Monday, September 30, 2013

Tag Toys

I wasn't going to publish this post.  It was sitting as an unfinished and very rough draft in my inbox, and probably would have remained there indefinitely, never known to anyone but myself.  There are at least a dozen web tutorials that show you how to make a tag toy for a baby, so adding one more didn't seem like a good use of my time.  Then, I happened to come across another blog with a lovely tutorial showing how to make your own tag bean bag toy.  The blogger was selling her toys on Etsy, until they were pulled due to patent infringement.

You see, there is a toy company out there that has built their fortune on the astute observation that babies love sucking and chewing on fabric tags.  Their baby toys and accessories are covered in tags, and babies drool over them.  If not for these tags, the toys would be no more interesting or different than the next.  So the toy company patented this design, so that any person selling a toy that has more than one looped ribbon risks being legally liable.  The toy company probably didn't come up with the original idea.  But they were surely the most aggressive of the tag toy makers, and they have the paperwork and lawyers in place to bully a small-time business out of the market.

A tag toy is very easy to make, and there are few things in life more satisfying than making something that captures the fascination of a baby.  Even if you don't have a little one of your own, you can whip one up for a pregnant friend or two, all the while supporting the grassroots crafting movement.  Unfortunately, I finished my tag toys before I had the chance to snap some photos to illustrate the process.  Trust me, it is as straight forward as it gets, but as always, feel free to reach out.

Fat Quarter Baby Tag Toy

You can find fat quarters in quilting shops.  If you're in Toronto, I highly recommend The Workroom for their great selection of cleverly printed fat quarters.  Alternatively, you could make your own fat quarter by cutting any medium-weight cotton fabric into an 18"x22" rectangle.

The instruction below includes adding a chip bag inside the toy to make a crinkle sound for added infant stimulation, but it's purely optional.  Chip bags that are slightly thicker, usually found with more premium chips, will make for a more durable toy.

What you'll need to make 4 tag toys:

- 2 fat quarters in matching patterns
- 1 spool of thread to match both fabrics
- 4 large chip bags, washed out and dried
- at least 3 ribbons in matching colours, each 1-1/2 yards in length
- scissors and ruler (or rotary cutter and mat)
- pins

Wash, dry and press fat quarters.  Using your scissors and ruler, measure and cut each piece into 4 equal quarters.  That is, one cut in half lengthwise, and one cut in half widthwise.  You should now have 4 equal pieces of each pattern, or 8 pieces in total.

To make one tag toy, select one piece of fabric in each pattern.  Place the fabric pieces right-sides together.  Place a pin on each corner to keep it from shifting.

Cut pieces of ribbon in each colour, in lengths varying between 1-1/2 to 3 inches, to make 22 pieces in total.  There will be 6 ribbons each long side of the toy, and 5 ribbons on each short side.  Arrange the ribbon pieces around the pinned fabric rectangle to plan out where each ribbon will go.  Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, fold the ribbons in half.  Pin the 12 long side ribbon pieces inside and between the two fabric rectangles, so that the ribbon folded end points toward the centre of the rectangle, and all you see is a bit of the two ends of the ribbon poking out from the edge of the fabric.  Leave the 10 short side ribbons for now.

Sew the two long sides, leaving at least a 3/8" wide hem.  Remove the pins, and turn the fabric right-side out.  Pull out the now sewed-on ribbons and press the fabric flat.  Your tag toy should now have its two long sides with tags, and the two short sides are still open and unsewn.

Lay the unfinished tag toy on top of the chip bag, if using, and measure out a rectangle just slightly smaller than the toy.  Cut it out, and insert it into the toy through one of the open ends.

Now comes the tricky part: affixing the folded ribbons and securing the chip bag with pins.  First, fold in the hem of the fabric on the two open ends and pin it to secure it temporarily.  The pins should pierce through the chip bag.  You may need to trim down the chip bag to make it fit once one end is pinned.  Then, fold each ribbon and pin it in between the hem, so that the ends are hidden and the loop sticks out.  Repeat until all of the ribbons are pinned.

Sew all four sides of the toy, as close to the edge as possible, to form a rectangle that neatly frames the whole toy.  On the short sides, this will sew the seams shut; on the long sides, it will reinforce the existing stitches.  Remove any remaining pins.

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