This post is part of “Animal Hospital: Intensive Care for the Intensely Loved,” an occasional series in which I show you how to make common repairs on your child’s favorite stuffed animal. From straightforward 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.
When a stuffed animal has been very, very loved it can begin to sag. Being hugged, served tea, used as a pillow (and a tissue), washed and washed again – all of this can leave a special lovey looking rather slumped over. Sometimes the stuffing inside shifts and compresses to such a degree that portions of the body are rendered rather limp and hollow.
To remedy this situation the stuffed animal will need to be restuffed.
I recommend purchasing a bag of polyester fiberfill to use as stuffing. You can find fiberfill at most fabric stores, and even at big box craft stores. Fiberfill is a good choice because a toy stuffed with fiberfill is easy to care for. It can be washed by hand in the sink with warm soapy water, or it can be put in the washing machine on a gentle cycle and you can put it in the dryer without worrying that the stuffing will shift, bunch up, shrink, or otherwise deteriorate.
To demonstrate restuffing a well-loved toy I’d like to introduce you to Crane Man. Don’t be fooled by her name: Crane Man is a girl. When I first met her she really stole my heart. Look at those big orange eyes. But she could hardly sit up. Her neck and limbs were totally empty of stuffing and she was very floppy.
To begin restuffing you need to open up the toy’s body. Start by searching along the seams to find the area through which the toy was stuffed when it was originally made. If you examine the seams carefully and you’ll find one that looks a little different from the others. It may be a bit bumpy or crooked or the fur might be tucked under there. Check along the back, between the legs, and in other inconspicuous areas because those are spots where toy designers often leave openings.
In order to open the seam, you’ll need a seam ripper. I don’t recommend using scissors because with scissors you run the risk of accidentally cutting a hole in the fabric instead of just cutting the stitches. Use your seam ripper to carefully cut through the stitches at the opening. If you’re not sure how to use a seam ripper, I recommend watching this video first.
Crane Man had been opened and restuffed once before, then sewn together rather messily. I carefully unpicked all of the stitches. You can see her skin is pretty threadbare so be careful!
Pull off small pieces of stuffing, about the size of large gumballs, and push it into the body in the hollow areas. For a really fragile toy like this one I suggest that you use your fingers for this job so that you can be very sensitive to the fabric’s strength. A stuffing tool like a chopstick or hemostats could very easily tear a hole in the skin.
Use your palms to rub the toy as you stuff, evening out the stuffing and making sure there are no hollow parts or lumps. You may want to keep the toy a bit squishy or you may want to stuff it firmly. For an old toy like Crane Mane, I recommend going light on the stuffing to avoid bursting thorugh the weaker areas of the fabric.
Once you’re satisfied, close the opening with ladder stitch. I like to use extra-strong thread to close openings because it can stand up to being tugged and pulled and washed multiple times.
After I finished restuffng Crane Man I went ahead and repaired some holes in the especially threadbare parts of her body, too.
I used all-purpose thread to carefully ladder stitch the fabric together in these areas.
Crane Man’s owner came by to fetch her before I took her “after” portrait, but she is now nice and perky and ready for action.
I hope this installment in Animal Hopital: Intensive Care for the Intensely Loved is helpful to you and if you have any
particular stories about the loss or repair of a favorite lovey, please
Since I began this project readers have sent me some interesting link related to lovey repair. First, a New York City mother-daughter team that offers a professional lovey repair service and second, a super adorable illustration of special stuffing animals hung out to dry after being washed.
In the next installment I’ll be talking about how to replace paw pads. We’ll meet a very special world-traveling lamb (she’s even been swimming on several occasions) with a most distinctive name: Lamby.
melissa q. says
Ooh, this is exactly what our beloved Bobo needs! Good one.
I read your blog for years and clicked on the “illustration ” link without knowing, hoping for something cute. What a surprise ! 🙂
Thanks for the link , and thank you for the inspiration get reading your pages.
Your illustration is so charming! I really love it 🙂
I hope Bobo gets a bit more stuffing if he needs it. I restuffed my daughter's Pink Kitty a few years ago. He's a very happy (and plump) kitty now.
Karen in KS says
Thanks for the tutorial. I have a beloved bear that I would like to restuff and give to my granddaughter. This will be perfect!
I'm so glad to hear that, Karen!
This is amazing! It’s nice to know that Princess (My stuffed bunny. Why is her name Princess? Because her slippers have told me to since I first got her on Easter around 10 years ago.) isn’t destined to become one of those floppy and flat stuffed animals that eventually get packed away. I don’t know what I’d do without her..
Omigoodness this site is so helpful! I have a bunny teddy named Bloop ( no idea why! ) but I was terrified when I needed to re stuff him, and this website definitely helped me!
So glad to hear that, Elizabeth!
Ooohhh….I am so glad I found this! Mr. Snuggles is in need of a bit of a refluffing. Just what I was looking for! Thank you!
Thanks for this post! I have a dear camel that is my most prized possession and he is starting to get limp. I do have a question before I start – if he’s not as totally limp as Crane Man, should I leave his old stuffing and add more or pull it mostly out and restuff? Any tips for maintenence while I have him opened up to help him last as long as possible? I considered fusible fleece for extra support on the inside but I worry about accidentally doing more harm than good.
Once you open him up you’ll be able to tell whether his old stuffing is worth keeping. Generally I take it all out and restuff. I’ve never used fusible fleece on the inside for support. It might be hard to get it to align with the curves. You could try a small area to see how it goes.
My dog decided to tear apart my daughters “Madaline’s” body. I am looking for a pattern to make a new body for her bunny.
Madaline is one piece. She does not have moveable parts. I have her head and all four paws. I just need to figure out a body pattern and that’s where I would love some help.
Hi Cynthia, I’m sorry to hear that! My best advice is to lay the head and paws on a sheet of paper. Draw a body that looks to be about the size and shape of the original. Leave an opening for the head that is the right size and do the same with the paws. Now cut out the shape, trace it onto a double layer of fabric and cut it out. Sew the two layers right sides together, leaving openings at the neck and limbs. Turn it right side out. Stuff. Turn the edges of the neck and limb openings inward 1/4″. Ladder stitch the head and limbs in place. I hope that helps!
I have a bear that is super huge (Bassie) and he isn’t even a year old yet. He is limping really bad. I don’t have a seam ripper thing so I was wondering if there was an alternative way to take out the stitches? I want him to be as plump and huggable as the day I got him!
You could try using one blade from a small pair of scissors to slice each stitch, but be careful to not accidentally cut the fabric!
Diana Perez says
What would be the most comfortable and safest filling for a dog bed?
Hi Diana, I’m honestly not sure. I’ve never made a dog bed. Sorry!
Carrie Maines says
I have a stuffed animal bunny with floppy ears but I need it to have ears that stand up. Have you ever done anything like this? Is it possible? What would you suggest?
Yes, I would suggest using Annie’s Soft and Stable: https://www.byannie.com/byannies-soft-and-stable
Carrie Maines says
Thank you so much!
Melanie Trojanowski says
Our son has a rare genetic syndrome and his blue dog Blue is his best friend and has gone thru every test, doctor and hospital with Toby. We even have “new Blue” in case Blue ever got lost but of course, Toby won’t go anywhere near him. Blue recently got to the point where he had no stuffing left and was completely worn out. Thanks to you I ha the confidence to do a stuffing transplant and Blue is now nice and fat again. I’m going to have to make him some footy jammies to prevent further wear but this “surgery” has given Blue an extended life. Thank you!
This truly warms my heart, Melanie. I’m so glad that my tutorial played a small roll in helping your son find comfort. Wishing you all the very best.
Carol Groulx says
I bought my grandchildren warmies the little animals that are filled with lavender wheat and you microwave them so they radiate heat…however when warmed the lavender scent becomes strong and they don’t like it! I was told I could remove the lavender and replace with whole golden flaxseed. What do you suggest?
Sure, that sounds like a plan.
hi i have a 25 year stuffed animal and it’s starting to have some serious threadbare parts, i tried sewing but its so delicate that the needle hole makes it tear, i dont know what to do, should i try gluing patches? wouldn’t it be dangerous too? how can i fix this? I’m really desperate
I wouldn’t glue patches. You may need to disassemble it and remake the panels with fresh fabric. I’ve done this before. You essentially sew together a stuffed animal using some of the remaining pieces and some new pieces cut from fresh fabric.
Jim bob the sailor says
My sister has a stuffed animal with really thick fur and we can’t seem to find a seam in it. It is 9 years old and it is her favorite thing in the world. Can I fix it without knowing where the seam is?
Sure. Since the fur is so thick you could cut a small slit in an area that is not obvious (like the underside) and then go in there to restuff or repair parts. Use ladder stitch to close up the slit and then a comb to pull the fur out of the seam you’ve made.
Hi, I have a a kind of fragile dog lab the I named Shannon and I had her for almost 9 years now. I love her so much but she is very floppy. I am scared to do this project at home and I don’t know anyone the is good at this. Can you recommend any professionals that I can take her to to get her restuffed?
I’m sorry, but I don’t know.
Steele Honda says
Thanks for pointing out that if the stuffing inside of a stuffed animal shifts and compresses to such a degree that portions of the body are rendered rather limp it can be time to restuff it. I am thinking about trying to restuff a lion that my daughter loves because it’s starting to look kind of sad and worn out. I think I am going to try and use PE pellets because it would help give it that Beanie baby kind of feel which I like. Thanks for the tips on restuffing a stuffed animal.
Declan Horan says
I have an old beanie baby teddy bear, what would i use to re stuff it?
Both poly pellets and polyfill stuffing.
Declan Horan says
They have stuffing in them?
Honestly, I’m not sure. If they don’t then just use polypellets. I’m not really a Beanie Baby expert.
Bradley Stenstrom says
My granddaughter Abby just found my old Gund Stuffed Tiger that I got for Christmas 1968. It no longer has eyes, is matted and dirty bu I’ve kept it after all these years. (Yes I’m a sentimental Grandpa) Abby has a good heart (she’s eight) and wants “Tiger” to look new again. Yesterday we gave Tiger a bath with Dawn and Free n Clear laundry detergent. Tiger is drying under fans right now. When the sun comes up I’ll put Tiger out in the hot Florida sun to dry some more. I’m not sure if the old cotton stuffing will be any good after this though. Wouldn’t it be better to just completely empty Tiger out and fill him from scratch with new pollyfill ? I’m going to order some new sew in glass eyes from Etsy.com.
What are your thoughts on this as I’ve never done this before and Miss Abby just loves hard luck cases like my 51 year old Tiger ?
You could certainly find the part of the seam where the tiger was closed by hand and open it with a seam ripper, then remove the stuffing and fill it with new polyfill, especially if the stuffing is rather clumpy and hard.