Wednesday, 7 March 2012

More detail about my aeroplane activity centre

This blog post refers to my previous post: Aeroplane activity centre

I'm not going to make a full tutorial on how I made my aeroplane activity centre, but I thought I'd share some of my methods.

Basically, to make one of these, you need to:
  1. Sew all activities to front piece.
  2. Sew side tightener and velcro for top straps to back piece.
  3. Sew front and back piece at side seams, catching in eyelets. Sew front to back along bottom seam, catching in all texture ribbons, elastic, carabiner hook and eye, pocket and ties for pocket contents.
  4. Sew velcro for fastener to one inside piece. Sew front and back inside pieces along side seams, catching in handle and fastener flap. Sew sides of the bottom seam, leaving a 15-20cm gap.
  5. With the main section right side out, and the inside section wrong side out, place the main section inside the inside section. Sew main front and back to inside front and back all around the top seam, catching in the top straps.
  6. Turn right way out. Sew a top stitch seam along the bottom of the inside, closing the opening you left before. Push the inside down inside the main section. Top stitch along the seam between the main section and the inside.
Ta da! Simple right. Especially step one. But in case you need more detail than that...

The whole thing is supposed to be a finished size of 45cm x 25cm. I tried to use 1.5cm seam allowances. The back piece is actually 49cm wide and the front 41cm, to make sure that the eyelets in the side seams are accessible.

I made my activity centre in a lightweight denim. The one I found is actually a little stretchy, which worked fine. I made one HUGE mistake. I didn't prewash my fabric and set the dye. So my hands were blue the whole time I was working on it, and I hate to think what my LO will look like when he's had a chew on it. :( If you're making one of these, wash your fabric and make sure the colour won't run!!

The front piece is backed by some heavy weight interfacing. The one I used is called "Vildona".

The buttons on the left are sewn on using upholstery thread, and are tied off in the middle, so there are two separate threads that have to break before a button will come off.

The buttons on a string are on beading wire, that is plastic coated metal. At each end, the wire is wound several times in a tight circle, and I machine sewed zigzag over four sides of the circle. The buttons covering the ends are sewn on the same as the "winding" buttons, upholstery thread tied off in the middle.

The shapes on the velcro are stuffed with a couple of layers of polarfleece. I sewed the velcro loops on by machine, then I hand sewed each shape around the fleece, which was cut to the same shape. In hindsight, I would not use satin ribbon to attach these, as the velcro is catching on the ribbon and pulling out threads, which doesn't look nice.

The frog is cut from a patterned fabric, with a plain backing. I cut a hole in the backing fabric, threaded in some elastic, and zigzagged over the opening to close the open edges and to attach the elastic. Then I hand sewed the frog to the backing (wrong sides together), turned right side out, and sewed the last opening closed. I quilted a little around the frog's head to hold front to back. The lily pad is hand sewed on. There is a button hole in the denim just above the lily pad, through which I threaded the elastic. The elastic is then drawn up behind the denim, and sewn about a centimetre from the top seam. You could probably just pin it, then sew it into the top seam if you wanted.

The magnet square was the hardest. I tried several other methods and binned them before I settled on this one. I wanted to hold the magnet in the middle of the circle-on-a-string without using any glue or suchlike, as my baby still puts everything in his mouth. And sewing the magnet in through all the layers just looked very bumpy and messy when I tried it. There are probably many other, better ways to do this, but this is how I did it:

(Extra note: It was challenging to sew the items I did after the magnet square, because the magnets held the work to the sewing machine table. So I suggest marking where your magnet square will go, then doing everything else, then sewing the magnet square on last).
  1. Cut 20 circles of interfacing the size of the circles you want. Mine interfacing was "Vilene 250", and my circles are about 4cm in diametre.
  2. Iron three circles to each colour fabric you want, leaving space between them for about 1cm seam allowance on each circle (ie 2cm space between each interfacing circle). Cut out three circles of each colour with seam allowance.
  3. Take two other interfacing circles and put a small flat (quite strong) magnet in the middle. Hand sew around the magnet to hold it in the middle of the circle.
  4. Take two of your coloured circles (I used two different colours- you can use just one if you want) and place a magnet in interfacing between them.
    1. If using different back and front colours, make sure you have colours 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, and 4-1.
    2. When placing in your magnets, make sure you have the poles facing the right way. You need the two colours of 1 and 3 to have one pole of the magnet, the two colours of 2 and 4 to have the other pole. Set up a "control magnet" that must not turn over, and make sure colours 1 and 3 stick to it, 2 and 4 are repelled by it. (If you have the same colour on both sides of your circles on a string, this is not important).
  5. Hand sew together, right sides out, folding in the seam allowance as you go. Use the interfacing you ironed to the fabric as your sewing guide. So the seam you are sewing has: front right side of coloured circle with interfacing ironed to it, 1 extra layer of interfacing sewn around magnet, folded in seam allowance for front coloured circle, folded in seam allowance for back coloured circle, second layer of interfacing sewn around magnet, and back coloured fabric with ironed on interfacing.
  6. Sew in string before you finish the circle.
  7. Do the same for three other circles.
  8. Cut a piece of white fabric for the main square that is the size of the square you want plus seam allowance - ie 10cm + 1.5 + 1.5.
  9. Cut a piece of fabric the same as the main activity centre (mine was denim) the size of the square you want. Mine was 10 x 10 cm.
  10. Cut two squares of double sided interfacing the size of your square (10x10 cm).
  11. Iron the interfacing to the white and denim squares, leaving on the backing paper on the denim, not the white.
  12. Figure out where the centre of your coloured circles will be, and lightly glue one magnet to each of the four points on the front of the denim square. If using two colours on each circle on a string, make sure that you have opposite poles on the magnets upwards. So as you go round the square, you have N-S-N-S. Check with one magnet that you hold the same way up the whole time. It should be attracted to two magnets at opposite corners, and repelled by the other two.
  13. Place the white square over the denim square and sew around each magnet.
  14. Tack in the seam allowance on the one circle you have left of each colour, so you have one circle of each colour in the right size. Iron to help hold the seam allowance in.
  15. Place one circle of each colour onto the white background square over the magnets. Use the circles-on-a-string that you have already sewn, and make sure that you sew the right colour over the right magnet. When colour 1 is placed over a magnet on the white square, you should be able to stick either of the circles-on-string with colour 1 upwards over that magnet. If it is repelled, put colour 2 on that magnet instead, and colour 1 next to it. You should have the colours 1-2-3-4 in order around the square, and each circle on a string should attach to two circles next to each other, on one way up and one the other way up. You're not sticking colour 1 face to face with colour 1, but colour 1 should be upwards and sticking over the circle that is colour 1 on the square. Remove your circles-on-a-string and sew the coloured circles to the white square. I tried not to catch in too much of the denim, but it doesn't really matter.
  16. If you haven't already done so, remove tacking from the circles, that was holding in the seam allowance.
  17. Take the backing paper off the interfacing on the back of the denim, and carefully iron the seam allowance of the white square around the denim, so that it is held down to the back of the denim. Fold in the corners that won't be stuck down, and iron them in place so they don't show at the front. This ironing also sticks together the white layer to the denim, where there are no magnets. Be careful not to get interfacing glue on your iron, nor to stick the whole thing to your iron with the magnets.
  18. Decide which way up you want your square on your activity centre. See which two colours are on each side, and pin the string for the circle-on-a-string with those two colours there. If the square has colours 3 and 4 on the upper edge, pin the circle with colours 3 and 4 where the centre of the top of the white square will be. Each string should be long enough that the circle is just too short to reach the magnets on the opposite side of the square. Take the square off, and sew the strings to the main activity centre fabric, making sure each is well attached.
  19. Place the square back on the activity centre front piece and zigzag all around the edge.

The press stud butterfly and his flower and cloud are made from felt, attached with double sided interfacing and zigzag stitch. The butterfly is two layers of felt with Vildona and double sided interfacing in between, with embroidery thread for decoration and plaited into the string to hold him on. The press studs are sewn with upholstery thread and knotted between each corner, so if a thread breaks they still shouldn't come off.

I think everything else is pretty self explanatory.

Good luck!

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