Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fabric Bags the E-Z Way

I wanted to make some down & dirty, fast & easy shopping bags for an auction...there should always be a few items that somebody can bid on if they don't have a lot of money.
This is not a full tutorial, and if you want to make a nice bag, go to Another Pat's websitefor a good tute:

First, you need some fabric:
Shopping for remnants only provided one tropical piece...very pretty! But I had to go root around in the discount home dec. at the back of The Big Box Store to find that green. It was $3/yard, so I took it all...2+ yards.
I am such a big spender!

Remember, this is my "down & dirty" way of making a tote. A shopping bag can be used & abused, possibly washed, but does not need to be a gift-quality item.
Speaking of washing, this home dec stuff always suggests dry cleaning, because an upholstered piece usually ends up with trims of unknown content.
For a bag, you can pre-wash if you want, but you probably don't need to. Do be careful when you finally wash it (if ever!) in case the color bleeds a bit. But the fabric will generally be OK.

Honestly, I did not want to figure out too many numbers, so I folded the yardage in thirds, and just cut it up the fold (yes, it's hanging on my design wall). That way I knew I would make 3 bags. Three is a number I can manage.
The longest part of the fabric goes around the sides. I grabbed the nearest tote in my studio and measured it quickly for some general guidance. It was 15" tall , so I whacked my green fabric at 23" (plenty to make the bottom and a nice sturdy top hem) and then knew I would use the rest for the handles, whatever that turned out to be.
You can see I have an adhesive "yard stick" along the edge of my cutting table (and another along the front of my sewing machine table). It's getting decrepit after so many years! I put the mat near where I want to cut, and line up the fabric & ruler with the "yard stick". Then I don't need a giant mat.
By the way...I like to use my tape measure, but it's really long. Here's what I do when I only need to do something like a quick tote bag check:
I keep it corraled with a nice colorful hair fastener (get them at the dollar store!) and just "release" about the amount I'll need.

For the tropical bag, I just went with the size of the remnant. The home dec fabrics are wide, so they make a nice size bag no matter what. The tropical print was directional, and I did take that into account.
Make the handles first! Then you have them ready to insert into the hem around the top.
There are many ways to fold & press and topstitch don't have to make a tube and then work at turning it RS out! Too much work!
If you forget to make the handles first, you can just topstitch them on. But if you put them in now, you don't even have to finish the ends...they're covered up! (I told you this was down & dirty...I didn't mention lazy???)
Even if you're working fast, you may want it to appear you actually cared, especially if you are donating the bags to an auction.
(this is where I wonder exactly who may be reading my blog....)
I like to do a French seam because it's neat & sturdy, and, of course, has a name that makes it sound really good.
The hard part is remembering it goes backwards...first you sew the seam RS
then you turn the bag inside out and sew the seam again from the inside, so the raw edge is enclosed. If you turn the bag and find you didn't catch all the edges, just zig-zag and then do the inside seam!
Nobody is really going to notice. Not the sewing. But they will notice how pretty the bags are...I always get compliments when I'm at the grocery!
Oh, yes...if you happen to forget, and sew the first seam in RS together as you normally would, then just go ahead and complete the French seam on the outside. If anyone sees it, they'll just assume it's a design element!
It is NOW!
The bottom and sides are created in the same step, putting a "corner" across the bottom.
Measure it to be as wide side-to-side as you want the bottom & sides to be (they have to be the same!).
I made each of the 4 bags different, just because I felt like it!
For things that don't need to be precise, I like to use rulers I get on vacation, like from historical locations' gift shops! But here is my very favorite one, with samples of the various woods from New Zealand.
Well, that's about it.
Here they are:

OOOOO, that tropical fabric just does all the work! How I wish I had found more. That's 2 sides of the one bag.
Well, that's about it!
Make some bags for taking to the grocery. They don't have to be heirloom-sewing masterpieces...especially when you chose great fabrics.
If you want to use some quilting fabric, make a lining with some old fabric so you can feel really thrifty and the bag will be sturdy enough.
Now, if I could only remember to take one of my bags when I go shopping everywhere! Like Petco!
I could have put those 30 cans of catfood in one of these babies instead of the nasty plastic bags!
NOTE Added 8/11:
The best tutorial...easy pictures to follow! ...for a "fast & easy, down & dirty" bag can be found at Morsbags . They want you to make copies and make lots of bags! Click on the "Make One" button at the top of the page!

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