Creative toy play, part 2: Fabric

With so much fabric in our house, it's only natural our children gravitate towards using it in their play. Here are a couple of ways they especially love to use it:

Play silks. I love play silks. 

These are among my favorite birthday gifts for young children because they are so open-ended and versatile.  A piece of floaty, silky cloth easily becomes a cape, a picnic blanket, a canopy for a little house, a sea on which to float paper boats, or a doll blanket or sling. Our boys lived in playsilk capes nonstop when they were little and I still smile when I remember all their adventures. You can buy these online, but it would also be special to get some plain white silk and dye your own – I remember once dyeing a silk cape with onion skins, which turned it into an ethereal gold. Here's a lovely little tutorial on how to dye your own playsilks.

Aside from silk, my favorite fabric to have lying around the house is felt. Sometimes the kids cut it up and glue it on their own, but since I sew, the kids know they can come to me to help them turn the designs they dream up into a reality. 

These little sleeping bags for instance are so easy to whip up, even if you don't consider yourself a sewer. 


This makes a good beginning handsewing project, and your child can glue on embellishments as desired. Just cut out a long rectangle, fold it over lengthwise, and sew, leaving a bit of excess room on one end for the doll's head to rest on.

Felt also makes a sweet crown for your child to wear. Have your child pick out the color of the felt and choose where to place buttons or other decorations. You don't even have to edge it in a blanket stitch if you have felt that's sturdy enough. 


Or you can make clothing for a favorite stuffed animal. Again, I think it's nice for your child to feel part of the design process by choosing all the colors. D went through a phase where he adored Corduroy, so I made this for him while he made the sword out of a craft stick, some foil, and some tape.


And I just love Zakka Life's tutorial on making capes for Lego figures - this is something D has requested many times. I'd tried to make capes with cotton, but felt would be much sturdier.

LEGO Capes Step 7 Photo: Zakka Life

LEGO Capes Step 4 Photo: Zakka Life

Fleece is another material that comes in handy because it doesn't fray – it makes a perfect sleeping bag for a stuffed animal or doll. 

Here are a few other ways to use felt, fleece, and cotton cloth.

Bear collage

Plain old little pieces of fabric, simply hemmed (but they don't have to be!), have also inspired many tea parties in our house. 


Finally, I love wool. I have a collection of wool scraps from old sweaters, and though I'm saving most of them for crafts of my own, the kids love to dig through them as well. Wool, like felt and fleece, doesn't fray, so it's very child-friendly and is used for all sorts of things – it becomes pretend food, tiny blankets, little animals (when knotted up), and so forth. I think some red wool even became fire on a pretend camping trip once. 

I love seeing what children can do with a simple little piece of cloth. Try collecting some fabric in a basket, give it to your own kids, and see what happens. 


17 thoughts on “Creative toy play, part 2: Fabric

  1. MarthaAndMe

    What great ideas these are! I’m not much of a sewer, but I remember having a great time sewing curtains, tableclothes, bedspreads, and pillows when we built a dollhouse for my daughter.

  2. Susan

    Adorable!!! My Mom wasn’t much of a sewer, but funnily enough, I got very into sewing and made several Halloween costumes from scratch when I was little (no machine, I handstitched a colonial-style dress!). I’d love to share my love of fabrics and sewing with my own kids someday.

  3. Donna Hull

    How creative and innovative. My daughter used to take pieces of yarn and make them into rugs for her doll house. She figured out how to do it on her own as I was not as creative as you.

  4. Stephanie - Wasabimon

    I love felt and silks! Wow! This is so inspiring. I remember having a parachute in kindergarten, and we’d all pile into it. Or every child in the class would hold an edge, then we’d throw our arms up in the air bring it down over our heads so that we were in a huge cocoon.
    So cool.

  5. ana @

    some really nice ideas here. i just love textiles and your post has me wanting to visit my fabric stash. i agree about wool, felt and fleece being great materials for little ones..hooray for no fray! and it’s so true about kids being able to take raw materials and come up with some wonderful things. and i remember some of my earliest sewing projects still, whip-stitching the edge of some felt ornaments.
    p.s. your little sleeping bags reminds me of “made by joel”… have you been to his site? if you’re curious, here is a little piece i wrote about him.

  6. Kris

    I love fabric. My boys were always coming up with something to make – sleeping bags for figures, tents, etc. I love that it’s so versatile, and felt in particular is so great since it doesn’t fray. Have you tried the new sticky back felt? Completely different product, but fun.

  7. Casey

    Oh my gosh, Corduroy Bear… what a wonderful memory! Also, those sleeping bags (in a slightly larger size) would make great phone/ipod covers for when the kids are older. I’m going to make one this week!

  8. MyKidsEatSquid

    I wish you lived near me so that my kids could come over and make these projects with you! My kids love to use cardboard boxes to create things, but maybe it’s time to break out the fabric too.

  9. Jennifer Margulis

    So lovely, amazing, and wonderful. My daughters and my son all love this kind of play too. They do not have a mom who is good at sewing but they can stay busy for hours making little purses and blankets. I can’t wait to share the pictures from this blog with them!


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