Introduction: The Making of Little Shakespeare

About: I'm a student of mechatronics, which sounds really impressive, especially to people who don't know what it is :) Currently, I'm working on finishing University and trying to get some spare time in order to get…

Another day, another plushie! This one started out months ago as a sketch in my "ideas" notebook. The plan was to make it for a friend who happens to be a lit major and is writing her thesis on Shakespeare's "The Tempest". Months passed and he remained nothing more than a sketch. Then mid-March, I realized my friend's birthday was coming up. Now or never. The old sketch was scrapped, making room for a new, more chibi-like version of the Bard. So here we are. Get out your threads and needles, kids! It's about to get crafty!

Why is Shakespeare pants-less? Because the costume will be in another instructable! :)

Step 1: Materials and Tools


- pale skin coloured fleece/minky/felt
- poly fill
- Styrofoam balls
- light, papery fabric
- thread of a similar colour to the fleece
- black or dark brown thread
- 2 black buttons
- 2 small white buttons
- 2 balls of wool
- Al wire (3mm)
- electrical tape
- super glue


- needle and sewing machine (optional)
- scissors
- wire cutter
- power screwdriver (optional)
- tailor's chalk or light colored felt-tip pen
- sewing pattern or rulers and a compass
- iron (optional)
- ironing board (optional)
- frame with a 35-40cm long side

Step 2: Cutting Out the Shapes

This time, I do not come at you unprepared! Instead of making you draw your own, I've provided the pattern in a nifty, two page PDF, here for your viewing (and sewing) pleasure.
To explain a little of what's going on:
- The parts are done 1:1, which means you can print this out without having to rescale anything
- The whole head would require a huge paper format (beyond A3), so I put only a quarter slice of the head circle. Copy it four times to form a circle, then another four to make another circle.
- Seam allowance is not included, leave about 1cm (half inch) around each shape.
- The letters show which part connects where: where. the feet go on the legs, hands on the arms, arms nand legs on the body and body on the head
- Don't forget ears! Or you can if you want to, but I really want to give Shakespeare an earring and I couldn't do that without ears

Step 3: Skeleton

You'll need about 2m (6.5 feet) of wire for this, just to be on the safe side. Mine is 3mm aluminium wire from the local arts and crafts store, but you can also use a coat hanger or whatever you have lying around. Or skip this step entirely if you don't want your plushie to be posable. 

Bend the wire in half. Put the part where two of the ends are together into a power screwdriver, tighten and start spinning. Be careful, give yourself a lot of room, evacuate all pets and small children because the wire will start spinning like crazy on the opposite end. Guide it with your fingers, to keep it stable and to get an even spin. If the coils become too tight, the wire will break off in the screwdriver. This is a good singal to stop spinning.

Of course, you can also do this by hand, but it can be taxing and a little painful. Use gloves, if you decide to venture down this path, just to save yourself a few blisters.

Now here are your measurements, so you know where to cut:

1) Legs: 25 cm (10in)
2) Arms: 25 cm (10 in)
3) Back and head: Whatever wire you have left.

Bend all the ends, so there are no sharp ones. You can use your fingers or pliers. Bend about 2.5cm (1in) and wrap it up with tape. This way, there are no sharp, pointy bits to rip through the fabric.

Criss-cross the electrical tape in the places where you connect the legs and arms to the "spine". I found that going around 3 times on each side gives a stable connection. Bend the legs a little, to get a hip shape, at around 2.5cm on each side.

Your skeleton is officially done!

Step 4: Connecting the Parts

Another useful PDF coming your way, this time with instructions. Fear not, I will explain things in detail here. The document is more of an IKEA assembly instruction, for quick reminders.

Step 5: Hands and Feet

Sew the hand pieces together, two at a time. Repeat for feet. Leave the top part (the one marked with letters) open for now and use it to stuff the hands and feet (which you've turned to face the right way). I left them a little floppy, wanting them to be more mobile than the rest of the body.

Step 6: Arms and Legs

Place the hands and feet where it's marked with letters (B), and so that the side on which you drew the pattern (from here referred to as "wrong side") is facing out. I would suggest sewing the place where the hands/feet meet the arms/legs first. Leave an opening where the arms/legs will connect to the body. Turn inside out and stuff.

Step 7: Body

This is where it gets tricky. Place the legs side-by side, on the right side of the body fabric, then place the second piece of body fabric over them. I would suggest doing this with basting thread first. Sew the legs down, so there is a 1cm (0.5in) hole between in each leg (Marked in green in the pictures/PDF). Do the same for the arms. It will be a little crowded, but it can be done.

Step 8: Applying the Skeleton

Place the skeleton into the body through the hole in the "neck". It will take a lot of patience, nudging, pushing, cursing to get them to go in through the designated holes and through the stuffing in the arms and legs. Just don't shove, because your fleece might rip. When you're done, straighten out the wire inside the arms and legs, in case it warped from all the coaxing and move on to the next step.

Step 9: Busy Work

Once the skeleton is in, pack the body firmly with poly fill, then using hidden seams, close up all the holes where the wire went on the arms and legs. You will have to do it for the front and back separately, so twice for each appendage.

Step 10: Ears

Align two pieces so that the "wrong" side of the fabric is facing out and sew along the pattern, leaving the side marked with letters open. The wars are so small, there is no need to fill them, the remaining seam allowance material does it for you.

Step 11: Head and Eyes

Pick one of the head pieces of fabric and mark where the eyes should be on a. line that connects the ears. I placed them 5cm (2in) from the middle of the face. The location of the eyes is marked on the pattern PDF with a thin line.

Take a black and white button and place them on either side of the fabric. The black button goes on what will be the face and the white goes on the "wrong" side of the fabric. Sew one button to the other using a needle and thread. This will form a firmer hold and the eyes will be less likely to fall off. Unless you tug on them mercilessly.

Once the eyes are done, place the ears on the edges of the head, so that the rounded parts are turned toward the eyes. Place the second piece of head fabric on top and sew around, leaving 10cm (4in) free at the neck.

Step 12: Stuffing the Head

I found that just using poly fill for a head this size makes it very heavy and the doll keeps tipping over. To add volume without adding much mass, I used Styrofoam balls, the kind you get at the dollar store for decorating flower pots. Simply putting the Styrofoam into the head makes it go every which way and shows up as bumps on poor Shakespeare's face. A pox upon you, Styrofoam balls!

Use a papery fabric and make a very simple pouch: a square U shape, then fill it with Styrofoam and sew it shut. It doesn't have to be pretty, just functional.

Put some poly fill in first, toward then the pouch of Styrofoam and then more poly fill. Be careful how you space it, make sure the pouch doesn't show through anywhere.

Step 13: Head to Body

Now you should have a body with a piece of twisted wire sticking out of it. Carefully place the stuffed head onto the wire and make sure not to pierce the Styrofoam pouch. Now get to sewing. Use a hidden stitch. When you are nearly done, somewhere around the back of the neck, add some more poly fill, to strengthen the connection between the head and body. Finally sew shut.

Step 14: Hair

Most portraits show Shakespeare with a receding hairline. How far back you want to place it is entirely up to you.

Take a piece of wool and measure around his head where you want his hairline to be. Now double that and add about 5cm (2in) extra. In my case it was 40cm and as luck would have it, I had a frame of the same size. You can also work without a frame or with a piece of plank, but it will be considerably harder.

Take your doubled piece of wool and tie it tightly around the frame. Now, wrap your remaining wool around the side of the frame where you tied off the previous piece. Keep wrapping until you go through about a ball and a half. With a firm grip on the frame, carefully slide your scissors between the front and back side of the wrapped wool and cut straight down. The wool will probably snap back a little, just don't let it get in the way. You should be left with a bunch of single strings, double the length of the frame.

Select a single piece of wool and pull it around the previously tied one. Fold it in half so. it hangs equally off the tied piece. Then tie a double knot and use a spoon handle to push the knot to one side. Now repeat this for the next three hours, until you fill up the entire
inner length of the frame. Cut the tied string at both ends and tie a double knot with it, then trim off the excess pieces.

Sew the hair to the head using dark brown or black thread. 

Step 15: Moustache and Beard

By the time you're done with the hair, you should have some wool left over. 

1) The moustache

Take a handful, something that to you seems like a decent moustache, bend it in half and tie another piece of wool in the middle. Saw that down on the middle of the face, a little below the eyes and then aan equal distance apart, tie another piece of wool, to get the moustache ends. Cut off the excess wool. You will want to pus the ends toward the middle a little, to create a puffed up effect. Then sew down the ends (where you tied them of) to the face. Moustache is a go!

2) Beard 

Take your remaining wool and also, minus three pieces. Again, bend in half and then tie in the middle. Whereas for the moustache you wanted a tight tie, here you'll leave it a bit more loose. Tie two more on each side of the string you tied in the middle. Since this is much looser, it's a good idea to put a few drops of super glue on the three wool strings, to keep all the other pieces from moving about. Wait for the glue to soak in and dry, then sew the beard to the face, with the glued side touching the face. Take some scissors and shape little Shakespeare's beard how ever you want. Try to keep it symmetrical, but it's not a requirement.

There! You're all done!