A few weeks ago I got in touch with the folks at Spoonflower, the print on demand fabric company, to see about getting some cut-and-sew softie and doll fabrics to play with. I thrilled when they agreed to send me a few fat quarters and today I’m ready to show you what I’ve made and give you some tips for designing these fabrics.
Spoonflower allows anyone to design and print their own, custom fabrics. For creative people this means endless awesome possibilities and for doll and softie designers it means you can have pattern pieces and sewing instructions printed right on the fabric for an easy cut-and-sew project. I’ve had my eye on cut-and-sew softie fabrics since August of 2011 when they were the focus of Spoonflower’s weekly design contest.
I did a search on Spoonflower's website for "plush" and browsed through so many great fabrics. In the end I went with:
- Kawaii Kitchen and Mister Zombie by Bora
- Zakka Ice Cream Cones by Katarina Dragutinovic Roccella
- Amelia and her Kittens by Stacy Iest Hsu.
I’ve never designed a cut-and-sew softie or doll so after I chose a few fat quarters to try out, I contacted two of the designers to find out more about their process. One of them is Stacy Iest Hsu. Stacy is actually a trained textile designer. She says she isn’t much of a sewist beyond 4-H as a child, but her dolls are adorable. I also talked to Katarina (Nina) Dragutinovic Roccella who designs prolifically on Spoonflower and has lots of doll and softies among her fabrics.
Stacy and Nina shared some valuable tips with me for designing this specific type of fabric. Here is what they said:
Nina often starts with a drawing of the doll on paper. She’ll then cut out pattern pieces and sew a prototype to get the shape right, before scanning and playing with the colors and patterns in Photoshop. Nina shared this collage of her process with me:
Stacy recommends designing the doll with a fairly simple silhouette to keep the sewing simple and Nina agrees. Nina says, “Try to avoid narrow small spaces within the design especially at the neck. The first boy doll I created looked like a giraffe! Try to avoid acute angles because these can be tricky to sew.”
Considering the Front and the Back
Stacy says creating a front and back for the doll makes it come to life, as opposed to just putting a print on the back or leaving it solid. Nina does this by duplicating the front, flipping it and then deleting the face details.
Adding Special Elements
Both designers recommend adding a place somewhere on the doll for the customer to personalize it. Usually these dolls are made as gifts so this gives the customer the opportunity to add their own touches and makes them feel they had a part in the design process
Use some of the extra space on the fat quarter to make a label with your brand name, website or blog that can then be attached someplace on the doll. As Stacy says, “These dolls are your best tool for advertising and they will probably go to many places where other moms will see them.”
Natalie Doll by Stacy Iest Hsu on Spoonflower
Look at how Stacy added to her doll. She says, “Think of ways to allow customers to embellish the doll or toy with embroidery or ribbon.”
Write Up the Sewing Instructions
Stacy points out that you should make your sewing instructions simple and easy to follow. Use the same language used in conventional sewing patterns and proofread them well! And Nina says to be sure to indicate that the curves and corners should be clipped before turning and stuffing because beginners may not know this.
Remember to add a ¼ inch seam allowance. Stacy likes the front and back of the doll to meet without any white showing at the seam lines once the doll is sewn up.
What's it Like to Sew These Toys?
Here's what I made!
As a customer I appreciated clear, well-written and thorough sewing instructions. Be sure not to skip any steps, such as stuffing the arms and legs. It helps to have someone else read your instructions, too, given that once they’re printed you can’t go back and edit them!
I really loved the little extra graphic bits some of the designers added in the white space. These would be great to applique on a t-shirt or a tote bag to accompany the finished doll. And I appreciated that these designs were all on just a fat quarter of fabric. This made the project affordable and quick! One of these fat quarters would be a great gift for my 9-year-old who just learned to use the sewing machine.
Other Cut-and-Sew Softies from Spoonflower
Choosing just a few fat quarters from the thousands of cut-and-sew softies and dolls available on Spoonflower was hard. Here are some more of my favorites:
And there are so many more. I must say that this was one of the most fun blog posts I’ve written!
I really hope the design tips from Nina and Stacy are helpful to you if you are interested in designing some cut-and-sew softies or dolls using Spoonflower. Both of them are happy to answer your questions in the comments so please don’t hesitate to ask!
Pepper the Penguin, the sew and crochet pattern I designed in collaboration with Stacey Trock of FreshStitches, is being released today! This is such a cool 2-in-1 pattern and we hope you love sewing AND crocheting Pepper. Read more about our collaboration here and get the pattern now in my shop on Etsy!