Thursday, June 24, 2010

IDMommy Project: Recycled Potato Head Parts Bag!

Sammy loves his Mr. Potato Head.  They are best "spuds"...they even share each others' clothing and accessories.

I've been frustrated for a long time with our current solution for storing Sammy's Mr. Potato Head parts.  The plastic "Silly Suitcase" that they came in just is not up to par.  The latch was too hard for him to open himself, so I had to put some tape on it to make it less strong.  Now, of course, every time we pull it out of the toy box, the thing opens and dumps everywhere.  Plus, it's a bit of a puzzle to get everything to fit back in there along with the big potato himself.  In all fairness, I did get it at a garage sale for $4 so I can't complain too much.  But, the whole thing was taped shut when I bought it...a clue that the previous owner had the same problem!
However, the industrial designer in me does not like to put up with poorly designed products and the hassle they cause me.  So,  I got to thinking, I could easily make a drawstring bag for Mr. Potato Head and all of his "parts," like I've done for so many other things around the house.  Then the idea came to me...what better material to use than an actual potato sack?  So, I posted a request for potato sacks on my local Freecycle site, and soon had a generous sole willing to give me two bags. (Thank you, "Harris" in Plymouth!)  After a little cutting and sewing, Mr. Potato Head and all of his parts have a new stylin' pad!

Here's how I did it...

- Sewing machine (or needle & thread)
- Iron
- Scissors

- Burlap sack
- Ribbon (1" width works well)
- Optional: spring-loaded slider, fabric glue, & felt

1) Obtain some burlap.  The bags I got were pretty nice and clean...all I really had to do was give them a good shake outside.  I did some web searching and found some people have had success washing burlap, while others warn against it.  It's always a good idea to test wash a small piece to see how it reacts.  Some people also suggesting using Febreeze to remove any odors in the bags if necessary.

2) Cut out your pieces of burlap...I made mine 12" x 18", to allow plenty of room for wide seams, and space for Potato Head himself in the bag.  I cut from the fold in, to eliminate one seam and utilize the already finished top edge of the burlap, so it's actually one 24" x 18" piece folded in half.  But, you can cut two 12" x 18" pieces as well.

3) Cut a couple piece of ribbon, about 3" or so, and iron them in half lengthwise.

4) Sew the 3" pieces of ribbon on the top edges of the bag, flush with the finished edge.  These will help provide "reinforcements" where the draw string will go through the top of the bag.

5) Fold the top (finished) edge down 1.5", so the ends of the ribbon pieces match, for the drawstring pocket.

6) Sew along the finished edge, to create the drawstring pocket.  I liked the look of the edge, so I am going to make that be on the outside of the bag.  You'll want a pretty good stitch there for strength.  I used a stitch that looks like a zig-zag between two parallel straight stitches (see below, center).  If your machine doesn't have these "fancy" stitches, just a couple straight stitches in a row will do just fine too.

7) Fold your fabric back in half again, so that whatever side you want as the outside of the bag is folded on itself, inside out.  Like I said, I wanted the rough pocket edge to show on mine, so I folded that side in.  Next, sew along the edge opposite the fold:

Start from the bottom of the ribbons (a), and sew at an angle in toward the bag for a 1/2"-1" or so (b). Then lift up the foot and turn the fabric parallel to the foot (c), and sew down the whole seam, stopping about an inch to inch and a half from the end (d).  This will allow for your fringe along the bottom.

8) Next, I did a wide zig-zag along the edge to help keep it from fraying.
Here's what my stitches looked like, up by the drawstring pocket:

(as you can see, I am no sewing machine pro by any means...)

9) If you've used two pieces of burlap instead of a folded one like me, you'll need to sew the other side seam shut as well.  Now your bag should be like a tube now with the top and bottom open.  Turn it inside out.

10) Lay a piece of ribbon across the bottom of the'll want it to be long enough to wrap around the front and back.  So, for a 12" wide bag you'll want 24" of ribbon, etc.  Position it about an inch or so above the bottom edge, but parallel to it.  Sew it down the middle or inside edge of the ribbon to hold it in place.  I sewed it in both places. Here I am going down the center:
...and then down the inside edge of the ribbon:

I am leaving the outside half of the ribbon (the side that faces the bottom of the bag) right now so that we can make the fringe go up under the ribbon before sewing that part secure.

11) Now this part would be fun for your child to help with...pull all the loose pieces of burlap off of the bottom until you reach the ribbon, creating fringe!

Once you're done with that step it'll look like this:
12) Now you can sew along the other edge of the ribbon, like this:

13) Cut a 34" piece of ribbon (or cord or string, etc.) for the drawstring.  Attach a large safety pin or diaper pin to one end, and fish it through the drawstring pocket.

14) Finish off the drawstring.  I got one of those spring loaded slider things off of a bag that some of my bed sheets came in (a).  Press the button down and thread your ribbon or string through (b).  Slide it down to the bag (c).  To keep my ribbon from fraying, I folded each end about 1/4" and ironed it (d), then sewed a zig-zag stitch across the end (e), to get a closed end on my drawstring (f).  The zig-zag end will help keep the slider from coming off when my kids open the bag.

Now you have a fully functional bag with a funky fringe-y bottom!

You can leave it as-is, or if you'd like to decorate it, here's how I made a Potato Head applique on one side...

1) Get some felt...I used scraps I had from previous projects.  Cut out all of your shapes...I traced all of mine so you can download my pattern here!  

2) Glue the pieces together with fabric glue.  I didn't make a hat or ears just because I didn't have any green or pink felt around, but those would be fun additions!  You can also use some iron-on adhesive like stitch witchery instead of glue.

3) Glue the whole potato head man to the bag!
TIPS: Slide a piece of wax paper inside the bag first to keep glue from seeping through and gluing the bag shut.  Also, put glue on the back of the arms AFTER you've already glued down the body, as they are skinny and may want to flop around where you don't want them.  This will help you place them right where you want them.  And finally, position him closer to the bottom of the bag, as the top will get wrinkled up when the drawstring is pulled tight.

Finally, a better solution to the "Silly Suitcase!"  I only wish I had done this sooner! There's even plenty of space left for the additional "parts" that I'm sure he'll accumulate over the years.  Okay, so they still end up all over the floor, but at least it's only when intentionally dumped out...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thrift Store Makeover: ID Mommy's Barn (Re-)Raising!

A few months ago I picked up this wood barn at a thrift shop for $15.  It needed a little you can see there was a baggie of broken pieces taped to the roof. It has nice handles on top for carrying, and when you release the hook latch on the front, the side opens up on a hinge to reveal a couple cute sliding stall doors.

Upon further investigation, I found that there were not only broken pieces on the doors, but also some pieces missing.  So, it was a little bit more work than I thought, but still a fun challenge. I love fixing up something that somebody else got rid of, and even more, making it better than new!  I always enjoy an excuse to get out in the garage and fire up some power tools.  So, I made some replacement parts for the missing ones, and had to re-build a couple of the wood hinges as well.

I couldn't just leave this thing plain, unfinished wood.  Being an Industrial Designer, my most favorite part of the design process is making super realistic scale models that can be photographed to look like the real, full-scale thing. Most clients do not want to put the time and money into physical models these days, being that they can get photo realistic computer renderings pretty quickly too.  But, there's just something really cool about having a real 3-D representation in your hand. (click here to see the latest scale model I built of a retail display, and here, here, or here to see some of my older product and package models to see what I mean!)

Anyway, I digress...but my point is that the barn kick started that love of model making in me to the point where I wanted to make it look more realistic.  It turned into a fun little side project for my favorite kids! (okay, and maybe to re-live my own childhood, just a little bit)  First I primed the whole thing with white spray paint.  For the roof I used a dark gray textured spray paint (after taping off the rest of the barn), which gave it the look and feel of real shingles.  I went to Home Depot and picked out just the right barn red paint swatch, and got one of their little tiny sample sizes to paint the red.  Then I painted the bars in the windows silver.  And, now we have a much more realistic barn! I mean, I can't have my boys playing with a less-than-real toy barn, now, can I?!

If I had paid the full $60 to $70-something they charge for these new, I probably wouldn't have wanted to paint it.  But, being that it was cheap and in need of repairs anyway, I figured I didn't have much to lose.  In the end, I'm glad I gave it a makeover and made it look more like a real barn!  I got out my old Breyer horses from when I was little, and Sammy has a blast playing with the "horsies."  I love a good way to keep up my model making skills for the benefit of my kids while in between freelance projects!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mother & Child Tote Bag

Here's a cute new spin on the stroller handle I shared last month...the Mother and Child Tote Shopping Bag by Reisenthel comes with a handle sewn on the side, helping to keep your kids close by.  (Available for $19.99 from Touch of Europe)  I love the color combinations, the simplicity of the product, and the way the graphics function as the instructions for use!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stuck in Traffic: The Work-At-Home Mom's Commute

As a work-at-home mom (aka "WAHM") who freelances, I experience a morning commute unlike most other working moms.  Sure, my commute may only consist of walking up from the basement to my upper level studio, however, it is not without it's challenges.

This morning, for example, traffic was SO bad, that dump trucks and tractors were hitching rides on top of school buses.

Even when WE are on the road, tractors and trucks actually hitch a ride on US!!

The morning rush hour can really make the breakfast table congested, especially on Monday mornings.

On some days, such as Friday afternoons just before a long weekend, the traffic is lined up for what seems like endless inches upon inches!

Sometimes we even have to sit through a lunch traffic rush!!

One time we even had to call in a towing service just to clear the table so poor Sammy could get access to his grilled cheese sandwich.

Not only do we have issues with traffic in the morning and afternoon, but evenings as you can see, many drivers have absolutely no regard for pedestrians at all!  We clearly need to raise the standards of our law enforcement around here.

Yes, things are getting pretty bad...I sure hope Mayor Sammy approves an increase in funding to the highway system around here asap!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How To Make BBQ Grill Cupcakes

Happy Father's Day!

After having so much fun making the cheeseburger cupcakes, when I found this idea for bbq grill cupcakes in Family Fun magazine, I just had to make them!  And what better reason than for a father's day family barbecue?

Here's what you'll need:
- Cupcakes
- Chocolate Frosting
- Tube of Black icing
- Orange and/or yellow sprinkles
- Candy "fruit" or dried fruits (I used Sour Patch Fruits)
- Hot Tamales for hot dogs (I used Cherry Mike & Ike's)
- Caramel Creams for meat (or plain caramels if you can't find them)
- M&M's or chocolate chips (optional, if you want to try burgers!)
- Black food coloring
- Toothpicks

And here's how I did it...

Whether you prefer a mix or recipe from scratch, bake some cupcakes and frost them with chocolate frosting.  (I used a triple chocolate rum cake recipe from the Cake Mix Doctor for mine...LOVE that book!) Don't worry if they aren't perfectly "dome" shaped cupcakes.  They actually look better when they are more flat, like a real grill.  

Sprinkle the tops with your bbq grill "embers." I used some fluorescent yellow and orange sprinkles, while the Family Fun recipe uses more translucent orange colored sugar sprinkles. 

Next, squirt on the grill bars.  The Family Fun instructions says to dye some white frosting with black food coloring and pipe it on.  I just picked up a tube of black, ready to go, to save a little time. It even has some sparkle in it.

Now that you have your little grills all fired up and ready to go, it's time to throw some meat on!

Here are some of the variations I tried...

The kabobs are definitely the cutest!  But, they are also the most time consuming! Funny how that works out.  You will need some toothpicks for the "skewers," and then some candy fruits to represent your "veggies."  I used some sour patch fruit because my husband likes them, but you can also even use real dried fruits. To make things a little quicker, I lined up a bunch of candies and cut them in half all at once. You'll want red, green, and yellow pieces.  For the "meat," you'll cut a piece of caramel into small chunks.  First, thread on one piece of fruit candy, and push it to the center.  Next, slide a piece of caramel "meat" on either side of the center candy.  Finally, slide one of each of the remaining fruit candy colors on either end.

Now lay two kabobs on each bbq grill cupcake and grill to perfection!

The Family Fun recipe uses caramel creams with white centers, which look like bone in the candy "meat." I couldn't find these so I just used regular caramels.  I also tried making some pork chops.  Here's how I did them:

Just do the same thing but larger for larger pieces of meat, such as steaks!  Now if you've been able to find the caramel creams, you'll have little white "bone" showing in the centers too!

While the recipe calls for Hot Tamales for hot dogs, I got some cherry flavored Mike & Ike's instead.  I also tried making some with caramel, rolled small and cut into pieces.  I think the caramels looked more like the real color of hot dogs.  But, the red Mike & Ike's really added color to my tray of finished cupcakes, so I did both! 

The grill lines on the meat really make it!  Here's how I did it.

Just dip a toothpick into a bottle of black food coloring, and then quickly swipe it across the meat to make lines.  It's much easier to do this once the "meat" is on the "grill," rather than before putting it on the grill, to avoid them rolling around and getting food coloring all over.

I also tried using M&M's for burgers.  I bet some upside-down chocolate or peanut butter chips would work great as well!  Some of the cupcakes, as you can see, I mixed hot dogs and burgers on the grill.

Now if they had not taken me 3 hours to make (in between toddler wrangling), I might have also tried making some of their cute lawn mower cupcakes...but maybe I'll save those for next year!


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