We’ve been on 3 Disney Cruises so far and this June trip we decided to take part in the Fish Extenders. Each cabin on the Disney Cruise has a Fish next to the cabin doors. These are hooks in the shape of fish, like starfish, seahorses etc. Disney uses these to leave you paperwork, welcome letters etc.
Fish Extenders are pocket banners, bags or anything you’d like to make, that allow other cruise passengers to leave you gifts. Usually you join a group of 10 or so families that will be on your cruise ship and exchange gifts. It’s kind of like a secret santa! You can find a group for your cruise dates, in a forum or on other social media sites like Facebook. Just do a search for your cruise dates. The group I found was on Facebook and we had a wonderful group leader who created google docs and broke everyone up into groups of 10. Some forums are no longer allowing outgoing links, such as google docs, so more and more people are creating Facebook groups for their cruise dates. Using a google doc just makes it easier for everyone to add their names, kids names, cabin number etc. Our group even added the family members favorite Disney characters and colors. If you wanted to make personalized gifts, you have all the info.
I knew I’d want our Fish Extender to be personalized and I wanted to be sure it was something we could use on future cruises. There are a ton of Fish Extenders on etsy, but you know I like to DIY stuff! You can hang a bag from your fish hook, sew together a couple canvas bags or anything simple!
I went to JoAnn Fabric to start my project and was so excited to find this Disney cruise fabric. Of course it was on sale! Make sure you buy enough to fit the number of pockets you want. I bought enough to fold in half so the back of the fish extender was this fabric also. I then purchased 3 fabric quarters in matching colors and double fold binding. If you have extra pocket fabric, you can make your own binding by cutting fabric and folding it over and ironing it. The top pocket will be yellow for hubby and I and the bottom 2 will be for the kids.
Here is where I asked for help. I am not a sewer but I can get by. I knew I wanted the pockets personalized but didn’t want to do iron-ons. I asked my crafty Aunt and she recommended her friend, My Mimi Made It on Etsy and she also has a Facebook page. And she’s local! I contacted her to request help with the pockets. I gave her an idea of what I wanted and mailed her the 3 fabric quarters along with the cruise fabric so she had the colors. When she finished and mailed them back I was thrilled! The embroidery is beautiful!
I then laid out the Disney cruise fabric to figure out how big I wanted it and where I wanted the pockets. I wanted to make sure some of the cruise fabric showed in the front.
My Fish Extender ended up being 34″ long and 8 1/2″ wide. You can make it as short or as long as you want. But the width you want to be sure you stay near 9″ or under. You don’t want your fish extender hanging out into the hallway or impeding your doorway.
Here is what you’ll need for a basic Fish Extender:
- Fabric – Backing fabric of your choice and fabric to make enough pockets for your family
- Double fold binding – to trim and secure pockets to the backing fabric
- Fusible bonding (optional depending on the weight of your fabric and preference)
- Sewing machine – don’t worry, you really only need to know how to sew a straight line
- Damp washcloth to use with fusible bonding
- Dowel rod to hang
Below you’ll see some extra’s I decided to do, but a basic fish extender won’t take many supplies.
I used fusible wonder-web to give the pockets and main fabric a bit more strength.
I folded the pockets in half and put fusible bonding in between each so the pockets were thicker and stronger material and the inside pockets match the outside, for a finished clean look. You don’t have to do this. Or you can use any fabric. The edges will be sewn into the binding so you don’t need to worry about clean edges.
My pockets were pretty big 🙂 . Each pocket was 8 1/2″ long and 12″ wide. Keep in mind you will need to sew a pleat in the pockets so you’ll be able to actually put items in the pockets. So my finished pocket was the width of the fish extender 8 1/2″ wide. You’ll have to determine how big you want your pockets. We were given some pretty big gift items, like a picture frame, so I was glad I had big pockets. I tried to put a few bigger items we gave out in some small fish extender pockets and it was a tight fit for some.
Once you have each pocket cut out, you can sew binding tape on the top to finish the top edges. Do this BEFORE ironing a pleat or sewing it onto the backing fabric. I chose to match the binding to each pocket bit you can choose one color to make it easier. Or you can even make your own binding with extra fabric. Just cut out long pieces and fold and iron. I did this for the blue pocket because I couldn’t find a blue binding that matched it exactly, so I used leftover fabric.
Here is how to sew double fold binding onto the top of your pockets. Turn your pockets over so the wrong side is showing. I hope you can see the details in these pictures even if the fabrics are the same color! Open the double fold binding and pin the top edge to the top edge of the back of the fabric.
Then sew along the inside of the first fold.
Turn the pocket over to the right side of the fabric and fold the binding over the top.
Once you fold over and cover the rough edges of the top of the pocket, sew a straight line on the bottom edge of the binding.
Here are two of the pockets finished with the binding on top.
I then folded a pleat into both sides of the pockets and ironed them down. My pleats were about an inch but a 1/2″ would probably be fine.
Lay out your backing fabric and decide how much of it you want to show. I cut mine 34″ long and 17″ wide. You’ll be finishing the edges with binding so you don’t need to worry about rough edges. I folded this in half the long way so it’s now 8 1/2″ wide and I ironed fusible bonding in between. Then take your bottom pocket and use the instructions above for the double binding tape and secure the bottom pocket to the bottom of the fish extender backing.
Be sure to pin the pleat down so it will be sewn that way on the bottom of the pocket. Here is the finished pocket sewn with the binding and the pleat.
For the other pockets, you will not be able to sew the binding the way you did before because you don’t have an edge to the backing fabric. For these, I just folded the binding over the bottom of the pockets and sewed it directly to the backing fabric.
Now you can sew the binding onto the edges of your fish extender. This will secure the pockets on the sides and give you a clean finished look. I chose a yellow binding.
The top of the fish extender will need a dowel rod or something similar to hang from your fish extender hook.
I took a piece of dowel rod from the garage that I had and matched up wood round dowel caps with flat pieces of wood. I found these at JoAnn Fabric. This is obviously NOT a must do, but I LOVE the outcome!
I used a very small saw to make 2 indentions in the round cap.
Then I cut off a small edge on the round flat pieces. This was so I wouldn’t have to cut a very big area into the round knobs, to get the effect I wanted.
I super glued the found flat pieces to the round dowel knob and voila! Mickey ears! After pushing them onto the dowel rod, I spray painted it black.
To finish off the top of your fish extender you can fold over your fabric and sew in the dowel. I folded over the top and ironed some fusible bonding on the back to give it a clean edge. I had some Mickey buttons from my scrapbook collection, so I made 2 straps with leftover fabric. I sewed these on and stitched the buttons on. I used leftover binding for the hanger.
I am THRILLED with the outcome! If you don’t want to have your pockets embroidered, you can buy iron on letters or images from the craft store. The options are limitless.
Please let me know if you have any questions!
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