This strapping stallion stick horse tutorial has been a looooong time coming! Holy cow, it has taken me forever to get this sucker put together–mostly I was dreading editing all these photos! I actually made this horse for the first time as a present for my boy last Christmas. He’s amazingly sturdy, and has been a well-loved beast of burden. And he still looks great! The final photos I took only just the other day, without any editing to clean him up. That says a whole lot for an entire year’s worth of rough and tumble with my sticky-handed children.
As with all tutorials I do, I only make the effort to put one together (especially one of mammoth proportions) if I feel my particular project fills a hole in what is already out there. When I was getting ready to make one last holiday season, there were no shortage of stick horse tutorials out there, but they were all a little more cutesy and cartoony than what I had in mind. I wanted my stick horse to be realistic while still being imaginative, as well as being sturdy as, you’ll forgive me, a horse. This handsome fellow is what we came up with (the pattern was a collaborative effort between my sister Eirene and me). Although my version is a stallion, the design is completely gender neutral, and can easily be a feminine filly or unicorn. In addition to the step by step photo tutorial, I also made a stick horse pdf pattern, as much for myself (definitely will be making another!) as for all of you! So saddle up.
*note about skill-level required for horse: this shouldn’t be your beginning sewing project, but you don’t have to be a seasoned sewist either. All the principles are simple, but there is some semi-tricky piecing that I want to give you fair warning about. Nothing you can’t handle, but just so you know.
*Note about pattern usage: I always forget I need to say this until there’s an occasion to go back and do so. I do not mind if this pattern is used to make and sell stick horses, (I don’t expect any % of what you make!) but you must clearly link to my website and tutorial as the source of the pattern. Whether that be in your etsy description or on a note if you sell them at a handmade market etc, please give credit where credit is due! This tutorial cannot (ever!) be sold, and this post cannot be reposted in any way without my express permission, thanks!
Strapping Stick Horse Tutorial and pdf Pattern
- 1/2 a yard synthetic suede. I got mine in the upholstery section at JoAnn’s, and spent I think around $12 a yard using a 50% off coupon. It doesn’t have to be suede, there are tons of fabrics that would work; just look for something pretty sturdy and with good color and texture. I think my sister used an old towel when she made hers! I would, however, steer clear of anything stretchy, as it will distort the pattern a little, and not be as sturdy.
- a scrap of pink flannel or again, anything will work! Just make sure it’s stable! I actually doubled up my flannel just to add to it’s thickness. You need about a square foot.
- some scraps of black, cream and color-of-your-horse craft felt, you only need a smidgen. I’d hate for you to pay a whole 33 cents for an entire sheet!
- 1″ diameter, 1 yd wooden dowel. I picked mine up at the Home Depot for something like $2.
- yarn for hair, color of your fancy. I love something that has lots of dimension, some of the multicolored skeins are fantastic. On the first horse I made (finished horse photos) I used mostly cream with a peppering of white mixed in for texture.
- Heavy duty thread like upholstery weight. I actually used jean thread. You’ll also need an embroidery needle that will accommodate something a little thicker.
- a hand-saw
- and don’t forget to print and cut out your strapping stick horse pattern!
Cut out your fabric as indicated on pattern pieces. Out of body: 2 head, 2 ear, 1 bridge of nose, 1 under-neck. Out of pink flannel: 2 ears, 1 mouth piece. Mark where indicated.
Wrap yarn around something rectangular. I used one of my kid’s board books, and it was about 8″X13″. Wrap the yarn closely and as evenly as possible, without being super tight. Leaving the skein attached, gently slide the yarn off the book, trying to maintain the shape. It won’t be perfect, and don’t sweat it. I didn’t actually do this, but I just had the idea of sticking some masking tape down either side before sliding it off to help it stay together. Worth a shot!
Fold the corners of the ears towards the middle, so that the slanted bottom edges line up to make a straight bottom edge. Baste. Repeat with other ear. My picture here doesn’t demonstrate this, as I tweaked the pattern post photo.
Cut slit in head pieces where indicated on pattern. Fit one ear into slit with pink side facing the head. The ear should be fit down into the slit so that there’s about an inch of earless space on that top edge. Pin.
Sew ears in by sewing along sewing lines indicated on pattern. You want to try and make this a nice subtle dart. Go over it a couple times so it’s nice and secure. Repeat on t’other side. Now is the time to embroider the eyes and nose stitching on following the pattern guidelines. I wish I had an eye close up, but it was straight forward. Embroider the black main eye piece first using a basic back stitch, then layer the eyebrow piece on top, and back stitch around it as well. Lastly, add that little eye-fleck and you’ve got a nice glinty eye. Embroider the nose by follow the pattern design and again, use a back stitch.
Repeat this process for the opposite side, thus joining the two sides of the head via the nose bridge. Make sure to stop exactly 3/8″ from the point again.
Now fold your hair in half lengthwise along stitching line, and pin the folded edge between the two head pieces along what will be the top neck seam. Even out any of the bunchiness, so that the fullness is distributed evenly down the remainder of neck. The yarn should end a good six inches from the bottom neck edge. Sew with a 3/8″ seam .
Carefully pin one half of mouth piece to the upper bridge of the nose RST. Align corners of mouth rectangle to the seams between head sides and nose bridge. Sew, pivoting at corners. Back stitch several times at the inside point of the open mouth.
Now in a similar manner, sew the bottom neck piece to close the head. You’ll line up the bottom neck piece to the bottom lip of the mouth, and then all the way down the neck. Make sure that the two head sides are evenly aligned, and that no shifting is occurring on that bottom neck piece.
But nice and handsome from the outside. Oooh, aren’t we excited at this point!
Pull the thread a little, creating a little pocket, and then stuff with stuffing. Fill until you’ve got a pretty firm 3-4″ ball, and then cinch the sides in quite tight. Hold in place temporarily while you then stick your stick inside your fluff-ball.
Now pull your thread tightly, and wrap the thread several times around the dowel, catching it inside the groove.
This next part is difficult to describe (here’s a helpful video!), but you’ll want to catch some of the gathers with the needle and then wrap the thread halfway around the dowel. Repeat again and again, the idea is to catch all the gathers eventually, and wrap the thread in the groove after each stitch.
This should result in the fluff ball now being securely fastened to the end of the stick.
Stuff your horsey’s head with some stuffing, and pack it pretty tight until it’s satisfactorily firm. Stuff it until the beginning of the neck, and then sort of make a place in the stuffing for your fluff-ball-on-a-stick. Insert your fluff-ball-on-a-stick into the horse head,
Now you’re going to tie this sucker up in the same way you made your fluff-ball-on-a-stick. Securely knot a long piece of string/thread, and then make a large running stitch around the bottom edge. Fill with a last bit of stuffing, and the cinch it up tightly, and then wrapping it several times around the dowel and inside the groove.
Repeat the previous process of taking a stitch with a few gathers, wrapping the string halfway around the dowel inside the groove, and then repeating until you’ve securely stitched and wrapped the entire bottom edge. Keep it up until you’ve overdone it. You want it to be all tucked in and wrapped up. The picture below shows a horse that still needs quite a bit of wrapping and stitching. Why did I take a picture prematurely? Not sure. It was like 9 months ago.
And, that’s a wrap, Cowboy! Your amazingly good looking and strapping horse is ready to be straddled, galloped and generally adored! That was no small feat of craftitude, so you should be proud as punch!
I believe stick-horses to be one of the staples of childhood toys–right along side Lincoln Logs and Legos. Like I mentioned, this was a gift for my boy, but my little 5 year old girl has had just as much fun with it, and in fact has begged me to make her another pink one (think My Little Ponies). I’m imagining a whole herd of colorful horses, something in the mood of the Jolly Holiday merry-go-round scene from Mary Poppins. “Oh riders! Would you be so kind as to move aside, please?”
As always, if you end up using this tutorial and have any measure of success, it always makes my day when you share pics with me! Link up!
PS please feel free to laugh at me while imagining how I shot that gif shot of the moving horse on top. It was me being thrown around in the back of my brother in law’s vintage teal pick-up, holding a stick horse in one hand while trying to figure out sports burst mode with the other. The things we do in the name of the blog…