Friday, 10 January 2014

Step by Step Sock Monkey

Step by Step - Sock Monkey
Angela Armstrong

I would recommend that you read the pattern through to the end before you actually commence making this toy. It will save you some heartache, especially if you take note of the parts marked **. Learn from my mistakes. J Materials list on the last page.

**All my hand sewing was done using doubled cotton – this servers two purposes. One, it makes the hand sewn sections stronger. Two, I use an old cross-stitching trick to anchor the thread. Instead of making two knots (one for starting and one for finishing the thread), I make the stitch and pass the needle through the loop of the remaining thread waiting to pass through the fabric. This anchors the thread and looks like a tiny stitch rather than a bobbly knot. (I think it’s called a half hitch, but don’t hold me to that J ).

**When attaching parts (arms and tail) make sure you do the two following things. One, align the long seam so that it faces down (let’s not make it any more obvious than necessary). Two, start at the least obvious point (usually where the seam is). So, under the tail, and in the armpits, and for the ears, on the lower side of the ear, it just looks neater overall and helps hide any “finishing thread” efforts. J

**This is the pair of socks that I am starting with. They are thin cotton knee-highs. It will work, but a thicker sock might be better. You don’t want to be seeing your stuffing through the material. Mine was ok, but I probably could have made it firmer with a stronger sock.

So, take your first sock and turn it inside out. Lay it out flat with the heel pointing up toward you like this one. It’s important to try and get it to sit even and flat. (I ironed mine). Take note, the heel will generally not cooperate with your attempts, but spend some time and get it the best you can.
Now that it is flat, pin down each side. This is to help hold the fabric still when you sew it on the machine. Take a ruler and a washable fabric pen and mark a line directly down the centre of the sock starting from about an inch (2.5cm) below the heel right down to the sock cuff. 

** When pinning, check where the pins are coming through on the other side, this is where having a striped sock helps. I pinned between the red and the yellow stripes, right on the border, and by flipping the sock I was able to tell how well it was lined up and to make adjustments as I went. If the two sides are too far out of alignment, it will be a very obvious seam line. J

**Read the next two steps before you dash off and sew anything, then come back to this and draw on the feet BEFORE you start sewing. J
For this next stage, you are going to sew up either side of the line you just drew, but NOT ON THE LINE!!! I had my needle in the centre position and the width of that to the foot is enough space to leave either side of the line. You are sewing two separate lines, DO NOT JOIN THEM AT EITHER END!! There will be a gap at the crotch – this is how it is supposed to be. J

Start at the heel end and sew toward the cuff of the sock, but not over the cuff. When you get about an inch short of the cuff, start curling toward the outside edge (for the left side of the line you will be sewing a ‘J’ shape, and the opposite for the right side of the line).  I found it easier to hand draw in the shape first and then follow that. The curved part of the J is the toe of the leg. What you are forming are the two legs of the monkey. The heel will be the bottom and the toe the head.

When you have done this, cut the cuff off of the sock. Then cut along the line that you drew until you are level with where the stitching begins. You may trim close to the stitching if you wish, but do not cut it. It is not necessary to trim the extra fabric between the legs, because you are turning it inside out and that will just become part of the stuffing later.

** Given that after my son has had his monkey for 48 hours and I had to repair the seams in the legs twice, I would use triple stitch rather than just a straight stitch. Triple stitch is often used for the crotch on trousers in commercial garments, as it provides extra strength and durability. It is up to you whether you use triple stitch throughout the whole monkey, I can say that it caused me great problems when doing the ears as the two and fro motion of the feed dogs ended up pulling the edge of the fabric inside the machine and I ended with a monumental jam. However, for the legs as the fabric is all ‘sealed’ it shouldn't pose a problem.

Using the gap at the crotch, turn the monkey right side around again. A chopstick or the blunt end of  a knitting needle may come in handy for that, and for the next step.

You are now ready to begin stuffing the body. I used just normal poly-filler stuffing that you get at the craft shop.

**It’s painful, but break the stuffing up into marble sized pieces and use the chop-stick to push it down to the toes.
**It’s probably better to stuff the legs first as it’s easier to shift a floppy body out the way than a firm one.

** Like play dough or baking, you can roll the legs between your hands to shape them. DO THIS AS YOU GO! It’s quite difficult to move stuffing down near the toes further down once you are up past the knees. So make sure you are happy with the shape before you move on to the next bit. Stuff the legs as tight as you can, but not so that the seams are strained or that you can see the stuffing through the fabric.

Here you can see the hole in the crotch. Try not to make it any larger than it already is, you have to sew it up by hand. J


This sock you are going to lay flat as seen above, and pin to stabilise again. The first thing you will do is draw a line from the edge of the toe to just inside the cuff. The width of the line will be determined by the placement of the heel. You will need the heel from this sock, so allow at least a 1cm from the edge of the heel. On the other hand, you don’t want the tail too thin (this is the bit you are measuring out). I aimed for half way between the edge of the heel and the edge of the sock. It gave me more than 1cm leeway.  This time you will SEW ON THE LINE. Remember to use triple stitch to stand up to rigorous loving. :)
**If you want to make sure that your sock is evenly lined up, stick a pin through the end of the heel and turn the sock over to see where it comes out.  Remember to align your stripes as mentioned in the first part.

**You can determine the length of the tail here, compare it to the body that you have just stuffed. I really wanted a gangly long limbed monkey, but if that is not what you seek, then use this opportunity to set the length of the tail.

**Remember to draw on the ‘sealed end’ of the tail before you start sewing. You can see mine in the last yellow stripe before the cuff. (Picture above).

Now, you can cut the toe off. You won’t be using it.
Then allow a seam allowance and cut the tail out.

So this is where you should be up to. The toe off and the tail “free”.

You are now left with a long section that you will need to cut further. First of all, cut the remainder of the foot away from the heel, then the calf away from the heel. You should have three sections as above. Now remove the cuff as well.

Take the long straight section and cut it in half length-wise. These are the two arms. See ** below.
Fold them in half length-wise and pin them down. Remember to “compare the stripes” as you go. Sew along one side and “seal-off” the end. You may want to draw the hand on as you did the feet and the end of the tail.

Turn the arms inside out and stuff them. Do the same with the tail.

In my case, I found the arms were too long (as long as the legs) and although I wanted a gangly monkey, I didn’t want him that gangly. Now, as one of my monkeys is for a newborn, I wanted to seal the ends of the arms and tail so that if they become dismembered he can’t get into and eat the stuffing.  So, you have the option of sealing off the end by hand (think drawstring bag, but tuck the ends in before you pull it shut), or you can do what I’ve done.

**You might want to measure the length of the arms compared to the legs and the torso before you start sewing their length. Or, you can wait and see how it looks stuffed (remembering that stuffing it adds a bit of length to it).

Because my arms were too long, I stuffed them to the length I wished and then folded in the extra length (much like rolling up socks). There was about two inches of that. In the right hand picture above you can see one arm is shorter than the other, and the left arm is flaccid at the end. It’s waiting to be rolled up to the length of the other one. Again, stripes come in handy for matching the length.

Note the rolled end.
Now to attach the tail. Again, because one monkey is for a newborn, I sealed the end of the tail with a drawstring effort .
**Remember to tuck in the raw edges before you pull the drawstring tight.
**Take a look at your torso and decide where the tail should go. Mark the spot with a pin above and below where the tail will go.
**Start at the seam on the underside of the tail, and pinch together the torso fabric and the tail fabric and stitch the two together. Keep the stitches small and tight and they should be nigh on invisible.

Ta-daaaaaaaah.   J

Now you are taking the remaining piece and cutting it into four. Try and get it so that they make two pairs. They don’t have to be matching left and right, but front and back to form an ear. I was lucky in that mine turned out to be four pieces the same.

So, pair them up and pin them to stabilise them and then draw on the outline of the ear. I put them end to end to get the widths about the same. I drew mine freehand, but you might want to make a paper template.

**Remember that you can use the stitching process to refine them and make them more similar in shape as you go.

**When you go to sew this, you are going to have to decide how. The perfect option would be triple stitch again, BUT, the back and forth motion over the feed dogs is likely to turn down a corner and feed it into the feed dogs causing a jam. Not even doing a running stitch by hand beforehand prevents that. The other option is to use grease proof paper and just tear it off when you are done.You could consider putting some iron-on fabric stabiliser to help, or you can just hand sew them. I went with the latter after two jams that nearly trashed my sewing machine, because I didn't know about the grease proof paper option. 

**You are sewing the ‘arch’s shape, and leaving the bottom edge open (for stuffing).

Now that you have sewn the ear shape (it is up to you whether you want it rounded or square shaped), you can trim off SOME of the excess fabric if you wish. Don’t cut too close to the stitches or you risk fraying. Turn the ear right side around. Stuff the ear, and then hand sew the open edge shut.

**Before sewing shut, roll the edges in slightly and pinch them together so that you are sewing a pair of rolled lips shut, rather than the raw edge which may fray. I used this stage to make my ears the same height. The green edge (larger on one than the other) was tucked entirely inside.

Now, you can either sew on the ears as they are (for a more teddy bear look), or you can do the next step with me.

Take one ear and fold it in half vertically (left meets right), and sew along the bottom edge. So, you can see in the middle picture that the base of the ear is the dark blue (in the shadow). I sewed along the two halves of the dark blue. What you end up with is a kind of fortune cookie look.

So, for the next step, please go to "Step By Step Sock Monkey - Part II"