Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tutorial--How To Make Movable Joints In A Stuffed Animal Or Doll-Old Fashioned Cotter Pin Joints

I have been asked to do a tutorial on
how to install movable joints in a doll
or stuffed animal.  I hope you find it 
Little Penelope the elephant is 5-way jointed.
Her head, arms & legs have movable joints.
There are several types of joints that can be used.
CR'S Online Craft Store has a selection.
I use the old fashioned cotter pin joints that were
used in the original stuffed bears and animals.
Edinburgh Imports has a beginners page with lots
of tips, as well as charts for determining the size
of joints and eyes needed.  
Edinburgh Imports-Beginners Page
This package of 3/4 in. joints (enough for 1 animal)
was purchased at CR'S crafts for under $2.00.
It consists of  5 cotter pins, 10 discs and 10 small washers.
These are the components used for 1 joint.
The discs (fender washers) & cotter pin below were purchased
at our local hardware store, they work just as well as the
 others & the larger sizes are cheaper!  Just make sure the
 head of the cotter pin doesn't slide through the washer hole.

If your pattern calls for joints, placement for the
joints will be marked.  If not, you can just eyeball it.
Be careful to mark the inner leg pieces and inner arm
pieces.  You don't want to end up with 2 left legs or
2 right arms!
This is one of Penelope's arms marked on the inside.
Start by making a hole on the wrong side of the fabric.
Use something sharp to make the hole for the cotter pin.
A knitting needle, wooden skewer, or ice pick works fine.
DON'T cut with scissors, gently make a hole by spreading
 the fibers.  If the joint needs to be moved, it's very easy
to push the fibers back together & make a new hole.
You will need 1/2 of the cotter pin joint.
Take a cotter pin, put on the small washer, then the disc.

Turn your piece to the right side.
Find the hole and insert the joint.
The joint goes INSIDE the arm.
Only the cotter pin shows from the outside.
Stuff the arm.
I generally sew my remaining seam section with
a ladder stitch after I have attached it to the body,
 just in case I want to change the placement of the 
joint.  It's much easier if I don't have to remove stitches!
 (Link to tutorial on the ladder stitch is at the bottom of this post.)

Do the same for the remaining arm and legs.
Notice that the cotter pin comes out on the inside
 of Penelope's arms.  Paw pads face toward the

Heads are done slightly different.
Using strong thread, I use carpet or button hole
thread doubled, make a straight gathering stitch
 all around the bottom of the head.  Leave a length
 of thread on both ends for tying knots later.
This is Penelope's head.

Straight stitches for gathering.
Stuff the head.
Penelope gets a bit of stuffing in the end
of her trunk followed by some stainless steel shot
 for added weight, then more stuffing.

Her head is now ready for 1/2 of the joint.
Cotter pin, small washer then the disc.
Place the joint inside the head,

then pull the gathering stitches tightly and make several
secure knots.  Hide thread ends inside the head.

 Body parts are ready to be attached to the body.
Make holes for the arms, legs and head from
the inside of the body, just like before.  Turn
to the right side.
This is Penelope's right arm and the remaining 2 parts of
the cotter pin joint.  1 small washer & 1 disc.
Find the hole, insert the cotter pin.

On the inside 
 place the disc then the washer onto the cotter pin.

Using a cotter pin tool or needle nose pliers, roll down 1 leg
of the cotter pin.  The tighter you roll, the tighter the
joint.  If  you want wobbly joints, leave it loose.
Roll down the other leg.
The joint is done.  Finish the remaining arm,
leg  joints and head the same way.
Penelope just needs her head. 
I always sew on the eyes before I attach the
head to the body. (Link to tutorial on eyes
is at the bottom of this post.)
 If you want a wobbly head for the antique look, use a
 smaller disc in the body side of the joint.  Be sure to make
the underneath of the head very neat as it will be seen
with the wobbly joint.
 I sewed a flannel bag filled with steel shot
for Penelope's tummy for more added weight.
I put steel shot in her feet too, to help her
stand up.
Ladder stitch the open seams, add ears and
clothing........she is done!
How easy is that??
Click below:
Tutorial-Installing Eyes & The Ladder Stitch 

For a complete list of all my tutorials
click below:
Tutorials List 

Some of my stuffed animals.

 Happy Sewng!


  1. Thank you, Sherri! I've been waiting for this; you did an excellent tutorial. Sweet little clothes for your Penelope!

  2. this is a good tutorial. I have never seen how to do this until now. I'll have to re-read it a lot of times. It does seem simple when you explain it. Great little elephant. love her clothes.

  3. And a sassy wee thing she is, too. This is undoubtedly one of the best tutorials on this subject I've ever seen. You took the mystery right out of it!

  4. What a great tutorial! Your explanations and photos are the best I have seen. Penelope is a party favorite!

  5. Thank you for taking the time to make such a wonderful turtorial!

  6. You little Penelope is adorable! Thanks for the tutorial!

  7. What if I wanted to make a life size plush? One that's 6'3 tall, would these joints work as well? please tell me.

    1. I've never made anything that large, but I suppose if the you could find discs, washers and cotter pins in a large enough size it could work just as it would on a tiny animal.

  8. I just wanted to say thank you for this tutorial. I don't sew much, but I do crochet. I was looking for a way to make articulated joints in some of my critters and came upon your tutorial! Just in time to save me a bit of money at Christmas! Thanks again!

  9. Thank you for your tutorial on joints! I've always wondered how those are attached and now I can do it by myself too :)

  10. What size cotter pin to use making a 12 inch stuffed bear..thank you

  11. Beverly,
    I suggest you visit a site online that sells supplies for bear making. They may have a chart that is helpful. I prefer to make the bear or animal parts and then measure the size I need. Some bears are fat, some are skinny. I hope that is helpful.


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