Stuffed dolls and animals are a child’s very first friends. Their squishy and cuddly feel make them excellent companions and comforters. But these soft inanimate objects are more than just kids’ playthings. Even adults can find solace from stuffed toys when dealing with stress, anxiety, grief, or loneliness.
What’s more, stuffed toys double up as decor, and the best part is that you can make them yourself at home. If you have a knit or sew stuffed toy pattern, you are probably here looking for answers to this one common question.
What can I use for stuffing toys? You can use a variety of materials for stuffing toys, including polyester fiber, cotton, wool, pellets, beads, scrap fabric, and more. When searching for the right stuffing for your toy, think about what kind of feel you’re looking for and how long you need it to last.
Your choice, however, depends on certain factors that we shall discuss shortly in this toy stuffing guide. Read on to find out more about the various types of stuffing and how to choose the right one for your toys.
How to Choose Toy Stuffing and What You Should Consider
Many people think that the stuffing material for toys simply comes down to a personal choice. However, there are several things to consider before you make a purchase to make sure you get your desired results.
Certain factors that influence your decision must be taken into consideration. The following 5 questions should guide you when choosing stuffing for toys.
1. Do You Prefer Natural or Synthetic Toy Stuffing?
You have two options when choosing toy stuffing, natural and synthetic. This is true whether buying commercial fillers or everyday items already in your home.
Synthetic toy stuffing is popular for many reasons including effortless machine washability, quick drying, availability in different weights, lower price, durability, resilience, and resistance to mold and mildew.
The greatest concern for some people regarding synthetic toy stuffing is its composition which is entirely petroleum-based, otherwise plastic.
On the flip side, most of this toy stuffing is manufactured from recycled plastic. This is a commendable step towards lowering the harmful impact of the plastic, had it ended up in the ocean or landfill.
So when choosing synthetic toy stuffing, ensure it is made from recycled plastic and is non-toxic, which means there’s no off-gassing post-production or hazardous chemicals when washed.
While synthetic toy stuffing makes fantastic stuffed dolls and animals, it may not appeal to anyone whose gone green. If you prefer natural, biodegradable, and renewable stuffing material for your crafts, then try the natural options from plant and animal fibers.
These are equally fluffy and plush but have a higher price tag due to the increased production cost and tremendous benefit of being environmentally safe. Some natural toy stuffing is organic and vegan, though not always.
2. Is Your Stuffed Toy Meant for Kids or Adults?
Another consideration to make before stuffing toys is the age of the intended user. All toys should be generally safe regardless of the user.
However, babies’ and kids’ stuffed toys require special attention. We all know how these tiny humans are oblivious of the many dangers lurking around them, even those that are obvious to adults.
You want to avoid stuffing toys with a potential choking hazard, like beads, seeds, or plastic pellets. That’s because kids are always putting stuff in their mouths, and the toy may tear.
In the same light, you want to ensure that the toy stuffing is easy to clean, and trust us, stuffed toys can get dirty pretty quickly. You’ll want to constantly prevent the spread of germs and bacteria from entering the body through the mouth by frequent cleaning.
Also, babies tend to drool a lot, leaving saliva on stuffed toys. Therefore, anything that rots or molds when in contact with moisture is not a good choice.
The weight of the toy stuffing is critical as well. Baby toys must be super light so they don’t turn out overwhelming and cumbersome to lift and move around without needing assistance.
It is ok for adult toys to be heavy because they can lift them. Furthermore, adults spend most of the time sitting or laying with the toys somewhere and not really playing with them. They’re often meant for comfort or decoration rather than involved play.
If you’d like to make a standing or sitting doll or animal, with things like floppy arms, you will also need to incorporate heavy toy stuffing in the right places.
3. What Finished Results Do You Anticipate?
When making a stuffed toy, you already have an idea of what you would like the finished texture or feel to be. Different stuffing will produce varied results when pressure is applied.
For an even, lightweight, and squidgy kind of stuffed toy, go for synthetic fibers like polyester. Natural fibers have a denser yet soft feel. Wool and cotton are the best toy stuffing for dolls. They are denser than polyfill and pack tighter, making firm-bodied dolls.
Perhaps, if you are after that good shifty feeling of beans in a bag, go with micro-bead-like stuffing. When stuffed to the right capacity, they make flexible stuffed toys that conform to desired positions when cuddled or resting on the owner’s body. But if dolls stuffed this way tear, you’ll have a huge mess on your hands.
4. What’s Your Budget?
The cost of toy stuffing is another factor you might want to pay attention to, particularly if working on a large toy or multiple toys. The price range is quite diverse, with the likes of wool being in the top tier.
Synthetic toy stuffing is generally cheaper than natural options and, therefore, the best choice for bulk crafting without blowing your budget. But if price is not an issue, then by all means, go for the luxurious natural fibers.
The most cost-effective way of creating stuffed toys is using waste as alternatives to commercial toy stuffing. Things like paper and scrap fabric won’t cost you a penny and are ideal for practice or anyone strapped for cash.
However, toys stuffed with these waste alternatives cannot match up to commercial stuffing in texture and durability. If you are aiming for a refined-looking, high-quality, professionally made stuffed toy, you are better off spending a bit more on toy stuffing.
The quantity you need also matters, as it affects the overall cost. You’ll get more volume with one type of toy stuffing and less with another of the same weight. A good comparison is one pound of polyfill and one pound of steel pellets. The latter is smaller in volume than the former despite weighing the same.
So, you can fill up space quickly with polyfill than the same amount of steel pellets. This essentially means you’ll get more out of polyfill by weight and spend less.
Types of Toy Stuffing
You might be familiar with one or two materials for stuffing toys, either from recommendations or what you’ve seen before in other stuffed toys. Nonetheless, the most common material is not necessarily the most suitable for all stuffed toys.
Polyfil fiber is the most popular toy stuffing, but there are other fillers, each with distinct properties. You might think it doesn’t matter which one you choose, but stuffed toys are not created equal.
You’ll find that some are soft while others appear stiff. Some will stand on their own, and others are just wobbly. Some are soft and huggable, while others are thin and floppy. It is all in the choice of stuffing.
Therefore, having an in-depth understanding of the variety is critical if you want to find the best fit for your stuffed toys. Speaking of variety, it is incredibly vast; you’ll be spoilt for choice. And you can even combine materials if, say, you want a soft-bodied toy with weighted limbs.
Here are a few of the best stuffings you can choose from.
1. Polyester Fiberfill
This is the most accessible toy stuffing familiar to many and prioritized by most. And why not? It is soft and lightweight, which are both excellent properties for stuffing baby toys.
The synthetic fiber provides a good puff and evenness in shape, making it the best stuffing for amigurumi, stuffed dolls, puppets, stuffed animals, and pretty much any stuffed toy.
Polyester fiberfill is also machine washable. You can throw the stuffed toys into the washing machine and dryer for effortless cleaning. What’s more, this type of stuffing is generally inexpensive. It is pocket-friendly when making stuffed toys in bulk or large-sized toys.
Polyfill, as it is popularly known, is also treated to keep mold, mildew, and dust at bay. My favorite Poly-fil is this one.
2. Shredded Memory Foam
Shredded memory foam is another popular synthetic toy stuffing alternative. It is equally soft but loved most for its ability to hold and maintain shape.
Shredded memory foam is durable. It doesn’t crunch and stays bouncy for very long. Toys made from shredded memory foam are machine washable and can be tumbled dry on gentle cycles.
Notwithstanding, frequent washing deteriorates its cushioning properties, eventually altering the loft and shape of the stuffed toy.
My favorite shredded memory foam is this one.
Pellets are tiny, lightweight beads usually made from polystyrene or other types of recycled plastic but not exclusively.
There are heavier pellets made from glass, if you’d like to add moderate weight to your toys, and steel pellets which are the heaviest of the three.
This type of stuffing is far different from the other synthetic toy stuffing fibers in the final texture of the toy as well as weight since they are denser. These Poly-Pellets are my favorite.
Consequently, pellets are the best toy stuffing for weighted toys that can rest in a particular pose. Placed cleverly in legs, hands, or at the base (bottom), it helps crafters make dolls and animals with a bit more character and stability.
Pellets are machine-washable, and it is a parent’s joy when stuffed toys are super easy to clean.
Unfortunately, the microbeads can wiggle through the holes in a knit or amigurumi toy. You end up losing them gradually, or a substantial amount if the fabric suddenly gets slit, ripped, or the seams break free.
The best way around this is to first put the pellets in an old stocking, pouch, or sleeve made from muslin, quilt fabric, or other sheer fabric secured tightly before stuffing the toy.
Nevertheless, pellets are not recommended for stuffing toys for kids under the age of three. Given how they put everything in their mouth, the microbeads are a potential choking hazard besides being inedible material.
Because the pellets are so small, they can easily pop out through loose stitches or torn seams on the toy into the child’s mouth. Furthermore, being heavy, the weight puts undue stress on seams that they budge.
If you opt for pellets, ensure the seams are tightly woven and the stitches closely knit. And to prevent the stuffed toy from being too rigid and heavy, do not overstuff it.
4. Wool Batts
Wool makes natural, plush, and durable toy stuffing. It is naturally fire retardant, which is a nice quality to have in toys. You can choose between carded and uncarded batts. The former is lighter and fluffier.
The main disadvantage of wool stuffed toys is that they cannot be laundered by machine as heat shrinks its fibers, altering evenness and bounce.
Some wool batting may come with a smell that other people find off-putting.
It is also an animal-based fiber from lambs which is a major deal-breaker for vegan crafters. Still, it remains a popular toy stuffing choice for many. I really like this wool batting.
Believe it or not, bamboo fiber is one of the safest stuffings for toys. It is organic, hypoallergenic, and has antimicrobial properties. You do not have to worry about the toys harboring harmful bacteria with normal cleaning cycles.
Its fibers are soft yet durable and wash in the machine without any problems. You can also tumble dry.
100% natural bamboo costs much more than other stuffing, but it’s worth the price because it is a safer and biodegradable option.
However, most of what you will find is often mixed with polyester or other fibers to make it affordable. These added materials by alter the biodegradable property of bamboo fiber.
Another similar fiber to bamboo is kapok. I really like this kapok stuffing.
Cotton is likely what comes to mind first when you think of natural toy stuffing options. The vegetable fiber is soft, fluffy, hypoallergenic, and vegan. It’s not as bouncy as polyfill and a bit denser too.
My favorite cotton batting is this one.
The best thing about cotton stuffed toys is, like polyfill fiber, it can be thrown in a washing machine and dryer without ruining it.
However, it does take significantly longer to dry. If not dried properly to the core, the cotton is easily attacked by mildew and mold.
Also, cotton has a medium puff and over time becomes flat and hard, and takes on a different shape. When shopping, ensure that the cotton is already preshrunk.
Fantastic Alternatives for Toy Stuffing.
Sometimes you could be working with limited funds. Or maybe you just like the idea of frugal crafting. Therefore you’ll be looking for everyday things you can use in place of the earlier mentioned toy stuffing or as a supplement.
Experienced crafters put these in the middle and then cleverly fill out the surrounding edges with polyfill, wool, or other fibers.
1. Scrap Fabric and Rugs
Scrap fabric can be bought cheaply or sought from your local dressmaker. You could have some stashed from previous crafts, or even make your own from worn-out clothing, bedding, curtains, etc. These have to be chopped into tiny pieces to maintain evenness when stuffed.
2. Old Socks and Stockings
Old stockings and socks make incredible toy stuffing since they are elastic and squishy when crammed together. They take after any form easily and evenly and don’t shrink or flatten. And, they are washable too. Opt for woolen, nylon, spandex, and elastane fabrics.
You can use different kinds of paper as filler for your stuffed toys such as tissue or old newspaper. These are readily available but come with a couple of shortcomings. Paper is not the easiest material to shape as desired, and your stuffed toys may lack that smooth puff. The texture is not fluffy either.
Furthermore, water and paper are not good friends. So, you could never wash paper stuffed toys by hand or machine except spot cleaning the top surface.
Spot cleaning may be impractical for kids’ toys which get soiled quickly and sometimes heavily. If such a toy accidentally gets wet, the dyes from the paper might bleed into the outer fabric.
You can avoid all this by opting for plastic papers from plastic bags, packaging, and wrappers. They make featherweight and machine-washable stuffed toys. Although, you may have to put up with that crackling noise of crumpling paper.
Grains, pulses, and seeds will stuff toys the same way as pellets. Rice, beans, corn, and lentils are common choices if you are after the bean-bag-like texture and want extra weight too. There are multiple problems you will encounter with this kind of stuffing.
One is not being able to wash the stuffed toys due to water damaging the grains. Two is potential rotting from saliva or accidental spills. And three is attracting rodents and bugs; you know they can sniff out food from a mile away.
Sand, fine gravel, and small smooth marble rocks like what is used at the bottom of fish tanks are alternative toy stuffing material, especially if you’d like a significant weight boost.
Like pellets, sand will flow out of stuffed toys through seams and is generally messy to use as it is. It must be contained in a non-porous pouch like a zip lock bag first before going in toys as stuffing.
However, rocks are a choking hazard and may have corners and sharp edges that can tear the toy. They may also feel uncomfortable to squeeze.
6. Leftover Yarn
You are unlikely to waste a new skein of yarn to stuff toys. Unless it was crazy cheap and of such poor quality, you’d never consider using it for your knits.
That said, small balls of leftover yarn and anything that got tangled up real bad but never got to go in the bin surprisingly have new uses. Yarn feels amazingly squishy, can be shaped evenly, is lightweight, and is also washable.
7. Wood Wool and Shavings
As astonishing as it may seem, wood wool, shavings, and sawdust were the original toy stuffings from when teddy bears were invented. They are still good choices for stuffed toy makers today looking to go the vintage route, plus they are lightweight and eco-friendly.
The only caveat to using wood particles for toy stuffing is that it is not washable. Also, the dust from wood triggers allergic reactions in some people. Furthermore, it could be chemical-laden if the wood was treated prior. But if you can make your own, the better.
8. Recycled Stuffing
Last but not least is to repurpose the existing stuffing in pillows, cushions, and stuffed toys. Needless to say, you do not tear apart items still in good condition unless they are unwanted. We are talking about those that are old, worn out, or damaged. Tear the material into small, nickel-sized pieces for the best results.
What Is the Best Toy Stuffing?
The best toy stuffing is that which satisfies the users’ needs. If you take all the factors we mentioned in this post into consideration, you are likely to find what does and doesn’t meet your requirements.
|1.||Fairfield Poly-Fil Premium Fiber Fill||Polyester, hypoallergenic, lightweight|
|2.||Organic Raw Cotton Fiber||Organic cotton fiber, non-toxic|
|3.||Fairfield Poly-Fil Pellets Weighted Stuffing Beads||Weighted poly-pellets, non-toxic, washable|
You can try experimenting with a variety and get hands-on experience of how each type of toy stuffing feels and behaves. Here are our best recommendations based on reviews and stuffed toys expert advice.
1. Fairfield Poly-Fil Premium Fiber Fill
Fairfield is a renowned brand when it comes to pillow, cushion, and toy stuffing products. Their premium polyester fiberfill is the industry benchmark of what toy stuffing should be.
It is washable, hypoallergenic, lightweight, pure white, and bouncy. The stuffing is proudly made in the U.S using the highest quality standards from recycled material and won’t clump.
With this 32 ounce pack, there’s ample toy stuffing for at least 10 6-inch toys or 2 15-inch toys if you are making something bigger.
2. Organic Raw Cotton Fiber
If you are willing to spend extra for anything but artificial toy stuffing, we suggest going with this U.S made cotton fiber. It is not only natural but 100% organic certified.
You get it in its purest form and color; no toxic dyes, treatments, or anything like that, which makes this toy stuffing safe for you, kids, pets, and the environment.
It is denser than polyester if you are looking for a bit more firmness, and also machine washable when inside the toy.
This cotton fiber is sold by the pound and two pounds is a good starting amount to stuff a couple of toys.
3. Fairfield Poly-Fil Pellets Weighted Stuffing Beads
For poseable dolls and animals, these weighted poly pellets from Fairfield do an awesome job. They are made from non-toxic, odorless plastic.
The beads are weighted for enhanced stability, and you can wash the finished project effortlessly in a machine and tumble dry without melting the stuffing.
You’ll also appreciate the packaging, which comes with a convenient lidded spout for an easy, mess-free pour. You get 6 pounds of poly pellets in it to start you off with a few small crafts.