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Toy Stuffing – What can you use for stuffing toys?

May 4, 2011 | A day in my life, Blog, Toy-making TIPS & TUTORIALS

Polyester toy filling webI often get asked what toy-stuffing I recommend, and I’d have to say… it depends!

Depends on WHAT?

WELL, sooooo many things!

For example, it depends on WHO the toy is being made for – a baby/young child or an adult? This is the FIRST thing I consider when choosing my toy stuffing!

Baby and Toddler Safe Toy Stuffings

baby teddy bear pattern

If you want your home made toys to be 100% safe for babies and toddlers, you need to consider that NOT all toy fillings are suitable!

Some contain toxic and harmful materials/ chemicals.

Toy stuffing containing small bits like pellets are dangerous because of the possibility of choking. If the stitching isn’t strong and the toy-stuffing ‘escapes’, the baby might swallow it and choke.

* Most baby toys should be made with extra strong stitching BUT it is always best to be careful when choosing toy fillings so your baby toys will be safe both inside AND out! : )

Other things to consider when choosing your toy stuffing.

Pay by credit card.

It also depends on the particular ‘feel’ you want for the finished toy, and other practical considerations like the availability of the stuffing material (locally or online) , as well as the cost –  how much you want to spend on the toy stuffing…

Different Toy Stuffing Materials

man-made fibres.

These days we have  the choice of Organic, Synthetic or Eco friendly toy stuffings…

Organic Toy Stuffing is made from things that grow, and processed according to organic standards, while Eco friendly Toy Stuffing is either harmless or less harmful to the environment and most of Eco friendly toy stuffings are biodegradable.

Synthetic toy fillings are man-made but some are mixed with natural fibers like cotton, linen and wool.

Synthetic toy stuffing is usually the cheapest toy stuffing option, and organic the most expensive… unless you grow your own! : )


Okay, let me get on with it!!!


Here is the full list of ALL the toy stuffings I have found…

( – as well as places for you to get them all online.)


Polyester toy filling is now the MOST COMMONLY USED toy stuffing for manufactured as well as home made dolls and stuffed animals. It is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water and petroleum. Extremely light weight which makes it suitable for children’s toys and especially great for baby toys which you want to be very light.

I have found a good high quality polyfil toy stuffing from fairfieldworld.com (USA), gerrys.com.au and from www.worldofwool.co.uk

Try to use the BEST quality polyester you can find, for your soft toys and teddy bears. LOW quality polyester can cause lumps and uneven areas in your toys.



Cotton is a natural fiber of vegetable origin. It is a soft and fluff, Light weight stuffing material. Good quality cotton will have been preshrunk. Cotton fiberfill is available online from www.worldofwool.co.uk


Wool posseses qualities that are great for children’s toys. It is natural, soft, durable and elastic. However, this toy stuffing material cannot be machine washed or dried in heat, as the wool tends to become uneven and compressed.

Wool toy stuffing is available from gerrys.com.au and from www.worldofwool.co.uk


Mohair is a natural fibre stuffing similar to wool but from the Angora goats. Mohair is fire-retardant, hypoallergenic, antibacterial. It compacts much more than polyester toy stuffing which will make toys firmer and heavier.

It is available from Edinburgimports.com (USA) and www.worldofwool.co.uk



Bamboo fiber is biodegradable, anti-bacterial, and has a lovely soft feel on the skin. This can be pure, which is 100% organic,  or mixed with polyester stuffing.

This is avaliable online from www.worldofwool.co.uk



Corn stuffing is one of the newest eco-friendly stuffing material. Fibers are derived from corn starch sugars. Like the other organic stuffing materials, this is best for children’s toys because it is light weight, hypoallergenic and washable. It is very expensive but it is 100% biodegradable. 

Corn stuffing is available online from innergreen.com.au

Nature-fil corn toy stuffing

Nature-fil is an environmentally friendly, all natural PLA fiberfill made from corn sugar. It has a texture similar to polyester fiberfill with superior resiliency. PLA fiberfill is hypoallergenic and biodegradable.

Nature-fil is available from fairfieldworld.com (USA)



Also called beads, these give your toy a bean-bag ‘feel’. Pellets give weight and stability to your toy, and will help you achieve the desired pose for your stuffed toys. Pellets can be used for the whole toy (like Prince Charming Frog) to make them a bean bag toy, OR only in certain parts – eg in the arms, legs and how do I say this… sitting area!!!! (bottom?) which is referred to weighting or a weighted toy.

There are LOTS of types of toy stuffing pellets:

Plastic Pellets

Plastic Pellets are NOT suitable for children’s toys because anything smaller than 3cm(just over 1 inch) is considered a choking hazard for children under the age of 3 years old. They are relatively light weight as far as pellets go and so these are perfect for adding just a little it of weight to your soft toys. Plastic pellets are available from gerrys.com.au and from Shamrock Rose.

Glass Pellets

Glass Pellets are medium weight and also NOT suitable for children’s toys for children under the age of 3 years old. These fine beads are perfect for adding weight in smaller areas of your toys. I have used these for making teddy bears as they are great for adding a fair amount of weight in small areas of the toy.

Glass pellets are available from Edinburgimports.com (USA),  teddysbits.com.au and from www.christiebears.co.uk

Steel Shots

Steel shots provide heavy weight with a small amount of stuffing. These pellets should NOT be used in toys for children under the age of 3 years old.

These steel shots are also available online from Shamrock Rose and teddybits.com.au

Steel Balls

Steel Balls are super heavy weight and commonly used as base. Steel balls should NOT be used for toys intended for children under the age of 3 years old.

These are available online from www.christiebears.co.uk

polystyrene beanbag filling


Expanded polystyrene beads are the ultimate fill for bean bag toys. Light weight ad great for stress toys too! NOT be used for toys intended for children under the age of 3 years old.

They are available online from fairfieldworld.com (USA) 



Fabric scraps are also used for stuffing toys. Recycling unused garments like old T-shirts is a way to re-purpose fabric that would end up as land-fill. This kind of stuffing can create an uneven look and if this happens, the fabric scraps should be cut into smaller pieces and stuffed more firmly then it will become less lumpy.

Fabric Scraps are available in local fabric stores in a very inexpensive price, or use your own recycled fabric scraps from your other sewing projects!


Wood wool is also called excelsior. Made from thinly shredded wood. It is used for stuffing bears in the old fashioned way. Used in the very first bears ever made this product is a must for an authentic looking antique bear. It can be dusty and is NOT washable. It is categorized based on thickness and width of strand as super fine, wood wool, extra fine, fine medium and coarse. It also comes in different colors.

It is available online from www.christiebears.co.uk , gerrys.com.au and Edinburgimports.com


Some fillings can be found around the house or workshop…and needn’t be bought …

  • Acrylic Yarn / wool
  • Saw dust (this was the original stuffing used for antique teddy bears)
  • Dried Lavender

WOW! It’s quite incredible – there are just so many choices of toy fillings that can be used.. and like I said – it depends on the preference of the toy-maker!  I certainly learnt about some new toy stuffing options while putting this list together and I hope it has given you some more ideas too!

Do you have a favorite toy stuffing material I haven’t mentioned???

Please let me know and I can share it with everyone too!

Pauline McArthur - Funky Friends Factory

Happy Sewing,


  1. Lisa D

    I understand that cotton as a stuffing, as well as kapok, has the potential to mold or mildew if wet. When washed, they should be dried out thoroughly and immediately. Air drying is now generally recommended unless it is in a hot hot sun.

    • Crystal

      What about crushed walnut shells? Instead of buying from the craft store, you can find it priced a bit less at the pet store being sold as substrate (bedding) for lizards.

      • Pauline

        Thanks for the suggestion, Crystal.

        • Jo Warwick

          Both my children are expecting babies and I am crocheting a sheep blanket, the head needs stuffing. I stuff everything I make with cushion stuffing, is this safe?
          Thanks. Jo

          • Pauline

            Hi Jo, I am not sure as I don’t crochet toys and there will be much larger holes in crochet toys than fabric toys. I would google crochet toys and ask a crochet toy designer (like Diy Fluffies) – they will be able to help you! πŸ™‚

  2. Pauline

    Hi Mary,
    Unfortunately, I am no expert on knitted toys but the ones I have made have had no issues with polyester stuffing coming out. If you intend giving your toys to a baby I would recommend you have a look on a knitting forum like ravelry.com and they might have a discussion topic for this very issue! If not you can post the question and hundreds of experienced knitters from around the world will be able to advise you. How cool is that? πŸ™‚

  3. Maggy may

    Hi Pauline. Thank you for all the info on toy stuffing. I don’t quite understand. How if some or most of the pellets are NOT suitable for childrens toys. How then can they b e used when requiring to make poseable toy. And you say you use some of the unsuitable stuff for your teddy beats. Surely it is a child’s toy ?

    • Pauline

      Hey Maggy! I make toys for adults ALL the time! I also receive wonderful stories from people who have made toys for friends and colleagues , some who have gone through a bad time, for example like the loss of a life partner, and the toy is to comfort them – so NOT all toys are for children! πŸ™‚

  4. James

    Hi there I have been looking around for the fabric/material that makes a crinkle noise, you know the stuff they put in babies toys like in the ears and stuff to ad noise and texture to the toy, anyway I can’t find it for the life of me could you help?

    • Peggy

      I realize this post is very old, but thought I’d respond in case someone else is wondering the same thing. I use cereal bags! Just clean them off and you’re good to go! There are shops on Etsy that sell it too though. Just do a search for crinkle material.

      • Pauline

        Great idea – and recycling – GREAT!!!!! πŸ˜€

      • Julie Youngman

        That’s so cool. I’d never have thought of cereal packets(better get eating me cornflakes,,) thanks for that

        • Pauline

          Thanks Julie!πŸ˜πŸ‘

    • Lorilyn

      My cat toys and beds which have crinkle in them-are made with mylar, the stuff they make helium balloons from. You can purchase the balloons in the US at the dollar tree. Am not sure what the safety is for children, but it is ok for pets, so i would assume it is possible.

  5. Natalie

    Hi Pauline, I was told by a knit stuffed toy pattern maker not to use cotton for toy stuffing. She explained that cotton is flammable. I’m a bit puzzled by her explanation because furniture uses cotton for stuffing all the time. In a matter of fact, the cotton that I have was purchased from a furniture restoration store. I had used it to restored a set of dining chair. I have so much left overs and was thinking of using it for stuffing toys. This is 100% cotton, non-bleached. Do you recommend it?

  6. Pauline

    Hi Natalie,
    I think most things when placed in a fire will burn, even 100% natural wool, so I can’t imagine that playing with a cotton stuffed toy is more dangerous than playing with a woollen toy, BUT I could be wrong. Choosing a stuffing material is such a personal choice you need to take all the factors into consideration and experiment with a few to find what you like to use.

  7. Jamie

    Wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  8. iris tang

    Hi Pauline,
    Can I use those cotton square puffs
    ,one that we use for applying toner .
    I wanted to knit a little bear for my
    granddaughter who is a month old.

    • Pauline

      Hi Iris,
      I would say you CAN… the only thing with cotton wool is that it does compact a lot and this would mean the toy isn’t as squidgy (more solid feeling) so I’d say – experiment and see if you like that effect? I’d love to know what you think once you’ve tried that! πŸ˜€

    • lily

      i swallowed a little orange bead that was inside a stuff animal

  9. Leah


    Thanks so much for this, very informative!

    Random question. Any idea where to source child safe inserts for rabbit ears that make them poseable? I’ve seen people suggesting pipe cleaners but I’m not convinced!


    • Pauline

      Hi Leah,
      I am not sure where you’d get something like that commercially… I’m sorry! Please let us all know if you find something!!! xxx Pauline

  10. Hannah

    Hi. Loved the blog. I’m just starring to make crochet toys. Which of the fillings you listed would be suitable for a 1year old? I’m going to have a look for advice on raverly also.

  11. tjoep

    I’m making a plushie for my newborn niece, what filling should I use? I really want it to be eco friendly, and safe for young children. What do you guys recommend? Does someone have experience with bamboo or corn stuffing? Thanks!

    • Pauline

      Hi Tjoep, I have listed a few eco-friendly options that would be great for baby toys….. my favourite for baby toys is corn stuffing for baby toys because it’s light weight compared to the other eco friendly options BUT it’s such a personal choice, so I recommend trying them to see which you like best. xxx Pauline

  12. tjoep

    Thanks Pauline! I’ll try corn πŸ™‚

  13. penny

    thanks for share!

  14. Kimber O'Shea

    I have always used wool stuffing for my dolls and am considering an organic cotton as an alternative. Can you tell me if the cotton will have the same weight of the wool if stuffed firmly?

    • Pauline

      I’m not sure. Once you’ve tried both, I’d love to know! πŸ˜€

  15. Paula

    Hello! I am making a little buckle toy…for a child to connect various buckles around a small pillow. I want the pillow to have a bit of weight so it’s a little more stable in a lap while buckling, but also be washable. Do you have any suggestions for a combo of poly fill and pellets in a small pillow – say 6″ square?

    • Pauline

      Hi Paula, that sounds interesting… I would put the pellets in a bag in the middle of the polyfil…. let me know how it works out? πŸ˜€

  16. Candy

    Anything smaller than 3 cm is unsafe for children under 3 as it is a choking hazard. It is my opinion.

  17. mieke

    I’ve been using chickpeas/rice/grains to fill the toy dolls. However, these are small particles and not suitable for small children. I wonder by using sand (sewn into an inner pocket for strength), whether that would be allowed for children? I’m tempted to add a note saying: ‘not suitable for children under 105 years of age’.
    Thank you for your lovely blog.

    • Pauline

      Hi Mieke, Just to be safe I always follow the simple rule, for children under 3 – NOTHING smaller than 3cm! πŸ˜€ Glad you like the blog!!!! πŸ˜€ xxx Pauline

  18. Adaexe

    Hi, I crochet dolls and have been using foam chips to fill them up, recently I decided to read about stuffing and I can’t find it being mentioned anywhere.. Am now worried that they might not be able to wash the dolls… Do you have any idea or experience with foam chips

    • Pauline

      Hi Adaexe, I haven’t used foam myself… but I would imagine this is what they use in bath toys so they CAN be washed. I would do an experiment, make a small toy, stuff it, wash it and see what happens! Please let me know how it goes! πŸ˜€ xxx Pauline

  19. Amanda

    I am trying to find something to restuff my teddy bear I have had for 20 year. I am looking for something soft and washable because I sleep with it every night and wash it every couple of months. I am not sure what it was stuffed with but it has lasted 20 years.

    • Pauline

      Hi Amanda, it’s most likely a polyfil type stuffing. You can get this from fabric and haberdashery stores and restuff your precious toy! πŸ˜€

  20. Siddhi

    Hi Pauline, Please let me know if the Acrylic Poly filled toys are washable and suitable for toddlers? This blog article about various toy stuffing options is extremely helpful for beginners like me. Thanks for taking time to answer me.

  21. Michelle

    Do you sell the fluffy filling to any supplier in South Africa..?

    • Pauline

      Hi Michelle, I don’t sell toy stuffing – only toy patterns! πŸ˜€

  22. Julie Mock

    Hi Pauline,
    Thank you for all information! I am working on poseable frogs for our museum gift store. I made one using poly pellets and one using glass beads. We would rather use a more organic substance, so no poly pellets, and the glass was great but too expensive. I don’t want to use anything that will grow or become unhygienic if it gets wet. What about sand? Is there a grade (size) of clean sand that would be recommended. I understand that these frogs will not be suitable for small children. Thanks!

  23. judi soussi

    I made a large fur fabric lion to sit on. It was filled with polyester filling and was ok for about 6months. Now its as flat as a pancake with my 3 year old grandaughter bouncing on it. Should I try something like coconut stuffing or what else. What do manufacturers use? do you know ?

    • Pauline

      Hi Judi! I can just picture your granddaughter having so much fun! There’s bound to be some flattening with the weight of a 3 year old – even a pillow would become flat with that much squishing! You can stuff more firmly or add more stuffing when you feel it needs it. πŸ™‚ xxx Pauline

  24. Jo Iaquinto

    It sounds like Natural Corn Fiber Stuffing is the only choice for toys for small children, but it is not readily available in the US unless you want to spend $100 to try it.
    And Pellets are totally unacceptable. How about if you made bag for the pellets that you stuff into the toy, so you have two layers of protection, the inner bag could be of Duck cloth or denim, would that work?
    I have two Grand children I want to sew your patterns for one is 5 months and the other 1 year old. I don’t want to make these toys and then tell them they have to wait till they are 16 to play with them. I know toy manufacturers don’t label that way generally.
    What do we do?

  25. Maria Patrice

    I put the stuffing in a stocking when stuffing knitted toys. I buy the cheapest knee-high ones I can find. You can sometimes get these in colours as well.
    Keeps the stuffing from seeping through the stitches.

  26. Dianna

    WOW!! I never knew there were so many stuffing options! 😳😜 Thank you for this information and how different stuffings β€œact” in the toys we make. Blessings 😊

  27. Marie

    Pauline….Thank you for the information on all the stuffing options ! Was wondering if I use sawdust for a small antique looking teddy bear pattern….is there anything special I need to do to the sawdust before using it? Is the sawdust totally natural, or is it treated with something?

    • Pauline

      Hi Marie, great questions! If you haven’t created the sawdust yourself (and your wood was untreated) you would need to ask the supplier about the origin and possible chemical content of the wood that the sawdust came from. I haven’t ever used saw-dust myself as there are so many other options these days but I’m sure that, even though it’s a very old technique used for vintage teddy bears, you could still find some information on Google about how they did it. Please let us know what you discover!!!!

  28. Merryn

    Hi Pauline!!! I know it’ll cause a stampede in Aus, but I pop into KMarte and grab the cheap 2pillow pack(for sleeping) for $5. Cheap and stuffs super smooth. I’ve converted a few Aussies to it on rav.

    Folks just need to remember NOT to use an old used pillow for this.. that would be icky and full of old dead skin and body oils…bleuch!

    p.s. I can’t do FB to join in and comment or chat with you so I’m super excited to join in with my email thingy you sent to ‘sewminds’. πŸ‘πŸ˜

  29. Marti

    Do you suggest using a scented oil on a cotton ball placed inside the stuffing as a detoured so my dog will not tear up the stuffed door stop I have made?

    • Pauline

      Hi Marti, I’m NOT sure about this! I think dogs are all different and I know this wouldn’t work for MY dogs…. I guess you will have to experiment to see what works for your dog! πŸ˜€ xxx Pauline

  30. Kendra Harris

    Found this very helpful ☺️

    • Pauline

      Thanks Kendra!!!



  1. Belinda - I never knew I had so many choices! Thanks for the info.

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