Monday, 19 September 2011

Pirates and Planes

My sewing machine has been going non-stop this week. It started when my son's nursery had a pirate theme for the week. The children were encouraged to bring in pirate things, and as he didn't really have any, I decided to make him a quick eye patch. I took a piece of black felt, and some pirate print that I had in my stash. Cut out a skull and crossbones from the pattern (I'd been thinking about cutting out my own applique but frankly, 3 1/2 year olds don't appreciate the fine art of applique) and stuck it onto the felt with bondaweb (I didn't even finish the edges. Bad mummy!). Then, I made a little tube with black cotton fabric, threaded a piece of elastic through, and attached both ends to the felt patch. Ta da!

I was feeling quite pleased with myself (and I would show you a photo, except that son has hidden the eye patch somewhere in the flat and for the life of me I can't find it). But then, the rest of the nursery children upped the game and the next day he came home wanting a pirate hat, like his best friend from across the street had. 

Pirate hat, kindly modelled by Wol.
After some probing questions, I learned that this was a bandana/skull cap affair, and I turned to the internet for help. There were a huge number of tutorials for folding a bandana gangsta-style, but finding a good pirate one took a while. I wanted something that was sewn rather than tied, because I knew otherwise I would be tying the thing onto his head every 3 minutes. It took some careful googling, but finally I got this tutorial. I adjusted the measurements slightly, basically taking an inch off so that my semi-circles were 4 inches high and 8 inches long and my central strip was 4 inches by 15 inches.
Pirate pieces, ready to be sewn

Then, for the band that goes around the front and acts as a tie, rather than making a tube and turning it inside out (I HATE doing that), I simply pressed my long piece in half and pinned it along the cap with the rough ends lining up. I then sewed along, and pressed it down flat. When I came to the ties, I pressed the edges in a bit and then sewed over top, tucking the ends in. In the end, I got this. It fit perfectly, and my son was thrilled. Alas, pirate theme is over now and goodness knows what I'll have to make next...

Cap shape sewn, before the band is added to the bottom


But more fun than pirate hats: I've been making travel bags for the kids. These will be stuffed with stickers, crayons and so on to keep them occupied on an upcoming long trip. I found this tutorial ages ago, but only just decided to make it - and it really is as easy as she says it is! The longest part was ironing on the interfacing. Once that was done, it only took minutes to put together. I added a snap instead of velcro, but otherwise followed the pattern exactly.

I LOVE these, and want to make them for everyone I know. A few things I'll do differently next time, though: I would add a loop on the top for hanging them on a hook, and possibly a side pocket.

The ladybirds are for my daughter (1 1/2), and I made it exactly the size of the pattern. The turtles are my son's, and I enlarged the pattern by about an inch on all sides so that I could fit all his many bits and pieces into it. They are super easy and super lovely - give them a try!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Superhero Capes (with extra toddler safety!)

Me, age 2, as a Superman ballerina
Yesterday, my children decided to be superheroes. I don't know where this game came from, because as far as I knew they didn't know what superheroes were, but since my son's interpretation involved running around with a bath towel yelling, "To infinity and beyond!" I'm guessing it might have something to do with Toy Story. The bath towel bit, well, it shows creativity, right?

Anyway, after watching his little sister run about with a towel wrapped around her head, completely obscuring her vision, I decided they deserved proper capes. After all, I had a Superman cape when I was wee. Sure, I used it as a ballerina tutu... But it was a cape sometimes, I'm sure.

Capes are pretty easy. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how to sew one. But I'm always a bit uncomfortable about tying things around my children's necks. Not that they can't be trusted but...well, they can't be trusted. So I thought long and hard about how I might make a baby-safe(r) version for them. I originally decided I would elasticise the whole neck and close it with a piece of velcro, which would have the added bonus that they could do it themselves. But alas, no velcro to be found at 11pm. So I went with this compromise: the neck is partially elasticated, so as to give enough to keep them safe, no matter how rough and tumble their superhero play gets. It can be made within half an hour.

You will need:

- fabric - how much depends on the size of your child and how full you want your cape. These were each made with about a fat quarter worth of fabric.
- elastic
- bondaweb and a contrasting fabric for letters, if desired
- sewing machine and iron

Step 1: cutting out

This is a very rough project. It's not a finished work of art; it's a play piece. And so, I didn't take much time or care in my measurements. I measured the back of each of their shirts and added roughly 5 inches. For my son (3), I made a 20 inch square; for my daughter (1 1/2) I made a 16 inch square.
Fabric square, folded in half and trimmed...

Then, I folded the squares in half and cut the edge at a slight angle, to give the piece a bit of a triangle shape with a nice, flat top. give this shape
Step 2: hemming

Now fold and press the top and bottom edge of your cape, then fold it over and press again to give a nice finished look. Hem the top and bottom, and then do the same for the sides. (I was using really horrible cheap polyester fabric that I happened to have in my stash and it frayed like mad. If you were using something nicer, you could probably get away with just folding it over the once and hemming.)

 Once all the edges are finished, turn the top part over about 1.5 inches (more if your elastic is wider) and press. This will be the casing for your ties to pass through.

Finished edges, with the top pressed down
Step 3: ties

Now cut two strips of your fabric, 2 inches wide and the length that you would like your finished ties to be. Fold each of the long edges in towards the middle of the rectangle and press. Then fold the strip in half, press again, and sew so that you have a nice, finished tie.

Both edges pressed in, before it is folded in half and pressed again.

Take your elastic, and cut a piece about 2/3 the length of the top of your cape. Sew each end of the elastic to one of your ties with a few rows of secure stitches, so that you have a long tie that with the section of elastic in the middle, like so:

Step 4: attaching the tie

Now, pin your tie in place so that it tucks underneath the fold you made for the casing, and the start of the elastic lines up with the right hand edge of the cape. That sounds a bit confusing. Maybe a picture will help.
Now sew the casing closed on that right hand side, making sure to catch the tie in your seam. Once it is secure, pin the elastic to keep it in place and sew along the bottom of the casing. Then, pull the tie so that the elastic part lines up with the left hand edge, and sew that part shut too. Your cape should now look like this:

Step 5: Superhero adornments

Because it was 11pm, I just cut out son's and daughter's intial and attached them to the cape with bondaweb. I didn't even sew around the edges to secure them. Of course, lots more care can be taken with this step, designing a crest for your child, working in multiple colours, and so on. But like I say, it was 11. I wanted bed.

Things I might change next time around: the fabric. I hate nasty polyester, and I really fancied a nice dark blue for the capes. And I do like the idea of the neck attaching by velcro, which would be even safer and easy enough for the child to do it by him or herself. Also, I think my son would have liked a fuller version, so that it swooped and he could hold the edges out.  But they will do. And it was awfully cute watching them eat their pancakes this morning in their pyjamas and capes.