In May this year I reviewed Abby Glassenberg’s new book ‘Stuffed Animals from concept to construction’. I was very excited to get this book because there is very little else available to help teach people how to design their own soft toys. I decided I wanted to work my way through the book, making up each project & then applying the lessons of each project to a design of my own. At first I thought I would do one project a month & sharing what I had learnt from each project here on my blog & facebook page, that way I would get through the book in just under a year & a half; … (inset hysterical laughter 😀 … ) the first project has taken me 2 months to complete – & that was the easiest one.
So I guess it is going to take my a little longer than I first thought but that’s OK, the adventure is in the learning 🙂
So what did I learn from project 1 …
Project 1: Fish – a Basic Outline Toy.
An outline toy is one of the simplest & basic toys to design. This little gingerbread man
designed by Pauline from Funky Friends Factory is a good example. But as you can see by the fish they can also have some details too, in this case fins. Also you don’t have to be restricted to just one piece of fabric.
This little guy was not without his challenges though. Where the head joins the body you have to join a concave curve to a convex curve … not my favourite seams to join. Abby has a helpful tutorial here on joining concave & convex seams.
As I worked my way through this project, first making Abby’s fish then working on my own design, I become more aware of other outline toy designs. I guess the more you think about something & study it the more focused & trained your mind becomes to that particular ‘thing’.
Lesson 1: Creating a simple outline toy.
In this lesson Abby talks about the process of deciding on a design, the resource you can use & the process of sketching your proposed new design. She also talks about creating your pattern pieces from this sketch as well as tips for altering the overall size of the finished toy.
Here are some of the very first ideas I had. These weren’t going to be the finished sizes, I was just doodling to see if anything caught my attention. I didn’t mind my version of a fish, but I didn’t really want to to a fish, so I got out some colouring in books & had a look through them for inspiration. On was of Winnie the Pooh & his friends – one of my favourite stories growing up 🙂
This little chap was inspired by Piglet. I didn’t want to make ‘Piglet’ exactly, but I liked his round little tummy & floppy little arms & legs. One thing I learnt when I was studying & working as a makeup artist was what looks good on paper … doesn’t always look good in real life!
I knew from what I had read in Abby’s book & blog (whileshenaps) that it is a very
normal part of the process to make more than one prototype when designing a new toy pattern. So I wasn’t surprised when I found I need to make some adjustments. By the time I started to fill the second prototype I started to realised that there were some major floors in this design. I had been having a few nagging thoughts about the overall concept & wondering if I was over complicating things for myself. It was at about this same time I bought a new pattern from Abby’s Etsy store – Stella the Owl. This is a really fun & easy pattern to make & while I was making the first one I realised I needed to do something a little different. At first I found it a bit difficult to sideline my little ‘Piglet’ friend, I felt I was committed to him, I had posted updates on facebook & was feeling I needed to make it work, but he just wasn’t working & it was starting to frustrate me a little. Eventually I realised I had to swallow my pride & admit defeat – for now – & move onto something else, so my little Piglet inspired friend has been shelved for the time being & I moved onto a second idea.
The thing I found very interesting with this design was that it came to me far more easily. I first saw a picture of a cute little dinosaur in a book catalogue which gave me the initial idea. Even the drawing came far easier, more natural & much less mechanical than my first attempt. Although I was to once again to be reminded that what looks good on paper doesn’t always work in 3D – not quite anyway.
Prototype 1 …
I was happy with the overall shape & look of this little guy, especially his head, but as you can see from the photo above there were a few adjustments needed.
Prototype 2 …
Take two was better, although the the legs were still a bit too thin & there was a bump on his head, but after looking at the pattern piece I decided I just did something dodgy when sewing him up. I also wasn’t 100% happy with the area at the base of his tail. Overall though I thought the general look of my dinosaur had improved, so I went back to the pattern & made a few more adjustment, widened the legs a little more & reshaped the area under the base of his tail. Now I probably should have made another prototype at this point, but I was a little too impatient … so I just went for it … I pulled out some bright green & purple fleece & …
Overall I am very happy with my little dinosaur & I think fleece was the perfect choice for him, maybe because that was what I imagined him being made of, but I still think he’s cute. The only thing I thought could have been better was the snout. In the first one it was fuller & rounder, somehow I lost that along the way, so I will go back to the pattern to see what I did & see if I can improve on it a bit more before I make anymore out of fleece. Here’s a collage of all 3 lined up so you can see the progress …
Lesson 2: Attaching Details.
In this lesson Abby talks about the different options you can use to attach things to your toy. In the case of the fish there are fins which you could sew on when joining the seams or hand stitched on separately after the toy is stuffed. With the dinosaur, I didn’t have too many ‘attachments’, the spikes on his back were the main extra bits. I decided I wanted individual spikes for this guy, I could have made one long piece with a zig-zagy top but decided to use separate individual ones instead. I started off with 5 of these, each one was slightly different in shape & size. After making the first prototype I decided to reduce this to 3, partly because I bent the tail up a bit which made it a bit cramped for the last spike. After making up the second prototype I decided to use just 1 size for all 3 & to make it a little larger. Because I see this toy best suiting young children I chose to attach these by stitching them in when I joined the seam along the back, that way they were securely attached.
For the spots I used fusible webbing to attach them plus I hand stitched them on with embroidery thread to make them extra secure. Again, like the spikes, I used an odd number because odd numbers are more aesthetically pleasing.
Lesson 3: Button eyes & Felt Eyes.
In this lesson Abby covers some of the different options available for eyes such as felt & buttons. She also has tips for determining eye placement as well as options for attaching your toys eyes.
I could have used safety eyes (Ps … despite their name, safety eyes are not considered safe for children under 3 years of age) , buttons (also not safe for children under 3), felt or a mix of felt & buttons to name just a few options, but again, because I see this dinosaur as a toy for very young children I wanted something safe so I went for felt. Also by using felt I could make the eyes quite big & expressive which gives my little dinosaur a more animated/cartoon look which is the style I was aiming for. Like the spots, the eyes have been attached with fusible webbing & then stitched with embroidery thread.
So there it is, project one completed. I’m sure in time to come I will look back at this little guy & see all sorts of things I’m not happy with, but when that day comes I’ll give him a makeover . You may even see him again a in a future project, I known a couple of the future projects in Abby’s book are about creating gussets for the feet & head, so my little dinosaur may eventually end up with 4 legs instead of 2 😀
It’s been interesting & I have learn a lot. Now I’m eager to start the next project in Abby’s book – ‘Stuffed Animals’ a very sweet little ‘Bumble Bee’ , but first I need to buy some materials for this next project which is made out of felt. I have only ever used felt for facial features, so this will be something new for me 🙂
have a great week, bye for now …