Learn to hand stitch and make a cute animal family - suited for kids and kids at heart alike!
Pick up our Forest Animals Plushie Kit that includes EVERYTHING you'll need to make some adorable plushies, including a 12oz bag of poly stuffing (not pictured). Or, if you have a tricked out sewing kit already, pick up just the pre-printed fabric from our web store. In this blog post we'll cover everything you need to know to make these hand stitched forest animals! We are so glad you're along for the journey.
DOWNLOAD THE PRINTABLE DIRECTIONS BELOW:
Step 1: Cut Select your favorite forest animal and cut out each piece needed for that one animal. Cut as accurately as you can by cutting on the line. We recommend, to avoid confusion, to work with just one animal at a time. The ear shapes are different for each critter, so please don't try to mix and match - that could get you into trouble later. There is a front piece, back piece and pocket piece for the main animal, and two pieces to make the coordinating mini animals. If you choose the Blue Bear, don't forget to cut out all 4 ear pieces.
Step 2: Marking Take your seam guage or other accurate ruler, and mark your stitching lines. You will mark and stitch from the white side of the fabric. In the kit you have a seam guage, use the red slider and move it to the 1/4" mark. The red slider goes up against the edge of the fabric, and use a simple mechanical pencil to mark where the edge of the ruler is on your fabric. (see photo, right) Make marks every inch or so along the entire perimeter of the main body piece (you only need to mark ONE body piece). If you are working with Blue Bear, you will also need to mark 2 ear pieces.
Step 3: Pocket In this step we will finish the top edge of the pocket piece. Find the top edge of your pocket piece. On the colored side (otherwise known as right side) of the long top edge, mark 1/4" all the way across just like you did in Step 2. This mark is a fold line. Now, fold on the line down and back toward the white side (otherwise known as wrong side). You can pinch tightly with your fingers to make a crease, or you can use an iron on "cotton" or high heat setting. Kids, be sure you have parent's permission and supervision before you work with a hot iron! Then you will fold one more time, the same size fold that you just did, and tuck under that raw edge for a nice clean finish! Use the seam guage to check and make sure you are folded about 1/4" again. Our second fold is usually a tiny bit bigger than 1/4" which is okay. If you are having trouble with this you can mark the second fold with your pencil just like you did for the first fold. You can use the iron again, or pinch with your fingers. If the fold doesn't want to stay, use 2 to 3 pins to hold it in place. We call that a hem or a double fold. You will need to hand stitch through all those layers to secure your double fold. See photo above for an example of a stitched double fold pocket hem. Here's how you do it:
Cut a piece of thread that is as long as your arm. Put the thread through the eye of the needle in your kit. Bring the two thread ends together and tie in a knot. The needle should be enclosed in the thread loop so that it cannot slip off. We will make running stitches, a long row of stitching alternating front to back. Starting at the far right side, needle starts on the back of the cloth and pushes up through to the front - remember, you are working near the edge of your pocket and will have to push the needle through 3 layers of fabric. Pull needle through until it stops at the knot, and then move needle over about 1/4" and push the needle back down through all the layers to the back. Move the needle over another 1/4" and repeat as you work your way across the entire fold. If you can get your stitches even smaller, 1/8" is better. Don't worry and just do your best! At the end, cut yourself a long tail ending on the back side of the pocket (the white or "wrong" side) and tie the two threads to each other into a knot. Nice stitching! Our sample in the photo shows the stitching in a contrast color so you can see what it is supposed to look like. Your thread in the kit will blend in better with your project.
Step 4: Layer Layer your pieces and pin together. Put the animal front piece out in front of you so you can see it right side up. You'll see the animal's cute little face looking back at you. Next take the pocket piece and put it on top right side up, all the way down at the bottom, so that the bottom edges of both pieces are lined up together and also the side edges of both pieces are lined up together. Finally, take the back piece and put it down on top, the colored side or right side should be touching the cute animal face. Does it seem weird? That's okay! You are making a sandwich, with all the good stuff on the inside - it will work, we promise! See photo, right, for an example of the sandwich. Next, take your glass head straight pins and pin through all those layers. The pins will go perpendicular to the outside edge, and will go around the entire perimeter of the project, 2 to 3" apart. See photo below for how to pin your layers together. If you are working with Blue Bear, see the addendum before you finish pinning.
Step 5: Stitch Stitch all the way around the perimeter with your running stitches. Before you start stitching, we will mark one 3" section where there will be no stitching. You leave this opening so that that later, you can turn the project and pull the inside (right side) out. The 3" opening is indicated by little triangles printed on the fabric right at the edge. Find these and using your pencil, mark them on the white, wrong side, of your fabric. This is where you will start and end your stitching.
Use the same technique described above in Hand Stitching. In this case we will add one small element, a backstitch. Get your needle ready with thread, and knot the thread as before. Following your marked stitch lines, start underneath and push the needle up through all layers. Take one stitch forward, and then your second stitch move the needle back to where you started (where the knot is) and take one more stitch on top of your first stitch. This is called a backstitch. It helps to make your first stitch stronger. For good measure, we recommend you take one more backstitch. Then continue stitching all the way around the perimeter on your marked line. For extra security you can take a backstitch after every 5 to 6 stitches forward. Tie knots and add new threads as you use up the thread on your needle. When you come around to the end of your stitch line (remember, you're leaving a 3" gap) take two back stitches again to secure the end, then make a knot.
Step 6: Clips, notches and corners To create a smooth, nicely turned forest critter there is one simple but important step to take, make clips in the corners and notches in the outer curves. It is VERY important that you do not cut your sewing thread. This is a step where you should take your time and go slowly, so that you don't accidentally cut your stitching. A notch looks like a little ^ cut into the fabric, where the point comes right up to your stitch line, but not through the stitch line. A clip is exactly what it sounds like, use the tip of your scissors and take a tiny snip into the fabric up to but not through the stitching line. On outer (convex) curves, you will want to notch about every inch or so. Clips are used on concave or inner curves. You will need to clip at the ears on the small critters and the bigger fox and owl where the "ear" meets the body of the animal. Corners get trimmed diagonally across the point, again being very careful not to cut through any stitches. You only need to worry about the corners on the large animals. See photos below for corner snips and notches.
Step 7: Turn right side out Reach into the gap in the stitching and begin to pull the colored side of your animal critter through to the outside. Be gentle with your hand stitched seams. Once it is completely turned out, you can use the blunt end of a chopstick to help push the animal features (especially the ears) out. Check the animal's pocket, if it is on back side of the animal, just flip it over to the other side.
Step 8: Stuff with fluff We provided polyester stuffing in the kit. You could also use leftover batting scraps, stuffing from a worn out pillow, fabric scraps, old t-shirt cut up into pieces, or anything else you can think of! You can fill your critter super dense and full, or keep it light and airy, it's totally up to you. You should be able to fill two full size critters and 4 mini critters with the kit contents - possibly more if you go the light and airy route. Believe it or not, there IS a technique for stuffing. You pull a handful of the poly stuffing from the bag, and before you put it in the critter, you fluff it out as much as possible - pulling outward but without pulling off smaller bits. Just expand the handful as best you can while still keeping it in one piece. We like to start with the ears and stuff those smaller areas first and then work our way to the opening.
Step 9: Close the gap Thread the needle one more time, tie a knot and put the needle at one end of the opening, starting on the underside or inside of the animal and pushing the needle up through to the outside. The knot should now be hidden on the inside of the animal. Whipstitch the opening closed, by working around the outside of the opening. The needle starts at the lower edge of the opening and up through the upper edge of the opening and back to the bottom edge, repeat until you get to the end of the gap. You may have to pinch the opening closed with your left hand as you stitch with your right hand, so that the stuffing doesn't pop out as you are working. You can also refer to the instructions with your animal fabrics for a stitch diagram.
ADDENDUM:: Blue Bear - you will have two pair of ear pieces, one piece for each pair gets marked with the 1/4" seam allowance as in Step 2. You only need to mark the long curved edge. Put the ear pieces right sides touching, put a pin through the layers to hold them together, and stitch your running stitches (just like for the pocket) on the line. Be sure there is a knot at both ends. Flip the ears so the blue fabric is turned to the outside, and the raw edges are tucked inside. Give a good press. These ears get sandwiched into the main bear pieces in Step 4. There are markings on the front bear that indicate where the ears go - you'll want to be sure they are fairly symmetrical. Place the ears between the front and back pieces, inside the sandwich, and be sure to pin through all the layers so that they stay put.