Meet the newest addition to the family: Appa! Now, I don’ normally introduce you guys to every inanimate object that comes into my life, but Appa is bigger than 2/3rds of the living beings in our home and has a bigger head than anyone so introductions seemed appropriate.
Plus, I made him!
For the record, I am in no way, shape or form an expert on making plushies, giant or otherwise, but I did make this guy and he’s a relatively solid and adorable specimen so I thought I’d share! I’m sure you can also tell that I’m not in practice of photographing plushies either! Oh well, at least there are pictures!
So you may be thinking, “Why do you need this?” or “Why so huge?” or maybe even “What is it??” and so here are some answers. Appa is a flying sky bison from the tv show Avatar: the Last Airbender. He’s huge and cuddly and pretty much just the best. Ben hadn’t seen the show until just a couple years ago but now he’s a huge fan and I can’t blame him. I haven’t even seen every episode but I can still attest to the fact that the show is excellent with some very memorable characters. Over a year ago, Ben started wishing he had a giant Appa plushie. For what purpose, I’m still not entirely sure, but, let’s be honest, the purpose kind of seems irrelevant. Anyway, we looked online for an Appa but just couldn’t find anything big enough. Which is when Ben turned to me and asked me if I could sew him one.
Now, I’m still learning about where my lines are with sewing stuff for other people but Ben is usually someone I’m happy to sew stuff for. However, we’ve both learned that my motto is “I’ll get to it when I get to it!” meaning it could be awhile. And that was definitely the case here. I found a pattern, sewed some small sample versions to learn the process (and the girls really felt like they needed baby Appas), bought all the supplies and then just left everything like that for about a year. But now we have a big Appa so what’s a year long wait anyway?
Anyway, my biggest hang up was something really silly: printing the pattern! For whatever reason this was the hurdle that just seemed like it was going to be too much. And for someone like me who seems to be just barely making it by with my technological skills, it may very well have been too much. I attempted to print it a few times but always ran into some sort of snag. But a few weeks ago when I walked into my laundry room and saw that blasted box of stuffing for the millionth time I decided to finally get this project done once and for all! I asked Ben to help with the printing. And he did! And it was magical because he got it set up and printing correctly within a matter of seconds. So maybe I should blame the year long wait on him. (Just kidding).
Anyway, I probably need to rewind and talk a bit about the pattern. The pattern I used is this Appa plush pattern from Choly Knight of Sew Desu Ne?. The pattern is FREE and it is AMAZING. When it comes to using free patterns, I try to go into it with pretty low expectations. There are some really awesome free patterns out there but for every good free patterns there’s probably like a dozen that are seriously wanting (read: they are garbage). So I was pleasantly surprised, when I tested the pattern using the size “Medium” Appa, at how great the pattern was! Everything is proportional, notches line up (there are notches!), and instructions are thorough (even a newbie like me had success!). For our big Appa we increased the pattern size by 250% and doing so gave me absolutely no pattern issues! It’s a great pattern and I’m willing to bet that all her patterns have the same level of high quality!
There is a tutorial for how to enlarge or reduce a pattern size and the golden ticket to success was opening up the file in Adobe (thanks, husband!). Again, we enlarged the pattern by 250% and I didn’t realize it when we hit print but printing it at that size used well over 100 pieces of paper and lots and lots of taping. Essentially, every paper it would have printed at normal scale turned into 8 pieces of paper so it was a lot. I could have/should have taken out the pages that printed the bangs pattern piece because I didn’t need them. I forgot to omit them from printing but I did notice in time to not spend time taping them together. Assembling that huge of a pattern did take some time and I had to do it on the floor since my table is just average size.
So for my fabric, I bought from a couple different places. If you look at Choly’s Appas, her biggest one has the most glorious, shaggy faux fur. And if you look through the comments of that post, she lists a lot of the fabrics she used for her Appas, including the fur and obviously we needed that same fur for our Appa. It, along with the dark brown and the light tan, are Shannon minky that I bought on Fabric.com. Shannon minky I guess is supposed to be a higher quality minky and I’m no minky expert, but the stuff I bought seems to be top notch. No complaints here. The shag especially is insanely soft and so pretty! I got the two gray minky fabrics, as well as some fusible web, from Joann (which was nice because I bought the exact amount I needed). And for the eyes I just used what I had in my stash. A couple years ago I got a big box of thread when Ben’s grandma was cleaning out her house and it has just continued to serve me. For thread I just used what I had in my (slash Ben’s great grandma’s) stash and though it may not have matched perfectly it did match good enough! She also had a couple of upholstery weight threads that proved to be very useful for attaching the horns, muzzle and nose.
Cutting out the fabric was a bit of a joke. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever worked with faux fur before but it gets everywhere. I’m still finding fur fluffs in corners of my sewing space, and I suspect I will for a while yet. I would suggest cutting your pattern pieces from the smooth back side of the fur/minky because it makes it a lot easier. Again, my table is just a regular sized dining table and I chose to lay all but the smallest pieces on the floor to cut everything out. My rotary cutter wasn’t working well on the fur so I ended up using my sharpest pair of scissors. There are lots of pieces to cut out and working with such a fussy fabric it took me so long to cut everything out, probably a few hours! I did it in a couple different sessions.
I got 2 1/2 yards of the faux fur and was disappointed when I was able to cut out everything but one of the legs! Arrrgh!!! And Ben didn’t want a five legged Appa, darn it. Fabric.com was all out of the shag and I found a couple listings online but luckily I measured the pile before I ordered any because all I found online was 15mm pile and the one I bought has 30mm pile (it’s lush!). So I ended up cobbling probably six or seven scrap pieces together (keeping nap in mind!) to make a piece large enough from which I could cut a leg. It did not look great and I was wary but I’m happy to say that I can’t tell at all looking at the finished product so I’m glad I just made it work!
Once everything was cut I felt very motivated to get the thing sewn mostly so I could be done with all that fluff! There were several times during construction where I had to stop and laugh at the sheer size of things, like the legs taking up my entire ironing board above. One of the first things the instructions have you do is apply the applique using a fusible web. I will be honest and say that I just pulled out stuff I had on hand and the first thing I tried was heavy duty Wonder Under and it worked terribly! It works great on other things but it did not want to adhere to the fur or minky. So then I got out what the pattern calls for which is fusible web and it worked wonderfully! Following the pattern, who’d have thought??
I’d say there were two parts that gave me serious issues. The first was sewing the body together. You baste the stuffed legs and tail onto the back piece and then, right sides together, layer the tummy on top of it all. So all six legs plus the tail are stuffed inside while you’re trying to sew the perimeter and it was very difficult for me! I felt like I was wrestling some wild animal! Like, seriously: heart rate up and sweat beading down my face. I sewed every seam twice and this seam I sewed three time since it’s supporting so many appendages. And I can’t say that the second or third pass was any easier than the first, but I do think it’s pretty secure!
You’re supposed to keep a “small” opening on the back between the head and the body for stuffing and I ended up not sewing that particular seam at all because I was worried about turning it right side out with all those legs. I didn’t think they’d fit through a smaller hole! I just hand stitched it closed once everything was stuffed. When I got to the stuffing point, I paused and made the horns, nose and muzzle. Those all require stuffing and I didn’t want to run out by saving them for last. I actually used my kitchen scale to weight the legs and the horns to make sure they had even amounts of stuffing and once all those were stuffed to my liking I put the remainder of the poly-fil in Appa’s head and body. I bought a 10lb. box of stuffing and used every bit of it. And I probably could have used another pound even in the head and body but I just called it good. It’s definitely stuffed enough but it’s not dense or anything (if that’s your flavor).
There is a lot of hand sewing on this beast as you have to hand sew the stuffing opening as well as the muzzle, nose and horns. The horns were the other difficult part for me. There was no way to fixate the horns in place while sewing them. Pins and clips won’t do the job! Plus the head is so huge that it was difficult to find a good angle for holding the horn while simultaneously sewing it in place. I tried using double sided basting tape but it was just about as successful as the Wonder Under. I ended up getting painter’s tape and taping around the horn’s placement. It gave me an outline and helped prevent the horn from slipping out of place. It was still tricky, for sure, but significantly easier and the painter’s tape came off without making Appa bald.
Other sewing things: for the first time ever I bought and used clips instead of pins! I knew pins wouldn’t cut it here and I’m really glad I used clips! They were great with this fabric! I sewed every seam twice to (hopefully) make things more sturdy. I tried to push the fur out of the way when I sewed but after sewing each seam I stopped to gently tug the fur out of the seam (to help make the seams less noticeable). For applique and belly stripes, I used a zig zag stitch at about a 1.5 stitch length. I tried doing a smaller stitch length for more of a satin stitch but I didn’t think the results looked that different from one another so I went with the quicker one. While I was sewing the head to the body I thought that I should have increased his body size to make him more proportional but now I’d definitely say I like his giant head. My sister-in-law mentioned it’s a very “Funko Pop” look. It is! And I like it! The only thing I would change is to make his arrow stripe a darker color. Aaaaaand, yeah, that’s the sewing of Appa!
And I think he turned out pretty well! For the record, I did finish him in time for Ben’s birthday. It’s been a few weeks since I finished him and he’s held up pretty well (so far) to some rather rough playing. He’s deliciously cozy to lounge on, he provides an excellent landing pad for tumbles and jumps and he’s just so hilariously huge it seems like we can’t help but find him lounging in some very Homer-Simpson-esque poses. Was this sew necessary? No. But even so I don’t regret it! Freefloating fluff and all!
Pattern: Appa Plush pattern from Choly Knight
Size: Large, scaled up 250%
Fabric and cost: 2.5 yds Shannon Minkly Luxe Cuddle Frosted Shaggy Sand ($50)
1.5 yds Shannon Minky Solid Cuddle 3 Brown ($20)
1 yd Shannon Minky Luxe Cuddle Hide Champagne ($18)
Gray and dark gray minky from Joann ($15)
Fusible Web from Joann ($6)
10 lb. Box of Poly-Fil from Joann (can’t quite remember but I think about $40)
(the Shannon Minky I bought from fabric.com while they were having one of their 20% everything sales)
Would I make this pattern again?: Haha this question I think really means “is this a quality pattern that provided a fairly positive sewing experience?” I don’t know that I’ll sew this giant Appa again (I mean, never say never!) but the pattern is excellent!