An important part of making soft toys, or softies as we call them in Australia, is the stuffing. How and what you stuff your softie with matters.
We all know that a softie’s body design and facial features will be the main way we can convey a softie’s personality, but when all is said and done, it’s the stuffing that (quite literally) fills a softie out, brings him or her to life and ensures that they feel just right, which ensures that they will go on to become cuddly, comforting and much-loved companions.
Given this fact, I thought I might sit down and write something on this often over-looked and under-valued aspect of making softies.
Different types of soft toy stuffing
There are quite a lot of stuffing possibilities but the main two types of soft stuffing materials I like to use are polyester fibrefil and wool roving.
In my sewing workshops for kids I use a polyester fibrefil stuffing as it’s reasonably priced, does a great job and is also machine washable. Polyester fiberfils, however, can vary in quality and it’s worthwhile testing different brands to find out which you like best.
I know that Fairfield World produce a really good quality polyester fiberfil that has a seal of approval from many of the members in my Sew a Softie facebook group.
My own preferences, however, lie with natural materials and I love using a wool stuffing for my own softies. The drawbacks: wool stuffings are more expensive than polyester fibrefils and they are not machine washable. So it’s a trade-off, but I really love the softness of wool stuffing and I love the way it makes my finished softies feel.
Eco friendly stuffing alternatives
If you’re looking to do your bit for our planet, there are several eco friendly soft stuffing alternatives made from bamboo, corn and soy. Unfortunately, they might be a bit hard to find. I’ve had trouble finding them here in Australia so I’m not sure how well they do their job.
I have heard, however, that corn stuffing is really lovely to work with and that it works every bit as well as polyester fiberfils do.
Recycling or using what you have to stuff your softies
Many members of the Sew a Softie facebook group have come up with some impressive and inventive suggestions for using whatever you might have on hand to stuff your softies with.
In addition to shredding soft fabrics you no longer have a use for such as old t-shirts or old flannel they’ve suggested using worn-out pillow inserts, collecting the lint from your clothes dryer filter, using ordinary cotton wool balls, and discarded panty hose.
And one of the Sew a Softie facebook members, Dessi uses shredded paper to stuff softies with her students. Another teacher used plastic bags.
It’s amazing how, once someone starts us looking in the right directions, we can begin to find all sorts of unsuspected substitutes for stuffing lying around the house.
Weighted Stuffing Choices
All the above stuffing suggestions will give your softie its “softiness” and its elasticity, that is, its “cuddliness’, but they don’t give much weight. For that we need to use some kind a heavier granular material. So why bother with weight?
Well, I find that weight gives a softie a certain reality. It allows your softie to press itself into your hand and establish its presence. We could say that a weighting material gives our softies their dignity, it helps them to stand tall…and often just to “sit tall” without falling all over the place.
In any case, I love weighting my softies but I still haven’t found the perfect weighting material. Mostly, I use rice grains (uncooked, of course) and I usually only use them in the bottom third or at most, bottom half of the softie. Why rice? Well, it’s a natural product, it’s easy to get hold of and easy for kids to use with the help of a funnel.
One problem with rice: like any organic product rice grains can attract bugs, although luckily for me, the bugs where I live have not taken a liking to my softies!
So rice works really well but it’s not perfect and, deep down, I feel a certain resistance to using a food staple to weight my softies with. I guess, it feels a little crass and a little wasteful.
So I’m still searching for the El Dorado of weighting materials.
I know that plastic pellets are a fairly cheap and popular choice for weighting softies and are, therefore, available in most craft stores. That makes them convenient but I don’t like using them in my classes or for myself…they’re just too…well, “plasticy”.
I recently asked about weighting materials in the Pat Sloan facebook group and received two intriguing suggestions: the first was to use ground walnut shells and the second was to use fish tank gravel. I’ll be testing these out and update everyone when I’ve had a chance to try them!
So, for now, I’ve said my piece on stuffing softies. I’d love to hear what you use and if you have any suggestions for stuffing or weighting materials I’d love to hear them.
May all our softies be well stuffed and content, happy sewing as always, Trixi