Home Knowledge Nuggets Making Gesso Softies

Making Gesso Softies

Gesso Softies™ are fun, easy, paint-able projects that can be as simple, or as elaborate as you choose.

To make them, simply trace a pattern onto medium-weight cotton fabric (not broadcloth – it needs to be heavier, like canvas, twill or duck), stitch and stuff the shape. Then, coat the surface of the shape with Gesso before painting with acrylic craft paints and sealing the surface with matte, satin or glossy polyurethane.

Why coat with Gesso? Coating the stitched and stuffed shape with Gesso prepares and conditions the surface, making it paintable. The process is much like creating an artist’s canvas, only on a smaller, 3-dimensional scale.

Here are the basic steps in making a Gesso Softie:

Prewash and press a medium-weight, tightly woven cotton “bottom weight”  fabric such as duck, linen suiting, canvas, or twill  – do not use a stretch fabric.

Gesso Softies - Step 1

Mark and stitch.

Trace the pattern onto a double layer of the fabric with a pencil or water-soluble pen.  Pin the layers together and cut out the shape, ½ inch from the marked lines.


Gesso Softies - Step 2


Turn and stuff.

Stitch along the marked line, leaving a 2-inch opening along one of the straight sides for turning. Clip the curves and corners and turn the shape right side out. Stuff with polyester fiberfill and hand-stitch the turning opening closed.

Stitch closed, coat with gesso.

Coat the surface of the soft shape with artist’s Gesso, working it into the seams and making sure you have a good, solid coating. Allow to dry and then coat a second time.

Gesso Softies - Step 4

Paint the shape.

Once the Gesso is completely dry, paint the surface of the softie as desired, or as instructed in the project sheet. Let the paint dry overnight. Seal the Gesso Softie™ with 2 or more coats of polyurethane, allowing each coat to dry thoroughly before applying an additional coat.

Your Gesso Softies™ can now be used as-is, or embellished further with beads, buttons, trims or jewels.

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