I was given a copy of Stuffed Animals from Concept to Construction by Abigail Patner Glassenberg to review. This 192 page book has patterns and instructions for making 16 different stuffed animals, including a fish, bumblebee, elephant, lion, cat, teddy bear, monkey, and hippo. It also includes 52 lessons on the designing and creation of your own stuffed animal.
Here is what Amazon has to say about the book:
Are you ready for a soft toy book that goes beyond the basics? Here, for the first time in decades, is a comprehensive reference that teaches you how to sew heirloom-quality stuffed animals, from four-legged friends that actually stand to a classic, poseable Teddy bear. Each of the 16 projects contain lessons that teach such skills as needle sculpting, designing “cupped” ears, and making muzzles, snouts, and beaks. Make one of Abby’s animals and learn something new, or take a new technique and apply it to your own design!
This book is really two books in one. It is a pattern book so that you can stitch up the stuffed animals in the book. It is also a book on how to create your own stuffed animals, from sketching your toy through stitching and stuffing, and finishing it by adding details like eyes and tails.
I loved that the beginning of the book had detailed chapters on tools and techniques. Creating a stuffed animal is like any branch of sewing – it has its own vocabulary and toolbox that comes with it. There are images and descriptions to help you understand the rulers and templates that you will use in the design and creation of stuffed animals. Glassenberg reviews the types of needles, thread, trims and fabric that are important to a softie maker. And she takes a deeper look at the kinds of stuffing used in softie making, and the reasons you would use these different materials. At the end of the book you can find resources for purchasing these materials as well.
After reading through the book, I had a tough time deciding which stuffed animal I wanted to make. I’ve made some stuffed animals in the past… I’d say I’m a sophomore softie maker, but a veteran stitcher, so I decided to skip to the end of the book to make the dinosaur. I loved his zippered mouth!
The pattern pieces are all at the back of the book to trace. All of them are at full-size except the dinosaur, which needed to be copied at 110%.
The patterns in the book are layered, so that they don’t take up too many pages. I’ve done enough garment sewing using magazine patterns to not be bothered by this. However, there is a “bonus” offered online – you can print the unlayered patterns from the Lark website. Great if you want to print them directly onto freezer paper. Unfortunately, the dinosaur still needs to be increased to 110%, and if you set your printer to print to 110%, the pattern extends off the boundaries of the paper.
I used the printed pieces from the Lark site to trace my pattern onto freezer paper. You do need to add a 1/4″ seam allowance to all the pieces. I’ve done enough garment sewing from European patterns to hate this. If every single user of your pattern is going to have to draw out the exact same seam allowance, why not include it in the pattern?
When I went to put the large pieces together, I discovered that the side body front was larger than the side body back, so they didn’t line up properly. This was only on the patterns printed from the Lark site, the patterns in the book appear to be correct.
I stitched up my dinosaur softie, zipper mouth and all.
There was already so much information in this book, it feels very needy to ask for more, but I would have loved some more tips on the individual project level. How do I stuff the head so that the eye sockets are properly stuffed, without overstuffing so much that the mouth bulges? How do I ladder stitch the hole between the legs closed without moving aside the very stuffed legs? Or are they supposed to get in my way? I also would have liked more direction in how to stitch together all the pieces in the muzzle – the images were not sufficient to explain where exactly all the pieces were supposed to line up, and much of the instruction was focused on inserting the zipper (which was tricky).
I’m satisfied with how my dinosaur turned out, but there are some rough spots. The neck of my softie appears much longer than that of the softie in the book – which may be from the distortion in the online pattern. I don’t understand why the head side pattern piece had a sharp pivot at the eye socket, but the head gusset pattern piece had a curve – matching those up seemed unnecessarily tricky. I’m also not thrilled with how the bottom of the feet turned out. My feet have a bulge near the bottom (you can see it in my dino’s front left foot in the image above). The pattern shows this bulge, but the finished image in the book shows the pad of the foot flush with the flare at the bottom of the foot. The book probably could have used additional pattern testing. If I stitched this guy up again, I’d make some stitching adjustments so that he looks more like the image in the book.
I still need to decide on eyes for my dino. I might go with the felt ones from the book, but I love some of her ideas for button eyes as well.
Overall, I think the information in the book was well done. For an aspiring softie designer, this book is an amazing resource – 52 lessons that go into the details of how a stuffed animal is created. However, the book does not take you past the design of the softie into pattern production, reproduction, or marketing.
For someone who wants to make softies, there are quite a few patterns for the price – so that is an excellent deal, though if the dinosaur is any indication of the patterns you’ll find in the book, you may need to work through some rough spots in the patterns to make your finished softie.
Stuffed Animals from Concept to Construction is published by Lark Crafts and retails for $27.95.
Disclosure: book provided for review and links are affiliate ones- which means that if you buy the book, I’ll make like, 14 cents. But I’d still appreciate it if you used them!