I’ve just this moment finished making this reversible tote bag, using some of the Ikea Rosali fabric I bought recently. It’s a birthday present for a friend’s lovely daughter, who is about to turn eleven. Will an eleven year old like it? I really hope so, but have no idea. I worked on the principle that I liked pretty things when I was eleven and that bags are always useful, particularly since the 5p plastic carrier bag charge was introduced in England last autumn. Although that may not be something that teenagers are particularly worried about. Oh dear, now I’m doubting myself. Ah well, fortunately she’s much too polite to tell me if she never uses it.
Anyway, I used a tote bag that I have as a guide for the measurements, and cut out an 86 x 38 cm rectangle of each fabric. I folded the flowered fabric in half horizontally, stitched right sides together down the edges*, then mitred the corners. (As the fold makes the bottom of the bag, I pressed it well, to make it easier to match it up with the seam.) I wanted a decent sized base to the bag, so made the line of stitching at each corner 8 cm. Then I folded over the top of the bag by about 2 cm and pressed it, and did the whole thing all over again with the spotted fabric.
*at this point, I think I should have pressed the seams flat. I did later, but think earlier on might have worked better.
For the handles (4 strips of 76 x 4 cm) I used the top-stitched method from the tutorial I followed when making the children’s reversible bags last week. This way of making straps/handles was a revelation. Previously I’d have sewn them wrong sides together and then turned them out, which I loathe as it always takes me a ridiculously long time.
I kept it really simple by using a very small seam allowance when sewing the two pieces of each handle together, then folding each long edge into the middle and pressing, then folding over again and top stitching each long edge. This resulted in handles that were just less than 2 cm wide. Having learnt my lesson from last time, I also made them from just one of the fabrics, rather than both, as slightly wobbly cutting out/matching of edges shows much less this way.
Then all there remained to do was turn one of the bags the right way out (in this case the flowered one), put the other one inside it so that they were now wrong sides together, position the ends of the handles inside the two layers (again using my own tote bag as a guide), pin and top stitch round the whole edge.
Towards the end, I realised that this was quite possibly the first time I had made something on the spot for someone else. I’ve sewn presents before, but they have been labours of love, requiring much planning and often a fair amount of blood, sweat and tears. This, on the other hand, had been a straightforward and enjoyable alternative to buying a present in a shop. Finally, my hobby was useful! And – because it was late and hopped up on tea I was beginning to wax lyrical – I felt that I was becoming the person I had always wanted to be.
And then the light bulb on my sewing machine went. C’est la vie.