My brother-in-law is in the military, so he and his family move around often. I wanted to make my baby niece and nephew something they could use that reminded them of me, so I decided to take a bunch of old shirts I had laying around and sew them into a pillow bear.
Step 1: Materials
For this project, you will need the following supplies:
Old t-shirts... I used five.
Stuffing... Can be whatever you choose. I used a combination of the t-shirt scraps and fiberfill.
Sewing machine, unless you choose to sew the whole thing by hand.
Hand sewing needles
Fusible interfacing... Not absolutely necessary, but I drew my pattern pieces out on my interfacing instead of on pattern paper. I also find t-shirt material easier to work with when it's been reinforced.
Permanent marker or buttons
Step 2: Draw and Cut Your Pattern
If you have a pattern you would like to use for this, skip ahead to the cutting section.
I started by sketching what I thought my bear should look like when complete. From that sketch, I made notes for how many pieces I would need of each shape. For my specific bear, the pieces I needed to create are as follows:
- 4 ears
- 2 side of face
- 1 middle of face
- 3 nose triangles
- 1 back of head
- 2 belly
- 1 back
- 2 outer arms
- 2 inner arms
- 2 inside leg
- 2 outside leg
- 2 foot pads
If you do straight legs (or arms) like I did, you can just cut four even rectangles for those instead of two at a time.
I sketched my shapes directly onto the wrong side (smooth side) of the interfacing with pencil. In order to keep the pieces even, I folded them down the middle to ensure they were not larger on one half, then cut. For the matching pieces, I folded the interfacing just as you would do with fabric and cut out multiple pieces at once. Since I was creating my own pattern as I went along, I pinned the interfacing together to make sure the pieces would fit, then adjusted as needed.
Step 3: Iron and Cut
After you cut out all of your interfacing pieces, lay them on your shirts to decide which shirt pieces you're going to use for each body part. Once you've decided, it's time to iron!
Preheat your iron on a medium-high heat (high enough for steam). When your iron is hot, iron out any wrinkles you have in your shirts before fusing the interfacing. Iron on interfacing according to the directions that came with it.
If you don't have the directions, try this: Place the interfacing rough side down on the wrong side of the fabric you're using. Cover with a cloth (I used a second cut up shirt) and spritz cloth until it is damp, not soaking wet. Press down with iron on top of the cloth; do NOT slide iron, just press firmly and hold for about ten seconds. Lift iron. The shirt should be dry where you just held the iron. Repeat pressing process until you've pressed the entire area covered by the interfacing, overlapping slightly each time the iron is moved.
Lift cloth and check that the fabric is fully fused. If there's a loose spot, repeat pressing process. Set shirts aside to cool after they've been fused (should only take a couple of minutes).
When the shirts and interfacing have cooled, cut the pattern pieces out about 1/4" outside of the interfacing.
Step 4: Pin and Sew
I started putting the bear together at the head. I pinned the two side face pieces to the middle piece, right sides together, and sewed about 1/4" from the edge. I repeated the pinning and sewing with the ears and nose.
To attach the nose, I placed it on the face where I wanted it to go, then folded the edge under slightly and pinned in place. I used an overhand stitch to sew the nose on from the front. About 3/4 of the way around the nose, I stuffed it with small shirt scraps, then continued stitching until it was closed.
To attach the ears, turn them right side out and stuff, then pin them in place to the outside of the animal's face. Sew along the edge. If you don't get the seam perfect, don't worry, you'll go over it again soon.
Take the bear's face and pin, right sides together, to the back of the head. Sew all the way around, making sure you get the ear hems in the seam for extra reinforcement. Leave about a three inch space at the chin area open for stuffing. Pull the fabric through the opening so that the bear's face is right side out.
Repeat with the legs, sewing right sides together and leaving the ends open. If you have a graphic on the foot, be sure to align it with the direction you want the seams to face so that it is right side up when your project is finished. Pin and sew, then pull legs right side out through open end.
Repeat steps with arms and belly.
Step 5: Stuff!
Stuff the head, arms and legs through the holes you've left open. When these pieces are full to your liking, pin them in their appropriate places to the belly of the bear the same way you did with the ears and face in step four. Sew to the body of the bear.
Step 6: Sew the Back On
You're now ready to attach the back. Start by folding the head in towards the outside of the belly. Pin your back piece (right side in) to the neck and shoulders of the bear, making sure you get the neck seam up to the pinned edge. Pin the back down the sides, encasing the arms and head. Leave the bottom open.
Sew along the edges you just made with the pins. Be sure to make your seams wide enough that they encase the seams you made earlier on the arms and neck.
When you've sewn all the way around the three sides, pull the head through the bottom opening and turn your bear right side out. Stuff the bear's body to your liking, then fold the bottom back piece under around the edge and pin to the top of the legs (see photo).
I chose to hand sew this in the same manner in which I did the nose because my bear is too large and awkward to sew this seam in a machine, but that part is up to you. Sew the bottom closed.
Step 7: Add Face and Enjoy!
I chose to draw a face on my bear since it's going to babies (freakishly strong babies, at that), but you could also make eyes and a nose with buttons. Check your bear over for any loose threads, brush off any leftover fiberfill and you're done! Now you have a pillow animal, and you've gotten rid of some of those t-shirts you never wore anymore. Yay!
If you have any suggestions or comments that you think could improve this instructable, I'd love to hear from you!
Step 8: Tips
- It is usually best to over-stuff than under-stuff, as the filling will get smooshed and settle over time
- When sewing for young kids, always be sure there are no loose pieces or threads.
- If you want a flatter pillow bear, cut larger pieces instead of several small ones (example: cut one round face instead of three face sections) and sew flat together. You'll still be able to stuff them, just not with as much filling.
- I used the smallest stitch possible on my sewing machine since I'm giving this to babies and want it to be as secure as possible, but you can use a longer stitch as you choose.
- If you're using the three triangle nose like I did, it will probably look best to have two seams facing up and one down (think upside down Mercedes symbol) when you attach it to the head. Otherwise your bear could have a frown.