Monday, 27 April 2015

Taggy Turtle Tutorial

I love making my Taggy owls but I felt I should branch out into different "taggy toys". I needed a toy to go with the big brother backpack for my friend's boys. I found this lovely example of a taggy turtle on Pinterest and it soon became my most re-pinned pin when I added it to the "My dream list of things to make" board. The blog did not provide a pattern or a tutorial so I made something similar. It took some head scratching to decide which way I was going to put it all together, I am not saying that I am right but it was the method that I was most comfortable with. As I started to write this blog I realised what I needed was to write a small tutorial of how I made it, that way I can explain my decisions. I was planning to make one as a gift and some for the craft fair so this is just the motivation I need. This is my first tutorial so any feedback is welcome.

My First Taggy Turtle.

The first step is to draw a template or, if like me you cannot draw them, download the free template from here. It is important to think about the size as you do not want it big enough for the baby to use as a blanket, however a bigger design will be less "fiddly" and generally easier for you to sew. Cut out your template, trace the shell and cut this out as well.

Templates ready

Next select your fabric.

On the "one I made earlier" I used blue and green spotty fabric as I thought it was fun. The shells on the ones I am planning will all be 'sea' themed.  My gift turtle is for a little girl so I am using beautiful turquoise fabric with pink and purple seahorses. I adore the fabric as although "girly" it is very different. If anybody is wondering why I choose to make girly toys instead of just unisex toys I explain it here.  You need a top shell fabric and a bottom shell fabric. The bottom shell fabric can be plain. I choose to match one colour just because a thin strip of the colour may be visible.

Fabric for my shell

The top body fabric is a soft fleece and the underside is green with spots. Young babies love contrast when it comes to colour so the white spots are perfect.

Turtle body fabric

Now it is the fun bit - choose your ribbon. I opt for slightly wider ribbon so it can't get wrapped tightly around little fingers. I like to use different textures and ribbons with bumpy patterns as I think this lifts it to being a good sensory toy. I try and mix up the colours as well. I decided on 8 pieces although you could easily add more or less.

Ribbon selection

The next step is where I did quite a lot of head scratching and had multiple options in front of me. I have written here how I decided to do it and given the other options at the bottom. I chose to make the shell out of two pieces of fabric. I pinned on the ribbons where I wanted them on the right side of the top fabric. It helps at this point to place it on the body of the turtle so you don't have them going over the head or anything. This is also where you choose the ribbon length. Remember you are going to add a seam in which will make the ribbon slightly shorter. You can cut the ribbon, but you would need to seal the end to stop it from fraying. I find this can make the end a little hard or rough so I fold my ribbon instead. As a child I loved to rub two bits of fabric together so folded ribbon is perfect for this.

Pinned ribbons

Having placed my ribbon  I then pinned the bottom shell fabric right sides together on top. This traps the ribbon in between. I used different pins to make this clear.

Pinned and ready to go.

With everything pinned in place I then sewed a seam all the way around.  This was intentional as I made a conscious decision not to leave a turning gap in the seam. The main thing at this point is to move slowly around the curves. I find if the turn is too tight I leave the needle down, lift the foot and turn the fabric. I added a zigzag stitch around the shell to improve the strength and make sure all the ribbons were secure.

Seams sewn all the way around

The next step is to trim the thread and excess ribbon and cut notches around the edge, taking care not to cut the stitches. This seems like an extra step but is really important when it comes to turning it the right way round and gives a much smoother finish. Then make a small cut in the middle of the bottom of the shell and in the middle of the top of the turtle.

Center slit put in and edges notched

Turn them both the right way out and close the turning gap using a ladder stitch. This is a method I came across using the Tilda pattern for my puffins and oystercatchers.

Center turning gap closed

Sew the shell onto the top of the turtle, this will conceal both of the closed up turning gaps. I am not a big fan of top stitch so this method suits me. I am very happy with my ladder stitch and I took it around twice in small tight stitches. There is a great guide to ladder stitch here. I have used it a few times to attach parts to soft toys and always found it to be strong.  I always give baby and children's toys a good tug and shake and stretch to see if they can handle wear and tear and I feel it is an important test; I made my daughter a caterpillar for her first birthday and the main thing I remember of the process was swinging it around by it's antenna - she has always been very gentle with it...

My ladder stitching

The final step is to add on eyes, I used small pieces of felt blanket stitched on. I purposefully do this at the end as I feel it enables you to position them better as with the panda puppet. The position of the pupil brings a surprising amount of expression. Eyes are a great chance to have a play with something like this. You could easily add eyelashes or back stitched eyebrows if you wanted.

Complete turtle

As I said before this is simply my way of putting it together and there are other options. You could make the shell the same way as I did but machine topstitch it straight on to the top of the turtle before sewing the top and the bottom of the turtle together. You would then have to pin the ribbons to the centre and remember to leave a turning gap in the turtle. I am happier doing ladder stitch than top stitching an oval and I also manage to get the stitching closer the edge of the shell this way. I also worry about pinning a ribbon too much as they can snag.

I was pleased with the result it worked really well and the ribbons had a lot of different textures and it was a lovely tactile toy.

If anybody is curious the toys head and children's drawing at the edge of the original picture is not artistic but simply the result of living with a 3 year old.

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