The kitten and puppy photos adorning pet food bags now have a wider audience beyond those who buy those products or skim the ads in glossy magazines.
And so do those pet food bags.
When Lexi Saeger, 14, needed a project for a Future Career and Community Leaders of America competition, she found inspiration at home. “We have two cats and one dog,” she said.
Saeger, a freshman at Freeman High School, had joined FCCLA at the urging of her adviser, Jennifer Fees. “She knew I liked design,” said Saeger.
The recycle and redesign category caught Saeger’s eye. This individual event requires participants to apply recycling and redesign skills learned in family and consumer sciences courses and create a display using a sample of their skills. Participants must select a used fashion, home or other post-consumer item to recycle into a new product.
That’s when Saeger’s mom, Janna Saeger, suggested she use the empty pet food bags they had around the house. They did some research and discovered that many of the bags are made from polypropylene and aren’t accepted for recycling by the Spokane Regional Solid Waste System. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be repurposed and reused.
Lexi knew immediately that she wanted to make clothing items from the bags. “I started to like fashion and stuff in fifth grade,” she said. “I started to draw designs on paper.”
However, her first pet food-bag design, wasn’t a success. “I made a tank top, but it didn’t fit Betsy.”
Betsy is the dress form Lexi got for Christmas this year.
The bags have no bias and therefore no give in the material. Her second attempt – a camisole, worked better. Lexi said, “I just left it as a square and sewed spaghetti straps made out of bias tape to it.”
But she wasn’t done there. She created a high-waisted skirt from a dog food bag and then accessorized the outfit with a belt and a necklace made of aluminum can pull tabs. Not satisfied with merely letting Betsy model the ensemble, Lexi tried it on, too. She said, “It fit me like a glove – I couldn’t move.”
Her project was ready in time for the regional competition. Total cost: $2.78. Total time spent: About 14 hours. “I had to make a storyboard and write a speech.”
While she scored high enough to make it to state, her speech was too short. Lexi needed to add to her project. “My mom said, ‘Why don’t you make shopping bags?’”
So, they turned the pet food bags inside out and ran them in their washing machine. They allowed the bags to air dry and then went to work.
Lexi hemmed the bags and sewed handles to them. “It takes me about a half an hour to make one.”
The shopping bags were a hit when she competed at the FCCLA statewide event, last month. She earned the right to continue on to the national competition in Orlando, Fla., in July.
Meanwhile the practical, reusable shopping bags featuring pictures of cute pets are drawing attention everywhere she takes them. In fact, a manager at Albertsons on Highway 27 and 32nd Avenue liked them so much, she invited Lexi to set up a table at the store and sell them in honor of Earth Month. She sold 15 at Albertsons at $15 per bag, and also sold several recently at Earth Day festivities in downtown Spokane. The bags are available at Sun People Dry Goods, 32 W. Second Ave.
Fees, Lexi’s adviser, is a big fan of the project.
“Lexi tied in fashion and is doing good for the Earth,” she said. “She’s going to be able to pay her way to Florida by selling the bags. It’s great for a freshman to be able to do this.”