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Ladybugs are adorable, beloved insects. But while it’s easy to recognize the adult form of the insect – a distinctive red beetle with black spots – the larval stage is less well-known. This is why I thought making a reversible ladybug toy that can change to be an adult ladybug or a larva would be great for showing the fascinating ladybug lifecycle.

In this Instructables project, you’ll basically make two separate stuffed animals (an adult ladybug and a ladybug larva) and then put one inside of the other. The “stuffing” for each stuffed animal will be the other stuffed animal. (But, if you wanted, you could just make a cute ladybug stuffed animal and stop with that, skipping the reversible/larva part.) The inside of the adult ladybug also forms a compartment where you could store small, secret items, such as keys, money, small toys, ... or a snuggly heat bag to warm up the ladybug! I give instructions here for making a small rice-filled heat bag that fits inside of the adult ladybug, but you could fit many other small types of items in this secret compartment (see the heat bag making step for an idea of the dimensions this compartment holds). Lastly, you can add small, bright, color-changing lights to make the ladybug colorfully light up!

So if you’d like to make a warm, educational, ladybug critter to light up a cold night, this Instructables project is for you!

(Side note: This project was inspired by reversible butterfly stuffed animals, like this one, which help show the butterfly’s natural lifecycle from caterpillar to butterfly. I chose to do a ladybug because the adult form is well-known and popular, but the larval form isn’t usually.)

(Image credit for the ladybug larva picture: Anders Sanberg)

Step 1: Materials You’ll Need

You’ll need the items pictured above, as well as a few other things. For the fabric, you don’t need much – I just purchased inexpensive remnants that were mostly/entirely polyester and were the desired colors. Here’s everything you’ll need to gather:

  • Red fabric. This will make the ladybug wings, so you may want to pick something soft and cozy. I used 100% polyester that was blanket-soft.
  • Black fabric. This will make the legs, ladybug spots, and the body for the ladybug adult and larva. This doesn’t need to be as soft. (I used a 70% polyester/30% rayon blend.)
  • Orange fabric. This will make part of the larva body. Again, this doesn’t need to be as soft as the wings. (I used a 65% polyester/35% cotton blend.)
  • White fabric (or felt). This will make the ladybug “eyes.” (I used white felt.)
  • Printed-out template (see the next step)
  • Scissors
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing needle. (I hand-sewed everything.)
  • Black thread
  • White thread
  • Red thread
  • Soft and flexible sew-on Velcro
  • A pencil or pen
  • Ruler
  • If you want to make the heat bag version: Six tablespoons of white rice (not instant)
  • If you want to make it light up: Six battery-powered LEDs and epoxy that works with plastics. You can purchase a set of ten of the LEDs that I use in this project from Amazon.com for just $10.

Step 2: Template and Cutting the Fabric

Download the template in this step (I made the template myself, based on looking at many ladybug pictures!). Print it all and then cut the shapes out from the paper. I used sewing pins to temporarily attach the template paper pieces to the fabric (see the pictures) and then cut the fabric out around the template pieces. For pieces that you need multiples of, I recommend folding over the fabric so you can cut through multiple layers at once.(If there are a lot of wrinkles/creases, you can iron them out now, or do it later.)

Pieces to cut out of black fabric:
  • Legs (back, middle, and front) and antenna. Cut out four of each.
  • Adult base. Cut out one.
  • Adult top (below wings). Cut out two.
  • Larva top. Cut out one.
  • Larva base. Cut out one.
  • Larva horns. Cut out 12.
  • Ladybug spots. Cut out two small spots, four medium spots, and one large spot.
  • Ladybug head. Cut out one.
Pieces to cut out of red fabric:
  • Ladybug wing. Cut out two.
Pieces to cut out of orange fabric:
  • Orange larva strip. Cut out two.
  • Larva horns. Cut out 16.
Pieces to cut out of white fabric/felt:
  • Eyes. Cut out two.
  • Pronotum. Cut out two.

Step 3: Sewing the Adult Ladybug – Part 1

Take the two adult top (below wings) pieces and sew them together along the long, straight edge using black thread. Make the seam about 1 centimeter (cm) from the edge.

Then take the adult base piece and (using black thread) sew the round edges on to the round edges of the adult top pieces (see the pictures). To do this, I used sewing pins to align the edges and keep them in place. Be sure to keep all of the seams on the outside (you’ll be flipping it inside-out). Again, make the seam about 1 cm from the edge. Do not sew on the short, straight edge yet – leave it open for now. (This is where the head will be attached later.) When you’re done, flip it inside out. At this point it looks like a black, pear-shaped pouch.

Step 4: Sewing the Adult Ladybug – Part 2

Next take the red wing pieces. Fold over the edges on every side except for the short, straight edge. Sew the folds down (using red thread) so that you have about 1 cm folded back and held in place. Then flip the wings over (you want the seams on the under-sides of the wings). See the pictures.

Now take the black spot pieces. Cut the large spot exactly in half. Arrange the spots on the wings how you want them to be. Place the spots in the same position on each wing so that the wings are symmetrical. Sew the spots on to the wings (using black thread) when you’re happy with your placements. My arrangement is based on looking at several ladybug pictures. Here’s where I placed my spots on each wing (see the pictures too) – measurements are from the center of each spot:
  • The large spot: I placed it along the inside (the straighter) seam, 0.5 cm from the top (the side that is not folded over).
  • The small spot: I placed it 4.5 cm from the top, and 3.5 cm from the curved seam.
  • One medium spot: I placed it 3.5 cm from the inside seam, 7.5 cm from the top.
  • The second medium spot: I placed it 4 cm up from the wing’s tip, out along the curved seam.

Step 5: Sewing the Adult Ladybug – Part 3

Gather the ladybug head, eye, and pronotum pieces. Arrange the pronotum pieces (the white semicircles) on the head piece so that they are each 0.5 cm from the rounder edge of the head, and 1 cm from the straighter edge – see the pictures. Use the white thread to sew the pronotum pieces to the head.

Take the small eyes and arrange them so they’re equally spaced/centered between the pronotum pieces, and spaced 1 cm back from the rounder edge of the head piece. When you’re happy with the placement, sew the eyes to the head (using white thread). Again, see the pictures.

Now you’re going to attach the wings and head to the rest of the ladybug body. Line up the unfolded edge of the wings with the open part of the black ladybug body – see the pictures for how to do this. Use sewing pins to hold the pieces together in place. On top of the wings attach the head piece you just made. Again line up the short, straight edges together and pin them in place. Fold the head’s edge under itself so that the seam will end up on the inside of the body (and not exposed on the outside of it). Once all three pieces are in place, sew them together (just on this short, straight edge) using black thread.

At this point, if you just wanted a ladybug cushion (without legs) you could stuff the ladybug body and sew it all up. But if you want to do the rest of the project, continue on!

Step 6: Sewing the Ladybug Larva – Part 1

Collect all of those larva horn pieces you cut out (the black and the orange ones). Pair up the pieces (with the same colors). Arrange the pairs so that the rounded point is at the top, then sew along the left and right edges, leaving a 0.5 cm seam. Start sewing 1 cm up from the bottom edge – see the pictures. Then flip the horns inside out. On the bottom edges, centered between the two seams, cut a 1 cm slit straight up, towards the point.

You should end up with eight orange horns and six black horns. Do not worry if they’re all the same size or not – it’s actually good to have some size variation (as explained in the next step).

Step 7: Sewing the Ladybug Larva – Part 2

Gather the larva top piece and the two orange larva strip pieces. Arrange the strips so that they’re 1.5 cm from the long edges and about 5.5 cm from the short, flat edge (this is where the head will be) – see the pictures. Once you’re happy with the placement, use the black thread to sew them in place (around the strips’ edges). (Alternatively, you could use orange thread – I wanted to give them a “fuzzy” look so I chose black thread.)

Now grab all of those larva horns you just created. Separately arrange the black and orange horns from largest to smallest (if there’s much size variation). Then place the horns on the larva top you just added the orange larva strip pieces to. Arrange a row of four orange horns on each orange strip, going roughly from largest to smallest (the largest ones should be closer to the head, which is the short, flat edge). Then, in front of each orange strip, place two black horns (again, going from largest to smallest as you move away from the head). Behind each orange strip, place one black horn (the smallest two). Use sewing pins to hold everything in place. Fold out the bottoms of the horns because you will be sewing them on to the body using these flaps (this is why you cut the 1 cm slits). Once you’re happy with the placement, sew everything onto the body using black thread.

Step 8: Sewing the Ladybug Larva – Part 3

Now you’ll attach the larva top to the larva base. To make the seams hidden on the inside of the larva, place the base piece on top of the horns on the top piece. Use sewing pins to hold the edges together as you line them up. Once the edges are lined up, sew the base and top pieces together, leaving a 1 cm seam around all of the sides except for the head – don’t sew up the head yet! Once it’s sewn up, flip the larva inside out (through the head).

Step 9: Sewing the Legs (and Antenna)

Pair up the leg pieces. You should have four copies of each leg piece so you can make two of each leg type. Sew the leg pairs together along their edges, making the seams 0.5 cm from the edge, but do not sew up the edges labeled with “attach here” in the template. The “attach here” edge will be attached to the body of the ladybug, and the opposite end will be the tip of the legs – round this tip a little when you sew it up (see the pictures). Once the legs are sewn up, use a pencil or pen to help you invert them (putting the seams on the inside).

Similarly sew up the paired antenna pieces (you’ll end up with two antenna). Don’t sew up the “attach here” edge. On the opposite edge, you can make a little bulge for the tip of the antenna, if you want to (see the pictures). When done, flip the antenna inside-out.

Then attach the legs to the Velcro. Cut two matching pieces of Velcro to be 15 cm long each. Then arrange the legs on the Velcro as follows (see the pictures):
  • Always place the legs on the non-Velcro (flat) sides.
  • The front legs (which are bent at the sharpest angle) should be attached about 2 to 3 cm from the front of the Velcro. They should point forward.
  • The middle legs (which are the nearly straight ones) should be attached right behind the front legs. Their slight bend should point backwards.
  • The back legs (which are bent, but not as sharply as the front legs) should be attached right behind the middle legs. Their bend should point backwards.
  • When you’re done, there should be a little more empty space at the back of the Velcro strips than at the front of the Velcro strips.
  • For each leg, completely tuck the open ends in between the leg and the Velcro. This will help hide the open/cut fabric ends. (See the pictures.)
  • When the legs are all placed, and their ends tucked away, sew them on to the Velcro (using black thread). Sew all over so that the legs are attached on all sides.

Step 10: Making It Reversible!

Grab the larva and adult ladybugs you’ve assembled so far. Flip the larva upside down so you’re looking at its “belly” (the side that doesn’t have horns). Starting just behind where the first horn is attached on the head, make a 15 cm long cut through the center of the belly (you should end the cut between the last orange horns and the black horns on the tail). See the pictures for details.

Now flip the adult ladybug upside down so you’re looking at its “belly.” Starting right where the wings attach to the head, make a 15 cm long cut through the center of the belly (you should end the cut pretty much at the end of its body, where its tail would be if it had one).

And now you have your chance to attach the antenna. To do this, look at the ladybug head and get an idea of how you want the antenna to look. I attached mine between the eye and pronotum on each side of the head, poking off to the sides. To actually attach the antenna, flip the ladybug inside out. Pin the antenna to the head with their seams facing out. Then pin up the unsewn part of the head, keeping the antenna in place. Then sew up the head and antenna together (with a 1 cm seam). See the pictures for details. Flip the ladybug right-side-out when you’re done (using the cut you made in its belly).

Next flip the ladybug larva inside out. Then put it inside of the adult ladybug, lining up the cut in its belly with the cut in the adult ladybug’s belly. Make sure their heads are on the same side. Use sewing pins to pin the cut edges together. Then flip the edges outward so there is a fold of about 0.5 cm and use more pins to hold the fold down. (This will prevent any raggedy edges from showing.) Next attach the legs (via their Velcro) on to the folded edges using more sewing pins. Then sew the edges and Velcro together! Sew all over the Velcro so it’s held in place everywhere it touches the ladybug body. (This will cover the raggedy edges.)

You can now close up the adult ladybug and take a look at it! Then, flip it inside out to reveal the larva! When flipping the larva out, keep the legs out (the adult and larva use the same set of legs). You can still seal the Velcro well around the flipped-out legs – give it a try!

Step 11: Making the Heat Bag

You've probably noticed that the adult ladybug form has a nice little compartment inside of it. You could fit many different types of small items in this secret compartment, such as keys, money, or small toys, just as long as you don't think they'll damage the soft inside fabric of the compartment.

In this step, I give instructions for making a heat bag that can fit inside the adult ladybug's secret compartment. To do this, cut two pieces of cloth that are 15 cm by 9 cm each. Sew 1 cm seams on three of the sides, leaving one of the 9 cm-long sides open. Invert the bag (flipping the seams to the inside) and add 6 tablespoons of white rice inside of it. Use some sewing pins to temporarily seal the bag and see how well it fits inside the adult ladybug (when the larva is flipped inside of it). If it’s too tight, try taking out one tablespoon of rice. When it seems like a good fit, roll up the open end of the bag a little (no more than 1 cm) and then sew it up.

When you want to use it, heat the little heat bag up for about 30 seconds in a microwave, and then put it inside of the adult ladybug. You can really feel the warmth right under the wings!

Special thanks to another Instructables project for information on making rice heat bags.

Step 12: Making It Glow!

Take the Velcro and cut six paired pieces that are about 2.75 cm to 3 cm long each. (In other words, you should end up with 12 pieces total, six with the “soft” Velcro side and six with the “rough” Velcro side, all nearly 3 cm long.) Fold each piece in half and use scissors to cut out a small diamond shape in the middle – see the pictures. The diamond should be about 0.75 by 0.75 cm (the max width by height). Confirm that the diamond hole fits over one of the LED lights, as shown in the pictures. Use epoxy to attach six of the “rough” Velcro pieces to six of the LEDs, fitting the LED through the diamond hole, and leaving the rough side facing up.

Next take the adult ladybug and flip its wings over so you can see the undersides. Using scissors, carefully make a small hole centered below each of the six (complete) spots – only cut the hole through the red fabric, not through the black spot. Make the hole big enough to fit the LED through. See the pictures. Then take the “soft” Velcro pieces you cut and sew them on top of the holes you just cut. Leave the “soft” side facing outward, away from the wing. Line up the holes in the wing and in the Velcro pieces. If you want, try to sew carefully enough that you do not go through the black spot fabric to attach the Velcro pieces to the wing.

When you’re done (and the epoxy has cured), try attaching the LEDs to the wings using the velcro pieces. The Velcro should securely hold the LEDs in place. Flip the LEDs on and get a beautiful little light show!

About This Instructable

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Bio: I am a scientist, professional science writer, and science educator. I'm also author of the Biology Bytes books: http://www.biology-bytes.com/book/.
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