For many stuffed animals and plush, a simple way to add character and cuteness is to use plastic safety eyes. These eyes are installed before stuffing, and the two-part mechanism prevents the eyes from falling off**. They are quite easy to use, but it can be a bit confusing, so here’s a tutorial to help you install plastic safety eyes on your plush!
These are the tools you need: small, sharp scissors (the pointier, the better!), a pin, your safety eye (two pieces: eye and washer), and your unstuffed plush.
First, lay your plush so it is completely flat. If there is a seam between where you want your eyeholes to be, fold it on the seam (as shown). If you don’t have a seam, fold it at the center. Our goal here is symmetry; we don’t want our little guy to end up with lopsided eyes. Once you’ve got a fold, decide where the best spot for an eye will be, and stick your pin straight through both pieces.
Here you can see that the pin is going through both layers of fabric. Check to make sure the pin is coming out the other side symmetrically to your first hole.
Now you want to “puff up” your plushie. Make sure the pin stays in both sides, but pull at the fabric a bit so that the two sides aren’t touching each other; when we start cutting holes, we don’t want holes in the other side!
This part was hard to take a picture of because it requires two hands to execute, but this should give you the idea. Make sure you’re only cutting through one layer of fabric, and just snip one or two threads around the pin.
REMEMBER: You can always make a hole bigger but making it smaller is much more difficult!
In this example I am using super stretchy lycra, so I only need to snip one or two threads before my hole is big enough for the eye to slip through.
See how small it is? And this will do just fine. The smaller the eyes you are using, the smaller the hole you need. If your fabric is very stretchy, the hole can be tiny and it will work fine. If your fabric is not stretchy at all, I recommend cutting an “X” shape – just two snips crossing each other. Cutting an actual circle will compromise the structural integrity of the fabric.
Now stick your eye in. We are looking at the wrong side of the fabric in this picture, so of course the actual eyeball is on the good side of the fabric. If, even when you stretch at the hole, it is still too small, a few snips at this step can help you along.
Then, just pop it through!
Now we stick the washer on. You should notice that one side has a few (usually 4) little sharp pokeys. You want these facing DOWN when you stick it on the eyeball rod, as pictured. They will help secure the eye to the fabric and keep it from slipping.
Now you need to push the washer down. This cannot be undone, as that is the purpose of a safety eye, so make sure you’re definitely where you want to be (even though you’ll be stuck with a hole in your fabric if you go back now!) These can be tricky to push down, so I usually stick my left thumb underneath the eyeball against the right side of the fabric, and use my other thumb to push the washer down.
It usually goes one click past what you think it should. If you look at the picture, that is what it looks like all the way down. There will be a slight gap between the fabric and the washer because of the little pokeys.
And you’re done! Your little guy is ready to be stuffed and all stitched up. Although they’re called safety eyes, they’re not guaranteed, and can very occasionally work themselves back out! So do keep a watchful eye on little ones with any toys with eyes.
**Still not recommended for children under 3 because while these eyes are more secure than, say, a button, they can still fall off and become a choking hazard! Please use caution and your best judgment.