. If I mess up a small project, it’s much less frustrating than muddling up a large project. Any project larger than five inches results in tears and vows never to craft again.
For a few months I was content whipping up little monster-type creatures. You may have seen them on this blog and there’s quite a few still up for grabs in my Etsy shop. Still, I’ve got more of them than I can give away and I got bored with the same-old template. To switch things up, I created a new, slightly more complex cat-like creature. It’s complex because I’ve added a tail, so instead of merely stitching two pieces of fabric together, it’s four and then attaching the tail at the end.
hand drill (for wooden disc)
1. Once I had my creature design worked out, I traced the silhouette outline onto cereal box and cut it out. I like sturdy patterns to cut around, especially for small pieces that aren’t easily pinned. Not exactly the most elegant solution but I like how well cardboard stands up to repeated use (so far).
2. With my pattern/template, I trace the outline onto backside of fabric.
3. Pick which side will be the face and stitch the eyes on first. My kitty design has the eyes closed, so I stitch that up with black embroidery floss. Sometimes I use buttons for eyes and will choose to glue those on after the creature has been stuffed.
4. Pin fabric together wrong way out for sewing.
5. Sew around the sides and top, leaving the bottom open for reversing and filling. Do the same with the tail. Trim excess fabric around seams, leaving about 1/2″ all around.
6. Starting with tail, turn the fabric right side out, pulling/pushing through hole.
7. Add stuffing to tail. Do not stitch up end, set aside.
8. Flip main body right side out, gently push the ears out with a pencil tip.
9. Add stuffing to body.
10. Fold the 1/2″ fabric excess flaps into the body, pin the bottom, and decide where to place the tail. I try to aim for the centre.
11. Slip the unfinished edge of the tail into place between the bottom flaps, pin it. Stitch the bottom to finish. To secure the tail in right position, I do a quick whip stitch between the tail and the body.
12. Cut a little triangle from felt for the nose. Glue on felt nose and ribbon collar. Attach tag and jump ring to collar. For the tags, I used wood discs I had in my stash and got some use out of my hand-cranked wood drill. The discs are flimsy and it’s far too easy to split them with the drill. Lesson learned.
I can stitch up one of these in about two and a half hours, depending on the fabric. For stuffed creatures, thick heavy fabrics don’t make for cuddly toys and are tougher to wrangle batting into. I don’t recommend denim as a fabric choice for stuffed animals, unless you’re looking for something that can withstand drool and dirt. Softer acrylic-based fabrics are prone to overstuffing and warping. Jersey t-shirts are nice and forgiving for wonky stitching and more likely to hold the intended shape of the plushy.
This is the perfect project for upcycling that favourite shirt or sweater. You know, the one that you wore all through school but it’s all worn out in places and possibly paint-splattered but the fabric has memories. If you turn it into something like this, then (potentially) if you have an item worthy of display instead of a thing you encounter only when you move or clean out a storage area. This is not a great project for fancy fabrics, so don’t make a bunch of little wonky cats (or monsters or whatevers) from your wedding gown. That’s probably not considered “upcycling.” (I know, what I’ve done here may not be what you consider “upcycling” either, but that’s a matter of taste/opinion and a topic for another time.)