Project 3 ~ The Elephant & Under-body Gussets : (Stuffed Animals: from concept to construction ~ Part 4)

Elephant with embroidered decoration

In the third project from the book “Stuffed Animals: from concept to construction” by Abigail Glassenberg, I learnt about making an under-body gusset.

The Project.

As with the last two projects there was a pattern to make which demonstrated the design concepts to be covered in this chapter, the main one being the under-body gusset.  I also learnt how to add darts to the legs of the gusset and how they help your toy to stand more upright and without his legs splaying out.  I’ll show you a bit more on that a bit later in the post.

I also learnt about adding features to a design in a location other than in a seam buy cutting a slit in the fabric.  I’ve seen this used in other patterns, and it is a very handy technique.  It is also a liberating design concept as it cuts down on seam lines which can be very important as it not only helps simplify a design, and but cuts down on unnecessary bulk.  Both very important points in designing toys which can sometimes use small and fiddly pieces. 


Another design feature covered in this project was adding an eyelid to the eyes.  This is something I have seen, but never tried it before.  The addition of an eyelid can help give more character and expression to the toy.

In this example, the eyes are made from felt, so drawing the pattern piece for the eyelid is a fairly simple process.  Abby has also add instructions on how to create an eyelid  for a more dimensional eye such as safety eyes.


I thought this little elephant was very cute.  Going by the size of the ears, I think she is technique an African elephant, but she reminded me of an Indian elephant, so I decided she needed some hand embroidered decorations to make her look more festive.



My Turn.

So what is a gusset?

A gusset is a piece of material sewn into an item to either strengthen it, add a design feature or give it extra width.  In the case of soft toys, it is most often used to not only give the toy extra width, but helps to create a more life like animal that is able to stand.  For example the little dinosaur I made at the end of project one (The Fish ~ Outline Toys).


In picture above, the green fleece dinosaur  is what I made at the end of Project one.  She is an outline toy, one of the simplest style toys you can design and make.  Some designs work well as out-line toys, but something like a four legged animal is a bit limited.

I still think my little dinosaur is cute, but I know she can be much better.  The first step in improving this design is to give her four legs.

Dinosaurs_extra_withBut before I designed the under-body gusset, I added 2.5cm (1 inch) to the body length and lengthened the  legs by raising her tummy a little … dino tummy tuck   😉

Following the instructions in Stuffed Animals, I designed my gusset starting approximately one third of the way up from the tummy.  This has my gusset starting just before the forelegs and finishing part way along the base of the tail.


As you can see in this photo, my little dinosaur is standing very well.  Her legs are nice and straight.  This is all thanks to adding a dart at the very top of each leg.  In the book, Abby shows you two versions of her elephant, one with leg darts and one without the darts.  It is a great illustration of how well they work.



My little dinosaur is far from finished.  With the addition of the under-body  gusset some areas that I was previously happy with have now change and need some adjustments.  For example, the gusset has made the base of the tail nice and plump, but this has made the end look very thin.   The legs are now looking a little thin also and very square at the ends.

In making this prototype, I have also been reminded that stretchy fabric like fleece can be very forgiving and woven fabric unforgiving.  In the photo above, there are some sharp angles happening that aren’t in the fleece dinosaur, so I need to find a way to address these at some point.  But for the moment I will leave this little creation where she is because for the next project in Stuffed Animals, I am making a adorable little ram and learning about ‘Head Gussets’.  I want to first see how adding a head gusset will change the look and shape of my little dino before I change to many things and make another prototype.



If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy the others in this series.

Part 1: – Book review

Part 2: – The Fish ~ Out-line Toys

Part 3: – The Bumblebee ~ 3D Shapes 



Until next time … happy sewing everyone  🙂



4 thoughts on “Project 3 ~ The Elephant & Under-body Gussets : (Stuffed Animals: from concept to construction ~ Part 4)

Add yours

  1. Your elephant is so gorgeous. I think it’s the best one I’ve seen! And I love how you’re applying each concept to your own design. Watching your dinosaur develop with each lesson is so fantastic. Thank you for working your way through my book. I truly means so much to me.


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