Stitching the plush dog toy closed
When I set out to design the Pocket Critter Toy, I zeroed in on creating something that would give dogs a mental challenge -- a problem to solve -- in order to get a treat. Rather than handing a dog a biscuit for sitting, with this toy the dog would have to nose around until they discovered the treats, then figure out how to get the treats out.
The timeless-yet-cuddly materials
I wanted the interactive toy to be soft and cuddly. So with this in mind, I focused on choosing fabrics that would be thick and strong yet soft and cozy. The toys are made from a combination of wool (both reclaimed and from the remnants store), fleece, and flannel.
It was a lot of fun combining the fabrics and colors -- there's definitely an Ivy Leagues Classics influence there, but the combinations are a little more playful since it's a toy. Well, a reserved playful. I'll be upping the playful aspect even more with a new group of Mutt Love Pocket Critters, made from scraps and less "pure" (read: mismatched and unexpected).
The pocket has the most specific logistical requirements. After watching Pipsqueak chew threw some thinner pocket prototypes I chose a double layer of tough twill fabric for the pocket. Twill is a sturdy fabric (our jeans our made of a twill weave) that can stand up to some chewing.
Putting it all together
Once the fabrics for these little guys are all selected, I cut out all of the pieces, then start prepping the pieces for assembly. First I sew together the ears and the tails. For the tails, I use the freezer paper technique I learned about on whileshenaps.com. It makes the odd shape so much easier to sew around accurately, and then it's a snap to trim them to size.
The ears, tail, and pocket have been prepped, and back and front are ready to be sewn together
Then the tail gets sewn to the back piece and the bodies are assembled, with ears sandwiched in place. At this point, I feel a sense of anticipation as I turn the toy right side out -- I get a kick out of seeing how exactly the ears came into shape. Each one is a bit different, which is one of the reasons I enjoy making this toy.
The toys assembled and ready to be stuffed
Next, I stuff them with polyester stuffing (it's more sanitary than cotton and washes well) so they're full but not firm, and stitch them closed. Then I stitch the pocket (which has already been sewn together, and pressed into shape) on by hand.
This batch of toys is stuffed and ready for the pockets to be stitched on by hand
It's fun to see them go from flat pieces to something with three-dimensional shape and character. I think they're rather charming (and a little French-like), between the slightly bowed legs, the big ears, and the hand-stitched pocket. Someone who knows my overly-detailed tendencies well asked me if I count the stitches on the pockets. And perhaps the more surprising thing about that comment is that no, I actually don't count them! I think it's more playful and down-to-earth to eyeball it in this case.
The final step is to pop them into the washer and dryer to fluff them up and pass my quality control double-check. There's nothing cuter than a dryer full of fluffed-up Pocket Critters, just waiting for their new doggie friend to play with them.