Life takes us on many unexpected journeys, and this craft project was the beginning of our 2015 holiday that did not exactly work out the way we had hoped. Or happen at all that year in fact. However, as with many disasters faced with a positive attitude and a healthy dose of irreverence, in the end it worked out better. While it took us an extra twelve months to get there, in which we had a 7 month wait for permission from Minister’s delegate to get passports for our girls, we managed to amend our holiday to take in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Vanuatu so it wasn’t so beach oriented for the girls. In all honesty, this is a post I started writing about 18 months ago, however after our holiday fell through, I put it aside for a little while. But here we are, so let’s have a wander down my crafty memory lane together.
So there I was planning a superb family holiday to the South Pacific, fourteen glorious nights cruising around three gorgeous countries – Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Sun, sand and snorkelling, who could ask for more? I could almost feel the sun on my back and the waves gently rocking me as I snorkelled through the reefs. The only drawback was that, in the words of my youngest daughter, “I’d like the beach if it wasn’t for the sand and the waves.” Also, there is no wifi on Mystery Island, which is a problem if you are a fan-fiction addicted 14-year-old who secretly dreams of being a superhero.
Now obviously I wanted my girls to enjoy our tropical holiday as much as the snorkelling aficionados in the family. And since I was unable to convince them that swimming with turtles and all manner of brightly coloured fish is the most amazing experience to have when on tiny islands in the South Pacific, I found a crafty, lazy compromise. The amazing Stella at The Golden Adventures of a Very Dark Horse came up with the solution; I’ve just tweaked it to fit with my family’s love of fantasy and things that deviate from the traditional norm. (And also because I’m essentially a 7-year-old in a grownup’s body and I like to DO IT MYSELF! *stamps foot in a petulant and precocious manner*).
Seeing Stella’s idea on Pinterest made me think about how I could make the girls’ island adventure relaxing and fun in their own way. We’d planned horse riding in rainforests and abseiling down waterfalls to cater to their uniqueness, but I wanted them to enjoy their beach time as well, even though they don’t like to swim at the beach.
So with tutorial chosen, I was off to Spotlight to find some suitable material that wasn’t all ‘beachy’, ‘girly’, or ‘old lady’. I chose a cotton fabric with a Wonder Woman print for Miss Ash, one of the only DC characters allowed in our house without a heartfelt discussion on why Marvel is better than DC and serious debate over whether Batman is a Super Hero or not. (For the record, my vote is cast for Ninja with Gadgets in the Batman debate. He’s not a superhero.) And then off to the nearest department store for two bath sheets in matching colours, I went with a dark grey to satisfy the curled-up-in-her-room-not-being-social-and-reading-by-the-glow-of-the-tablet vibe she had going on at the time.
I’d like to point out that this is an excellent craft to use up bits of leftover fabric and upcycle old towels. I used new because I was trying to make a brand new gift for them rather than indulge my inner hippie.
With two beach sheets, some hobby fill, a metre of Wonder Woman fabric and matching thread in hand, I was ready to begin the day’s crafty adventure.
The first step was to decide how big I wanted the pillow part of the bed to be. Keeping in mind that the finished product will wrap around this, making the finished size of the bag slightly larger than the size of the pillow.
I cut the first towel into four pieces as shown above. The large piece on the right is for the pillow. I made mine the width of the towel x 33 cm. The two skinny pieces in the middle are for the handles and once again they are the width of the towel x 15 cm. The last piece is leftovers, don’t throw it away though, I have a way to use it up at the end. I hate wasting crafty goodies. And Tim Tams. Never waste a Tim Tam.
Next I put the pillow part together by folding it almost in half, leaving about 5cm of the raw edge exposed (this ‘flap’ is where the other towel will be attached to the pillow). I sewed the open ends together and raw edge down, leaving a gap along the raw edge to push the stuffing into. (Don’t worry about the exposed raw edge as it will be hidden by the other towel very shortly).
I sewed the gap closed and then pinned the second towel over the exposed raw edge to hide it and create the rest of the bed part of the beach bed. To make sure it was strong and the stitching reinforced for lots of lazing, I sewed it in three separate places as marked above. Sewing along the side of the pillow was awkward; somewhat like trying to drive a car with a Pillow Pet under each arm. My best advice is to take it slow, pull it through straight, use LOTS of pins and remember that the towelling is quite thick, you’ll want a sturdy needle on the machine unless you want to break a few.
I rolled up the beach bed with the right side on the inside of the roll, set it aside for the moment and got the Wonder Woman fabric out. I cut two strips that were 6.5 cm wide…well, in reality I made two small cuts in the fabric 6.5 cm apart and ripped the fabric down to the end. This makes a much straighter line than I could ever cut freehand, is quick, and oddly satisfying. But if you want to cut it like a grown up with scissors and the like, go right ahead. I folded the edges of the strips 1cm in on either side and pressed them. If you want ties that aren’t as wide as mine, turn the edges in further or make your strips slimmer. I wanted the strips wide enough that I would be able to reinforce the stitching as they will be holding the whole project shut while there is a fair amount of weight in the side pockets.
Fold the strips in half longways so the pressed edges meet and press them again. There is an inordinate amount of pressing at this stage of the game. You may as well leave the iron plugged in for the time being. Run a seam down the open side close to the edge. At one end of each of the ties, fold over twice to hide the raw edge, press and sew to keep it in place. At the opposite end, fold 1 cm over and press down. This is the end that you will attach to the towelling.
Grab the rolled up beach bed that you had put aside and place the ties evenly along the opening.
Pin and sew the ties in place. I wanted these stitches to hold with the weight of books and sun block pulling at them, so I sewed the ties on with a cross pattern for extra strength, like sew (like so… I slay me):
Incidentally, the answer to your unasked question is yes. Three of the ties will be on the edge of the foot of the bed and three of them will be in the middle of the back of the bed. This is why we rolled it up with the right side facing in.
Next, it was time to put the pockets on the side. The size of the pockets you create will be dictated by the size of the stuff your little nerdling wants to carry to the beach. The best way to create the pockets is to measure the nerd crap your non-snorkelling, geekling wants to bring to make the outdoors feel more like indoors and custom-create the pockets. For the ones I did, I made sure that there were pockets and sleeves the right size for books, headphones, sunblock, a Nintendo DS and sunglasses. They will also be dependent on the size of the towel you started out with.
For the long pocket, I cut (and by cut, you know I mean ripped) a length of fabric that was 66 cm by 21 cm. Then it was back to the iron to press the edges over by 1cm. Along one of the long edges (the one that is now the top of the pocket) fold it over again and press so this edge does not have a visible raw edge on the back. Run a line of stitching along this top edge to keep it in place.
Grab your rolled up beach bed and position the long pocket underneath the ties as shown in the picture. Make sure it is parallel to the foot of the bed so things aren’t inclined to fall out of wonky pockets as it is being carried.
Sew the pocket in place then, measure the items most likely to be carried in the pockets and sew dividers along the pocket as illustrated by the dotted lines above. I do not suggest leaving it as one long pocket as it will sag in the middle and things will fall straight out.
Flip the bed over and create pockets on the other side. Mine were cut at 33 cm x 21 cm and were created with the exact same process as above. Create as many small pockets or another large one if you wish. If Donna’s first meeting with the Doctor has taught me anything, it is that pockets are always handy.
The only thing left to do to finish off the beach bed is to make the handles using the two 15 cm wide pieces of toweling you cut in the beginning. Fold each one in half and sew down the raw edges. Turn right side out. Using your patterned fabric, create sleeves for the ends of the handles. Cut 4 pieces 10 cm x 21 cm. Fold 1cm down on each end, wrong sides of the fabric together and press. Flip it over and fold in half, right sides together. Press. Run a 1 cm seam down each side and clip the corners. Turn right side out and slide them on to the handles like end caps.
Unroll the bed and place the first handle on the foot of the bed near the ties, top of the patterned sleeve flush with the edge of the towel. The width of your towel will determine how far in from the edge the handles are placed. Mine were 14 cm in from the edge. Pin in place. Place the second handle the same distance in from the edge as the first. Pin in place. Using the same cross pattern as above, sew the handles one. Roll the bed back up and pin the other end of the handles in between the ties on the other side of the opening. Sew using the cross pattern.
Clip all the loose threads. Sit back with a self-satisfied smug look of self-congratulatory contentment.
Oh, remember that piece of leftover towelling that you kept aside for the end? It is perfect for cleaning off sandy feet before sitting on your newly created beach bed. Use some leftover patterned fabric to cover the raw edge of the towelling then fold it up and place it in one of the handy dandy pockets of your beach bed.