Mariska Vos-Bolman is the creator of the popular Fluffels and DIY Fluffies soft toy brands, which are sold worldwide. Her patterns are characterised by their cute and quirky style and their extremely detailed illustrated tutorials, which make them easy and fun to create. As part of the Sew Cute To Cuddle blog hop, we chatted to Mariska about making soft toys and her brand new book…
When did you learn to sew?
“When I was a child I had a kids’ sewing machine, but I only made two pillows on that one. My mom was always sewing, so I think I learned a lot watching. In 2007 I bought my first real sewing machine to make stuff for my home like pillows, etc. The first thing I made was a pincushion in the shape of a star with a face on it. I enjoyed making this soft toy so much that I decided to make many more. I designed my toys on the train on my way home after work and when I got home I sewed them. Many people liked these toys, so I put them on Etsy and they sold!”
Tell us about DIY Fluffies and Fluffels!
“After selling many of my Fluffels toys on Etsy, I decided to quit my day job and create Fluffels full time. I worked for Guerrilla Games, a game company where I made 3D soldiers on the computer. After a few years I didn’t like to do this as much any more, so I was very excited to start my own business! Luckily I had my husband who supported me, otherwise I couldn’t have done this.
Two months after I started Fluffels I got pregnant. Sewing all these toys was getting just a bit too much for me. So I decided to sell patterns and kits from my designs. I named the patterns DIY Fluffies. This made having a baby easier to combine with running a company. After 6 years it is still so much fun!”
What inspires your designs?
“I’m inspired by Japanese toys and characters. My two sons are also a big inspiration and they help me find ideas for new toys. They love Daron the dragon and Patrick the monkey!”
What do you love about making toys?
“Everything! I love to design my toys and make them into something real. I love the smiles on people’s faces when they see the finished toys. I also like the great feedback I get from happy customers.”
How easy is it to make one of your toys?
“The tutorials are very detailed. Every step is illustrated. That makes them easy to make, even for beginners. I always give a level to my patterns: beginner, intermediate or advanced. But because the tutorials are so easy to follow, I have even seen advanced patterns made by beginners and they looked very good!”
How many different toy patterns have you designed?
“I have 32 patterns on my website. Next month the 33rd will be put on there. And I have 12 designs in my book, Sew Cute To Cuddle. I also made designs that I didn’t make into a pattern. So I think around 50-60 in total. Wow that is actually quite a lot! I’ve never counted them before!”
Do you have a favourite project from Sew Cute To Cuddle?
“Brody the dog is my favourite because he is so cute!”
What’s your top tip for giving a stuffed toy its own personality?
“Expression is very important. When making your own design, make your toy without the mouth and eyes first, then start playing with the placement of the facial details until it looks the way you want it.”
Which fabrics work best for making toys?
“I started out with fleece because it is cheap, soft and very forgiving when making mistakes. Now I make most of my toys with cotton, because it is available in so many pretty designs. Fake fur is also a great fabric to work with. You can make your plushies very fluffy with fun fur fabric and it is available in many lengths and colours. It does make a big mess though, so keep your vacuum cleaner ready!”
What’s the most impressive thing you’ve ever created?
“Daron the dragon from my book, Sew Cute to Cuddle. I really love how he turned out. He has a great shape and I love the fabrics that I found for him – I think they fit very well.”
What are you working on at the moment?
“I’m working on a Octopus pattern. The tutorial is almost finished and I hope to get him on my website this month.”
Get your copy of Mariska’s new book, Sew Cute To Cuddle, or the PDF eBook, to be inspired! To find out more about the book and see more examples of the projects inside, check out our book review. You can also download individual PDF sewing patterns for each of the toys from the book – so there’s no excuse not to have a go at making one of these ! To find out more about Mariska, visit the DIY Fluffies website.