My 7 year old daughter’s class topic this term at school is “trash to treasure”. A perfect opportunity for us to cut up old stuff and sew up fun stuff!
I wanted to come up with something that transforms secondhand materials. And something that wasn’t gender-specific. And something fun to make, then play with. And something easy that wouldn’t make me want to hide in a cool dark place after trying to teach it to small children.
I am a bit obsessed with Japanese style Kawaii toys. The term roughly translates to “cute”, although means much more. Something that invokes feelings of love, protectiveness and happiness. This to me fits in well with the theme of caring for our world and all beings in it, not just ourselves, so I was off.
So my little monsters are sweet and helpless, to be protected. Or they could be little guardians of the forest, or just a jumper with a cute face and dangly legs. Little imaginations can do what they will.
Old jumpers and sweatshirts, fleece – blankets or clothing, scraps of fabric.
I found some great stuff in our local charity shops. Including this tiger onesie, that was absolutely perfect!
1. Cut out the monster’s body
Any shape, any size, any fabric. I like to use old fleece, charity shop jumpers/sweaters, old blankets – they feel more toy-like and the stitches sink into them and almost disappear (important if you are hand-sewing).
Cut 2 pieces together to ensure they are identical. Make your life easier and cut on a fold to reduce sewing.
2. Sew and stuff
a) Sew around the body, leaving a gap to stuff the filling (the “fluff” as my daughter calls it). If recycling fleece, or a woolly jumper, you can simply hand sew around the right side. This is easier for children to grasp. Any stitch is fine, try to get them as small and neat as you can, but its not too important, the stitches get better with every monster made!
You could of course turn it inside out to ensure the stitches are hidden when you turn it around the right way. You could use a sewing machine if you have one and you want your toy to last a long long time.
If you are using something like an old curtain, duvet cover or tablecloth, I recommend sewing it inside out first for a neater finish as I did here with this old-curtain monster.
b) With your monster body the right way out, stuff with your fluff of choice.
We used the stuffing from old cushions and pillows, you could also re-use old toys (if you can bear to cut them up, it feels somewhat macabre). Try not to buy new stuffing, try to recycle. If you bought cushions from a charity/thrift shop want to be super sure of hygiene you can wash the old cushions first. I read somewhere that putting them in the freezer overnight will kill any little critters that might be lurking. I preferred not to think about that and just went at some old cushions of mine with a pair of gleaming scissors…
3. Make the cutest little face you can
Super duper easy way is to simply cut a shape onto a pale coloured plain fabric and draw a face with a sharpie or felt tip pen. I used pinking shears to make a pretty zig-zag edge and to make sure the fabric won’t fray. Ordinary scissors are fine too.
You can draw it on in felt tip pen or sharpies.
Or cut out eyes etc from felt and sew or glue them on.
Or if you are feeling fancy, embroider a face.
Then either glue or sew the monsters face onto its body. I prefer sewing as I think it looks sweet, and lasts longer. Children or people without the fine motor skills will find it nice and easy to glue it, and it stays on surprisingly well.
4. Attach arms and legs
Your monster shape may already have arms and legs, in which case, skip joyfully on to the next step.
Here we can add various arm and leg type appendages. My examples are sort of human, with their faces and their two arms and two legs. But these are imaginary beings so go nuts and add however many you like!
I made dangly gangly sort of pathetic looking skinny arms and legs because the contrast between fat body and skinny legs tickled me. I use recycled t shirt yarn that I bought on a roll. I also made my own from leftover scraps after making t shirts. Similarly you can cut strips from old t shirts.
I sewed mine on, but a test run with my 7 year old had me back to the drawing board. She managed to mangle and tangle and get all in a dither here. So I came up with this simpler way to attach arms / legs / tentacles.
Repeat this process for as many arms / legs / tentacles as you like.
5. Add the pouch
Totally optional. My monsters have a pocket/pouch on their tummies for little treasures, monster babies, teeth for the tooth fairy.
I kept it simple and cut out shapes with pinking shears then sewed them on, leaving the top edge un-stitched. You could glue them, but be aware they might not stay on if vigorously and repeatedly stuffed with small treasures 🙂
6. Sew up the gap
Check that you are happy with your monster’s girth, if it needs to gain or lose weight, add or remove stuffing accordingly. I like my monsters fat and cuddly, but I was making MANY so I had to ration my stuffing.
Sew up the gap as neatly as you can. Become obsessed and make a gazillion.