Today's guest post comes from Rory Evans, freelance writer (and extraordinary crafter!) for Martha Stewart Living:
For Christmas, my husband got our 3-year-old daughter the DVD of "My Neighbor Totoro" the 1988 anime film by Miyazaki, the animator who's often likened to "Japan's Walt Disney." (And, sure enough, in the U.S. Disney distributes Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli movies.)
Like Mei, the 4-year-old little sister in the movie, our daughter has fallen hard for Totoro, the movie's enormous, friendly, highly enigmatic forest spirit. She loved him so much, and spent so much time running up and down our block pretending to be chasing him, I checked online to see if I could buy her a Totoro plush toy. That search yielded all kinds of Etsy merchandise, which made me realize it might actually be easier and far less expensive to make them myself out of felt.
Stylewise, I tip my hat (or, in Totoro imagery, camphor leaf) to the maker of this iPhone case.
One afternoon, I waited for my daughter to go down for a nap, hauled out my embroidery supplies and sewing machine, and was able to make start to finish the big one before she woke up two hours later. Here is the most important thing I know about making "stuffies" with felt: Only cut the shape of the front piece. Then embellish and embroider as needed. And then pin the cut piece to a full-sized back piece, machine sew around (leaving a small opening for stuffing), and then trim the back piece. This process lets you sew really closely to the edge of the shape/design without worrying about missing any spots on the backside. (I also added a little pouch with a jingle bell inside, to replicate the little package of acorns Totoro gives to Mei and her sister big Satsuki.)
In the movie, Mei originally discovers Totoro in a tree, so before my daughter woke up, I hid the toy in our Christmas tree and waited (impatiently, excitedly) about half an hour for her to discover it, lose her head with happiness, and then smother the thing with kisses. (The best way I can explain the magic of this movie is this: She actually thought a Totoro had come to our neighborhood and left it there.)
Which only made me want to make her more... So the next day, for her nap (and yes, this was a vacation week for me), I made her Chu Totoro, also carrying a sack of acorns, and then the next day I finished off her cast with Chibi and the Soot Sprites.
Now, of course, having so many of the characters from the movie, she wants her own Mei doll, and asked me if a Totoro would make her one. This might be a little ambitious for my skills, but I'll report back either way.
Thank you, Rory!