Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Jenna's Swimming Birthday Party

This is Summer Birthday Party #2 - Jenna's Swimming Party!
Summer Birthday Party #1 was Kate's Bug Party. Both parties are arbitrary-date parties i.e. not the actual birthdates. We think it's worth faking the date just to get nice outdoor weather. 

Long story short: last October, when we were planning Jenna's 6th birthday party (in November), she asked for an outdoor swimming party, with a "pinata" that dispensed water instead of candy. Much drama followed, the result of us explaining why November in Minnesota was vile weather for anything outdoorsy, least of all swimming, and Jenna protesting that it could still be done. We eventually reached a cunning compromise: Jenna had an indoors Halloween-themed party that year and a dip in a heated indoor hotel pool, and we promised her that the next year, she could celebrate her 7th birthday in the summer at our favorite water park. 

Last Saturday, we did just that, under a blue sky and the most spectacular weather.

The cousins came, along with Jenna's favorite friends from preschool and kindergarten. They swam, dunked, splashed, zipped down waterslides, 

and floated in tubes down the meandering lazy river.

At lunchtime, we gathered at the reserved party area for pizza, cake and ice cream,

followed by gift-opening and friends-thanking.

Then we resumed play: watersports and sandpit digging and a round of miniature golf, before stopping for a teatime ice cream treat at the in-house cafe. It was a glorious, glorious day. Jenna declared it the best birthday party she'd even had. And I personally thought it was absolutely wonderful that there were no crafts or treasure hunts or organized games or coordinated themed decorations and goodie bags and dollar store flotsam and jetsam and all that other nonsense that our other parties sometimes have to resort to when we have to stay on dry land. I mean, this is a swimming party, for goodness' sake - is there anything better than swimming? No, there isn't. This is my mantra in life: whenever there is the choice, pick swimming. It is superior.

I did, however, make something. Just one.

Well, that's not quite accurate. I made twelve of them,

but it was the same bag.

These are mesh wet bags. Wet bags are bags for wet things. They are full of holes for airing and draining and drying of their wet contents. Like scuba gear and swimming stuff and water shoes.

The opposite of wet bags are (drumroll) dry bags, which are watertight and keep important things dry inside while, say, on a boat. Some day I will make a dry bag for you. But not today. 

When a person has a swimming party at a water park, there are very few things that person's mother can make as practical take-home goodies for the guests. And in a narrow field of materials, at that. For instance, cardboard is out (sob). So is regular fabric. Neoprene briefly crossed my mind, but I decided it would have to wait till I could head out to the marine fabric warehouse to procure that special jersey binding before dabbling in it.

So mesh it was, then. And since it was mesh, then of course it was going to be a swim bag.

In the next post, I'll show you how to work with mesh and its popular sidekick, ripstop nylon or packcloth. Today is just the photoshoot. Enjoy.

These mesh bags are bucket totes with circular bases

and drawcord openings. The nylon drawcord runs through grommets

and is controlled by a cord stop.

They have a single shoulder strap whose length is adjustable for different-sized children (we had kids from 5 to 13 at the party) and to allow the bag to be carried on one shoulder

or cross-body style.

It also has a carrying loop

that allows the bag to be hung from hooks and pegs in changing rooms and bathrooms.

There is no interfacing (because it's a mesh bag!) so the base keeps it shape by rigid piping around its base.

Here are the bags in 6 colors,

with patch pockets,

including black, to which I added colored topstitching just because.

I made two in each color.

At the party, we handed out these laminated fish tags that I drew and Jenna colored

and we looped them around each kid's bag to identify it after the kids had chosen their favorite color. 

Find the tutorial in two parts here - Part I and Part II.


  1. What a blast!! Great job on making it all work for the best of your family. :o)
    Larissa ~ Prodigal Pieces

  2. Oh these would be awesome to know how to do--I've sewn with mesh and nylon but separately, and I think I might be nervous to do them together... :)

  3. This is great! And Jenna is getting so big and beautiful!!
    Congrats and Happy Birthday Jenna!

  4. Love the bags! Looking forward to the tutorial. I even have some mesh already that I bought to make a laundry bag. OK, it might have been last year, but whose counting? and Happy half birthday Jenna!

  5. Amazing! I am so jealous of the moms whose kids take home favors from your kids' parties ! :)

  6. The bags are awesome. The party seemed like a hit. Thanks for sharing.

  7. There IS nothing better than swimming. Except maybe a tutorial from you!

  8. Did you worry about whether you made enough "favorite" colors? What was the process for the guests to choose? One time I made more than two dozen capes (pink and blue) with several spares of each color because I worried that some girls might prefer blue, or boys might bring sisters, or kids who didn't reply might show up anyhow. Toward the end of the all-nighter I was pulling just before the party it occurred to me, I could've made my job a little easier sewing all red capes.

    1. Anonymous: actually no, I didn't worry. I've found that the bold i.e. non-pastel colors seem to have practically equal status, as opposed to pastel colors, among which purple and pink are favored over, say, pastel green or pastel blue. So i don't include purple and pink stuff among the options. As it turns out at this swimming party, everyone happily found a color of bag they liked.


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