DIY & Crafts

Soft blocks to sew for baby

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DIY & Crafts

Soft blocks to sew for baby

Soft Play Blox
These adorable play blox are made from embellished felt squares fitted onto foam cubes. Crafted from recycled felt made from old sweaters, they are easy for little hands to manipulate and they provide exciting textures, colours, and tactile sensations to stimulate baby's developing senses. The blox can safely be thrown around or pounded on. Just be sure to sew the appliqué squares on tightly. Simple to wash when needed, the blox are a fun way to develop your design and appliqué skills. Consider making up your own motifs to reflect themes in your baby's environment. You can explore using other types of felt for the appliqué, too -- felt scraps remaining from other projects, handmade felt, or purchased wool felt. Let your creativity soar.

Finished measurements: Each block will measure 4" (10 cm) square.

Materials
• Recycled felt in an assortment of bright colours, cut into 4-1/2 x 4-1/2" (11 x 11 cm) squares (see more about making recycled felt on page 2)

Note: Each block requires 6 squares (a set of 6 blocks requires 36 squares).

• Additional felt pieces/scraps for appliqué
• Six 4" (10.2 cm) foam cubes

Note: For all-natural blox, substitute 1 pound wool roving for foam cubes (the wool will need to be packed tightly for the blox to keep their shape).

• Yarns and embroidery floss in colours of your choice

Notions
• Sharp-end tapestry needle
• Embroidery needle(s)
• Sharp scissors
• Straight pins
• Cardboard for template
• Chalk for marking squares from cardboard template

Sewing techniques
Embroidery stitches: Blanket/buttonhole, whipstitch, french knot, simple running stitch

Click here for applique pattern templates.

Starting out
Cut a 4-1/2" (11 cm) square template from cardboard. This will allow a 1/4" (6.35 mm) selvedge for sewing around the entire edge of the squares. Lay the template on the recycled felt and mark around it with chalk. Cut the squares using sharp scissors. Choose a variety of colours and textures to make things really fun. You can modify the number of squares needed, based on the number of blox you wish to make. For example, if you only wish to make four blox, and each block requires six felt squares, you will need 24 squares.

Select your appliqué motifs from the templates given or make up your own simple designs based on a theme for your nursery, a story, or items that are part of your daily life. They must be made in simple and fairly large shapes to fit within an approximately 3-1/2" (8.9 cm) square. Use the same motifs over and over if you like, or make each unique.

Choose two appliqués for each block; for the set of six blocks, you will be making 12 appliqué squares. Select which colour squares you will use for the appliqué pieces. Cut out the needed appliqué shapes in the colours of your choice from your additional felt and felt scraps.

Making the play blox
Using embroidery floss and embroidery needle, or strong wool yarn threaded through a tapestry needle, sew your appliqués to the chosen squares. Use the blocks shown as suggestions for placement and colours. You can use a whipstitch, a running stitch, a buttonhole stitch, or invisible stitching to apply your designs. Be sure to sew all pieces on securely, especially small ones, to protect them from curious, prying little fingers. Play around with each to see how they look. They will be cute no matter what! Treat this project as a learning tool and experiment.

Assembling
Once the appliqué squares are completed, begin to assemble the blocks as follows:

• As shown in the illustration below, using a sharp tapestry needle, strong wool yarn in a colour of your choice, and either whip stitch or blanket stitch, sew side 1B to side 2A.

• Next, sew side 2B to side 3A as above.

• Then, sew side 3B to side 4A.

• Finally, bring the sewn piece into a circular shape, and sew side 4B to side 1A. You will now have the exterior of a block.

Take one of the remaining unembellished squares and put it in place at the top of the square you have created, as if you were placing a lid on a box. Pin the top into place. Sew around the entire edge of the square, sewing it into place with the wool yarn and the same stitch you used on the sides. Secure the yarn well and bring your loose end to the inside of the box you have made. If necessary, use a blunt-tipped object (such as a chopstick) to make sure your corners are nice and sharp on the outside.

Page 1 of 2

 



Excerpted from Nature Babies by Tara Jon Manning. Copyright 2006 by Tara Jon Manning. Excerpted with permission from Potter Craft. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced excerpt with permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Stuffing
Place the felt blox form over the foam cube, as if you were putting on a sock. It may be necessary to use a blunt-tipped object to help push the corners of the foam cube into the corners of the felt cover. If you are having difficulty, consider turning your felt cover inside out, and folding it over the foam cube, as if you were dressing it. If you choose to use wool or wool roving to fill your blox, stuff the open-sided cube with enough wool to achieve desired firmness.

Place the remaining felt square on the open end of the cube where the foam is exposed. Pin it into place. Stitch it just as for opposite end, securing the yarn end when you are finished and drawing the yarn tail to the inside of the cube.

Repeat these steps for each of the blox. Enjoy watching your baby play with them, discovering their texture and feeling. You may find yourself enjoying them just as much!

Making recycled felt
Making recycled felt is one big experiment. There is really no way to know just how a sweater will felt -- how thick it will be, how fuzzy it will be, how fast or slow it will shrink. With a little patience and experience, you'll get a sense of what works best. Some fibres will felt very thick and hard, while others, like lamb's wool, will felt very soft, fuzzy and pliable.

Recycled felt is made from fabric knit from all-natural animal fibres such as wool, lamb's wool, angora, or cashmere. Start by sorting your raw material (that is, old sweaters and knitted swatches) into like colours. The felting process creates a lot of fluff and lint; one way to keep things under control is to place the sweaters in zippered pillowcases or net lingerie bags. When I am making recycled felt, I actually stop and strain out the blobs of fluff from the top of the water every once in a while.

Place the sweaters in your washing machine, and fill it with hot water (colder temperatures will not work) and a very small amount of detergent. Dish soap works very well. The felting process works best with a top-loading machine as you might need to open the lid periodically to check the progress and strain the lint. Start a regular wash cycle. Check the progress of your felt once or twice during the wash cycle. You should be able to feel the difference in the fabric as it felts -- it will become firmer and denser. If you don't feel any changes taking place, turn the dial back and allow the wash cycle to run again. Once you are satisfied, allow a cold rinse and spin cycle to do their thing.

Lay your newly made felt out flat to dry. During warmer weather, I place my recycled felt out on a metal mesh patio table. Do be aware that your felt will dry in whatever shape you lay it in. Some of the inevitable warps and curves can be blocked out later with steam.

You might try experimenting wtih running your pieces through the dryer to see what happens. It may make things firmer, or softer, or it may do nothing but make them misshapen. Again, it's an experiment every timee you do it -- so remember to keep your sense of adventure. Once your felted pieces are dry, they are ready to cut.

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Excerpted from Nature Babies by Tara Jon Manning. Copyright 2006 by Tara Jon Manning. Excerpted with permission from Potter Craft. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced excerpt with permission in writing from the publisher.
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Soft blocks to sew for baby

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