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Thursday, 18 July 2013

Animal Key Ring Toddler Toy, a Tutorial

Do you know a little person who will want to handle this mini menagerie?  I'm pretty sure that Miss S, at one year old, will appreciate the varied shapes and colours.  She hasn't actually seen them yet, and she won't for another week as I'm busy laying in a stash of car seat-friendly entertainment for a road trip.  I'll let you know how they go over.

This toy is appropriate for very young babies (make it into a mobile or hang the animals from an activity bar) as well as for older toddlers who could name the animals and engage them in imaginative play.

What You'll Need
  • a fabric panel or print with animals that can be cut out individually*
  • heavy-weight fusible interfacing
  • quilt batting
  • matching ribbon
  • large binder ring (the type that opens on a hinge; look in an office supply store)
*Choosing suitable fabric is important.  Look for quilt panels or applique panels where the animals are meant to be cut out.  You could also use a fabric with a large print (like this or this).  And don't limit yourself to animals; make a ring of pretty flowers or fruit or geometric designs.  Finally, I used a printed cotton panel that included reverse images of each animal.  This allowed me to make double-sided animals, but might be difficult to find.  Consider using an animal on one side and coordinating fabric on the back.

Ready.  Set.  Go.
Roughly cut out two reverse printed animals (or an animal and a backing), leaving lots of extra fabric around the edges.  Apply heavy-weight fusible interfacing to the back of each.

Sandwich a piece of quilt batting between the animals.  Right sides should face OUT.

If you're using reverse printed images, make sure they are lined up perfectly on top of each other.  This is a little fiddly, but worth the effort.  If you're using a coordinating fabric backing, your job will be much easier.  secure the three layers together with pins, then hand baste with contrasting thread, taking care not to baste too close to the edges.

Cut 2 inches of ribbon and fold it in half to make a loop.  Place the loop wherever you want the finished animal to hang from (see next picture) and insert the cut edges of ribbon into the middle of the sandwich (NOT on top as shown in the picture).  Secure with a pin.
Use a sewing machine to zigzag, through all layers, around the animal shape.  If your machine allows for it, lighten the pressure on the presser foot to make it easier to maneuver the fabric. It's ok to stitch over the animal itself a bit.  It's ok to lift the presser foot when the needle is down and rotate the fabric to get around a tight corner.  

I took care to keep my stitching well inside the darker blue area of my cutout so that no lighter blue would show in the final product. Depending on your fabric, this may not be an issue for you.  

Remove the basting thread.

Cut out the animal shape, leaving only a narrow margin around the stitching but being careful not to cut it.  When you get to the ribbon tab, cut the top and bottom layers separately (see picture) to avoid cutting off the loop.

Ta Da!  Make as many animals as you like, then use the loops to attach them all to the binder ring.  Your little person can play with them all together like a set of keys, or you can separate them for different games.  Either way will be loads of fun, so get sewing, and be sure to let me know how it turns out for you.
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Monday, 8 July 2013

Of Wasps' Nests and Other Beauties

Souvenirs from the great outdoors tend to land on the dining room table.  It's become a tradition.  When little bits of nature fascinate, I bare them home for continued admiration.  Fragile flowers or crunchy leaves don't last long.  Other bits linger long enough to be joined by new finds, and certain rare treasures hang around longer still.  I once kept the two intact halves of a robin's egg -- palest blue against a white plate -- for weeks.  

Like the egg, these pieces of wasps' nest are holding my interest.  I found them in the garden, knocked off the roof, I suspect, by workmen this spring.  They are more empty space than substance.  I marvel that such perfect geometry was wrought by the hovering pests that I swatted away from last summer's barbecues.  

The pieces of wasp nest are joined here by a seashell that Little Miss S plucked from the tide last weekend.  A pot of succulents from the garden adds life and vigor to the collection.  It's that beautiful geometry that ties the three together -- line and balance and shape.

How, you might wonder, does all this tie into my creative quest?  Plopping organic keepsakes on plates probably doesn't qualify as creativity, but certainly feeds it.  What inspires you?

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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Play Castle in the Sky

Kids love presents that come in really big boxes, but wrapping them can be a challenge.  There's always newspaper -- functional and uninspiring -- but for Little Miss S' first birthday I wanted something prettier.  I found a box that her new rocking horse fit into -- a toilet box leftover from recent renovations -- and gathered white paper, scissors, tape.  The plan evolved as I worked:  "Kids like the boxes best . . .  Miss S will fit inside this box . . . I could cut a door . . . and a window."

By the time I finished, I was more excited about the gift box than the gift, and when her birthday came, Miss S agreed.  

Is there anyone in your life who would fit in a box?  Here are a few castle construction details.

I used a large mixing bowl and a ruler to draw the shape of the door and window.  A serrated kitchen knife worked best for cutting the cardboard. 
I used a roll of heavy white paper and a glue gun to wrap the castle.  I wrapped the door and window by trimming away the paper in the openings, leaving a wide margin, then slitting the paper to the edge of the box and gluing the tabs to the inside.  This took a little while, but wasn't difficult.

Then I cut crenelations in the top flaps of the box and used chop sticks and hot glue to help them stand upright (see next picture).  The finishing details:  a cardboard tube flag pole and freehand stone work detailing around the door and window.  Ta Da!

This project is a classic case of making-it-up-as-you-go, so it's far from perfect, but Miss S doesn't seem to mind.  She has a cozy quilt and a menagerie of stuffed animals in her castle.  She loves opening and closing the door.

She likes crawling out the window too.

Do you ever make projects up as you go or do you always plan them out?  How does it go?

Linking to Everything Etsy.

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