Cleoplatrus the hippopotamus

This was not an easy stuffed toy to make. It is made from an old pattern, which means that the explanation is very scarce and a lot of jargon is used of which they assume you know what it means. This is something I was discussing with a friend who also likes to sew. Old patterns seem to assume you have a certain amount of basic skills and insight. This is because in the olden days it was very normal in the Netherlands to get extensive craft lessons as a girl at school.  Is that also true for other countries? If you know please let me know in the comments because I am very curious. Below is a picture of the pattern I used and the cover of the book it comes from (stofdieren means, stuffed toys in Dutch).


The difficulty of the pattern caused this to be a very very rewarding piece of work. For one thing I learned a lot about stuffed toys constructions and sewing jargon. Also I love it when a piece of handcraft sets your mind really working. When pieces are as challenging as this one I usually daydream a lot about how to solve problems I encounter which is a great distraction from normal life. Also the difficulties I had makes this an interesting post for those who also started to make stuffed toys recently.

The photo below shows the pattern and the cover of the book it comes from (it is Dutch, ‘stofdieren’ means stuffed toys). The picture of the pattern with some textual explanation was all the pattern there was.



Optimistically I started to work on the head. On the picture below you can see the pins I put in for the head. The way the pins are arranged I learned from my mother who also sews a lot. My mother explained to me that the pins needed to be put at an angle of 90 degrees from the sewn line to make convex and hollow 3d shapes.

Another thing I learned from the head is unfortunately only visible with the marks on the bottom of the head on the picture. The ears of the hippo needed to be done before you could start with the head so you could pin them between the separate head parts. In this way the ears become a neat part of the head, sturdy secured at the right place. This is a very nifty way to solve the head hurt with sewing ears on a finished head because that never really goes well for me.  For example, the arms and ears of ANNABEL look a bit weird because I put them on later.


The body of the hippo went well. It was very nice to see in practise how you can make a stuffed toy fatter by adding in back pieces (the two pointed pieces on the pattern). However the feet, and especially the soles of the Hippo, did not go well at all.  I do not know if I misunderstood something completely, but the way I first made it the hippo only had two feet. Sadly I did not make a picture of that because the moment I discovered that after painstakingly wiggling in the soles and the legs together and sewing them I discovered that there were only two feet with no room left for two more I completely gave up on the project for weeks.

Luckily I persevered in the end because although I told myself I had given up I kept thinking about possible solutions. Also occasionally I pulled out the work I did so far to stare at the unfinished Hippo dumbfounded. It could not believe that the work was doomed. I must have done something wrong I kept thinking. Eventually after weeks of puzzledness I dared to improvise. Usually I am too scared to screw things up to improvise, but since I already had given up on this project and denied existence of it I went for it anyway. This is how I did it:

First I decided that the pattern was missing a piece. I figured the stuffed toy as it was missed a belly piece. So I decided to draw that part of the pattern myself to see if this would solve the problem. Alas I have no photo of this as well, but it looked something like this:


And it worked! The photo of the finished belly is visible below. It might not be as neat as it could be, but I am very proud of the result anyhow. Also you can see that the legs are not really coming out of the torso naturally because of the wrinkles which is probably because the pattern I drew was square and the Hippo is round. I could not really figure out how to make the pattern better fitted though, and I still do not really know. If someone has a suggestion I would love to hear it in the commentary section.


When the body of the hippo was done I added the tail and the embroidery on the face. The expression of the hippo is based on the goofy face of the person I made this for because Cleplatrus looks very happy, which that person does as well. below you can see that I first embroidered the head and then stuffed it. That made sense to me because with ANNABEL the embroidery was not very neat because that is hard to do on a stuffed head.


On the whole I am VERY PROUD and happy with the end result. The hippo can stand and looks so happy and proud to be alive. Also he looks so fast when he is standing on my plush Hippo Platipus. My friend gave him the name Platipus, because he is not one. Can not remember the logic behind that now though. Cleoplatrus got his name from another friend and from Platipus because they are both Hippo’s.  I do not remember where the ‘Cleo’ part comes from though. Something with Cleopatra and that he looks so proud and kingly on Platipus.

Below the tips you can see photos of the photoshoot I did with the proud hippopotamus Cleoplatrus.

Conslusions looking back:

  1. Sewing the ears in with the head rather than sewing them on later. In this way the ears look much more a part of the body.
  2. Pin on a 90 degrees angle on the pattern line when making convex or hollow 3d shapes.
  3. Count the legs before sewing :P.
  4. put any embroidery on the stuffed toy before stuffing it.
  5. Perseverance: every project can have some kind of result or learning outcome making it worthwhile not to give up and to improvise when necessary



See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blogpost every Sunday or Monday.

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