Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Appliqued activity bags

About a year ago, I was a regular lurker on Gillian's wonderful blog, Tales from a happy house. I didn't know I could comment on posts without having a blog of my own. I also didn't know how to "follow" blogs so I would bookmark them and check every day for new posts. Eventually, I figured all of this out, and when I started my own blog, Gillian was one of my earliest readers and supporters. Now, she has become a friend and I'm so glad we connected.

You must check out her blog if you aren't already a reader. Gillian is very talented and very crafty and all of her makes are lovely. But I have always been especially drawn to her hand-appliqued items (look here, here and here for some of my particular favorites). She also made travel bags for her children that I loved, and I decided to try my hand at something like them for mine.

These bags are actually meant to be a special surprise. We're leaving for vacation on Saturday and I wanted to give them something fun for the long drive. I made these bags to hold some special treats and activities to help them stay occupied in the car. They saw me working on the bags but they don't know what they're for, and they certainly have no idea what's going in them.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I don't use my children's actual first names on my blog, nor do I use my husband's. It's just a comfort thing for me. I refer to the children by their family nicknames, Little Bear and Girl Bear. But now you have a glimpse of their initials. He's "L" and she's "E." They have beautiful names which suit them well, I promise.

For the actual letter shapes, I turned to the internet. I searched blogs devoted to print and letter-press work and found capital letters I liked. I wanted his to be blocky and masculine but stylish, and hers to be elegant and feminine; the bags can be used beyond our trip, of course. I saved the letter graphics to my computer and used a photo-editing tool to re-size them. Then I chose fabrics. I went with a simple navy with white dots for the LB. For the GB, I used one of my favorite fabrics, Kaffe Fassett's Roman Glass. I wanted hers to be pretty and colorful but not babyish. The bags are simple white cotton tote bags from Hobby Lobby. I used double-sided Heat n Bond iron-on adhesive to affix the letters to the bags. It was really easy to use and very sticky.

One of my favorite aspects of Gillian's applique work is her neat hand-stitching. I don't have a lot of hand-embroidery experience but I wanted to create the same look. After the letters were affixed to the bags, I sewed small, straight stitches all the way around each letter. I chose periwinkle for the GB's loopy fuschia "E" and bright kelly green for the LB's big navy-blue "L."

What's going in these bags? Fun stuff! Each will get a sticker activity book and a small pack of fun crayons (have you seen these interesting Crayola assortments at Target? They're all on a theme, and you get eight special colors for $1; they're great for birthday gifts!). They will also each have a spiral notebook to use as a "journal"; in our travels, we're going to write (or draw, as to our individual abilities) about the things we're seeing and doing. This is one way that I'm trying to take our summer-homeschool-maintenance show on the road. They'll have pencils to use.

Each will also have an MP3 player with headphones to use; they like to listen to their own music, as do we. They're very opinionated about music, which is funny but a bit annoying. The LB likes Kenny Rogers and the GB likes Katy Perry. They told me that they wish Katy and Kenny would have a concert together. Can you imagine? That would be a very interesting concert.

I'm also trying something new: I'm giving them snacks and letting them decide when to serve themselves. I may regret this, but I think it's a good thing for them to learn. I don't usually buy squeezable fruit but they seem great for the car and I found some that are shelf-stable with Greek yogurt in them! I would enjoy eating that myself. They also have fruit leather, Goldfish crackers and Rice Krispie Treats. I have multi-packs of all the foods, so I can replenish as necessary. They're going on eight and five, so it's worth a try, I think.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what they think. There will be lots of other management and entertainment techniques employed, of course; we're bringing audiobooks to play and regular books that I plan to read aloud as the Bear drives (I don't generally do much long-distance driving anymore, which is just fine by me). I'm sure we'll be stopping pretty often.

I'm happy with the bags. Have you ever done any applique-ing? This is a new skill for me. I really enjoyed making these bags and now I'm thinking about all the possibilities: you could applique just about anything, really! In fact, Gillian has done lots of things like tea towels and t-shirts. We have some birthday parties for little friends coming up later this summer and I'm thinking about ways to parlay my new applique skills into unique gifts. I absolutely love to learn a new crafting skill.


  1. I will definitely check out the blog "Tales from a happy house." I'm always looking for new bloggers to follow! :)

    The tote bags are lovely! I really like the fabrics you chose for the letters. Your kiddies are going to love their surprises. You're such a great mom.

    ps -- I respect you not using your children's name. I completely understand. *hugs*

  2. These bags are so cute. I might want to try this out for a future road trip we have coming up this summer!

  3. Hi J! Great idea to make the activity bags for the car trip.. I agree, you are a great mom! I wish all moms were as good as you and the world would be a better place. Have fun on your vacation!! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

  4. Hi Jennifer, What a brilliant idea!!!Boredom is always a problem with little ones on a road trip and this is sure to make your trip a lot more pleasant!!!!Love it!!!!Enjoy your holiday!!!

  5. Oh these are BEAUTIFUL! The children are going to love them and I'm sure they'll be used way beyond your holiday. The hand stitching looks fab - well done! I love the fact that LB likes Kenny Rogers - I think a Katy/Kenny combination could work x Jane

  6. You did a great job! I have never done applique before, but it is on my never ending list of things I want to do. Those bags turned out great and are a good idea to keep your little ones occupied. I did a similar thing when we had a 10 hour plane journey. I packed one bag each with a few treats inside and activities, and even though I had some other stuff, I told them once it's gone, it's gone! It really worked for them taking their time, and not eating everything in the first hour!! :)

  7. Looks like those cute bags will keep the children entertained for a while. What a fun idea! My kids are a little older than yours but I still think they'd enjoy something like this for a long car drive. I've been to Albuquerque once a couple of years ago and loved it there. We live in Texas but go to New Mexico often to visit the in laws in Portales. Hope your family vacation is extra special! :)

  8. Hello there
    What fun tote bags, really gorgeous the way you have made them so individual for your children. I too love to visit and be inspired by Gillian's lovely blog x thanks for popping into mine and commenting, lovely to meet you xxx Penny

  9. Your bags look great, Jennifer! I have always loved that aspect of Gillian's blog too. She is very inspiring. We are going away in August for a few days with Alfie and Olly (Sam has a summer job, so my Mum is going to 'babysit'). I am thinking of making some activity bags for them too.

    Before Olly, and when Alfie and Sam were younger, I used to make them a packed lunch for long journeys. I let them get on with it, and was always pleased that they grazed their way through all manner of healthy snacks and fruit, without fuss or bother.

    Leanne xx

  10. Those bags are really cute. I love the hand stitching too, it really makes the letters stand out. Thanks for the nice comment you left on my blog as well!

  11. What lovely personalized bags for your children. I love the idea of having their very own activity things and snacks packed inside, but even when this trip is over and those supplies are all used up, the bags will still be used for years and years, I'm sure of it.

    I appliqued a cushion I made once, a long time ago, for a home ec class. I picked out a dark blue starry-patterned cloth for the cushion, then appliqued a multi-colored hot-air balloon onto one side of it with scrap cloth. My parents still have and use it on their recliner.

  12. I love your bags so cute. I like the idea of using an initial on them. I know my daughter would love one x

  13. I love your bags! They are perfect. My mum used to begin all our family holidays with an activity-filled bag, and I totally stole the idea from her. For my sisters and I, the bag signaled the start of our holiday. Great idea about letting them decide when they want to snack. I often think that when we give kids a bit more control they usually reward us for it. And a Kenny/Katy concert...that would be one to watch! x

  14. The bags are lovely! What a wonderful idea for your children... they will be pleasantly surprised!! I actually found you through Gillian's lovely blog!

  15. Have fun Jen and I love those bags, clever mum you are ♥

  16. These are really cute and super cool for traveling! I just love how you made the bags yourself and filled it up with things your bears will enjoy. Have a fun fun trip!

  17. I've really enjoyed this post Jennifer - so much resonates with me! I had the same notion as you at the start of my 'following' experience but sadly, not with the same happy outcome that you have had. I tried to leave messages on one particular blog that I really enjoyed, but never had any response - even sent a 'Paypal' donation for 'coffee' and still didn't, to this day, receive a reply! Needless to say, I did go on and begin my own blog and have met some beautiful people through it, including yourself! That experience has made me more determined to reply to all who message me - another life lesson learned!
    I love what you've done here for your children - the whole project is tops, and I'm sure they will be thrilled and not disappoint you in the least in their 'handling' of the food stuff!
    The applique is really quite exciting isn't it! Now that my cockerel has gone to be framed I've been thinking more on the subject and now you have fired me up even more. Thank you for this and I must take a look at Gillian't blog.
    Do enjoy your vacation!
    Joy x

  18. Your appliques are adorable! Nice work. A new bag full of surprises is a great way to kick off a road trip. Travel safely.


  19. What a thoughtful loving gift for your kids...
    What a great mentor you found in Gillian...
    I know they will LOVE them...and... filled with goodies...FABULOUS!!!
    Will you be blogging from the road???
    I am sure you will take some fabulous photos along the way...
    Kenny and Katy,eh??? HILARIOUS!!!

    Linda :o)

  20. Gorgeous bags! The kids will love them! I think the reason the kids travel so well on our road trips is that they each have their own little bag and they know that all of their entertainment has to come from that bag or from looking out the window. I would LOVE to see Katy and Kenny together - hilarious!!! Mel x

  21. Have just discovered your blog,lovely. What a wonderful mum you are, i am sure they will really enjoy there trip as I am sure you will. Happy kids, happy parents

  22. I don't use my kids names for the same reasons :) I get so many people annoyed at me for not showing pics of my kids or family, but I am a very private person. I love the bags, I bet your kids will love them!

  23. What a great idea. We are going on vacation this summer that will involve some periods of long driving. I'm going to utilize this idea for sure. Great stuff.

  24. What great bags- I'm sure LB and GB will love them. I remember going on holidays with my grandparents when I was younger and we had activity bags too. My mum would fill it with things to keep us occupied for the journey- For me it's one of the best things I remember- being so excited to see what was inside:)

  25. These look so simple and cute!




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