Sunday, March 30, 2014

Totes Amazing at Procrastinating

It's spring break at two of my four schools so I am supposed to be writing my dissertation. But dissertating is just plain no fun. Worse yet, last weekend while not dissertating I just made myself all melancholy. So, this weekend I decided to just let myself craft and clean and do the non-academic and non-alcoholic things I haven't been making time for lately.

Spring break, at least in Southern California, means the official start of swimsuit and laying on the beach season. All of the stores are out in full force with bikinis and beach bags. I have no need for a bikini, these days, but I do love me some beach bags. My canvas totes that dutifully lug gym clothes, term papers, class project supplies, and double as overnight bags and grocery bags among other things, are all starting to show their age. My favorites, one from the Banana Republic clearance rack, and another stolen from my mom, are both almost gross enough I should retire them.

But, why would I buy Old Navy's $10 canvas totes that say "I mustache you a question" (facepalm) when I could just as easily make one. Besides, I have a walk-in closet full of fabric to use up. Naturally, the first place I stopped was JoAnn's, for more fabric. Then, started with a basic canvas tote, using my old reliable as a pattern (you can see why I needed some new totes, right?).
Before I got started, I made the accessories: a little pouch for pens and pencils (a teacher must) from a strip of coordinating duck that was 6" by 16" and 2 handles from the same fabric 4" wide and 22" long. The pouch was just 2 quick seams up either side and flip. The handles I ironed up a'la double fold bias tape and ran a row of stitches down the edge.
Once the cheap home-decorator fabric was cut to size (45 x 22; the cutting was minimal) I folded over the top edge about 1" until it was 4 thicknesses of fabric on one side. Tucking both ends of one handle and the pouch into the folds and pinning them in place, I stitched across the bottom of the folds, getting as many layers as I could into the stitches. Then, I repeated this process on the other side of the length of fabric, making sure to match the size of the "hem" to the other side, and tucking the handles into the corresponding spots.
Taking a hint from the construction of my favorite tote, I then folded the fabric in half (right sides together) and tucked in the fabric on the fold about 2 inches, accordion-file style. So, at the bottom, I had 2 folds visible, and one fold tucked inside. One zip of the serger down each end (yes, I could have done french seams, but it's a tote bag, who cares?) and the first project was done.
I don't know how I've never though to do this before, but I might be about to have a tote bag problem on my hands. That was too easy. Naturally, since that was not enough of a challenge and I still really couldn't bring myself to work on my dissertation, I set to work on my next project: a more structured tote, using up some orange pleather from the stash (see, I did use something from the stash!)

In order to give the bag more structure, I gave it a solid rectangular bottom. With no pattern to work from, because patterns are for chumps, I'm pretty proud of the outcome, so here's the tutorial:


Orange Pleather:
one 4" x 15" (bottom)
two 7" x 20" (front/back)
two 2.5" x 30" (straps)

Gray Duck:
one 4" x 15" (bottom)
two 16" x 20" (front back)

Floral Cotton:
36" x 20" (lining)


Step 1: Attach the orange pleather panels to the bottom of each front/back duck piece. The pleather doesn't fray, so just run a line of top-stitching across the top edge.

Step 2: Center the bottom panel (both pieces, pleather and duck) on the front panel and sew, with right sides together. Then, center the bottom panel (now attached to the front) on the back panel and sew with right sides together. Run these seams twice, for reinforcement. I use 3/8" seam allowances throughout, unless otherwise noted. 
Step 3: Sew side seams (with 1" seam allowance), right sides together. Then flatten bottom edge of side panels down onto the raw edge of the bottom panel, and sew across. Run these (painful and not fun to do) seams twice, for reinforcement. In the photo below the side seams have been sewn. Pull on each corner to flatten the side seam against the raw edge of the bottom panel.
Step 4: Prepare the lining by folding it over accordion-file style (as done in the simple tote above). Folded in half "hamburger style" with right sides together, tuck about 2" from each side up into the fold. This means rather than one crease at the bottom, you'll have 2, and about 4" will be tucked inside of the creases. Sew up both sides with 1" seam allowances (with right sides together) to make a "bag."
Step 5: Iron over 1.5" at the top of the duck bag, turning it to the inside (i.e., putting wrong sides together). Then, with the duck/pleather bag inside out  so that you can see the turned down 1.5," and the cotton lining bag right side in, stuff the lining inside of the duck/pleather bag so that right sides are together. Unfold your neatly folded and ironed 1.5" (you've got to trust me) and sew around the top to attach the duck to the lining, right sides together. Leave a 4-5" opening in the seam to turn the bag through. Turn the bag through. 

Step 6: Hand stitch the 4-5 opening closed so the lining is completely attached. There should now be no raw edges at all. Re-iron down the 1.5" fold over. Top stitch around the lining/duck seam to hold this fold in place. 
Step 7: Locate the strips of pleather set aside for the handles. Starting about 5" from the end, fold up the strips a'la double fold bias tape and stitch along the edge, stopping about 5" from the end. This will not be fun, but should create something like this...
Step 8: Mark where on the outside bag you want to place your handles. Pin carefully and well so that the don't wobble out of place or get crooked (like mine did) and attach well, reinforcing stitching. Note: you could probably do this step earlier in the process to avoid having to attach your handles through the lining, I did it this way because of poor planning, and I own that. 

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