After a week off, pottering around National Trust properties with our Swedish friends, it has been back to work this week. I have been keen to sell Ellen Mouse in my Etsy online shop, but there are strict regulations about selling even handmade toys. In someone else’s blog (sorry, it was some time ago and I cannot find the link) I found a link to Conformance Ltd, which has been invaluable! For £25 I bought a download that provides detailed guidance about how to carry out the tests necessary to self certify, along with a checklist and declaration form and blank technical file and even CE mark logos. I am used to looking at legislation from my previous job, but I would not have attempted this without their guidance. There is also a CE Mark self-help Facebook page, which I found helpful, if only to show that it is possible to self-certify.
Firstly I had to source EN71-3 compliant fabric. Discovering Plush Addict made this much easier as they provide certification details for the fabrics they supply (or tell you where they have not been able to obtain any reassurance). You still need to carefully check the data against CE mark requirements, but it really helps. They did send me a fat quarter instead of a metre, but sent the replacement fabric the same day I rang to query it and I received it the next day, so I will continue to buy from them.
I then had to make a couple of Ellen Mouse samples to carry out the tests, making sure to write out the materials used, stitch type and length, tension etc as each mouse must be made in exactly the same way. After that it is just a case of following the checklist. I even involved little Sophie over the road to provide a child’s fingers to try to poke in to seams and through the fabric. The poor little mice were tortured…washing machine and tumble dryer, trying to twist off their arms and legs, and using clamps and a bag of groceries to hang 7.2kg from the seams – double stitching everything is so worthwhile! 7.2kg is a lot of weight (see top photo); I could hardly lift it and was very chuffed that Ellen’s little arms and legs had no such problems.
The photo looks like the bag is on the floor, but I assure you it is hanging off the floor so the full weight is pulling on the seam.
The worst thing is the flammability test. I confess I did not have a suitable stand so held Ellen Mouse with a long pair of bbq tongs as I set fire to her, but I had tested the fabric and stuffing individually, so knew she would not explode or anything. She had to be held vertically for the test, but I put her on the ground once she was fully alight. I have to say that carrying out this test made me realise just how necessary this legislation is. I know a lot of handmade toy makers do not bother with CE marks (despite the law), but watching a toy burn when it does meet the requirements for less than 30mm to burn in a second (Ellen Mouse burned at a rate of 17mm a second) fills me with fear for toys that burn more quickly. Regardless of fines or prosecution for not meeting regulations, I couldn’t live with myself if some child were injured because a toy I made was not safe.
The following photo is not for the squeamish – a mouse toy or two (one washed and one not washed) must die so that others may go forth in to the world!