Editor's Note: This series of posts became a book!
Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction was published by Lark Crafts in 2013.
With just a little extra effort you can take a pattern for a standing animal and transform it into a pattern for a walking, stalking or prowling animal. Motion gives the animal energy and implies a narrative. Think about a predator and its prey or a mother carrying a baby in it's mouth. Some of the best examples I've seen of softies in motion are part of Jennifer Muskopf's series of animal interactions (Jennifer is also a contributor to my book).
I'm going to sew a walking leopard. To get started, let's look at an image of a walking leopard.
When the leopard is walking the legs on the left side of its body are not parallel with the legs on the right side. Dealing with this assymetry is the challange in making an animal in motion.
If I were making a standing leopard I would begin by drawing the leopard in profile and then use that drawing to create the side body pattern piece. I am going to do the same thing to make a walking leopard, except I need to draw two different side bodies, one for the right side of its body and one for the left.
First I am going to draw the left side of the leopard, showing how the legs look on that side. Then I am going to copy the main part of the body, redrawing the legs to show how they look on thr right side of his body.
Here are the two side bodies.
Here they are on top of one another so you can see the assymetry in the legs.
Using these new side bodies, I am going to draw the two new underbodies. The head gusset and other pattern patterns are not going to change.
Now cut out the new pieces and sew the leopard together as usual, being sure to match the left underbody with the left side body and the right underbody with the right side body.
The finished leopard will have an assymetrical body.
Suggesting motion adds a new dimension to your softies. We start to imagine where this leopard might be headed and what is going to happen next. Give it a try!
Have you made an assymetrical soft toy or one that appears to be in motion? How did you do it? What other techniques for showing motion do you suggest? Or do you know of an artist who makes animals in motion? We would love the link so we can get inspired. Please share in the comments! Thank you, everyone!
I keep learning more and more…
I just came over from Elsie Marley and can I say “WOW”! I love everything. I can’t wait to spend some time looking through your archives and of course getting your book. I’ve only ever made one softie but now I want a new full time hobby.
Nice post! Cute leopard–the feeling of motion gives it a lot of personality! Thanks again for a lovely lesson.
Thank you for this interesting post! 🙂
I love your softies! They are cute and sure artful.
I know Japanese artist who is trying to make animals (cats) in motion. She put wires in the body to change poses, though.
Here is the link.
Lynn in Tucson says
Oh! That’s just perfect! And what great fabric!
i may have to stop everything to do this…so fab!
Beth Grim says
How exciting to find your blog! Thanks for sharing all these great softie-sewing tips. I want to make a sampler of softies now, each one highlighting a different technique. Just a few days ago (before I saw your blog) I drafted a pattern for an asymmetrical animal (llama-like)…I did it much the way you outlined here, and it worked great. The legs are long and skinny, and I put wires inside so they could be posed just how I wanted them.
I think a sampler of softies highlighting each technique is one of the coolest ideas ever! And I love your llama!
Again, this blog is fabulous. I’m really enjoying these breakdowns of how you create your patterns. Very excited to try some myself!
Park Taylor says
I would like to make tutorial “The Tutorial of the Day” on my blog some time in the next week or so. Would it be okay if I showed one or two pictures of it and then linked to your page?
Park Taylor – The Crafty Artisan
I just discovered your blog. It is full of treasures! As a Waldorf Handwork teacher for many years, I worked with sixth graders whose handwork assignment for the year was to design and sew a stuffed animal of their own choosing. It was quite a challenge for me to figure how I was going to move them through this process.(If only I had known about your work then…) I started by asking them to draw a side view of the animal walking, your same starting point! Then it was an exploration of gussets and darts, everything I see on your blog. We were always amazed how important ears were to the feeling of the animal. And of course, it came alive with eyes.