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.

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