Making fabric stuffed animals for children can be a fun, simple and lucrative activity. Using soft, brightly coloured fabric and embellishments and stuffing that is safe for the little ones will help make them appealing to kids and parents alike. With some creativity you can turn simple patterns and designs into great playthings.
Sketch design for your animals on regular paper. Alternatively, if you have a stuffed animal pattern, transfer markings onto newsprint or tissue paper.
Prepare patterns. If working from commercial patterns, cut pattern pieces from the packaged sheets. Or make template/pattern (steps 3 - 5). Go to section 2 if not working from your own sketches.
Draw patterns for the body parts based upon your sketches on newsprint or tissue paper, with a pencil, Include patterns for animal features that may be separate such as eyes, nose, interiors of ears and belly.
Add one-quarter inch seam allowance markings to the outside of the pattern drawings. Mark centre of each template with name of body part. Cut patterns on outside edges of seam allowance markings.
Lay patterns on a flat surface and align them according to sketch. Mark patterns where body parts meet: ears to head; head to limbs etc. Adjust pattern accordingly and cut excess newsprint/tissue paper from pattern pieces.
Wash, dry and iron fabric. Fold fabric in half, right sides together and press again. (The "right side" is the side of the fabric that you want seen when project is complete.)
Lay patterns of main body parts in middle of folded fabric or according to commercial pattern directions. Pin through both thicknesses of fabric. Cut fabric along outside edge of pattern. Transfer all markings from commercial patterns and for self-made patterns, also mark the backs with a "B."
Lay patterns of animal features on wrong side of unfolded fabric. Pin patterns down and cut fabric.
Prepare animal features for sewing. For round features, make small clips from outside edge of fabric to the line. Fold edges flat towards line with wrong side up and press.
Pin each animal feature to the corresponding body part wrong side to right side. (Eyes on head for example.)
Hand-baste and remove pins. With sewing machine, topstitch/edgestitch features in place. Remove basting.
Work with the head next and pin right sides together and baste. Leave open the areas where the head meets other body parts. Machine stitch fronts and backs together. Remove basting. Do NOT turn right side out. Set aside. Note: On body, leave leg holes and between legs open. Repeat for each body part.
Arrange body parts on a flat surface with backs facing up and according to pattern directions or your initial sketches.
Start with the ears and head first. Turn one ear right side out. Place inside head at ear opening, right sides together, fronts facing same direction. Align markings. Pin and baste. Repeat for second ear.
Machine-stitch both ears into place.
Turn new piece right side out through the neck opening. Set aside.
Repeat steps 4.1-4.2 for arms/body. Do NOT turn new piece right side out.
Trim seams. Turn right side out through space between animal legs and turn legs right side out.
Slip new head inside body, right sides together, aligning markings. Pin and baste. Turn right side out to check work. Turn right side in and adjust if necessary; stitch head to body.
Trim seams, close to stitching. Leave on wrong side.
Repeat steps 4.1-4.2 for legs/body. Leave space between legs open.
Work stuffing through opening to the ears and limbs evenly to desired fullness.
Tuck in raw edges of fabric in space between animal legs.
Stitch opening closed with a threaded hand needle, Place knotted end of thread on wrong side of fabric at seam-allowance marking working to hide stitches as much as possible.
Take photos of the animals to create a portfolio/inventory list. Print for brochures or upload to a website.
Set prices based upon your material cost, labour and desired profit.
Set up website with payment and shipping features for your products; seek third-party company such as Etsy specifically designed for selling handcrafted goods; or sell at such places as craft fairs and mom-to-mom sales.
Pre-wash the fabric in hypoallergenic or baby washing powder. While fabric is being washed, work on your patterns. Instead of making your pattern from scratch, you can purchase stuffed animal patterns or find free ones online. Make noses 3D by adding stuffing or making separate nose/snout/beak pattern. Use yarn or thread for eyes and noses as an alternative to sewing separate patches of fabric for them. Use yard, ribbon or faux fur for such features as manes and bushy tails. Use recycled plastic shopping bags with or instead of stuffing for a crinkle effect. For multi-sensory effects, use textured fabrics such as corduroy, different combinations of fabrics, or insert a small bell into the animal. Green tip: avoid poly-blend stuffing or plastic bags and instead, stuff with fabric scraps or remnants. Take pictures of products in the best light possible. If possible, show a few toys in action with kids. Research prices of similar products, either make custom/made-to-order, or make several first so that you have available inventory.
Always use clean, new materials. Never use glued-on items such as google-eyes or beading that can present a choking hazard for any child. Be sure to have enough seam allowance to accommodate your stuffing materials. Make sure that you use the appropriate gauge for tight enough stitches. Test with scraps of your fabric between cutting and sewing to determine the appropriate gauge and tension for your machine and needles. Purchase enough needles in the event that they break. Always use the same thread for your bobbin as for your main thread to avoid thread breaking and tension problems. Make sure to include washing instructions and disclose the materials used on the toys when selling them. If toys have parts (such as bells) that could come out with use, provide the "under three choking hazard" warning. You may need to make many prototypes and experiment with different patterns before you're satisfied enough with your stuffed animals to sell them.