Monday, December 13, 2010

Discovery Bags

I've dragged my poor kids to a local quilt shop 3 different times this month. The first time was out of total desperation for a local shop to have some black cotton, the second time was a weird form of curiosity, and the third time was completely not my fault! I was, however, more then willing to go along for the ride.. or walk on Gilbert for that matter. Which is a sick and disturbed joke about the town we were in, and I'm getting way off topic!

The point is, I dragged my kids into a quilt shop full of expensive goodies and a cat. Now, the cat might not make any sense now, but I do read my own blog and one day I'll remember to tell you the story of the cat.. because it's really funny and totally worth hearing. The store also has a lot of softies on display so you can see how the patterns look once made. The shop also had a Discovery Bag on display. The little thing was really quite amazing and my kids were drawn to it over and over again. Each time there'd be squeals of, "LOOK!" It may be the first time in Jayden's life that he was still for more then a few seconds.

They never once asked me to buy them the toy. Perhaps they knew it wasn't for sale, I don't know. What I do know is that I wasn't keen on the $14 sticker on the pattern. Now, I'm sure it was totally worth it, but I figured if I had a picture to look at I could come up with my own version and so I came home and did a little research.  Wanna make one?

You'll need: A fat quarter or other chunk of material, 40 small objects (give or take on the number), clear vinyl (I chose medium weighted), and plastic pellets. Here's what you do:

Cut an 7.5" - 8" square of fabric; Cut 2 5"x2" inch strips & 2 7.5"x2" strips; Cut 1 5" square out of the clear vinyl (can you see it in the picture above?)

Now, pay attention here. People complain a lot about sewing on vinyl because it can stick. See the water droplets on mine? Water makes it easy to sew. Really simple. So keep a cup of water handy for the next few steps.  First, take one of your shorter strips and line it up on any side of the vinyl you want. Do not pin it in place. You don't want holes in your vinyl. The easiest way to line it all up is to put the material under the foot of your machine where you want it and then place the vinyl on top, after you've run a wet finger over the area the sewing machine foot will touch. Make sense?  I also roll up the extras bit on the edge (see picture above) to keep that part of the vinyl from sticking. Sew as normal.

Do this on the other side so that your bag now looks like the picture above. Don't panic if you sew one piece to one side of the vinyl and one to the other. Take one off and sew it back on. It won't leave extra marks in your vinyl if you line your foot up exactly the same as you sewed it the fist time. Wanna guess how I know this? For the record, I lined my material up with the edge of the foot on my machine and had my needle running down the middle of the foot.

Now, take your two longer strips and repeat this process so that your bag now looks like the picture above. Remember, do not stick pins through the vinyl. Press it so everything lays flat. I did this with my iron on a medium heat setting, with steam, and had no problems on the vinyl. Mind you, I didn't run the iron on the vinyl, but it was under parts of the material I pressed. If you want you can top stitch this now, I did on one of my bags and not on the other. Honestly, I can't say that it added or took away from it to have or not have the top stitching. What I will say, is that it will mean sewing over the vinyl again. You can click on the first picture at the top of this post to compare what the bags look like if you want.

Pin the larger square of fabric to your window section now. Make sure your pins are on the side with the window, that way you won't have to worry about your vinyl sticking to the machine or keeping it wet. Remember to leave a wide gap so you can turn the bag right side out. Due to the vinyl, I found that I needed to make my "hole" a bit wider then normal. Once you've got the two pieces sewn together, trim the material if needed.

Snip each corner as show above. This will give you nice pointy corners when you turn it right side out. You'll also want to be sure that any stray threads are snipped because you really wouldn't want them to show up in the window of your bag would you? I was worried about that because this nifty cute gear material was really unravelling on me.

Turn the whole bag right side out and it should look like the picture above. You might need to use a pencil, rounded tip of the scissors, or even the blunt end of your seam ripper to help your corners be pointy. Again, press the whole thing.

Next, gather up 40 small items to go in the bag. You can easily use less or more, but this seemed like just the right amount for us. I raided all the baskets and places I store odd bits and pieces that don't have homes. I also raided the kids Kinder Surprise box, and a few of my own craft supplies. The basket above has the contents of Jayden's discover bag. He's all about England lately so I found a Double Decker bus, a British soldier, and a flag with the Union Jack on it for him. Yes, because I know some of you will ask.. that is a lego shield that was broken and hanging out on my craft desk, so in it went! The American penny is a fake coin, as is the Aussie five cent piece.

Toss in some of the plastic bits. I picked mine up at Spotlight, and I'm just going to say they take those little plastic pellets seriously! Those suckers were quadruple bagged! I felt like I was opening something all top secret like and because I had the kids in the next room watching a movie I was sure they were going to come running wondering what I was up to. Once you get your bag of them open toss a few in the basket, give it a quick shake and then dump them in your opening. I used a piece of paper to make a funnel so that I didn't spill stuff everywhere, that quadruple bagging gave me a small complex and all..

Next, completely ignore that mess on my desk.. I'm working on a half dozen different projects.. Keep your focus on the bag. You don't want it full or you'll have a few problems, the biggest one being sewing it closed! I tested mine by pinching, firmly, the opening closed and laying it on the desk. If I could easily see a lot of the items I added a bit more. If I couldn't then I sewed it up. I overfilled the first one and while it's perfectly fine it was a real pickle to sew closed and it's a little harder to manoeuvre stuff around inside the bag. However it's going to a very soon to be 10 year old so I'm sure he'll manage just fine.

I'm going to share another trick with you! This one is for an easy to way to sew it closed without catching any of those really pesky pellets with your needle. If you're sewing machine can do like mine, remove part of the arm. This gives you the ability to hang the item you're sewing over the edge. Let the weight of the bag hang over so that what you're sewing is really flat. I sewed right on the edge.

When you get to the corner let it fall off the back of the arm. Leave it there. Lift up the foot and then move the whole thing back to the front. Continue until you've top stitched around the entire outside. I suppose you could hand sew the gap closed, but I know my boys and didn't really want to risk pellets everywhere so I machine sewed it.

That's it, you're done! Have fun hunting down your items. Check out our crazy pumpkin man, isn't he funny? He's actually a heavy duty sticker that I didn't remove the backing from. Do you see the British soldier hiding under the pumpkin? Jayden is so into the British that he even painted his nutcracker in the style he felt they wore during the Revolutionary War.

Now, I will admit that the Eye Spy, I Spy, & Discovery bags you can buy in etsy shops, get patterns for, or find instructions for online all suggest adding a tag to the bag so people know what they are hunting for. I plan to do this with mine as well. Did you notice the little tag on each child's bag? I plan to use the loop of the tag to hook a ribbon or metal ring through with a laminated copy of the list of items in the bag. You don't need your own tags to do this, you can use a piece of ribbon if you want. I even saw a few where people printed the list directly on the material. The options are endless. I liked the idea of using my fun little tags, yes they really say Aussie Pumpkin Patch on them, and adding the list that way. I'm kinda hoping to make a few more of these because they are super quick and super fun to make!


Pricille said...

Thank you very much for your free tutorial and not selling a pattern for something so simple! It looks great and I will make one for my 2 year old daughter. I'm sure she'll love it! Thank you again :o)

Viewmnt said...

I have been searching Pinterest and every google I spy page, and this isn't he BEST tutorial there is on these bags! Thank you so much for sharing your talents so freely! You have made this mommys day!

Julia said...

Thank you so much for the great instructions! I made a few as gifts and now my children are asking for their own! :)

Lesley Gilbert said...

Just popped in via Pinterest - thanks for this great tutorial - now I need to find the plastic pellets :)