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Experimental Sewing

So I don’t actually know how to sew.

I have never learned to use a machine, and all these stuffed animals are basically made with one stitch, by hand, and the lumps are hidden under faux fur. I design the bodies by cutting out a shape on paper that looks sort of like it should work. Pludwump was basically a football with a head, Rough Seams involved some real sewing atrocities on the inside of the body, and I had to do Quippet twice over. (That I have succeeded at all never fails to amaze me—fabric is clearly forgiving stuff!)

And now I want to try making a thing with a soft head instead of resin parts—I have this grandiose vision of a faux mink stole with the head attached, only the head is a stuffed animal, possibly with tongue hanging out, and I don’t think resin would be very comfortable–but since I have no pattern and the head is not faux fur, I have to actually make a pattern.

I have a couple of books on sewing stuffed animals. I basically took a head pattern that looked sort of right and freehanded it to more-or-less the right size. (Probably less…) and now I get to go mutilate some innocent fleece to try to make it look sort of like the thing in my head. And sketchbook.

Either it’ll work or it won’t, and if it doesn’t, I may try a very flattened sculpted head because I am totally in love with the idea, but I want to at least try it this way first.

Is there a trick to making patterns that I am just missing that makes this all super easy, or is it all “try, try, cry a lot, try again, get it sort of right, yell “CLOSE ENOUGH!” and start sewing?”


Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.

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my pattern-making technique is largely trial-and-error, but it helps to be pretty good at spatial orientation.

Get a pad of graph paper, and some tape. Look at the shape of a professionally-made stuffed animal to get some idea of where the seams go, and the shape of the pieces. Or look up some free stuffed animal patterns, and compare the shape of the flat pieces to the final stuffed piece.

sketch out the pieces that you think might work on the paper pretty big (graph paper makes it easier to do symmetry), cut them out, and stick them together with a few pieces of tape. If you don't like how the shape turns out, trim the edges and retape until you do.

Or you can print out a free pattern that's sort of similar to what you're looking for, and modify it: for a mink I'd think of starting with a bear pattern, and lengthening and rounding the nose area, and maybe making the forehead piece wider, and the sides of the head shorter. then cut it out and tape together to check the 3D shape. Darts are good to round out a shape: cut a slit in the paper and wrap the sides over each other and tape when you like the shape.

Once you have a paper shape that you like, mark fur direction (if you think you'd like to use fur for it at some point- usually away from the nose), and write the name of the piece on it. Then cut the tape to separate the pieces. (if you have darts like I described above, cut down the center of the overlapped area to the tip) Trace the paper pieces onto a new piece of paper leaving a decent bit of space between them (something heavier like bristol is nice if you plan to reuse it) and draw your seam allowance of choice around the pieces. use at least a 1/4 inch seam allowance, wider if you want (usually 5/8 is the widest). If you're using a sewing machine, it should have marks on the throat plate showing different seam allowances, or you can measure and put some tape on the neck to make sure you keep a consistent distance when sewing.

and always do a mockup first. you can use muslin, or any fabric that behaves roughly the same as your final fabric in things like stretch and thickness. For polarfleece, you could use one of those cheap thin fleece blankets to get a really good mockup

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