I felt pretty vulnerable when I put that last post up, but I did not anticipate the warmth my Tangy and Rosie would receive! Thank you all for your kindness :)
Rosie was the second AC plush I made, and Tangy was the third. I can post some others another day, but for now I think I want to show what went into making one of these two.
The minky I used for their fur started off as white, so each color has been dyed using Rit Dyemore Synthetic: their base body colors, Tangy's leaves (there's a second one on the back of her head), Rosie's fringe, the pink blush, and even the gradients on the ears which I had to dip. When I dye, I don't use measurements and instead play it by ear, so sometimes my colors are just "good enough." (Rosie's blue could have been darker, for instance.)
I am really particular when it comes to making their faces! Because I love plushies that evoke a sense of life. This doesn't have to be through realism—just expression. I freehand draw the face, tighten the sketch on graph paper, then trace two copies: one to cut apart and use as a template, and the other to keep as reference when designing future AC plush faces. (It's helpful to have for placement and scaling of the features: in case I want to make one with eyes as wide as Rosie’s, or as far apart as Tangy’s...etc.)
I then use the cut-up template to draw the face on the back of the fabric.
The face is made of felt appliqué and hand-embroidered details. I start with the appliqué, sewing stiffened felt onto the minky. Then I embroider the lines, which are done using a split-stitch, doubled layered to create thickness. And I couldn’t forget Tangy’s freckles! Those were satin-stitched to make sure they appear recessed.
This picture is a little horrifying! But it shows the back of the embroidery. I used a water soluble marker to draw the face on here. That way, it didn't leave any permanent marks on the finished plushie.
Here I'm about to sew the face to the rest of the head, using nami nui! Which really is just a running stitch. It’s what I learned from my mom, who learned it from my grandmother. Additionally, nami nui is a foundational stitch for hand sewing in Japan: sashiko is a type of embroidery that is made of nami nui; boro involves repurposing old and worn textiles using nami nui; and traditionally, kimono were sewn using nami nui. It is a stitch like a wave: up, down, up, down; consistent, even, and repeating in one steady direction.
A side note: for some reason, my mom never taught me to use a regular knot. I only learned French knots! Which meant that there were many years of her tying off my stitches for me before I finally mastered it myself. I've since learned simpler knots, but...old habits die hard!
I modified my head pattern here, because the previous plushie’s (Rosie’s) head came out too wide. So Tangy has a head that’s more proportional to her face. Additionally, I changed the pile direction for the side of the head, to go downward as opposed to toward the face (as it did with Rosie). This amounts to a more seamless (lol) transition between the face piece and the sides. I would continue to alter my strategies for future plush: for instance, the next AC plush I made got embroidered paws on both arms and legs!
Tangy was a lot of fun at this stage. The silly little head got up to a lot of mischief.
The leaves were made much like the face: drawn in the template, transferred to the fabric, put on an embroidery hoop, then split-stitch embroidered. Afterwards, they were sewn onto the head using a ladder stitch.
If you look closely, you can see a plant on the left in the background. That scraggly thing became the lush ivy that features in most of the plush pictures I’ve taken lately! It has really thrived since this photo.
The running stitch is a reliable hand stitch, but it is not the strongest one. So I make two accommodations to increase the strength of my seams. First, I work with my thread quadrupled over (passing both ends of the thread through the eye of the needle), and secondly, I keep my stitches very even, short and tight. The majority of my time goes to sewing these seams together.
Naturally, using a machine can drastically cut this working time down. I even had a sewing machine several feet away from where this picture was taken. But I wasn’t interested in using it, because my craft is not about efficiency or making a sellable plush. Ultimately, it’s not even about what I'm sewing. All that matters to me is how I'm sewing it, and that's by using the same stitch as my mom, grandma, and great-grandma.
Though I was born in Japan, I grew up in America and barely got to know my mom's family. This craft is one of the few threads that ties me to them. When these sewing motions and rhythms become second nature to me, I like to imagine it’s because their hands are guiding mine.
I would like to draw attention to the one freckle I embroidered on her body! I was delighted to discover that the character’s designers put a freckle there. That was a detail I knew I needed to add, even if it would always be hidden in the final plush.
And here is the finished Tangy, dressed and properly photographed! She ultimately took me 52 hours to complete. This dress was a nightmare to sew, as I was still very new to patterning clothing. But I pulled through somehow.
So that's how I made Tangy! I did edit this down to have at least a little chill, haha. But my sewing craft is so intrinsically tied to where I came from, what I've lost and my attempts to reconnect, that it's hard for me to separate these things from the process and end result, even when it’s something as simple as Animal Crossing plushies.