A soft and cuddly animal cell model perfect for those geeky science types. This is great as a teaching tool for students or if you are a student and need a cell model for a school science project.

Step 1: Material:

  • Felt
  • Fabric for the main body of the cell -I used flannel
  • Toy stuffing
  • Yarn
  • Thread
  • Embroidery thread
  • Scissors
  • Pins and needles
  • Template for organelles (see celltemplate.pdf below)

A note about sewing
You can use a sewing machine to attach the larger organelles, but the smaller ones may need to be hand stitched. I mostly used hemming stitches and in some cases running stitches along the edge of the felt. Click here for examples of these stitches

Step 2: Cell body

Cut out two equal size pieces of fabric for the main body of the cell (one piece is to be a cross-section of the internal portion of the cell, the other will be the outer cell surface), they can be circular, oval, squarish or irregular shaped depending on the type of cell that you want to make. Just make sure that they are large enough to fit all of the organelles leaving room for the seam.

Step 3: Nucleus, Nucleoli and Chromatin

The nucleus is a membrane bound organelle that holds the cells DNA.
The nucleolus is the site of ribosomal RNA synthesis.
Chromatin consists of DNA and its associated proteins.

  • Cut out a large circle of felt, this will be the largest component of the cell; the nucleus.
  • Cut out a circle of felt in a different colour with roughly 1/4 the diameter of the nucleus, this will be the nucleolus.
  • Cut out several little 'X' and 'V' shaped felt pieces of a third colour. These are the chromosomes(chromatin).

  • First sew the nucleoli to the nucleus.
  • Then sew the chromosomes onto the nucleus.
  • Then sew the whole thing to the the cell (that blue piece of fabric from step 2).

Step 4: Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum

The rough endoplasmic reticulum is the site for the synthesis of proteins destined for transport (to the cell membrane, to other organelles or out of the cell). The rough ER is connected to the nuclear membrane and the surface of the rough ER is covered in ribosomes (see step 10) giving it a "rough" appearance when viewed with an electron microscope.

  • Placing the template on the felt, cut out the rough endoplasmic reticulum.
  • Make sure part of the rough endoplasmic reticulum is touching the nucleus, sew it onto the main body of the cell.

Step 5: Smooth Endoplastic Reticulum

The smooth endoplasmic reticulum houses the enzymes needed for lipid, carbohydrate, and steroid synthesis. In liver cells, the smooth ER is also involved in drug detoxification.

  • Placing the template on the felt, cut out the smooth endoplasmic reticulum.
  • Arrange the parts of the smooth endoplasmic reticulum on the main body of the cell and sew it in place.

Step 6: Mitochondria

The main role (but not the only function) of mitochondria is ATP (adenosine triphosphate) production. ATP is the cell's "energy source" hence the mitochondria is considered to be the power house of the cell. Rumor has it that this interesting little organelle was once a bacterium that was eaten by another cell. A fact supporting this theory is that mitochondria has it's own DNA which happens to be circular like that of a bacteria.

  • Placing the template on the felt, cut out the outer edge of the mitochondria
  • On a similar coloured piece of felt cut out the cristae of the mitochondria (you may need to cut out this part of the template first).
  • Sew the cristae onto the mitochondria first then sew the combined piece onto the main body of the cell.

Step 7: Golgi apparatus

The Golgi apparatus (aka Golgi complex or Golgi bodies) is responsible for collecting, packaging, and distributing molecules synthesized in the cell.

  • Placing the template on the felt, cut out the Golgi apparatus.
  • Arrange the parts of the Golgi apparatus on the main body of the cell and sew it in place.

Step 8: Centrioles

The centrioles (made up from a bundle of microtubules) organizes the cytoskeleton and spindle fibres during cell division.

  • Placing the templates on the felt, cut out the two centrioles.
  • Stitch lines along each centriole with a darker piece of thread to create striations (microtubules).
  • Arrange the two centrioles perpendicular to one another on the main body of the cell (close to the nucleus) and sew it in place.

Step 9: Vesicles/Lysosomes

-Vesicles are little sacs used for transporting and storing substance in the cell.

-Lysosomes are little sacs containing digestive enzymes used for cleaning up worn-out organelles as well as phagocytosis of bacteria and viruses.

  • Cut out several little circles, they can be different sizes and different colour.
  • Scatter these little circles around the cell and sew in place.

Step 10: Ribosomes

Protein aggregates consisting of RNA and protein that carries out protein synthesis (translation).

  • Using a embroidery thread make french knots along the outer edge of the rough endoplasmic reticulum.

French knots (see images below) are as follows:

  • From the underside of the fabric pull the threaded needle through.
  • Loop the thread around the needle twice.
  • Poke the needle down through the fabric (not through the same hole).

Step 11: Outer cell surface

The cell surface is covered in a variety of components; cilia, micro villi, cell surface receptors, signaling proteins, cell surface markers, transmembrane proteins, etc.

  • I found a car wash mitt at a dollar store that had little chenille bits that looked to me like cilia or micro villi. So I cut several off and sewed them to the outer surface of the cell.
  • I also used short strands of yarn on the cell surface. I just pulled one end of the strand through the fabric, knotted it on the back side and trimmed it to the right length.

Step 12: Putting it together

  • Place both sides of the cell together facing each other and sew together leaving a small opening.
  • Turn the fabric right side out and stuff with toy stuffing.
  • When it is plump enough sew it shut.

Step 13: Other ideas

Microtubules and other stuff in the cytoplasm
I did not add any microtubules to my cell because I thought it would look too cluttered but you can by simply sewing several strands of yarn in between the other organelles. Likewise you can add a few french knot ribosomes throughout the cytoplasm.

You can add labels to your cell if you'd like. Tape or glue the organelle names on to small Velcro strips and they stick them onto the felt.

You can also just use push pins with the labels taped on.

Other cell types
Plant cells, bacteria, neurons, white, or red blood cells are a few examples of other cells you can make. Make sure you read up on the structure and functions of these cells. Plant cells have a cell wall and have chloroplasts and large vacuoles. Bacteria are more simple and lack membrane bound organelles.
This project is awesome! I somehow ended up making it into a pillow.
<p>Cool, that turned out nice.</p>
<p>Here are a few pics of the variant my daughter and I made for her fifth grade project, showing the 'cell mitosis' - i.e. Perler bead cell pair that fits in a pocket near the centrosome...</p>
<p>Awesome, she did agreat job, I love the addition of the peeler bead cells.</p>
<p>We did a slightly modified version of this for my daughter's fifth-grade science project, adding a centrosome, then putting a pocket in the edge near it, into which my daughter placed two Perler-bead cell models she made, so she could simulate cell mitosis during her presentation. Thanks for your write-up, it was a lot of fun for us to do!</p>
I want to try this, I have never really tried sewing by hand but this looks like fun! GREAT JOB!
okay, saved one of the pics from fb to my desktop, hopefully this will be small enough in file size and dimensions to post here. This is a straight on view with the whole nucleus. We split it in half so it can be opened to show the internal parts as well. It also has a long flagella off the back end.
That looks awesome, thanks for posting it!
I love this instructable. I did some slight modifications for my son's project using your organelle patterns but enlarged a plushie mochi pattern to make the body. The teacher has asked if she can keep it :-) I have pictures posted on FB if anyone is interested, the files are a bit large for on here. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.320802471275497.75250.100000372403357&amp;type=1 My big mistake was not being able to find one of those carwashing mitts. We tried hand tying and knotting mercantized cotton for cillia.....NEVER try this.
Thanks to you I've got a 9 in my cell exam! Thank you!
Excellent, good for you!
It is just a different type of cells.
Hi! I just came across this Instructable again! I wanted to show you what you inspired! We had to make a 3D model of a cell for Science class and I did a plant cell. Thank you for the idea and the A+!
That looks really cool, great job!
THAT IS SO COOL!!! My sci. teacher would love this. He would give me like 4 A+s.
On your second one you look like you use the car mit for the back. Did you just sew it onto the back panel?<br /> <br /> LOVE&nbsp;this idea!!<br /> <br /> marcy
LOL<br /> i just made one of these last year for a biology project<br />
This is the Ribisome&nbsp; that&nbsp; recenlty won the 2009 nobel prize for biology for researched Venkatraman Ramakrishnan of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England; Thomas A. Steitz of Yale University; and Ada E. Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot.Now you can sew one!!<br /><br />All the parts of a cell do very interesting jobs on a microscopic level.<br />
That's really cool, they <em>&quot;demonstrated what the ribosome looks like and how it functions at an atomic level using a visualisation method called X-ray crystallography to map the position of each of the hundreds of thousands of atoms that make up the ribosome&quot;.&nbsp; <br /><br /></em>Maybe I should update my ribosomes to make them look more realistic.<br />
&nbsp;this is so darned cute and educational!! &nbsp;I want make a set of cells for my daughter. &nbsp;She is a senior in high school and wants to do genetic research. &nbsp;<br /><br />She can keep one in her pocket and think of her mommy when she is far away at school!<br /><br />Great instructable! &nbsp;congratulations!
That's sweet I'm sure your daughter will love that, thanks!<br />
Congrads! I voted for you!
Thank you for voting!
Congratulations on your win! That's super! Cman
Thanks Cman!
Wow! This is so funny! Great job, congratulations!
Congratulations ChrysN...good luck in the judging. I have a lab background, so appreciate your work. Other 'ibles as well. Thanks. Cman
Great! I love all of your instructables so much- I subscribed to you. I'm working on a new one, I'll be sure to send it to you. Thanks!
Thanks, I'd love to see your new one!
I really like this! And I appreciate the fact that you stitched everything in place--that represents quite a bit of time and patience. Well done!
If you use it as a pillow, you can learn cellular biology through osmosis. ;)
Shouldn't that be diffusion, not osmosis? ;)
Hmm, as long as you don't accidentally suck off and swallow one of the mitochondria in your sleep ;-)
What an awesome teaching tool this would make~
Thanks! Yes, you could attach little labels to each of the organelles.
would there be some way to make it reversible like you could have a whole cell, then fold it to the inside of the cell? Like those cute little bunnies with holes in their butts that turn into bears?
LOL, bunnies with hole in their butt, I've never heard of those, that sounds really cool and it would be great to do that with a cell.
That's just plain awesome.
Great! Needs cilia or a flagellum!
Nice! Wish I saw this earlier. I had to do a cell model for my Biology class a few years ago. (Mine was the geekiest one. It involved LED lights. >.<)
LEDs, that sounds interesting!
I think this is adorable! I am honestly considering making a few for accent pillows... My husband and I are pretty geeky. : )
Accent pillows, great idea!

About This Instructable


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Bio: I like sewing and crafts,and trying new things. I'm vegetarian and always looking for new recipes. My cat's name is Mirko and ... More »
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