Stuff about Stuffing (or how to stuff your knitted toys)

Toy knitters know how easy it is for stuffing to go wrong, you may have unevenly stuffed a lumpy llama or your dinosaur looks deflated because you couldn’t get the stuffing into the tail. If you get frustrated with fiberfill, here are some tips to help you get a soft and even finish to your stuffing.

Before You Even Start Knitting!

Check your gauge. When I make toys I always knit with needles that are a few sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn. Smaller needles means a good tight gauge that won’t stretch and look messy when it’s stuffed.

Choose the right stuffing for the job. If you’re knitting something washable,  use a polyester stuffing. Pure wool batting (just like any other kind of pure wool fiber) will shrink and felt when it gets wet which means the toy will lose it’s shape and it’s softness. Alternatively, you may want a fully woolly look, either for a Waldorf toy or to get an organic feel to your knitted holiday decorations, in either of these cases wool batting or Kapok would be a great choice.

I’ve found that if a toy is going to be wet felted, then polyester fiberfill offers great support. The natural fiber knitting will shrink, but the stuffing won’t which helps the toy to retain it’s shape.

Softly Softly

Everyone wants their toys to be soft, but if there’s too much stuffing in the toy it can get quite hard. Here’s how to avoid over stuffing.

Get a small handful of stuffing, hold it lightly and if necessary pull the fibers apart with your fingers before you put it into the toy.

As you get more stuffing into the toy, gently push what is already in there to the edges and put new stuffing into the middle. This will help to keep the stuffing even.

If you feel the stuffing getting lumpy you can always pull it out and start again. Don’t be frightened of do-overs.

Those Hard to Reach Places

Knitted toys often have long thin parts like tails or necks that are hard to reach to the bottom of, use these techniques to help you evenly distribute the stuffing.

The knitting needle is your friend. Push small amounts of stuffing in with the blunt end, then use the sharp end to break up any big clumps.

Stuff before you sew. Sometimes the only way to get the stuffing in the right place is to put it in there before you sew the toy together. The photo at the top of the page shows a ring shape, pre-stuffed and ready to sew. You might also consider stuffing as you sew, so that the stuffing is never far from the opening.

Sometimes a knitted piece is so small it can be stuffed with the Cast On or Bind Off yarn tail. Check to see if this little re-purposing trick will work before reaching for a tiny amount of stuffing.

Knitting is Shatterproof

If you’ve filled a toy with stuffing, sewn it together and it looks a little lopsided, don’t despair. Your knitted toy should be childproof, so it can definitely stand up to you pulling the stuffing around from outside the toy. This is particularly worth remembering after you’ve wet felted a toy, you can pull the stuffing fibers apart without opening any seams.

Do you have any tried or tested stuffing methods? Or a preferred type of stuffing? If you have any stuffing tips of your own, please feel free to share them.

(This post was originally blogged by me in September 2011)



Filed under Knitting Technique

6 responses to “Stuff about Stuffing (or how to stuff your knitted toys)

  1. I have learned some things here! Thanks!

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  4. Grace

    Thank you for the very helpful information. I was thinking of using wool for stuffing a child’s toy–so organic–but I hadn’t thought of it shrinking! you saved me from that mistake.

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  6. Heather Fleming

    those were very good tips thanks – have just knitted my first long legged doll!

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