Category: Plush

the making of a fluffyland custom plush

the making of a fluffyland custom plush

Today, I thought it might be fun to give you a peek into my process for making custom plush. I always love seeing the thought process of other makers, because a finished product only tells you so much. So here’s a bit of behind the scenes on the making of a Fluffyland custom plush… Marie’s plush alpaca, to be precise.

google image search for alpacas

Once I’ve figured out what I want to make, I usually start – as most people probably start any project these days – with a Google search. It’s the craziest thing, but whenever I start to draw something, I immediately forget all the key details. A quick peek at some images keeps me in check.

And, in the case of these alpacas (or the Big Chicken), looking at all the images makes me even more enthusiastic about the project. Alpacas are just so happy looking (in a sometimes angry sort of way).

google image search for alpaca plush

Sometimes I’ll look for pictures of other plush to see if or how it’s been done before. I don’t always do this because I usually have an image in my head that I want to hold onto, and looking at other people’s plush can cause me to stray from my own unique ideas. But in this case, it was a worthwhile search because the alpacas I found weren’t at all what I was looking to make, and that helped affirm that my idea was new and necessary.

One of my best strategies is to look at cartoon or clip-art versions of what I’m trying to make. A challenge in making custom plush is deciding which features are key features and which features can be left out. A good example of this is my submarine whale. When I looked at pictures of submarines, they were way too detailed for my needs. Looking at cartoon submarines helped me identify the key features of “what makes a submarine” – in that case, it was portholes and a periscope. For an alpaca, the key features were ears, a big forehead, eyebrows, and a tail.

plush alpaca initial sketch

Once I have a clear image in my head, I start to sketch it on paper. I can cut any shape, but my drawing skills are pretty undeveloped. These sketches are meant to remind me what I see in my head, and they work just fine for that purpose.

plush alpaca initial sketch

Then I start to draw shapes that will resemble the pattern that I’ll make. They often look pretty silly.

plush alpaca sketch and prototype

Here, once I had decided on a body shape, I cut out a prototype from scrap fleece. Stitching this prototype and turning it inside out showed me that I needed to provide more seam allowance, especially at the neck – it’s an alpaca, not a giraffe! (or an ostrich, which I think it resembles here.)

plush alpaca sketch and pattern

With the arrows indicating areas of need, I sketch out a final pattern.

plush alpaca pattern

This is the pattern I sewed from, and it includes all the key pattern pieces except for the belly, which I just made up when it got to that point. For the 3D features, it’s usually easier to make them up from fabric rather than paper.

I’ve been trying harder to take notes and save all the final pattern pieces from my plush and other projects. Sometimes in the flurry of “making things up”, I forget to document my changes, and by the time I’m finished, I can’t recreate what I’ve made. So a good notebook and pattern binder are key to being able to learn from past patternmaking attempts. For example, here I remember that using wool helped the legs stay stiff enough for the alpaca to stand on its own… and that’s awesome!

wool plush alpaca

And we all know how the story ends. Pieces together, eyes installed, and all stuffed and stitched up, this alpaca was ready to journey across the Atlantic. Hurray!

an alpaca plush for marie

In August I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know Marie, a fellow blogger who loves to sew and knit. While I’m hoping to find some creative friends who don’t live an ocean away, it was awesome to hang out with Marie and we had lots of fun exploring fabric stores/markets and sharing thoughts and ideas.

While I was in Germany, she made me an amazing green and orange quilted pouch, with an orange zipper (!) and little ribbons with the Berlin and Hamburg skylines as a memory of my trip. Then, for an early Christmas gift, she sent me a package filled with German Christmas cookies, whale-printed fabric, and a gorgeous hand-knitted hat with cables – something I could never make in a million years.

Clearly, the best part about having crafty friends is that you can make things for each other, and I wanted to make something special for Marie.

Marie loves to knit, and, on a similar note, she loves sheep. I thought about making a plush sheep, but that didn’t sound terribly exciting. What other animals produce cuddly fibers, are adorable, and are loved by Marie? Alpacas!

wool plush alpaca

Once I got the idea in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. What could possibly be cuter than a plush alpaca? They’re such silly looking animals. And I think this is the first time I’ve ever sewn a plush with an eyebrow*!

wool plush alpaca - alpaca butt

I cut into my new collection of wool scraps from the rummage sale, opting for a chalky blue body and lavender features. The wool was fun to work with… in contrast to the fleece I normally use, it doesn’t stretch much at all. This led to a very substantial, “heavy” feeling stuffed animal. It’s a good thing.

I filled the bottom of his legs with plastic pellets, like beanie baby beans, and this added weight means he can stand up on his own! This was not intended and it was the best surprise. I rarely make plush that have legs but this was a good success.

wool plush alpaca - socks

I used the selvedge edge of the lavender wool for his feet – the ribbed edge makes it look like he’s wearing little socks. I figured Marie would appreciate an alpaca with wool socks. :)

wool plush alpaca

He was hard to send away, but it’s great to know that he’ll have fun in Germany with Marie. A big success for me on the plush front – I’ve been in a bit of a sewing rut lately – and I can’t get over his little eyebrows. Or his alpaca forehead.

And to make your day, here’s a happy alpaca I found while I was doing my research:

alpaca leap

*regarding eyebrow plush – in 2006 I made a plush Goomba for Ben. Its eyebrows are giant! So I guess that counts.

marietta, georgia’s Big Chicken – in fluffyland custom plush form

marietta, georgia's big chicken in plush form

Marietta, Georgia’s “Big Chicken” is a landmark so widely recognized, it has its own Wikipedia page. According to said Wikipedia page, in 1963, a Marietta KFC franchise built the 56-foot tall chicken as a way to attract visitors to the restaurant. I mean, look at that thing! How could you NOT stop there? His eyes roll around and his beak opens and closes! As part of my research I watched this informative but hilarious video about the history of the big chicken and its new shiny paint job.

marietta, georgia's big chicken in plush form

Of course, the reason I know so much about this goofy, giant chicken is because I was asked to make a plush one! Todd, a previous Dunkleosteus customer, has a toddler daughter who absolutely loves the chicken. And who can blame her? Todd figured, if I could make that prehistoric armored fish into a huggable plush, why not Marietta’s most beloved landmark? And of course, as soon as I saw the chicken, I became obsessed with the project. Such bright colors and such crazy eyes!

marietta, georgia's big chicken in plush form (chicken butt!)

This project was super easy for me because the big chicken was love at first sight. It’s so silly and brightly colored and all-around awesome. I tried my best to make the plush convey the spirit of the big chicken, and I think it worked out.

marietta, georgia's big chicken in plush form

And Todd and his wife loved the plush chicken… but more importantly, his toddler daughter was thrilled to have a surprise Big Chicken friend. Having a hand in surprises for little kids is, to me, the greatest honor. It’s so much fun to sew things that will be so loved.

marietta, georgia's big chicken in plush form

I mean, look at this guy. I can’t help but grin every time I look at him.

Thanks, Todd, for a wonderful challenge and a really fun project. This one will always be on my list of favorites!

And don’t forget, I always love to hear your ideas for custom plush. It’s that time of year, and I’d love to help you make something awesome and unique! Early November (or earlier!) is the best time to tell me your ideas so I have time to give them the effort they deserve. Let me know if you have the idea for my next awesome plush!