Monday, January 6, 2014

Bagging rights, or: The good, the bag, and the awesome!

No more handle shopping bags to carry my knitting! But for me, that's long been the perfect size and shape for a knitting project. 8" x 5" x 10", heavy paper, with those twisted-paper handles. You get great ones from Anthropologie and slightly larger ones from Chipotle. They work great for portable projects. But they do get worn out over time. They wear at the top edge from the yarn running over it, and they tear when you stuff something in too hastily. And they start to look ratty after some time has passed even if they still have no holes in them, or sometimes they just have something on them that is from another season, like the one I pulled out that I had from last Christmas with a Santa on it, which I used well into the summer. Or the one I used in a pinch that said "Happy Birthday" in big multicolored letters and sparkle and people thought it was my birthday.

So I have long intended to sew a longer-lasting replacement for all the paper bags, and this weekend I finally got around to doing it. Here is my laminated-cloth, lined, might-just-last-forever project bag. It would also work well as a lunch bag.

In contrast to the gift bottle carrier, this is a very easy project to sew. It doesn't even take a pattern. It's all rectangles that are sewed together in steps. The rectangles are:

  • 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 - bottom: cut 1 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 9 1/4 x 11 1/4 - wide sides: cut 2 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 6 1/4 x 11 1/4 - narrow sides: cut 2 each of outer fabric, lining fabric, and interfacing
  • 2 1/4 x 15 1/4 - handles: cut 4 of outer fabric (or 2 each of outer fabric and lining)

These measurements include a 5/8" seam allowance all around (except at the top). When completed, the bag should measure about 8" x 5" x 10" with handles that are about 1" x 14".

Once again I used this pretty Prince Charming laminate by Tula Pink (because apparently I am trying for a matched set of everything in that fabric. I do actually have other laminated fabrics, including a cool wood-grain one, so I swear I will use those to sew with eventually. Once I do that I will post a few pictures of them to prove I am not a one-note wonder over here).

Steps to make:

1. Attach the interfacing to the lining pieces. I used double-sided iron-on interfacing, which was kind of a pain in the neck because I had to be careful not to stick it to another surface on the opposite side. From top down, I had iron, lining piece, interfacing, and ironing cloth. It turned out that not enough heat got through all the way to the bottom side of the interfacing so it didn't stick much to the ironing cloth. In the future I would choose interfacing with only one ironable side. For the bottom, in addition to the interfacing, I added a piece of plastic canvas sheeting (it has holes in it like needlepoint canvas but it's heavier; I don't know what it's used for but you can get it at any hobby/craft shop). I whip stitched it onto the lining.

2. Sew the handles along the long edges, right sides together. Turn right-side out and press a sharp edge to the seams.

3. Sew together the outer fabric pieces. I sewed the four sides to the bottom (making a big plus-shape, as at left) and then sewed the edges together one by one. I started and ended each seam on the bottom about 5/8" in from the ends. I also sewed the side edges all the way up to the top but ended them about 5/8" up from the bottom. This allows the corners ease to turn. If you like, you can use a 1/2" seam allowance to give a little extra room to fit the lining section inside the outer.

Note: If you have a specific directionality in the pattern of the fabric (e.g., the frog should be sitting up and not upside down), make sure you order the pieces in the right direction before you sew them together. This fabric is not forgiving if you have to rip out a seam and re-sew.

4. Sew the lining pieces together the same way as the outer fabric pieces. My seam allowance for this was probably even a little wider than 5/8"; I sewed right next to the plastic canvas on the bottom but through the very edges of the interfacing on all other pieces.

5. Clip all sewn seams to 1/4" or so, preferably with pinking shears.

6. Turn the outer section out so the right side is outside, and top-stitch along the very edge of each seam. I found it wasn't easy to get the top-stitching right up to the corners, so I just got as close as I could get.

7. Place the handles where you would like them; I placed them so there was 2" from the outer edge of the handle to the side seam. Stay-stitch them at 1/4" from edge. This will make it a lot easier when you are sewing the top edges together.

8. Insert the lining section inside the outer section. Fold the linings over the interfacing (inside the outer section). You will probably get a 5/8" or at least 1/2" seam allowance turned over. Fold the outer fabric edges in, trying to keep them a tiny bit longer than the lining edges so you can't see the lining from the outside. I found the best way to hold things together, instead of straight pins, was large paper clips or binder clips. The paper clips got in the way less than binder clips when I was sewing it together.

9. Whipstitch the inner and outer top edges together all around.

10. If you have a personalized label, attach it somewhere, as if anybody could ever confuse their brown twisted handle bag with your fantastic creation!

You might also add a snap or a tie at the top to close it, if you wanted to use it as a handbag.

Here is my finished project bag. You could also use it as a gift bag (for somebody you really like!), or bring your lunch to work in it.