Good Design In Soft Toys

12 Jan

Need a good design book for making soft toys?    

For anyone beginning or already a soft toy designer who feels they may need some direction, I would definitely recommend the book – – – Good Design In Soft Toys by Rudi de Sarigny (otherwise known as Baroness de Sarigny; and not a man as the name Rudi implies).

I borrowed this book (published in 1971)  from the library and would sometime like to purchase a copy for myself.  It’s an oldy but a goody…I wonder: are there any modern books on soft toy design that rival these vintage beauties?

Old versus New

Certainly today’s soft toy books are wildly imaginative even to the exteme and distasteful, but nevertheless they can be more fun, not so serious and forbidding as most of their older “counterparts”: I think a beginner might be put off toy making if they first read a book with a serious method of soft toy making with rigid patterns / instructions, whereas is more likely to feel that with the modern, easy going books, “yes, I can do this too!”  I see that a fun, relaxed approach to soft toy making is essential.  You learn all kinds of things anyway (as with anything in life) as you go along.  We all makes make mistakes as we make our own experiences.

The blurb reads

Contains a detailed examination of the principles underlying the designing of soft toys plus a carefully researched selection of toys designed for several different age groups. 

Copying ready made patterns becomes both dull and unimaginative  after a time {My notes: I absolutely agree on that point!  Have a look at today’s trendy soft toy books such as “Plush You” and “Softies” to see what modern designers come out with 😛 } and the author believes that every toymaker, sooner or later, will want to launch out on her own – even if it is only to adapt the pattern slightly or add her own trimmings.  The first section of the book, therefore, explains the method of designing by taking four toys – a profile horse, a more advanced horse, a sitting puppy and a doll –  through all the stages of design from drawing and making the elementary pattern, enlarging, if necessary, choosing the right materials to stuffing, wiring and trimming.  There is also a useful section on adapting existing patterns into other toys. 

The second section of the book contains full size traceable patterns for thirty soft toys from pram toys and floppy dolls for the babies to more sophisticated toys like the camel, elephant and circus clown for older children or for exhibition work.

Rudi de Sarigny

I could not find via the net any current information on the author, so I don’t know whether she is still living; I will mention her in the present tense anway although I do not believe her to be flying every weekend in her later years! 

Mentioned in this book:  Rudi trained in Vienna, then gained working experience in Britain, working for a leading soft toy company, as a freelancer, teacher and lecturer.  Was on the panel of Women’s Institures Lecturers, she taught at the Royal College of Art, appeared on television, and regularly contributed to magazines.  She lives in Hertfordshire, where she taught at the College of Further Education.  Together with her pilot husband, Baron Derek de Sarigny, they used to take their own flying holidays abroad.  Rudi is fond of children and animals, especially dogs, “I never remember living without them” she says.

My Soft Toy Journey

Coming from a creative family – Grandad on dad’s side was a professional illustrator and signwriter (by hand in those days!), designer of an elaborate fairy wonderland theme park on the waterfront here, many years ago; Dad a screenprinter who founded and ran his own factory for 40 years; Mum, always interested in knitting, needlework and textile art – we were encouraged as children to create.  In the early 1980s when the modelling clay Fimo first came into being we were kneading away making creatures etc, and since the age of 19 I’ve made most of my greetings cards for family and friends before cardmaking was “in”.  It just felt more personal and right to give such gifts.  Though my favourite mediums were firstly drawing and writing, and then music (piano and keyboard with fingered chords; composing, mixing own music on my old 12 track Teac!), later soft pastel painting…..sewing always seemed frightening: I felt too stupid to even try it!

X stitching (cross stitching) I later discovered, seemed relatively easy though.  I say relatively easy because it’s all too easy to misread x stitch charts, sewing too little or too many – or misplacing squares!  I suppose it was this medium within the broad scope of textile art that got my sewing bug started.  And several years on, I began making soft toys, slowly sewing by hand (I have only fairly recently acquired a modern sewing machine!) but spending 2 or 3 days, maybe more,  making a toy doesn’t seem like a chore: on the contrary, it relaxes me, eases anxiety, and lifts my spirits.  And if I can gift or sell one of them, all the better as this new creature has a loving home where it will make someone happy.   

Presently, it’s still soft toys and dressmaking.  I have to be careful not to engage in too many creative mediums otherwise projects don’t get completed and there is a strong need within me to see things through.  Being an artist I am somewhat chaotic, but at times I do need to reign it in for my sanity’s sake 😉

If YOU 😀 are into soft toy making, I would love to hear from you.  I hope you enjoyed my post (among others), and please realise your comments are gratefully received 🙂 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Good Design In Soft Toys by Rudi de Sarigny                                                                                                                                    published by Mills & Boon Ltd, ISBN 0 263 51396 3, 1971

Can be purchased second hand via various internet shops or from car boot sales, vintage fairs, or thrift / charity shops.    


3 Responses to “Good Design In Soft Toys”

  1. Leesa June 18, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    I found this book years ago in a library and on going back to makes some notes, found out the book was gone (sold in a library sell off of old books), I was devastated. Now thanks to the internet, I have found and am in the process of buying ‘How to make and design soft toys’ and have found out the author is female, as I always wondered. A baroness no less, amazing! A very intriguing story. thanks

    • Curvalicious June 19, 2010 at 10:37 am #

      Hi Leesa, I’m glad you enjoyed my article. It really is a beautiful book on soft toy design (one of the best I’ve come across so far). Good for you that you managed to come across another copy via the net…I would love to see any projects you make from it 🙂

  2. Curvalicious July 17, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    I’ve just bought this book off Ebay I’m so pleased! Cost just £1 and postage is fair too. 😀

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