Stuffing for Toys explained | Comprehensive guide

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Choosing the right stuffing for toys is an important step in the toy making process, whether amateur or professional. It’s very often underestimated, as it is the last step in crafting the toy but believe me that choosing the right toy stuffing can make your plushie look and feel outstanding.

In this post I will provide a comprehensive overview of various materials you can use and explain certain characteristics of each option to help you make better decision. I will first go over synthetic options and then discuss ecofriendly toy stuffing alternatives.

Stuffing for Toys Guide by CottonNutty

Synthetic Toy Stuffing

Synthetic stuffing for toys is the most commonly used type. That is because it is:

  • widely available – you can basically get it everywhere, including local DIY stores and stationary sections of larger supermarkets;
  • it’s durable – synthetic toy stuffing will last for years, even if you exploit the toy heavily;
  • easy to use – it shapes pretty easily, and you shouldn’t have any problems with stuffing even the smallest parts of the toy;
  • relatively inexpensive – comparing to natural fiber options, synthetic toy stuffing is simply cheaper.

Interestingly, this is exactly same material as is used for filling pillows and duvets/quilts. Therefore, even synthetic stuffing can be hypoallergic and safe for children.

There are multiple options available on the market. Most popular include:

Polyester (aka Poly Fil)

This is my favorite synthetic toy stuffing. It looks and feels a little bit like cotton wool. Importantly, it’s squishy and washable therefore toys filled with this stuffing will last long. Additionally, Poly Fil is light, which in certain situations may be a deciding factor (e.g. toys for the little ones). Last but not least, you can get polyester stuffing with Oeko-Tex Certification, meaning that it doesn’t include 100 top most harmful substances and so it’s safe. I use Poly Fil quite often, for example for Crochet Bunnies project.

Silicone

Technically speaking, silicone toy stuffing is a fancy type of polyester, but I decided to list it separately as it looks and behaves slightly differently. First of all, you’ll see the difference at a first glance as silicone tends to form tiny balls. While I find it a little bit easier to use than the regular Poly Fil, the disadvantage of silicone is that it’s less elastic and doesn’t behave that well in washing (i.e., it doesn’t preserve shape that well). Again, you can get it Oeko-Tex certified.

Shredded Foam

Less known or used technique but can work phenomenally. I sometimes use it for any decorative amigurumis, which are intended to stand on a shelf. That is because foam is stiffer and so standing toys are more secure. Just note that you will need to commit a little bit more time and effort to stuff your toys with foam. Also, as a rule it’s not washable.

Beads

Polyester/plastic tiny spheres that are heavier and work well as stabilizer. I used it once or twice for my project, especially for feet/leg areas as it’s heaver and it helps the toy stand straight. It’s a good option if combined with other toy stuffing options. Bear in mind though that beads can be hazardous to small children and individuals with certain types of disabilities so be careful with using them. Beads are not washable.


Ecofriendly Stuffing for Toys

You can remain ecofriendly when it comes to choosing toy stuffing in two ways – either by choosing natural fibers and materials, or by recycling/reusing synthetic (or natural) stuff.


Natural Toy Stuffing Materials

In general, natural materials are more expensive, a bit heavier and slightly more difficult to work with when compared to synthetics. However, they are typically more skin friendly and definitely eco. Just bear in mind that you may want to dig into a little bit more details regarding cultivation. Plant fiber, which comes from crops sprayed with pesticides and herbicides may not be that safe after all.

There are plenty of options here:

Raw Cotton

Plant fiber, washable and a little bit heavy. Note that raw cotton isn’t plain white but it can contain little dark impurities, which are essentially parts of the plant itself.

Kapok

Plant fiber as well, slightly similar to raw cotton. It comes from Ceiba tree, mainly from Indonesia. It’s a very interesting material, which was commonly used prior to ‘synthetic era’ kicking in. Kapok is water resistant and highly flammable, so you may want to be careful.

Raw Wool

Lamb, sheep, alpaca, any other. It’s an animal fiber, which works very well and feels very cozy, unless you are allergic. Raw wool is the very same material you can use for felting, therefore I wouldn’t recommend washing to be honest.

Buckwheat

This is an interesting one and has gained popularity over the past few years. Essentially those are dried buckwheat hulls (little shells that surround the seeds), which are hypoallergenic and safe. Traditionally, buckwheat is used to stuff yoga pillows but can also be used for toys. To be honest I have never used it myself and so it’s hard for me to tell how this would behave. One thing I know for sure – it’s not washable 😊

Goose Feathers

Yup! You can use it as a toy stuffing material, although to be honest it’s not my favorite solution. Goose feathers are difficult to use and not washable in a traditional way (i.e. you need to use dry cleaning services). It may work well though in retro type projects for sewn toys.

Sawdust

Really old-school way to stuff a toy. Again, I wouldn’t use sawdust on a daily basis, but it may come out fantastic when used for retro projects. Similar to goose feathers, it’s very difficult to keep it clean and may be a bit hard to use. Lastly, a bit of advice – should you decide to try out this option get the one that is not shredded too much (i.e. not the ‘wood flour’ type but something thicker).

Here one note: I get a lot of questions about using grains (such as rice) or dried beans as a toy stuffing material. My own advice – don’t do it unless you really know what to do. If you don’t treat those grains correctly then there is a chance of attracting all sorts of vermin or creepy-crawlies. While it may seem like a viable option believe me you don’t want to risk it, especially around children.


Recycling for toy stuffing

This is my favorite ecofriendly method for toy stuffing as it lets me kill two birds with one stone. I create something new while getting rid of old and worn-out items.

You can do it in two ways:

  • Reuse what you have at home – towels, blankets, t shirts, socks, tights, sweaters, scrap yarn… sky is the limit! Just wash those items first and then cut them into small pieces to make it easier to work with. Another option is to reuse old pillow or toy stuffing. Additionally, you can use plastic shopping bags and shred them too. One thing about this though – the toy may crackle a bit 😉

Psst: If you purchase an item from this post, I may receive a small cut. There is no extra cost to you and it helps me keep creating free content and patterns. Thank you for your support! Note that each item and price is up to date at the time of publication; however, an item may be sold out or the price may be different at a later date.


As you can see there are plenty of options to choose from when deciding what to use as a stuffing for toys. I really want to stress out that there is no right or wrong decision (now I’m running a risk of being hated by angry environmentalists!).

From my experience, decision as to what to use depends on a project type, the goal you want to achieve and the toy recipient. I would use different type of material for making a rattle for a baby, and a different type for making an old-school teddy bear for my grown-up friend without allergies. Bottom line is that there is a wide variety of alternatives out there and you can experiment with various options yourself to see what works well for you!

I really hope you find this information useful. As always, if you have any questions shoot me a note at cogito@cottonnutty.com or leave a comment below!

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30 thoughts on “Stuffing for Toys explained | Comprehensive guide”

  1. The overall article is excellent covering all types of toy stuffing materials with pro and con of usage. The plus point of your article is knowing every material very well and taking care the allergic of the user.

    The article is very useful to the beginner to choose the right toy stuffing material. It is a great idea to pursue using the recycle material for toy stuffing. Although I have never done any toy making, I like to buy toys for my children especially the big terry bear. Like you have mentioned in your article, choosing the right toy stuffing can make the best plushie look and feel outstanding.

    Reply
  2. Actually goose feather is one of my family’s favourite materials. It’s just that sometimes even the soft calamus can poke through the stuffed toy and it feels really therapeutic for me to pluck it out (not that I want you to do the same!). As for synthetic materials, I really like polyester as it feels the softest of all the materials above for me! 

    Reply
  3. Wow! This is really an eye opener! i didn’t realize that there were so many different fibres and materials used in stuffing toys. I always wondered why some stuffed toys lasted longer than others. I really like the idea of recycling. So much of unwanted toys go into landfill unnecessarily when they can be recycled. Do you know if recycling is practised very much?This has truly been informative.

    Reply
    • Hi Lydia! Fortunately it’s getting more and more popular.. But overall I would say it’s still a fraction of the market..

      Reply

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