6 Weeks of LOVE for Softies is packed full of tips, tricks, patterns, free downloads and lots of tutorials. Here’s a springtime treat for you from Carley Biblin of Making It Up as I Sew Along… Sheep! Carley shows you how to embroider wool or fur, a technique that can be applied to any number of softie animals. In this post she uses a pattern from Stuffed Animals by Abby Glassenberg.
The materials and instructions below are written using the Ram softie pattern designed by Abby Glassenberg and published in her book Stuffed Animals. The technique can be applied to any softie, so experiment and have fun with it.
- ¼”-wide roll of fusible web
- Osnaburg fabric
- Lightweight cotton fabric (such as muslin)
- Fabric marker or sharpie
- Large tapestry needle
- One skein Lion Brand Alpine Wool yarn
Preparing the Softie
1. Trace all the template pieces labeled “fur” onto a piece of Osnaburg fabric. Use a dark marker, such as a sharpie, so that you will be able to see the traced lines through the Osnaburg or backing fabric. It can be helpful to put the osnaburg into a quilting hoop to keep it from shifting.
2. Tear small pieces of the fusible tape and iron them along the outside of the traced line. Leave the backing on until you have completed all the pieces. Note: If your pattern pieces include a seam allowance, iron the fusible tape along the inside of the marker line.
3. Remove the protective backing from the fusible tape. Lay the lightweight cotton fabric over the traced shape so all of the fusible tape is covered. Make sure the grain line has the proper orientation. Iron the fabric to the Osnaburg using light steam.
4. Cut out the pieces of fabric-backed Osnaburg ¼” from the traced line (this is for the seam allowance). Cut out all other non-fur pieces of fabric required for the softie.
5. Assemble and stuff the softie according to the pattern instructions. The lightweight cotton fabric is the “wrong side” of the fabric and the Osnaburg should be visible on the outside of the finished softie.
Embroidering the Softie
6. Cut a length of yarn and thread it onto the tapestry needle. My method of threading the yarn is to twist the end tightly and push it through the eye of the needle with my thumbnail. Note: The longer the piece of yarn, the less waste there will be overall. I cut my yarn about 36″ long and put as much of that length as I can through the eye of the needle until I need it. If you prefer shorter lengths, you will likely need more than one skein of yarn.
7. Select a place at the lowest point of the Osnaburg to begin embroidering. The stitch will be worked to the left and in ascending rows. Put the needle into the Osnaburg about 1.5″ from your selected starting place and bring it out at the starting place. Pull the yarn through until the end just disappears into the layers between the Osnaburg and lightweight cotton fabric.
8. The embroidery stitch I use is the oyster stitch, which is composed of three steps. Keep in mind that the yarn tends to twist as it is pulled through the Osnaburg, so you will need to untwist it occasionally to keep the yarn from tangling. For those who find diagrams helpful, here is one I recommend.
– Begin by putting the needle down through the Osnaburg only (never through the lightweight cotton), a distance about equal to the width of the yarn. Bring the needle up through the fabric a distance of about three or four yarn widths from where it went down. With the needle in this position, loop the fiber over the shaft of the needle from above and then under the point. Hold the loop of yarn in place with your thumb and pull the needle and yarn through and to the left until the loop rests against the softie.
– Insert the needle down through the straight section of yarn at the beginning of the stitch. The needle should not go through any fabric for this part. Pull the yarn through.
– Create a clockwise loop around the stitch with the yarn and hold it in place with your thumb. Put the needle down into the Osnaburg right next to the first spot it went into the fabric, but above the straight part of the stitch, and bring it out again on the other end of the stitch. The loop should be under the point of the needle. Pull the needle and yarn through. This completes one stitch.
9. When the yarn becomes too short to work another stitch, tack the last stitch down by putting the needle into the Osnaburg as if you were going to make another stitch, but bring the needle out about 1.5” away and to the side. Pull the yarn through and cut it close to the body of the softie.
10. Begin a new length of yarn by putting the needle through the Osnaburg about 1.5” away from the last oyster stitch and bring it out at the beginning of the tacking stitch. Continue embroidering in this way until you have completed an entire row.
11. Continue embroidering around the softie in a spiral pattern (or by ending each row and beginning a new one). For each successive row, stagger the line of stitches to create a shingle pattern. The needle should follow along just above the top of the previous line of stitching to ensure there are no gaps.
12. For the ears, make a small tacking stitch whenever you begin a new strand of yarn. This is necessary because there is less friction to hold the yarn in place. Embroider in back and forth rows, rotating the softie as needed.
13. Stitch/attach all the facial features to your softie, then stand baaa-ck and admire your sheep!
This hand-embroidered sheep is for sale in my Etsy shop. Use coupon code “SewMama” to get a 15% discount on this or other items in my shop through the end of March. To see more of my hand-embroidered sheep, check out this post. Happy Stitching!