You’ve been designing some original sewing patterns for stuffed animals and some of them are really good! You know you’re capable of creating awesome patterns that turns out three-dimensional toys.
You’ve also worked really hard on a few designs that have been total flops. I’m talking about misshapen heads, legs with an awkward stance, proportions that are totally off. Oddball creatures inevitably end up on your worktable when you’re designing softies, but they don’t have to stay there.
1. Invest time in doing visual research and sketching. Often we think we know what a bunny looks like. We’ve seen hundreds of bunnies in our lives, both real and toy. Long floppy ears, cotton tail, round body…okay let’s go! Resist the urge to jump the gun. Pretend you’re on Project Runway and spend half an hour sketching before you get started. Use this time to help you refine your mental image of the softie you’re going to design.
2. Draw a pattern. The process of converting a sketch into a set of pattern pieces will help you visualize how the finished toy is going to come together. Where will the seams be? Do you need a gusset and if you do should it widen or narrow at certain points? Are you going to exaggerate any features? Dozens of questions, big and small, arise and are resolved while you draw the pattern pieces. And once equipped with a paper pattern, no matter how flawed it may be at first, you have something to refine later.
3. Make prototypes. That soft, white faux fur may tempting you from the shelf, but let it sit there until you’re sure you’re ready. Find an old bed sheet and cut it up into big rectangles. This is your prototype fabric. It doesn’t take long to sew a prototype, but it is worth it every time. You’ll find out right away if your pieces don’t match up and you can go back and edit the pattern pieces right then.
4. Stuff your prototype and make another one. Take the time to clip the curves, turn and fully stuff your prototype. There is no way to be sure exactly how the toy will look until it’s stuffed. Wrinkles? Maybe you need a dart. Top heavy? Adjust the proportions. Take a marker and write on the prototype’s body. Edit and redraw the pattern pieces. Make another prototype. This is not a waste of time. Even if you think the pattern is now perfect, make another prototype. Patterns are rarely perfect after just one.
5. Keep going. Patience and perseverance pay off when it comes to three-dimensional design. Think of it like building up stamina. Most people will quit editing after a few tries. They’ll go ahead and sew the toy from the finish fabrics even though it’s not well-designed because they just can’t bear to continue refining. Or they’ll throw up their hands and figure they can’t be a pattern designer.
Don’t give up! Take a break and read other people’s patterns to gather more ideas. Ask someone else to take a look at your design and give you constructive feedback. Sit down and try again.