Preventative Maintenance & Repairs
The best way to keep your plushie in good condition is by being proactive with your care, rather than having to fix a mess after the fact.
Keeping your plushie looking fresh and new long term
I'll be stating the obvious with some of these, but here are some tips:
- Shower before going to sleep. Too tired to take a shower that night? No cuddles for you.
- Keep your bedding washed at least semi-regularly.
- Minimize your sweating. I shouldn't have to tell you this, but this is what is going to ruin your plushies minky. Wrap them up in a sheet or blanket or something if it's clearly too hot to cuddle with.
- Wash your hands before handling your plush, especially if you have just eaten. No, wiping your hands off isn't good enough.
- Consider getting some kind of clothing for your plushie, be it custom made outfits or even as something as simple as a loose T-shirt. Socks are highly recommended as they're cute and will protect their legs. Areas that are covered up that won't come in contact with your skin frequently aren't going to get dirty. Sleeping with a sheet in between you and your plushie is ideal for cleanliness. All of these things are machine washable, too.
- Avoid UV light exposure, this is known to fade the colors on fabrics. Consider keeping them out of direct sunlight or place a blanket over your plushies when you aren't at home, this will also help in reducing dust from accumulating.
- Avoid touching their eyes. Embroidery (applique as well) is easy to get dirty (mostly the white parts) and is difficult to clean. Embroidery is also very delicate and should not be brushed or scrubbed or you risk pulling threads loose.
Warning: Beware of staining
Since I just mentioned this above as a tip, if you are going to putting any kind of clothing on your plushie, this is a measure of precaution you should take. Take said piece of clothing, apply pressure and rub it vigorously against a piece of test fabric for 30 seconds. A piece of minky (that is not your plush) would be ideal for this but you probably don't have that laying around, so find something else to use. If your clothing is going to transfer any dyes, this test should make that known to you. If you see any staining done by this test, don't put it anywhere near your plushie. This may seem paranoid, but I wouldn't be writing this if not for my personal experience with heavily staining my plushie from a cheaply made knockoff dress. Washing the garment is not always a solution either, I had washed this one several times but it did not solve the problem.
This can help fluff up the minky for their coat or straighten their mane/tail if it is made with fur. Recommended brush types:
Lilly Brush - I have not tried this but I hear it is good for use on minky. Appears pricey though, about $20.
Boar Bristle Brush - Works okay on minky and okay on fur. Can be acquired for about $7 on eBay.
Cat Hair Brush - These have metal bristles, do not use on minky but works very well at straightening faux fur mane/tails. After a brushing, you will wind up with a brush full of fur so don't do this regularly, but doing this once every couple months will keep the fur looking fresh and new. Very cheap, I bought mine for $2.50 at Walmart.
If your faux fur mane or tail has any creases, or waviness to it, I recommend using a hair dryer in conjunction with a cat hair brush to straighten it. This works amazingly well, but be careful as fur is susceptible to heat damage. Wave it back and forth all over the piece rather than holding it in one place, and then turn it off and brush in the direction that the fur should be running. You might have to do this a couple times, but this will completely straighten it out and make it look like new.
Lint rollers - Not a brush but this is something you should have on hand. Get some of that debris away from your plushies coat once in awhile. These only cost a couple dollars.
Has your plushie gotten floppy or wrinkly over time? This is more or less unavoidable if they are not stuffed very firmly/have an internal structure. Opening them up and adding more stuffing is a possibility for the more adventurous, although it will require some sewing skills which I will talk about later. First you will need to locate the area that the maker originally did the stuffing through. Usually the body and head are made separately, stuffed separately, and then sewn together, but sometimes they're stuffed through the back, or in other areas. If you can't find the stuffing location yourself, you may have to ask your plush maker about it.
To open up the seam, just start popping open the hand stitching with scissors, and be careful to not cut any of the fabric. If you wish to add some stuffing only to certain areas, like the neck or the leg joints or something, and depending on the size of the plush (this would be limited to very large life sizes), you may be able to snake your arm through the plush and access and fill those spots without needing to unstuff the whole thing. In that case you could do that and then simply fill in the tunnel your arm left with some more stuffing. If this doesn't work, or if your plushie is too small for this, look for a long solid object you can use to push the stuffing around. Odds are your plush maker used something like this when doing the stuffing originally anyways. When doing this you'll want to be careful about creating lumps in the stuffing, although this is something you need to be mindful about when doing any kind of stuffing in general.
If you do choose to unstuff the whole thing, this is a more difficult and time consuming task. Just pull all the stuffing out (you probably don't have to pull ALL of it out, though...) and when it's time to put it back in, do so slowly and carefully. Taking huge handfuls of stuffing and shoving it in there is going to cause lumps, you have to put in small pieces and constantly be spreading it around and smoothing it out as you're doing it. There are different types of stuffing you can use, but I highly recommend using clusterfill for this as it is much easier to stuff with and it rarely clumps up. Most plush makers will have used polyfil for your plushie though. You don't want to reuse old polyfil as it will come out of your plushie very clumped up, but you will probably be okay to reuse old clusterfill. As for the amount of stuffing you will need to completely restuff your plushie depends on its size, a life size one might use up to 10 lbs of stuffing. If you are only going to do touch ups, you may only need a small bag of additional stuffing. My advice would be to stuff these areas extra firmly: the leg joints, neck, and snoot. When you are done and need to sew your plushie back up, we will talk about that under the repairs section.
Here are some places to buy these stuffing types but you may be able to find it cheaper if you look around.
Don't panic if your plushie needs fixing, this is very doable by anyone, even if you've never threaded a needle before. Let's first talk about what supplies you will need. You might want to go to a local craft store for this stuff.
1. Pack of hand sewing needles. Can be acquired for $4. Just don't buy sewing machine needles, there is a difference and those won't do you any good.
2. Polyester sew-all thread in a color that is close to the color of the fabric you are trying to repair. This might also be labeled as "all-purpose" thread. Common brands are Coats & Clark or Gutermann. A small spool can be acquired for $2. Be careful when buying your thread as a craft store will have lots of different types that you won't want. For example embroidery thread is very thin and not strong at all, you would never use this for repairing a seam.
3. Scissors, you should already have these. Ideally they will have a small pointy tip rather than being a large bulky pair.
4. You probably wont need pins, but depending on the severity of your repair, you might. For example if you've neglected a falling apart plushie for too long and now a wing has completely fallen off. In this case, you might want to hold it on with pins while you sew it back on, so that you can get the placement correct and it wont move around as you sew. A pack of pins can be acquired for about $4.
How to thread your needle and knot the thread.
How to do a ladder stitch. This is the type of stitch you'll be using for just about all repairs, but you might want to do two passes of stitching around whatever you're fixing so that it doesn't pop back open later.
Did you restuff your plushie and now you have the head removed from the body and you need to sew it back on? I won't beat around the bush, it's going to be tricky sewing it back on straight, but you'll want to use the same ladder stitch for this mentioned above. I like to start in the center of the back of the head, so you know you're starting with it being straight. Go slowly, and every couple stitches check the front of the neck to make sure it's still straight. Hold the head with one hand and do the stitching with the other. I like to use pins to get the mane out of the way if it would be covering up the neck as that can make something that's tricky to do even trickier. Once you've almost completed the first pass of stitching (I recommend going around 3 times) you'll want to put a whole bunch of stuffing in the neck before you close it off.
Hopefully your plushie is now looking as good as new! Or better than it used to be, anyways.