Make your own plushie action figures!
Here is how I made both a Darth Vader and a Donatello plushie. This basic body shape can easily be decorated to become any character you want.
This a fun little intermediate sewing project. I hope you'll make your own plushie Darth Vader, Donatello, or whatever you want. Enjoy!
Step 1: The Bodies
I've included a pattern for the basic body shape I used for both Darth Vader and Donatello.
Constructing the body will require both machine sewing and hand stitching. Someone with a little bit of sewing experience may need to help beginners, as parts of this may be slightly difficult or frustrating.
I decided to make the pattern so the head and body pieces are made and stuffed separately. That way, when they are stitched together a definite neck shape is created.
Start by downloading, printing, and cutting out the body pattern. (The body is on two sheets, which will need to be taped together.)
Step 2: Trace Pattern and Cut Out Shapes
I used green fleece for the turtle body. Whatever you use, begin by folding the best sides of the material together so that there are two layers (so you only have to cut out the pattern once).
With the best sides of the material facing each other, you can cut out the pieces, pin them together, and take them straight to the sewing machine without ever adjusting them. Then when you turn the thing right-side-out, you will have the nicest sides showing.
I typically use Sharpies to trace out pattern pieces, although the ink tends to bleed a lot with certain fabrics.
I often use both scissors and a rotary cutter to cut out material--whichever works best for the type of cuts I need to make.
Step 3: Pin Sides Together
Pins are our friends.
Without pinning the pieces together, they may tend to slip and move when you begin sewing them together.
Sometimes I get lazy and don't use pins when I should, and then I have to waste time picking out avoidable mistakes.
Step 4: Sew Sides Together
For seam allowances, I usually just line things up with the edge of the presser foot, and off I go. This gives about a quarter inch seam (see main photo).
When you get to a sharp corner, put the needle in the down position, lift up the presser foot, and pivot your material (see the second photo).
When you're going around a tight curve, hold the material somewhat firmly with your fingers, and really let the machine feed the material to the needle. This helps keep things from shifting and getting all puckered (see the third photo). Sometimes you'll need to lift the presser foot and pivot your material in these situations as well.
Be sure not to sew the top of the neck shut, or the bottom of the head. You have to turn things right-side-out and stuff the parts through those openings. Once you've sewn around the body and head sections, check to make sure all the seams look good, and aren't too close to the edge (last photo).
Step 5: Turn Things Right-side-out
Use your fingers, a dowel, a pen, or the handle of a wooden spoon to turn everything right-side-out.
Step 6: Stuff the Body and Head
Use small wads of filling to carefully stuff the entire body all the way up to the top of the neck.
For the head piece, fold up a little of the bottom neck area up into the head, and stuff it mostly full (main photo).
Now, wedge the head on top of the body's neck (second photo). You may need to add or take out a little stuffing to make this fit well.
Step 7: Stitch Head to Body
You'll need about two and a half feet of thread. Feed it through the eye of a hand stitching needle and tie the two loose ends together.
Begin by going through the body's neck and up into and out of the lower part of the head, and then gently pull it snug (main photo).
Keep doing this same thing, all the way around the neck. You will have to tuck, pinch, and tug as you go to keep the head where you want it. After you go around the entire neck once, you might as well go around again and make sure that head is on there good and tight. When you're satisfied (or when you're almost out of thread), tie it off.
The first time you do this, you may end up with a sloppy, lumpy transition from head to body. I did. But I got better with practice.
You have now created your very own plush action figure! But it still has no identity...
Decorate away, and be sure to make it cool!
The following steps show what I did to finish my Ninja Turtle and Darth Vader action figures. I've included some plans for the turtle shell, as well as some of the parts for Darth Vader. Good luck!
Step 8: Turtle Shell Construction, Part 1
Alright, if you've made it this far and you want to make your action figure into a Ninja Turtle, the next thing you need is a good shell. Download the pattern and begin by cutting out the shapes you need (second photo).
There are slits around the sides of the piece that will become the top of the shell. These are what make the top of the shell rounded. You need to sew each of these together (third and fourth photos).
Before you sew the top and bottom half of the shell together, you need to cut a slit in the piece that will become the bottom of the shell. You will stuff the shell through this hole (fourth photo).
Step 9: Turtle Shell Contruction, Part 2
Pin the top piece of the shell to the bottom piece (right-sides-in!), and sew them together.
When you turn the shell right-side-out, you should have something similar to the fleecy blob in the second photo. To make this look clean and neat, sew around the outer edge to create a nice turtle-shell-like lip (third photo).
Now stuff the shell through the slit you made in the bottom, and if you want, put a couple of stitches across the slit to keep the shell in a shell-like shape.
Step 10: Add Details
I made my turtle to be Donatello, since he was my favorite when I was a kid. Along with his shell, all of the details from here on are hot glued in place. Perhaps a cleaner, neater option for all these pieces would be to stitch them in place with a needle and thread.
His chest, mouth, eyes, armbands, legbands, and belt are made of felt. I sewed lines on the chestpiece with the sewing machine using black thread prior to gluing it onto the body.
Another option for the chestpiece would be to sew it directly to one of the body pieces prior to sewing them together.
His eye-mask is made of fleece, with white felt eyes glued on top.
His bowstaff and Darth Vader's lightsaber are made from painted dowels.
If you're doing the turtle version, you're done!
Step 11: Vader's Cloaks
I made up all of Darth Vader's stuff by examining a handful photos and movie stills that I printed out.
I've included the patterns I made for his cloaks, along with a pattern for the main piece to start his helmet.
Step 12: Vader's Belt and Shoulder Pieces, and Face
For these pieces I used cardboard, glue, paint, some nylon webbing, and a little bit of Velcro.
Going into this, I wanted to him to have a removable helmet with a face underneath.
To make this face, I used black thread to basically "draw" it on.
Step 13: Vader's Helmet
Darth Vader's helmet was made with cardboard, various glues, wood filler, and paint.
If you're interested in making one, there is a pattern of the main helmet piece included in the PDF in step 11. This is the piece shown in the second and third photos here (the attached pattern includes some changes that I had to make along the way with mine. That's why it appears slightly different than the piece in my photos).
Once you have this piece glued together, you will need to piece together a dome structure, and then slather it with putty or wood filler.
When it is dry you can sand it down to the shape you want. Mine needed a few filling and sanding sessions to fill in all the cracks and bubbles in order to create a smooth finish.
For the face section, I added little pieces here and there through trial and error until I got the results I wanted.
I gave the helmet a few coats of primer, lightly sanding between coats. The face got a coating of flat black paint, and the helmet got a coat of gloss black. The eyes were touched up with gloss black, and silver details were added.
The last thing I did was glue a piece of fabric around the inside so the jagged cardboard edges wouldn't snag on the figure's fuzzy head when you pull in on and off.
Step 14: That's It!
I hope you enjoyed this; thanks for taking a look!
If you make something similar, be sure to share photo in the comments. I'd love to see how your plushie action figure turns out.