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Picture of Plush Cell Model
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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:

Picture of Material:
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  • 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

celltemplate.pdf(612x842) 267 KB

Step 2: Cell body

Picture of Cell body
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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

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

Cutting
  • 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).

Sewing
  • 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

Picture of Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum
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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

Picture of Smooth Endoplastic Reticulum
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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

Picture of Golgi apparatus
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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

Picture of Centrioles
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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

Picture of 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

Picture of Ribosomes
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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

Picture of Putting it together
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  • 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.

Labels
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.
 
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I want to try this, I have never really tried sewing by hand but this looks like fun! GREAT JOB!
flame8213 years ago
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.
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ChrysN (author)  flame8213 years ago
That looks awesome, thanks for posting it!
flame8213 years ago
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&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.
nonten944 years ago
Thanks to you I've got a 9 in my cell exam! Thank you!
ChrysN (author)  nonten944 years ago
Excellent, good for you!
hardj0094 years ago
hOW COME ONE HAS LOTS OF BITS ON TEH BACK AND ANOTHER ONLY HAS A FEW ON THE BACK?
ChrysN (author)  hardj0094 years ago
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+!
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ChrysN (author)  I am Lord Voldemort4 years ago
That looks really cool, great job!
Portalman4 years ago
THAT IS SO COOL!!! My sci. teacher would love this. He would give me like 4 A+s.
mom2justin5 years ago
On your second one you look like you use the car mit for the back. Did you just sew it onto the back panel?

LOVE this idea!!

marcy
blufinger5 years ago
wow
fireman1155 years ago
LOL
i just made one of these last year for a biology project
jgroenert5 years ago
This is the Ribisome  that  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!!

All the parts of a cell do very interesting jobs on a microscopic level.
ChrysN (author)  jgroenert5 years ago
That's really cool, they "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". 

Maybe I should update my ribosomes to make them look more realistic.
handprints5 years ago
 this is so darned cute and educational!!  I want make a set of cells for my daughter.  She is a senior in high school and wants to do genetic research.  

She can keep one in her pocket and think of her mommy when she is far away at school!

Great instructable!  congratulations!
ChrysN (author)  handprints5 years ago
That's sweet I'm sure your daughter will love that, thanks!
Lettucehead5 years ago
Congrads! I voted for you!
ChrysN (author)  Lettucehead5 years ago
Thank you for voting!
Creativeman5 years ago
Congratulations on your win! That's super! Cman
ChrysN (author)  Creativeman5 years ago
Thanks Cman!
Ninzerbean5 years ago
Wow! This is so funny! Great job, congratulations!
ChrysN (author)  Ninzerbean5 years ago
Thanks!
Creativeman5 years ago
Congratulations ChrysN...good luck in the judging. I have a lab background, so appreciate your work. Other 'ibles as well. Thanks. Cman
ChrysN (author)  Creativeman5 years ago
Thanks!
Lettucehead5 years ago
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!
ChrysN (author)  Lettucehead5 years ago
Thanks, I'd love to see your new one!
seamster5 years ago
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!
ChrysN (author)  seamster5 years ago
Thanks!
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 ;-)
Lol.
KMOM145 years ago
What an awesome teaching tool this would make~
ChrysN (author)  KMOM145 years ago
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?
ChrysN (author)  rubberducky476 years ago
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.
DorkDude6 years ago
That's just plain awesome.
ChrysN (author)  DorkDude6 years ago
Thanks!
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