Time for another busy bag tutorial! Y’all know how much I love busy bags to keep my little ones busy and learning. And y’all also probably know by now that I love mixing bright, colorful felt with bright, colorful fabric prints. So this little project is no different. What we have here is a rainbow of colorful felt and fabric “paper” chain links that can be made in an afternoon. Or maybe, if you have little ones who like to try to rearrange your craft room while you sew…a couple of afternoons, with lots of clean-up time in between.
See, that’s why I need to replace my collection of busy bags…so they WON’T rearrange my craft room while I sew! I lost most of our rather large collection when our house in NY was destroyed by flooding. And I’m finally getting back in the swing of creating more. I had made a much simpler version of these a couple years ago…you can see those here. Simple works too, but I wanted bright and colorful this time around!
I made this set with 3 different types of fasteners–snaps, velcro, and buttons–so they will also be useful for learning how to fasten those things on clothing, etc. My little guy still shows up in the morning after dressing himself (yay!!!) but with his pants unsnapped or unbuttoned, etc., so some practice is obviously still necessary!
For a set of 24 links you will need:
8 different colored pieces of felt that are approximately 11″ x 5″
8 different colored pieces of cotton fabric that are approximately 10″ x 4″
8 pieces of Heat & Bond that are 10″ x 4″ (or just slightly smaller than your fabric pieces)
8 sets of snaps
8 pieces of velcro (I cut mine 3/4″ long off a 3/4″ wide piece to end up with little squares.)
Sewing machine, iron, thread, snap setting pliers or press if you’re going to use snaps, etc.
Begin by ironing the pieces of Heat & Bond to the WRONG side of your fabric pieces.
Then you will cut your fabric into strips that are 9.5″ x 1″. I love to use a pinking rotary cutter to give a more decorative edge, but a straight cut will work just fine too. Because the fabric is stuck down with the Heat & Bond, you shouldn’t have much issue with fraying.
Next cut your felt into pieces that are 10.5″ x 1.5″. I used my regular straight-edged rotary cutter for the felt.
Here is my rainbow of cut pieces…it looks like a lot here because I actually made 2 full sets of 24, instead of just one.
Next you’ll peel the backing off the Heat & Bond, center the fabric piece over the felt piece, and iron it on. I always use a press cloth (which for me just means whatever cotton scrap I can grab quickly that is big enough to cover my project piece) when ironing felt just in case it tries to melt on me. I’ve only had that happen once, but trust me, you do not want felt melting on your iron!
Since I pretty much always have kids in the craft room with me, I put this one to work. Here’s my 7-year-old Josiah carefully peeling all the Heat & Bond backings off my fabric strips. Having a helper or 2 can really make this step go much faster!
Once they’re all ironed, divide your fabric strips into 3 stacks, each containing one of each color.
Now it’s not necessary to use 3 different types of fasteners like I did. All snaps, or all velcro, etc. would work just fine. So don’t feel like you have to run out and buy snap pliers, etc. if you don’t already have some on hand. Of my fasteners, the snaps were the fastest to apply, the velcro is cheap (I get the $1 generic 1-yard pieces at JoAnn) and pretty easy and quick to sew on, and the buttons were the most time-consuming since they have to be hand-sewn on.
Oh, and you don’t have to do button holes…just a slit cut through the fabric and felt should hold up just fine. After fighting the automatic button-holer thingy on my machine (the strips are *just* narrow enough that my machine didn’t like putting button holes in them) I will NOT be putting in button holes if I make these again!
Another tip: when sewing on the velcro, put one piece on one side and then put the other piece on the opposite end but on the BACK side of the link…you can see what I mean in the photo of my completed strips below. Do the same with the snaps. This way you don’t have to twist the strips to fasten them.
My kids have enjoyed playing with these. My daughter makes them into bracelets, rather than linking them together. My youngest son immediately divided them up and put them together by type of fastener. I have no idea why he chose to do it this way…isn’t it interesting to watch how our kids decide to play with things?
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tutorial! If you make some I’d love to hear about how it went and how your kids liked them! If you have any questions, please drop me a note below! Happy playing and crafting!
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