Monday, May 15, 2017

Collapsible Tote Update

The collapsible totes are sold. Thank you for buying them! And thank you to The Dreamer, the commenter who was kind enough to let me know I'd forgotten to actually link to my shop in that original post. Duh.  

Let me respond to the comments to my last post about the collapsible totes. People wanted to know all about the metal frame within the totes - what it looked like, where I got it, and so on. I am happy to share how I made my totes, of course. Unfortunately, I have nowhere to point you guys to as far as frame hardware goes. I essentially took apart a ready-made collapsible tote and used the frame. Not very exciting.

Apparently, these totes are everywhere, but I found mine in a local hardware store and took it home to use in the car. Then, because I didn't care for the boring-looking material it was made with, I thought I'd pretty it up with fabric on the outside. I hesitated initially because it was a LOT of work to unpick everything just to re-cover it, but it was the middle of winter and my house was a construction wreck and it wasn't as if there was a whole lot to do while waiting, so I figured . . . well.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Shoulda just mentioned all this in that original post but I didn't know if you guys might be as insane as I was to take apart a not-very-cheap store-bought tote just because you didn't like the fabric it was made of. But maybe we all are a little nuts, we DIY folks, huh? And clearly my own insanity knows no bounds because - looky - I made three of them. And not for the first time, too - some years back I did the same thing with the Reisenthel baskets with which I was so obsessed.

Anyway, here's one source I found online for you guys. And while searching online, I found evidence that they might have been available in stores like Costco and Sam's Club at some point (I haven't seen any there in the last 6 months). Also, it seems the totes come in multiple sizes, so check the dimensions to be sure you're getting the one you want. After that, it's just careful, careful seam-ripping to liberate the frame. While you're taking it apart, you'll probably be able to figure out the construction sequence, too. Good luck!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Collapsible Tote in Grey and White

It is sooooooo good to be making again!

Here is my latest project:

It is a tote.

For which I cut up my precious grey Orla Kiely stem fabric.

I've wanted to make this tote since I saw something similar in a hardware store earlier in the year. I sat on it, as I do with all my projects, and not only because the kitchen/house was a beast that had dominion over our lives till just recently. It was the fabric, see. It took some visualizing and strategic piecing, particularly with the large repeat print, and I wanted to put it off until I felt my brain could reliably handle the fabric layout with minimal wastage. You know how that is, right? Limited yardage, but the motif has to be dead-center and completely symmetrical and . . . well. Let's just say that you'd want all your wits about you when you tackle something like that.

Finished it at last, though. Very happy. Just in time for summer, too, when I can load it up with swimming things and head to the pool.

Let me walk you through it.

First, it's roomy. Like half-a-yard-long roomy. I put 8 bath towels in it without overflow.


The inside is ripstop nylon so that it's lightweight and wipe-clean.

And it has pockets. 

Here's one - a zippered pouch for keys and money and such.

The other pocket is divided,

for phones and tall sticky-out-things like pens and grocery pads.


And there is a wire frame in there, that locks in place to hold the bag standing up by itself,

and its mouth open so you can get stuff easily from inside.

But then the sides unlock and fold,

and the whole tote goes flat.

and is held in place with an elastic strap connected to the base.

Well of course I had to make more than one. 

All those totes, folded down to this:

Perfect for stowing in the trunk of the car, for when you make trips to farmer's markets and Costco.

Here's a shot of the base: blue ripstop nylon for a pop of color. The base has a rigid insert (some kind of particleboard) so it's really sturdy. And there are plastic feet to keep the ripstop nylon from contact with the ground. You can also see the elastic strap emerging from the short sides - when the tote is in use, the strap remains along the base, pulled taut between the plastic feet. When it's collapsed, that strap wraps around the top of the tote, as shown.

There's no particular reason for why I made these - sometimes it's just to see if I can make something (in this case, apparently, yes). I really only want to keep one tote, so I'm putting the remaining two in the shop for you to buy if you'd like to. The tote measures 19" x 12" x 13" (L X W X H) at the top, and you can find more detailed dimensions (base, pockets, etc.) in the item description in the listing.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Mystery Party Printables!

Do you remember this Mystery Party from three summers ago?

In which there were two teams of detectives, armed with these detection kits,

who solved coded messages and collected incriminating evidence against four suspects and then went on a hunt around the neighborhood to locate two missing vehicles?

It was three years ago when Jenna and I sat down to plan this party and adapt her incredible ideas for an afternoon of practical (and feasible!) mystery-solving with her friends. 

Since then, many people, including parents and teachers, have written to ask if I would share the various documents and materials from this party. I'd said no each time, and eventually even had to update those original party posts to explicitly say so. 

I explained: one - privacy reasons. All those fingerprints, toeprints, handwriting, shoe sizes, cars, neighborhood maps, photos of neighbors' houses that we used in our documents belonged to us or people we knew personally. 

Two - after observing how the party was received by real kids under a real time limit, I realized that the original material needed tweaking, if not to iron out the kinks and copyright issues, then at least to streamline the material. But we'd moved on from that party, and I didn't have the time to revisit and revise all those documents.

But people continued to ask. 

And in the wake of Emily's Harry Potter party, I thought, "Well, okay. Maybe it's possible. Maybe it won't take me five hundred years after all."

So after our Singapore trip, I unearthed all the old material, removed all the personal and legally-iffy stuff, tweaked the awkward bits, wrote a brand new Mystery Synopsis without loopholes (one hopes), and added instructions on how to use the materials.

I am happy to say that you can now purchase the materials from our Mystery Party as a pdf file! With the exception of our oversize posters, I tried to include as many things as I could from our 2014 party, like the artwork, dossiers, footprints, code book and even the sticker, label and invitation card art. In addition, there is new material (instructions! Synopsis! Solution!) to help you organize, prepare and carry out the activities in your particular settings. Here are the contents - there are 35 pages in total, and all but one is in black-and-white, so it's easy to print on home printers and inexpensive to make copies of at a copy shop:

Here is a page from the Instructions section detailing how this resource pack can and can't be used. Essentially, if you purchase a copy of this resource pack, you can make as many copies as are needed to run a party, or a classroom lesson (and repeat as necessary for future lessons with future classes). However, you may not share your copy; colleagues, parents, friends etc. who want to run the activities in their classrooms and parties will need to purchase their own copy for use in their respective settings.

Here's another page from the pack to show you how you might introduce this activity at your event. At our original home party, we verbally explained this scenario to our guests, but perhaps that a proper Mystery Scenario might help you present the aims and goals of the activity in a more systematic way.

The cost of the resource pack is $10 and you can go here to buy it. This is an instant pdf download, so be sure to save the file on a device from which you can access it later to print. If you have any questions, leave a comment or shoot me an email!