Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shopping Bag How-To

There's nothing mystical about making a tote bag. Cut a rectangle, fold in in half, sew up the sides, box the bottom, turn the top edge over and add handles... (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I can see my sister giving me the eye-roll already. "Easy for YOU!")

First you need to figure out how big you want your bag to be. Do you want to carry library books? Measure them. Do you have a bag from someplace like Wally World or Osco except you think theirs is ugly? Measure it.

I decided I wanted my bag about 12-1/2" wide and 13" high. At first I thought I wanted it 8" deep, but there's no way I could get the bottom to be flat, so I changed it to 6". Later I changed it to 5". Don't forget to add your seam allowances and enough fabric to turn the top edge over. So that means the big piece of fabric I needed for the body of my shopping bag had to be 19" x 36".I cut a piece of foundation fabric 19" wide. I would trim to the 36" when I finished adding my selvages. I used a piece of grey fabric I had hanging around my stash.

(Note: You can make this bag without a lining if you want to serge the raw edges together after sewing the side seams. If you plan to do that, choose a foundation fabric you will like to look at. One note, though.. I can never find anything in a purse if it has a dark lining. So I make all the linings of my tote bags in a light-colored fabric. It's up to you. But if you want a pocket on the inside of your bag, you'll need to use a lining.)

I folded it in half to figure out where to sew the first selvages. I lined up the first selvage edge with this fold, pinned it into place and sewed it on. I use grey thread. It disappears equally well on both white and dark fabrics. Trust me, if you're using selvages, the whole thing will be so busy, nobody will notice. I sew as close to the selvage edge as I can. You can click the picture to get a better view.I spaced my selvages 1" apart. That's one inch from one edge of one selvage to the edge of the next one. Yes, I used a ruler. My selvage pieces 1-1/2" wide. I didn't trim them. I could set four or five down, pin them, and then sew them all at once. Then I ironed them, and arranged the next batch. I planned about four or five strips at a time.

It didn't take me long to figure out that many of my selvages were 1/2 yard, which is 18". The foundation piece for my bag was 19". I decided not to worry about it and just make the bag a little bit smaller. (You could sew two together if you wanted. Knock yourself out. The Quilt Police probably have fits just -thinking- about using selvages, so they'll leave you alone.)

I planned the layout of the selvages so the letters and color dots on the selvages would be evenly distributed across the bag. Since I don't think a white bag would be very user-friendly (gets dirty easily), I let the colors show. If you don't want that to happen, squeeze yours tighter together. Go ahead, I won't mind.When I had enough on one side, I worked on the other. I turned the bag around, and added selvages going in the other direction (because, I wanted to read them from both sides). If you look at the middle picture, you can see that I used dark fabric selvages on the bottom of the bag, and how the Jinny Beyer and the Floral Elements selvages face in different directions.

When I had enough selvages, I added a 2" strip of the black and white at each end. I did this because a nice wide strip would be easier to turn over at the top edge than several thicker layers. It won't show on the outside of the finished bag, so use whatever fabric you like.

Numbers are not my strong suit, (unlike Wanda) and I'm not always good at counting, but you if you space your selvages out like I did, you will need between 36 and 40 of them.

ONE FINAL NOTE:If you've never made a tote bag before, it's worth making one of scrap fabric (without the selvages) so you understand how the bag goes together. This way you won't completely stress out when it comes time to sew your precious bit of selvage fabric into a bag, and your seam ripper will stay where it belongs. In the notions drawer.

Click here to get to the post with the finished pictures of the selvage shopping bag.


Mr. Karate said...

if i took you a whole day, the rest of us are doomed.

Exuberant Color said...

19 x 36 is the size I cut most of my bags too. You and I are on the same wave length. You can make a hanging pocket on an unlined bag, sewn in when you sew the top edge. It won't hold anything very heavy but is nice for keys.

Millie said...

Wanda, Oh yeah! That would work. (duh!)

And making the bag isn't hard, but the bulkiness of the fabric with the selvages makes it somewhat tricky.

Lynda said...

This bag is fabulous! (I'm glad the quilt police have got themselves all stressed out over the selvedges, as it means I can just carry on as usual in my own sweet way, breaking all the 'rules'!)

Marit said...

Thank you for this tutorial! Your shopping bag is fab! I have to start cutting selvedges right away....

Karen L R said...

Ooooohhhh, what a fun blog! Just found you, and I will check back often!