DIY: : a simple softie pattern

Most softie patterns for sale over the internet specify “For personal use only, not for commercial resale“, and I am happy to comply because 1) I always think about how I would feel if someone took a pattern I’d designed and made dolls from it, and then put the items up for sale as her own creations, and 2) I like the challenge of coming up with something, myself…after all, if others can do it, so can I. It’s not about being born with amazing skills…skills are learned. Using a spoon, tying shoe laces, driving a car, making a softie pattern… 😉

My homemade softies are not as extraordinary as something created by a fabulous Mr. Finch, though I am sure that with practice and lots of time spent making, making, making, even I could get my softie-making skills up to that professional level. There is nothing stopping me from learning what I want to learn (and there’s nothing stopping you from mastering anything you want to learn, either!) It all depends on whether we want to invest a few months/years in becoming an expert—and, right now, I don’t fancy making stuffed dolls my life. Not really. I just want a school of handmade stuffed Flying Banana Fish to hang in a small gallery corridor for one night at the end of this week.

I looked at photographs of flying fish, and then drew the softie I envisaged, at the actual size.

making banana fish

I shaped a lump of plasticine clay into the body of the fish, comparing it to my drawing to get the scale right.

making banana fish

I cut an old T-shirt into a continuous strip (round and round the body, starting form the bottom edge of the shirt) and put it in a yoghurt tub with some PVA glue, and squished the glue into the fabric until it was all worked in. Then I wrapped the strip around my simple fish shape, using dressmaking pins to hold the ends in place. I let it dry.

making banana fish

With a fresh, sharp scalpel blade, I sliced the shape open along the lines where I thought the seams should go on a fish. These are easy to figure out: a fish is basically two fish shapes joined along the edges…

making banana fish

The fabric peels away from the oily plasticine easily…

making banana fish

I pinned the shape down to some board, and traced around it.

making banana fish

I smoothed the crooked lines out using a Flexicurve flexible ruler, though you can use a french curve, or just freehand the lines, too. I added the seam allowance all around.

making banana fish

To help with positioning my pattern piece on the marbled fabric (so the print resembles scales) I cut the body shape out of the pattern, leaving the seam allowance as a border. You can skip this part if you don’t need to know exactly where the fabric designs will be on the finished softie.

making banana fish

Here’s the finished pattern piece, and I have found a great area of marbled fish scales through the window to cut the fabric from…

making banana fish

Crude but serviceable.


I used the wrapped plasticine method to make my Nutmeg the Wren pattern, too. It took a few prototypes in fabric to get it, as there were more seam lines and I wanted the bird’s head to cock to one side, but it’s basically the same thing. You can’t beat patience—spending time making, adjusting, re-making—for getting a pattern that is just right. Seems like a lot of work, I know, but once you have it, the pattern is original, re-usable, and it’s all yours.

Go make something unique!


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