Introduction: DIY Interactive Stuffed Animal
Technology is a growing integral part of our lives, and the number of smartphone apps being developed for children and childhood development is growing rapidly. However, many parents and child developmental specialists are concerned with limiting screen time as it may adversely effect development and social skills.
So, why not give your phone a soft, friendly face that is more stimulating to a child's mind than a touch screen?
Supplies and equipment:
- Stuffed animal (get a cheep one from a thrift shop or use your own)
- Small piece of fabric for pocket
- Cotton or Polyfill stuffing
- Fabri-Tac (fabric glue) or hot glue
- Seam ripper
- Zipper or velcro
- Needle and thread that matches the color of the animal
- Sewing pins
- Clothes pins
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Step 1: Select a Subject
I highly recommend practicing on a stuffed animal that you don't care about first, especially if you are planning on converting a child's "best friend" for this project. I was able to find a good selection of furry creatures at thrift shops for a couple dollars a piece. For new purchases, check for "machine washable" on the tag, as these will be more durable.
After making several of these, I discovered that a certain four-limb body style of stuffed animal works best. The tripod position, where the animal sits with its front feet between its back feet, adds stability after redistributing the stuffing so the furry friend doesn’t fall over with the added weight of a phone is inside it.
Step 2: Disembowel...
I don't know what else to call this step that sounds less gruesome.
In order to make space for the pocket, you need to cut out a seam with the seam ripper, and take out a good amount of the stuffing inside the body of the animal.
Pick a seam that is either in the back, or between two different color panels, to help disguise the zipper. For this rabbit, I opened the seam between the light colored belly and the darker body.
Go ahead and remove all the stuffing for now. You will put some of it back in after washing.
Step 3: Bath Time!
After taking out all the stuffing, give the stuffed animal a good washing, especially if you bought a used creature. I like to use hypo-allergenic, natural detergent and plain white vinegar as a non-toxic fabric softener.
I washed this guy by hand in the sink as I think I can get all the small nooks and crannies cleaner, but if the tag says "machine washable" go ahead and throw it in if you prefer!
Make sure the animal is fully dry before proceeding.
Step 4: Re-stuff the Head and Arms/legs
After the creature is all clean and dry, it's time to add some stuffing back in. You may want to get new stuffing, or just use the same stuff you took out. Probably depends on what you find when you open it up and take it out.
The key to getting the animal to sit up and not fall over with the phone inside is to create a support structure. For animals that sit in a tripod position, I found that by stuffing the feet, arms and legs until they are fairly stiff, allowed the front legs to support the added weight of the phone without collapsing.
For the head, just add stuffing till it looks right, about the same amount as was in there before.
You will also want to add some stuffing back into the body so that the phone is padded and the animal is still snugly.
Step 5: Make a Pocket
Measure your phone and cut a piece of fabric that is 2" longer than your phone and twice as wide plus 2" so it's not too tight after you sew or glue the edges together.
Fold fabric under about 1/2" and pin to one side of the front of the zipper.
Repeat on other side of zipper
Sew or glue* zipper in place on both sides making sure not to accidentally sew or glue through the back of the pocket.
Turn pocket inside out and sew or glue* the open ends to complete the closure.
Turn pocket right-side out and the pocket is complete.
*If you are constructing the pocket with fabric glue or hot glue, make sure to let each seam dry before moving on to the next.
Step 6: Install Pocket
Now that you have a pocket the perfect size for your phone, unzip the zipper and pin the pocket inside the stuffed animal where you ripped out the seam and took out some stuffing.
For this step, I found that gluing and sewing made for the most durable result. Since the zipper will likely be opened and closed many times, you want to make sure it is secure and won't start coming apart with use.
- Glue one side of pocket the the inside of the open seam, folding the fur under slightly so there isn't a raw edge, and securing with clothes pins while it dries.
- Before securing the other side of the zipper to the opening, stuff the pocket inside the animal, unzip and put your phone inside. Get a sense of how the animal will feel and adjust how much stuffing you want in the body. This will vary based on the size of the stuffed animal you are using.
- Repeat gluing step on other side of zipper.
- Using a simple back stitch or whip stitch, sew a seam through all the layers: animal skin, pocket fabric, and zipper on both sides of the opening. With most furry animals, the stitches won't show, but try and find a matching thread if the fur is really short.
- Add a few extra stitches at each end of the opening to make sure the seam you ripped out won't continue to unravel.
Step 7: Make More!!!
Try out more body types and come up with other techniques for support and closures! I tried a couple using Velcro instead of a zipper and openings in several different locations.
With the owl, I had to make a skeleton out of a wire clothes hanger to get it to sit up.
The raccoon I found was a puppet, which already had a convenient "pocket" in the body, so I didn't need to make one. the problem was that it wasn't made to sit and look at you, so I had to take out a few extra seams in the neck and add a bunch of stitches in to change the body position. I even ended up sewing the hands together and then to the head so they wouldn't stick out at a weird angle. I love the way that one turned out.
There are so many options. Hope to see what you come up with!