Friday, 24 May 2013

Thoughts on making toys

We have often given you tutorials on how to make things that are suitable gifts, such as the carrier bag holder or kindle cover. We have also uploaded tutorials for projects that kids can make their selves, like our non-sewing cushion cover. However there is not much information out there for making toys FOR children. It can be a thorny issue as everyone is concerned about child safety.  So we've put our heads together and come up with a few things to think about when making a toy.

What are "Child Proof Eyes"?

Non-Child safe nose with washer
Child proof nose with hole
Most teddies and dolls have plastic of glass eyes and noses. These rounded eyes have a stem on the back which pokes through the fabric. They are then held in place with a washer which grips the stem. It doesn't take too much effort to pull the eyes (or noses) out. This represents a very real choking hazard. To help prevent this child proof eyes have a small hole drilled through the stem. Once the eyes are in place and the washer griping the stem tightly you can sew through this hole, stitching the eye to the fabric. Thus if the washer is worked lose the eye will not come out.  However in toys for younger children you can be even safer by replacing plastic eyes with fabric eyes that you appliqué on. Ensure the fabric doesn't fray first (give it a lot of tugs along the edge) or hem the eyes (a roll hemming foot is fantastic for this). Then stitch the eyes in place. Don't rely JUST on glue, although gluing the eyes in place first makes the sewing a lot easier.

What fabrics are suitable for a soft toy?
When people think of soft toys their first thought tends to be fuzzy teddy bears. There is a wide selection of teddy bear fur available and most of it is suitable for soft toys. However there a few things to think about.

Make sure the fur does not pull away from the backing fabric easily.

For toys for younger kids it's best to avoid very long pile fur as this can become a chocking hazard.

Avoid fabrics that are overly flammable (if in doubt to a quick burn test on a small sample).

Of course you don't HAVE to use fun fur. Soft natural velvet makes  a very soft and cuddly teddy. I have also seen some very cute toys in cotton.

How  do I pick a design?
 If you decide to use a commercial pattern for your toy then the pattern will give you recommended age ranges. Again there are a few simple things to think about.

Chocking hazards. When children put things in their mouths they may not just be tasting them. It's how babies and young children feel different shapes and textures. So avoid making toys with long limbs as these will end up in the little ones mouths and present a choking hazard.

You don't have to make a teddy at all. One of our customers made her child a cuddly book! Each page was a different colour with an animal appliquéd on top it. The cover was padded and very cuddly.

As well as sewing patterns we do sell some sewing kits and crocheting kits for stuffed toys.

What can I stuff the toys with?
We recommend Hollow Fill stuffing. It conforms with safety regulations as well as being much easier to use than any alternative. Avoid using scraps  of fabric. If a seam bursts then the strips of fabric you use to stuff the toy become chocking hazards. Using scraps also gives  the toy a lump feel and makes it harder to wash and dry.

We hope this blog helps you with what has to be one of the most rewarding projects you can undertake. I know a few of the teddies I've made have been well loved and have been handed down through families which always give me a warm sense of satisfaction.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Net Curtains and sewing projects around the home.

Many of us get a sewing machine and start thinking of sewing clothes.  However there are so many opportunities to use your sewing around the home. Here are  two quick and easy ways to put your sewing machine and skills to good use.

Net Curtains
 Net curtains help provide you with privacy without obscuring your view from your windows. They are also useful for diffuse harsh light, brightening up a room and tying together elements like furnishings, carpets and wall coverings.

To make net curtains you will need
Fabric - Voile, Muslin, Curtain Net or Organza.
Sewing Needle
Net Curtain wire and hooks and eyes.

Step One
Measure and press your fabric. Your curtain needs to be at least as wide as your window, many people like to have the net curtain a little wider to allow for gathering.  Add 4 cm to the width for the hem and about 5 cm to the length for the hem and casing.

 Step Two
Hem the bottom of your curtain. Here a chequered pattern on your ironing board is hand. Fold the fabric from the right side to the desired width of your hem (about 2 cm in this case. a  check pattern on your ironing board helps.  Press the fabric to create a sharp fold.

  Then fold the fabric over again, so the raw edge of the curtain is now totally enclosed.. Press again , pin and sew the hem in place.

Handy Hint
If the fabric won't stay in place when ironed try a small bit of spray starch.

If your machine came with a rolled hemming foot and your fabric is thin enough, you may want to use a rolled hem in your curtains, such as this one.
Being able to make a rolled hem is a handy skill, and net curtains are a good way to experiment with them.

Step Three
 Hem the sides of your curtain as above. You may want to try to make these hems a little smaller.

At the bottom corner fold the side hem into itself at a 45 degree angle, pin the hem in place and sew in place.

Step Four
Make a casing  for the curtain wire. To do this just hem the top of the curtain in the same way you hemmed the bottom.

Now you just need to thread your curtain wire through the casing and screw the hooks and eyes into the wire (the curtain wire is threaded to make this easier). Place a hook into one side of your curtain wire and an eye into the other. Then screw the corresponding hook and eye into the window frame (or into the wall using the correct wall  plugs). We use a hook in one end and an eye into the other to make it  easier to know which side is the right side and which side is the wrong side should you have to take your curtains up and down.

Another simple project is to simply sew loops made from  ribbon onto your tea towels and wash cloths. This makes them stay on hooks much more securely.

So there we have two new simple ways to use your sewing around the home. Please check out our other handy blog entires for home projects such as...

Making a Kindle Cover

Making a Plastic Bag Holder

The Non Sewing Cushion Cover 

Home made reusable cable ties

How to Line your Curtians

Remember to enjoy your sewing, and to never be afraid to try out new exciting things.