Photo by Laura Howard.
The new title and cover photo are more appealing, I think. They’re cleaner and more to the point. This is purely a project book. For the cover price of $21.95 you get 25 patterns for toys to sew, complete with two large pull-out sheets of full-sized templates.
Every sewing book should include pull-out pages of full-sized templates. Very few do, and it's even rarer among softie books. It's expensive to produce. This book is a gem for the template pages alone.
Several of the patterns are quite simple – really just an outline traced onto fabric, sewn together, and stuffed, with glued on embellishments. The dinosaur, bunny, pony, and dog fall into this category. This isn't a bad thing. They’re sweet and approachable and would be fun to tackle with a child helper.
I love the aesthetic of the owl on the cover, and I think it’s representative of the kinds of toys you’ll find inside. Most of the projects combine different sorts of fabrics including felt, woven cotton, and wool. They're fairly straightforward in design but with charming touches like the messy-on-purpose embroidery stitches on the cover owl's belly.
Isn't this elephant darling? I love him so much.
I’m partial to flip dolls because, let’s face it, flip dolls are really cool, and you get two flip doll patterns in Make Your Own Soft Toys. The first is for the classic fairy tale pairing of a hen and a fox. I made this one. Take a look!
I love the way this doll is assembled. Figuring out how to put together a flip doll can kinda blow your mind, but this one is all laid out flat until the very end, and the skirt is machine sewn into the seam between the two bodies. This construction technique is excellent and I’ll definitely use it in my own design work in the future. That’s the main reason I read and sew from softie books – I learn so many new things with each experience.
The other flip doll is two girls. Both are smiling, but if I were to make them I would most certainly make one an evil witch. Along with the topsy turvy dolls, you’ll get five other doll patterns, including a mermaid. Some dolls have easy-to-make clothes and a few have yarn hair (with yarn hair instructions at the back).
This one reminds me of Alicia Paulson's dolls.
Every pattern is accompanied by really useful, well-drawn illustrations made by Kate Simunek. I would hire her in a minute to illustrate a book or pattern of mine. Her style is both fun and informative at once and her drawings enhance this book tremendously.
The final chapter in Make Your Own Soft Toy is a techniques chapter. I’m a techniques chapter junkie and will always devour them (even if it’s to reject a particular technique!). I love Rob Merrett’s method explained here called “pre-stitched line guide for neat closures.” Once you mark where the opening on a toy will be, you run a row of machine stitches on the stitching line (in from the seam allowance) on both pieces of fabric. Later, once the toy is stuffed, ladder stitch along those lines for a neat closure that perfectly aligns with the rest of the toy. Brilliant!
Rob Merrett is a seemingly elusive guy. I searched extensively for a way to connect with him online, but to no avail and CICO Books didn’t respond to my request for information. We get a tiny glimpse into his personality in the introduction when he talks about how his mother would curl his sister’s dolls’ hair, but’s that’s about it. You’re not buying a lifestyle brand here, just a pattern book.
I think Make Your Own Soft Toys is a great deal if you’re interested in sewing softies and dolls. Considering that most PDF patterns are $7-$10 a piece, there’s a lot of value here. I’m glad I paid for it and I would recommend it to you.
Make Your Own Soft Toys is 112 pages plus pull-out template sheets. It was published by CICO Books, an imprint of Ryland Peters & Small, in 2013 and retails for $21.95. You can find it on Amazon or Amazon UK or in your local bookstore, which is where I found mine.