A lot of my patterns are for tiny things that need to be stuffed before they’re finished. I’ve tried a lot of different materials over the years, and I’ve talked a bit about how I stuff things in individual patterns. But I wanted to put everything in one place so it’s easy to point folks to if they have questions.
Plastic pellets are my very favorite way to fill tiny things. I got a big bag of the weighted pellets and have filled an astonishing number of projects from it.
They give my knits a heft I really enjoy (there’s nothing better if you want your project to stand up on its own). They’re easy to work with and inexpensive. They don’t smell funny or mold or attract pests. And they’re big enough they don’t work their way out through your fabric over time.
I tend to use a fat straw and a spoon to funnel them in there, and I find they give me a much more even surface than stuffing does.
Now, some folks get awfully snarky about plastic. So I’ll just say right up front that you can totally use or not use whatever you like. No one will make you use plastic. But I’ve tried a bunch of non-plastic options for these projects, and none of them do all the things plastic does. And I don’t actually think plastic (especially plastic that you use and keep using for years, rather than use once and throw away) is inherently evil. Sometimes it’s the best choice for the job at hand.
So if you want to know what I like best, it’s plastic pellets. But there are other choices!
Wool roving or polyester stuffing
Traditional stuffing is my second favorite way to fill tiny things.
I like wool roving best, because it comes in more colors and I think it stays inside my knitting better. I’m pretty sure my cats prefer it too, they seem to play with the wool filled toys the most. Plain old polyester stuffing works too, but it seems to only come in bright white, and I find it tends to send creeping tendrils out through my fabric over time, so it’s not my favorite. But it will do in a pinch.
Stuffing will give you a softer, lighter, more cuddly project than plastic pellets will, so it can be a great choice if you’re planning to use your project as a toy.
If you want your projects to have a scent, you can work some smelly stuff (like lavender, catnip, rose petals, chamomile, or cedar chips) into your filling.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to fill one of the tiny cotton drawstring bags intended to be used as reusable tea bags with whatever I want to use for scent. Then I fill my project part way with whichever filling I’m using, tuck in the bag with the smelly stuff, then finish filling the project.
Most of the stuff you would use for scent is kind of grabby, so it can be hard to get it into your knitting if it’s not contained. And some of it is pretty tiny, so it has a tendency to work its way out of your fabric over time if you don’t put it in something. The tiny drawstring bags solve both those problems.
If you want to use your projects as microwaveable hot packs, you can do that! But it’s really important to pay attention to the materials you’re using.
First, make sure you’re using all natural yarns (wool or cotton are great, don’t use anything with nylon or metal in the yarn). Then, fill it with something you can microwave and which will retain heat.
Most of the recommendations I see are for dried rice or beans or lentils. Different materials have different properties (heat retention, smell, weight) and most have the potential to mold or attract pests over time, so it’s always a bit of a balancing act to find what works for you. I don’t actually use hand warmers, so I don’t have a lot of personal experience with them, but I found this post where someone reviewed a bunch of different options that might be helpful.
But overall, my favorite way to fill any sort of stuffed project is plastic pellets. I’ll use wool roving if I need something to be soft and cuddly. I’ll use polyester stuffing if nothing else handy. If I want to put smelly stuff in there, I tuck it in a tiny bag first to make it a bit more manageable. If I want hand warmers, I head to the kitchen and see what’s lingering at the back of the pantry.
I’m absolutely sure there are other options (glass beads, emery sand, metal balls, yarn scraps). But these cover the vast majority of projects I’ve made or seen other folks make, and I think they’ll almost certainly work for you!
P.S. You’ll see I’ve occasionally linked to specific products on amazon. Full disclosure, amazon is garbage. We all know that. But it is also convenient and makes life easier for a lot of folks. So, amazon links are affiliate links, because if I’m going to send traffic their way, I’m damn sure going to get back the couple of cents they’ll give me for doing that.
If you don’t want to buy stuff on amazon, that’s great! I encourage you to search out similar things from your local stores. But it’s the best way I’ve found to get the most information to the most people in as convenient a way as possible. So I’m going to include them. But I am always in favor of finding an alternative if that’s an option for you.