9.18.2013

Stuffed Animals Book Review

Almost 10 years ago, as I started to experiment with sewing dolls and stuffed toys, I often wondered -  how do people learn how to do this?  I mean, you can go to school to learn how to design clothes or simply take a class or two at a local fabric shop to get a grasp on the basics.  There are also plenty of books, blogs, online courses and tutorials on designing and sewing garments and quilts.  And sure, there are books and patterns for sewing dolls and toys - but my question was how do people learn to design stuffed toys?  Where is there a book or a course for that?

So I learned the way so many others have learned - by doing (and lots of trial and error).  I sewed lots of doll and toy patterns and collected and reviewed several vintage soft toy sewing books.  I examined mass-produced stuffed animals at toy stores, or wherever I happened to come across them - noting the seams and darts, etc. trying to figure out how that specific toy was put together.  In fact, I still do this...

In early 2010, midway through the process of designing patterns for the projects in my book, Abby Glassenberg started a series on her blog While She Naps called Elements of Soft Toy Design.  I'd been a long-time admirer and follower of Abby's blog and I remember thinking, Really?!?!  I needed this series 6 months ago!!!  Shortly thereafter, Abby halted her series and announced that it would become a book.  I would have to wait...


And it was well-worth the wait.

Stuffed Animals:  From Concept to Construction was released a few months ago to well-deserved acclaim.  This book is full of 16 adorable projects that demonstrate 52 lessons (52!!!) - lessons that are particularly helpful for anyone out there aspiring to create or enhance their own stuffed toy designs.

Each of the projects helps demonstrate up to 4 or so lessons.  For instance, this Elephant project below covers such techniques as underbody gussets (Lesson 8), leg darts (Lesson 9), cutting slits to insert details (Lesson 10), and eyelids (Lesson 11).


And this ridiculously cute dinosaur covers how to create a zipper mouth (Lesson 51) and how to compensate for a top-heavy design (Lesson 52) .


Believe me, this book covers just about everything!

So not only is this book full of incredibly helpful lessons, but the projects help show in practice how each of the lessons/techniques are actually used, resulting in a finished toy.  How awesome is that?

My girls wanted me to make the puppy first (that's a no-brainer if you took a look around our house these days).


But I went with the Kangaroo because I wanted to test a technique that was new to me (Lesson 44: Cutting a Hole to Attach Limbs).


I remember Abby briefly covering this technique back in 2010, and it was a technique I hadn't tried before.


So, I went ahead and traced the pattern pieces onto freezer paper (all are full-size, except for the dinosaur) and then cut all the pieces out of super soft, furry knit minky fabric.  And then I prepared to start sewing.

I started with the finger puppet and noted that the pieces were very small - the arms and ears even appeared too small for me to sew on the machine.

And then I read the instructions. D'oh!

Yes, I read the project instructions after cutting out my pattern pieces.

My mistake.

Oops.  I realized only after reading the instructions that the seam allowances were not included as part of the pattern templates in the back of the book.  While I personally prefer that patterns include seam allowances, this is just my preference and not at all the fault of the book.  It was my fault for not reading the instructions!

All of this happened at the end of Spring/start of Summer.  And I contemplated whether to scrap the pattern pieces and start over again or just try and sew the Kangaroo using the smaller pieces I had already prepared.

And then I decided to completely rearrange The Pink Room and the Kangaroo pieces sat untouched for longer than I intended.  Once my sewing space was ready to use again, I decided to just sew the Kangaroo as is, which meant having to hand-sew the finger puppet, but that was it.  Everything else I was able to do on the machine.

Here is my finished Kangaroo.  I don't know how much smaller it is than it should have been, but it turned out just as cute!


The legs are super sturdy.  I loved trying this new-to-me technique.


Look at this fuzzy big foot!


And the little (hand-sewn) Joey finger puppet.


Unless you're a family member, I imagine that any follower of this blog also follows Abby's blog.  But if you don't, you should!  And if you don't already own this book, you must!

I don't spend nearly as much time as I used to online, looking at blogs, etc.  But when I get a chance, I always check Abby's blog.  Abby's posts are so helpful and thought-provoking - it's a must-read for any crafter.  

And Abby herself is intelligent, nice, responsive, approachable, honest, and so passionate about the craft and business of sewing and designing toys.  She is one of the biggest resources out there when it comes to these topics.


Check out all the wonderful reviews on Amazon for more information about her book and this book trailer.

Stuffed Animals:  From Concept to Construction fills a void that existed until now.  It's a must-have book for anyone interested in sewing stuffed toys.  Wonderful job, Abby!  And most of all, thank you! 

5 comments:

  1. Hello, I loved the book, but as I am Brazilian, I do not understand anything in English,
    do you think I can understand and make the dolls with the book?
    Have explanatory photos?
    Thank you

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  2. Thanks for the helpful review! I get disgruntled when people review sewing books but haven't yet made any of the projects. I was wondering, did you use interfacing on the minky fabric?

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  3. Outstanding review of an outstanding book! And your Kanga and Roo turned out a delight, Jill :-)

    Beth

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  4. I bought Abby's book a few weeks ago and I've had your since last Christmas and I keep them both on my nightstand all the time, because I love to look at the pictures, read your techniques. So well done for the review but well done for your book too!

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  5. I love your dolls and making toys, but I am intimidated by your embroidery on the face. I have your wonderful book and have made Waldorf dolls where you sew through the head like you do with your dolls. However, when I do it it just looks so tiny and is hard to control. What do you recommend. Currently I embroider the faces before making the doll. Example: http://pickledokra.blogspot.com/2014/01/lila-free-doll-pattern.html

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