Spring Cleaning in the Studio
Art, Escapism, and Despair
Folds and Fabric in Art
A Gift from the Netherworld
News for February!
Huggable Art: A Plushie Tutorialby Apis Teicher
Ah, so you want to make a plushie? This tutorial is meant to be a how-to guide of the very basics of making a hand-sewn plushie.
Why hand-sewn? Well, for one thing -- you don't depend on a sewing machine. If you can mend a pair of socks, you can make a plushie. Now -- this is about as simple as it can get. From here -- just experiment, and have fun! There are many resources online with pattern ideas, supplies, etc. Keep in mind that this it –not- the ultimate source of Plushie-dom; it's simply the easiest way I know how to make them, so I thought I'd share.
More elaborate topics like crafting wings, wire armatures, clothing design and so on will not be covered here – I might do a follow up tutorial at some point, to address those.
You wouldn’t start a painting or a home renovation without planning. Plushies are the same. Research, or at least get a basic picture of the plushie that you want to make. This will make it easier to gather all the supplies, and not have to worry about forgetting something halfway through. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will show you how I made a plushie of ANGUS, my original character.
Sky’s the limit, as they say. You want to have on hand everything that you plan to use. For just about all of my plushies though, there are some basic supplies:
Those are the basics. Again, there are many ways to make plushies and you can pretty much use any material – I choose the above because they are sturdy, cheap, and easy to use.
If you are planning to use different fabrics for the clothes, keep in mind that many fabrics fray when hand sewn; choose one accordingly, or make the clothes with a sewing machine. Personally, I like making them out of felt too, to make the doll more cohesive.
Making a Pattern
There are many, many patterns – several of which you can simply find on the internet! Use this resource, but please give credit where its due; only use the patterns under the conditions of their creators.
Now, for this one.. eh, let’s go for the easiest one. No fingers or toes, no rounded head – just a very basic pattern with all the limbs done separately. Why do I bother with separate limbs? I like dolls to be able to sit or look like they’re hugging, as opposed to just laying flat on a pillow. ;)
Once you have the pattern, trace it onto the felt, and cut two (2) pieces for the head and two (2) for the body. Remember that for legs and arms you will need (4) respectively! Also, the ears can either be traced onto one of the head patterns or simply cut as a separate pattern. It really depends on the look you are going for!
This is the part that is harder to explain, but I hope following the images will help. You are going to attach the mirror images of each part and leave a small hole to stuff it through; when you run the thread through, loop it through itself, so that every stitch makes a small X. Since you are going to be stuffing the doll, you really want the stitches to hold.
Once you have only the small opening left, stuff it … slowly and bit by bit. If you try to shove inside an enormous chunk of filling, your plushie will be lumpy and uneven; have patience and stick only small bits you can push inside with a pencil or a chopstick. The more you stuff it the harder it will feel – don’t overstuff if you want it to be fairly squishy. Make sure you –do- fill it completely however, as any areas left empty will wrinkle.
If you wanted it to have the feel of a beanie baby, you’ll want to stuff it with the plastic pellets instead. Keep in mind they are harder to work with, and will make it a lot heavier!
Eyes and Facial Features
There are actually a couple of ways of doing this. If you have time to spare, I recommend preparing the felt that is going to be the face, by painting the features using a mixture of acrylics and fabric medium. This will have the cleanest, most seamless results. If you are patient, this is the method I’d recommend.
However – fabric medium takes at least a day to dry, so you have to prepare this the day before you want to work on the rest of the doll. Make sure you leaving drying over wax paper, as the medium will go through the felt and stain anything below it.
The second option is to use t-shirt transfer sheets! As long as you have the image of the eyes already in your computer, simply print it out onto a transfer and afterwards carefully cut out the features and iron onto the face felt. A word of caution – you are working with felt, not the usual cotton they were made for. Don’t make the temperature too high or you’ll not only ruin the felt, you can permanently wreck your iron!
I keep on hand iron-ons for projects where I don’t have as much time – they really are a time saver.
Attaching the Limbs
Only do this once they are all stuffed! If you want the doll to sit/hug the easiest way is to pinch the seams together and stitch them with the limb pressed inward.
Ah the glory of hair! I use yarn – and your local crafts/ knitting stores have tons and tons of colors and textures to pick from. If you’re making a bigger doll, choose the thicker yarn – if you’re making a rather small one, usually easier to work with the thinner ones.
Loop the hair around a book or stiff cardboard for the length that you would like; for Angus I did it about eighty (80) times, but most plushies probably only need about half as much. I will not be covering hairstyles in this tutorial, but you can experiment!
Carefully slide out the hair and secure a knot through the middle, to create the part.
Once this is done, using needle and thread secure the hair to the head by stitching the knot about half an inch back from the forehead seam. Make sure its tightly in place!
Cut the loops, to give loose, individual strands.
Using glue (just your garden variety white glue works best) secure a flat layer of hair to the back of the head, and just over the ears- style hair at will! If you intend to have the hair stand on spikes or any other gravity defying hairstyles, set this before the glue dries.
Angus’ is just run of the mill felt- I did, however, want to give it added décor without doing much embroidery or beadwork, so I went through my handy box of random fabrics (now you see why I keep them all on hand) for a lovely Celtic pattern.
The wings were a wire frame with translucent gauze ribbon glued onto them. There are many, many ways of making wings and attaching them – this was just the most straightforward one for the kind of wings I wanted to give him.
One happy, pudgy Angus.
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