Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Toddler's builder's belt tutorial

Surely I'm not the only person out there with a sewing machine and a number of very little builder friends?! I've made three builder's belts in the last few months, and I figured a proper tutorial was in order for any other little builders out there. I've never written a tutorial, but I'm not afraid of something new so let's go!...
This belt should fit your average 2-4yr old with room to grow. The pretty belt above was my first attempt, which is why there's a pocket on either side of the belt's velcro 'buckle' and some tool loops too. When making more, I found it better to have the loops on one side and the pockets on the other, which this tutorial shows you how to do.
1. Cut out your belt fabric. Use something thick like canvas that won't require any interfacing. Cut one strip of 66cm x 10cm. This will be your belt. If you have a toddler waist nearby to measure, measure it and adjust accordingly! You need a decent overlap for a long-ish piece of velcro that will allow for growth. Cut another piece of 26cm x 9cm and another of 26cm x 6cm. These will be your tool pockets.
2. Fold your longer, belt piece in half along its length and press with your iron. Fold both of the shorter ends in by 1cm each, press and then sew to secure.
3. Now for your pockets. Fold over 1cm of a shorter end on both, press and sew down. Then fold each piece in half to make a pocket, and adjust so that you have 4cm of fabric exposed at the top as in the picture. Press with an iron. Make sure your sewn hem faces outwards.
4. Now, sew down each side of the two pockets with a 0.5cm hem, making sure you backstitch at both ends and that the backstitch at the pocket top runs right over the hem fold. Remember, clumsy toddler hands will be trying to force hammers into these pockets!
5. Turn your pockets inside out, using a knitting needle or similar to get into the bottom corners. You will notice that just above the pocket top the single-width fabric naturally folds over at an angle.
6. Press your pockets with an iron, pressing the natural angled folds at the top of the fabric too (see picture). It doesn't really matter where the tops of these folds peter out, just that they match on both sides of the pocket (in my case, there's about 1.5cm unfolded fabric left at the top). Then use a zig-zag stitch on these folds to secure them and prevent fraying. Make sure you don't sew onto the pocket part itself. There must be a better, neater way to do this but I'm still too much of a beginner to know it!
7. Now return to your belt fabric. Unfold it. Cut a 4-5cm piece of velcro, separate and sew one part in place about 0.5cm below the long fold on the belt at one end, and just clear of the hem on the belt end. Do the same at the other end of the belt with the velcro twin, but on the other side of the long belt's fold. I.e., make sure your velcro matches up when belted (one piece visible on each side of the belt). Sorry, this is a bit hard to explain so I hope it makes sense! Have the scratchy side of velcro facing outwards from the tummy so that your toddler doesn't get scratched by it.
8. Right, let's make the tool loops for the belt. Get a new, contrasting piece of ordinary fabric that's at least 40cm long and 10cm wide. Fold it in half longwise, press, and fold each half in half again towards the middle and press. All the folds should face the same way - see photo! You won't necessarily need use the whole length of fabric in the end, but you can't know how much you'll need until you start sewing.
9. With the fabric folded up, sew along the open length to make a quadruple thickness length of fabric. You needn't sew up the short ends: we'll be sealing them in a minute.
10. We're going to start sewing the tool loops in. Place your canvas belt flat down, unfolded and with velcro facing up. Fold the end of your coloured fabric over by 0.5-1cm, place on the belt about 2cm from the end of the velcro (so that, when worn, the other end of the belt doesn't touch it) and just below the long belt fold line. Make sure your coloured fabric runs parallel to the canvas belt. Also make sure your long seam on the blue fabric faces down so tools slide in unimpaired. Sew down.
11. Time for your judgement. I can't give you measurements here, but just allow a nice loop that will hold a tool, sew another parallel line down to hold it in place and keep going. Remember the loops need to be accessible, so don't extend them beyond where the child can reach back. I make the loops all slightly different spacing and tightness to allow for different tools. If you have the toy tools to test as you go, lucky you! Once you have 3 loops, cut the end of the coloured fabric to the right size for your fourth loop then sew down.
12. We're almost done. Time for some assembly. First, fold the long lengths of your belt over to make 1cm hems and press with the iron.
13. Now place your two pockets on the other end of the belt to the coloured tool loops you've just made. Place them inside the belt, 1cm down from the belt inner fold and with the first pocket 1cm from the end of the velcro on the other side of the belt.
14. Carefully holding the pockets in place, fold the belt down over them and pin in place. Mine were not as precisely measured as yours will be, hence being slightly different lengths! Now you need to finish the assembly by top-stitching the whole belt: sew down the short end of the belt then all along the length and up again. Your topstitching will seal both the pockets in place and should just skirt the bottom edge of the coloured tool loops.
15. It'll help you to see the whole thing. From left to right: non-scratchy velcro on the other side of the belt end; then two pockets; then a gap where the child's back is; then the row of tool loops; then the velcro facing upwards at the other end (just visible). And yes, that's my shadow in the bottom right corner. I'm such a masterful photographer (insert sarcasm here).
Shall we have a look at the belt all assembled and fastened?
How about from above? Or with tools in?
And for good measure, let's have a few looks at the first belt too.

There you go. I do hope your little builder enjoys it!


  1. This is a great idea, although if I made one I think they would all want one each! Thanks for sharing


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