Today I thought I would go back to basics a little as a few people have been asking how I stuff my softies so firmly. I think that this all comes down to the equipment that you use so I thought I would share a few tips to get a firmly stuffed toy...
The first tip is repeating myself but maybe through the repeating it will capture some new readers. The first rule of a strong and firm softie is to always use good quality polyester thread. It is really important that you throw out the "patchwork" rules and take that cotton out of your machine whenever you start a softie. Polyester thread is much stronger than cotton and will make your seams able to handle the strain of heavy stuffing. The second tip on your stitches is to always set your machine to a small stitch of approx 1 - 1.5. This again creates a stronger seam, makes the stitches less visible and creates a better end result.
Another piece of equipment that is very important is your actual stuffing. There is a big variance in the quality of polyester stuffings that are available. Unfortunately one of the most available brands that is found in chain stores throughout Australia is very poor. If you have been using this stuffing then you are probably getting lumps in your softies and getting a result that you are not happy with. We buy our stuffing from a pillow factory as the quality is far superior and we need to buy in bulk but I have heard on the grape vine that Birch makes a good stuffing. If any of you have any other brands you can recommend then please let me know so I can share it with everyone. To help you in your search for the perfect stuffing, here is a little trick. Grab a wad of the stuffing and roll it together into a ball in your hands. If the stuffing remains in the ball you have made, with no spring back, then it is a poor stuffing and will create lumps in your work. If the stuffing ball springs back then you know this is a great stuffing that will fill the space effectively without lumps.
The next piece of equipment that I wanted to share with you is our home made stuffing tool. I have already shared the wooden skewer with you on another T&TT for all of your tiny pieces but this next tool is the all purpose super stuffing tool!! Go to your local craft store and buy a cheap round wooden paint brush like this.
The cost is under $2.00 so they certainly wont break the bank. This becomes a great double sided stuffing tool. The smooth round end of the wooden brush is used at the perfect tool for turning your softie pieces and pushing all of the seams out smoothly.
The bristle end then becomes the perfect stuffing tool with a little modification. Grap some scissors (of course, don't be like me and use your sewing scissors so you have to buy a new pair!!!) and trim the paintbrush bristles to between a quarter and half inch. No need to be neat.
This allows you to easily maneuver the stuffing into your toy and to keep shoving it in right to the ends until it is super firm. When you place a piece of stuffing in with this tool the stuffing will stay with your tool so that you can get it right to the location that you want it to go.
The last tip is to just keep on stuffing!!! A lot of people are scared of stuffing too much and of breaking the seams, but if you have followed all of the tips above and your machine tension is correct then there should be little fear of breakage. Make sure that you support the area you are stuffing with one hand, while stuffing with the other and then keep shoving it in for as long as it will fit. If you have stuffed some sections less that others, you should still be able to maneuver stuffing to those places with your trusty tool.
One question we often get is "Why do you attach eyes, nose, mouth etc after stuffing, and how do you do this so that knots aren't showing?" So here is a tutorial that is perhaps not easy to convey with pictures only or words only, but hopefully with the two combined it will make a lot of sense!
This next tutorial is really only an aid to sewing some of my toys such as Phoebe, Pippi, Dawn, Scotty McSpotty and Kiki to name a few. I have had a number of people say that they either do not understand or have had difficulty transitioning from sewing around the body to sewing the inner legs. Hopefully this will make it a little clearer and will help those who have tackled or are yet to tackle these patterns.
Mrs Perkins' horns and other small parts can be tricky to turn and I often hear of people having piles of frayed horns after attempting again and again to turn the little fiddly pieces. I actually find it quite easy to turn the horns with just the use of a wooden skewer, but this has come with practice and re-use. This trick that I am about to show you is fool proof and so quick, some of you will give big sighs of relief, I am sure!
Firstly, the sewing foundations need to be right to get the desired result. With all small and fiddly bits you would be sewing on the traced line as this gives you much greater control as you work with a larger piece of fabric. We recommend that you always use a small stitch of 1 - 1.5 when sewing any parts that are to be stuffed. It is also a big help to always use polyester thread for softies due to the added strength. Cotton thread will break easily and may not be able to handle the strain of firm stuffing.