Friday, December 4, 2009

I-Spy Bags

Yet another of my gifts for this year's Handmade Christmas is I-Spy Bags. I tucked away the link from Peculiar Momma on how she constructed hers, and I was heavily inspired by Pondered in My Heart on the items she included in her I-spy bottles, and especially the drawings that Kimberlee's daughters did of the items!

Here are some things that I considered when thinking about bags versus bottles:

Using bottles would certainly be easier than constructing bags! We don't use bottles like Kimberlee's though (I'm guessing they're from sports drinks . . . though I'm realizing that a glass jar would work fine - doh!). With bottles, I think it's more of a shaking action, and with bags, you do more manipulation with your hands - plus you can feel around for things that you can't see. With bottles, the entire thing is a "window" and with bags, you only have the little spot to peek inside.

Because my four nieces range in ages from 10 to 5, I made the bags more difficult for the older one and easier for the younger one. Some ways that they differ from oldest to youngest:

* Window size - smaller windows for the older niece, bigger windows for the younger
* Size of bag - bigger bag for the older, smaller for the younger
* Shape of bag - the youngest got round bags so nothing could get lost in a corner, and the olders got rectangles, I even made one long, skinny one for the oldest with the window on one side, so there's a lot of real estate that she can't see
* Amount of filler - I tried to put less rice in the youngest's bag so it would be easier to manipulate and more rice in the older's bag
* Size of items - the older the child, the smaller the items
* Color of items - I tried to have several different brightly colored items for the youngest, but the oldest got nearly all green items (different shades) but that makes it more difficult because it's not like you see a glimpse of red and know it's the pony tail holder, you see green and don't know if it's the button you already saw or the bead you're trying to find
* Similar items - the youngest got all very different things, but the oldest got a few things doubled up, like paper clips in different shades of green
* As I was finishing the post below, I realized that it would be more difficult with different colors of filler items. Colors pop more when you see something orange in the all-white rice, but if you had white rice, red beans, green lentils, yellow corn (etc.) things aren't going to be as noticable. I mixed together a bag of bean soup mix, a bag of red beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils, split peas, popcorn, and maybe field corn. (remember that I have a LOT of bags - and I still had extra mix left over.) I then opened up the I-Spy bags, emptied them, removed some rice, added the beans, mixed it up, refilled them, and stitched them back shut. Whew!
* Kimberlee's children also made it more difficult by finding the items in the order of the list - i.e. if you see the wheel but are looking for the flat purple bead, the wheel doesn't count yet

To make the bags, as usual I based a lot of things on the size of my fabric scraps. :>) (You can see here how I pick up fabric on the cheap.) If possible, I tried to make one edge the fold so I would only have to sew three sides, but that's just me.

I'll admit, sewing in the windows gave me some fits. What finally worked for me, was to carefully cut the vinyl (which is sold on the big rolls by tablecloth kind of stuff and pretty inexpensive, even without a coupon) and make it a good inch larger on all sides than I wanted the window to actually be. Then I carefully cut a corresponding shape out of the fabric. First I traced the vinyl, then I took a ruler and measured an inch and an eighth (just for extra security, I guess :>)) to the inside of the window tracing. You should be able to click on the picture to make it larger. I ended up with a home plate shaped window because it first was a triangle and I didn't like that at all.

Next, I cut out the mini window out of the fabric on the lines I made. I then carefully made a 1/2" snip with scissors toward the corners, and folded the pieces back then pressed them down. (that's my ironing board cover you see peeking through. A new one is on my Christmas list as it has some major issues - not the least of which is some navy fabric left an enormous stain when I pressed it with some steam. It's cute, though - it has pictures of different clothing items scattered about. You can see the socks peeking through the window.)

To stitch the vinyl on, I found I HAD to use a piece of paper to get it to feed through my machine, otherwise it stuck and made a huge mess. I also found that I had to make sure it was well-sewn onto the fabric. The first one I did was a circle shaped window on the round orange bag, and I was so proud to have one all completed . . . until the first thirty seconds I field-tested it. The vinyl pulled loose and I had rice everywhere. I'll tell you that one of my nieces is likely to find the cure for cancer someday, but until that day comes, she's going to take apart everything in her path. So they needed to be K-proof, and that definitely didn't pass. It was then that I figured out (with a bit of help from Shalet at Peculiar Momma!) to cut the window out of the fabric smaller than the vinyl and fold the pieces of fabric back so the vinyl really had something to hold onto when stitched down.

So, after cutting the window from the fabric and pressing the little flaps back, I then laid the vinyl over the opening in the fabric, and put a piece of paper over the vinyl. I found it impossible to line them up with the right side out so I could pin them. So I left the right side of the fabric down (so the order from bottom to top is table, fabric right side down, vinyl, paper) and put two or so pins in from the "inside" or wrong side to hold it while I flipped it over. I then pinned everything together with the pins on the right side of the fabric and removed the two pins on the wrong side after it was anchored from the top. (Clear as mud?)

To make sure that it caught, I zig-zagged around the window three times and then did kind of a wandering zig-zag over all that a fourth time. The needle holes make a nice perforation in the fabric, so it's easy to tear away the paper. I did the outside first, then bent along a seam and picked a bit at the paper over the actual window and it tore quite easily as well. I didn't worry one bit about the bits of paper left underneath the stitches - I don't think there's a good way to get it out anyway.

Before I stitched the bag shut, I made up the list of included items and sewed it on. Because I ran out of plain fabric, I used some yellow print that I just turned over and wrote on the back. To start, I used a ruler and pencil to make faint lines, then I used a fine-point sharpie to write the names of the items and draw the little pictures. I know art is NOT my strong suit, but I thought I did well enough that the non-readers and new readers would be able to figure out what they were looking for without too much difficulty. I also used markers to color in bits that I could to help even more, though some of them worked better than others. :>) And, I didn't have a pink marker, which would have gone a long way with these items, so I just left those blank.

Please note that you should stitch the list on BEFORE you sew the sides of the bag. Go ahead, ask me how I know . . . I can also tell you that if you forget, you can get away with hand stitching it on carefully using the opening you left for pouring in the filling, but it takes a while and isn't nearly as pretty. So stitch your list on (I just pinked the edges and didn't worry about folding under and pressing then stitching, but I guess you could), and then stitch your bag *making sure to leave an opening into which you can pour your filling stuff*! (again, ask how I know . . . I try to remember to use a sideways pin - or six - to remind me to stop.) I found it much easier to leave enough room to use my canning funnel as rice doesn't move well through a regular funnel. When turning your bag inside out, use the point of a closed pair of scissors, a choptick, or something along those lines to poke your corners out well. I didn't bother with pressing my seams because it didn't seem to matter since they get filled with stuff.

Finding items wasn't as hard as I feared it might be. I kept an eye out at the thrift shop, and found a surprising number of items in my own house:

From the thrift shop:
* Small owl salt shaker (which I stuffed tight with a piece of fabric since it didn't have a stopper to keep other items from getting lost in there)
* Miniature tea cup
* Pumpkins and gourd from fall “spray”

From my craft stash:
* Beads of larger various sizes and shapes
* Small corks
* Buttons of various sizes
* Googly eye
* Jewel beads
* Jingle bells
* Mini clothes pins
* Metal bobbins that fit my sewing machine but don’t work very well

From toys:
* Marbles
* Bouncy balls
* Wheels from a toy motorcycle something or other (from a rummage sale, actually)
* Pats of fake butter, plastic bacon, small carrot
* Small Garfield the cat
* Small plastic triangle
* Small action figures
* Small plastic key

From the bathroom:
* Small terry pony tail holders
* Flower off cheap barrettes that fell off the first time I tried them
* Cheap barrettes (alligator clip/poing style)
* Safety pins (various sizes)
* Bobby pins
* Plastic barrettes

Pieces of field corn (could also use different types of bigger dried beans)
Paper clips, various sizes and colors (and I thought about mini binder clips but didn't need them)
Large nut, smaller bolts

I was thought about some sort of pom-pom, but I didn't want to use a homemade one (reference above K-proofing). Same with silk flowers. I didn't look for any, but I think a multi-pack of small erasers in different shapes would be excellent. Some things were included in each bag, some were one-of-a-kind.

So. Window is firmly stitched, list is stitched on, and bag is sewn except for a hole. To make seven bags, I used approximately 23 pounds of rice. My bags are MUCH bigger than Peculiar Momma's - she used about 6x6" bags and 10-20 items depending on size. The size of my bags varied greatly - the round ones are the size of a big dinner plate, the square ones are perhaps 10x10. I used probably 14-16 items per bag. There are a number of different things you could use as filler - Kimberlee used bird seed, I thought about using field corn kernels, dried beans or lentils would be good - just go with something cheap and plentiful! I'd caution that you try to avoid using items for them to find that are too similar in color to the filler . . . unless you're trying to make it more difficult, that is! Actually, I think that multi-colored stuff like bird seed, or perhaps a variety of filler materials would make it more difficult to find things. If you see a peek of yellow among the white rice, for example, it really stands out. But if you have white rice, yellow corn, red and black beans, green lentils, etc - colors aren't going to stand out as much. Hmm . . . I might be opening some of these back up . . . :>)

Peculiar Momma (I think?) used a creamer pitcher to fill her bags, but I really liked using the canning funnel. To keep things spread out, I tried to put in a few scoops of rice, then a couple of items, then a few scoops of rice, couple of items, etc. With the bags, make sure you don't fill it TOO full - I finished filling then pinned the opening (using several pins so it didn't leak!) and then gave it a try and nearly every time, I took out the pins and removed some rice. Hand stitch the opening shut (I used a blanket stitch on a few, since it seems to be the year of the blanket stitch!) and try it out yourself.

If you'd like to see what else I'm making for Christmas, please visit my Handmade Christmas post (provided you're not on my Christmas list!), and for more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom. This is also linked to Proverbs 31 Living's Handmade Christmas.


Shalet said...

Yay! I'm glad it worked out!

Amy @ Finer Things said...

They used an I Spy toy like these (not handmade, though...) at the hospital when DD went in for her mole removal. To distract her from the procedures. It totally entertained me during her recovery time! :)

MommyLydia said...

The link to how you pick up fabric on the cheap is going to Taggie Blankets instead

Lenetta said...

Amy, was it one like this? Our pharmacy has one similar, too.

MBR - that is the right link, there's a paragraph in that post where I explain it.

Abbi said...

Those are really neat! I would guess my kids would enjoy them. I have been trying to figure out a few more things for my boys and I think this might join the list. It seems like they would be a wonderful quiet toy for church or some other event.

Thanks for linking up to A Handmade Christmas!

Angela said...

I LOVE these!!

Kimberlee said...

They came out great! You're so thoughtful to vary them for the different ages and all. I'm going to go peek at your other gift ideas...

Sew Can Do said...

Those should keep them busy for a nice, long time. Thanks for stopping by my blog:)

Richelle said...

I like your I spy bags, too! Very fun. Thanks for visiting my blog.