There has been a lot of buzz in the press over the past year or so around the subject of fire retardant fabrics when it comes to children’s clothing and naked flames. Especially centred around the horrific accident that happened to The Great British Sewing Bee presenter Claudia Winkleman’s Daughter Halloween 2014. You can watch her interview and read more about what happened on The Guardian’s Website. The story is a stark warning to us all, but I feel the message is being lost, the message is one, yes, of taking care with cheap synthetic Halloween costumes, but also and more importantly of fire safety.
The fact is that virtually no fabric is immune to a naked flame. In some cases fire retardant treatments have been know to actually cause more problems than they solve, making fabrics burn faster and hotter than without those chemicals. What needs to be focused on here is the matter of fire safety for all, which includes the care and attention when purchasing ready-made clothing or costumes or fabric for adults and children. Most ready-made garments have to undergo testing before they can be sold in shops, by law, however few of us these days take the time to read the small print on the labels that warn against flammability. I am obviously an advocate of making your own costumes, but even then I wouldn’t advise that someone wearing a handmade costume would be any safer than a shop bought costume next to a naked flame.
There are some other situations I have been asked about lately that I would like to mention here too. Some of the cotton fabrics we stock now require advice against the use of them for Children’s sleepwear. This is due to the testing that Children’s sleepwear has to undergo in order to be deemed safe for use in that manner. It is only related to sleepwear, garments that are surrounding the entire body, interestingly the legislation does not require the same level of testing for bedding, quilts or day time clothing. Read the regulation document for more detailed information. The potential for these fabrics to catch fire over ones that have been tested are no more or less likely, often the only difference is the fabrics that you would buy from a fabric shop may not have undergone the testing that ready-made garments require in order to be put on sale as a products intended for children. This is the reason these fabrics and we who sell them are required to share the advice that they are not suitable or intended for Children’s sleepwear. If you choose to go against the advice and make some kids PJ’s out of that fabric, you do so at your own risk. It is no more or less safe than the fabric that has been used in ready-made garments for any other reason than that it has not been tested for that purpose.
If you are making things for babies and children the rules are very clear. If you are making things for your own children you do so, again at your own risk, there are steps you should be taking, but at the end of the day you are responsible for taking those steps. If however you decide to make something for another child that is not your own, even if it is a friend or relative you NEED to be very, very careful. If you make something for a child and that child is hurt in some way by that product, or as a result of that product, in the eyes of the law you are responsible. If you choose to make and sell products for babies or children (classified as under the age of 13) even if it is only a from home set up, or at school fairs etc. (you are classed as a manufacturer) if you don’t have these items tested it is illegal and again if your product causes harm to a child, you by law will be held responsible. There is a reason that children’s toys and clothing can be expensive and some of it can be put down to the cost involved in the testing of these products.
As with any legislations like these they are put in place for one reason, to protect our selves and our loved ones from harm. Our advice is in line with the Fire Department and Government guidelines to always be vigilant around fire, naked flame, fireworks, heaters or anything that could potentially cause your child to be burned. All fabric has the potential to burn and cause damage to the child or adult wearing it.
I am by no means an expert in any of these fields, these are just the things I have picked up over the years that I have been working with fabrics. If you are in any doubts about how to protect yourself and your family from the risks of fire check out this Government released Fire Safety leaflet. Or Fireservice.co.uk where you can find advice for fire prevention for many different situations. If you are interested in finding out more about Children’s product testing visit The British Toy and Hobby association, or this guidance page on the Government website or if you want to know about sleep-wear legislation in particular check the UKFT.org.
I hope that this post has been helpful in some way to anyone who has been worried about any of the issues covered here. If you have any questions, or if you have more information that might be helpful to anyone reading this please leave a comment below. If there is anything you believe to be false or misleading then also please feel free to comment and I will take them in to account.