Repurposing military uniforms is a fun way to make an special heirloom toy, full of meaning and sure to be treasured. I’ll share some tips and ideas below. You can certainly incorporate these ideas into other ride-on toy animal projects or even some soft toys, such as the Nutty Nag.
Most military uniforms are made of a heavy weight fabric that is perfect for the ride-on toys without the need to reinforce it. Find coordinating fabrics for the muzzle, inner ears and bridle. Choose some yarn that coordinates nicely with the uniform or in a color that represents the hair color of the service member whose uniform you’re using.
When cutting the project out of the uniform, watch the grain line placement on the fabric and keep it in line with the grain placement on the pattern templates. This is important for the finished project to shape out properly when stuffed.
Identify and remove patches, buttons, or any other special pieces on the uniform that you want to incorporate. Always overcut around the area you want to use to give yourself room to play with the design. A patch can be picked off with a seam ripper and emblems which are directly embroidered onto the material can be cut out then appliqued onto your project.
Small patches work great as embellishment on the bridle. The name patches work well either as part of the bridle (pictured further down on this page) or as reins. They are usually not long enough to be reins without some added fabric. On these, I added a strip of fabric between the two name strips to make the full reins.
On the above horse I used reverse applique to place an embroidered emblem cut from the uniform onto the neck of the horse. You can see the tutorial here for how I created this. You can also see where I used buttons and a small patch on the bridle.
These are older images of my Classic Stick Horse made from repurposed uniforms my husband wore during his time in the Marine Corps. These patches were topstitched in place after picking the stitches to remove them from the uniform. I gave one a long ‘buzz’ cut for a fun variation.