Every once in a while, I see a stuffed animal online somewhere that gives me the itch to make it. Then, I wait until there’s a child or two who is the right age to appreciate it, and then I go about making it!
Last year, it was these cute Forest Folk, pattern by Ann Wood, which I made as a Christmas gift for my niece’s daughter Teigan, who was 8 last year.
Earlier this year, I saw the cutest whale made from recycled jeans on Pinterest, it was made by a Finnish woman who blogs at Valaan Villapaita. She free-hand draws her whales, and translated her tutorial about how she goes about making them here back in 2013. I was not sure if I wanted to spend the kind of time needed to draft out a pattern by myself, but luckily, Lacey who blogs at “All My Friends Are Flowers” already did that! So I printed off her pattern on some cardstock, called up the translated tutorial online and got started!
I knew I wanted to use indigo dyed fabrics instead of denim, so I went through my bin of indigo dyed fabric and pulled out enough pieces to make two whales, because I’ve got my Niece Flannery’s middle son Lathan, who is about 3 right now, as well as my cousin Jess’s one and a half year old Lucy, to make for!
I pulled a mixture of linen and quilting weight cotton pieces, and intended to have each whale have one section (top/belly) made from a solid color with the other section (belly/top) patterned. I especially wanted to try an arashi pattern piece for the belly, wondering if that would add or subtract to the stitched throat pleats, which totally make this pattern, IMHO. (Note: the are actually called throat pleats, I just looked it up!) I fused SF101 to the wrong side of all the fabric, to beef up the weight of the quilting weight fabric and stabilize the linen (it’s a bear to sew without stabilizing and would have frayed like crazy).
I started by making all the fins. Turning them inside out and stuffing them with JUST A BIT of stuffing, nice and evenly, was TOUGH! I was reminded why I don’t make stuffed animals, LOL. I’m sure if I made a lot of them, I’d invest in actually fully reading Abby Glassenberg’s stuffed animal design book that sits in my studio and acquiring a couple of specialty tools that I’m sure would help. But I don’t have that particular drive right now! When they were done, I was quite proud of them, as this part is definitely a nice merge of quilting and 3-d structure. After that, I went on to construct one of the whales, and mistakenly putting all the patterned pieces together. By the time I noticed this there was no way I was gonna unpick those seams, so one whale is completely patterned and the other completely plain. While sewing the pleats on this first one, I discovered that sewing them from raw edge to raw edge makes the top edge of the belly piece shorter and it didn’t totally line up with the top piece. Luckily I only took 4 pleats on this one, so I was able to ease, and with a little tuck on the top piece, make them go together, but I knew I had to deal with that going forward.
The second whale I knew that those folds would be much more noticeable, so I sewed more and started and ended them 1/4″ or so from the raw edge. That worked much better!
The coolest thing of all was while searching for the tutorial once I googled “Indigo Whale” instead of “Denim Whale” and came across a book called “Indigo and the Whale“. So I bought two through Amazon, so each whale could be given complete with a story for the parents to read, so the recipients could add something to their new stuffed animal!!!
Although these were difficult for me to make, I am so happy I did, because they really are interesting creatures. And I know they’ll be appreciated by Lucy, Lathan, and their parents!