Making a drawstring bag

 

Making a drawstring bag

Making a drawstring bag for marbles

Making a drawstring bag is a fun and easy project to do with kids! I still remember the soft nubby green cloth of the drawstring bag of marbles my brother and I shared as kids. I wanted to make something similar for Miss 3 and gaining access to a sewing machine at kindy seemed like a great opportunity.

There is an easy project to follow in this book by Jane Bull, My Sewing Machine. I didn’t think to look so I actually designed my own project for this bag. My daughter’s sensory sensitivities mean she doesn’t like being in the same room as the sewing machine when it’s operating but she likes looking at the sewing book and she liked helping me with the pattern, cutting, and pinning.

Making a drawstring bag (for marbles)

Materials

  • Paper, sellotape, pencil
  • Fabric
  • Cord or ribbon
  • Ruler
  • Pins
  • Chalk / fabric pencil
  • Scissors (paper, fabric, pinking)
  • Safety pin

Tip: Shop around to find good prices for fabric. Sometimes you’ll find fabric in unexpected places – I bought a giant polyester fleece blanket for NZD$3 / USD$2. It was perfect for making a drawstring bag for marbles (though I wouldn’t use it to make a dress).

Design

I made up a design template using paper, scissors sellotape, and pencil. I could see there were two different ways of approaching the bag and decided to have the fold at the bottom and seams up the sides; this results in the cord being on on two sides (instead of one) which I thought would be easier for Little Miss.

Making a paper template

Making a paper template for the drawstring bag

Once I’d worked out the design, and order of sewing seams, I transferred the template into the fabric. My fabric pencil didn’t work on the fleece but chalk did 🙂

Fabric cut and pinned for the drawstring bag

Fabric cut and pinned

I kept my seams about 1.5cm from the edges, allowed plenty of space for the cord, and made sure the fabric was ‘wrong side’ facing out (not as important with this fleece but good practice).

Sewing the bag

I made sure the threads were all set up and then my sewing order was:

  1. Sew short end (for cord).
  2. Sew other short end (for cord).
  3. Loop silky cord through safety pin. Miss 3 loved helping wriggle the silver fish (safety pin) through the ‘tunnel’. We did that on both sides and then I tied the loose ends.
  4. Sew each of the long sides. I started with a curve at the bottom and then went up to the drawstring (enough to just go over that seam but not go over the cord). Then I turned the fabric around and did a small zig-zag back to reinforce.
  5. The nice thing with this fabric is that I didn’t need to hem or worry about fraying like I werewolf with cotton. I did use the pinking shears to cut the bottom corners off (being careful of the curved corners I’d stitched).

    Drawstring bag sewn (wrong side facing out)

    Inside the bag

  6. Turn bag right side out!

    How to make a drawstring bag!

    Drawstring bag for marbles

Bag of marbles

Next week we can go on a treasure hunt expedition to buy marbles for the bag we made!

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Renovating a children’s bookcase

 

Using Resene testpots of:

  • White: Half Alabaster White
  • Pink: Suzy Q
  • Purple: Gypsy Queen
  • Green-blue: Hope

The journey

How to store toys is one of those conundrums that parents frequently face. The solutions also tend to change as they grow and change.To start with she had something that looked a bit like this:

toy-storage

The problem was that ours was cheap, not particularly well made, and the fabric boxes didn’t balance particularly well. It was fine when she was young because it was so light and small that I wasn’t too worried if she should accidentally tip it over. By the time she was over two it was annoying her sufficiently that she’d just dump the storage boxes on the floor and leave them there but ignore the storage shelves (it was also so light that she could move it or tip it over just ’cause). Note: It is now proving far more functional as a shoe rack.

I wanted something a bit more sturdy and multi-functional that would serve her for several years (or longer). I had thoughts of getting a bookshelf. The constraints were that it needed to fit her existing toy boxes, needed to fit under her window (i.e. in the available space),  it needed to be cheap, and I needed to be able to transport it in the boot of the hatchback. Those requirements required both aesthetic flexibility and patience. After a couple of months I found a cubbyhole-style bookshelf in a secondhand store for $10. It was too tall but this simply required a change of perspective (i.e. flipping it onto it’s long side).


I also wanted something in her room that was a bit more colourful and personalised for a change (we rent so decorations are limited). We headed into Resene’s to discuss options for painting the bookself. Now, unfortunately, it’s MDF particleboard covered in a laminate veneer which means that the professional advice is basically not to paint it (because it will peel off) or spend a whole lot of money on base paint, coloured paint, smoother, and sealant. The white base paint (500ml) alone was going to be $30.

It’s easy looking at beautiful pictures on PinInterest to assume that everyone is enormously successful on their first attempt; this is not one of those stories (or it sort of is but with a caveat).

I decided to persevere (really, peeling paint!?, a sales tactic surely!) and spent a grand total of $9 on testpots. This was achievable only because I take advantage of free testpot offers whenever I can, had 2-4-1 vouchers to use, and had a half testpot of purple paint at home. It also would have benefited from a third testpot of white paint but c’est la vie.

The project

I put a plastic playmat outside on the grass and took advantage of a sunny afternoon ( a Dora the Explorer DVD also ended up being a necessary tool after the first hour). I did a white base coat, using Half Alabaster White, over the entire bookcase (apart from the back) and flipped it once I thought the first long edge was dry. I then did a single coat of coloured paint in each of the cubbyholes. I used Suzy Q (pink), Hope (blue-green), and Gypsy Queen (purple); I note that Suzy Q and Hope are from the same colour palette and there was a lovely light purple that would have matched better but I already had leftover Gypsy Queen from another project.

Once it was dry I added more coloured paint to achieve a good colour consistency but kept a small amount of each colour back in reserve in case touch ups were needed in the future. I also eyed up the white edgings trying to decide if I wanted to get those all perfectly white. I decided that I quite liked the organic look of the colours bleeding towards each other and did it deliberately while painting (and added to it afterwards).

After it had a nice long dry in the sun I lifted the bookcase only to have big strips of white paint peel away and partially stick to the plastic mat. Turns out that plastic laminate is problematic after all. I had to peel more paint off that side in order to tidy it up;  on the bright side it also peeled off the mat easily and was easy to ball up and bin. I carried the bookcase inside onto lino and carefully repainted the ‘bottom’ side.

Once it was thoroughly dry it went into her room on carpet where it seems to be sufficiently cushioned to be surviving happily. It looks really lovely and she adores it so for the price it was worth it. I wouldn’t have wanted to spend more money on the paint though – it’s a bit of a gamble as to how long the paint will last as it will scratch off the laminate pretty easily. Thankfully she doesn’t know this so there’s no reason for her to actively try! I do love the colours though 🙂

How to buy affordable Duplo (big blocks)

My 2 two year old loves playing with Duplo and is fortunate that her grandparents stored a bucket of it all these years (decades really) in the hope that she would one day exist. Adding to that Duplo / Big Blocks has been my challenge. I realized that what she really needed was some kind of base plate to fix the blocks onto and I also wanted some additional pieces that would support imaginative play (and keep me amused as well as she cried ‘Mummy! Come!’ and I find myself pulled along to be her playmate.
Duplo, I discovered, is expensive. It also seems to get sold in big themed sets and even at Christmas it doesn’t really go down in price; also in the big sets often the majority of pieces are just blocks which you might not actually need.  I turned instead to AliExpress. It’s possible to order big themed sets from them but you can also buy individual pieces – like deciding that you want x6 flowers and x3 tree-tops. It’s great way to spruce up your existing blocks and you can often get free international shipping.

It pays to check carefully – there’s a vast size difference between Lego and Duplo so make sure that you’re searching for Duplo / Big Blocks and message the seller if you’re in doubt. It can also work out cheaper to get mini sets, depending on what you’re looking for, like getting a large pig (with moving head) + feed trough + two flowers + two blocks for USD$3.60 (and free shipping).  Individual sellers will often have items on sale and there are big sales through the year so you can always put stuff on a Watchlist if you want to wait for prices to come down even further.

Affordable Wooden Doll Family


I love AliExpress.  If you have the time to go searching for what you’re looking for then you can get some wonderful things for kids at bargain prices (even more so during their sales). One such bargain, now utterly beloved by my toddler, is a family of wooden dolls for USD$3.50-$5.00 (and that’s with free international shipping!)

Admittedly, it’s luck of the draw exactly which dolls you get (though you can try messaging the seller to see if they’ll take requests). We got, so my daughter informs me: Mummy Doll, Daddy Doll, Big Sister, Baby. It worked out much cheaper (and more convenient) than going to the shops. I was thrilled that this particular purchase arrived within two weeks; realistically, you need to act on the assumption that anything ordered from AliExpress will take four weeks.

If you want to pick up something more quickly, I hear that Kmart now sell a family of five wooden dolls for NZ$10 (sadly they still don’t have a website showing their products online). There are also options such as Hape which sell a family of six (you can choose Caucasian, African American, or Asian) but they do cost rather more.