Monday, March 26, 2012

Week 13 or The Broken Towel Bar

Towel bar and 26"x37" fabric

Once again, inspiration strikes from the materials on hand. We had a cheap towel bar that had fallen down one time too many. So I bought a new one and had to find something to do with the old one. The brackets got tossed and the bar got cut in two and became the handles for this bag.
Handle opening facings
I aimed for a 12"x 6"x 18" tall bag. I cut one large rectangle, 26"x 37", and two small rectangles, 7"x 9", to face the handle opening. Once I actually put the bag together, I realized they should have been 9"x the width of the bag (12" in my case). The towel bar was about 19" long, so I cut it in half, getting two 9.5" pieces. My bar was wood, which made it easy to cut, but you could use a metal bar too. Or you could go crazy and buy a dowel. I do suggest looking around the house for something first, though. I've got my eye on the girls' Tinker Toys and sparkly magic wands. You might have a pointer, broom handle, wooden spoon... Just look.

Welcome back. What did you find?
Fold the body in two and stitch around 2 sides 
I figured I'd need a hole about 4" wide and 3" deep to fit my hand and the bar. Doubling the 3" to get 6", I drew a 4"x6" rectangle 1.5" from the edges of the facing. That gave me my stitching line. If your bar or hand is much larger or smaller, you  may want to adjust that measurement. Since you'll be using a 9"x12" rectangle, draw the 4"x 6" one in the center of that, with the 4" end along the LONG edge. Put a little mark in the middle of the long edge so you can line it up with the middle of the bag body later. (I haven't done that yet, but you'll see the mark later.)

Now it's time to start sewing. Fold the large piece of material, the body of the bag, in half with the right (pretty) sides together. You'll have a 26"x 18.5" rectangle. Sew down the long edge and along the short edge to the fold. Zigzag along the raw edges to keep them from fraying.
Pin the facing to the center of the top edge
Turn the bag right side out. Mark the midpoints of the open edges. Finish (zigzag stitch over) one long edge and the two short ends of the facing pieces. Pin the facing pieces to the open edges. Line up the unfinished edge of the facing with the upper edge of the bag, making sure the marks line up, too. All four marks should be in the same place so your handle openings will line up. Pin it all in place. Sew along the stitching line.

Cut the handle opening
Cut out the inside of the rectangle you just sewed. Leave about 1/2" of fabric. Snip right into the corners so they'll be nice and sharp in the end.

Pull the facing through and press it
Turn the bag inside out and pull the facing to the inside of the bag. Dust off your iron and press the seams open one at a time. Then pull the whole facing nice and tight and press it all again.

Topstitch around the opening so it stays nice and neat forever and ever. That just means sew around the opening, really close, like 1/8"close, from the edge of the opening.

Box corner
Finish (zigzag stitch) the top edge, being sure to catch the edge of the facing as well. You could turn a hem here, but I got lazy.

Make the bottom box corners that will give your bag some dimension. I was aiming for 6", but I didn't measure and they ended up being a little bigger, making the faces of the bag a little under 12" wide. Whatever you do, make sure both sides are the same. Also make sure you line up your bottom seam with the side seam on one side and the side fold on the other. That way you'll know everything's square. See how nicely perpendicular the seams are in this picture?

We're getting close to the end and every stitch from here on out will show on the outside. Fold the top edge of the bag towards the inside. Line up the two short edges of the handle opening and pin them together so nothing moves. Stick your handle in its' final position and pin around it. You want to stitch a channel that's exactly as wide as you need. Too small and you won't be able to get the handle back in. Too big and it will fall out when you go to pick up the bag. Take the handle out and sew where you've marked. Sew all the way from one opening to the next. Do this on both side of the opening. Then sew all the way around, on the level of the topstitching around the opening. That helps the facing keep from flapping open and falling out of the bag. Lastly, find the corners of the top of the bag. They should line up with the box corners you made at the bottom. With the handle removed, press those folds nice and crisply. Then sew right on them, from the top edge to the lower row of topstitching. That will help keep the handle from sliding out of position and dumping your carton of eggs on the sidewalk. It's not right up against the ends of the handles, so they can still be removed for washing (or repainting!). Insert the handles and go shopping!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Week 12

The second bag for Martha, this time 1939.

This one is my second iteration of the red and white 1475 bag from a few weeks ago. The sail is much softer and the top material is much stiffer, so this one does not stand up on its' own. It's probably also not as water-resistant, but it does have some spiffy topstitching along the upper edge.

 I also figured out how to get the rope through the grommets more easily. You put tape on either side of where you want to cut the rope. Then you melt the raw end so it doesn't fray. I had been leaving too long of space between the tapes.

At the boat shop, where I got slightly thinner and more colorful rope for next time, they have an awesome heat cutter. There's a heated flat blade and you just pull the rope down on top of it and it melts right through like a hot knife through butter. They use a wide piece of tape and just cut straight through rope and tape in one shot. Some day... for making butter slices when I open a fancy B&B.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Week 11

Martha gave me two sails at the start of last summer. I said I'd make her a bag as a birthday present. This one was her special favorite sail, so I didn't want to start hacking away at it without a little experience first. I made another bag from her "scrap" sail a couple of weeks ago. Then I realized how gigantic this logo was. Not so big when it's all the way across the harbor, but quite large when you translate it into a bag. So I went with a different design. The final dimensions of the bag are 18" wide, 23" tall and 9" deep. You can fit at least one sail in it and perhaps a small boat, too.
There are a couple of seams on the back from the sail. I imitated the original stitching style of the sail in the topstitching. Upholstery thread to match the durability of the fabric. More grommets and seaworthy rope for the handles. I considered using light blue for the side and bottom panels, but didn't have anything that matched well and was wide enough, so I just went with a monochrome look.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Week 10

The half-bushel bag. I love picking apples with the kids. Heck, I just love picking apples. It's nice to be out in the fresh air in the fall. The apples taste better than you'll ever get any other time or place. And you know exactly where your food is coming from.

The one thing I don't like about apple picking is the bags. In the case of our closest orchard, they're plastic, they come from China and the handle makes it nearly impossible to put anything but apples in them. It's fine for carrying a heavy load of apples, but you can't put anything big in the bag.

So I made one out of some flag material I picked up on Freecycle and the rope and grommets I've been using a lot of lately. I wanted to keep the handles in the same place and orientation, but make it possible to swing them out of the way to fill the bag. Sewing flat straps in place would mean the handles would always be a little bit in the way. Grommets and rope allow the handles to pivot out of the way. I measured how much rope I'd need to go from grommet to grommet and then added enough to tie the knots that secure the ends. A little fire, a pair of pliers and some heavy pulling and we were all done.