Soft, plush handmade toys become gifts given with special meaning because they come from your heart and your hands. You'd be surprised to learn how easy it is to make a diversity of soft, huggable toys from socks, by sewing them from plush fabrics, or by knitting or crocheting them. Sewing, crocheting and knitting store catalogs provide an assortment of toy patterns you can make by hand for the appreciated little ones in your life, and many craft, sewing, knitting and crocheting sites offer free patterns for a wide selection of toys.
Plush Sock Toys
Sock animals -- based on creatures imaginary or real -- give you quick and easy choices for plush, cuddly friends for your children, grandchildren and other favorite little ones. To make these toys, use a soft, polyester-type filling. They include little sewing, and it's usually done by hand. The most common sock toy is the sock monkey, but there are patterns for cows, cats, dogs, zebras, bunny rabbits, dragons, piglets -- complete with curly tail -- and even snails. All you need are a few colorful socks, sewing and embroidery needles, sewing and embroidery thread, scissors, and buttons for noses and eyes.
Soft Fabric Toys
Fabrics with nap or a pile make the plushest toys, and include fake fur, fleece, chenille, felt, corduroy and velvet. Buy enough fabric so you can cut the pieces out for the plush toy with the nap flowing in the right direction like the fur on a live pet. This means the child can pet the toy with the nap laying down from head to tail. These toys require some experience with a sewing machine, and with cutting out patterns following the nap, sewing pins, fiberfill material, embroidery threads and sewn-on button eyes. For very small children, don't use buttons or craft eyes that they can pull off and swallow. Instead, use embroidery thread to create French knot, seed, cross or coral stitches for the animal's eyes, nose and mouth.
Crocheted and Knitted Toys
Crocheted and knitted toys don't take long to make when you have a few of the basic stitches down, and can work in the round. With some yarn, a little bit of felt and embroidery thread, you can whip up a soft cuddly toy in short order. The felt becomes the clothes or details added to the toy, while hand-sewn embroidery stitches provide hair and face details. You'll also need a fiberfill material to serve as stuffing for the toy.
Tips for Making Plush Toys
Before you cut out the material to sew plush toys, prewash and dry it, following the care instructions for the fabric. This preshrinks the material so it retains its shape if it needs to be washed. Nylon pantyhose or stockings can help keep stuffing in place when you stuff crocheted or knitted toys. Have scissors dedicated to sewing and your soft crafts projects so that they remain sharp. If you're crocheting or knitting, use washable yarns.
Tools and Accessories
Pincushions offer a safe place to store pins after use, while a foldable cutting board, made from cardboard, has a grid to help you align fabrics for cutting. Fusible tape makes hemming clothing for soft toys a snap; a soft, flexible tape measure is a must. Keep extra embroidery threads on hand; buy them when they are on sale. Also keep a selection of hand and machine needles in varying sizes on hand. You'll need special embroidery needles and an embroidery hoop to make fabric taut, if need be, for sewing the types of stitches required.