Seeking a future in sewing

From the unmatched sock lying around the house, wool and thread, junior Ashley Tung sets off on a mission to create stuffed animals for her family and friends.

Nearly two years ago, Tung’s interest in sewing was sparked by a do-it-yourself video she watched on YouTube. However, she soon found that following the steps wasn’t giving her the results she wanted.

“When I first started sewing, I sewed exactly to [the videos’] methods, and it didn’t look so great. After a while, I started adapting my own ways and now instead of a really soft cylinder thing, I can make actual round creatures that look pretty cute,” Tung said. “[I] can see my work evolving into something [cuter] or at least something that looks more professional.”

Whenever she finds time to sew little creations, Tung begins by assembling materials for the one to three hour process. Tung purchases fluffy socks from Daiso where she can pick from a multitude of choices. She then sets up her desk, leaving cotton balls and wool scattered along with the necessary needles and pins for each part of the plushie. After an hour or so, her stuffed animal is complete with an additional flower or blush for extra decoration. Each of Tung’s creations is a unique masterpiece, created on impulse, leaving her free to create her own style.  

“I don’t have a set goal. I usually don’t have a plan, so I do what I feel like doing next.  [I’m] relaxed when I’m making plushies. There’s not a lot of [stress over] whether or not the ears look like cat ears or not,” Tung said.

When she sews her stuffed animals, Tung’s mind enters a state of tranquility and focus, giving her the necessary break from the stress of school and ability to channel her energy in an artistic way.

“Whenever I’m making stuffed animals, it’s the only thing I focus on. I don’t think about whatever stressful test I have the next week or what I have to study for. It’s a very therapeutic process—just me and some chill music and my tools,” Tung said.

Tung finds the hardest part of the entire process to be sewing the face on, because of how hard the stuffed animal becomes when stuffed with wool. In order to sew some parts of the stuffed animal, Tung also exercises caution when poking through the entire animal. Poking too hard through the cloth sometimes leads to pricked fingers.

“I think the sewing part of the plushie is tedious. It gets repetitive after a while, so you get in the zone, you just shut off anything and keep sewing. The hardest thing about sewing is trying to get the needle to the right place. When I’m sewing, I sometimes have to thread the needle through the whole plushie and then the needle gets lost in the plushie so I have to force it into a certain point,” Tung said.

Once she is done, Tung gives the stuffed animal away to her family and friends. However, the sense of achievement she gets from such completion is her most satisfying award.

“There’s a sense of achievement when I have a stuffed animal and it does not look bad. I look at it and I’m like ‘wow.’ But after a while, [I critique] ‘the mouth doesn’t look that great, the eyes don’t look that great’, but it’s a sense of achievement,” Tung said. “[The sense of pride] is the best part of sewing.”

Beyond the traditional means of creating something new, Tung finds that sewing gives her a way to deal with the time restrictions of junior year in an entertaining manner. These restrictions have also helped her evolve her style into a minimalist one.

“My favorite part is actually stuffing the plushie. It’s really fun to stuff really fluffy fiber into a sock and mold the sock into the shape you want by squishing,” Tung said. “During junior year, I didn’t have enough time to do what I like, so I resorted to doing simple plushies. [These] actually looked better than the other plushies I would spend more than an hour on. I think the simplicity of my newer plushie made it look better.”

Initially, Tung simply wanted to make stuffed animals and give them to her friends. However, after developing a passion for making the little creatures, she now plans on selling her creations on Etsy, a website that allows users to sell their products, with hopes of opening her own little shop one day.

“My biggest dream is that I could start a business with it, not a big, huge business [though]. My plushies aren’t toy material, but they’re display material,” Tung said.”I haven’t thought much about my future with these stuffed animals, because I’m so invested in the present, but I do hope I’ll be able to keep the store open when I’m an adult. Making the plushies have always been something of a comfort for me and I hope it’ll stay with me for a good while longer.”

By Vivian Lee, Online Editor-in-Chief

Photo by Samuel Compolongo