Easter Bunny Tutorial

Hello again, my name is Gemma, when I'm not busy exploring New Caledonia with my three young children I get crafty with a needle and thread.  You can read about my adventures in sewing at my blog, Pretty Bobbins.  I'm really happy to be back at The Oz Material Girls and today I'm going to share some tips with you on making softies.  I must admit straight up that I'm no expert when it comes to softies, but I do love them and have made a few.  In fact I recently pulled a late nighter making 34 soft bunnies and eggs, you can read about my midnight madness here.  Or you can read my more sane post with links to some great Easter softies here :)
If you've been getting crafty for Easter you've probably seen the Twig and Thistle Bunny.  I love it!  I have made, oh, about 6 million as gifts for friends but I need to make two more (please note the terms and conditions on the Twig and Thistle site, it is for personal use only).  It is a super easy softie and a great one for beginners, so today I'm going to share some tips that will help you make great shaped softies.  Of course you can apply these to any softies and there are loads of gorgeous softie patterns over at Patterns Only
So, let's get started.
First of all you need your pattern piece.  If you are going to make your softie a few times I highly recommend making a template rather than using your printed pattern piece.  A template will give you a more consistent shape and is more durable.  Today I am using some clear template plastic, but cereal boxes also work well.

Trace your pattern shape onto your template material.

Cut out your template.  

PLEASE don't use your fabric scissors!  Save them for your pretty fabrics, you should love and cherish your fabric scissors :)  Don't put them near paper, glue, cardboard, plastic, anything that's not fabric or thread really.  It is handy to have a few pairs.  I keep my scissors together in an airtight box (remember I live in the tropics and near a salty lagoon) and have a number of pairs. 

Clockwise from top Right: old fabric scissors, thread snipers,
 pliers, curved nail scissors, craft scissors, paper scissors, rotary cutter, good fabric scissors.
Now that you have a nice template to work with select and iron your fabric.  Lay your fabric right sides together and place your template on top.  Using a fabric pen trace around your template.

If you're a beginner it is going to help you to use some pins.  I may have mentioned before that I don't really like pins...
It will make life easier if you're not working with a big piece of fabric, so at this point I tend to roughly trim around my shape making sure that I cut no closer than 1/2" to my softie outline.

Before you take your fabric over to your sewing machine.  You need to consider a few things first:
  1. Where are you going to start sewing?
  2. Are there any tricky shapes that you might find easier to approach from the left instead or the right, or vise versa?
  3. What colour thread and fabric are you using?
  4. What stitch length have you set your machine to?
I find that:
  1. It is always easiest to start and finish on a straight section, in this case his bottom.
  2. Curves can be tricky when you're starting out.  You need to lift your foot or pull your fabric to make it turn with your feed dogs.  Maybe you find an inverse curve easier to manage than a converse curve.  I find this something I need to consider more on an overlocker, but it is still worth considering when using your sewing machine.
  3. I know that it can be tempting to just use whatever thread you have in your machine or to only change your top thread and leave your bobbin alone.  But trust me, your softie is going to look so much nicer if the thread is invisible.  Select a colour that blends into your fabric as much as possible.
  4. When making softies you want to reduce your stitch length down to 1.4 or 1.6  This is really important when you come to triming your seams a little later.

Your drawn outline is going to be your guide.  Personally I find it easiest to use my 1/4" foot and line the outline up with the 1/8" point which is the inner edge of the foot.  That way I'm watching my foot not my needle and I get a smoother shape.

Sew a couple of stitches back and forth to secure your ends.  You might want to reduce the speed on your machine to help you with those tricky corners.
Don't forget to leave a gap so that you can stuff your softie!  I leave about a 1" gap but you might find 1.5-2" easier for your first few goes.

Now we want to trim our seams to 1/4".

Clip any corners and cut little Vs on your curves cutting very close but not too close to your stitches.

Snip right up to your corners including the divide in your Bunny's ears.

You've probably got a sore hand from the scissors, but it's worth it!  You will get nice smooth curves from all those little snips you've made :)
Now you want to turn your Bunny right side out.  I use my fingers first.

Then I use my fabric pen with the cap on to gently push out the seams (I find that the smooth plastic cap which has a slightly rounded end is a perfect turning tool).  You can use a chopstick, rubber end of a pencil or anything that isn't sharp.  Don't use the right end of a chopstick or knitting needle as you will end up poking a hole in your seams.  If you do poke a hole in your softie, don't panic, just turn him wrong side out again and sew a little inside the section that has a hole remembering to secure your stitching.

Your rabbit skin should look something like this.

Now you want to stuff him.  Take a small amount of stuffing (I'm using the inside of a cushion, you can use toy fill).   

Push the stuffing up to the tip of his ears.  I start out using my fingers and then use the wrong end of a chopstick to get it all the way to the end.  

Keep using small amounts of stuffing and pushing them into your bunny.


You want to make sure that you are pushing the stuffing right to the edges of your softie.

It can get a little frustrating using such small pieces of stuffing at a time, but it is worth it.  If you use big pieces you will end up with a lumpy softie.  Keep going until your softie looks like this!

Once you have finished stuffing your softie you need to sew him up.  Select a thread that blends with your fabric and grab yourself a needle.  

You want to use a ladder stitch so that your stitches end up invisible.  There are lots of good tutorials online but I've put together some photos to try and show you how to do it.
First sew a heap of little sitiches within your seam allowance to secure your thread.  Then bring your needle up right on the seam line right next to where your hole starts.

Take your needle over to the other side and push it in to the seam line and bring it back out about 1/8" on the seam line on the same side (see photo below).

Pull your thread tight and insert your needle back into your seam line on the other side directly opposite your last stitch.  Bring your needle out again 1/8" along on the seam line same side.

Continue until you get to the end of the hole.
Now you need to secure your stitches but you want them to be invisible.  [If I'm using a thread and material that allow me to make a few tiny stitches that can't be seen, then I will do so in addition to tying a knot.]  Bring you needle out as close to your last stitch as possible.  Now you want to tie a knot as close to the fabric as possible.  I tend to do about 3 or 4 knots on top of each other.

OK, get close to your fabric and pull your thread tight.  Can you see the hole that your thread came out of last?  You want to thread your needle back into that same hole.

Without loosing your needle inside your softie take it through your softie and bring it out.  Pull the thread firmly but not hard.  You want your knot to pop into the inside of your softie but not tear a hole in it.

Pull your thread tight and snip it nice and close to the fabric so that the thread tail disappears inside the body.
Hooray!  You shouldn't be able to see where you closed up your softie!

Now stand back and admire your work :)

You can even add a ribbon and watch your Bunnies hop around the garden.

Or put them in a basket and take them to school for your kid's friends!

You can use these tips for any softies and you will probably find that the shape of your softies improves with time :)  I hope you found this tutorial helpful!