When I was a child I had a very special stuffed animal dog named Barnard. He was all brown except for the white lining on his ears and his feet were weighty, like beanbags. I carried Barnard around by one ear while sucking my thumb for…well for more years than I care to admit (Yes, I sucked my thumb until I was 13. Don’t judge.) One day when I was seven or eight-years-old the stitches on Barnard’s ear finally gave way and it fell off.
My mom doesn’t really sew. We didn’t have a sewing machine and I don’t remember her ever sewing, but she fixed it. She sewed it on backward, with the white lining facing out, but I still loved Barnard despite his changed appearance.
Because that’s the thing. Even if you don’t sew, you’ll get out the needle and thread to repair a special stuffed animal for a child.
Beloved stuffed animals become a member of the family and are often as important to the parents as they are to the child. If you’re a parent and you’ve ever lost your child’s lovey you know what I’m talking about. If it get’s dropped on a walk, or left in a restaurant, or in the airport (don’t even think about it!) your heart is broken. These toys are irreplaceable. Even if you can find the same stuffed animal again, it doesn’t feel or look the way that old, well-loved one did.
Now I’m a mom of three little girls and I’m a stuffed animal designer. I’m pretty confident that I can repair my daugthers’ special toys when they become frayed and threadbare, when the seams burst or the stuffing compresses, or if an ear falls off. And I can show you how so that you can make expert repairs, too!
This post is the first in a new occasional series called “Animal Hospital: Intensive Care for the Intensely Loved” in which I will show you how to make common repairs on your child’s favorite stuffed animal. From simple fixes like sewing up a burst seam to more complex repairs like replacing paw pads and reattaching jointed limbs, my intention is to help you mend and care for the special softies in your family’s life.
To prepare for this series I put a post up on the Wellesley Mother’s Forum list serve asking if anyone’s child had a special stuffed animal in need of repair. The Mother’s Forum is a pretty active group in town, nearly 600 members strong. To say I was deluged with requests would be an understatement. The stuffed animals that came in were of every variety from a handmade horse that was a gift from a great aunt to a lamb that had traveled the world and had been swimming on several occasions, this was a very special and well-loved crew.
I photographed each of them before, during, and after their visit to my Animal Hospital in order to illustrate how to perform the most common repairs. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing them restored to health.
To kick off the series let’s meet a very endearing little guy named Pigawig. When Pigawig arrived it was clear that his snout had been repaired once before, but the repair was now completely threadbare. Here he is:
Here’s a close-up of his snout.
That bit of orange was the old stuffing peeking out through a hole that had developed many years prior. The threadbare satin was a patch that had been put over the hole, but was now almost completely worn away. Like my dear Barnard, Pigawig had been fixed, but poorly. The patch was too large and didn’t match the original material.
I took a seam ripper and very carefully removed the old patch. Then I added some polyfill stuffing to flesh out his collapsed snout.
I pinned the patch in place and then I ladder stitched it to his snout using light pink thread. Be sure to tie a double know before trimming off the thread.
The patch stands out quite a bit because it is clean and new, but after a few romps outside and a couple of hugs to tear-stained cheeks it’ll blend right in. And with an appropriately sized patch Pigawig looks more similar to his original handsome self.
I hope this first installment is helpful to you and if you have any particular stories about the loss or repair of a favorite lovey, please share.
In the next installment I’ll be talking about what to do when toy stuffing has become extremely compressed with a wonderful bear named Crane Man (she’s a girl).