Tuesday, March 24, 2009

crinkly elephant teething square

finished comforter
So rubbishknitterjunior is teething, and has one of those little comforter type things, that is basically two pieces of fabric with some crinkly sounding material in the middle. He likes the noise it makes and will sit contentedly chewing various parts of it. It's pretty useful for keeping him entertained in the pram, but obviously gets quite dribble-saturated and needs washing rather a lot. I thought about getting another one, but then I thought, but it's just a couple of squares of fabric, surely that's about as easy to make as it gets! All I need is to figure out where to get hold of some crinkly stuff to put in the middle. But what? And suddenly, in a moment of extreme cheapskateness ecofriendliness it occurred to me... that a plastic bag might do the trick! Would it be alright in the sewing machine though, and would it go through the wash? Well I thought I'd give it a go and see.

This is what I did (I thought I'd do a proper tutorial type thing, as some people found my sitting-up cushion idea useful, and I didn't really explain that very well. Also it's really easy to make and would make a nice quick handmade present for a friend. It would probably only take an hour or so if, unlike me, you were a proficient sewer and didn't get sucked into reading about the differences between African and Indian elephants on wikipedia)

How to make a crinkly elephant teething square / comforter / miniblanket / thing

  • The best bit. Go through your plastic bag drawer, and crinkle them all in turn, until you find one that makes a pleasing noise. I used one of those cheap thin rustly ones like you get in supermarkets, but I am sure there are better crinklers out there. Ideally you want a Lucozade bottle from the 1980s to fall through a timewarp into the present day, complete with its crinkly packaging. You probably want to avoid biodegradable plastic in case it spontaneously biodegrades in the washing machine.

  • cutting stuff outCut out two squares of scrap fabric, the same size. My plastic bag was sort of transparent so I was able to lie it on top of a fabric square, draw round it with a biro and cut it out that way.

  • Now's your moment to add some badly done applique. I chose to attempt an elephant. (If anyone's wondering, I think it's an African elephant. Bigger ears.) You might want to put your own Favourite Animal in here. As long as it isn't something really annoying to outline like a centipede or a porcupine or something.

    • picture of an elephantDraw a picture of an elephant. No laughing at mine.

    • taking scissors to an elephantCut the elephant shape out of a suitably implausible fabric.

    • some ears of plastic and nonplastic varietiesCut out some ears. I chose to add a layer of plastic bag here too so that the ear is crinklable.

    • sewing on a tuskUsing a tiny bit of black embroidery thread or scrap yarn, embroider a french knot onto the elephant's face for its eye. Cut out a tusk from white felt. (White cottony fabric might be stronger if you have any). I sewed on the tusk at one end like I was sewing on a button. It may or may not fall off over time.

    • appliqued elephantPin or glue the elephant to the right side of one of your fabric squares, then sew round the outside with a wide, short zigzag stitch (mine was 4mm wide, 0.4mm long).

    • ear sandwichLayer the ears with right sides of the fabric pieces together, and the plastic bag piece underneath both of these. Sew around the ears leaving about 1/4 inch round the edge, but don't sew the bit where the ear is going to join to the body.

    • Turn ear inside out. Fold in the raw edges and sew the ear onto the appropriate part of the rest of the elephant with a straight stitch. (Don't be tempted to reach for the iron when folding in the edges, if you have sewn a bit of plastic bag inside the ear. I imagine this would have disastrous consequences. Squashing it down with your fingers is fine)

  • sewing round the squareWhen you're happy with the picture, layer up the 3 squares in this order: plastic bag (bottom), fabric square 1 with RS up, fabric square 2 with RS down (top). Pin together. I don't reckon it matters if you make holes in the plastic bag while pinning, nobody will see and it's not going to fray or anything. About 1/4 inch in from the edge, sew through all 3 layers until you are a couple of inches from where you started. Stop and turn the comforter inside out so the nice applique is showing. Topstitch round the edge of the right-side-out square, folding in and sewing over the bit where you turned it inside out, so it is all properly sealed. Finished!

action shot of comfort being provided
And it went down pretty well with the wee fella, keeping him amused for a full couple of picoseconds. It has been through the wash fine at 30 degrees, several times.

Disclaimer: don't let the baby pull off ears/tusks and eat them. If your baby manages to maim itself in some way on a square of fabric, please don't blame me.


Anonymous said...

hey, is Elmer! very cute. Teething tips: son seemed to like to chomp/dribble raw broccoli and frozen cucumber sticks

Martha said...

I love the crinkly elephant teething square. I need to make herds of them as I have an itty-bitty-chewer-drooler-teether type person at my house quite often! Thanks for the tutorial. (Your elephant looks lots better than mine will)

Sarah said...

This is fantastic! I'm definitely making several of these for me and 2 of my friends -- we're all due in June! :)