This summer, we took a trip to Idaho for my family’s annual get-together (I hesitate to call it a “family reunion” because that always conjures up images of long-lost relatives that you’ve never met and this is just my parents, siblings, and their families). In an attempt to be organized this year, I had made up detailed packing lists for every member of the family and a to-do list calendar for the week leading up to the trip. Major item on the baby’s list was, of course, the playpen. This playpen is a workhorse: It was a shower gift when Rana was born. It has been schlepped around France, Switzerland, and Holland, and has seen its fair share of traveling the Western United States. During our cabin years, it was Konik’s bed because the ceiling in the loft was too low to set up the crib. So 3 kids and 8 years later — 2 of those with everyday use — the mattress had seen better days. Simply put: it was gross. We didn’t even leave the cabin with it when we moved.
Now the problem is, the playpen is European and doesn’t match the dimensions of any of the American ones on the market. We can’t just run out and buy a replacement mattress. Gosh, if only we knew someone crafty…
Who would want to disappoint this little face?
Well, there just so happens to be a bright green Quonset hut in town labeled “Foam and Fabric Outlet.” I had never been in there before, but it sounded like the kind of place I’d want to visit. It’s deceptively small from the outside! I didn’t have the luxury of really browsing, but I did a quick scan to see all kinds of upholstering fabric, pillow forms, sewing gadgetry and hardware, and, of course, foam. I went in thinking that we’d be able to buy the exact amount of foam we needed. I was wrong. They will cut foam to any size you want, but you still pay for the entire slab. You get to take it all home, though, so now I have a 2′ x 2′ square of foam and a 5′ x 4″ strip that I don’t know what to do with. But hey, that’s good foam; I’ll find a use for it someday.
Anyways, back to the playpen-sized section of foam. Originally I had it cut in one long rectangle, but after lying in bed that night planning my project, I had Mr. Gren take it back the next day and have them cut the rectangle in half. You’ll see why in a minute. But first, let it be known that I had no intention of laying a baby on a bare piece of foam. Anyone with a child should be able to quickly list at least five ways that could go wrong. While we were out, we had hit the thrift store and bought an old sheet. Thrift store sheets = great source of cheap fabric. I wasn’t too particular about what was printed on the sheet; I was more concerned with the weight of the fabric — a worn, flimsy sheet would just be too thin. I left Mr. Gren in charge of the sheet selection and he came back with… some kind of weird army print. With all due respect to our Armed Forces, olive green Army helmets and camo stars just really don’t say “baby” to me. Alas, we were short on time and that particular sheet was the best option available, so Army sheet it is.
The old mattress was split into two — as my foam was — and held together by the cover. There was a long piece of supple vinyl covering both squares on one side and then on the flip side, each square had its own individual cloth cover. What that did was enabled the mattress to be folded in half when not in use. I was going to attempt to construct the same type of cover (albeit all in Army sheet instead of vinyl and cloth).
It was a great idea, but the construction of it was maddening. Normally when you sew a cover for anything, you sew right sides facing so that all the stitching and seam allowances are on the wrong side. Then, you flip it right side out and it looks all smooth and polished from the outside, while the ugly stuff is hidden inside. Where things got tricky for me is when I decided that I wanted each square of foam individually encased in fabric, then joined together by the long piece, but still completely removable for washing. Geez, why do I make things so hard on myself? And with only two days until our trip…
Here is a crappy MS Paint cross-section diagram of what I wanted to do.
The blue is the foam. The dark green represents the individual square covers. See how they don’t join on the bottom corners? That’s where I can extract the foam again to wash the cover, if need be. The stripe of light green on the top is where the long piece covers the whole kit n’ kaboodle.
So back to that whole right-sides-together thing. That wouldn’t work here. I can’t really explain what I did in order to make all three layers come out right side up after the sewing and the flipping. There was something about a wrong side facing a right side, but I can’t remember which. Suffice it to say, it fried my brain. I gave it a test run as best I could with it all pinned together and then just dove in and sewed it all up. Miracle of miracles, it worked! I wrestled the foam into the cover and look!
The sense of satisfaction and relief once I flipped it all out and found it looking so clean and sharp… ahhhh. And the whole folding mechanism worked like a charm!
I should have taken a photo of the baby sleeping like, well, a baby, on his new mattress, but I didn’t. So you don’t get to see it in use, but Sprinkaan did sleep quite well and this little mattress should last for many years to come. It had better, because I don’t ever want to do this again.