On the surface at least, toy filling isn’t very interesting. If like me however, you use it to make toys, then knowing all about the toy filling that you use can give you better finished results.
Toy filling is known by lots of names and can vary from country to country. Here are some of the terms I have come across. Toy stuffing, fibrefill, polyflock, wadding, batting, I am sure there are more names for it too.
Why does my choice of filling matter?
Your choice of filling matters because it can significantly change the finished toy look and feel of your toy. For example, you may like recycled poly filling but it will not be completely white. So if you make a toy that is mainly knitted in white then you may see the filling through the finished work and it will not look as ‘clean’ as you would like.
You may decide to go for a wool stuffing and keep to natural fibres. If you are on a low budget and have a large toy to stuff then it may not be an option.
Think about the receiver of the toy. Will they be children? If so then safety is important and be cautious. Could it be a choking hazard? Does the receiver have allergies or intollerancies to certain materials. It may need to be hypoallrgenic or bacterial resistant. It is all about what is right for you, the recipient and the toy you are crafting at the time.
What are the legalities of toy stuffing?
If you plan to give away or sell a toy that you have made then there are certain laws to consider. I am not going go into too much depth here as it is another topic completely. You will need to CE Mark and test your finished toys. There is a GOV.UK article here all about it.
It is possible to purchase toy stuffing that has been tested to the appropriate standard for CE Marking. Ask the toy filling retailer before you purchase to see any certificates they have on safety tests of their stuffing if you plan on selling or giving away. Keep them and add them as your compliance evidence.
The finished items still need to be safety checked by you before you can add the CE mark to your toys as the law applies to the finished article and not component parts. All CE testing must be made on new materials so recycling your filling is out of the question here too.
What can I use as a toy filling?
There are so many options for you to fill your toys with. Here is a long list of things that you could use to stuff your toy with.
- Polyester / Acrylic toy stuffing
- Cotton stuffing
- Fabric Scraps
- Old Socks
- Old Clothes shredded
- An old stuffed toy
- Shredded Paper
- Pillow Filling
- Recycled Cushions / Quilt Filling
- Old Packaging Materials such as Bubblewrap
- Lavender or Dried Flowers (Makes the toy smell nice)
- Rice (Can be used to add weight but watch if there is a chance of vermin)
- Beads (in combination with other stuffing to give it a different texture)
- Polystyrene Beads
- Sand (Wrapped up of course. Adds weight)
- Fish Tank Gravel (Again to add weight)
What do I need to consider when choosing a toy filling?
How much filling do you need to buy to fill your toy? This is a really tricky question to answer as different types of toy filling have different densities and you may prefer to stuff your toy a little firmer or lighter as you desire.
A 1kg bag of stuffing will have a different volume or size depending on what it is made from and how much air there is inside. New toy stuffing is sold by weight. This is why none of the Knitting by Post knitting patterns specify a stuffing quantity as it would be impossible to accurately measure as the weight has no bearing on the volume needed to stuff a toy completely.
If you plan on sending your finished toy abroad for any reason – e.g as a gift or if it has been sold. Be aware that if you use natural fibres such as bamboo or lavender inside, that you will have to declare them as the enter the country.
If you are recycle mad like me, then find something soft and squisy and get to it! It is good fun if you want to keep the toy yourself and experiment with different materials. You don’t have to use just one material, I make little bags to weigh down my toys with uncooked rice and add cotton stuffing round the edges.
Carding a filling product makes it more light and fluffy as it goes through a carding machine and introduces air. It is possible to buy uncarded toy stuffing and this is more dense and works well if you want a very firm and weighty toy.
What are the toy specific types of filling I can buy in the shops?
Polyester and Acrylics
A non-natural product that is inexpensive on the pocket and is also widely available. Most haberdasheries in the UK will carry a stock of this kind of toy stuffing. If the man-made element doesn’t bother you too much, it is good for toy stuffing as it has a consistent feel throughout and will give your finished toy the same feeling.
It can be good if you have large toys to fill as it is less dense than other kinds of filling and goes further by weight. If they are labelled high-loft this means that there is lots of air in it and it will be more bouncy.
Polyester filling can be siliconized. This means that the fibres of the filling are produced in such a way that they will minimise an allergic reaction (hypoallergenic). Siliconized polyester filling is designed to resist bacteria and dust. The filling may can be washed but take care with your toy as the fibres absorb heat and it may be difficult to remove stains.
If keeping things natural is your thing then Cotton filling is great. It is more dense than the man made alternatives and may also come in an organic version too.
If you plan on washing your finished toy – maybe it is going to be given to a child then purchase cotton that is pre-shrunk as it may get a bit smaller after a wash.
Wool or Lambswool
An animal based natural fibre from sheep. If you make toys with natural fibres, it may make sense to use a wool based toy filling too. Sheep have been around for thousands of years so it would make sense that early soft toys were stuffed with wool too. Wool toy stuffing can also come carded and uncarded. It is also a bio-degradable material and is naturally fire resistant.
So which one do I use?
It is entirely up to you what materials you choose to fill your creations with. There are up and down sides to using all the different kinds of fibrefill. Hopefully you have read this article and can make a more informed choice for your knitted toys.
Do you have anything to add to this? If so, leave a comment below.