Turtle Project by Babou


To design the turtle’s shell I needed a flattish hemisphere that was divided into six segments. I marked the segments on a mandarin-orange to get the sort of shape of each segment.

I made a conceptual model of the turtle using half the mandarin, a CD disc, and a sheet of paper. I was aiming to make a VERY STRONG SWIMMER, like an Olympic champion, so I wanted very strong sloping shoulders. The neck needs to be WIDE as it will get thinner when you actually sew the seams. 
I later cut the shape of the segment off a bigger item, which happened to be a one-sixth of a colander on my kitchen bench This formed Pattern piece 1

How big should it be? You can see the scale of my test turtle by looking at the CD disc on my model. My test turtle measured about 18 inches from head to tail, and the segment piece was 6 inches long. I made him big as a demonstration model.  But you can make yours any size, just scale the pieces together with each other.

Apart from assorted bits of fabric, including a nice strong  piece that will make two pieces of the body, and some scraps of felt for the eyes, you will need some filling. I fill the 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. My test turtle took nearly half of this 500 gram bag. You do need to pack the filling in tight to give the toy a good shape.

Pattern piece 1 is the segment that will make up the top part of the shell. It has a flat edge and two curved edges that meet at a point. Cut six of these segments out of an assortment of fabrics and colours. They will be joined together by sewing them along the curved edges, with their RIGHT SIDES together so that the seams are inside the toy. The pattern piece includes a seam allowance. Sew up to the point only, so the tops meet neatly.
Pattern piece 2 is the body of the turtle. The pattern piece includes positioning places for the two felt eyes. There is also a tiny dart in the neck which will lift the head up. It is only very small but I found it was a good idea.  Cut two of these body shapes, one will be the top of the body with the eyes and shell attached to it, and the other will be the underbody.  The top of the body will also have a slit in it to allow you to fill the shell with filling. It matches the slit on the under-shell.

Step 1: Sew the 6 segments of the top shell together by hand, with fairly large ‘tacking’ stitches, placing the right sides together so that the seams will be on the inside. In the picture there is just one more seam to do, and then the top shell will have a nice 3-dimensional shape.

Step 2: Turn the top shell right-side out and put a clump of the filling in it to give it a nice shape. Then pin the top shell on to the fabric that you will use to make the under-shell. The under-shell should be roughly circular; it may not be exactly like the one shown on pattern piece 2, because your seam sizes may vary from mine. Cut out the under-shell, and make a slit in it so you will be able to fill the shell later.
OPTIONAL: I reinforce the slits with a bit of fabric to stop fraying, like you do for a covered buttonhole, but it is not necessary, the slit will be hidden inside the turtle.

Step 3: Now you need to cut out the two body pieces. Place Pattern piece 2 on a doubled-over piece of the fabric and cut two pieces. Pin the shell on to the top body-piece and check there is enough room to sew around the shell when you join the body pieces together. If the shell is too big, you can make a bigger seam when you machine the two shell pieces together. Then cut out the felt eyes and their hoods, and pin them in  place on the top body piece. The eyes will be zig-zagged on to the top body-piece, going round several times to ensure they are secure.
The top body piece will also need a slit to match the one in the under-shell. You can’t see them in the photo as they are under the shell.

Step 4: Now you can get out the sewing machine and start sewing. Start with the shell: go over all the tacking stitches with machining. I use a small straight stitch for the seams, and sometimes go round twice for extra strength; I want the toys to be tough and machine-washable. But once round is probably good enough. I also zig-zag the edges to stop fraying but it depends on the fabric. You can go all round the shell rim as there is the slit in the undershell that you can use in turning the shell inside-out- that means right side outside.  And the shell is done!
Step 5: Sew the finished shell to the top body-piece. You will be able to fill the shell and body later through the slits in the top body-piece and the under-shell.
Step 6: Don’t forget that tiny dart in the neck! I tried it once and decided it was TOO small and so I made it a bit bigger. The dart goes between the eyes (you can see the underneath of the zig-zagged eyes) and down the back as marked on pattern piece 2. The dart lifts up the head and gives the turtle an enquiring tilt. You will find that each creature develops its own character as you go. 
Step 7: Place the two body-pieces together, with their right sides together, pin them together and sew them together. But do not go all the way around! If you start at the neck and go around the body, leave a gap by one shoulder so that you can fill the body. Pattern piece 2 indicates this gap. The photo shows the wrong side of the top body-piece and you can see the underneath of the zigzagged eyes. You can also see how I reinforced the slits, just in case they frayed when you inserted the filling.
Step 8:Turn the turtle the right-way out through the gap in the shoulder, and he is ready to be filled with the fibre-fill. You may need something like the handle of a wooden spoon to push the filling in tightly. 
Step 9: The two front flippers will look better if they have some lines of stitching to show the digits. Do this while the flipper is partly-filled with the filling and then pack it more solidly afterwards. 

Step 10: To finish the turtle, give him an extra segment on top of the shell, his crowning glory. Cut a hexagon out of a nice piece of fabric, and hem it, then pin it on top of the shell and hand-sew it in place. You also need to pin and hand-sew the seam by the open shoulder. Fold the raw edge under inside the turtle and then use stout thread to sew the edges together. You can finally take some stout thread to pull in the head so it looks like nostrils. 


Enjoy the little creature, I hope yours turned out well. 

Little Seal Project by Babou