Making knitted toys is different from making knitted garments and accessories, in some ways. While you'll use the same skills and techniques to knit the pieces of a toy, to finish it you have to sew, stuff, and then assemble it to make a three-dimensional finished item that's ready to cuddle.
I shared some common seam types, and how to sew them, in this earlier post. In this tutorial, I'm going to show you how to gather together a cast-on edge to make a rounded end to a toy piece. I use this technique often on my toys' feet, arms, and heads, so you'll find it helpful if you're planning to make a few toys. This tutorial will also show you some basics on how to sew up the rest of the toy piece, then secure the yarn ends after you've finished stuffing it. I'll demonstrate these techniques on a simple toy leg with a small foot, but they're applicable to many other pieces that make up my toys.
Here is the knitted toy leg, which has been blocked to clean it and smooth out the stitching. I will use the yarn-ends left from knitting the pieces to sew the seams, with a blunt-tipped tapestry needle. (If your yarn-ends are too short, you'll have to add a length of yarn for sewing). If the yarn you used to make your toy is very textured or tends to fray, you may want to use a smoother/stronger yarn in a matching colour for sewing the seams.
Here is the cast-on edge of the leg. I used a long-tail cast-on method, because I find it makes a smooth edge with loops that are easy to pick up. Other cast-on methods will look different, but will also work for this technique. Thread the yarn-end onto the tapestry needle.
Starting from the side opposite to where your yarn is attached, insert the tapestry needle under each loop of the cast-on edge. Make sure you go through each loop in the same direction. Here I've gone from back to front, because that's easiest, given how the loops are lying.
Insert the needle through all the stitches of the cast-on edge.
Pull the yarn-end through the loops of the cast-on edge, gathering them together.
Keep pulling on your yarn-end until the cast-on edge is gathered tightly together.
Now that the bottom of the foot is closed, you can begin to sew the seam up the back of the leg. Thread the sewing yarn to the right-side of the piece, then join the seam edges using mattress stitch.
Sew the leg seam about 1/3 of its length, stopping around the ankle area. Remove the needle, but leave the yarn-end for now.
Next, put the needle onto the yarn-end attached to the top of the leg (where you gathered together the last row of stitches). After threading the sewing yarn to the right-side of the fabric, join the seam edges with mattress stitch.
Sew the leg seam 1/3 of the length from the top of the leg, leaving a gap large enough to add stuffing. Next, stuff the piece, making sure to shape the foot and leg as you add bits of stuffing.
Here you can see how the leg looks when it's been stuffed and shaped. The foot is plump and round, and the leg is filled firmly, but not so much that the stuffing shows through the knitted fabric.
Working down from the top of the leg, sew the seam closed. The yarn-ends are tied with a simple over-hand knot, to keep the stitches from pulling loose as you secure the yarn-ends.
To secure the yarn-ends, weave them through the stuffed piece. Start by inserting the needle at the same spot the yarn-end is attached to the seam. Have the needle exit the piece on the opposite side, making sure the needle doesn't catch any yarn strands.
Pull the yarn-end all the way through, but not so much that the fabric puckers where you started. Again, insert the needle at the exact spot the yarn-end exits the fabric, coming out on the opposite side of the piece. Always make sure your needle does not catch any yarn strands.
Repeat the last step once more, so you've passed the yarn through the toy piece 3 times. I find this is enough to hold the yarn-end secure, unless the yarn is very slippery. (In that case, just repeat 1-2 more times).
Cut the yarn-end close to the surface of the knitted fabric.
Squish the foot once or twice, and the tip of the yarn-end will hide itself inside the piece. Now the yarn-end is secure, and hidden away!
Now you just need to use the same method to secure the other yarn-end, and the seam is complete. It's not quite perfect, but nearly invisible, and secure enough for lots of playing!
It's even cuter from the front! Now it just needs a few more pieces to be a finished toy...
I hope this tutorial has been helpful. If you have a question about anything here, please leave a comment or contact me.