Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World designs sewing and quilting patterns especially for beginners, with video tutorials teaching you every skill you’ll need to make any of the projects. We asked Wendi to tell us about her favorite supplies that take softies to the next level of intricacy, craftsmanship and “Wow!” Learn more about Wendi, her blog and her shop in this introduction.
A few notes on the post:
– Annette has more about wool in her Advantages of Pure Wool Felt for Softies + Plush Toys: Tips + How-To’s.
– Wendi mentions Fairfield Fiberfill, and we’re currently hosting a Fairfield Friday Giveaway. Hop over and enter to win!
– Intrigued by Wendi’s thoughts on faux fur? Her Monstrously Warm Rice Bag and Monster Hand Warmers here at Sew Mama Sew are a fun way to try it out.
Wendi sells all of her favorite tools and supplies in her Shiny Happy World shop, including many of the things she mentions here.
I’m Wendi Gratz from Shiny Happy World and I design sewing and quilting patterns especially for beginners. Sewing softies is so much fun. What else invites you to kiss it after you finish making it?
Lately I’ve been obsessed with dolls and doll clothes. I launched The Dress Up Bunch Club in December and it’s already been so much fun! Members get a brand new pattern every month for an outfit and accessories designed to fit any of my rag dolls. Those dolls are going to have a pretty amazing wardrobe by the end of the year. Better than mine!
Six Professional Supplies to Take Softies from So-So to Spectacular
If you want to make really top notch softies with extra cuddly appeal, you often need to step out of the quilting fabric aisles. I know! The colors and the prints are all so cute! But they tend to result in softies that are harder and less cuddly than store-bought softies. You want maximum cuddle appeal!
Here are my six favorite supplies. Using them can really step up your softie game! Many of them are actually easy to use, and they’re not too hard to find.
Lots of softies use felt, either for the whole toy or for accents. Whenever possible use wool or wool blend felt instead of the “craft felt” you’ll find at most fabric stores. Craft felt pills and looks grubby almost right away. Wool felt is more expensive, but it looks nice forever!
If you don’t like to work with wool (or can’t), bamboo felt is an excellent alternative. It wears just as well and comes in almost as many colors, but it’s usually a bit more expensive than wool.
If you live near a brick and mortar store that sells an assortment of wool felt in pretty colors, count yourself lucky! Most of us have to order it online. Two of my favorite sources are Benzie Design and Heather Bailey (especially for bamboo felt).
If you use quilting cotton for your softies, every single pucker will show up. Sure, you can work on perfecting your sewing. But it’s easier to just work with more forgiving materials. I’m talking about stretch! Stretchy fabrics have a reputation for being difficult to sew with, but you can sew them on a regular machine and the way they can stretch to make a seam fit just right often makes softies come together more easily.
Polar fleece is a great fabric to start with. You can find it anywhere! Just make sure you spring for the no-pill kind. It’s usually about $1 more per yard.
If you really want to step up your game, try using cuddle fleece. It’s similar in thickness to polar fleece, but it’s softer. It’s minky-ish on one side and has a very short furry pile on the other side. I love using the furrier side for furry bellies and tails.
I fell so in love with the stuff that I designed a whole series of pattern to take special advantage of its extra cuddliness. You can get it at Fabric.com.
I’ve never had any problems sewing any of these knits with a regular needle, but test on a scrap before you sew the real thing. If you find you’re skipping stitches or snagging the fabric in any way, switch to a ball point needle.
Polar fleece and cuddle fleece can be pretty fat. I LOVE using Wonder Clips instead of pins when I sew with them!
Faux fur can make some pretty spectacular softies! You can sew it up as the body, appliqué it to other fabrics, and even appliqué right onto the fur.
It’s not as hard to work with as you might think; you just need to be careful to cut through only the backing fabric when you cut it, and smooth the fur out of the way when you sew it. There’s a video here with more info.
My favorite source for faux fur is Luxury Faux Fur. They have terrific prices, and they sell in fat thirds instead of long thirds, which gives you a much more usable piece of fabric for softie-making.
I resisted using plastic safety eyes for a long time (because plastic!) but the first time I popped them into a doll face as a last ditch attempt to make the eyes more lively, I was in love.
They reflect the light like real eyes and they’re safe for all but the youngest softie cuddlers. I usually use these basic black safety eyes. When I want something fancier I go to 6060 where I can find lots of different sizes and colors, round or cat/reptile pupils, and even some amazing hand-painted eyes. While She Naps has some really fun cartoony-looking eyes.
Those are all supplies that show from the outside. What about what’s on the inside?
Softie manufacturers use special machines to blow tiny clumps of stuffing into the toys. There’s nothing quite like the feel that gives the finished softie, but you can come pretty close. I used to think that all polyester stuffings were the same, but then I tried one that had much finer threads, felt silky/slippery to the touch and didn’t clump up. I didn’t have to tease it apart into tiny clumps before stuffing, and I was able to get a much better and smoother fill on my toys without having to pack it in tightly, which made the finished softies more cuddly. I’ve used it in all my softies ever since.
It’s sold under two names. In most stores it’s Fairfield brand Poly-fil Supreme Fiberfill. At Walmart it’s Poly-fil Supreme Ultra Plush.
Soft & Stable
For years I looked for an interfacing that would allow me to design softies with parts that stick up or out without flopping (think ears or wings) but that wasn’t hard or uncuddly. I tried every interfacing and stabilizer I could find, but anything strong enough to hold up something like long bunny ears felt hard or even crunchy.
I finally turned to Betz White (bag maker extraordinaire) for advice, and she turned me on to a product I’ve never seen in a store. It’s called Soft & Stable and it’s perfect. It’s a thin foam covered with a smooth knit. You can sew right through it and it makes super soft, cuddly parts that will spring right back up after you smoosh them down.
You can buy it directly from ByAnnie.
I can’t wait to see the spectacular softies you all make with these supplies! Don’t forget to enter the contest!