Handmade Gifts Pet Projects

Easy Fishy Cat Toys

I made these DIY fish cat toys as a gift for a friend with new kittens.  They were super easy to make and used up the scraps from another project.  Sewing the fish right-side out makes this fast and easy. 

The final quirky cat fish toys

The materials list is pretty short:

  1. Scrap fabric – cotton, heavy felt and upholstery fabric are all good choices
  2. Thread – your stitches will show so choose a color that matches, coordinates or contrasts as you like. I chose colors that matched the fabrics, but alternated them so that each fish had a thread color from one of the other fish. 
  3. Scrap felt, fleece – for catnip pouches and stuffing.  I like using pieces of fabric to stuff animal toys because I don’t have to worry about fiberfill stuffing coming out and being toxic to or choking the animal.  At worst, they will pull out a piece of scrap fabric that is too big for them to eat, and you might find a slobbery wad of fabric on the floor. 
  4. Dried Catnip
  5. Paper, paper bag, etc. for template
  6. Scissors, Pinking Shears (optional)

I started with laundered fabric scraps. You want to make sure no sizing chemicals are left, that might cause harm to your furry friends.  

I drew a fish pattern on a paper bag, which I used for exactly one fish before I realized it was too wide for the rest of my scraps.  I had initially planned for all of the fish to be the same size and shape.  But I had my heart set on using up those scraps, so I adjusted on the fly and ended up with different sizes and shapes. 

Once I cut out my fish bodies, it was time to work on the stuffing.  I’ve had commercial cat toys before that shed catnip all over the house.  I didn’t want to do that to my friend, so I took a little left over fleece and made little pouches to stuff the catnip into.  This also gave the fish a little “body”.  I wasn’t exact about the size or shape of these pouches.  Just snipped a few scraps, folded them in half and sewed two sides, making sure to back-stitch the ends so they didn’t come undone.  Once I had a bunch of little pouches I stuffed them with catnip.  After you’ve stuffed all of your catnip pouches, sew closed the final side of your pouch, again backstitching the ends to make sure they stay closed, these will be treated roughly, so you want to make sure the catnip stays inside.  Insider tip: After completing my first pouch, I made a whole fish and tossed it to my cats to see how they would react.  I wanted to make sure that the fleece wasn’t so thick that they wouldn’t smell the catnip inside.  They pounced immediately and I could tell it was working. 

Once all of my inner pouches were done I placed my two fish halves right sides out and began sewing.  I used the side of my presser foot for the seam allowance and started sewing at the tail, up and around toward the head.  I lifted the presser foot and adjusted the fabric as necessary to sew around the curves, and make clean corners.  

Sewing the fish cat toy closed.
Stuff the fish, while it is on the machine, after sewing halfway around. This saves you from having to pin and sew around the whole fish while it is stuffed.

I sewed around the fish until I was just past the head.  Made sure my needle was down, and lifted the presser foot if necessary.  Then I stuffed the pouches of catnip into the heads and bodies of the fish.  I also cut little triangles of the fabric to stuff into the tails and added some strips or small pieces wherever I thought fullness would be necessary.

Adding fabric to cat fish toy tails
I didn’t want these to be fully stuffed as my cats like floppy toys, so that’s the design I chose.  You can just as easily stuff them as full as you can, while still being able to get the presser foot back down and maintaining your seam allowance. 

Once stuffed, I finished sewing all the way around the fish. 

Sewing around the cat fish toy body.

I finished off the edges by fraying them, or using my pinking shears, to give them each an individual look.

A lovely cat fish toys for your cats or a friend’s.
A bit of leftover ribbon tied around the tails completed the gift.

Looking for other projects to use up scrap fabric? Check out these cute scrap heap monsters!

Handmade Gifts

Scrap Heap Monster-a project that will eat up leftover fabric!

Many of us have leftover fabric scraps, but I save the scrappiest of scraps.  Seriously, I will save the smallest bit of something because “you never know”.  Well, after accumulating lots of fabric scraps that were too small for any real pattern and in the need of a last minute Christmas gift for my then two-year-old nephew, I created the scrap heap monster. This is a great project for using leftover fabric. While you can download the pattern I created here, the idea of the scrap heap monster is that you don’t need a pattern.  Does it have one eye? Two? Three? I don’t know, it is up to you and your leftover fabric to decide.  I’ve made lots of different versions and honestly the most fun part is that no two are ever the same.  I’d love to see your version of the scrap monster.  Happy scrappin’!

Supplies Needed:

Materials needed to make scrap fabric monster
  • Leftover Fabric (fleece, flannel and woven cotton all work well
  • Felt
  • Polyfil
  • thread
  • Scissors and sewing machine

Cutting out the pattern:

  1. Print the pattern linked here or create your own based on the materials you have.
  2. Cut the body from the largest piece of fabric. I typically fold my fabric in half and then cut both body pieces at the same time. It saves time and then I know they are the same size.
  3. Cut out all of the facial features out of felt. I recommend felt because it is sturdy doesn’t fray and comes in lots of colors and I usually have lots of scraps of it laying around. The only facial features that I don’t cut out of felt are the eyelids. I typically do them out of fleece.
  4. Cut the legs out of the fabric of your choice. I have used both quilting cotton and flannel. I like to have the legs have a fun pattern that is different from the rest of the body.

Sewing the scrap heap monsters face:

  1. THE FUN PART! Sewing on the face.  Place the face parts on the right side of the fabric. Play around with the layout.  You’d be surprised how tiny things like adjusting the size or location of a pupil can really change the feel of your scrap monster.  Don’t be afraid to make up your own face features and mix and match.  Once you are happy with it, pin everything in place. Note: I put the horns on mine to get a sense of everything, but you will pin them later!
scrap fabric used to create the felt face on the fleece body
Pin everything but the horns down!
  1. Sew the face parts starting with the eyes.  I use a zigzag stitch with contrasting thread around the eyes as it gives a more whimsical look, but a straight stitch will also work. (Tip: if you aren’t confident sewing with a zigzag stitch, practice first on a scrap to get the cadence right, experiment with the length and width until you find the stitch you want – another great use for scraps). For the pupils, you might want to do a straight stitch as it is less likely to show.
  2. If you are doing eyelids, sew them on after the pupils are done.
  3. For the mouth, just sew a straight line across the flat edge. 
  4. Lastly, sew the heart with a zigzag stitch all the way around.

Sewing the scrap heap monsters legs

  1. After the face is done, take the rectangles that you created for the legs and fold them in half so that the two long edges are together with the right sides facing each other.
  1. Starting on one of the short sides near the folded edge, sew straight across using the edge of the presser foot for the seam allowance.  When you get 1/2” from the corner, leave the needle down, but lift the presser foot and pivot the leg so that you can sew up the long edge.  When you get to the end of the long edge back stitch to keep the opening from getting bigger when you stuff the legs.  
  2. Turn the leg right side out.  I find using a chopstick is helpful and I make sure that I really push out the bottom corners. Once the leg is right side out, stuff it with polyfil stuffing. Repeat Steps 10-12 for the second leg. 
  3. Place the face on a flat surface and then position the horns (or ears) pointy ends down and place legs so that the toes (the end that is sewn shut) are facing up.  If the legs are longer than the body, you may need to fold and pin them back to keep from sewing over them. 
  4. Place the body back over everything.  Be sure that if your fabric has a right and wrong side, that you place the right sides facing in.
  5. Carefully pin everything in place.  Pay special attention to pinning the legs and the horns. 

Finishing your scrap heap monster:

  1. Now it is time to sew around the body.  Start about a third of the way up from one of the bottom corners.  You will need to leave a two inch opening so that you can turn your monster right side out.  I usually mark this section with two pins on each end of the opening, perpendicular to the seam and then one pin in the middle that runs parallel to the seam to remind me to stop sewing. 
  2. Carefully sew all the way around your monster (again using the edge of the presser foot as the seam allowance).  Stop when you get back to the pin that marks the opening. I like to start and finish with a backstitch to ensure that my opening doesn’t get larger when I turn my monster right side out. 
  3. Turn the monster right side out and use a chopstick if necessary to push out the bottom corners.
  4. Stuff your monster to your desired level of fullness and then, either machine stitch or hand stitch the opening closed (a blind or ladder stitch works well). 
  5. Yay! Your scrap monster is done and, hopefully, it has eaten up some of your scraps!
Just look at all those bits of scrap fabric eaten up by these scrap heap monsters!

Looking for other projects to use up leftover fabric? Check out this zipper pouch with a heart cutout!