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Did you know you can personalize a stuffed animal with embroidery? I recently saw stuffed bunnies with names on their ears selling on Etsy and thought wow, what a cute idea! Especially since I could embroider my own stuffed bunny with my embroidery machine for a fraction of the cost. Plus, I’m always searching for anything I can find to stick in my embroidery machine.
So, I set out to troubleshoot how to embroider a stuffed animal (specifically a bunny ear!) and then put together this tutorial. I now love embroidering bunny ears and feet and gifting them as a cute embroidered baby shower gift. They’re also great Easter gifts for little ones.
Interested in embroidering your own stuffed animal? Let me walk you through the process! I’ll be specifically showing you how to embroider a name on a bunny ear, but the process will apply to embroidering almost any stuffed animal.
Stuffed Animal Embroidery Supplies
Here’s the basic list of supplies that I used in this tutorial.
- Stuffed animal of your choice (my bunny was from Walmart.)
- Embroidery machine with the smallest hoop for the design size
- Stabilizer: cut-away or no-show mesh and water-soluble topping
- Needle: 75/11 embroidery needle
- Thread: machine embroidery thread (I prefer polyester, but there are many types of embroidery machine threads.)
- Temporary fabric adhesive, pins, or your preferred method of securing the stuffed animal to your stabilizer
- Embroidery design in your machine’s format (I like putting names or birth stats on the ears!)
Store-Bought vs Sewing Your Own Stuffed Animal
You have two options when it comes to embroidering your stuffed animal. First, if you plan to sew your bunny from scratch, you can embroider the specific piece of fabric before you assemble the animal. This is how many people embroider eyes and noses on stuffed animals they make.
If you want to embroider a store-bought stuffed animal, though, you need to rip the seams around the piece of fabric you want to embroider to isolate it. Either that or find a part of the animal that is flat enough for you to stitch through all the layers.
Parts of a stuffed animal that I’ve seen embroidered are ears of bunnies, bellies, and paw pads of the front or back paws. The options are endless, though, as long as you can get the fabric into a single layer or a thin multi-layer.
(There are also in-the-hoop stuffed animals you can make with just your embroidery machine. These are so fun to make. Check out my list of where to find ITH designs if you’re interested in learning more!)
Best Stabilizer for Stuffed Animal Embroidery
If you’re able to deconstruct your stuffed animal and thus have the back of the embroidery design inside the bunny ear, the best stabilizer is a no-show mesh cut-away stabilizer or just a regular cut-away stabilizer. These provide the best support for your embroidery design and withstand wear and tear better. A dense design may require an extra layer of stabilizer.
If you are planning to embroider on a bunny ear but aren’t able to take apart the ear, you won’t want a stabilizer showing on the back. In that case, I’d recommend trying a wash-away stabilizer (paper-like, not film) to see if you can get enough stabilization. I would recommend against tear-away as your first choice. It is VERY difficult to pick off from all the fluffy bunny fur!
Any stuffed animal with a fuzzy outer coating will need a layer of water-soluble topping on the front of the embroidery. This will keep your name or other embroidery design from sinking into the soft, fluffy fabric.
Adding a Basting Box for Better Stabilization of the Bunny Ear
A basting box is very helpful (but not necessary, of course) when you are embroidering a bunny ear! A basting box is a rectangular layer of long, removable stitches added before the design or name stitches out to hold the material in place. Some machines let you add a basting box on the interface of the machine, but often you’ll have to add one using your embroidery software. I have a tutorial about basting boxes and how to add one if you need more information! I’d recommend basting the perimeter of the design rather than the perimeter of the hoop, as this will be too large to catch your bunny’s ear completely.
Embroidering Thru the Ear vs Taking It Apart First
The most professional appearance of your embroidered Easter bunny is going to come from taking the ear apart before starting to embroider. This means using your seam ripper at the seam to break open the ear into a single layer of fabric. Make sure to make a big enough opening that you’ll be able to completely open the fabric to get the front part of the ear flat on your hoop.
When you’re done embroidering on the front of the ear, the stabilizer and the back of the embroidery will be on the inside of the ear when you reconstruct it. You will have to be able to sew (by machine or hand) the ear back together with this method. Either that or use fusible tape. This method is more time-consuming but does provide better results.
If you decide to embroider through the ear without taking it apart, keep a few things in mind to achieve the best results. First, use a thread in a similar color to the fluffy fur on the back of the ear. This will make the thread less noticeable on the back. Also, make sure to pin (out of the way of the needle) or secure the two layers of your ear together to keep them from moving around until you’re able to start embroidering. I do strongly recommend adding a basting box for this method to secure the layers during the stitching process.
How to Embroider Bunny Ears – Tutorial
Now, let’s get into the step-by-step process of how I embroidered my bunny’s ears!
Marking Your Ear
First, you need to decide where on the stuffed animal you want your design to stitch out. Mark the center of this location on the bunny’s fur. I prefer a water-soluble marking pen for light-colored fabrics. If you aren’t sure of the placement, you can print a sample using basic embroidery software to cut out the design to visualize it. I also thought it was easier to mark the ear before I used my seam ripper to open it up.
Floating vs Hooping the Bunny Ear
Since the part of the stuffed bunny I embroidered on was not large enough to hoop, I needed to float it. To float your ear, first, hoop one layer of no-show mesh stabilizer and marked the center with a pencil.
Next, spray a light layer of Odif 505 temporary fabric adhesive (or your preferred brand) on the stabilizer. It is then easy to line up the marks on the ear with the lines on the stabilizer. Make sure you’re orienting your bunny’s head in a direction that’s going to fit best in your embroidery machine. If you don’t feel like you have a secure attachment, pin around the very edge of the ear. Be careful you won’t accidentally stitch over these pins!
The next thing you’ll want to do is place a layer of water-soluble stabilizer on the top of the bunny ear. Dabbing a little water on the sides or adding some Odif 505 to the corners will help secure it.
Starting to Embroider the Bunny Ear
Place the hoop into your embroidery machine, and snap it onto your embroidery arm. Review the orientation of the bunny ear, and double-check that your design doesn’t need rotating. Also, make sure only one layer of fabric will be stitched and that you have the correct thread and needle in place.
If you used a basting box, this will stitch out first. In addition to holding your topper onto the ear and stabilizing the fabric, it will also preview your design placement. If your basting box does not stitch out where you want it to, try again!
Once you are satisfied with your basting stitch placement, go ahead and finish the rest of your embroidery design!
Remove the stabilizer from the hoop to release the ear. If you used a basting box, remove this first. I use a seam ripper every few stitches on the top and then pull the bobbin thread out in one long piece from the bottom.
Then, I use a lint roller to get the little top threads off and pick the stubborn residual ones off with my fingers. I also tear off what I can of the water-soluble stabilizer from the front of the stuffed bunny ear.
Then, trim the no-show mesh stabilizer with your favorite scissors. I love my duckbill applique scissors for this!
Lastly, run the ear under water to remove the water-soluble pen and the rest of the stabilizer.
Once the ear has dried, it’s time to put it back together!
For this bunny ear, I sewed it back with my sewing machine and then finished with hand-stitching. To do this, start with the right sides together and sew along the seam line you ripped. Then, flip the ear back right sides out and finish the small opening with a hand stitch. You could continue to sew the ear closed with your sewing machine, trying to camouflage the stitch in the fuzz of the ear if you’d prefer.
If you don’t have a sewing machine, you can use iron-on tape! I love this stuff, especially when sewing hems. This method involves placing one strip of tape around the ear and fusing it with an iron. Make sure to use a pressing cloth to keep from hurting your bunny’s delicate fabric, though!
And that’s it! I hope this tutorial has taught you how to embroider bunny ears so you can get started making fun Easter and baby gifts. Happy embroidering!