TAC Afterschool Presents: DIY House Stuffies!

Here at TAC Afterschool, we offer a variety of fun and educational classes for kids ages 5-11 in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Take a peek at what our Brooklyn students recently created in their Sewing & Soft Sculpture class!

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In Sewing & Soft Sculpture, students have the opportunity to create their own stuffed animals and three dimensional objects while working with sewing patterns and creating their own patterns and textiles. For this semester, we decided to take the concept of stuffed plushies to the next level with House Stuffies!

What are House Stuffies, you ask? Well, take the concept of a stuffed animal and reimagine that animal as a house. We asked the kids to imagine their dream house, as we taught them all the fantastic sewing skills they needed to make those houses a reality!

Through this process we wanted the students to understand the concept of creating a soft sculpture. The students designed their dream houses, created a template, chose their fabrics, cut out their pieces, sewed their pieces together, and stuffed their houses. We wanted them to walk away feeling comfortable with sewing techniques on the machine and by hand, as well as feeling good about finishing a design project from start to finish.

HOW TO MAKE A HOUSE STUFFIE:

Note: Some students became quite creative with their pieces, so parts of this process were modified to fit their needs.

Materials

  • Fabric to use to make your house (cotton, rayon, silk, etc.) and we recommend solid colored fabric to contrast with your windows and your doors
  • Woven Fabric to use for windows and doors (we recommend patterned fabric)
  • Sewing machines (we set up the Singer Confidence machines for the kids)
  • Embroidery needles 
  • Embroidery floss
  • Scissors
  • Stuffing material (polyester-fiber such as polyfil, or batting, or any material that you think is best)
  • Heat N Bond (Heat N Bond is a heated adhesive that, when ironed on, sticks to the fabric that you iron on and can be used to attach two different pieces of fabric together without sewing. It works best for when you want a flat fabric surface containing multiple pieces.)
  • Iron
  • Drop cloth/Ironing board
  • Fiber reactive dye powder (the following materials are optional and are only required if you are dyeing your fabric like we did in class)
  • Soda ash, a.k.a. sodium carbonate
  • Plastic cups for the dyeing process
  • Squeeze bottles for the dyeing process
  • Cooling racks, colander, mesh surface, etc. for setting fabric on to drain
  • Measuring cup for the dyeing process
  • Respirator or dust mask for working with dye powder

Note: We decided to dye our main pieces of fabric for the house and the roof. The House Stuffies can be made using any desired fabric.

Template Preparation (one house measurements)

  1. To make your building template, get a piece of paper and cut out a rectangle. We primarily cut our rectangles out in 8 x 10 inch dimensions.
  2. To make your roof template, Use your rectangle template, measure the center of your template width. Get another piece of paper and draw a line from the center of the rectangle through the new paper. Draw a triangle from the rectangle points reaching the tip.

Fabric and Dye Preparation (Dyeing optional)

  1. Cut out a piece of white fabric that is 34 x 30 inches (we want some extra fabric for leeway in our templates).
  2. Soak fabric in a solution of 1:16 soda ash to water for at least 10 minutes
  3. Choose your dye powder. We chose from red, blue, or yellow. Mix 2 tsp. powder in 1 cup of water for the squeeze bottle method.
  4. Dye your fabric in one color. We recommended that the house and the roof be different colors.
  5. Rinse out your fabric after 30-45 minutes of sitting in the dye. First rinse with cold water, then soapy water, then cold water again.
  6. Leave to dry on a rack.

Once it is dry you are ready to start creating the house shapes!

Creating the Shape Process

  1. Trace out two 8×10 inch pieces on your fabric using the house templates and cut.
  2. Trace out two roof pieces using your template. Cut out the two roof fabric pieces.

Now it’s time to add your windows and doors!

Heat N Bond Process

  • Take out your Heat N Bond and your patterned fabric. Cut out a large piece of that fabric then cut out a piece of Heat N Bond big enough to fit that fabric.
  • Place the textured glossy portion face down on the back of the fabric.
  • Set down a drop cloth to protect your surface from overheating from the iron.
  • Iron on the Heat N Bond to the fabric for 5~8 seconds.
  • Let it cool for 10 seconds then draw your windows and doors on the Heat N Bond.
  • Cut out your windows and doors. Be as creative as you want! No need to follow the traditional window and doors model. Make swirls for the door or pyramids for the windows.
  • At this point your house should look as follows:

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  • Remove the non-adhesive covering of the back of the windows and doors.
  • Arrange the windows and doors the way you want it to look on the front of your house.  Again be creative, no need to follow the norm of where your doors and windows need to be.
  • Make sure that the Heat N Bonded side is touching the fabric. The front of the patterned fabric should be seen as you prepare to iron on your pieces.
  • Then gently place the iron on top of your patterns for 5-7 seconds. The patterns, once cooled, should stay stuck onto the fabric.

Now that the house has been decorated it’s time to start pinning and sewing the pieces together!

Pinning & Sewing Process

  • The first pieces we need to pin are the front and the back of the house.
  • Place the front of the house on top of the back of the house. As we will be turning our houses inside out to hide the seams, the pieces seen on the outside will not show the windows and doors.
  • Pin the long sides of the fabric as follows:

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  • Head to the sewing machine and machine sew the two sides, removing the pins as you sew.
  • With your pieces still inside out, pin the base of your roof to the width of one side. Repeat for the other roof piece.
  • Head to the sewing machine and sew the roofs to the houses.
  • Then pin the roofs together following the edge of the roof.
  • Sew your roof pieces together.

Now it’s time to stuff your soft sculpture! One more process until we reach the finished product and the house is ready to be taken home!

Stuffing & Whip Stitching Process

  1. Flip your house inside out. Make sure that the seams are located on the inside of your house and that they won’t be seen from the outside.
  2. Take your stuffing material and fill your house stuffy, but leaving a little bit of room at the end.
  3. Pin the open pieces of your House Stuffie together.
  4. Whip stitch the base of your house.
  5. Side note: Whip stitching is a method of hand stitching where a person makes their stitches from one side instead of going in and out of both sides. 

Now you’re finished with your House Stuffie! 

Class Reactions

All of the kids started the process with tons of ideas for their houses. Most of them created the house that we detailed above but some of them decided to take a different route. We had one student make an extra long house. Two more decided to make apartment buildings. We had another student who made a house but decided that a roof just wasn’t enough for her. She decided to add on a chimney and even after adding on the chimney took the initiative to sew on a smoke cloud to attach to her chimney. Talk about customization! We even had a student name her house “Can Man” and she gave him ears instead of a roof. In the end they all loved their finished products! As we can see, Sophia looks pleased!

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All of the House Stuffies looked great! The kids did an amazing job!

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The Takeaway

The biggest takeaway from this project was the class’s sense of accomplishment from taking an idea that was in their heads and creating it to take home with them. Every student was able to learn new skills. Many of them had never sewn before and now they are able to. Some had never been on the sewing machine before and at the end of the project felt so comfortable with it that they were excited to get on the machine again.  All of our students, from our youngest 5 year old to our oldest 10 year old learned a new skill that we hope they will continue to use for future projects!

This is just one of the amazing projects created by our talented TAC Afterschool students. The second cycle of classes for the 2016/17 starts this November – learn more + join the fun!

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