Monday, December 6, 2010

How to sew Ivey's dog

This is a follow up from my last post. I hesitated to share this because it's not a fully tested pattern. I didn't lay a paper template over the fabric and carefully snip it out; I just kind of eyeballed it. Please keep in mind that the pattern offered below is merely a loose suggestion of how you might like to cut your dog out. I wanted a somewhat longer, skinnier dog, so if you wanted a shorter one you could adjust for that. This is also not to scale, so be sure you cut your arms and legs and everything to be a good size for the body. Please do *not* try to enlarge this and copy it exactly, because that may not work. There's nothing here you can't just eyeball and cut out, or at the very least draw off yourself. The wonderful thing about this is that if it's a little off it won't matter much. This is just a sweet, silly little dog and it isn't meant to look realistic. I'd highly recommend felted wool for this, or at least another forgiving fabric such as fleece.

In cutting out pieces, a couple of tips: Cut the arms a little longer than you'd like them, so you'll have some options when sewing them on. Also, don't cut the back of head piece at all until the whole dog is together. You won't know exactly what size and shape to make it until then.

1) I did the head first. It's encouraging to see the head shape come out right.

Cut the ears a little wider than you think. I didn't cut mine wide enough and that is why they look like lamb ears. In case you didn't know, you sew right sides together and then turn them right side out using the blunt end of a chopstick or something. Not scissors, because they can stab through. Lay those aside for a minute.

For the bottom/sides of head piece, sew that little V together, and curve toward the middle as you do this (otherwise it'll look squarish, but if you don't get it right the first time you can easily go back and try again without having to rip out stitches). Your dog's nose will go where the top of that V comes together, and the mouth will go down the line you sew.

Now you will be sewing the top of the head point to the top of where that V came together, which is where the nose will be later. The ears go on with the top of the head. Here is the tricky part. Since you will be sewing right sides together (sewing the head together inside-out), you need to put the ears on the inside. The raw edges of the ear should be sandwiched between the raw edges of the top and bottom of the head. I like to hold these edges together and turn the whole thing right side out for a second to check if it looks right. If you think you've got it in a good place, pin the ear so it'll stay put until you sew along the dotted line. You could also sew starting at the nose, leaving the ear off and stop to put it on when you get to the right spot. Either way, depending on how thick your fabric is, you'll probably have to hand-stitch the ears and other parts on even if you have a machine. Four layers of wool can be really thick!

When you finish this step, you should be able to turn the head right side out and see the ears hanging attractively at the sides of the (almost) finished head. I suppose you could go ahead and sew on button eyes and nose before you stuff this. I didn't, because I wanted to pick buttons and where they went after seeing the whole dog. It would be easier to sew them on now, but it's fine to wait until later. I did go ahead and stuff the head, just to get a better idea of how she'd look. Putting the back of the head on is the last step.

2) Next, I sewed the butt to the back of the body. The tail goes on in this step, too. If you haven't already, sew the tail along the dotted line with right sides together and turn it inside out with a chopstick. (If you want the tail stuffed, you'll have to do it now. I did not stuff mine though.) Now, onto sewing the butt to the body. Pick one side of the butt and pin it to the bottom of the body's back. These parts will not sew together flat; you'll have to curve them a little. Just like you did with the ears, you'll be sewing right sides together with the tail flipped to the inside.

3) Now the front of the body will go on the other side of the butt, and the legs will go on too! We are getting there! Sew and turn the legs just like you did with the tail, but stuff these. It's handy to have a chopstick or something to push the stuffing down to the end of the leg. In placing the legs, I'd recommend putting them where you think they should go and then flipping the body right side out to check if it looks right. I wanted my legs pointed slightly outward, so that meant they were pointing together when they were on the inside. (Does that make sense?) Also, make sure they end up the same length. Mine didn't, but oh well.

4) The arms go on next, as you finish sewing up the sides of the body. Just leave the hole at the top for the head to go on. Be sure to make the arms a little longer so you can pick the angle at which they hang off the body. If you want them pointed slightly downward, you'll need to sew them on that way and that takes a little extra length so you can sew them on at an angle. I didn't cut mine very long so it looks like Ivey's dog is ready to give you a big hug. That's cute too if that's what you're going for. When picking a spot for the arms, make it just *below* the shoulder curve. I didn't, and it resulted in odd-looking side-boobs right below the arms. Luckily her dress covers them.

Go ahead and stuff the body and head to desired firmness.

5) Now you should have a complete dog body and an almost complete dog head and all we need to do is sew the two together! Yay! Go ahead and sew the dog's, um, chin/neck area to the top of the front of the body. It's hard to describe this part precisely, but just sew it together until you have a hole in back that looks about the shape of the back of head piece. Kind of like a railroad tunnel. Now you need to cut a piece to fit the hole. The curved top of it will be sewn to the top and sides of the head, and the straight bottom piece will go along the top of the back of body piece.

I had to try twice to get this piece cut out right. Then I started sewing the curved edge. I lined it up and pinned it about 1/3 of the way over, to be sure it didn't end up in the wrong place. Then I started sewing right sides together as best I could. You can't really do that the whole way along the curved edge, though. Around the halfway point you'll have to turn it over to where it goes, fold the edges under and pinch them together, and sew it as invisibly as you can from the outside. This is not my strong suit, but it doesn't matter much if you've picked a fuzzy, forgiving fabric like I told you.

Now you should have a hole several inches long where the body meets with the back of the head. Go ahead and add any stuffing you need to add to the body or head. It's your last chance!

Once the curved edge of the back of head piece and the top and sides of the head are totally together, you can sew the straight part together the same way you finished up the curve. Ta-da! Your dog is now together!

6) Now all you have to do is add a little flair. I used vintage buttons for the eyes and nose, and dark red embroidery floss for the mouth. I also sewed Ivey's dog a little dress out of the same sweater her ear tops are made of. You don't need a pattern for that--it's basically a tube with a halter strap to hold it on. I also added a belly button because Ivey loves belly buttons. You could do features totally out of embroidery thread for a safer dog, or if you do use buttons and are giving this to a young child, make sure you sew them on really well. Sewing buttons on an already-stuffed animal was a little tricky. You have to sort of pull the button up at first to get it going, and then take the needle only through the button and then through the fabric once you're a few stitches in. You'll see what I mean when you get there.

There are definitely more precise, tried-and-true stuffed animal instructions to be had for free online. One that leaps to mind is this Martha Stewart one, which I linked to earlier. But what I love about doing it this way is that this dog can take on a unique personality based on how you sew it. You could make a skinny dog or a fat one. You could modify it just a little and make a lamb or a goat. You could do a small one if you only have a little sweater to work with, or you could make one taller than your one-year-old, without having to enlarge the pattern and cut it out and lay it on your fabric. There's no need.

I'm sorry there are no pictures of the process. Suzi saw a picture I'd taken of Ivey's dog and said she really wanted a dog like that! Looks like I'll be making another one, so I'll be sure to take pictures when I do and I'll come back and add them.

I hope this makes sense and helps someone. If you try this and find a mistake, please come back and tell me! And definitely tell me if it works :-)


Barbara said...

I am very inspired. Not sure I will bite off such an adventurous project right away, but you have me thinking. I even went and found one of my old (should have been tossed) sweaters and plan to felt it. You did a great job!