Introduction: From Stuffed Toy to Backpack! | How to Make a Cute Bag From a Plush Animal
I've seen a few novelty animal backpacks before, but often they aren't soft and huggable, but rather are made of canvas or similar. Obviously they are more durable, but are they as cute? I don't think so. So I thought I would make my own soft and squishy bag from a genuine stuffed toy, or more specifically, Baloo the Bear.
Suitable for kids or kids at heart :D
*WARNING: Contains scenes of bear surgery*
Step 1: What You Will Need
- Stuffed toy; You will need to find a toy that is a) big enough to make a decent size backpack from, b) has a flat enough back to rest against your own (or your kid's) back, c) has an obvious place to put an opening such as a zip, and d) is adorable :)
- Seam ripper
- Fabric scissors
- Pinking shears; to help stop fabric from fraying
- Zip; I used a 7" closed end zip in grey. If you prefer, you can use a different fastening, such as Velcro.
- Sturdy woven fabric; I used some scrap cotton canvas that I already had, but really I should have used something in a colour that matched the stuffed toy rather than was in a contrasting colour.
- Fabric lining for the inner pouch; I used a lightweight polyester satin
- Webbing for the straps; There are a few options for the straps, with the simplest option being to make fabric or webbing straps that specifically fit you or whoever will wear the bag. If you prefer to have adjustable straps, you can use D rings and webbing, and even incorporate plastic clips. I guess you will need around 25" - 30" of webbing, but measure a backpack you already own to give you a better idea.
- Sewing pins
- Sewing machine; optional but would save a bit of time
- Hand sewing needle & matching thread
Step 2: Open the Seam
First things first, you need to open up the stuffed toy to make the opening of the bag.
I am going to be inserting a zip in the front of the toy, so I first mark the length of the zip on the belly of the bear. I marked the top of where the zip pull goes up to, and where the zip stopper is at the bottom, using sewing pins.
I then used a seam ripper to break the thread holding the centre seam together, between the 2 sewing pin markers.
Depending on the size and design of your toy, you may create this opening on the front or the top of the toy, and along a seam or by cutting a straight line in the fabric with scissors. Really, it's up to you where you put this opening, as it depends on what looks best.
Step 3: Remove Stuffing
You then need to remove most of the stuffing (and save it for a later craft project ;))
Make sure you leave enough to stuff the extremities (head, legs, arms etc) well.
Note: Although I didn't, you can re-insert some of the stuffing back into the toy later, when adding the inner pouch, otherwise it can end up looking a little deflated.
Step 4: Enclose the Extremities
Take a sturdy woven fabric and use pinking shears to cut out shapes to use to enclose the extremities.
In other words, you want to keep the extremities (arms, legs, head) stuffed, and to do this you need to close those areas off with fabric. This fabric needs to be non-stretch and fairly sturdy. The reason you need to cut the fabric shapes out with pinking shears is to help prevent the edges fraying.
So I cut out approximately the shapes I needed to cover the openings to the extremities and then used my sewing needle and thread to attach them to the inside of the bear.
I used herringbone stitch, but you can use many different stitches including catch stitch or whip stitch. As long as the fabric stays in place, it doesn't really matter! With the stitch I used, you could barely the stitches from the outside of the bear; they were pretty much invisible...and that's the aim.
Continue until all of the extremities are stuffed and enclosed.
I was left with just the main body cavity empty, as this is where I will be inserting the inner pouch.
Step 5: Make the Inner Pouch
I then used the same woven fabric as I used in the previous step, plus some smooth lining fabric, to make the inner pouch.
To do this I measured the opening I need for the zip (7.5") and added 1" (= 8.5"). Then I measured the depth of the main body cavity, and added 0.5" (= 4.5")
Next, I cut out symmetrical semi-circle shapes that were 8.5" along the straight edge, and 4.5" across the widest part. I needed 2 semi-circles in the woven fabric (to add strength and body to the pouch), and 2 semi-circles in the smooth fabric lining.
This is the smallest inner pouch I would recommend to make. My finished pouch could carry my phone or a bunch of pens & pencils. If I made this again, I would add 2" (at least) to the depth measurement i.e. I should have made the semi-circles at least 6.5" wide.
Remember to cut the shapes out using pinking shears to prevent fraying.
I then used sewing pins to temporarily join 1 piece of lining fabric and 1 piece of woven fabric together (right sides outwards). I pinned the pair of shapes together along the straight edge, and then sewed along that edge with a 1/4" seam allowance. I then did the same for the other 2 fabric pieces.
Then I pinned the pairs together, so that the lining fabric sides were together. Once I'd done that, I sewed around the curve of the shape (not along the straight edge again) with a 1/2" seam allowance.
I used my sewing machine to sew these lines to save time, and used a straight stitch that was 2.5mm long.
This is the inner pouch finished.
Step 6: Sewing the Pouch Into the Toy
Push the inner pouch into the main body cavity, so that you can only see the lining fabric (the woven fabric should now be hidden inside).
Pin the edge of the pouch to the edge of the toy opening, all the way around. Make sure everything is centred and lines up how you want it.
You want the inner pouch edges to sit just below/inside the edges of the toy opening, because you don't want to see the pouch from the outside of the toy.
You can then sew the inner pouch to the toy along this pinned edge. I used a backstitch to hand sew the edges, as I thought it might be too awkward or too hard to control the stitches with my sewing machine. But it's up to you how you attach the pouch.
As you can see in the last photo, it's hard to see these stitches from the outside, as the grey thread I used blended in well.
Step 7: Add the Zip
I then pinned the zip into the opening of the toy, so that it was centred.
I made the mistake of only pinning one side of the zip before I started sewing, but you should pin both sides of the zip to start with so that you can confirm it fits well and is properly centred before you begin sewing.
Note: Pin one side of the zip with the zip closed, then pin the other side with the zip open. This just makes it easier to work with.
I then used a backstitch to hand sew the zip inside, making sure that I made extra reinforcement stitches at the top and bottom of the zip so that the centre seam of the stuffed toy wouldn't come apart during use.
If you feel confident using a sewing machine for this, you can.
Backstitch all the way around the zip and the zip is now inserted!
Make sure that you don't attach the zip too close to the fluffy fabric so that the fur could get caught in the zip :)
Step 8: Attaching Straps
As mentioned above, there are different ways of adding straps, but I went for the simplest, which was to just sew a length of webbing (I used 1" wide webbing) onto the toy.
I attached one end of the strap to the head to stop it drooping, and the other end to the top of the leg.
I used whip stitch to hand sew mine onto the toy.
To work out how long you want the straps, you can measure the straps of a backpack you currently own, or simply test out different lengths of straps by pinning webbing onto the toy and trying it out.
You can add a little glue to the end of webbing, or carefully hold the end of webbing near a tealight to melt it, in order to 'seal' it and prevent fraying.
Step 9: Finished!
And now you are free to wear your snuggly new backpack!
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial :)
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