Last year, moments after my daughter's first birthday party -- a Cuban theme blowout with catered lunch and rented palm trees -- I exhaustedly uttered a simple sentence to my family: "Next year is going to be a whole lot simpler." The big party of this year was our Gatsby picnic and all plans for Penelope's second birthday were made as simple as we could imagine. We'd get Penelope's favorite food (Peasant Pies), make the cupcakes ourselves and all the decorations would be store bought at the local party supply store. The theme would be a little more kid-friendly than Old Cuba: Sesame Street. And the guest list would include only our closest family and friends and Penelope's buddies.
Then something happened at Party City that changed my simple intentions: I saw the Sesame Street party supplies.
Now this isn't going to become a rant about consumerism and marketing to kids and how all products for kids should be as plain as brown paper sacks. My reason for disliking the party supplies is far more neurotic. I have a major issue with cartoon characters -- especially Muppets -- trying to look smooth or cool. See this post from 2004 if you don't believe it's a real issue for me.
Anyway, the supplies in question had a too-cool-for-school Elmo staring at me with his arms folded. Like he's about to do a bro nod and say 'sup. As much as this drove me crazy, I put the plates and the cups and the party hats and the party bags in my shopping cart and reluctantly walked to the cashier. And then I turned around and put them back. Days later I was at the store again doing the exact same thing. I just wouldn't let myself buy these party supplies.
So here I am on Tuesday morning -- only four days before Penelope's party -- deciding that I was going to change the theme. And no, I'm not going to walk ten feet and pick Backyardigans or something easy and cute. Instead I decide I'm going to choose something Penelope has been crazy about for the past couple weeks since we went to Disneyland: "it's a small world". Something, I must add, has not a single purchasable decorative component.
I now had a party theme that required me to make all the decorations from scratch. Like the fable of the scorpion and the frog, it's just my nature to do this sort of insane DIYness. My vision for the decorations is pretty simple, however:
1. The colors are based on the attraction: lavender, baby blue, pink and white
2. I'll make a simple backdrop depicting the attraction's facade (to Pen it's the castle where "people sing songs."
3. I'll figure out something Small World-like to decorate a cake or cupcakes.
And that's it.
On Tuesday night I started the backdrop. I had contacted someone who had used "it's a small world" as the theme for his daughter's nursery and asked if he could send me a vector drawing of the facade. He responded within the hour and sent me the graphic he made. Although it was awesome, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for -- I wanted a completely flat representation of the building. So, I found an illustration of the ride online and then traced the entire thing using Illustrator.
Next, I printed out the finished graphic using twelve sheets of paper. I painted, cut and applied the pieces to a roll of blue wrapping paper. Then, I applied the finishing touches and added a bunch of glitter.
The cupcake toppers turned out to be an easier task than I imagined. I was originally going to find "it's a small world" people online, print them out and stick them in the cupcakes using toothpicks. It turned out to be easier than that because I remembered the one "small world" thing that could actually be bought -- these little scrapbooking stickers sold at Michaels. So I took the stickers apart and stuck them on a toothpick. Voila!
Paper plates, table cloths, napkins, etc. were all purchased at Party City and, if I had actually stuck to my above list, would have been done. And then, on Thursday morning -- on the way to pick up my mom from the airport and only two days from the party -- I had a crazy idea. Wouldn't it be great if I made little small world dolls for each of the kids attending the party?
And that's what I did.
I once again used Illustrator and traced two small world characters I found online. I used that as a basis for the other six dolls -- each doll representing an ethnicity of a child attending Penelope's party. It was a challenge to draw the six other characters but was actually quite fun. When I was finished I had eight vector images that I could resize and print out on iron-on fabric. Next, I ironed them onto coordinating fabric and then stitched them onto felt. They were stuffed with fiberfill and then closed up. I was incredibly pleased by how they turned out.
That's when I should have stopped but I had already decided that I wanted to also make the party hats and gift bags carry the theme of the dolls. So I resized the doll vectors and printed/glued them onto the white party bags (along with the child's name).
I did something similar for the party hats -- with the exception of just using the illustration's head. And because I was on some crazy crafting high I decided to also make little popsicle puppets for the gift bags and a mini coloring book with line drawings of all the dolls.
It all turned out great and my daughter seemed more than pleased to see her favorite Disneyland ride appearing in her dining room. Because I actually had fun with these crafts, I don't feel dread for next year. I'm ready to take on a different theme and will definitely have a three-year-old ready to share some of the work load.
If you would like to create your own party decorations or use the illustrations for something else creative, they're available at my Etsy shop. And if you use them, please post a link to the comments!