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Made by Me Monday – I Spy Bag {a tutorial}

2013 November 5

Today I’m bringing back an oldie-but-goodie! The I Spy Bag has been around for quite a while but the most recent tutorials that pop up on my Google search are from 2011. It seems the trend to make these has died down. When I went searching for a tutorial for this myself it was used to make gifts for the kids at my youngest’s first birthday party over 2 years ago! I went searching high and low through my bookmarks trying to find the same tutorial I used then and I can’t find it anywhere. So… I have made a new tutorial for you based on what I can remember with the usual “few changes” of course! (If you happen to find an I Spy tutorial made this way can you tell me? I’d like to give proper credit where it is due. Thanks.)

It’s amazing how quickly these go together. Once you have the supplies it only requires a few seams and you are good to keep your kids busy for a while! They make great party favours, easy gifts or stocking stuffers and are great to give with a new baby gift so any siblings don’t feel left out. Despite their ease, I have a confession to make. This is one of those projects that has been on the back burner for far too long. If I have calculated it right I promised to make these 2 years ago… oof… how did that happen? I’m pretty embarrassed about it, and feel guilty that I know the friend I’m making them for will be super gracious about it.  I am really relieved to have finally finished these. I suppose telling you this is a somewhat cathartic exercise for me – though I’m not sure I feel entirely “better” having confessed! It is just good to have finished.

I am always surprised at the number of projects I start that I have not finished even a year later (never-mind two!). I have a friend who will only work on one thing at a time and won’t move on until she is finished. How I envy her discipline! I’m curious how you handle your projects – do you finish everything you start? Or begin and end when the mood strikes?

Either way – here is the tutorial so you can finish a bunch, or leave them on your shelf for a year! (and “either way” – be sure to pin it so you don’t forget!)

You will need:

  • 2 pieces of 5 1/2″ square fabric
  • 1 piece of 5 1/2″ square clear vinyl – I used 8 gauge vinyl
  • 5″ length of ribbon or twill tape
  • mini objects for spying (beads, pom poms, buttons)
  • cardstock printed or laminated card with items
  • fabric glue for extra durability – I used Liquid Stitch
  • plastic pellets – I got mine from Michael’s with a 40% off coupon

Here we go:

(1) Make the cards with the listed items. I used a business card size and found a self-laminating kit at our local Dollar Store. Punch a hole in one corner. Feed the ribbon/twill tape through the hole and fold it in half. Stitch through the tape close to the card to hold it in place.

(2) Draw a 3″ square in the middle of the wrong side of one piece of fabric. Cut through the small square from corner to corner diagonally (see photo).

(3)  Fold each triangle back along your drawn line to make the I spy window. Centre and glue the vinyl on the wrong side of the fabric. Glue ONLY around the window area.

(4) When the glue is dry, trim the excess fabric “triangles” to approximately 1/2″ (see photo). Stitch twice around the window area. I used a decorative stitch. If the presser foot sticks to the vinyl try using this trick. Do not trim the vinyl, it adds extra strength to the toy.

(5) Glue the window (with vinyl backing) and outer back fabric, right sides together around the edge. Leave a 2″ opening in the top left hand corner for turning. ** Make sure the glue is only within 1/2″ of the outer edge so it is in the seam allowance when you sew it. When the glue is dry, stitch around the edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance, making sure not to stitch over your opening. Clip corners and trim all edges to 1/4″ except at opening (see photo). Finish your edges by cutting with pinking shears or use a zig zag stitch on all edges except the opening.

(6) Turn the bag inside out. Fold the opening edges to the inside. Iron the edges, be careful not to melt the vinyl.

(7) Fill with the plastic pellets. I used 1/2 cup. Fill with a funnel and be sure to insert your mini objects. (I usually double-check that I have the correct objects as I put them in, just in case!) Insert the ribbon 1″ into the opening and glue the opening shut.

(8) When the glue is dry, unpin the opening and re-pin around the edge of the bag, forcing the pellets into the centre. Top-stitch around the edge of the bag, this will also close the opening. Double-stitch over the ribbon to make it extra secure. All done!

I’d love to see your I Spy Bag! Post your project on Facebook and it might end up in a “You Made It” post here on the blog. I’d love to hear if you liked this tutorial or any changes you might make. Thanks!

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26 Responses leave one →
  1. November 7, 2013

    I sewed these for a loot bag around 3 years ago. They are fun for the kids. I always find it tricky to sew the vinyl.
    Dorienne Fairbanks recently posted… New fabric linesMy Profile

    • November 7, 2013

      Hi Dorienne! You’re right, they’re so great for loot bags – fast too if you are making multiples. I almost bought a Teflon foot to deal with the vinyl sewing bit – but I’ve found the trick I link to in the tutorial works great – just a piece of washi tape on the bottom of my presser foot. Much better than scotch or masking tape. :)

  2. November 9, 2013

    I envy your friend’s discipline, too!
    These bags look really fun, though, and I can see them being super popular at kids’ parties for moms who love to make stuff.
    Stacia recently posted… Herbed Zucchini Dill Rolls by Till Then Smile OftenMy Profile

    • November 10, 2013

      So true Stacia! And they go together quickly once everything is ready to go.

  3. Lisa permalink
    January 3, 2015

    How do you get the objects copied in color on the cards? I guess maybe that’s a silly question, but I’m a beginner in all of this sewing stuff. I teach preschool and these would be awesome for my kiddos. Thanks much.

    • January 5, 2015

      Hi Lisa! I took a photo of the objects before I put them inside the bag – then I printed it with the text and laminated it. Let me know if you have any questions!

  4. November 6, 2016

    Hi! I like your tutorial for an I spy bag! May I link to it on my starting blog?
    Best regards,

    • November 8, 2016

      Thank you Eva! Please go ahead and link over to it – much appreciated :) You an use 1 photo as well if you would like. Thanks so much!

  5. Kathy permalink
    April 26, 2017

    If anyone is seeing this tutorial, you can make your bag a little more colorful by using perler beads as fill.

    • May 2, 2017

      This is a great idea Kathy! That would look great! Thanks for leaving a comment :)

  6. Chantal permalink
    December 24, 2017

    Why use so much glue if your just going to sew it down? I got the wrong glue and I’m just trying to figure it out so I hopefully can get this done in time without it.

    • January 8, 2018

      Hi Chantal. I hope you sorted out the glue issue! I used it to reinforce the sewing, since I was giving the bag to small children and I felt it was safer that way.

      • Chantal permalink
        January 14, 2018

        Ahh, thanks. I did them without so far and have a few more to go. The littlest person is my own and so far so good, but I can keep an eye on it.

  7. April 27, 2018

    Thanks so much Sherri, I love this. I am going to use your instructions to make three bags for my youngest Grandchildren. Wish me luck.

    • April 30, 2018

      That’s great, Wendy! These bags are so much fun, your grandkids will love them!

  8. Else permalink
    January 5, 2019

    I loved your I-spy-bag tutorial! Thank you for this! I too thought that I had seen one almost similar to yours years ago (when my now eldest grandson was young). I found this website: would that be have been your inspriation? If not, feel free to discard this message – I have no bonds with the mentioned website by the way!

  9. January 5, 2019

    Could this be the original I spy bag that you saw? it was made in 2010.
    (no personal attachments!) – Love this idea of making such an I spy bag! Thank you!

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