Thursday, February 22, 2018

Sea Lion

One of the nice ways that the Menagerie pattern challenges me is in designing animals that look relatively life-like. Some animals have distinctive features that make them easily recognizable, even if their body shapes aren't similar to the Menagerie base templates. Some are even brightly colored, which is especially exciting to represent in multi-hued fabric. 

Some animals, however, are more plain - either they're nondescript brown or grey or black, or they have generic shapes that do not render convincingly in fabric.

I've wanted to make a sea lion (or a seal) for a long time. They are amazing creatures, these guys. Shapewise, they don't break any anatomical records. They're blimpy, have protuberant flappy limbs, and no real neck. They sit at the less interesting neutral end of the color spectrum and their eyes are hard to see against their fur. So not exactly first pick for animal coloring book images.

But put them in the water and they're magical. Like aquatic bullets. And they can weather a winter better than I ever could.

Anyway, I had to make them. For the longest time, I couldn't decide between a seal and a sea lion. On the macro-anatomical level, they're very similar - as a stuffed animal, possibly even interchangeable. But I like being precise, so I researched: ear flaps vs. no ear flaps, tail fins vs. flippers, upright vs. bellyflop, etc. 

This is the Menagerie Sea Lion: 

He's considerably less aerodynamic than his real-life counterpart,

but that comes from using the same base template that produced pigs, cows and elephants.

His nose is significantly more streamlined, however. 

I skimmed quite a bit from the top of the head and body templates to get this tapered effect.

The front flippers are partially-interfaced so that the upper half is firm enough to support the weight of the body while the lower half stays realistically floppy.

The back flippers and tail are stuffed.

The nose is a gathered circle of fabric, in this case something that adheres to hook tape/velcro (I used black headliner because that's what I had) so that the ball attaches and detaches. 

Let's talk about that ball - it's a six-paneled sphere with a circle of hook tape/velcro sewn over one of the junctions where the six panels meet. It is too small in proportion to the sea lion's body, but anything larger would've been impossible to balance-by-velcro on that tippy bit of a nose. 

Sea lions have little visible ear flaps (seals don't) which I omitted. To keep the smooth lines of the body, I cut the head+body as a single piece with no neck seam (i.e. no natural place to insert ear flaps).

The fur I used was something I had in my stash. It's incredibly soft and silky, with a glorious sheen, but boy, does it shed. Like a dog with mange.

I like how this sea lion turned out. It may not look it, but it was one of the harder designs to create, requiring contouring of the head and back, and those front flippers to sit just right while supporting the forward tilt of the upper body.


  1. Gorgeous! The one time I tried sewing with plush it shed crazily. My sewing machine repair guy scolded me for working with that material and admonished me to use a stabilizer like Stitchn Sew. Do you use a stabilizer with plush?

  2. Emily: Thank you! No, I don't typically use stabilizers in my stuffed animals, largely because I want the fabrics to stretch and round out. And yes, the sewing machine is a mess after working with fur - I have to clean it out, too. But fur is not as nasty as fleece, I've found, which is oddly gummy and dulls needles.

  3. Awww! So cute. I love the velcro ball detail.


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