Little Seal Project by Babou


I still have the little notebook in which my daughter sketched the Renate Mueller seal that day.
She saw right away that it would have two side pieces, an underbody and a front section.


After a lot of trial and error, we arrived at patterns that gave us the right sort of shape for our seal. Admittedly the first attempt looked more like a walrus, as we had not made enough allowance for the amount of space which the seams take up, and the head had a narrow shape. We also developed the four darts in the body by trial and error – these are small but very important. The three pattern pieces for the little seal are shown against a piece of inch-square paper so that you can see the size we made. You could enlarge to any size you want provided that all the pieces are enlarged by the same amount so they fit together. Our little seal stands ten inches (25 cm) high.
To download the patterns click here


In the sprit of Renate Mueller, I looked for fabric that was strong and robust, and found two different sorts of denim. The stripey material is a 100% cotton denim that I found in an upholstery store. The other patterned denims do have a bit of spandex-type fibre in their composition though they are mainly cotton. The two types of fabrics worked well together.
Apart from assorted bits of fabric, including some scraps of felt for the eyes and a bit of grosgrain ribbon for the collar, you will need some filling. I fill my toys with polyester, as I have not found a natural fabric that works as well. It has the advantage of being washable. The toys are ‘greedy’ and take a lot of filling. They need to be firm else they lose character.


Step 1: Cut out pieces of body and make eyes

By placing the pattern for the body on a doubled-over piece of fabric you arrive at two mirror-image body pieces. You need to give them each an eye, again aiming at mirror-image positioning.

Detail of eye:

I use felt as it does not fray. I cut out two larger white circles and two smaller black circles and zigzagged them together on to the body pieces, going round and round several times so they were firmly attached. I don’t use commercial plastic or glass eyes for children as they could be a health hazard.

Step 2: Attaching the front piece to the two body pieces

This is the most tricky bit of assembly so I recommend you start here! You will need to attach the front piece to the two head parts of the body. You need a curve under the jaw, so begin by hand-stitching a small seam along the top of the front piece with a slight bit of gathering to ease it.
Now you need to pin one of the body pieces to the edge of the front piece with right sides together, taking care to ease the pieces round the curve
The pins continue past the eased bit and down the neck to about halfway down, leaving a gap for later hand-stitching.
The top of the front of the body piece is now sewn to the front piece between the pins.
The other body piece is now pinned to the other side of the front piece with their right sides together, easing around the jaw as before.
This picture shows the two body pieces sewn to the front piece symmetrically as seen from the wrong sides.

Step 3: Sewing together along the spine

The two body pieces are then pinned together from the top of the head to the end of the curved spine, as marked on the pattern piece. Check that you have a good tight seam across the top of the head where the other two seams meet.
The body pieces are then stitched together from head to tail. Again, watch that you have a good firm seam; I often do the seams double so that they will be robust.
The picture shows the head turned right-side out to check there are no gaps and that no bits of fabric are caught in the seams.

Step 4: Darts in sides

Don’t forget there are four darts to be sewn as marked on the pattern , these are small but very important. Each dart is made by folding the fabric from the inside along the dart line and then stitching it together.
Body turned right-side out to show two of the darts.

Step 5: Attaching the underbody to the body

When you have cut out the underbody, along the fold of the doubled-over fabric, you will see that the seal body opens out to match the shape of the underbody.
The picture shows the seal body pinned to the underbody with right sides together, matching the bulges of the flippers as well as the indents between them. You will sew these two pieces together all the way round from one front dart to the other front dart. Be especially careful how you go around the back flippers, so that the body does not get caught in the seams.
The picture shows one side of the body sewn to the underbody, carefully matching all the contours as you go.
The picture shows the stitching as seen from underneath the seal, showing two rows of tiny stitches (to give strength) and also showing the gap where the stitching stopped at the body’s front darts.

Step 6: Clipping curves and turning right-side out .

Here is another reason for sewing twice round the seams: you will need to trim the fabric close to those seams and will also need to carefully clip the curves, to ease things when you turn it all right-side out. Clipping curves is an art; you need a very sharp end to your scissors, so that you can get close to the seam from the raw side, without cutting through the seam. You snip through the excess fabric on the outside of the seam. Give it a tiny snip, easing the tightness of the seam.
Now you can see the seal turned right-side out, you can see the front piece is too long but that is OK because you will be hand-stitching it in place to fit.

Step 7: Filling the seal

You now have a very thin and hungry seal - he needs some polyester filling, quite a lot of it to be firm.
Don’t fill his flippers completely just yet (see Step 8).
You may need something like the handle of a wooden spoon to push the filling firmly into all the corners.

Step 8: Seam lines on flippers

Before the flippers have been filled completely, sew a seam along each to give them shape. The front flippers get a seam through all thicknesses from the back to the front, about three-quarters of the way.
Also sew a seam along the back flippers, from the back to the front, about halfway.

Step 9: Hand-stitching the front

The picture shows the front piece pulled across and pinned tightly into place to join both the body and the underbody. This is quite complicated as you will need to make sure there is a good hem underneath all the pieces so that the hand-sewn seams are strong. The front piece was originally a bit too long for this job, so that you can get a good flap into place, and tuck the excess underneath.
The picture shows hand stitching which will close the front of the seal. You also do some hand-stitching to attach his collar, which is just a bit of ribbon sewn around his neck.

Step 10: Final finishing off

Now you can get a bit of embroidery cotton and sew him a little nose as well as some whiskers. I don’t use loose whiskers any more as they could be a choking hazard. The picture shows the detail of the eye, nose and whiskers.
Now the little seal is ready to explore.

Turtle Project by Babou