The eyes are the first thing we notice when we see a stuffed animal or doll. Adorable eyes can make even the simplest shape appealing (and, conversely, unattractive eyes can kinda ruin an otherwise awesome toy). Many softie makers embroider eyes, or paint them on, or cut them from felt and stitch them in place, but by far the easiest way to make a perfect set of eyes on a softie is to use plastic safety eyes. If you’ve never worked with safety eyes, you might like this 1-min. video I made showing how to use them.
Last week I reconnected with an old internet friend, Teresa Levy. For many years Teresa had a handmade business called Sewing Stars. She made plush toys and toy patterns. We met at a few shows and watching her design career inspired me to work on my own. Teresa is still sewing and I found out that she’s also making safety eyes! I’ve never heard of anyone casting their own eyes so I asked Teresa if she would show us how it’s done and she agreed to share her process.
The colored safety eye issue came up a while ago for me. I wanted to make a black kitty doll with green eyes, and well, there are no green safety eyes. I ended up using enamel paint, but over time that will wear off. So colored safety eyes were something I had in the back of my mind for quite a while, but never acted on. Then I started playing around with amigurumi a little, and made a jellyfish that I wished I had clear or glittery eyes for. That renewed my desire to figure out if it was possible to mold my own.
After lots of research I decided to try out resin and rubber molds. I found excellent videos and tutorials, plus helpful forums on a website called resinobsession.com. I ordered up supplies and played around…a lot! I got silicone ice cube tray molds and poured with those to get the feel for it. I also used the rubber molding material that’s strong and stretchy, called Alumilite Silicone High Strength Mold Making Rubber. I molded the eyes themselves and after some time, finally figured out how to make the mold work with the shaft part.
I tried some pre-colored resins, but decided, being the artist I am, I wanted to control the colors. So I got the solid coloring gels to be able to mix to my heart’s content. I also like putting in glitter, and the resin obsession website sells glow in the dark powders I also tried out, which is super fun.
I would very much like to sell these online, but right now I only have larger eye molds and I think most people tend to use 6mm and 9mm (I’ve been making 10, 12, & 15). I have to make molds of the smaller ones, which I hope I can get to soon! In the meantime I have been making small batches and used them on my own work. Being able to offer specialty safety eyes to crafters is super exciting! I certainly don’t have the output of a factory, but that will make them all that more unique on the dolls they end up on.
When I do start selling them, I will probably put them in my Sewing Stars Etsy shop. By August I plan on selling them in packs of 5 sets of eyes for $1 per pair, so $5 for a set of five. It’s super fun for me, and I think selling them will fill a much needed niche in the plushie crafting world.
How cool is that? I’m so excited about Teresa’s ability to hand-cast safety eyes. The creative potential is just totally cool. When they’re ready, I’ll be buying a pack of five sets to play with. Thank you so much, Teresa! If have any questions, thoughts, or ideas to share about these eyes, please ask and Teresa will answer in comments.