A blooming gorgeous changing bag (review)

Just before Andrew was born we got the Boots freebie changing bag that you get if you sign up for their parenting club and buy some nappies. It served us well for quite a while, but was beginning to fall apart in pregnancy with Joel. So Tom joined the parenting club too, and we got another free bag. But in the time since we got our first one, they’ve made the bag smaller, so it no longer fits all the paraphernalia that I have to take out with me for two children. I decided to wait a while before I did anything about this, and just got by using an extra bag, because I wanted to check that it really was worth spending the money rather than relying on extra bags. I can say now that it definitely is worth it! Also, until now I’ve had a separate handbag with my purse, keys, phone etc. in, but with 3 or 4 bags to remember and carry, it’s been a bit much, so I’d like just one to fit everything in.

So, one weekend I spent ages scouring the internet whilst feeding Joel. It quickly became clear that there were generally two ends in the market with little in between – cheap changing bags similar to our first one, or more expensive bags that looked more like hand bags but could fit lots of baby stuff in. I decided that as this was going to be my hand bag as well, I’d rather go for one that looked more stylish than a simple satchel design in a plain colour and was also good quality to last us through constant use.

In my search, I came across the lovely website of Pink Lining, a British company that started from a lady called Charlotte hand stitching hand bags in her London flat, then moved onto fashionable baby changing bags handmade with a sewing machine, and grew into a market leading brand in the UK as well as gaining much recognition internationally. I couldn’t resist the look of the bags, they were unlike any other that I had come across in my lengthy search. Not only did they look practical, but also had a unique style, made with colourful, pretty fabrics and a shape that shouted ‘hand bag’ at me rather than ‘changing bag’. I’d also heard good things about them from a few friends who have one.

It's Blooming Gorgeous it is

Pink Lining make various designs of bag which you can see here. After much thought I decided that I most liked the Blooming Gorgeous design, in the Blue Bouquet fabric. Very kindly, Pink Lining offered me a discount in exchange for my views on how the bag performs for us. So here’s my review…..

Space

This is the most important feature for us given that our previous bag was too small! There is certainly no shortage of space in the bag; I can fit all the things I need to, both for the boys and for me (see the next section for more details).

The dimensions are: 38(L) x 25.5(H) x 19(W) cm; this seems to be around the standard for most satchel style changing bags from my online search, and Pink Lining point out that the Blooming Gorgeous bag is slightly wider than their other similar in style bags. The generous width is noticeable, because even when the side pockets are stuffed with things, there is still a decent space in the middle to fit bigger things like a change of clothes for both boys, and the fact that the bottom is stiff means that it holds its shape so you can see just how much space you have to stuff things into.

Access to bag contents

What I like even more about the space in the bag is it’s not just one big space – there are several handy pockets and things, which keep our stuff organised. I find this really important, because without it I would almost certainly fail to find the thing I need at the right time and end up with some very stressful change times, feed times, toddler entertainment times or unlocking the front door times!

Outside on the bag: there is a large canvas pocket, which fits various bits like a foldaway shopping bag and my hairbrush; and two side pockets in body fabric, one of which fits two drinks bottles (one for me and one for Andrew), and the other fits our foldaway fabric chair harness for eating out.

A bottle for me and a bottle for Andrew

Inside the bag: there are two insulated bottle holders, which fit our SNSs nice and snugly so they won’t fall out into the bag; two nappy pockets, which fit cloth and disposable nappies for a toddler and a baby; pen holder, key clip on elastic, phone pocket (big enough for my iPhone) and small zip pocket, all of which help to keep my personal stuff in an easily reachable place; a padded changing mat, which looks more comfortable to lie on than our previous non-padded foldaway mats; and a zipped wet bag, which holds one cloth nappy or 2 disposables.

Andrew's nappies (left), Joel's nappies (right), keys on elastic (centre). white folded, padded changing mat (centre)
bottle holders (right and left) - one with SNS and one with some Mummy and Andrew snacks in (they make good sturdy pockets eve if you don't need to take baby bottles out with you); phone (centre); changing mat (white with pink trim); change of clothes for both boys (between mat and phone

Ease of carrying (on me/buggy)

The bag has two options for carrying: a detachable, adjustable shoulder strap that is long enough to fit over any pram/buggy handle bars, and fixed handles for carrying in your hand or over your shoulder. I usually put the bag in the basket under the buggy, where it fits nicely, because with our old iCandy buggythe warranty was invalid if you hung anything from the bar, so we didn’t, and even though Bugaboo isn’t so strict on this, I’ve just stayed in old habits. But it’s handy that I can hang the bag if I need the basket for shopping. I did toy with the idea of getting a rucksack changing bag, but as I’m carrying Joel in the sling everywhere, I decided I’d rather carry the weight on the buggy than directly on my body.

The bag just showing from inside the basket under the buggy.

For when I am carrying the bag on me, like when we’re at a group and we go to change a nappy or two, I like the length of the fixed straps – they are long enough to carry on my shoulder and short enough that I can carry in my hand and not scrape it along the floor. It’s handy to have both options, as well as the adjustable shoulder strap.

Hanging from the handle bars

Looks and style

I came across very few changing bags that were made of such pretty fabrics – most were plain colours like black, red, blue or pink. In fact all Pink Lining’s fabrics are their own unique design, and I went for the Blue Bouquet colour scheme because I like the floral design. I love the fact that the bag looks so feminine and stylish (for anyone who’s wondering, Tom now has his own changing bag for when he goes out with Andrew alone – the freebie black one!) As my job is to be a mummy, it makes me feel fashionable in this role, just like I might have a funky bag for going to an office job.

Of course I can’t forget the bright pink lining, which naturally features in all the bags that Pink Lining make. Pink is one of my favourite colours, so it’s very me. But I think it’s great that the outside of the bag (and other colour schemes that Pink Lining make them in) isn’t pink, as I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Fabric care

As well as looking good, it’s important for me to be practical, so I was pleased to see that the outer fabric is a cotton/nylon blend coated in PEVA laminate (an environmentally friendly, food-safe vinyl that is made without chlorine or plasticisers). This makes it easy to wipe clean when it inevitably comes into contact with all sorts of mucky stuff – I have two boys after all, one of which already loves muddy trips to the park. Pink Lining do warn though that wiping clean with a damp cloth and some mild detergent will not eliminate all stains that may occur – of course that’s also inevitable, and I would expect a changing bag to get that ‘well used and loved’ look over time.

What I particularly like about this fabric is that it has a matt rather than gloss finish. From a distance you can’t tell it’s laminated, it just looks like untreated cotton fabric. Other wipe-clean changing bags I’ve seen are made of oil-skin fabric, which looks highly glossy, and I found this less appealing.

The lining is 100% nylon, like other changing bags, and is practical and functional (as well as being a lovely colour!)

A slight sheen on the wipe-clean fabric, but not as highly glossy as oil-skin

Quality

The higher quality of this bag compared to our previous free ones is very noticeable. The fabrics themselves look durable (of course I won’t know for sure until I’ve used it for a while, but first impressions are positive), and the fastenings and sewing are well executed. I particularly think that the appliqué flowers and ‘Blooming Gorgeous’ writing sewn onto the front pocket give it a high quality look and feel when you get close up. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into making this bag.

Cost

With changing bags it seems to be a case of you get what you pay for, so this bag is at the more expensive end of the market at £79 (from www.pinklining.co.uk). This would not be within our normal budget, but we were very generously given quite a bit of money from various people when Joel was born, which they asked us to spend on something we needed for the baby, as they didn’t know what he needed given that he has an older brother to pass things down to him – and they’re right, he has everything! So I saw the changing bag as a practical thing that was worth spending this money on. I did end up getting a generous discount from Pink Lining in exchange for this review, but I was willing to spend the money anyway as I think it’s worth it, if you have the money.

Overall

If you’re looking for a high quality changing bag that is both fashionable like a hand bag and practical in size and shape, I definitely recommend this bag. If people ask you what you or baby need because they’d like to give you a useful gift, this would be a great idea, or vouchers for a shop that sells them (e.g. John Lewis).

Disclaimer: I was given a 50% discount off the cost of the bag, but all views expressed are my honest opinions based on my own experience of using the bag.

Pregnancy diary: week 32 – “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139)

This week I’ve been thinking about knitting. It’s not me who’s been doing the knitting – I fear it would take me longer than a 9 month pregnancy to knit even one item of newborn clothing, having not done any since I was a child and having little time for craft these days. Recently we were very kindly given two new cardigans in baby sizes (1 newborn, 1 second size) by Tom’s Nan. She loves knitting, and can whip up garments in no time, even those that are bigger than tiny baby sizes. She, along with two of Tom’s aunts, knitted lots for us when Andrew was born, which was great because he was born in a cold January and needed a woolly top most days, but he grew so quickly, as babies do, that he didn’t get much wear out of each individual jumper/cardigan, so there’s plenty of wear left in them all for our new baby. Since Andrew was born, Tom’s Nan and aunt have also provided us with jumpers and cardigans throughout the year, so we’ve not had to buy any woolly clothes at all, and again there’s plenty of wear left in them for our second child.

2 new white cardies for the newborn (1 first size, 1 second size) and 2 of Andrew's most recent jumpers/cardies, all beautifully knitted.

I know we are very lucky to have such lovely handmade clothes given to us when they would cost a fortune to buy, and it’s also nice to know the person who made them, and know that they were made with our kids specifically in mind. In fact, because we are still being given more hand-knitted garments by Tom’s family for this baby, we’re able to give some away to another family baby, who is due to come into the world 4 weeks before ours. I’m so glad we can share these lovely gifts with another baby who will benefit from gorgeous warm clothes in the winter months. I’m sure the bigger sizes will continue to come in too, as Andrew has also received some bigger jumpers recently that he’s just about growing into. So there will be lots of hand-me-downs in the months and years to come.

Wow! Will the new baby really be that small?! It's hard to remember that my big buster boy was once a delicate little newborn who fitted into something this small.

All these knitted clothes have reminded me of a verse in the Bible which I really love. Psalm 139, verse 13 says:

“For you [God] created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

I’d read this verse before I was even thinking about becoming a mum, but it wasn’t until after I’d given birth to Andrew that these words took on such a strong meaning for me. I remember lying on the hospital bed the night after Andrew was born, just looking at him sleeping peacefully – his little chest moving up and down as he breathed air after so many months of developing his lungs in the womb, his tiny but perfectly formed fingers wrapped around my big index finger, his tiny mouth that instinctually sucked whenever my breast (or anything else!) came near it. It suddenly hit me that this little being had developed from just one cell inside my womb, he had been knit together, all his tiny parts perfectly formed into one body that was now living on its own outside of me. That thought really made the verse in Psalm 139 hit home to me, and I was grateful beyond words to God for giving us this amazing gift of new life. I just lay there in utter amazement, and got not a wink of sleep, but it didn’t matter to me.

I had thought about the verse a couple of times in pregnancy with Andrew, but I don’t think it was until I held him in my arms that I fully grasped what this meant: God had knit Andrew together inside me, and there I was holding this amazing piece of God’s creation. This time in pregnancy, the verse has come to me again a few times; this time I have more of  a sense of what it means to me, because I am constantly reminded every day when I look at Andrew of God’s amazing creation. Already in 19 months he has grown and developed even more; from being that tiny newborn baby fast asleep, he has turned into an active toddler who walks (read: runs) around and is starting to talk words that I understand. He no longer fits in the white cardies in the picture at the start of this post, and is rapidly growing out of the blue ones in the picture too! Conception to birth is one incredible act of knitting, and the finished piece of knitting at birth continues on its journey of growth throughout childhood.

Before I finish, I’d like to share the section of Psalm 139 (verses 13-16) that the verse about being knit together in the womb comes from. This is from The Message translation (a modern take on more traditional translations)….

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
you formed me [knit me together] in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.

It’s not just the knowledge that God knit Andrew and this baby together in my womb which I find so amazing – I love the fact that God has a plan for my life and He knows exactly what will happen, in fact he knew before Iwas even born. That is mind-blowingly awesome! And it certainly makes me want to praise God like the person who wrote the Psalm did. Mind-blowing it may be, but I know that it’s true because I have already experienced so much of God at work in my life, even in times when I couldn’t see the plan myself and I was going through difficult times.

Another week down, another bit of growth from bump.

Next week I know I’m going to have to start thinking about packing my hospital bag and getting some things ready at home in case I end up being at home for the birth. Tom has been asking me this week when I’m going to do it! I’m usually the one who gets prepared first out of the two of us, but I think I’m just so busy still, and lacking in energy in times that I do have to myself, that I’ve not got around to it yet. Let’s see if I get around to it this week…..

Personalised birthday cards: Granny’s Garden

It’s that time of year again: my parents’ birthdays are here (one in February and one in March). They have lots of things and I never know what to buy them. So this year I decided to make them personalised cards for a present, because I know they will appreciate something that was hand made. (I also popped some cinema vouchers inside for Mum – I can’t say yet what will be in Dad’s as his birthday hasn’t come yet.) Here’s how I made the card called ‘Granny’s Garden’….

I started with a piece of A4 chocolate brown stiff card in a landscape orientation
I folded it into 3 in a zig-zag kind of way: the height of the folded card is the shorter side of A4, and each third is about 10cm wide. I cut off a piece from the top of the middle section and the front section using wavy pinking scissors to create a wavy edge, cutting from one side to the other in a diagonal direction.
I cut a piece of green paper with a geometric pattern about 5mm less wide on both sides than the front section of the brown card. I cut the top with wavy pinking scissors to create a wavy edge at the same angle as the card. I then made a plant bed (see next picture).
To make a plant bed just like Granny has (but hers aren't pink!), I cut a small rectangle of brown card for the soil, two longer strips of pink stripy paper, two shorter thinner strips and finally 4 very short and thin bits for the corner posts. It was all stuck together using double-sided tape, and likewise stuck onto the brown card. I added some small bits of thick green wool to be the vegetables, stuck on with PVA glue at the base only so they flap around at the top.
I then attached two cocktail sticks to the inside of the card, which would later be used to hold the bunting up. They were stuck on with PVA glue and then a small rectangle of brown card on top to cover up the stick where it was attached on the card.
This was the trickiest and fiddliest bit. I made some bunting using lilac craft wire and little triangles cut out of various patterned papers. I folded each triangle over the top of the wire by about 3mm, and stuck it down back on itself using double-sided tape. I used contrasting patterns and colours for each successive triangle as I went along. Finally I wrote 'Granny's Garden' on the finished bunting using a black gel pen.
I attached the bunting to the back of the card at the top using double sided tape and then sticking a small piece of brown card over the top using more DS-tape to hide the wire where it was stuck down. At the other end I tied the wire around the cocktail stick and put a small blob of PVA glue to stop it springing up again. The bottom piece of bunting was attached at both ends to a cocktail stick in the same way.
I then stuck a piece of coloured paper with a flowery pattern on the middle section of the card, about 5mm less wide on both sides than the card itself so there was a brown border. I also cut the top using waving pinking scissors to create a wavy edge. I stuck a button on with PVA glue on the centre of the big blue and green flower on the top right (see below)
I then cut out a wheelbarrow shape, a fork and a trowel in different coloured papers that contrasted with the green background. They were stuck on using DS-tape, and then I drew around the wheelbarrow with a black gel pen. A black button for its wheel, stuck on with PVA glue, completed the wheelbarrow.
Inside a Happy Birthday sticker completed the card, and it was then ready to write for Granny.
There we are: Granny's Garden

I love making things and this project reminded why I like doing it for other people – I like to see them receive something personalised and made with love. I find it very relaxing and it’s the kind of thing I do when Daddy and Andrew go out together on a Saturday morning. There will be more of this kind of craft coming up on the blog when I get the chance.