Making your own patterns, this is where it really gets fun! This is where you can create something truly unique and personal and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that hard.
For the purposes of this blog post I am going to focus on patterns for sewing and 2D patterns but I also have a couple of tips for 3D patterns coming up, so keep reading til the end of the post.
The 2D pattern is basically a flat design, that is, until it gets stuffed. This is an awesome way to make plush if you have strong drawing skills but can also be a great technique for very simple shapes and designs. It works very well for bringing a child’s drawing to life for example and I love that 2D plush are especially well suited for displaying on a wall.
Fellow plush artist Leeanna of Plush Goodness makes the most wonderful 2D type plush creations. Look at the photos, you can see her art background through her designs, I love how she sews so much life into her characters.
Luckily for us she was willing to answer my questions about 2D pattern making and share some photos of her work:
My process developed over time through trial and error, and I’m sure that if someone else were to take a look at my patterns they would have a hard time making sense of it all! Since I don’t come from a sewing background, I’ve developed my own shorthand of symbols and notations to mark seams, folds, etc. When I first started, I forgot to allow for seam allowance in my sketches and patterns, and that made for some interesting (frustrating) times when I tried to turn small seams right side out! I’ve learned my lesson now, and am a much better judge of arm/neck/leg hole sizes than I was, that’s for sure.
I always start with the sketch of my character, and the first step is to enlarge the sketch from its smaller sketchbook or doodle version to the actual size that I use to make the pattern from. Once I have the sketch the size I want, I take a ruler and make sure the dimensions are correct; that the width and/or length of the elements are equal, that lines are straight, that sort of thing. Then I start creating my pattern by laying a sheet of tracing paper over each element of the character, tracing the shapes, and adding in seam allowances etc where needed. Once I have all the pieces of the pattern created, the fun really begins! Choosing fabrics and trims is the best part, although sometimes it takes longer than others to find the right fabric for the vision that I have in my head.
Are there any special considerations when transforming a flat paper design into a plush, how do you remain true to your original concept?
Good question! Sometimes it takes me quite a lot of tries to get the character the same from my small sketch version to the larger plush sized version, and there are often times when my final sketch differs quite a bit from the original concept sketch as I make allowances for the actual process of creating the plush. Drawings can be anything you want them to be, while transforming them into a sewing pattern makes you think about HOW to take that sketch and turn it into a dimensional object, even if it’s a flat pillow-type, plush. There are practical limitations as to how small you can make an arm and still be able to turn it right side out, for example. Thinking about that can lead me to change my design, although I always strive to keep the changes true to the spirit and character of the original sketch.
I’ve also learned that taking into account the type of fabric you are using is a big part of pattern design (some fabrics pull or pucker or fray or require more seam allowance, so these are things to think about) and I also strive to choose fabrics that not only feel good and are fun to look at, but help to demonstrate and enhance the character and personality of the plush that I am creating.
Do you have any favourite pattern making materials or tips?
I always use good quality tracing paper for my patterns, and keep them in folders in case I ever want to re-create that same plush at a later date. If I know from the start that I will be reusing that pattern multiple times, I use thin cardboard (like from a cereal box) to create the pieces. Cereal boxes come in really handy, and the pattern pieces made from it can always be recycled when you are finished with them, or when they get too ragged to be accurate anymore. I also use the cardboard from the backs of the tracing paper pads when I need pieces larger than those I can get from a cereal box.
So that’s the 2D pattern….if you want to add a little more dimension to your plush there are a couple of easy add on techniques that are not as complicated as a 3D design but can give some great results.
You can add arms, legs, ears, hair or whatever, sewn and stuffed as separate pieces and then stitch them into the seams.
You can also add a gusset. You can see on the photo here that the nugget is a 2D flat design with a strip of fabric that joins the front and the back, pretty simple to do. If you have pattern pieces for the front and back made from cardboard you can easily measure around the edge to work out how long the strip should be.
Making 3D patterns gets more complicated, I still have a lot to learn and my pattern making process involves trial and a whole lot of error.
Making a 3D form which you can either draw onto or pin fabric to will help, it’s the same idea as pinning fabric to a dress form mannequin. I am no expert but there are some different approaches…go with whichever one makes more sense to you.
Some people form the shape they want to create from modelling clay, obviously this technique may be best suited to smaller plush.
Carving from foam is another option. I’m not good at carving myself but the advantage here is that foam is easy to find, can come in large pieces and you can easily pin fabric into it.
My preferred method is to make a cardboard or paper model. I cut out a front and a side view and attach them together at the center. From here I add sections as it would be viewed from the top or bottom. I glue it all together with white glue and once dry it’s very strong. If the horizontal pieces are evenly spaced then it is easy to take measurements that can then be transformed into a flat pattern piece.
Then I use my flat pattern pieces to make a fabric form, like the red one in the photo, this can be drawn on and have fabric pinned to it.
Becky Gould is the big kid behind Scrumptious Delight. Working from her home in Vancouver, BC she makes plush toys and soft sculptures that combine a love of food, all things furry and an unnatural appreciation of small appliances.