Hop up, jump in...

My daughter LOVES Handy Manny (warning, there's an audio clip that starts when you click on the link). She will dance to the theme song, she recognizes the voices of the characters and gets really upset when I change the channel on her in the middle of an episode. I've tried to find Handy Manny toys for her age - she's almost 17 months - but haven't had any luck. Can't even find a t-shirt for her.

She's a very hands-on kid - she likes to examine things and try to take them apart. She also likes to do things that we do... quite typical for a toddler, I imagine. She's seen us use tools around the house and I don't know if she connects the tools to Handy Manny or not, but she likes to be right there beside us when we have to use any of our tools.

Yesterday, she was using one of her toys as a hammer. It wasn't a small toy or a soft one, it was a fairly large, heavy plastic toy that could do some pretty serious damage if she connected with the window properly. I decided then and there that I was going to make her some tools of her own.

Sure, we could have gone and picked up the plastic tool set from the store today, but that would defeat the purpose... we don't want her trying to hammer the windows or hitting herself in the head.  We also don't want to be stepping on more of her toys and yelping in pain while she's sleeping (we have a lot of plastic building bricks... a lot). So I decided to make her a soft tool set out of scraps of fabric and felt I had.
We have a massive roll of newsprint, thanks to Keith's job at the local daily (if you want some of this paper, check at your local paper... some places sell them for $10, but you can get a heck of a lot of paper for that), that we've been chipping away at for Maddy's colouring experiments, and it also makes for terrific pattern paper. I drew rough sketches of the tools I wanted to make - a saw, hammer, screwdriver, wrench and pliers - with chalk and cut them out. I didn't follow the lines to perfection, but added anywhere between 1/4-1/2" extra for a seam allowance.
I picked out the materials I was going to use on each tool and cut them out. The felt I used isn't the best quality, but it's decent, and paired with a strong thread, it shouldn't tear easily. Keep in mind, these are toys for a toddler; I'm pretty sure I'll be remaking at least one of these toys by summer. For the rest of the material, I had scraps of mostly 100% cotton to use, with the exception of the tartan, which is a poly/cotton blend.
I decided that rather than sew up the pieces with the right sides together and then turn them out and fill the with the fiberfill, I was going to just to a top-stitch. Sure, it's not as clean looking, but for simplicity, nothing can beat it. The biggest downside to that plan is that if you have an older machine, like I do, threads can go wonky and look really, really bad. But, these are toys for a toddler, presumably your own; if they object to playing with toys with a few flaws... well, I'm not one to judge, but Maddy didn't care. Neither did I. If I were to make these to sell to the general public, though, I'd be much more careful, and likely use my mom's much newer machine.
So I filled all the pieces with plain fiberfill - nothing fancy, nothing special. I have 2 bags of this stuff and even with this project, it doesn't look like I'll ever be getting rid of it. I don't use any special tools to tuck the fill into corners or tight spots, either... just a knitting needle and my fingers. I don't see the need to buy fancy tools for things you can either find in your home already... I was pushing out corners in my wallets and purses for the longest time using the handles of our butter knives. Perfect 90˚ angle, so why not?
I managed to get all the tools put together without doing any hand stitching, except the hammer - I had to do a quick whip stitch to attach the head to the handle. While they aren't the most sturdy tools, they are fairly firm - the firmness of any filled item will depend on how much fill you put into it. And the strength of your fabric and thread, too... you can't expect something like lightweight cotton to hold a lot of fill, nor can you expect a lightweight thread to hold material together to keep all that fill inside. I used medium to heavyweight cottons for the most part, with the exception - as I mentioned before - of the poly/cotton tartan. I am not going to lie and say there were no problems with the tartan... that handle of the screwdriver was by far the most difficult thing to sew and keep together once I filled it (the thread count is very low so there's no dense tension that helps keep things in place). I also used upholstery thread (347, to be exact) as my thread... as a nylon thread, it is more durable and has more strength. I also ran out of thread and didn't get to do the nails and screws I had wanted to do as well.

I like the tools I made. There are definite improvements I would have to make before I would even think of selling these to the public, but it took me just over 2 hours from drawing to giving them to Maddy to complete this project. Compared to my other work, 2 hours is nothing; it takes me 4-5 hours to make a purse and 2-3 hours to make a wallet. I'm going to show my work to my mom (my best sewing-educated judge) and see what she thinks. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have sets of these on my table at one of the craft shows this fall.

Next up for non-Etsy projects is sewing up the summer tops and dresses for Maddy. I'm hoping to get started on them next week and I will definitely post photos and give updates as to how the process is going. These will be the first pieces of clothing I've sewn from scratch in 20 years, so it should be interesting. Terrifying, but interesting.

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