Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gifts for French Babies

At the beginning of 2015 my mother commissioned some gifts for family members in France who recently had babies. I made a yard-square baby play mat with an applique bird and a bib to match for the one not yet born, and a toddler purse with matching snack bags for the slightly older one. I decided to try to make the play mat with piping along the edges rather than with quilt binding because I like the way a thin strip of piping frames and sets off colors in a piece of fabric.

The play mat and bib are both padded with undyed cotton batting, the kind one would find in a handmade quilt. It was difficult to line up the two outer layers as well as the batting in the play mat because it is so large. I think a normal person would just stick with quilt binding, which goes on after all three layers have been stitched to each other and hold firm. Piping goes on before that step and requires turning the piece inside out as well. While the play mat came out great, it was hard to prevent puckering and wrinkling!

For both these items the side with the applique is made from a cream colored cotton twill and the patterned side is a fabric called "Birdsfeet" by Balanced Design. Balanced Design is a small textile design firm in Providence, Rhode Island, very near me! Melinda Cox started Balanced Design in in 2002. Her goal was to create a line of products that would be modern, with rich color, and fun, but one that would also be "green" and USA-made. Sustainability is paramount in her choice of materials and dyes, and she hand draws her designs as a first step in the process. Many designs are inspired by the work of other artists such as Alexander Calder and Morris Louis. Cox’s work has been featured in several national and international publications and on TV. I really like her ideas and I've purchased several yards of "Birdsfeet" in the pretty blue you see here and a salmon pink as well. The fabric is printed on a mid-weight canvas, which is great for a play mat and bib combo!

My new rocketship machine does beautiful applique stitches!

I designed the bib to be fairly large for good coverage and to accommodate an older baby or toddler. The indentations you can see on the left and right of the bib are at just the right height for the child's arms and shoulders so the bib does not get all bunched up in that area as the child moves.

In order to do this project I needed to research and test out snaps. I decided on resin snaps which require a special tool to apply them. I've found these snaps to be quite durable and easy to open and close, but they do require testing on identical layers of fabric to make sure you've selected the right size. They are washable at hot temps, which is good for a bib and other baby applications. The company that makes the ones I purchased is called KAM snaps.

I'm looking forward to making more bibs for my shop. I'd like to make play mats too but I need to perfect the method. My mom has already asked for another set for another family baby arriving in June, so perhaps I'll try the traditional binding route for that one. The package with these goodies has arrived in France so I look forward to hearing how the families like their gifts!

The playmat and bib together.

The bib is reversible and quite substantial. I don't think many messes are going to leak through. 


  1. Rocketship machine works wonders! The child wearing such a bib should have obsequious manners))

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