I’ve been making a lot of octopuses lately. No, not octopi, that’s something else - the correct plural is in fact octopuses, as my friend Leelee will adamantly explain if you doubt me.
First I made little free standing octopuses for my store, because they are cute and fun and that is half the reason I make over half of the things I make. Then I made that octopus fascinator that I wore to Calgary Comic Con and that you may have noticed some delightful gentlemen modelling in my previous post. In June a friend and I conspired to create a large Podipus plushie for Leelee as a gift celebrating her graduation, and then I made (and am still making) a wee pink army of small Podipus plushies for Leelee to sell to her know-cute-things-when-they-see-them readers. I’ve also delved into some Cthulhu crafting of late, which of course also involves tentacles.
Now, speaking of things with tentacles, and things sort of visually related to octopuses, jellyfish don’t seem to get a nearly the love and adoration that octopuses do, but they are fascinating, beautiful creatures, whether you are watching them drift gently through an aquarium tank or prodding them with a stick on the beach. Also, with all this octopus creation lately, I’ve been experimenting with many different ways to make tentacles. I tried the method employed in this tutorial a few days ago, and decided it was more suited to jellyfish than octopuses. So a jellyfish was made. It seemed like a fun idea. And it was very simple, too, and so today I’m going to share with you this simple creation of a jellyfish. Because it’s fun.
What you’ll need
- felt in one to two colours. I like the two-coloured tentacles – they’re fun.
- thread to match your colour(s) of felt
- buttons, beads, googly eyes or other roundish objects for eyes
- sewing machine (or this could be done without a machine, either by hand stitching or by a combo of gluing and hand stitching)
- sewing needle
- fabric scissors
- straight pins
- [optional] glue - if you want to glue and cut the tentacles, rather than sewing them. In this case I recommend having a not-your-best-most-expensive-pair of scissors on hand as well.
- small circular object*
- larger circular object*
Putting it all together
1) Start by tracing your small circular object onto one of the felt colours 8* times. These circles are going to be the tentacles, and you don’t need a very large circle to trace. Mine was about 2 inches across, and the tentacles were plenty long enough.
*This is to make 8 tentacles, which seemed like a good number, influenced by all the octopuses I’ve been making. However, jellyfish have all different numbers of tentacles, from a just a handful to several hundred, so you can really make as many or as few of these circle tentacles as you like. 6 to 8 is probably a nice number for a jellyfish this size. Fewer might look skimpy, more would probably be too crowded.
2) Draw a spiral from the edge of each felt circle to the center of the circle, with the lines of the spiral spaced about 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch apart. The spiral does not need to be perfectly even or circular, just draw it as neatly as you can.
3) Put this piece of drawn-on felt on top of the other piece/colour of felt, and put a pin in the middle of each circle, going through both layers of felt. I cut my circles one at a time, so there’s just one in the images below, but do them all at once as described and it’ll be quicker.
4) Cut out each of the circles. So you should be cutting through two layers of felt, cutting out 8 circles and ending up with 16 felt circles that are paired up and pinned together.
4) Take the circles over to your sewing machine. Take one pinned pair of circles and move the pin to one edge of the circles. Then, starting at the middle of the spiral, sew along that spiral, all the way to the edge.
This is, of course, a little finicky, and you can do it by hand (see the instructions for that below). But it’s actually pretty easy to sew tight and curving lines like this on a machine with just a little practice. All you need to do is:
a) Start stitching very slowly. Every few stitches stop, making sure the needle is down in the fabric.
b) Lift the presserfoot up off the fabric.
c) Turn the fabric slightly, to better sew along the spiral line.
d) Put the presserfoot back down and sew a bit further, lather rinse repeat.
As you get further along the spiral, towards the outer edges of the circle, you’ll be able to sew farther at a time without stopping, lifting the presserfoot and adjusting the fabric, since the spiral will be getting less and less tight.
Without a machine
If you want to do this without a sewing machine, you have two options here. You can glue each pair of circles together, and then leave them to dry completely and thoroughly (probably overnight). Or you use a needle and thread to sew by hand along the spiral line, just a series of neat straight stitches of medium size, and knot the thread at both ends.
Whether machine or hand sewn, you should end up with something like this:
5) Repeat for each of the paired circles.
6) Using a pair of sharp scissors, grab one of the sewn spiral circles and cut just beside the line of stitching.
When you get to the middle, cut a tiny hole from the center, so you get this:
When you hold on to the outer end of the spiral and let the rest go (you might have to shake it slightly), you get tentacles! Repeat this for each spiral circle, till you have 8 tentacles.
Without a machine: If you hand sewed the spiral line, you’re going to do the exact same thing here. If you glued the circles together, you’re going to cut right along the spiral line you drew, and make sure that they glue is completely dried before you do that.
7) Now cut a larger circle from one of your felt colours. My large circle was about 4 inches across.
8) Pin the tops of each tentacles to the edge of the circle, as shown in the photo below. The tentacles should overlap into the circle by 1/2 inch to an inch.
9) Sew around the very edge of the large circle, stitching each tentacle into place as you go. You don’t need to sew the space in between each tentacle, it’s just frankly faster to sew around the whole circle than to sew, backstitch, sew over a tentacle, backstitch, cut your thread, trim the other thread, then do the next tentacle… over and over and over for each tentacle. If you’re doing this without a machine, just hand sew each tentacle into place with a few small stitches.
10) Now take a needle and thread (probably you want thread in the same colour as the large circle), and tie a nice big knot (several knots one on top of each other, actually) in the thread. Felt is quite porous, so you need a big knot in order for it to hold.
Start anywhere along the edge of the circle. Make large stitches all the way around the edge of the circle, and by large I mean each stitch should be anywhere from 3/8 to 1/2 an inch long.
11) Once you’ve sewing all the way around the circle, do not knot or cut the thread. Instead, pull gently but firmly on it, and the large circle will start to close up.
12) Grab some stuffing and push it into the circle. Then pull the thread more to pull the felt circle tight around the stuffing. Add more stuffing if needed.
13) Pull the thread nice and tight, while squeezing the stuffed felt circle closed with the other hand. Then knot the thread 2-3 times and trim the extra. There will be a small opening still on the underside of the jellyfish, with some stuffing visible in it. That’s fine. You can only see it from underneath anyway. If you want you can stitch across the opening a couple times before knotting the thread, but it’s not necessary.
14) Now you have a jellyfish! Stitch or glue on some beads or buttons or felt circles for eyes. Little tip: when I use googly eyes on stuff like this, I actually cut a felt circle the size of each googly eye or slightly smaller. I sew those circles on where I want the eyes to go, then I glue the eyes to them. This just means that if the googly eyes come off or get squished or break, I can unstitch the felt circles they were on and put on new ones, or attach something else as eyes. It keeps me from having to put glue on the actual constructed creature, which I am usually loathe to do.
15) To put a little string through the top to hang the jellyfish up, thread your needle, poke it through the top of the jellyfish and only pull the thread about halfway through. Then cut the needle off and knot the to ends of the thread together.