Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Personalized Canvas Totes

Dear Em,
When it came to Christmas presents last year, you weren’t ready to have a whole lot of participation. We got your Nannies Dunkin Donuts gift cards. While they’re big time Dunkin/coffee fans, I don't know that it was the most thoughtful gift. This year I wanted to give your teachers a gift that they would enjoy & you could help to create.

I searched the internet for ideas. One retail site sold canvas tote bags that can be personalized with a name for an additional fee. I thought that was a perfect idea, something practical that would be used & that we could have fun with. We use our canvas tote bags all the time for beach-bumming, overnight stays, toy transportation, & grocery shopping.

Here’s what we made:

This is what we needed:
- A canvas tote bag (we made two, ordered them on Amazon.com for $12.99 each)
- green & red fabric paint from the craft store (around $2.50 for each large bottle at A.C. Moore)
- a fabric pen (around $2.50 at A.C. Moore)
- a paint brush
- a blow drier (if you want to quicken the dry time)
- 2 plates
- paper for practice hand prints
- a garbage bag or something to cover the space that you're working on
- paper towels/washcloths (& probably a sink & a bathtub)
- Nonnie (or second person) to help with the hand printing/cleaning/keeping paint hand prints off of the rest of the house
- an adorable little love & his/her two adorable hands

I asked your nonnie if she would help us while she was visiting, & I'm so glad that she did. It was a lot easier to control the madness mess with two adults on hand, & we had so much more fun laughing at the disaster we were making working with her too. We got you smocked up but didn't originally cover our work space (I know, rookie mistake). As our work space became smeared with permanent fabric paint (Daddy freaked & said, "it's permanent?!" & I sweetly said, "well, duh, isn't that the point of fabric paint?"), we quickly covered everything the table.

We did one color at a time, one side at a time. We spread each color of paint onto a plate & dipped your hand in.

After dipping your hands in the paint, we did a practice hand print on a sheet of paper to remove excess paint. We continued to do this each time we dipped your hands in paint. Next we placed each hand on the canvas tote, making sure to press down on each part of your hands/fingers before lifting them back up to get a fuller print. You were so amazing throughout the entire process. You made sure to keep your fingers nice & spread apart & waited to lift your hands until we told you it was time. You were so excited to make a special surprise for your teachers.

We started with the red paint on the front side & then Nonnie washed your hands in the sink before we switched to the next color. After we did the green prints on the front side, your nonnie helped you wash your hands & let you run around to get your sillies out. I used cool air from the blow drier to dry the front sides so that we wouldn't ruin them as we worked on the back sides. A paint brush also helps to remove excess globs & fill in some parts. We did the same with the back of each tote bag. You had paint all up your arms & in your hair. I laid the bags out to dry, & we gave you a nice bubble bath. 

I probably could have finished the bags that night, but it had been a full week of holiday activities. So, I put them to the side, & we finished them this weekend instead. I thought it would be fun to personalize the bags with your teacher's names & also a fun quote/poem. I scoured the internet (& our teacher friend's brain) for just the right sentiment, but didn't find anything that seemed quite right. I did find a whole lot of inspiration & came up with my own message.

I used a fabric pen to write the following message around the hands on the bags: "This little hand, so small, will go to school today, because of your tender teaching, this little hand will grow & learn to work & play, because you lovingly inspire, to dream, to live, to be, this little hand could grow to be anything,
this little hand could someday belong to, a scientist, a pilot, an engineer, a farmer, a nurse, an artist, an astronaut, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, anything!"

I'm sorry to say the first bag was a little more of a trial run than the second. I got better with writing, spacing, & even changed up the words a little on the second.

I personalized each bag by writing your teacher's names on the front pocket. I thought they turned out well, but the perfectionist in me thinks the names would have been better done with iron on letters. We finished off the bags with your sweet little signature. We spent approximately $30 $15 per bag) on the whole project. I think that's a pretty great deal when the bags I saw online were $35 each.

As we wrapped them up, you exclaimed, "what about my friends?!" As much fun as they were to make, I don't know that I want to make ten more for all of your classmates. Although, Nonnie did seem to like them an awful lot. So, we might be making another canvas tote for Nonnie's birthday.

I hope your teachers love their gifts as much as we loved creating them. It was such fun project to share with you & Nonnie. 

I love you so,

* Readers, what is your favorite DIY gift project to do with kids? *

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