Tag Archives: Horatio

AWT How To: A Duck in a Day

18 May

Hello there readers!

Before I launch into my first ever How To (exciting!), I thought I’d do a quick little catch up about the Jane Austen dress. This morning, I put the final stitch into the hem, and consider it finished! If the weather turns out to be nice tomorrow, I’ll get someone to take some pictures of me in said dress so that you can see what it looks like 🙂 I’m also going to write a more in-depth post about it later on, discussing what did and didn’t work, what I’d like to change, and what I’ve learned.

But back to the matter at hand: ducks, and how to make one 🙂

This endeavour has all been in aid of one of my friends, who is due to have her first baby at the end of this month. We don’t know whether Little One is a girl or a boy, so I wanted to make a present that is appealing and lovable to either gender….and who doesn’t love ducks?

I suppose you could call Horatio (I can’t help but name things!) a ‘primitive’ style duck, with his little oilcloth feet, stripy tummy and charming expression. He’s based on an Indian Runner duck, but has definitely got some kind of goosey genetic background, which has manifested itself in his beak. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It adds to his character.


Horatio and his slightly goosey beak

If you want to know how to make your own duck, and have a rainy day to kill, you can easily hand or machine sew a Horatio of your own in a few hours – read on to find out how!

Step 1: Colouring In

First things first: decide what you’re making. I like to do a couple of doodlings first, to decide what I want to create. This process is also very helpful in allowing you to work out seam placement, because you can draw your duck/duck-goose from lots of different angles to see where legs can be inserted, stuffing will be added (cotton stuffing, not sage) and shape can be given. Remember that your drawings are only in two dimensions, whereas Horatio will exist in three: again, taking the time to doodle and break your project down into component parts allows you to visualise how he will fit together.


Horatio in two dimensions. Note that I’ve drawn in the seam that runs down to his beak for reference.

I also like to use this stage to plan the combination of materials I’ll be using, to see what compliments or clashes, and importantly with Horatio, making sure there are lots of different textures for Little One to play with. My final fabric choices were:

  • Sunshine yellow cotton jersey, which is really really soft and snuggly
  • Bright orange oilcloth
  • Stripy blue and green cotton
  • Sage green baby cord
  • Orange cotton with stars in paler and lighter shades

The colours were a big consideration in Horatio’s design: I wanted to make sure he was gender neutral, but also avoid the usual pale, insipid colours used for baby toys. Babies love to play with interesting shapes, colours and textures, so I tried to incorporate as many of these as possible in one duck. And he’s only little.

Step 2: Cutting Out

Now you know what you want your duck to look like, it’s time to draft the pattern. My soft toy pattern drawing mantra is one part experience and nine parts sheer luck, and for the most part, things turn out how I want them to. My advice to anyone who doesn’t have my ‘talent’ for fluffing things along (it really is a case of hoping for the best most of the time!) is to keep some newspaper handy for making a mock-up of your pattern. Once you’ve managed to make your first pattern, you’ll start to understand how pieces fit together in 3D. This is why Step 1 is so important, because it seriously cuts down on time later if you are able to visualise a real world object on a flat piece of paper. You can see the shapes I used for Horatio below, to help give you an idea 🙂


Horatio in his component parts. Clockwise from top left: Neck and front tummy, under tummy, main body, wings, feet tops, leg backs, beak bottom, beak sides and feet bottoms

Then it’s simply a matter of pinning your pattern to your fabric, and doing some more snipping! Remember to cut out enough of each piece for different sides and fronts-and-backs…and to make sure the side of the fabric you want to show on the outside of your duck has been cut the right way round. I learned that the hard way!

Step 3: Easter Eggs

…by which I mean cool stuff. In this case, I really wanted Horatio to have ‘crinkly’ wings, like you might have on a baby toy in a shop. This was really easy to do! To get the crinkle into your toy, all you need is the outer wrapper from something like a packet of sweets – in this case, strawberry laces. Make sure you clean it thoroughly, and that there are not crumbs or sugary bits left inside. I rinsed mine out to make sure, and then let it dry thoroughly. The last thing we want is a mouldy duck.

Once you’ve got your wrapper prepared, simply cut it out like another pattern piece – I was putting the crinkle in the wings, so I cut out two more wing pieces from the wrapper, one for each wing. When you are assembling the crinkle ‘unit’, remember that the crinkle component has to end up on the inside. To do this, pin together the wing with right sides (what will be on the outside) facing together. Then just add the crinkle onto on side. It doesn’t get sandwiched in the middle of the two wing pieces – if this happens, your crinkle will be on the outside once you turn your seams in.


Crinkle placement: you can see the crinkle on the left, then the two wing pieces. They are facing cord sides together so that once they are sewn up and turned the right way out, the crinkle will ‘become’ the inside of the fabric and be hidden in the wing interior for scrunching

Now all you need to do is sew round two sides of the wing, leaving the short, straight edge open. Turn the wing the right way out by turning it ‘inside out’ (or is it outside in?) so that the crinkle and all the seams disappear. Whip stitch up the short side you pulled the wing through, and you’re done! Successful Easter Egg hiding has been achieved!

Step 4: Construct the Duck

This is the fun part. Gathering together all your pieces, pin them right sides together ( so that the side that will show on the outside will be on the inside), and stitch along the edge, leaving a seam allowance of about 1.5cm, or whatever feels comfortable. You can choose to do this step by hand or by machine. It’s entirely up to you. If you are doing this by hand, I recommend small back stitches to make sure that the body stays nice and tight with minimal holes for stuffing to come out or rips to happen.

The beak was put together and then inserted between the top of the neck and the end of the head, with the tip of the beak facing IN towards the body cavity. I sewed the legs in before attaching the front and bottom tummy to the rest of the body too, so that I could make sure they would face the right way when turned out. I then left a hole of about 6 cm diameter at the tip of the tail to turn the whole duck the right way out.

Step 5: Stuffing

Not the tasty, herby, breadcrumby concoction you have at Christmas, but toy stuffing. A bag of this fluff can be bought for between £3 and £5 in most craft shops and haberdasheries. You will always need more of this than you think, but remember this is a baby toy, so stuff your Horatio accordingly. In other words, don’t cram half the bag in, but keep him squashy yet sturdy – the consistency of a marshmallow is about right. Once you’re happy with the stuffing levels, use tiny whip stitches to close up the hole you left to pull him the right way out and put the stuffing in.

Step 6: Bring Horatio to Life

You should now have something that looks remarkably like a duck. But he still has no eyes!! Take a very light pencil or crayon, and LIGHTLY draw in where you’d like his eyes to be. Because Horatio’s a baby toy, I embroidered his eyes on, rather than using buttons or eyes that could fall out and be choked on.This is very easy to do using just a basic back stitch.

Et voila!

You have just successfully made your very own duck-goose-Horatio 🙂

Remember that part of the charm of handmade things are their imperfections: Horatio’s eyes aren’t quite level, he has a goose beak, and his feet are slightly odd sizes. But all these features give him character, and  character is what you want in a toy.

I shall leave you with a photo of Horatio’s little oilcloth feet, which I absolutely love.


Cutest little feet 🙂 I’m so pleased with them!

I hope this has been helpful for anyone who is looking to make their own squashy chum, and please feel free to share your experiences and ideas in the comments section below!

Good luck in your sewing endeavours until the next time,

The One With the Amazing Woman Talents