A little while ago I bought a kit to make a giraffe toy which had all the pre-cut shapes I needed. I loved it, but every time someone asked 'Did you make that?' I felt uneasy about saying yes and would over-explain about how all I really did was stitch it together.
I decided I wanted to make a toy from design to finish, to be able to say 'yes I did make that' with no hesitation, but I had no idea where to start.
I was inspired by an instructable about making patterns from 3D objects, where the maker creates a giant inflatable skull from a clay model (link below).
Using the same principle, we can use these patterns to make toys!
All you need is clay, fabric, stuffing, scissors, card, paper mache and a needle and thread.
Step 1: Making the Model
First, decide what kind of toy you want to make.
Choose something simple without too many fiddly bits and don't worry about getting in any fine details as these will get lost in the furry fabric.
I used DAS White Air Drying Modelling Clay, but any modelling material will be fine as long as it can stand getting some PVA glue on it.
I chose a donkey because I love donkeys.
Step 2: Paper Maché
Cover your model in paper maché, making sure to get the underside of the feet as well.
Repeat this at least once more to make two layers, or three layers if you have the patience.
Once it's dry, use a pen to mark out areas that are either flat or only curve in one direction so that they can lay flat once you cut them out.
The instructable this is inspired by uses layers of masking tape, but i found it too difficult to peel away from the clay later on. Feel free to try both and see what works best for you.
Step 3: Creating the Template
Cut across all the lines using a craft knife or a sharp pair of scissors.
Very carefully work your way around the edges and peel away sections of the paper maché. With only two or three layers, it should be flexible enough to avoid splitting if you need to bend it through funny angles.
It is a good idea to mark edges that go together to help you remember how all the pieces match up later.
Lay out the sections flat on some card and draw around them.
Cut these shapes out and place them on your chosen fabric and draw around them again. Your drawn on design might be slightly larger than your templates by now (after drawing around the edges twice), but that helps to add a bit of space to sew the edges together.
Step 4: Sew Together
Cut out the pattern from the fabric and stitch it together, leaving a hole for stuffing.
Turn it inside out and fill with stuffing until its as firm as you want it be, then stitch the hole closed.
Step 5: Finished Donkey
From design to donkey, you've made a toy!
Add any details you like to your new friend. I gave my donkey a nice mane, tail and some amber eyes to finish him off.
Step 6: Perfect... to Me
Enjoy your new found skill.
From Beth and Wonky the Donkey