Introduction: Frankenstuffed--The Feejee Mermaid

About: Storyteller, Entertainer, Former Librarian...and he owns more than 1,500 neckties.

    Long, long ago, a man named Phineas Taylor Barnum (P. T. Barnum, "The Greatest Showman") lured crowds of people into his American Museum to see the "Feejee Mermaid." Was it really a mermaid? No. It was the tail of a fish sewed to the head and body of a monkey.

    A year ago (or so), a librarian I work with did a craft project for teens, taking apart stuffed animals, mixing and matching limbs, bodies, and heads to make new creatures. I called it "Frankenstuffed." I thought about my brother, who had an oddities museum.He'd like to have a Feejee Mermaid, wouldn't he? SO....I made a Frankenstuffed Feejee Mermaid!

    And you can, too!


    To make your own Frankenstuffed Feejee Mermaid, here's what you need:

    Two (2) plush stuffed animals - Try to find stuffed animals that are about the same distance around.

    Scissors - Because you will be cutting the stuffed animals.

    Pins - You can use straight pins to hold the pieces together for sewing, but I had some super-size safety pins, so that's what I used.

    Thread - I used a crochet thread that is sturdy.

    Needle - Because I used crochet thread, I needed a needle with a large eye, so I used a curved upholstery needle, which is good for "blind sewing."

    Step 1: Choose Them!

    I used an ape and a dolphin; you could use a fish and a monkey (or even a teddy bear). I found them in different thrift shops, and paid about $7 for the two of them. These were big animals, each over 36 inches long. You don't have to make your mermaid that huge, but I wanted something large for my brother's museum.

    Step 2: Cut Them!

    Don't be bashful! This isn't Toy Story - they won't feel anything when you cut them. Cut the sea creature as close to the head or fins as you can, and the ape/monkey/mammal part should be cut at the waist.

    Don't throw away the extra parts, because you might want to take some of the stuffing from the leftovers to keep your mermaid from looking scrawny.

    Step 3: Match Them!

    I used the head and torso of the ape and the tail of the dolphin (Sorry, folks. This project is not dolphin-free.). Try to arrange the sections so the seams are fairly close.

    Step 4: Pin It!

    I used safety pins to hold the body and tail sections together while I sewed. I used four pins, but I could have used more. I had straight pins, but I liked the safety pins, because I bleed easily, and I usually find a way to puncture myself with a straight pin..

    Step 5: Sew It!

    You could use a sewing machine, but you would have to pull out the stuffing and turn everything inside-out to stitch your seam. that's why I sewed my mermaid by hand.

    I used a double-length of crochet thread, threaded the upholstery needle, tied a figure-8 knot in the ends, and started blind-stitching.

    Blind-stiitching means that you make stitches that will not be seen, and the when your project is finished. The first stitch went from the inside of the tail section to the outside, so the knot would end up hidden. Next, I went into the body section and stitched into and out of the fabric, so the seam allowance (the part of the fabric between the stitches and the edge of the fabric) is on the inside of the mermaid. Every 3 or four stitches, I made an extra stitch inside to lock the seam so it wouldn't unravel. When I reached a pin, I removed it. I stitched all the way around, sealing the waist. My last stitches locked the seam.

    Step 6: It's Done! Love It!

    Here is the finished product, from the front and the back. To show you the size of Miss Feejee, here I am with my Frankenstuffed friend.

    That's how I made my Feejee Mermaid. I hope you enjoyed learning how to make it. I hope you try making one of your own.

    BUT DON'T GO AWAY! Let me show you something else!

    Step 7: You Don't Have to Make a Mermaid

    This is Michelle. She is the one who taught me how to make Frankenstuffed creatures. She made this one out of a pile of arms, legs, bodies, and heads. She and I went to thrift shops and bought stuffed animals for her project at the library. So, use your imagination. It doesn't have to be a mermaid. it doesn't have to be any kind of animal there is, and when you finish it, you can decide what it is, and what to call it.


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