Sunday evening tote bag

Tote bag

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.


Mass production

Bags 1

It was the spring fair today at the little one’s preschool and I made these reversible bags for them to sell. (Apologies for the quality of the picture above. I’m not even sure how it’s possible to blur just one side of a photo.)


I used this wonderful tutorial by Grandma’s Chalkboard for Make It & Love It, and the bags were a pleasure to make. I got to try out some of the fabrics that I bought last week, and also to use up some of my stash .

The tutorial is really clear and well illustrated, and the only problems I had were of my own making. My inability to sew a straight line resulted in such a curved first effort at a strap that it had to be abandoned, and I nearly wept when I realised that I had cut out the hearts and flowers fabric with the pattern pointing down, and so didn’t have enough to make a second bag with it. I went to bed genuinely sad for the Plan B gingham bag – I didn’t want it to feel like the ugly duckling of the four. (By this time I was very tired and possibly, just possibly, a little irrational.) But things were brighter in the morning when I remembered my first rule of sewing – everything looks better with a ribbon, even a slightly skew-whiff one.

Bags 3

I don’t know how much the bags raised for pre-school – hopefully something.

I’ll definitely be making more of these, perhaps with slightly thicker cottons next time. But first I need to practise those fiendish straight lines.