Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Learned about Softie Making

Baby Chibi Doll
I made my first softie about three years ago. It was after the birth of my first daughter and when I started to discover blogs. I have always been a little crafty, sewing some of my own clothes while in high school, dabbling in mosaics and jewellery making and did quite a few DIY projects to keep costs down for our wedding. From memory it was the blogs of One Red Robin and Melly & Me that made me think I'd like to give softies a go. I made a Ruby Doll first, then purchased the patterns for the Baby Chibi and Babushka Dolls and I was hooked. Since then I have continued to purchase patterns, design and make my own and have learned a lot along the way.
My Kokeshi inspired original design

So if you're keen to make softies too, here's a few things that I hope will help you to get started.
  •  Use 100% cotton quilting fabric, it is strong and durable. I widely source my fabrics, mainly online through etsy, Facebook pages and then at my local Spotlight and Textile Traders. Building up a stash of spots/stripes/chevron etc is good to do when there are sales too. I am drawn to many designer fabrics and I don't feel so bad about my fabric addiction when they are on sale! I prefer to purchase fat quarters or half yards to ensure that no two of my softies look the same.
  • Always wash your fabrics before use. These fabrics have been in factories, boxes and on shelves so you want to make sure they are clean before you use them. I find that the fabric is also easier to work with once clean, it is easier to turn limbs and create neat corners. Make sure the fabric is ironed before pattern pieces are cut out. (Funnily this is the only ironing I enjoy!) 

  • Ensure your supplies are in good working order- good sharp fabric scissors, small embroidery scissors for making small cuts, rotary cutter, fabric markers, pinking shears for internal seams. Unfortunately the quick un-pick gets a work out some days in my craft room, and I've learnt to simply scrap a softie if I can't fix a sewing mistake. Have a good selection of needles for your hand sewing appropriate for embroidery and other hand stitching.
  • Don't use other designer's patterns as your own. Make sure that they allow commercial production of their patterns, or a licence that once paid allows you to sell your wares. If you do use a pattern, always credit the designer on tags. Despite there being a multitude of free patterns online, not all allow for commercial production so make sure you research this before making for sale.
  • I admit to being a felt snob and will only use a good quality wool blend or 100% wool felt. I find that they don't pill or show signs of wear like the acrylic stuff does, which can also stretch and tear.
  • Double (or even triple) stitch the internal seams, especially if your softie is destined for some little hands. That extra reinforcement should prolong the life of the softie and ensure that the seams are nice and strong for when you do the stuffing. Use polyester thread as it is stronger than cotton thread too.
  • Stuff carefully and firmly. The stuffing process is actually quite time consuming. Small limbs and those funny little corners are best stuffed with many small pieces of stuffing than big chunks so that edges and seams can be filled properly and neatly. I tend to stuff my softies, leave them for a day or two to allow the stuffing to 'settle' before stuffing it some more and sewing it shut. I use a good quality polyfill although there are eco friendly and wool options which are more expensive. 
  • When playing around with a design of your own, use some calico or other cheap fabrics (and acrylic felt) until you get the design just right. Happy softie making!

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Penelope x