Thursday, January 14, 2010

Build a Fort

This handmade gift didn't make the parade 'cause we hadn't caught wind of it yet...but Trina dazzles with creativity and frugality in this Build-a-Fort Kit tutorial. All you mothers of boys (and adventuresome girls), listen up!

It's a pleasure to be posting at Bloom! Thanks so much for the invite! I'm Trina, a.k.a. Mrs. B. I'm the mother of four (ages 4-13), wife of one (going on 15 years), and resident of beautiful Southern Oregon.

Every year I tell my kids they're getting homemade gifts from us for Christmas, and this year I finally pulled it off! I was stumped on what to make for my 11-year-old, Jaci, until my mom showed me this:

A build-a-fort kit! (As seen here.)

Jaci builds blanket forts almost daily, for herself, for friends, for her siblings . . . pretty much for anyone who walks in the door and shows any interest. (I've even had to lay down a rule about sleeping in blanket forts on school nights!) I knew right away this would be a two-fold mission: to give a just-right Christmas gift, and to spare my quilts the daily abuse (albeit for a good purpose) that they were receiving.

Oh, and maybe to give the "would-you-PLEASE-fold-those-blankets-already!" nagging a rest.

This is Jaci's finished Fort Kit . . .
. . . which resulted in a request for another kit for my nephew. Lucky for me, it coincided with this tutorial for Bloom!

To make the most important part of the kit, I used flat bed sheets, since they're inexpensive, light-weight and several of them can be stuffed into a tote bag. I used four, but choose however many you'd like!

I used 8 feet of 1" double-folded bias tape per sheet (so 32 feet in total), which I made using this tutorial. It's easier than it looks! It's terribly tedious though, if you ask me, and if you make much of your own, I highly recommend getting your hands on this little bias tape maker:

The good news is 2 yards of fabric will make 81+ feet of 1" double-folded bias tape, which saves a lot of money over buying it packaged.

However you acquire it, the bias tape needs to be sewn shut with a narrow seam allowance . . .

. . . and then cut into 16" lengths. I didn't bother finishing the ends (it's cut on the bias, so it won't fray) or backstitching the ends of the seams (I might regret that someday, but such is the life lived on the edge.)

Each 16" tie is then folded in half, and the fold is sewn to each corner of each bed sheet. I stiched back & forth twice, for a total of 4 passes over each tie. I also stitched a tie to the middle of each long side, making 6 ties per sheet.

Like so:

To finish it off, I added some rope, clamps, and clothespins:

Glowsticks! I forgot the glowsticks!

The store-bought version also came with suction-cup hooks, which would have been a great addition. Or maybe it can just be an evolving Fort Kit. In fact, I would really love to hear what additions or changes Bloom's readers would make! By all means, please leave suggestions in the comments.

Finish it off with your tote bag of choice, and then be prepared to explain what it is to the bewildered kid that unwraps it. Jaci went from confused to giddy in about 3 seconds!

The resident teenager feigned nonchalance, but you can see how she ever-so-casually slipped in to read her book. I knew she couldn't resist.

For the record, both missions were accomplished! Jaci loves her kit (even takes it on sleepovers), and my quilts have been returned to their regular duties (warming us up during movies!). Looks like it was a Merry Christmas for both of us!


Sassy Salsa girl said...

Don't you love it how kids can make forts out of anything? Those are really cute kits!

Sally said...

Great idea! my kids love to make forts.

jeanine said...

Oh my goodness! This is a great idea! I"m SO using this for my 5 year old next Christmas!

Unknown said...

Dude, I'm gonna make one of these for myself! Hooray forts!

Mandi@TidbitsfromtheTremaynes said...

You go, Trina! That is an awesome idea.

Jesslyn said...

VERY cute idea!! Quick question though - would something like satin cording work just as well in place of the bias tape ties? (I have a bunch of that left over form a project.) Or does the bias tape serve a purpose other than simply to tie the sheets on to chairs and railings?

lori said...

How fun is that?!!

Jacque said...

Trina you never cease to amaze me. I only did a few handmade gifts this year and vowed that will not happen again. Thank you for your inspiration of looking outside the box.

Danielle said...

I love this idea! I would say just use grossgrain ribbon (just singe the cut end with a lighter to keep it form unraveling) instead of bias tape. Or there are a ton of other by-the-yard kinds of trim you could use.

Bloom said...

I am obsessed with this idea, Trina! Blaine's gift for Christmas 2010 for sure.


Sarah said...

this is really cute. I'm sure by boys would love it!!

Erica said...

wow! thank you for this fabulous idea!! surely my 5 kids (4 of them boys) will thank you!!

Trina said...

Jesslyn & Danielle, you're right - the bias tape is just for tying the sheets up. Anything would work; it's just what I had on hand already. It would be fun to peruse trims and see what else could be used!

Christina said...

What a great idea. We have also been using some over-sized silk scarves that you can buy at the Dharma Trading Company for fort building.

Anonymous said...

Try your local hospital for linen sales or call them to see if they sell used linens to get a good deal on the sheets. I can get flat sheets for 25¢ each at the hospital. They are just white, but dying or tie-dying them would be fun, too.

Krista said...

This will be perfect for my son's birthday next month. Thanks for a great idea!!!

Thopter said...

My daughter's 9th birthday is in a few days. I stumbled across this one too late, but perhaps I can use it for xmas instead.

Anonymous said...

We have one of these kits and I can't begin to tell you how many things have gotten broken or have fallen off the walls or shelves while my kids have been using it. It's now for outside play only.

Anonymous said...

Great Idea! I modified my kit to use t-shirt ropes instead of bias tape... one looped and one cut to allow it to be tied, going to skip the suction cups and rope, will add more t-shirt ropes to allow for extending the attaching ends of the sheets.
I think this is a great gift... making 5 of them. Last summer was full of fort building in my front yard with all of the neighbor kids and my son. This will be perfect.

Auntie Chris said...

i added a flash light and signs to hang on the entry: no boys
mom keep out
babies sleeping

Melinda Dunn said...

I made this for my 8 year old nephew for Christmas this year and it was a hit! As soon as we got done opening gifts all the kids went straight back to his bedroom to build a fort! Even the middle schoolers who were "too cool" kept going in and checking things out1 And my sister said he raved about it the next day to everyone when they went to celebrate Christmas with the other side of their family. Thanks for a great idea! ( Helpful hint to anyone else making this- 99cents only sells those black clamps in packs of 2 for the large and 4 for the small- way cheaper than they were at the hardware store where they ranged from $0.50 to $2.00 EACH! )

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Cindy deRosier said...

I love it! What a wonderful gift.

Ruth @ atnumber29 said...

Awesome!!! definately making a couple of these!

Robyn said...

Okay, I love this idea but I am a little slow with crafts! Are the ties and clips there just for the kids own creativity? Like they can tie the fort to something in the room or clip the sheet to something?

Anonymous said...

This idea is fantastic! I'm currently making one for my 10 year old stepson, who loves having his own room at our house. I've added some removable wall hooks to the kit so that there will be several places on the wall in his room that where he can hang the sheets up.

cindy/Toledo. oh said...

Is it possible to purchase your said kit?

Mel said...

I made this several years ago for some of my grandchildren (two families) they were a huge hit! One family still has theirs and still uses it from time to time. Inside if its miserable out and my daughter is at the end of her rope! She also adds some of her own sheets so that each child can have a room. The other family (2 boys) wore theirs out! So will be getting a new one this year. My youngest daughters kids will get one also, now they are old enough to tie knots! I found that the kids didn't use the rope much, and the pegs gravitated all over the place, so won't be putting them in the pack. I also found that using old lycra t'shirt worked best, cut into strips instead of ribbons or bias tape, the stretch in them helped if the sheets didn't quite reach. A case of using what was available when money was tight!

Brianna said...

Sew a tie in the middle of the sheet also. Then it can be tied up to make a tall center of tent. I keep a white Command Strip hook on my ceiling so the kids can tie the tent to it.

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