Thursday, February 25, 2010

baby toy tutorial

I have been having lots of fun lately with my sewing machine, combining bright colors, different textures and a little bit of imagination to make baby toys for the new little one. I made baby Cam a few things...a couple of jingling teethers and two sets of foam blocks, but I'd like for all of the new baby's toys to be made from natural fabrics, so I've got to get crackin'! I love buying wooden Haba toys and knit toys off Etsy (since I don't whittle or crochet), and bought a few BPA, PVC and phthalate free plastic toys from Green Sprouts a few months ago. Since I can sew, though, I want to try to make most of my own soft/stuffed toys.

I found lots of really pretty corduroy at JoAnn a couple of weeks ago, and picked out some coordinating patterned flannel and quilting fabrics. All fabrics and stuffings are cotton or bamboo. Teething rings are simply unfinished wood curtain rings (Cam loved the texture of raw wood, but you can also seal it with oil and beeswax). Since we don't know the baby's sex, I got all colors of the rainbow. For whatever reason, I'm wanting vibrant colors for this baby...something about a spring/summer baby makes me think bright colors will suit him/her better than pastels. ;) The corduroy is both wide and narrow wale--I thought some variation in texture would be fun for Baby.

So we've covered sight and touch...how about sound? I have lots of bells, and usually just stuff my toys with those. I wanted some variety, though, so when I made a butterfly teether I decided to try something new. I found a couple of envelopes among our bills that had that clear crinkle paper covering our address. I cut the paper from the envelope and slipped it between the butterfly's wing fabrics, trapping it inside when I made the final stitches on the wings. Voila, crinkly wings!

I have been wanting to find rattle inserts for some time now, but haven't had luck at the usual craft stores. Even at Hobby Lobby, which is where I finally found the unfinished wooden curtain rings. I found some online (at American Craft and Felt) earlier this week, though, as well as little jingle balls and squeaker inserts. I ordered a few of each, and they came today! The jingle bells are essentially the same as regular craft bells, but I do think they have a louder/nicer sound. They are also bigger than bells, though, so a bigger toy would be necessary (at least compared to what I usually make). The rattles are quite small, smaller in diameter than a quarter but I'd guess about 1/2 an inch thick, and I got the small and medium squeakers (for further sound variation).

OK! So for this project I wanted to use a medium-sized squeaker. I wanted a simple, quick project (just a couple of pieces, easy steps), so I drew a star on a piece of paper and cut it out. I pinned the star to both flannel and corduroy and cut out one from each.
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I also cut out two star-pieces of organic cotton batting (left over from when I made Cam's crib bedding, found at JoAnn) to add some bulk to the toy. Looking back, I might have preferred another layer or two of batting, but oh well! Next time. :)
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I sandwiched the squeaker between the two layers of batting...
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...and sandwiched the batting between the flannel and corduroy. Right sides out--I said this was an easy project, no turning required!
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I pinned the layers together and loaded a bobbin with red thread. A serger would be best for this project, but I don't have one, so a zig-zag stitch was the way to go. If you make a thicker toy, you might want a wider and longer stitch, and therefore may need to go around more times than I recommend here.
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The first time around is the hardest, just because you want to make sure the layers are staying together and even, but once it is done your star will be much more stable and the rest of the stitching can go faster.
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I stitched around the star another 3 or 4 times, and each time it looked a little nicer. Once you get a nice, thick border around your star, you are done!
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If you are a sewer (no, not sewer, sewer! haha...) already, this project will seem super simple. If you're more of a beginner, fret not...practice makes things much easier! You will get faster and more accurate, you will get more confident, you will have more fun. I can't tell you how many tears have been shed over fabric trapped in the machine (ahem, jersey!), seams needing ripped and redone, projects appearing ruined. I have yelled at my machine, sewn-and-re-sewn zippers (oh, how I hated the zippers)...but I always come back.

It is such a fun hobby to have, and the better I get the more I enjoy it. Every time I finish a project I think, "THIS is my favorite thing I've ever made!" I make these toys, as well as clothing and diapers for my son and friends' children. Shirts, pants, pajamas, coats, dresses...there are so many cute patterns out there, so many neat fabrics, and in most cases I save money doing it (coupons and sales help, of course). You will feel great when you complete a project, and you'll love having handmade (and homemade!) items for your family.

Another thing I love is that everything I make is unique...no other kid has the same coat as my son, and only he has his special Rintoo shirt. Did he need an outfit for Earth Day last year? Of course not, but I loved the fabric and wanted to make him something cute...and it's not like he couldn't wear it for the rest of summer. Every toy you make will be unique. Even if you make 10 squeaking stars, they can all be different sizes, you can use different fabrics...your options are pretty much endless. Just remember to be patient with yourself and, of course, have fun!


2 comments:

  1. I am so impressed! I really, really wish I was able to do something like that. I'd love to have such safe and well made toys for my kids.

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  2. I am truly envious of your sewing machine skills. I'd have to do it by hand cuz I've got a fear of the machine. I made some felt animals in Home Ec when my sister was born, but it was all with the needle.

    I hope someday when we finally have a kid that I have the patience, energy, and motivation to do all that you do.

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