Have you seen those awesome giant giraffes that are super popular in nurseries? Melissa & Doug makes a beautiful one as does FAO Schwarz. Well, several months ago I thought to myself, I’d love for Bugaboo to have a giant giraffe in his room and I’d love for it to be colorful rather than realistic and I can make it myself! I have to laugh because you wouldn’t believe the number of times I have said those words, “I can make this myself!”. Sometimes I am right and I can make exactly what is in my head. Other times…..well, I am wrong. The Giant Plaid Giraffe falls somewhere in the middle.
This was a project I knew I wanted to do, but since I didn’t know how I would go about it, I was dragging my feet. Months after I had the idea, I finally started. I patterned it, mocked it up, did a small trial giraffe, and then jumped in and built it for real. I met several challenges along the way, but I am pretty happy with the giraffe right now. I still have some work to do – as of right now, it can only stand on carpet. If I set him on hard wood floors, his legs slide out and he falls down, so I still have some work to do!
I thought I’d share the journey of my Giant Plaid Giraffe with you. Perhaps it will inspire you to take on that massive project in the back of your head.
I have a collection of beautiful fabrics from the 1980s and 1990s, fabrics my mom bought when we were kids that she never got to use. She used to sew my sister and me beautiful dresses and clothes when we were little. I have scraps of leftover fabric as well as yards of fabric she loved but didn’t find the time or occasion to use. This beautiful woven plaid was part of her collection and I have always loved it. She bought it to make dresses or jumpers for us – I thought it would make a beautiful giraffe!
To make the pattern for my giraffe, I decided to take one of Bugaboo’s small giraffe stuffed animals and base the pattern off of it. I basically used this little guy as a mannequin and draped each of my pattern pieces following the seam lines already on him. I darkened the seam lines by tracing them with embroidery thread so I could see them through my muslin.
After I had draped each piece, I could basically re-create this exact giraffe with any fabric I wanted to. At this point I decided to make some changes to the pattern and lengthen all of his legs and his neck so he would be taller – closer in size and scale to the Melissa & Doug/FAO Schwartz giraffes. In retrospect, I found that by lengthening my giraffe’s legs but not changing the angle at which they enter the giraffe’s body may have been a mistake. I think this is one of the reasons my giraffe sometimes has a hard time standing upright, because his legs are splayed too much. He stands upright 90% of the time by himself, but the other 10% of the time I need to push his front two legs inward to keep him balanced.
I decided it would be good to do a small giraffe mockup with my new pattern. I made it out of muslin and didn’t bother stuffing the legs. Again…maybe I should have!? I thought everything looked good and wanted to move on to the big giraffe!
Once my pattern was adjusted and all of my pieces matched up and fit together correctly, I enlarged each pattern piece in Photoshop. Some of the larger pieces took several pages to print out on. When this was the case, I just taped the pages together, making sure to keep the pattern pieces true. I didn’t want to accidentally overlap a page by 1/8″ and throw everything off!
I decided it would be best to flat line the woven plaid since it wasn’t a very sturdy fabric. I chose muslin and stitched each plaid fabric piece to a layer of muslin before sewing the giraffe together. I didn’t do any pattern matching, I just cut the pieces out on grain.
Assembling the giraffe was the easy part. I whipped him together and left an opening in the back part of his belly to stuff him. Stuffing him was the hardest part. Seriously, I had no idea how difficult it would be to stuff him. I actually broke a sweat and it took hours! It was difficult to get stuffing into all of his extremities and to keep him extremely firm. I bought little plastic pellets and stitched cotton bags for them to live in. Each leg got a bag of pellets to help make the giraffe more sturdy. I doubled the fabric on the cotton bags and stitched twice since I wanted to make this giraffe as safe as possible for Bugaboo.
Once Mr. Giant Giraffe was finally stuffed, I hand sewed him closed and he was finished. While stuffing him, I ended up having to open his neck seam to get his head stuffed firmly enough. I closed that hole up along with two rips that happened where his legs joined his belly. The woven fabric is well, woven, and stuffing the giraffe put a lot of strain on the fabric. Overall I am pretty happy with my giant stuffed giraffe. I love the plaid and love how colorful and fun he is! I need to add something to the bottom of his legs (other than the corduroy I used on each foot) to keep him from slipping on wooden floors.
What do you think? Is my Giant Plaid Giraffe a success? I learned a lot by making him, so if I ever go to make another one I think I will edit my pattern to adjust the angle of the legs. I think along with some non-slip fabric on his feet, that would fix my slipping issue! I think I would also try some pattern matching along his front neck seam. That seam really bothers me! Ignoring those mistakes, I think the giant giraffe is a lot of fun and I’m happy with his outcome!