How to Stuff and Shape a Waldorf Inspired Knitted Toy Animal, a Tutorial

I’ve had a few lovely knitters ask me to post a tutorial on how to stuff and shape my knitted toys, so I have put together a step by step tutorial with plenty of photos to guide anyone through the finishing process of making a knitted animal. This particular toy that I am working with here is my new donkey pattern, he is almost complete, I just have a few finishing touches to add.

It’s easy enough to knit up a toy, but the finishing and shaping is the most crucial part.

So here we go…

Fold the knitting right sides together and line up the legs, head, tummy etc… I use the cast off yarn to sew up with and leave a long thread when I have finished knitting.

Sew up the face to the top of the head. I don’t use a specific stitch when I sew, I just sew in and out of the knitting, I push the needle right through both of the stitches with both the loops from each stitch showing. If you don’t push the needle under both loops, then the inner loops will show on the right side of the knitting once the knitting is turned onto the right side, so try to get to both of the loops when sewing up:)

Now you will be at the top of the head, if you still have plenty of yarn left, push your needle under the stitches you have just sewn, pulling it all the way down to the muzzle where you will resume sewing again. Now sew under the chin, down the chest making sure you are sewing in and out under both loops of each stitch. This way, if your stitches are close enough, you won’t see any stuffing when your toy is complete.

Sew down the front of the chest until you are in line with the tummy line. Stop sewing and separate the legs. Each leg is sewn up individually.

The front legs have been separated, sew down the inside of the first leg and around the foot section.

If you still have plenty of yarn to work with, sew straight along the base of the foot and up the inside of the leg to where you will begin sewing up again. Now to sew up the second front leg.

Sew down the second front leg and under the foot. Pull your needle and yarn through your sewn stitches, back to the top of the legs. Now sew up the tummy area, in and out like previously. When you get to the legs stop sewing and separate the back legs.

The first back leg, I have sewn from the base up to the top of the leg. Line the legs up nicely or they will appear twisted. Sew under the base of the foot and up the one leg to the top.

Once at the top of the first leg, sew down the inside of the second leg and under the foot. In the photo, you will see an opening that has been left at the back of the toy, this is for stuffing. Finish off the foot section.

Turn the toy onto the right side through the opening at the back and if you find it difficult to pull the legs out onto the right side, just use a thick sewing needle to pull them out with.

The donkey with the right side showing.

I use a similar colour of fleece when stuffing my knitted toy animals to ensure that the stuffing doesn’t show through the knitting. It doesn’t unless the yarn is very dark, then some light fleeces might show through, so a darker coloured stuffing is a good idea in that instance.

Start off by pushing small pieces of fleece into the headย  and then the neck, use the point of a needle to push it into all areas.

Push the stuffing down to the base of the legs using the back of a needle or pencil. Make sure the legs are firm, this is very important, otherwise your toy won’t stand. The area at the top of the legs where they join to the body needs to be firm. After you have stuffed the legs and body, take the pointed end of a needle and move the stuffing around until you feel that the toy is exceptionally firm and will be able to stand.

Make sure the rump area is full and rises above the shoulders of the animal so that there is a nice balance between the hindquarters and withers. Move the fleece around with the needle point untill it has been distributed nicely.

Add more stuffing before you sew the opening closed at the back. When you are happy with the amount of stuffing in the toy, sew the opening closed.

The firmly stuffed donkey, standing nicely on all four legs, with raised hindquarters and neck.

This donkey has not been stuffed sufficiently and is sloping downwards by his back legs, more stuffing and shaping is needed.

This photo shows that the back legs don’t have enough stuffing, this will make the toy sit down. More stuffing needs to be pushed into the legs especially at the top.

You would usually use two hands to do this but I am holding a camera so I am using one hand. Finish the shaping by pushing down into the middle of the back so that there is a nice depression there and then the hindquarters will rise up at the rear.

And here is the almost completed knitted toy donkey. I still have to knit his ears and finish his mane and tail but this tutorial just shows you how to stuff and shape the animal.

Wishing you a wonderful week:)

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18 Responses to How to Stuff and Shape a Waldorf Inspired Knitted Toy Animal, a Tutorial

  1. alexis November 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Where do you get the “fleece” to stuff with. Is there another name it might be called by? Our craft stores only carry polyfill which I hate using. I have looked into buying wool from local farmers, but it is really, unbelievably expensive.

    • Linda November 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

      Hi Alexis,
      I buy my fleece from local farmers or from the fibre mills. It is also called roving.

  2. Caroline November 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

    Do you have a pattern just for the horse shape?

  3. latifa November 12, 2012 at 10:01 pm #

    Very CUTE! I love donkeys. ๐Ÿ™‚ My daughter (now 30) went to Waldorf. We used to make a LOT of ponies with wild and crazy manes using sparkle yarns and mohair and boucle for texture.

  4. Angela November 12, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

    What perfect timing, I’ve just posted about a knitted animal (admittedly a snake). My post is here

  5. Jeanette November 12, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    Thank you Linda, I am in the process of stuffing some gnomes at present and this was perfect. Firstly I had been using a kind of overstitch when sewing up the body etc and your in and out stitch seems a much better method. Also re the stuffing with a fleece as near to colour of item knitted, again great tip and one I need to use as I was wondering why I can see the white stuffing through my stitches! Fantastic, well done. And is the donkey going to be available on Ravelry as part of the discount you are giving as part of your Christmas KAL group?

    • Linda November 13, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      You are welcome Jeanette:)
      I have found this type of stitch to be the most effective in sewing up toys and garments. I think the donkey will be discounted for the Christmas KAL, I just need to finish the pattern and then he will go live on Ravelry and Etsy:)

  6. Lynda M O November 12, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    That’s an adorable donkey. Do you crochet too ?~! I wonder as I find making shapes to be easier crocheting and maybe I’m just missing some easy tips about increasing and decreasing when i knit. Your animals are so very realistic looking. The colors must be from undyed wool-so natural.

    • Linda November 13, 2012 at 8:04 am #

      Thank you Linda:)
      I have just started learning to crochet, I would love to be able to crochet well, I suppose it just takes practice. I would really like to design crochet animal patterns too someday:)

  7. alexis November 13, 2012 at 3:46 am #

    I was gifted a bag of alpaca wool. When I get it do any of you have suggestions as to what I will need to do to it. I want to use it as stuffing.

    • Linda November 13, 2012 at 8:06 am #

      Is it unspun Alexis? If it is in its raw state still, wash it and comb it our with carders. Alpaca is wonderfully soft and divine…

  8. W-S Wanderings November 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    An excellent tutorial, Linda. That tip about using a similarly coloured fleece/roving for stuffing is very helpful. ALL of it is helpful, actually. Now I understand why one of my horses always wants to sit down ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you, Linda!

  9. Sally-Jane November 26, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Thanks this was just what I needed

  10. Lise December 12, 2012 at 12:03 am #

    Very helpful! Hopefully it will help me make the warthog test knit look great!

  11. Denise September 30, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Hi there,

    I was wondering if it would be possible to get a copy of your waldorf horse/donkey toy knitting pattern please. I look forward to hearing from you.

    With many thanks, Denise

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