Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Tutorial: How To Make Cloth Shopping Bags, Part 2, Sewing

Click here for Part 1, Cutting and Pinning Cloth.

This is the part of the bag construction when I like to use my serger, but if you don't have a serger, do a zig-zag stitch with your sewing machine, near the edge of the fabric, wherever I mention serging.

SO GLAD I labeled these knobs when I first got the serger!

Threading this beast can be a little...overwhelming.

Ooops. Remains of the last project. Time to vacuum the fuzz out!
Serging the straps:
If you ironed and pinned your straps as described in Part 1 of this tutorial, you can turn your knife off and serge without it because we hid all of the unfinished edges on the inside of the strap. Serge both sides of each strap, removing pins as you come to them.
If you are using your sewing machine for this step, you could use a decorative stitch.
Serging the bag:

Serge down one unfinished side of the bag, leaving a long tail when you clip the thread when you get to the end of this side. Take out the pins as you come to them, so that, after you finish this side, you can stick your hand inside to make sure you caught both layers of fabric.

Serge down the other unfinished side of the bag, again leaving a long tail when you clip the thread. Again, check inside to make sure you caught both layers of the fabric.
(I was starting so far over because I didn't trim the cloth before I started serging, so I had to move over that much to catch the inside cloth too.)

Because I am a worrier like to make sure these bags are nice and strong, and because I've never been able to find anything that tells me if the serging will unravel if I trim it close, I sew a line straight stitching next to the serging, pinning down the tail from the previous serging as I go.

Turn the corner and sew down the other side.

Now trim the ends close.

Iron your beautiful sewing job bag and straps. (I'm not sure why...something about setting the stitches, I think.)
Pinning the straps

With the bag still inside-out, fold the top over, all the way around, about an inch or so. If you don't want the unprinted edge of the fabric to show inside the bag, fold it over one more time to hide that. Iron it so it will stay down.

Since both ends of the straps will be sewn down, I trim the serging thread close.

Slip the strap under the top fold at an angle....

...and fold it straight up. Pin in place, being careful not to pin through to the other side of the bag.

Pin the other end of the strap the same way. Good luck getting it pinned so that the strap isn't twisted! I may...struggle...with that. Pin the second strap to the other side of the bag in the same manner.
Sewing the straps on
Starting on the opposite side from the side seam, and close to the edge, making sure you aren't sewing the bag shut, start sewing around the top of the bag.

When you get to a strap, sew a square around the edges...

...and an X inside the square. I sew over the sides of the square and the X a couple times since this is what is holding the straps to the bag.

The second part of the X

Get back to the top of the bag, and continue sewing around, making a square and an X on each strap you come to.

When you get back to where you started, sew over your first few stitches and anchor your thread. Cut the thread.

Move over to the bottom edge and sew around the bag. This step is much quicker because you don't have to stop for the straps.

Sew all the way around the bag and anchor your thread again.

A friend who worked as a checker at a store, suggested that I put some sort of tab on the bags so the checker can hang the bags on the bag holder.
Iron your beautiful stitching, turn your bag right-side out, and voila!

A very cute, very sturdy, easily washable, re-usable cloth bag!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tutorial: How To Make Cloth Shopping Bags, Part 1, Cutting and Pinning Cloth

Sorry to have teased anybody the other day! I accidentally hit "publish" instead of "save" after I had loaded some of the pictures!
I LOVE this fabric! I chose to use red thread because of the cherries. I also used one of my sewing machine's 6 non-straight or ziz-zag stitches for decorative purposes.

Let me be upfront about this right now: my motto when sewing is "Good Enough" Is Better Than Trying To Be "Perfect" and Losing My Mind.

I am NOT a talented sewer; I don't know much about selvage edges or which direction the weave of the fabric is going or things like that, but I have figured out how to make a few things I like that aren't too complicated for me. Still Playing School requested a tutorial for these cloth bags, so here it is finally! You'll see a variety of fabrics in this tutorial because I was working on a couple different projects at the same time. Also, I'm sorry about the pattern on the ironing board cover; my choices were limited.

These instructions will help you make 2 cloth bags. I like to use 2 layers of fabric to make sure the bags are strong; my bags can hold 2 gallons of milk without breaking. I'm sure there are other, better ways to do this, but this is the way I know how to do it.

  • 1 yard of 45" wide material for the outside of the bag (I like to pick something fun and/or pretty for this one.) (Er, I think I used basic cotton fabric.)
  • 1 yard of 45" wide material for the lining of the bag (Often, I will pick a solid color of less expensive cloth for this layer.)
  • 30" of 45" wide material for the straps (You will lose about 2" of length on the straps when you sew them to the bag. Use a measuring tape to see if this is a length you like; if not, make them shorter. I like them long enough to hang over my shoulders so I can carry in lots of groceries in one load. Also, this is actually enough fabric to make 11 straps, so keep that in mind if you're making more than two bags; this gives you enough straps for 5 bags.)
    • Remember that lighter fabric will look dirty sooner, but these bags are easy to wash, so take both things into consideration when choosing.
  • Thread that matches or coordinates with your fabric
  • Tape measure or yard stick
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing machine
  • Serger (but if you don't have a serger, I hear you can use the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine instead) (for the story behind why I have a serger, despite not being an expert sewer, see here)

Cutting and pinning the bag
This is the fabric I picked for the outer of these bags because my friend likes this particular franchise.
Fabric has little circles of colors on one edge that tell you which colors are in the pattern and which color is most prominent. If I'm not trying to use up fabric I already have, I will use those circles to help me pick out a color for the inside of the bag and the straps.

This is the fabric I picked to go with the outer fabric. I made 2 bags with a dark blue lining, 2 with a light blue lining, and used dark blue (or was it black?) straps for all 4 bags.
Before I cut anything out, I wash and dry the fabrics I'll be using, just in case they are going to shrink at all. After the fabric comes out of the dryer, I iron it, using the steam setting if I need to, to get out the wrinkles. If I'm making more than 2 bags, and have 2 yard pieces of fabric, instead of measuring and cutting at the 1 yard point, I fold each piece of fabric in half and cut there so that the resulting pieces are approximately 1 yard long.

Here is ~one yard of 45" wide fabric, washed, dried, and ironed.

Cut the fabric in half so that you end up with (2) ~22"x36" pieces. I was able to use the pattern on this fabric to cut relatively straight down the middle.

Cut the lining fabric to the same dimensions. Since this fabric didn't have a pattern, I folded it in half....

...held it down with one hand so it wouldn't move, and then cut along the fold.

Place one piece of the outer fabric, with the pattern side facing you, on top of one piece of the lining fabric. I match up the finished sides, the selvage edge(?), the one side of the fabric that hasn't been cut, and make those the top of the bag, if I can. If you are using a pattern that has a definite "up" and "down", pay attention to which way is up so that you don't end up with up-side down bags...not that *I* have ever done that. Ahem.

Pin every so often around the edges so the fabric doesn't shift when you move it.
NOTE: If you are not using the finished edges of the fabric for the top of your bag, you will want to serge or ziz-zag the two pieces together right now.

Fold the pinned pieces in half, with the patterned piece facing itself on the inside, so you end up with a 22" tall, 18" wide rectangle, and pin around the edges again, taking out the pins from the previous step as you go so that you don't accidentally sew over them. I pin the bottom and the side frequently, but put one pin in the top so that I know which side is the top. Trim the edges so they are even.
Cutting, ironing, and pinning the straps

You are going to cut the straps ~30" long, 4" wide. I like to use a yardstick for this part.

I lay the yardstick near the top of the fabric and make a cut every 4" all the way across the fabric. (Pretend I did that correctly instead of cutting every 2 1/2" because I hadn't done this in a while and forgot.) I slide the yardstick down and keep cutting until I have my 4" strips. I'm sure there's a better way to do this which involves a rotary cutter, but rotary cutters make me nervous.

Iron the strip.

Fold the strip in half the long way and iron again.

Open the strip and notice the line you ironed in.

Fold the top down to the middle line. Fold the bottom up to the middle line. Iron again.

Fold the strip in half so that all of the unfinished edges are on the inside and iron again.

Pin the strap so it doesn't come unfolded.
Next up: Part 2, the Sewing (and more ironing and pinning)