Making Toys: A few tips for beginners.

  • Take a minute to understand the big picture: Read through all the instructions for an overview.
    • To hold the pattern down on your fabric use weights. (food cans work well) or simply hold the pattern firmly. Don't pin the pattern to the fabric it can distort the pattern and change the finished look. 
    • Sew an accurate seam allowance: it's important because toys are quite small, changing the seam allowance can dramatically alter your finished toy, And remember, if you change the size of your pattern, i.e. add 10% you also need to add 10% to your seam allowance. The same goes for reducing.
    • If your finished toys look twisted: Try sewing down one side, go back to the centre then sew the other side i.e. from the nose tip  to the base. It will stretch evenly on both sides. hopefully keeping your toy symmetrical.
    • Matching the seams: If the seam has twists and turns and you're using a stretchy fabric, it can be difficult to match the seams together evenly. Instead try pinning the two ends first, then the middle. Then the middle of each gap and so on. 
    • When turning out don't start at the lip: This was a revelation to me and can save a lot of time and frustration. Take for example an arm. You need to turn it right side out, don't start at the top where the opening is. Instead go to the other end (where the hand is) and start pushing the hand into the arm. Then use an old paint brush or something similar to push the hand up through the arm until you see it appear at the opening. Then take hold of the hand and simply pull it out through the arm and hey presto!
    •  Use a pencil to draw the seam allowance: If the design has lots of curves use a pencil to draw the seam allowance onto the fabric before you sew. If for example there's a 10mm allowance, use a ruler to mark 10mm every few centimetres, then connect the dots. You'll find it much easier to follow a pencil line with your needle rather than try and judge a winding, curved seam allowance as you sew.
    • Run an extra stitch over pressure points: for example where the arms and legs attach. Run the your stitch along the seam a few extra times. 
    • Cut back excess fabric: To prevent bulking and help get neat smooth seams you need to cut back and excess. you should also cut small triangles or notches along any curves. A fast and simple way of doing this is to use Pinking Shears: these are simply fabric scissors with serrated blades. Or do it the traditional way, one triangle at a time.
    • If you're using old clothes use an iron-on interfacing: A lot of people like to make their stuffed animals out of old clothes. It's a great idea and the end result can be unique and captivating. However be warned when using old clothes, especially very stretch fabric (like for example baby grows you need to use an iron-on interfacing on the back to stiffen the fabric. If you don't the toy will often balloon out when you stuff it and can look a bit peculiar. Interfacing is sold in most any fabric shop, there are different thicknesses so if you're unsure ask for advice before you buy.
    • For perfectly pointy corners: snip the tips off points before turning out, this will keep them neat and sharp.
    • Use the best stuffing you can afford: High quality stuffing will transform the feel of your toy. Poor quality stuffing can leave your toy feeling a bit lumpy. If using natural stuffing make sure to follow manufacturers instructions for washing your toys.
    • Try using clips instead of pins: Anyone who sews knows the pain of pins in your finger tips or worse under your nails. Wonder clips are fast and pain free. Try  them and you may never go back. Having said that, if very accurate sewing is required, a few pins can be a great help.