Who doesn’t wish they had toys like this as kids? Here are Madame Sow and her nursing piglets, posing for a family shot. They are soft and fluffy, Mrs. Sow serves as a bouncy pillow, and – best of all – Mrs Sow is a birthing and lactating pig.
When I saw this pattern from the talented ikatbag’s blog that went beyond the basic stuffed animal pattern to have functional features, I felt compelled to stop in my wardrobe-building ambitions to make this toy before my children grew too old for it. But really,who is too old for this?
Here, first, are pictures from a photo shoot of the happy family.
Why, Madame Sow, you seem to have a glow about you. Are you expecting a special bundle?
Oh my goodness, there’s more than one. You’re going to be a very busy mom.
Aww, the furry one has grandpa Wilbur’s snout.
And out they come, into the big beautiful world!
They are beautiful and varied, as all families are. Some of the babies are furry and others aren’t.
Mom will set them on the right course with a full belly. My, how hungry they are.
Soon they will be off on adventures and won’t readily come when Mommy calls.
And do risky things that will make her gasp.
But in the end, Mommy rallies her little ones and brings them back safely into the warmth of her nest.
Isn’t this lovely? The kids are absolutely all over this toy.
OK so, now let’s get down to the “how”.
Preparing, or “Not all fleece is created equal”
I made these pigs from this pattern I bought online. I found amassing materials for this project a project in its own right. At least where I live, in Toronto. The first step of the project was to think pink : pink fleece, pink thread (that was the easy part), pink felt and PINK VELCRO. The velcro is for the snouts and teats. I went to five fabric stores before I found matching loop and hook parts in pink. But really, who wants a grey snout on the piglet?
The fleece was the other variable. When I first started, the only baby pink fleece I could locally find was the kind with pile. This is why two of the piglets are hairy and look more like hamsters with an alcoholic nose. Fleece with pile is hard to sew with because there’s no visibility (try removing stitches), the pile comes off leaving fluff everywhere in the workspace, and the stitch length has to be quite high to get the sewing machine to feed the material through. With default stitch length I found the stitches piling up before the machine jammed. Arctic or polar fleece is really what you want for this project.
Finally it was hard to find wool felt in the various colours needed. I took advantage of a trip to the US to get an assorted colour pack from Magic Cabin. For Toronto felters, 100 mile child is the only store I’ve seen the stuff locally.
I won’t systematically document the making of, because I don’t want to take away from the value of the original pattern. Instead I’ll show you pictures of the project in progress so it isn’t as much of a black box.
Felt is extensively used as a stiff backing to soft things, or as a stand-alone piece when two layers of felt are stitched together. Really, felt and fleece are great materials for such toys because the non-woven nature means there are no frayed edges that need to be serged or hemmed in.
Here is a piglet snout, drawn in to be stuffed with filling. I used a mix of wool roving, cotton filling (bought from a quilting store) and old clothes! Yes, old clothes. Let’s see how that works out.
Let me say that all my toys are immediately, enthusiastically, and rigourously tested by the kids.
In the most creative ways possible.
The pig will be picked up by its snout, its tail, and its ears. Chopsticks will be run through its ears. The pig will be sat on. After I finished the basic round of making the thing, there was a mini phase of reinforcing to keep the oft-pulled parts on the animals. A tail or two were replaced with fresh wool.
The final results are most satisfying. Hopefully I’ll get a month of two of garment sewing in before more toy-making.