Friday, 29 July 2016

A cut and sew accordion book tutorial

A year ago I started drawing little pictures for my daughter featuring her favourite stuffed animal - a white bunny called Babo with big floppy ears. The pictures showed her bunny doing everyday things around the house - working in the kitchen, picking flowers outside, going for a walk in the rain. Slowly a story started to evolve and I drew a few more pictures to fill in the blanks, until I had all the illustrations for a story about Babo getting ready for a party and a visit from his two cousins. 

Once I had the storyline and the illustrations, I looked at different ways of putting the book together. Although I had written a text to go with the pictures, I decided in the end to go for a picture book - perfect for toddlers - and chose a folding accordion style format. The book is finally for sale in my shop - you can choose from any type of fabric to make it, but do be aware that it fits onto a fat quarter that is 27 inches wide - so don't choose one of the narrower fabrics! I made mine out of faux suede, which is nice and soft. 

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

The book is easy to sew up. Don't be daunted by all the steps below! I tried to break it up into minuscule steps, but really all you do is cut it out, fold it in half, and sew it together, after adding a little tab with velcro to keep it in place when its folded up. Have fun sewing!

You can make up your own story to go with the pictures (I took the name off the cover in the version for sale - talk to me if you'd like a personalised book, if your son or daughter has a stuffed rabbit, I could put their name on the cover for you). The gist of the story we tell is as follows (just the bare bones - go to my shop to see the layout of the book and all the pictures to follow along): Babo goes out one rainy morning to buy some food for his cousins who are coming to visit. When he comes home he puts the food away in the kitchen. Then the doorbell rings, and his two cousins (who he hasn't seen for over a year) come in. They're a bit shy at first, so they sit in the living room for a while, telling stories. Then they all go out to the garden to play in Babo's play house. After playing outside they're all muddy, so they have a bath. After supper Babo's mother plays them some songs on the piano and they all go to bed. The next morning they get ready for their party, working together in the kitchen. Babo's mother cuts some flowers outside and they set the table and have a wonderful party outside in the garden.

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

Step 1: Gather your materials. You will need: The book fabric (I had it printed on faux suede fabric, but choose any fabric you'd like! However, do be aware that this book is sized for a fat quarter that is 27 inches wide, and not all fat quarters in my shop are the same width), white thread, scissors or a rotary cutter, pins, a length of batting to go inside the book (this should be the size of half of the book - you can cut it exactly to size in step 11), a small piece of velcro for the tab.

Step 2: Cut out the book, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance all around.

Step 3: From some of the extra white fabric, cut out a piece 3.5 x 1.5 inches for the tab.

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

Step 4: This photo shows the placement of the tab and the two pieces of velcro. One piece will be sewn onto the tab in step 6 and the other piece should now be sewn onto the left side of page 12 (look carefully on the picture and you can see where it should be placed). 

Step 5: Fold the tab fabric in half and sew down the two sides, leaving one side open for turning. Trim the fabric close to the seam.

Step 6: Turn the tab and attach the velcro. Then attach it as shown with a few stitches. 

Step 7: Fold the book in half along the long middle line. Line up the edges carefully, checking in a few places. You want the black lines to line up exactly.

Step 8: Pin carefully, checking to make sure the black lines line up all around. 

Step 9: Then sew around the book, leaving the small end open. Start your seam a few stitches in on the small end and sew around the corner. Then cut the corners so that when you turn them inside out the corners will be sharp. 

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

Step 10: Turn the book inside out and poke out the corners.

Step 11: Cut a piece of batting to exactly fit inside the book.

Step 12: Ease the batting into the opening. (Note: if you use a thicker fabric, you may want to leave the batting out - experiment with what works best for you).

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

Step 13: Pin the opening closed, you may need to press the seam allowance in first so that it stays in place while you sew.

Step 14: Sew the end seam closed.

Step 15: Now sew along all the lines between each page. This will keep the batting in place and make it easier for the book to fold. Before you sew, make sure front and back are lined up (stick a pin through the black line and make sure it comes out on the black line on the back).

a tutorial for sewing a fabric book for toddlers

Step 16: Fold the book into an accordion shape and give it a good press. You're done!

Step 17: Here's a close up of one of the pages...

Step 18: ...and a close up of the book from the top!  It folds up into a nice chunky book, perfect for little hands to hold. The tab holds everything in place but is still easy to open and close.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Honey badger tutorial for sew a softie day

Did you know there is an international sew a softie day? Thought up by Trixi Symonds of Coloured Buttons, the 16th of July will be a day focused on sewing with kids and teaching kids the joys of sewing. There will be workshops and sewing events, and for the two weeks leading up to the day, bloggers all over the world are sharing tutorials for sewing softies (You can find the whole list of tutorials on Trixi’s blog). If you’re here specifically for finding a tutorial, welcome!

I love the idea of a day dedicated to sewing with children. I started sewing as a child, beginning with simple projects my mother thought up for me. I’m the type of person who loves a challenge though, and I remember in grade eight home economics class, where I sewed a dress while everyone else worked on a simple pair of shorts. For those of you who like a challenge, this tutorial is for you! My aim is to help make the process as simple as possible by providing very detailed photo instructions.

This project is geared toward an older child (or adult) who already has experience sewing. You will need to be able to use the sewing machine, but other than that, its mostly down to following instructions precisely and pinning carefully! If you can do those things, don’t be afraid to give this a try. You’ll learn lots of useful techniques for sewing softies, such as putting in a gusset, sewing curved seams to give a stuffed animal a round body, attaching ears and limbs by machine and by hand, as well as practice stuffing and embroidering. Most of all, enjoy the challenge and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you get stuck!

This tutorial is for a cut-and-sew softie. Before we begin, a few words about cut-and-sew patterns. These are patterns that come with all the pieces printed directly on the fabric, so that all you need to do is cut everything out and start sewing. The nice thing about this is that you don't waste time and precious sewing energy on thinking about what to make and choosing fabric, but everything is all ready to go. I sell a range of cut-and-sew patterns in my shop, and if you want to try a simpler one, start with the polar bear pillow case

  • Step 1: When your fabric arrives, it will look like this, with all the pieces printed and ready to cut out. I sewed this one out of linen/cotton canvas, which is a sturdy but not too heavy fabric. You could decide to order the cut-and-sew softie on a different base fabric, that's what's nice about cut-and-sew softies on spoonflower, you can order a design printed on any of their fabrics. But be aware that some fabrics will be easier to sew than others.
  • Step 2:  Cut out all the pieces. The seam allowance (1/4 inch) is already included.
  • Step 3: Here are all the pieces cut out and ready to sew together.
  • Step 4: Start by sewing the legs together. This kit comes with a little tag, that you can attach to the leg. To do that, fold the tag in half, right sides together, sew around three sides, snip the corners and turn. Then lay it onto the back of the leg as shown, before you sew the two leg pieces together, right sides together.
  • Step 5:  Now sew together both legs, arms, ears and tail. These all follow the same principle: put the right sides together, pin them together so they don't slip around while you're sewing, then sew all the way around, leaving the top side open. make little snips right up to the seam around the curved bits (without cutting into the seam!) - this will make them look smoother when you turn them inside out.
  • Step 6: Now turn all of these pieces inside out. This can be a bit fiddly, but there are some tools that can help with this, or just use a knitting needle or a pen or pencil (I've been known to use my teeth!)
  • Step 7: After you've turned all these pieces inside out, give them a press, either with an iron, or just go along the seam with your thumbnail to flatten it out. 
  • Step 8:  Now you can stuff all of these pieces. I used fabric scraps to stuff the bottom of the arms and legs. This makes them a bit heavier and harder. Then I used stuffing to fill the rest of them. A tip for stuffing your softie: go slowly, and put little bits of stuffing in at a time, pushing it down firmly so that the softie doesn't get lumpy. That being said, I used less stuffing in the tail, so that it would hang better, and only a very tiny bit in the ears (or none at all if you prefer!)
  • Step 9: Here are all the pieces stuffed and ready to be attached to the body.
  • Step 10: Now its time to attach the ears. First make a little fold in the bottom of the ear and attach it with a few stitches. The final width should just fit between the top of the head (although don't forget the seam allowance! see picture 11) and the start of the white part of the badger's body.
  • Step 11: Pin the ear in place, with the dark side against the badger's body. Then sew it on.
  • Step 12: When you fold it back out it should look like this. Now, when you sew the two body pieces together, make sure the ear is folded in, onto the body, and it will get caught in the seam, so that the ear is attached to the body (see picture 15).
  • Step 13: You will now need to do the same for the arms. Lay them on the front body piece (the same piece that has the ear attached) about two inches below the ear. Attach them to the body with a few stitches, and when you attach the front body piece, again make sure they are caught in the seam as shown in the photo.
  • Step 14: With the ear and arm tacked on, you can now attach the two body pieces together for both sides of the badger. Here you will be attaching two curved pieces together, which will make the stomach nice and round. Its important, when sewing curved pieces together, to use lots of pins, to make sure the fabric doesn't slip around while you're sewing. Another tip is to keep the dark fabric on top, since it is easier to move this to fit the curve. Remember to take your seam allowance into account when starting this seam, as shown on photo 14, the tip of the top fabric will stick out a bit, so that the seam starts exactly at the right place. If it helps, first put a pin through the place where the seam should start (1/4 inch in from the edge of the fabric) on both the top and bottom fabric, then secure them in place with another pin.
  • Step 15: After you have sewed your seam, make little snips right up to the seam (not through it!) along the curve, so that it will lie flat. Fold open the seam and the arm and ear should be securely fastened onto the body. Now do the same for the other side. 
  • Step 16: Lay your two body pieces next to each other, and fasten the tail to one side of the body with a few stitches. Do the same with the two legs. Make sure the legs are pointing forward, and attach them 1/4 inch in from the front of the badger's stomach. 
  • Step 17: Now it is time to sew on the gusset. A gusset is a piece of fabric that is added between the two body pieces in order to give the head more volume. The gusset piece is attached from the tip of the nose to the back of the head, making a round head shape. Starting exactly at the tip of the nose (again, put a pin 1/4 inch in on both pieces of fabric to find where to start) sew along the gusset. Important: on the nose side, start the seam 1/4 inch in, don't start at the edge of the fabric! Make sure you back up a few stitches to this point, so the seam won't unravel. Do the same in the following steps.
  • Step 18: Once the gusset is attached, make little snips to ensure the curve will be smooth.
  • Step 19: Now attach the other side of the body to the gusset. the red pin on the picture at the tip of the nose shows where to start the seam, again make sure you don't start right at the edge. Pin the two pieces of fabric together, and this time sew all the way from the point of the nose down to the bottom of the badger. Before you sew the seam, pin it all the way, to make sure the bottom edges will line up when you get there!
  • Step 20: This picture shows the seam, starting 1/4 inch in from the nose and going around the top of the head and down the back. Now snip the curve.
  • Step 21: The next seam will close the front of the badger. Start your seam right where the top seam finished: 1/4 inch in from the top of the fabric. (When you start the seam there will be a lot of fabric from the top of the head in your way. Make sure to fold it away from you and don't catch it in the needle as you sew.) Then sew down the front of the badger. Again snip the fabric where the seam is curved.
  • Step 22: Turn the badger the right way around, this is the exciting moment where she starts to come alive! with your finger, smooth out all the head seams and check that they look all right. If your nose doesn't quite line up, don't worry, you'll be embroidering a nose over it, and can cover up some small mistakes. If everything looks okay, then stuff the head and the body.
  • Step 23: Using a needle and thread, close the back seam using a mattress stitch. I started at the beginning, secured the thread inside the body, and then stitched first along one leg, pulled my stitches tight, then stitched back over that leg and along the other leg, before stitching back to the middle. This will make sure the seam is secure.
  • Step 24: Your badger is almost done! with some embroidery floss, stitch the eyes, nose and mouth as shown in the picture. I also added a few whiskers, by making little knots and snipping off the thread. 

Thanks for reading, enjoy sewing and don't forget to share photos with the hashtag #sasday2016.
If you've gotten this far and want to give it a go, from now until July 14th you can buy two fat quarters for the price of one on any type of fabric in my shop. I've designed a matching trench coat for Honey badger (shown in the picture above), and there are also other animals in the collection

Ps. you can read more about how I designed the honey badger prototype here. There will be a tutorial for the trench coat coming very soon, and a pattern for the little cardigan is also in the works.

Friday, 1 July 2016

diy play mat

A play mat is something you only need for a short period of time, and its also something that takes up quite a bit of space. Play mats can be quite garish, so I never had one with my first daughter. With the second, however, I decided I wanted to make one (maybe mostly as an excuse to get some of my fabric printed). This tutorial will walk you through the process of "re-upholstering" a play mat.

I first looked at different kinds of play mats, and decided the easiest way to make one would be to buy one second hand and re-use all the "hardware", that way all I needed was a piece of fabric and a sewing machine. 

I bought this pink play mat at a charity shop for three pounds. Its not too bad as play mats go, but the fabric is hideous polyester - which is a magnet for hair and dust, and I wanted something that I would like to touch, especially since I would be putting a baby on it. I got to work planning and measuring and decided to make a simple round shape, adding interest by printing different designs on the fabric to make it look like a quilt.

The fabric I used is a heavy cotton twill fabric, which was very nice to work with and feels sturdy and soft. If you find a round play mat and want to use the same fabric I did, you can order the panel in my shop on any of the base fabrics available on spoonflower (I debated between the cotton twill, the thick organic jersey or the cotton / linen fabric). Most of these designs are also available in my shop as single fabrics / wallpaper / gift wrap as well. Depending on the shape of the play mat you're re-doing, use any fabric, or design your own like I did! This tutorial I wrote a few years ago walks you through the same design process I used here.

The following photos show the steps I took for making my play mat. These are kept quite general, since every play mat will be different, but they show some things to consider if you'd like to redo a play mat of your own.

  • Step 1: This photo shows the back of the play mat. Before you take it apart, look at how its sewn together and think about how you want your new play mat to look. I made a few changes, such as deciding not to sew the petal shapes, but to do a simpler stuffed circle around the edge instead. I also designed my play mat to be slightly larger. I couldn't make it too much bigger, because then the arches wouldn't fit. If you're designing your own play mat and printing it, rather than using existing fabric, make sure you measure and plan everything carefully, because you won't be able to cut more fabric. 
  • Step 2: Take off any fittings you will need.
  • Step 3: These are the pieces I reused: the stuffing from the petals, the batting from the bottom of the play mat, the buttons and clasps for attaching the arches, and the arches themselves. I kept the original fabric for these.

  • Step 4: Once I knew the diameter of the play mat, I created a file in gimp and filled it with different designs. When the fabric arrives, don't forget to wash it first, so that it won't shrink when you wash it after you've sewn it!
  • Step 5: These are some of the designs I used. I used mostly existing designs and recoloured some of them to create an overall matching look.
  • Step 6: Cut out the play mat, leaving a seam allowance, and cut out a piece of backing fabric the same size (I used an old curtain).

  • Step 7: Calculate where on the back the clasps need to go (its helpful not to throw away the old play mat, so that you can easily see where to place things). Sew them on. To make the play mat bigger, and to shape the stuffed outer circle, I added four strips of fabric around the outside of the mat. Now sew the whole thing together, right sides together, leaving an opening for stuffing.
  • Step 8: Pictured here is the stuffing going in. Before I stuffed the outer circle, I first put the round piece of batting into the play mat, and sewed around the inner two circles to keep it in place. You could hand quilt this, or use the machine like I did. This will leave you with a round tube around the outside of the play mat for stuffing.
  • Step 9: Sew the opening closed by hand, then sew on your buttons if you're using them, attach the arches, and your play mat is finished! I also printed a number of butterflies on the fabric, which I want to sew, stuff, and hang from the arches, but that hasn't happened yet!