Saturday, July 28, 2012

Week 30 or The Man Bag

Last week I made a prototype of a small wristlet. This week I made the commissioned bag. It went rather smoothly and turned out well, if I do say so myself. The customer had requested blue denim with sailcloth interior "for a nautical look." I decided not to use the standard orange jeans thread and went with matching blue thread, to preserve the nautical look.

This bag has all the features of mine, minus the off-center handle and the zipper that gets caught in the lining fabric. So: 6 card slots, wallet and phone pockets, key clip. Final dimensions are 8" x 4.25" x 2"

If you want one, leave a comment and we can talk fabric, features and price.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Week 29 or The Wristlet

It would be great if I could make a living off this crafting stuff. At the rate I'm going, though, I'll be pulling in about $250 a year. Not exactly enough to make a difference. That being said, I did make a couple of sales this week.

One was the Mondriaan Ikea bag. The buyer requested that longer handles be added. I was going to make them red, like the other handles, but I had used up all that material on the poodle skirt for the Grease costume. I had some of the Mondriaan fabric left, so I made them out of that. One side of the handle was the white, red and green strip, the other side was black and red. Not quite the same, but coordinating and with some punch. I was pleased that the buyer said I should put my name on it. Luckily I had remembered my tag, and even added the blog address and week number. I felt so professional!

The other sale was a duct tape wallet. I was paying for brunch at the diner around the corner and the waitress noticed my hot pink wallet and said "You could sell those. I'd buy one." So I made her a leopard print one with a hot pink lining. She commented that it looked so neat and even, which is good because I have a habit of not dotting all my i's and crossing all my t's when it's for myself. I'll blame it on a background in theater, where things really only have to look good from the audience, not necessarily up close and in full light.

Today's project is the test run for a commission. We're calling it "The Man Clutch" but it's more of a wristlet, since it has a little wrist strap. The bag needs to hold, keys, cards, bulky phone and the detritus that accumulates over the course of a day. He decided on a denim exterior and a sail cloth lining, with card slots and a key clip. This is the one he found online, but it's a bit pricey. And it's not lined. And it has no interior detailing.

We settled on 4.5" x 8" x 2", which is just about the size I need to carry most of my daily detritus. At least when I don't have the kids with me. Because then I need room for snacks, water bottles and whatever plastic flotsam (thank you, Cake Wrecks) they pick up in the course of the day. So I made one for myself out of some lovely tan organic denim that's been rotting away in my stash for about 12 years.

It turned out to be relatively easy to make. I looked at Sew Sweetness' zipper-top bag for a bit of direction on how to attach the lining. No big zipper secrets other than to sew the fabric to the zipper one piece at a time. Since I wanted an exposed zipper, I didn't need to follow her instructions for that step.

It turned out that the hardest part was getting the card slots aligned and even. That waitress was right, it's the details that make things stand out, for better or for worse. It bothers me that the strap isn't centered on the zipper. I'll trim the interior seams more closely so things aren't as poofy in the inside. I'll leave a gap in the lining where it meets the ends of the zipper so it works more smoothly. And I'll let the zipper extend down the sides just a bit more, for easier access. But all in all, I think it turned out quite nicely for a first draft.

UPDATE 9/27/2012: It's holding up nicely. The interior "puffiness" has settled down as I've stuffed it to the gills several times over the last few months. This is now my go-to bag and my shoulders thank me for switching from a cross-body bag. It didn't help that it was a bit bigger, I carried a larger ladies' wallet instead of a duct tape billfold, and I kept it completely filled most of the time. One of these days I should wash it to clean up the handle, but other than that the stains are not showing.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Week 28 or The Baguette Bag

I buy a lot of baguettes at our local bakery. They're delicious. They're fresh. They're the only thing my younger child will take for lunch.
Courtesy of A & J King Bakery, Salem
I've seen cloth bread bags on other blogs or webshops, but scoffed at them. I already teeter on the line between reasonable eco-consciousness and tree hugging granola freak, and that's only because I live in Massachusetts. If I were farther south, I'd be over the line already and too embarrassed to carry them. In any case, we don't have a breadbox, and most of our bread gets thrown in the freezer for storage beyond a day or two. The loaf breads, when you get them sliced, come in a plastic bag. So I freeze them in those. The baguettes, though, come in a plain white paper bag, which is useless for the freezer. I've been happily recycling the paper bags every week. Except that they're kind of a pain to fold up and stuff into the bin.

So there you have it. The real reason I will be carrying a cloth bag to the bakery next week is that I don't like folding long, skinny bags. As a side benefit, I get rid of an otherwise useless piece of fabric. And I save a tree over my lifetime. And I save some bleach from being used to whiten those bags. And I save the gas used to haul those bags to the recycling center. And to reprocess them. And to ship them back to where they will eventually be used again.

One of my pet peeves is people doing nothing about climate change because they don't believe the science. Forget the climate change part, there are plenty of other, completely unrelated reasons to reduce, reuse and recycle. Like mountain top removal coal mining. Or fracking. Or acid rain. Or resource depletion. Or the destruction of pristine habitats for the extraction of rare minerals. Or industrial accidents like Bhopal. Whatever your reasons are, start with the reduce, then go on to reuse and, as a last resort, recycle things you actually needed and used until they wore out.

This bag was made from material from a friend who was clearing out her house to prep it for sale, so she gave it to me. It's the same butterfly material that lined the teacher's bag a month ago. I'll use the bag until we stop buying baguettes on a regular basis, which might be the day I die, they are that good. Hopefully, when I am done with this bag, I will still be able to bring it to the city's fiber recycling day so it can be made into cotton paper or carpet backing or car soundproofing material or home insulation.

I started by cutting out a rectangle. Then I pinned the wrong sides together and sewed  along the long edge and one short end. Then I pressed the seams open, clipped the corner off, turned the bag inside out, and sewed the seams again. That's a French seam, which seemed appropriate for a bag for French bread. Plus it would keep me from getting stray bits of thread in the bread.

Then I sewed two button holes near the side seam and the fold, about 2 inches from the top of the bag. I turned the top edge down so the buttonholes were barely not folded inside the bag. And I sewed all the way around the bag,  just above and just below the buttonholes. Spelling out "Baguette Bag" using the over-the-top feature of my sewing machine that allows me to sew letters. Lastly I threaded two lengths of cord through the casing I'd just made, with one knot coming out of each buttonhole. VoilĂ , a Baguette Bag.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Week 27 or The Lego Box

It seems I'm not making bags so much these days as other things made out of fabric to hold things that aren't made of fabric.

Somewhere out there you may have seen a giant bag that opens up into a playmat. You put your toy with a million tiny parts in the bag. When the kids want to play, they open up the bag and, in theory, play with the million tiny parts on the playmat. When they're done, they just close up the bag and all the parts are still in it, not hidden in the pattern of the carpet waiting to bite your feet in the dark or get vacuumed up.

I run the FIRST Lego League teams at my kids' school. Right now we have two 3-gallon buckets (like a 5-gallon utility bucket, but shorter) that get dumped out on the carpet when they start building. Cleaning up takes about 10 minutes out of every hour-long meeting. Not a good use of time. I have to remind them that any pieces they don't pick up will get taken by the kindergarteners who gather in the library before school each day. Pulling eye teeth and herding cats come to mind. It would seem that the big bag would work well in this situation.

But there are other considerations. We work on the same project from week to week, so there needs to be a way to keep the project safe. The 15-inch base plates get set carefully on a shelf out of reach. Everything else goes back in the buckets, which get put in a cabinet, so whatever I make needs to fit with other square things and not spill off the shelf.  We have a LOT of blocks, especially since the school  nurse just donated her older kids' stash from home. (Thank you!!!) So I wanted something that would function more like a box and less like an amorphous blob. And something I could make 3 of, one to test at home and 2 for school.

Out came the graph paper, the giant stiff sail, some cotton webbing and a few plastic yard signs from a charity walk, a political campaign and a roofer. One thing I learned is that you don't need a big fat needle to sew with thick upholstery thread. In fact, it just makes the going rougher when you've got very tightly-woven material to deal with. And it gums up the machine something awful when the thread keeps getting caught underneath. That's also why this project has been languishing for 3 weeks.

Just the fabric, without the stiffening boards inside.
Mat is turned over from play side.
So I made a 10" (25 cm) high box to fit around the 15" base plate. The drawing is for an 8" high box, but I realized that would never fit all the pieces I need it to fit. I cut a long, narrow strip, 17" x 58", for the center panel. I cut two shorter, wider pieces (21" x 39") for the side panels, with the velcro. I cut the plastic signs to fit in the rectangular pockets, not the square corners that need to fold up.

Two days later, I added carrying straps. I marked  places on the folded panels where I thought the ends should go. I unfolded the mat and cut webbing to go the distance between the marks.

Note to self: be sure to designate which sets of handle marks go together. It would be very easy to put the straps on in such a way that the box would not fold up.

Stroke of luck: what looked like a very long handle turned out to be just the right length to meet at the top of the box and be easy to grab. Also, a good yank on the handle helps the bag to fold up.

Laziness pays off: No stiffening in the lid makes it easier to conform to the slightly wonky shape of the box.

Now imagine that surrounded by 6 kids, age 5-11, building a cookie bakery or a Trojan Gummy Bear or a bird-powered cheesy popcorn factory.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Week 26 or The Case of the Sail and the Shirt

Is it a bag or just an impostor? Either way, it's what you're getting this week.

We're a big reading family. There's more than one book case for each family member, and they're all full. My husband used to travel with a back-breaking load of books no matter where he went or for how long. When e-readers came out, he hemmed and hawed, not being an early adopter, but he finally got one. When our older daughter, at 8 years old, wanted to read The Hunger Games, we got it on the Kindle and she was able to enlarge the font enough to enjoy and rip through the whole series. Since then, I don't think she's read a paper book. So we got her one of her own, used from a friend who was transitioning in the other direction. It came with a spiffy hard neon green case.

Dad, on the other hand, had a black canvas envelope clutch I made in about 5 minutes one morning as he was heading out the door and wanted something to protect the screen. I say "had" because nobody knows where it is now. For a week he's been carrying the e-reader around wrapped in a tea towel. So I rummaged through my supplies and made him a new one. A scrap of sail too small for much of a bag. The sleeve of one of his worn out button down shirts. Leftover quilt batting from the previous principal's retirement quilt. Last, but certainly not least, and most miraculous of all, a zipper that happened to be the right color and length, and not come from an old project and need work to use!

The stripes are a bit busy to read with, but the sail is so much sturdier and scratchier that I had to use it on the outside. Besides, the case isn't stiff, and there's nothing holding the e-reader in place, so nobody's going to be reading with it in the case.

For guidance on getting the zipper in correctly, as in useable and not with the pull stuck inside with the stuffing, I turned to this tutorial for a wallet that turns into a shopping bag. (That's a project for another week.) The most helpful hint there was to leave a gap to pull the end of the zipper out. The end isn't quite centered, but it's close enough that it closes properly and doesn't look funny. I had to make the lining in two pieces, with a seam down the middle so that it could be turned right-side-out after sewing the zipper in between the two layers. Helpful hint, discovered by accident: baste a bit of the center of that gap so it behaves like a complete piece of fabric instead of something with a big gash in the middle.

I'm still working on a bag/box/play surface for the Lego collection, but I haven't even started on the lid or the handles, so that will have to wait for another week. And this being Week 26, I'm half-way done!