Make: Crabcakes – A DIY Crab Plush (with a Free Sewing Pattern)

We’ve got a birthday in the house!! That’s right – this week we’re celebrating 2 things with one adorable DIY crab softie! As kids, my sister and I spent our summer vacations playing in the ocean on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. She lives on the other Coast now in California, and it just happens to be her birthday tomorrow, so in honor, I thought I’d make a cute little DIY crab plush for the family beach lover!

Our DIY crab plush hanging from lobster trap a in front of a paper marsh background

Crabcakes here was born at the bottom of a rag bag, when an old shirt and stained tea towel decided to combine forces, turn themselves into a clever little crab, and hightail it out of the corner and into the spotlight! And aren’t they just the most adorable handmade stuffed animal you ever did see??

Our reversible DIY crab plush sitting in front of a peach background

This isn’t just any old crab though…this crustacean happens to be a reversible, upcycled DIY wonder! You can have fun cuddling with a baby blue crab plush, or flip it over for a gangly ghost crab stuffed animal.

Looking for more summer sea creature activities? Make a floating egg carton whale for ocean sensory play, or build a playdough sea turtle with a moon sand beach habitat!

To make your own DIY crab softie you’ll need:

BASIC SUPPLIES:

  • (2) 9″ x 11″ Pieces of fabric or felt  – you can also upcycle old shirts or beach towels instead!
  • (3) yards 1/4″ cotton cord or 1/4″ grosgrain ribbon
  • Scissors
  • Straight pins or safety pins
  • A needle & thread
  • A couple of beads or buttons for the eyes
  • Polyfill, beans, or other stuffing

OPTIONAL SUPPLIES:

The sewing supplies you'll need for our DIY crab softie.

How to Make a Crab Plush Toy – DIY Instructions:

  1. Cut out our free printable crab softie template

    To prep, print, and cut out our DIY crab plush sewing pattern. Cut the template pieces out along the solid lines (the dotted lines can be used later as a guide for your stitches).
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!
    *Note: A minor but important prep step: be sure to iron your fabric. You can use new fabric cut to size, but I had an old chambray shirt and stained muslin tea towel I knew would be perfect to upcycle! There’s something special in passing along a gift made from old treasures – AND the fact that it’s lightly worn makes it EXTRA soft.

    I used 2 different colored fabrics as my “front ” and back” so I could make a reversible blue crab that can be flipped over to turn into a ghost crab, but you can use the same fabric for both sides if you’d prefer. 🙂

  2. Measure and cut pieces of cotton cord to use for crab “legs”

    Using the measuring guides that come with the free pattern, cut your pieces of cotton cord to size
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  3. Knot each cotton cord

    To keep your crab “legs” in place after they’re sewn, and give the illusion of jointed legs, knot the ends of each cotton cord piece. Tie an extra knot in the middle for all pieces except those you’ll use for your pincers.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  4. Pin your crab patterns to both pieces of fabric to easily cut out

    Stack your pieces of fabric and layout your template pieces on top. Use 1-3 straight pins (safety pins work well for those new to sewing) to pin all your layers together.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  5. Cut out along the edges of the paper template

    Cut out the body and pincer pieces following the edges of the paper template. You can leave a little extra fabric around the edges of the pincher pieces so there’s more to hold on to while you work!

  6. Trace the pattern onto fabric or begin sewing over the paper templates

    Time to start sewing! I’m not GREAT at hand stitching, so I used a little hack to help keep my stitches even and in line. If you’d like to try this, you’ll keep the paper template pinned to your fabrics and sew right through them (we’ll pull it off at the end). Trixie has a wonderful video for beginning sewers I used to start. It shows you how to thread your needle (I love her trick for doubling up the thread and tying!) where to start your thread, making your first stitches & more in a minute!
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!
    If you don’t need a guide for your stitching, you can trace around the paper with a wax crayon or cut around the outside of the paper template. If you’ve used a wax crayon, discard the paper template, then cut along the wax crayon lines and start your stitch about 1/4″ from the edges.

  7. Stitch almost all the way around the pincers using a running stitch

    Using Trixie’s video and my paper guide, I followed her direction for running stitches and stitched all the way around my first pincer. Staring at the bottom of one side, I worked my way all around the pincer until I reached the other side, stopping short a few stitches from the bottom to give myself room to stuff.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  8. Stuff each pincer

    Before you sew up the corner and bottom, fill your pincer with stuffing. You can use a pencil or the end of your scissors to push stuffing all the way to the ends of the pincer.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  9. Insert a cotton cord pincer arm and sew up the small opening

    Grab one of your 7-inch pieces of knotted cording (the shortest) and line it up with the tick mark at the bottom of your pincer. This will be the “arm” used to attach the pincer to the body of your crab. Push one of the knotted ends up above the stitch line – BETWEEN the two fabric layers – then finish stitching (making sure that you stitch up through the corded rope at least once to secure it).
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  10. If you sewed over a paper pattern, gently pull that off now

    Now that your pincer is finished you can cut off any excess fabric (cutting along the solid line) and take the paper template off (this ended up being a fun “reveal” – it almost felt like opening a present!). Gently tear the paper along the stitching – holding on to the stitching while you slowly tear so it doesn’t pull at your stitches. Rip all the way around, and pull the middle up – look at that beautiful pincer! You did it!
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  11. Put your finished pincers aside

    All done! Put those to the side for now so they’re out of the way as we work on the rest of the body.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  12. Layout the pattern and “legs” for your crab’s body

    Gather your body piece and knotted cords. I found it helpful to lay everything out before I started stitching, so I could make sure my cord “legs” were all in the correct order. The legs will be added longest to shortest from the top to the bottom of the body piece (tick marks indicate placement) and the pincers will be added at the top.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  13. Sew around the body, stitching the legs in as you make your way around

    Follow all the previous steps to sew your body piece. You can pin your legs and pincer arms in with straight or safety pins before you begin stitching, or just add them in as you go like I did. I started along the top of the body piece and worked my way all the way around. Once you’re 3/4 of the way around, stop to add stuffing, then finish sewing.
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

  14. Sew on two button eyes

    We’re SO close, but our little crab isn’t done yet – it needs eyes! You can add eyes by sewing on 2 buttons or 2 small beads. At this point, if you’ve just HAD IT with stitching, paint a couple of eyes on with acrylic paint – or use fabric glue to glue on eye-shaped fabric or felt pieces. Play around the placement to give your crab its own personality – it’s amazing how different it looks when you move them closer together or push them farther back on the body!
    This adorable DIY crab softie is an easy summer sewing project for kids - free pattern included!

    Note: Gifting this to a younger crab enthusiast? Instead of using hard buttons or beads for the eyes, sew on fabric scraps or use black embroidery floss to embroider them on.

HURRAH! Your adorable crab plushie is done! You can hand wash your softie or put it in a laundry bag and throw it in the washer on the gentle cycle. Air dry outside on a sunny day.

Our DIY crab softie sitting in front of a peach background

Seriously though – how cute is this squeezable little crustacean?? And an easy little DIY plush for sewing beginners.

Our DIY crab plushie hanging from lobster trap a in front of a paper marsh background

Crabcakes was shared as a simple free plushie pattern for Sew a Softie’s month-long summer softie-making party! For the whole month of July, some of our favorite companies, accounts, and friends are sharing their attempts at softies you and your kiddos can re-create (there are even some kid ambassadors!). You can find all of this year’s summer sew-a-softie projects here.

For more of our own simple sewing projects, visit the tutorials for our beach ball softies, painted rainbow pillows, and diy ice pack bruise buddies – all easy afternoon sewing crafts that are suitable for kids who are just learning!

Our DIY crab plush toy sitting in front of a peach background

For EVEN MORE hand-sewn crafts that will knock your socks off, be sure to stop by the tutorial for our DIY soft village playset – a collection of house and landscape softies you can turn into your own tiny town for interactive play! Or try making a set of charming little bean bag gnome plush toys (another DIY that comes with a free printable sewing pattern).

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Amanda E.

With a passion for cultivating imagination, Amanda aims to help kids and families discover their creative potential through art, play, adventure, activism, conservancy, and community. Amanda has a background in graphic design, environmental design, and art curation. When not playing with ideas and designs for barley & birch, she enjoys working in freelance design, art, and illustration.

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  1. Your tutorial is amazing Amanda. It’s really clear and I think all your tips for beginner sewers are great… and I love your comment about glueing the eyes if you’ve had enough of sewing!!! I think there might be a few people agreeing with that. It’s interesting how the position of the eyes can really change the personality of your softie!! Thanks again for taking up the challenge of Sew a Softie 🙂