Sunday, 21 February 2016

Purple presents

This blog is about the gifts I have been making for my daughter. I love making things for children and I always like to include something handmade with my little girls presents. In the past I have made her a quilt with mini blanket and a caterpillar and a cooker. The quilt and blanket are loved and the caterpillar gets an occasional hug. She is often very enthusiastic about the things I make but she seems to think they take a few minutes when she goes to bed. She will see me looking at a pattern book and a couple of days later it is there. She once told me that she thought other Mummies spent a lot of time buying presents whereas I "just" make them.

I made toys for other children in the lead up to Christmas, I was hoping that she would fall in love with something and I could just make her one of those.... The problem was that she didn't fall in love with any of the things I made. She gave them all a little hug and helped me wrap them. I like to think that this is because they were already for somebody else in her mind. The alternative is that no child will love them and I couldn't think like that! I was stuck for ideas and getting increasingly frustrated then I remembered the thing that she had been commenting on over and over again.

My daughter loves Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child (spoiler warning) and one of them is all about looking after a dog. The dog gets lost and when they find it they find two identical dogs. In the end they are told you can identify the correct dog by the tag on his collar. One of my daughters favourite toys is a dog with no collar. Every time we read the book she mentions this (about 30 times) so I realised all I needed to do was make a collar for the dog.

I took the measurements and played about with the design in my head. I could make a tube out of fleece (yes I love fleece) and top-stitch it or I could use cotton fabric and interfacing to keep its shape? How to make the ends neat and what kind of fastening mechanism were also causing me problems. Her favourite colour is purple, I decided to use left over faux leather from covering our dining chairs. I was worried that it would be too thick to sew right sides together and turn but I was not sure about the white underside showing, I then realised I was over thinking the whole thing. I took two strips of the faux leather and sewed it together using a small white top stitch which tied in the white that was showing making it look intentional. I crimped the ends using crimping shears and I added poppers using my Kam popper tool. I cut two circles of felt and hand stitched "Kindle" (the dogs name...) on one circle. I blanket stitched the felt circles together and attached it to a stitch in the collar. It was simple but looked rather effective and I was quite pleased.

I felt a pang of guilt that other children had more complicated and elaborate toys made by me while my little girl had upholstery scraps. My husband was chuffed with it and assured me it would be fine. I got on with the rest of the Christmas preparation and I had just turned the craft room into the spare room when my daughter handed me a bit of paper. I asked what she had drawn and she said "a hippo I thought you could make it one day". I will be honest, I was tempted to get the machine out and sew through the night keeping our visitor awake but it did not seem very festive. On Christmas morning amongst the gifts sent from friends and relatives - she opened the little parcel and gave the biggest grin. She went to show Kindle and they played in the hall together. Admittedly she never actually told me she liked it but she did tell me Kindle loved it. It felt like such a risk at the time but children don't see the time taken or the cost of fabric they just see something they love or something that is forgettable. It was an important lesson in keeping it simple.

Toy dog collar

Unsurprisingly though for her birthday I made her a hippo. I made it using a pattern from Sew Cute to Cuddle by Mariska Vos-Bolman. I adore her designs and I used them for Mollie and the Wedding Tortoise. The diagrams and descriptions as always are really clear. One of the best things is that she shows the finished toy from all angles so you know what all of the parts have to look like.

I chose to make it using purple fleece, obviously! I have now made enough toys to see where I feel the pattern will be challenging. I knew that I would have to be careful with the darts in the body in order to get a good shape and I was a little concerned about inserting the feet as it looked tricky. The darts went in with no problem and the construction was fine. I found that the feet were as tricky as I imagined, sewing one half and then the other is a great tip, as otherwise I would have probably tried to do it as a continuous circle which would have made it more difficult to move the bulk of the fabric around the machine.

To make the hippo you construct the body and the head separately and then put them together, I was really nervous about putting the two together as I had visions of mismatched seams but it actually came together perfectly and I was pleased that the seams lined up. It says in the book that she is a rather large hippo and I would second that, it took a bag and a half of toy stuffing to fill her. I will admit it felt slightly odd to spend my Sunday evening with my hand stuck up a purple hippo's bum. I decided to use fleece eyes and add on small buttons for the pupils. As she gets older my daughter is increasingly fascinated by my button box and certainly has her favourites and she noticed them quite quickly and was excited about them. The hippo has proven to be very popular and is so big that half of the time my daughter uses it as a cushion. It is definitly more loved than the caterpillar I made for her first birthday.

Hippo - design by Mariska Vos- Bolman

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