Monday, January 2, 2012

Sewing on New Year's Day {Gail}

I made a tote bag today, New Year’s Day 2012. I read of someone’s tradition that sewing a complete project on the first day of the year will bring you good luck with your sewing all year long. I liked it, so I adopted it!

I decided a tote bag – I love bags! – would be just the ticket. I’m always dragging my latest magazines, book purchases, puzzle magazines, tablets for lists, and graph paper for dreaming up projects… (aah, graph paper…) whenever I go even the smallest trip or am a passenger.  Having a bag just for these makes a lot of sense.

This project also kick started my sewing for the Stash Buster Contest at Since one of my main 2012 NY Resolutions is “To sew and quilt productively,” this is the perfect contest for me right now!
I certainly have a stash to work on! (Quiet, daughter Sam!!)

I dove into that stash and found a piece of lightweight canvas fabric that feeds my odd-but-typical January color attraction: neon greens and oranges. it also has brown, pink, a golden tan, and light orange. For the lining, I found a piece of tightly woven quilting cotton in a softer green with hints of the main fabric colors throughout. Then I chose the accent fabric for the bottom of the tote bag, the darkest, most neutral color: milk chocolate in a twill I picked up on clearance last year. I knew I had some brown cotton webbing for the handles, and was able to find that, as well! (whew!)

My fabric choices: a colorful print, brown accent, muted calm lining, and brown cotton webbing for straps.
As I've mentioned before, I don’t use patterns for basic tote bags any more. The engineer in me finds it easier to start with the question, “What do I want to carry in this bag?” I then determine the measurements of the bag and work backward. Here is my worksheet from today, and a bit of a tutorial follows. Shouldn’t be too hard to decipher if you want to do things this way yourself!

My tote worksheet for this project.
Click to make it bigger. SA = seam allowance.
At the lower right, you'll see a note about shortening the lining.
I chopped off 2" before sewing it in. Just so ya know.

I then cut the fabric. A big cutting mat and 60mm rotary cutter makes cutting out bags very accurate and quick. By placing the mat at the end of my big table, I can walk around 3 sides to cut – no turning the mat or the fabric.

Cutting complete. Now...

... a bit of dessert before hitting the sewing machine.
Homemade gingerbread, whipped cream, and chopped crystallized ginger. Mmmmm!
I began sewing. The actual stitching of the tote bag goes fairly quickly if you don’t have to figure it out from scratch. Here’s my list:

1. Do I want pockets in the lining? Put them on first. I didn’t, but then I did after I spotted a nice curvy scrap left from cutting out the accent fabric! So much for keeping it simple!  I turned it into a raw edge appliqué pocket and placed it fairly high on the lining. I will put an accent button along the top edge 3/4 off-center just to keep the pocket from sagging open.

Pocket in the lining, from a scrap.
Raw edge applique style.
 2. Stitch the bottom and both sides of the lining. Leave a 4”-6” opening in the SIDE of the lining for turning the assembled bag right side out near the end. Backstitch at both ends of this opening.
3. Do I want a pocket(s) on the outside of the bag? If so, create pocket and baste it in place so the stitching of the bottom fabric and straps will end up holding it in place. I skipped this.
4. Apply the accent fabric / bottom reinforcement. I just turned under 1/2” of the brown, pinned it onto the bottom edge of the main fabric panels, and topstitched it with the green thread I was already using. I love contrast top stitching! I basted across the bottom edge, too.

Best color representation!
Adding the accent fabric.

Topstitching the accent fabric down.

5. Sew the main fabric front and back together along the bottom and apply a continuous handle strap OR apply a strap to each of the front and back, then sew the bottom together. I came up a little short on webbing length, so I applied it only as far down as the accent fabric. My bar-tacks at top and bottom will give extra strength. I’m getting some hot-red-orange buttons to stitch onto these 4 spots as accents to make this Solution look like a Design Feature ;)

Detail of strap application. Soon to have orange accent button.
6. Stitch up the main fabric sides.
7. Miter the corners of the bag and lining. By pressing the side seams toward the same side (both to the front, or both to the back) and then pressing the *bottom* seam the opposite way, your corner mitering is a breeze. Pull out the fabric to the very corner point of the bag and nest those seams together and pin.
Notice that the side seam (left) is pressed up;
the bottom seam (right, under) is pressed down.
This evens out the bulk and makes the
bottom corners of your bag look awesome!

Getting ready to miter the corners on bag and lining.

Use a see-through ruler to mark your stitching line. I had decided to make my bag 3” thick, so I centered my ruler’s 3” width (1.5” away from ruler’s long edge) along the seam line and slid it along until I found the spot where I would make a 3” side. Mark, stitch, trim 4 places.

for a 3" thick bag, mark exactly perpendicular
to the seams where it is 3" across.
(sorry for that glaring sun from my flash)

Stitch both bag and both lining corners
then trim off the extra

8. Nest the right-side-out-lining into the inside-out-bag (RST = right sides together.) Most instructions have you put the lining on the outside, but linings need to be shorter than the main bag and it’s more difficult their way. So, RST, lining inside! Nest the side seams of lining and bag; if they’re both going the same way, turn the lining halfway around. See the pin at the far left? This reduces the bulk at the top edge!  Pin all around and sew the top edge.
Almost done! Put the lining inside the bag, RST
9. Press top edge: I designed this bag with a 1” fold-over “facing” – the outer fabric folds inward and shows for 1” on the inside. For this method, you press both seam allowances toward the outer bag. If you are having both lining and bag fabric meet evenly at the top edge of the bag, press this seam open firmly.
This is what I want to happen once I turn the bag:
 a 1" facing of my main fabric turned to the inside.
By pressing the top edge seam correctly while still at the inside-out stage,
you'll have an easier time managing that top edge once you turn it right-side-out.
10. Turn the bag right side out through the opening in the lining side seam, then stitch or fuse the opening closed. Give everything a nice press.

I like to use a thin strip of fusible tape to hold that
opening closed. Sometimes I'll hand stitch it, too.

Getting the lining seam in place just before fusing.
Horrible picture. this may not be here if you look again ;)

All that’s left after that is any final topstitching and embellishing you want! I mentioned I am putting red-orange buttons at the spot where the straps meet the brown accent fabric. I’ll use brown thread to sew them on. I will probably also stitch with a brown zigzag near the top edge of the bag. This will anchor the top edge, and I like that it will also be a negative image of the green stitching on the brown straps. I chose to do a zigzag to echo the zaggy edges of the flowers in the print.

My bag! It's only half full -- It will be able to
carry enough stuff to keep me busy, for sure!
I may not be able to carry IT, however! ;)

As I sit here typing, I’ve been admiring my bag. I like it! I’m sure it will come in very handy, hopefully for a couple years or more!

Happy Stitching!


1 comment:

  1. I ambled over here from your PR contribution. Me likey! Your idea of a NYD project makes for a productive year of sewing is great inspiration. I also like your engineer calculations for this project.