Monday, May 30, 2011

On the go and on a roll...

I recently felt like I was losing momentum because I had tried so many new things in the past month and added so many new things to my product line. May 2011 has been an exciting month! In my attempt to maintain the same "super drive" I've been on, I sought out some new projects.

My goal this time was to see if I could master the elusive motorcycle cake. These I've seen before in a few places. While there seem to be hundreds of companies or individuals that make diaper cakes in just as many styles and variations, only a handful of them make the motorcycle diaper cakes. Along with those, you can also find tricycles and with even less frequency, a four-wheeler. I've always been intrigued by these. I've always seemed to have difficulty figuring out how they were put together. I really thought that it would be rather difficult and before I'd been very hesitant to try.

I have to admit I was really surprised at how cute my first attempt at making a motorcycle turned out. The wheels of the bike are made from diapers arranged similarly to how they would be done in a spiral style cake. Receiving blankets are used to create a sort of frame and handle bars. Many people that make these "cakes" will use bibs for other components of the motorcycle, but since I didn't have any handy, I substituted prefold diapers/burp cloths which worked nicely. A small bottle was placed below the handle bars to act as a headlight for the motorcycle. For a final touch, a stuffed rabbit (my own stuffed animal) was seated on the bike as a rider.

After taking several pictures from different angles of the motorcycle, I wanted to try my hand at the tricycle. Many of the components of the tricycle are very similar to that of the motorcycle, the main difference being that there are two wheels in the rear that are smaller than the larger front wheel. For this vehicle, I used the same pieces from the motorcycle and built up a tricycle. I may make a few adjustments for future tricycles by adding more pieces, and by that I mean more baby items. I also noticed that pictures don't really do it justice since it's hard to see the detail on this "cake" which is a bit frustrating.

Because these first trials came out so well, I will go ahead and consider these part of my product line to offer more options for customers. I'm very excited about this since I was so hesitant to try it out before. I'm going to try to consider other options of unique or less frequently seen diaper "cakes" so I have not only more options but I can offer gifts that people may not have seen before or something that may tie in closer to a set theme for a shower or nursery. If nothing else, I suppose I set a precedence of experimenting with new things as well as expanding my product line, so I suppose I need to see if I can keep up the pace in June and beyond.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cloth Diaper Diaper Cakes Reaching New Heights

I've done it again. While participating in the discussion on the diaper cake forum I joined recently, some participants were musing about the multiple tiered diaper cakes made with cloth diapers. Before realizing what I was saying, I added that, "Of course it's possible." After posting the response, I realized that I probably should "put my money where my mouth is" and stop acting like I knew what I was talking about without any proof. I didn't doubt that it could be done, but I wanted to make sure that my assessment of the ease and the final outcome would be not only doable, but also something that potential customers were actually interested in.

The biggest challenge was making the diaper cake with non-prefold diapers. The previous cloth diaper diaper cakes I had made were formed with prefolds which rolled as easily as disposables (maybe a bit less compact) or  could be formed in a spiral as neatly as disposables. I felt I needed to see how it would look over all if cloth diapers were used to make a multiple tier cake and see how it would come together if an alternate variety of diapers was used. Of course, part of me was also challenged and I had to see if I could do it.

Because the cost of cloth diapers can be quite an investment - when not using prefolds or flat fold diapers, that is - I wasn't bold enough to order new diapers for my experiment, but being a cloth diapering mom myself, I decided that for experimentation purposes, I could use my own diapers to see how it all would look. I use fitted diapers which are shaped like a regular diaper and are stretchy so the can be worn close to the body. My diapers are also one-size diapers which can be folded and snapped down for use on the baby early on and can be unfolded and used at different snap settings for older/larger babies. For the diaper cake, I also included the additional liners that can be used with the diapers for extra absorption. I used 12 diapers and 6 liners which is the amount that is found in one of the package deals from the company. I formed the diapers into a spiral configuration for this cake. Although rolling the diapers would have made the diapers more "solid" giving additional stability to the overall cake, many diaper cake makers are making spiral cakes, preferring them over the rolled variety, so I used that style for my experiment. 7 diapers made the main part of the bottom tier with one liner filling in the middle. 5 diapers were used for the middle tier and the remaining 5 liners were used to form the top tier. I secured the tiers with scrap ribbon and added decorative ribbon and crinkle paper to emulate the final presentation one might see in a cake for purchase.

A cake like this might benefit from stabilizers added to it. Also a firmer ribbon or wrapping around the tiers would hold the diapers in a bit better and keep them tighter. Of course, most of my diaper cakes use blankets or similar baby items around the tiers which would add more structure if used. Because the diapers are cloth, there is significant weight with each of the tiers that is not seen with disposable diapers. In a cake built for a customer, I'd most likely add baby items as decorations. Also, in the case of fitted diapers like these or contours, prefolds, or flats I'd also likely add diaper covers either as decorations or integrated in the structure as they would be required for use of those types of diapers.

The biggest drawback to a cake like this is the cost. A smaller cake with fewer diapers (maybe two narrower tiers) could be made to help with this issue or alternately more basic diapers like prefolds, for example, are always an option.  Certainly, a cloth diaper diaper cake would require some extra planning to ensure the diapers are the kind the parents-to-be want to use, as they have much more of a permanent presence than disposables have. In any case, I'm happy to have made this type of cake so I have a better idea of tweaks that may need to be employed in the event that a cake like this is ordered.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Candy, Candy, Candy!

Once again, as I was developing new concepts and reworking others, I put together another item that got very little attention since I first made it almost a year ago: Baby Candy. I decided that I would work a bit on the presentation and see if I could improve on what I had done before.

My initial set of baby candy was relatively large. Not too big, just an additional option for this gift/favor/decoration. I included disk candy and rolled candy. I incorporated diapers, washcloths, and teethers wrapped in cellophane for the candy effect. At the time, I was primarily working on concepts for presentation or display and something that would make the photograph appealing. I tried different layouts with a serving bowl and an aluminum tin to see what would work best and how it might be used in practice. I included a photograph in my product catalog binder, but I didn't go much further beyond that and didn't even post a picture on Facebook until recently when I "reinvented" the candy.

This time around, I think I did a better job with the candy. Both the disk and rolled candy were made with washcloths and I think they came out cleaner. I also used tulle to wrap the candy rather than cellophane and I'm not sure which one I like better. This candy was also much smaller than the first candy I made and I decided I would offer a small and large option for the candy. This set included 8 pieces of candy - 4 disks and 4 rolls. When packaging, I'm trying to decide if I want to offer the candy in sets of 6 or 8, but I'm leaning toward 6. With this smaller candy, I have more options when it comes to presentation/packaging and can use a smaller jar or container to package the candy or I can simply offer it in a treat bag.

I'm excited to finally and officially add this item to my product line. Along with the lollipops I've recently made, I'm on my way to offering a larger adorable assortment of other sweets and treats for customers. All I have left to do is work out the details on quantities, pricing, and packaging which won't take long and I feel confident about offering them for sale now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Newest Addition to the Product Line!

I'm excited to add another gift option to my product line! This particular gift has been in the works for over a year, believe it or not. I'm glad to finally have it put together in a way I can be proud of. What is this gift? Without further ado, I present, the baby bottle.

This picture is mildly embarrassing, but
here is my original bottle concept.
In March 2010, only a few months after I started making diaper cakes, I started to experiment with some other ideas for gifts. Among those ideas were the baby buggies (which you've probably seen) and baby bottles. I liked how the early experiments with the buggies came out and they were added to the product line fairly early on. The baby bottle and other ideas (which may or may not be further developed) weren't up to par and I decided to put those ideas aside for a while. My original concept for the baby bottle contained several stacked uniform tiers that I wrapped in a receiving blanket. Washcloths were used to create the nipple effect. I felt that the overall look of the bottle was lacking and the gift might not be recognized as a bottle.

After seeing several large bottle shaped diaper cakes available through Etsy and Ebay, I decided to revisit the project. Rather than create a large gift (around 30 diapers) as I had seen before, I wanted to make a smaller gift. I may create a larger one in the future, but for now, I like the size I chose. For this bottle, I used 7 diapers for the basic shape. A burp cloth was added and a washcloth for the nipple. Pink ribbon creates the rim for the nipple. The ribbon on these gifts can be various colors to match themes, color schemes, or the gender of the expected baby. I think this configuration is much more identifiable as a bottle and the size I chose means that this adorable gift is available at a very affordable price. I will likely add an embellishment or two to orders. Similar to my other gifts, the bottle will be presented on a cake board and wrapped for gifting. I'm excited about this new addition and can't wait to start making them for expectant moms!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Introducing the Mini Bouquet

Maybe I have a thing with making items smaller, I don't know. I think it's an almost universal truth that women think little things are cute, so maybe that's it. In any case, I had a glass cup that I thought would be great to use for a vase for a baby bouquet on a small scale. So, the other day I decided to put it together and see how it looked.

I gathered half a dozen washcloths and rolled them into "roses". I used a burp cloth for a decorative element in the vase where I typically would have used tissue paper or a similar filling. I like the overall look, but I'm not sure if I would use a burp cloth in practice. If I do, I would probably still add tissue paper or another filling to make it look cleaner.

A cute little bouquet like this could be used as shower decorations where a larger vase would be cumbersome. At a large shower or party with multiple tables, mini bouquets would be great as a smaller centerpiece or several could line a longer refreshment table. I like the idea of small or miniature items being incorporated as shower decorations, especially if you have a larger area where decorations are needed in multiple locations. Another great benefit of these types of decorations is the fact that they are rather affordable if a large quantity is needed.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Going Green

Quite some time ago (last June, I think) I was asked if it was possible to make a diaper cake with cloth diapers. I happen to be in a mom group where a number of the moms cloth diaper (including myself). As environmentally conscious moms, they were curious if the craft could be applied in a manner using cloth diapers for other mamas that planned to "go green." Without thinking about it much, I figured it shouldn't be much of a challenge and proceeded to go home and experiment.

I don't use prefold diapers - but I had several that I use for burp cloths - and I figured these would work best for making a cake. I folded and rolled the prefold diapers as I did the disposables and built them into a cake. A burp cloth  was then used to wrap around the cake. I tied it with a decorative bow and added teethers and a squeaky duck as accents. Since I had a limited number of diapers, the cake was only a 1-tier cake, but it gives an idea of what a cloth diaper diaper cake would look like. A larger multi-tier cake can certainly be made. Likely in that case, I'd use different sizes for each tier and possibly place something in the center of the larger tiers if the diapers weren't bulky enough since the number of diapers in a cloth diaper diaper cake doesn't need to be as extensive as you'd need with disposable. This cake was just a display/test cake. I wanted to make sure that my initial thought that it was possible was correct. The cake came out really cute. Although, despite the fact that I had people asking about it, I still have yet to have someone order one. Like I mentioned, that was last June (and I can't believe I hadn't blogged about it yet...).

More recently on the diaper cake forum I joined, the discussion again presented itself. Are cloth diaper diaper cakes possible? Had anyone made them? So, of course, I responded with info about mine and suggestions like making sure to use the right kind of prefolds (assuming the new mom wanted to use prefolds) and recommending using different sizes. One of the people asked about making the cloth diaper diaper cake in a spiral style and questioning the stability of such a cake and if such a thing was possible. Me and my big mouth replied that of course it was possible. I couldn't see why it wouldn't be feasible. This, of course, gave me another project. I should put my money where my mouth is and actually make one before I start telling everyone it can be done. So, again, I gather my prefold diapers and fold them up and wrap them in a spiral configuration. I was right, it was possible. For this cake, I went completely simple. I spiraled the single tier cake and decorated it with ribbon and crinkle paper. I had to make sure that the diapers were visible in the spiral form so the forum members could see it put together. In practice, I might use more baby items to finish off the cake, but for demonstration purposes, this was enough.

I'm definitely happy to have these under my belt in the off chance that someone wants to order one. The down-side to such a project is a significant cost increase for such a cake because of the cost of diapers. I'm also not sure how many diapers would be needed in a cake like this if it was multiple tiers. These small cakes had 7 and 8 diapers respectively and were made with newborn diapers. It'd be an adventure to make one, and I'd be excited for the project. I probably will experiment with my other diapers at some point since I have more of them to see how that would work. I'm excited about the possibilities with these cakes especially considering it's a very specific market that I can be a part of.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lots of new ideas...

This week I have been inspired. Most likely, it's because I recently joined a diaper cakes forum where various diaper cake makers get on and discuss ideas and concepts, talk about pricing methods, and share other general information. It's great to see what all is out there and discuss with others in the business, but at the same time, I'm starting to feel a bit of pressure to step up my game and try new things, especially since many of my ideas and items aren't as unique or uncommon as I may have previously thought. So, with inspiration from that group and other forms of inspiration, I've developed a few new items that I'd like to add to my product line. Some will need more tweaking than others, but that's ok.

My first new item is a piece of cake, no really, a piece of cake. A slice of cake! Inspired by some towel cake favors I saw, I decided to adapt the idea to diaper gifts. Like the cupcakes, these could be presented in a single serving bakery cake/pie container. The main shape is created by diapers. A burp cloth is wrapped around the "slice" and a wash cloth gives a nice clean top. I added an additional wash cloth for an icing effect. I'd like to tweak this a bit more by maybe adding some wash cloth flowers or other small baby items on top of the slice. I also thought that aside from single servings, I could make several and piece them together for an entire cake which would make a cute decoration for a shower. I think I need to experiment with this a little bit more before I add it to the product line, but it's a definite option and I think it's cute and have never seen it with diapers before, so that makes it even more unique.

My second new item is one I've seen in several places. It's similar to the wash cloth "candy" I've made before, but it's lollipops. The lollipops are rolled very much like the disk candy. I experimented with a few different sticks for the lollipops. The standard candy stick gives a great effect, but because of the way it's put together, it is less stable and the stick can slide out easily. The second lollipop stick option is a baby spoon. This works wonderfully since the varying contour of the spoon helps the whole thing to be more stable. Not only that, it provides an additional baby item to the gift. Similar lollipops are used as favors at baby showers, but I'm not sure how that works if those attending the shower go home with them, what would they do with baby items if they don't have a baby? As decorations around the shower they'd be super cute and then could be sent home with the expectant mom. They also could be incorporated into a diaper cake or basket quite easily to make an adorable candy theme. I can very easily start marketing these with a little more practice making sure I give a really clean look to these, but I'm comfortable adding them to the product line shortly as soon as I work out pricing for them (and gather a few more materials).

My third new idea is more wash cloth "art." I've seen many places where people have made little creatures and critters out of wash cloths so I decided to try my hand at it with a collection of sea creatures. I put together an octopus (inspired by a pic a friend posted on Facebook of a pet octopus he wanted), a turtle (which really I just wanted to see how it would come out), and some fish (which I've seen before but wanted to see if I could make my own). The critters all turned out really cute and I was pleased with the final outcome. Similar to the lollipops though, the application of items like these is slightly questionable. They too could be used as shower decorations that are then given to the expectant mom or they could be incorporated into an "under the sea" themed cake. The latter, I feel may be more popular. I would like to see if I can come up with additional sea creatures to add to the collection because I think it is super fun and different.

I'm constantly trying to think of new things to do for baby gifts and shower decorations. Some work, some don't, but I keep trying and I'm always open to suggestions. =)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Go Team!

Some time ago, I decided I wanted to make an Aggie diaper cake - mostly prompted by the fact that I attended Texas A&M University. My oldest received a gift basket full of Aggie items for babies as a gift when he was born and I was excited that there were such baby items and we could start the brain-washing early. Of course, the receipt of such items also got me thinking that they could be incorporated into a diaper cake. My sister-in-law had actually received such a diaper cake when she had one of her girls and after she passed that cake along to me (she didn't use it and had it sitting in her garage for several years), I had even more inspiration to make a cake of my own.

After thinking about it, I decided that my prejudice for Aggie items really could be extended and diaper cakes could be made for any number of teams or schools. Finding appropriate baby items may take a bit of extra time and cost, but once acquired, a diaper cake to support almost any group is possible. My boys had a number of items supporting various teams, so I decided to experiment a bit and use their items to build several sample cakes for demonstration purposes so people could get an idea of what is possible. I made four different items for what I refer to as my "Fan Series."

The first items I made were Cowboys gifts. I put together a two tier diaper cake and a baby basket. The diaper cake was composed of diapers in a spiral style. The tiers were wrapped in custom made decorative burp cloths which were a hand made gift from a friend of mine. The topper for the cake was a fabric toy cube that I made for my little one. White socks and wash cloths were added to finish the cake. The baby basket included many of the same items as the cake. The structure was formed from the custom made decorative burp cloths. The inside of the basket was lined with diapers arranged in a spiral fashion. A Cowboys toy football and wash cloth "flowers" were added to the basket to finish the gift. 

Next, I created a Cubs diaper cake from items that were given to me in a gift package. The collection included a number of items that worked quite well in a diaper cake. This cake was a 3-tier diaper cake built in a spiral style. A Cubs blanket was wrapped around th bottom tier. The middle tier held pre-fold diapers/burp cloths, and the top tier was covered with a Cubs hat. A Cubs onsie, bib, and pair of booties finished the cake. I added crinkle paper to this one for a completed look. It also came in handy to cover the part of the top tier that the hat did not cover completely.

The last (at least for now) item to be included in the Fan Series collection was my long awaited Aggie diaper cake. For this, I used items that were included in the Aggie baby gift basket we received for our oldest child. This cake was a two tier, off-centered cake. I chose this configuration because, for this cake, I included the plush bear that came in the basket. By creating an off-centered cake, the bear could be seated on the lower tier and attached to the upper tier. Unlike most other cakes, this one had a large lower tier and a small upper tier rather than a slowly graduated difference between tiers. The tiers were wrapped in pre-fold diapers/burp cloths. The lower tier held an Aggie onsie. The upper tier held a "Gig 'Em Aggies" beanie hat. A pair of Texas A&M socks topped the cake. As mentioned, the plush bear was seated on the lower tier and situated to hug the top tier. Two Aggie pacifiers and crinkle paper finished the cake.

I'm happy with the way these cakes turned out. They add some more choices for people who are interested in ordering a cake. Options like these were always available, but when people get an opportunity to see it in action, so to speak, it makes the possibility more real and adds an option they may not have known was available. As I mentioned before, these cakes were all sample cakes. The fan items used were all personal items so, those that gave them to us as gifts can rest assured that I'm not building these cakes with the intention of selling them. They were built for pictures to help people see what is possible and get more exposure to the style and look of diaper cakes that I make. The cakes were then broken down and the baby items placed back in their drawers. I look forward to seeing what I can create in the event that a fan cake is ordered in the future.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Celebrating Moms

Most often at baby showers, the gifts given focus on the baby and rightly so. Typically, babies need a lot of things that most expectant parents don't have when they don't have children. Showers help the parents not only celebrate the new arrival with food and friends, but also provide an outlet to gather baby items that help to defray the costs of a new baby. Unfortunately, the needs of the baby aren't the only ones that are new to the changing family. The mom also requires a few things to help her out in her new status. A breastfeeding mom has many needs such as nursing tops and other breastfeeding support items. Aside from that, all moms could use the opportunity to relax and pamper themselves as labor and new motherhood, even when they have other children, is busy and stressful. Without taking care of herself, a mom can't possibly take care of her children. Inspired by these ideas and Mother's Day coming up this Sunday, I decided to create a diaper cake that not only provides a few baby items, but also focuses on the mom to help pamper and care for herself as she cares for her baby.

This cake, created to add to the collection of holiday gifts, like the others was built as a display cake to represent ideas that could be incorporated in a custom made cake. This two tier cake was started with a boutique style spiral cake. A large receiving blanket and prefold diapers/burp cloths were used to decorate the layers. The lower tier features a bib that declares love for mom. All of the additional items on the cake focus on the expectant mom herself. Various herbal tea samples for healing, wellness, and milk production are included. Also included are samples of nipple cream and stretch mark cream. The cake is topped with lanolin, a must-have for nursing moms. The cake is finished off with decorative crinkle paper and tied with decorative bows and curling ribbon.

A mom focused cake is rather versatile and can be put together whether the expected baby is a boy or girl or if the gender is unknown. While the basic structure of this type of diaper cake is going to provide baby focused items, the added accents and decorative aspects of the cake can focus entirely on the mom. I love the idea of pampering the mom as she so often gets overlooked with the upcoming arrival of a baby and she needs to be cared for just as much as the newborn. For your next diaper cake order, consider a mom pampering cake. Even if Mother's Day isn't right around the corner, it's a fantastic gesture and is sure to be appreciated by the new mom.