June 9, 2011

how to make the bottom bunk as cool as the top: a tutorial

When we picked out the much coveted bunk beds, the display model had a tent on the top bunk that Briton immediately NEEDED. And since we were in a "sure, if you'll like New York" state of mind, we bought it. Which caused Evelyn to immediately claim that SHE wanted to be on the top bed. Even if Briton was willing (and having the top bunk was all part and parcel of the whole bunk bed bribe) Evelyn is such a tosser that the top is not an option for her. I often find her sound asleep with her feet on the ground but her head on her pillow. So I quickly jumped in before the tears could start with a "and mom will make you a tent for the bottom! "
And now that the last box has been unpacked it was time to honor that deal (or face the daily question of "when will my tent be ready??") This is, in part, what led to the trip down to the fashion district the other day. Let me just say that the folks at Mood, although perfectly helpful despite a reputation for being snotty, are more used to people who are, say, trying to make something to show Tim Gunn than moms who are making bed tents. I did eventually leave with some basic solid colored cottons for the applique. I forgot, as I mentioned yesterday, thread. And also extra sewing machine needles. And also fusible webbing which, darn it, I really needed for this. But I found away around that, as you'll see. For the main part of the hanging I used some white flannely type stuff that I had leftover from a curtain project. It's heavy and drapes well so it's perfect. Plus I had it on hand.
If you too would like to make a bottom bunk tent (or maybe a door hanging or a table hanging) here's the basic process.

You'll need
3 yards or so of backing fabric (enough to make two of the first measurement)
1/2 yard each of 2 colored cottons (green and red in this instance)
1/2 yard of heavy duty stabilizer
1/4 yard heavy wool felt
1 yard of sew-on, extra strong Velcro
2 yards of fusible webbing (I wish I'd had this, it would have made things easier) or, spray glue (yep)
Thread, sewing machine, notions etc.

Measure across the space between the end post and the ladder and subtract by about 5 inches (to let in a little light - you could go edge to edge if you want) Then measure the drop from the inside edge of the top rail to the bottom edge of the bottom rail (you could go to the floor BUT I think it would attract dust bunnies. Plus, we need access to the under bed area for toy storage) Cut two pieces of the backing fabric to this dimension.
Think of this as a simple quilt. Cut out the door, windows and bushes from the cotton and a small rectangle and matching triangular flap from the felt for a mailbox. Now if you are smart and bought yourself some fusible webbing, iron some on to each piece of cotton and then iron everything but the windows and the mailbox in place on one piece of the backing, setting the other aside. The mailbox should be sturdy enough on it's own and you want it to open so don't use webbing there. As for the windows, we'll get to them. If you, like me, neglect to buy fusible webbing, a light spray of glue and plenty of pins will work in a pinch, although not quite as well. Be sure to keep the glue away from the edges to avoid gumming up your needle.
With your machine set on zig zag with a short stitch length and wide stitch width sew around the sides and top of the door and bushes. Add a doorknob out of felt to the door using the same technique. You don't need to sew across the bottoms because we'll stitch those up later. Also sew around the sides and bottom of the mail box and along the top edge of the flap so that it opens.

Now for the windows.
Cut rectangles the same size as the windows out of the stabilizer. Iron the fabric to the stabilizer and then add a second layer of webbing to the back of the stabilizer. This will make the windows nice and stiff so that they can have cut outs. Iron the windows in place and stitch around the outside edge.

Lay the entire piece out on a flat surface, right side up, and top with the other piece of backing fabric. Pin all the way around and then sew with a short straight stitch all the way around, leaving about 5 inches open to turn it right side out. *hint* don't leave the opening at a corner. I know it seems the easiest since you started at one corner but it's much easier to make nice, neat corners if they are stitched. Instead put it along the top edge, you'll be stitching it shut when you put the Velcro on anyway.

Turn the whole thing right side out and press. You can top stitch around the whole thing if you like. I forgot, but I'll probably go back and do that when I have more thread (just finished when the thread ran out! Whew!)
Using a fabric pencil (or a regular pencil if your fabric pencil is in a box in storage in Virginia and you forgot one of those as well on your trip to Mood) draw in four panes on each window, leaving plenty of space all around for strength. Stitch around the areas that you'll cut and around the "inside" if the window using that same zig-zag stitch. Once you are finished, cut out the panes to create "real" windows.
Pull apart the Velcro and sew the scratchy side along the top edge, closing the hole while you go. Don't be tempted by sticky Velcro. It sucks. It gums up your machine. Just sayin.
To mount the hanging either glue or screw in the soft side of the Velcro along the inside edge of the top rail. Velcro it up and play away! (Yikes, I think that needs to be pressed again!)
And also, tada. The kids room. It small. Yes? I mean SMALL. But actually, it works. All the toys (other than the doll house and her doll high chair and cradle) are in five long underbed bins that slide out easily. The dressers and the bed are both getting painted, the raw wood shows grubby fingerprints but doesn't clean well so paint it will be. The bed butts up to the closet.
We took the door off and the kids use it as their hideout. The top shelf lines up perfectly with Briton's bunk so he can keep things that he doesn't want his sister touching there and because his tent covers most of his bed I don't know when it's not made, which suits both of us.
On the bottom Evie has her "playroom" where her doll furniture is kept and where I've hung her art on the wall. I also hung a stripy blanket from the shelf to the bed to create a ceiling for her and some privacy for him. So they both get what they want. Perfect.