Thursday 5 September 2013

Reversible Cot Bumper Tutorial

Many a night's sleep was punctuated by a clanking sound escaping from the baby monitor, followed by a sleepy wail.  The baby smacked her head on the wooden bars again.  It was time to make a bumper for the cot.

Naturally I couldn't do with a plain design and had to add some functionally superfluous embellishments.  Grimlies to the rescue.  Although I suppose the cooky graphics do serve a purpose outside aesthetics because Zaika gets to learn about different animals and poke the little creatures in the eyes.  I wonder whether, when she finally meets a real cow, Zaika will wonder why the animal's eyes aren't trying to pop out of its skull.

This project is simple, albeit time consuming because there's metre upon metre of tangly fabric to sew.

You will need:
  • Sewing machine...
  • 2m of woven, natural fabric such as cotton, bamboo, linen or hemp: approximately 1m each for the room facing side and the cot facing side.  These two pieces will be cut into 20cm wide strips, making up the length of material that will cover the perimeter of the cot (about 4.5m). You will need more fabric if you're trying to match textile pattern.  I used black calico on one side and quite unsightly striped linen on the other side.
  • Batting of the same size.  I used Dacron, but I'm sure it's not hard to find some fair trade, certified organic bamboo batting, complete with an exorbitant price tag printed on recycled brown rice paper.  I serendipitously happened to have a gigantic roll of Dacron exactly the right width.  Hoarding win!
  • Sewing thread
  • About an A3 sized piece of fusible interfacing for the closure tab if using thick batting.
  • Domes or buttons (optional - can use fine webbing or bias binding ribbons instead, with or without eyelets)
  • At least 40 pegs or bulldog clips or nylon clamps
  • Set square
Step by step instructions after the jump:

1. Decide how you want the bumper to attach to the cot as that will determine its length.  You can either weave the bumper between the bars or wrap it around the mattress edge and attach it to several bars with straps or ribbons.  The former needs at least an extra half a metre of fabric.  You also need to account for the thickness of the batting.  The thick Dacron that I used shrank my bumper by 12%!  That completely misplaced my carefully positioned animal designs.  I planned for both options and spaced out the images for the weave-through design.  Unfortunately, even with my generous image placement margins, the resulting shrinkage meant that I had to go with the strapped option.

2. For the weave-through option, get a long strip of webbing or ribbon and weave it around the bars the same way you'd weave the bumper.  Measure the strip, add 20cm for the fastening overlap, then an extra 30cm for thin batting or 60cm for thick Dacron.  For the strapped version, measure around the mattress, add 20cm for fastening overlap, then an extra 10cm for thin batting or 20cm for thick Dacron.  If you want exact positioning of individual images on the bumper, the only way of getting them 100% correct is a complete mockup.  This would be the case for embroidered images.  Screen printing can be done once the bumper is sewn together and test fitted.

A few sewing notes:
  • Use the widest stitch on your machine for this project.
  • Dacron blunts needles, so you may use more than one needle.
  • Don't embellish with any dangly bits that can become a choking hazard.
  • If using grommets or eyelets to secure holes for the strapping, get ones smaller then 10mm in diameter.  Larger sizes can trap baby fingers.

3. Cut fabric into 20cm wide strips and join them with right sides together.  You will have two very long, irritatingly unmanageable strips of fabric.  If you have cats, lock them out of the sewing room for this or feed them to the dogs, then lock out the dogs.
Long fabric strip
4. Find a spacious, clean area of floor or back yard.  Something like a runway is good.  Make a fabric-batting-fabric sandwich, carefully aligning the edges.  Do that once, and peg the layers into place.  You can now make the sandwich into a roll, should you need to carry it to the sewing machine.
Pastel coloured pegs make me shudder

5.  Using tailor's chalk, mark out the vertical stitch lines.  These will stabilise the long strip.  Use a set square to make sure they are perpendicular to the long edge.  You have to sew the vertical lines before you tackle the long edges, otherwise the layers will shift during sewing and pull in different directions.  It will be very very messy.  Keep the pegs close to either side of each line of stitching, on both ends.  You really don't want the layers to shift.  This will take ages...
I used stripes as sewing guides

6.  Once the never ending strip of fabric is divided up into stabilised sections, stitch the layers together along the length on both sides, about 1cm from the edge.  That will also take ages.  Once the strip is assembled, a test fit in teh cot is a sensible step.

7.  Next step is making binding for the edge.  Don't bother with wasting your time on bias binding because you're only finishing straight edges.  Unbiased binding will do.  Cut whatever scraps of fabric into strips four times wider than the width of the binding you want, say 10cm.  Then sew them all together into one very very long strip.  Excruciatingly long.  It needs to finish both sides of the bumper and leave some for the straps, so needs to be 10m+.  Fun.

8.  Now the super-fun part.  The binding needs pressing.  All 10+ of it.  If you miss this step your binding will twist like a pretzel when you sew it onto the bumper.  The pressing will take a very long time, and your mind will drift off.  For what will seem like an arm numbing, steaming eternity you will wonder whether the dinner is cooking itself, the bathroom tap is replacing its own washers, or why local body politics is of interest to practically no one.  You may as well put on a movie you can half-watch.  Nothing with subtitles.   Of course you can splash out on bias binding instead.
Multiply this by 10 metres or so
Finished roll of binding tape. 

8.  Pin the tape around both long edges of the bumper.  You will need lots of pins.  You will also need to be careful that the tape edges are even.  Stitch in place.
The thickness of Dacron made it impossible to evenly sew on the binding.  This would be an easy task with a thinner batting
9. Sew the ends of the bumper.  If you use thin batting, you can simply bind the ends the same way as the long edges.  Dacron will make the overlapped section too bulky, so it makes more sense to sew on extensions which aren't padded.  I simply folded correctly sized pieces of fabric in half, interfaced them, sewed them into pockets and attached them to the ends of the bumper the same way as the binding.  The final step is adding domes or some other fastening.

10.  Make the straps that will attach the bumper to the bars of the cot.  Each strap needs to be long enough to snugly wrap around a bar and the thickness of the bumper
Use the leftovers from the binding tape to make cot bar straps
I made four straps
Turn inside out and sew across the edges, leaving a large seam allowance for extra reinforcement for the domes (or buttons and button holes).  Don't stitch all the way to the fold, instead leave a stitch long gap.  This will give you a crisp corner when you turn the strap the right way out.
Turn straps the right way out and press
Stitch closed the open edge

11.  Decide where you want the straps to attach and mark their placement with a pin or tailor's chalk.  Corners are best for a secure fit.

12.   You can sew the straps directly to the bumper if you don't want the reversible option.  Alternatively you can sew wide button holes to pull the strap through or use grommets.  I wanted my bumper to be reversible, in case Zaika found the googly-eyed animals a little too unsettling to sleep near.
For each strap sew two button holes bar-width apart. 
The button holes need to be wide enough to fit the strap
13.  Next step is fastenings.  I used my beloved domes, but buttons with button holes should work as well.  The straps can be made long enough to be tied into knots that can't be untied by a baby.
Strap fastening needs to be relatively snug to prevent sagging, but also loose enough not to restrain the bars when the movable cot wall is pulled up or down

14.  Fit the bumper into it's place in the cot.

15.  Populate the cot with child.  In our case, sleep disruptions reduced considerably since we fitted the cot with the bumper.  Project win!

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