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How I make horses.

How I Make Horses.

In my early forays into making toy horses, I indulged the wish for a huggable toy by using satin fabrics. That was probably not the easiest fabric to work with for a durable toy. For one thing it frays easily. I had to reinforce the seams to block fraying. I tried the commercial fray-checking liquids but found that they either stained the fabric or left a hard, rough line of glue that could be felt on the outside. I used iron-on interfacing, which seemed to work pretty well until it aged and yellowed. I have to tell you that just about any discoloration will show through white satin. I fell back on the easiest method of reinforcing a seam, I sewed it twice. The second line of stitching was no more than one-eighth of an inch from the first seam. It has to be close or you won’t be able to successfully clip the seam allowance for the curves.

As for reinforcing a hole made to insert a shank eye, the best product I found was clear, fabric glue that dries fast, clear and strong. I would use it sparingly enough so that when I placed the eye through the hole and closed the shank over it, the eye would completely cover the glue. I also didn’t wait for the glue to dry before applying the eye. I live in Arizona where things dry quickly.

The next line of horses I made was designed for a fundraiser. My daughter was a member of the high school flag team that needed fundraisers to purchase uniforms and equipment. Because the high school’s mascot was a white colt with blue mane and tail, I designed a perky horse using felt. (In generations past, felt was used to create autograph animals that were signed by classmates near graduation from high school.)

Now felt is a very easy fabric to sew. You don’t need to worry about fraying with felt. The problems with felt had to do with pilling and wash ability. Felt can be washed carefully in cool water. You can clean the surface but avoid rubbing. The problem comes with trying to dry felt without heat that will shrink it. When the object to be dried is stuffed, it takes more time and/or heat to dry it thoroughly. I don’t recommend trying it. As for pilling, that is actually an easy fix. You can shave felt. You don’t have to buy a battery-operated fabric shaver either. You can use a cheap, throw away razor to stroke over the felt. The pills will slip down and can be lifted away like brushing a cat.

Fleece is probably the easiest fabric to use for toys. It doesn’t fray, comes in a variety of colors and weights. It is easy to wash. You can’t stuff the toy too firmly or it will distort. Also, if it isn’t stuffed too firmly, you can machine wash and dry it.

The most labor-intensive part of the horse would be embroidering the eye. In order to get an attractive, authentic-looking eye, you need to get the size, color, and location right. The most aggravating problem with embroidering the eye is to discover once you assemble and stuff the toy that the eyes don’t line up. Any toy with the right side eye as little as a quarter of an inch shifted from the location of the left eye might as well be thrown away. All you will see is lopsided eyes no matter how beautiful the rest of the toy is. I avoided a lot of this trouble by using shank eyes with locking washers. They are pretty realistic looking. I have even sewn eyelids for the large-eyed horses I made. It is fun to apply the thread eyelashes that give the horse a come-hither look. You can ensure the proper location of the eyes because you can mark their location after the head has been sewn. All you have to do is fold the head along the center line. Then use a washable fabric marker to mark the eye locations for both eyes simultaneously. One word of warning in washing an animal with the shank eyes is that the agitation in the machine can scar the eyes.

The second most difficult part of a horse is the mane and tail. I have used yarn, macramé cord, and fabric for this. I like the look of yarn and found that it was easy to sew. On a larger animal, untwisted and brushed macramé cord makes a magnificently full mane that is very touchable. Macramé cord comes in a variety of colors and sizes so that you have choices. I have used torn fabric as if it were yarn for a mane. Maybe the easiest mane to make is one that is layered and quilted. But you don’t get the feel of running you fingers through the mane with the quilted fabric. With both yarn and cord manes, you must sew it onto a reinforcing tape before inserting it into your horse. I recommend doing any untangling and brushing after the toy is assembled. It is nearly impossible to control brushed out hair while trying to insert it into a seam.


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