Mother’s Day – toy rats for mum

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Ratty design

When I showed my mum the pictures of the toy mice I made for my nieces, she begged asked for a rat for Mother’s Day. While I could have just blown up the mouse pattern it seemed a bit of a simple design. So instead I decided to create a new pattern sort of based on the orginal mouse with legs and a bit more of a realist shape. I sewed up a test version to check the pattern and found the inside and outside leg parts were slightly out of alignment and the nose wasn’t the right length on the base piece, but after a quick redesign I came up with something that should work better and jumped straight to the real thing (test runs are for the faint of heart, right?). I chose cuddle fleece in turquoise and sky blue for the fur as it is super soft and mum’s favourite colours. For the base I found some lovely cotton Caterpillar™ digger and bulldozer fabric as mum loves diggers.

Trials and tribble-ations of cuddle fleece

No, it’s not quite a tribble but maybe that is for next year’s Mother’s Day present. Cuddle fleece produces fluff, lots and lots of fluff. When cutting my pattern pieces I keep a clothes brush to hand and brush all the cut edges of the fabric. Any waste fabric and fluff goes straight into a plastic bag so that my house is not entirely coated in fluff. Like fur fabric, you also need to take account of the direction of the pile when laying out your pattern pieces, I marked arrows on my pattern when I designed it so that the fur points backwards on the body and legs and downwards on the ears.

I used my walking foot for this project and am glad I did. It is always a good idea to increase your stitch length when working with fur or similar fabrics and test out your tension for the different fabric combinations as it can take a bit of fiddling to get it right. I snipped triangles out of the ear seam allowances and trimmed the tail seam down to reduce bulk. I also zigzag overcast some of the seams to see if it would reduce the bulk of the cuddle fleece, particularly on the ears but I’m really not sure it made a huge difference. My most hated part of making these was trying to turn the very narrow tail right side out. Maybe I should have made the tail wider but it seemed like a good idea at the time and I kinda like the spindly rat tail.

Putting it all together

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The inside leg pieces were stitched to the base and the two side pieces joined along the top seam. Next the base and side pieces were stitched together with the stuffed tail pinned inside the rat at the back, leaving the ends of the legs open and a gap on one side for turning. When I got to the tail region and tried to sew through the tail, a layer of cotton and 3 layers of cuddle fur (side piece and two layers of seam) the machine was struggling a bit so I decided to turn the handwheel manually to sew that section. The feet pieces were stitched together, stuffed and pinned inside the open ends of the legs facing inwards and the end of the leg seam sewed shut, luckily I remembered at the last minute that I needed to wait until I’d sewn the side leg seams before putting the feet inside or I might have been in trouble. Then I had a very nervous moment when I turned it to the right side, checked whether the parts were in the right places and with luck or judgement there was a rat. I stuffed the body, ladder stitched the gap closed, and stitched the ears onto the sides of the head. All that remained was to embroider some eyes (I’ll call them rustic) and stitch lines on the feet to create the toes. And success – a finished rat. Happy Mother’s Day Mum!

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