This guide will walk though making a plush toy that’s simple to sew by hand.
This tutorial is based on my friend Moxie’s Free Range Monsters project in CRAFT Magazine volume 6. I’ve used this project for years to teach introductory sewing to my students at SVA. It’s fun, creative, and doesn’t require much in the way of specialized tools.
To make this project, you will need:
- Fabric (or old towel or garment that can be used as fabric)
- Thread to match your fabric
- Hand sewing needle
- Binder clips or sewing pins
- Scissors, preferably fabric scissors
- Plastic eyes for plush toys (optional)
- Yarn and matching thread for hair (optional)
The first step is to make a paper pattern. Create a character or just randomly arrange some shapes–just be sure none of its features are too skinny, or you’ll have trouble turning it right side out later on.
If your fabric is fuzzy like mine, pay attention to the direction of the fuzz, which is called the nap. My fabric also has a clear front and back.
Cut two pieces of fabric in the shape of your pattern: one is the mirror image of the other.
Tip for faux fur: cut only the fabric substrate of the fur, keeping the scissors close to the “roots” of the fur. This keeps shedding to a minimum and preserves the fur’s length.
Stack them together with the right sides facing each other, and clamp the aligned the edges together with small clips or pins.
Here’s a tip for setting up your thread. Double it over after threading your needle to bring the two ends together. To make an extra big knot, wrap the thread around your forefinger, then pinch in your thumb and use it to spin the strands to the tip of your finger, where you cinch down the newly formed twisted loops into a tight and messy knot.
Stitch the fabric together along the outside edges using a backstitch, which goes two steps forward, one step back. In other words, come up through the fabric two stitch lengths away, then step back by one stitch length to come down through the fabric at the same place the last stitch ends.
When you’re about to run out of thread, use the needle to stitch a knot by looping it through some previous stitches, then catching the loop before pulling it tight. Repeat and cut the needle free, then start stitching again right where you left off.
Leave a gap in your stitches about four inches wide, so that you can turn the toy right side out.
At this point I took the optional step of attaching some plushie toy eyes and a nose that pierce through the fabric. You can also wait until after stuffing to attach facial features to the outside of the toy using felt and fabric glue. I trimmed the long fur around its face.
Stuff with small amounts of polyfill at a time, using a chopstick to get it down into the details of the toy’s features. You can also stuff your toy with fabric scraps or even crumpled up plastic bags.
Close It Up
Then it’s time to stitch the toy closed. I like to do this with a ladder stitch (aka slip stitch), which is when you make stitches along alternating sides of the opening which stay on the right side of the fabric. When you tighten the stitches, the raw edges then turn inside the toy. My fabric’s fur kept getting in the way, so I used a bit of plastic to keep it out of the way. To tie off the thread, create a knot and then bury the tail inside the toy.
I used yarn and matching thread to create some hair to complete the look.
Thanks for following along! If you enjoyed your experience, please share this guide with a friend.
If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:
- CRAFT Issue 6 Release Party in NYC
- Plush Squids
- Plush Knee
- Twitchie Plush Scorpion
- Hair Scrunchie
- Quilted Vinyl Pencil Case
- Embroidered Portrait
- Emoji Ghost Costume and Emoji Pile of Poo Costume