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Grandma’s Sweater Elephants

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Although I am very lucky to have several handmade keepsakes from my recently departed grandmother, I felt inspired to make one more. A few years ago, when I was visiting Grandma, she was sorting through one of her closets. In it was a sweater that she had knit that was quite moth-eaten. She decided it wasn’t worth repairing and was going to trash it. I thought that I’d like to give a shot at repairing it so I took it with me.

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Well, it turns out that those moth holes were so extensive I gave up on repairs, too. I wanted to use the textile for something special, so it sat in my scrap bin. Fast forward a few years and I knew just what to make from it.

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I decided to sew a stuffed animal for Evelyn out of the sweater and to make two matching animals to send to my two cousins for them to keep for themselves or to give to a someday baby. I started by trying to felt the sweater by washing it in hot water and tumbling it dry. Apparently it was knit in superwash wool because all that did was unravel the moth holes more. Oops. Since I couldn’t felt the fabric and I knew it needed to be stabilized, I block fused it to some mid weight fusible stabilizer.

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Since I knew the seams would be under a lot of stress if I were to thoroughly stuff the stuffed animal, I decided to underline it with some quilting weight cotton as well. Of course this made the project decidedly more complicated than it needed to be as each 1/4″ seam was six layers of fabric. I fudged some of the curves. I don’t think you can tell by looking at the finished elephants, but the inside sure isn’t very pretty!

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For the pattern, I used the elephant pattern from Abby Glassenberg‘s book Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction. I haven’t sewed many stuffed animals, but really admire Abby and think her patterns are fun (I’ve sewn two versions of her snail stuffy) and I absolutely adore her book. I’ll rave about it in a full review soon, but the take-home message is that I highly recommend the book – cute patterns and thorough, instructive instructions.

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There was a lot of hand sewing of little pieces to finish the elephants, but it felt totally worth it as they are so expressive. I particularly love the detail of the little mouth! I opted not to add the toenails because they just weren’t looking right on my elephants for some reason, but otherwise I sewed the pattern as is.

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Although this elephant is pretty delicate, I plan on giving it to Evelyn to play with. I’m generally of the opinion that most things aren’t meant to sit on a shelf and that the way to really appreciate something is to have it be a part of your everyday life, even if that means it won’t last as long. Have you made a keepsake from an heirloom fabric? Do you have a favorite stuffy pattern to recommend?

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Comments 7

  1. Very nice. I admire your determination. I would have definitely given up after you put the sweater through the wash.

  2. This has given me an idea of what to do with the “antique” pillow shams my memaw left me. I’m fairly certain they are not “antique” and they are very girly. I think I’ll make something for her great grands out of them! Those elephants are adorable!

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