Friday, October 19, 2012

Old scraps, new bags. A lesson by Anne Butera

The task for my Create Space project this week was to clean, organize and declutter my wallet, purse and handbag collection. Of course making space may mean new bags coming home. As I´m also on a recycle campaign I asked  Anne from My Giant Strawberry about making bags with materials I could find at home.

Here´s what Anne wrote about the subject:
Bags are one of the easiest things you can sew. Really. Even if you have no sewing expertise. I promise. I'm a self taught sewist and I've made lots of bags. Without professional patterns. All you need is an idea, some fabric and a way to sew your fabric together (a sewing machine or even just a needle and thread). Zippers, snaps, buttons, velcro are fun and functional, but not necessary.

First off, let me talk about material. You don't need a lot of fancy fabrics to make a bag. And you don't need much fabric, so if you like fancy, designer fabrics you can splurge without it being overly expensive. But let me encourage you to think a bit outside the box. Fabric is everywhere, not just in fabric stores. (If you knit or crochet you can even make your own). But think about what's in your closets and around your home. Jeans, jackets, sweaters. Curtains, dishtowels, napkins, pillowcases.… There are so many possibilities. You probably already have something around the house that you could turn into a bag. Sew a couple dish towels together on three sides, add some grosgrain ribbon handles and you have super fast tote bag. Or cut the torso off a sweater, sew one of the ends closed and add a strap cut from one of the sleeves. Need a lining for your bag? A pillowcase makes a great lining. See, I bet you're already thinking of other possibilities.

Ideas? They are everywhere. Look at bags you already have to get the feel for how they're put together.  The great thing about sewing your own, though, is that you get to decide the shape, size, color… your bag will be just what you want and you won't see anyone with quite the same bag over their shoulder when you're out and about.

Ready to get started? Here's the simple step-by-step process that I use when I'm creating a bag.

1. Determine the size of the bag and make sure you have enough fabric. You will need a front and back, a flap (if you want one) and a handle or strap. It helps to draw out a simple sketch of your idea so you can visualize the parts of the bag you'll need (don't worry about your sketch being "pretty" you just need to get the main idea). If you want to line your bag you'll need enough fabric for the lining and for any pockets you'll make.

2. You may want to make a pattern for your bag. Any paper will work for this. If you don't have a piece large enough, tape a couple together. Or, if your bag is going to be made up of simple squares and rectangles you can measure and cut your fabric on a cutting mat with a rotary cutter. For the bag I most recently made, I cut out rectangles and then curved the edges by tracing the curve of my coffee mug at the corners.

3. If your fabric is not very stiff you may want to stabilize the exterior fabric with some fusible interfacing. You can buy it by yard in your local fabric or craft store or in precut packages. Simply cut the sizes you need (make it slightly smaller than your fabric pieces; you want it on the inside of where you sew your stitches) and iron it on to your fabric following the directions from the manufacturer.

4. Sew together the exterior (right sides together). Turn right side out (your seams will be on the inside of the bag). Then sew together your lining (again, right sides together). If you're making a strap, sew the pieces together (exterior and lining or two pieces of the exterior) and then turn them right side out and press flat. If you're using a snap (magnetic snaps are nice on purses) or button, sew it on now. I like to use a button and loop closure (the loop can be yarn, ribbon, fabric…).

5. Roll over a hem, a half inch works well (for the exterior roll it to the inside and for the lining roll it to the outside), and press with an iron.

6. Slide your interior into the exterior and line up the hems. If you're putting on a strap or a loop for a button, slide them into place between the two layers. Pin the pieces together and then sew.

I know this just scratches the surface, but I hope you're thinking about some possibilities for creating your own bag. Start with a simple idea and don't let yourself get discouraged. Mistakes are easily corrected and sometimes lead you to the next great idea.

Thank you Anne for being my guest today! You can find more of Anne´s work at her site My Giant Strawberry, her delightful Etsy shop and her Facebook fan page.


Lilli boo said...

What a wonderfully inspiring, creative post. I have been meaning to make a bag for myself for so long. I even bought a pattern last year, however have not made the time to even start attempting it! Now I fell it is a must. As my favourite soft fabric bag is falling to pieces and it's well overdue for it to be upgraded... cheers, Lil x

Simone said...

Thanks Paula for featuring Anne's guest post. Thanks to Anne for simplifying the bag making process. Such a great idea to use a pillowcase for a lining!!!

Anne said...

Thanks so much, Paula, for asking me to join you here. It was fun!


denthe said...

Interesting post! Thanks for sharing ♥


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