Side Stitches: Reversible Tote Bag

The end of the school year is drawing near and like years in the past, I get this itch to make gifts for my son’s teachers. These plans don’t always work out the way I want them to but I always have the best of intentions.

IMG_1133This year I decided to make Jake’s teacher a reversible tote bag with some bright primary colors as a thank you for all her hard work this year. I got the instructions from here. They had me at “simple”.
IMG_1132The outer bag is a cute hand print design with lots of primary colors. My choice as I thought she’d appreciate the symbolic nature. Then I had my son pick out the inner lining and he went with this nice goldenrod yellow material with orange and red polka dots. At first I didn’t see the combo working but let him choose anyhow.

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The project was simple and I was able to simplify it even more. It called for cutting a 13.5 x 14 square of fabric and sewing closed 3 sides. Well, I could do that but instead I just cut a folded piece of fabric and sewed closed two sides. Super simple. I used the folded edge as the bottom of the bag and it worked fine. My favorite part was making the little pocketed corners so that the bag had a flat bottom. It’s kinda like my mitered corners. I loved learning how to make mitered corners as complicated as it can get and it’s my favorite technique when I quilt. These corners were simple yet effect, giving the bag more dimension and structure to the bottom. Again, a technique that is worth learning and adds so much to my sewing.

The handles came out pretty cool too! I originally made my seam too thick so I ripped the first one out and restitched it with my needle shifted closer to my foot and my fabric running right up the outer edge. In the end I had perfect little straps! I loved this part even with the ripping out of the seams. The process was simple just fold and press, fold and press, then sew together and VOILA! You have a strip that when cut in half gives you two clean straps. I used the inner lining material for these and I think they came out great. Then… The snag…IMG_1139Making the straps was awesome and by this point in the evening I was feeling pretty confident in my progress. I had two bags with corners all made up and some cute straps to match. The next step had me placing the bags together with the good sides matching up. Then I had to attach the straps. While the instructions had pictures and a well described blurb about what to do, for some reason I couldn’t visualize this step. The point was to attach the straps about 2-3 inches in from the edge in between the good sides of the fabric so that when you turn it all right-side out, the handles would be attached seamlessly into the bag.

IMG_1141Humm… Well this kinda looks like the picture in the instructions… Turns out I did have them attached facing the right direction and I sewed the whole damn thing only to find out I was wrong. The straps had to go BETWEEN the good sides of fabric, not inside the whole bag. Ugh… So I put it down, went to bed and promised myself I’d take it up the next day.

IMG_1142I did just that and STILL attached them wrong! I ripped out the original seams on the handles and when I went to attach them, I had them on the right sides of the fabric but facing out instead of in, leaving the handles in the wrong direction when the bag was turned right-side out.

IMG_1143I got so frustrated turning this bag around to only find out I had done it wrong AGAIN that I ended up with a pile of sad, wrinkled fabric all twisted and messy. I was about to give up. But I didn’t. I took out that seam ripper and went at it again.IMG_1144MUCH BETTER!!!! This time I got the handles in the right spots, on the correct side of the fabric and facing the right way! When I was done, I tangoed with the fabric to get it turned around and was tickled to see everything was in the right place and looking so adorable, albeit a little wrinkled after all the tugging. And, the lining my son chose ended up being a great combo with the hand fabric on the outside. The whole thing looks so cute and very teachery!IMG_1146 After all the seams that were ripped out and after three attempts to get the damn handles in the right spots, it all came together and looked so nice. The husband even told me it looked store quality. What a sweetheart. As the creator I could still see a few areas of improvement but the overall effect was wonderful.IMG_1149
This morning my son and I gave it a test run with his library books. The bag ends up much bigger than I expected which is a great. Big enough for her to tote her papers to grade and books to read. It’s very cute and I’m super proud of this finished product. So much so I’ve already cut the material to make another, bigger bag with the same material. After that I may make a smaller one for Jake with some dragon material for a lunch tote. Something easy to wash when it gets dirty.

My mind is popping with ideas for bags of different sizes and shapes now that I have worked with this particular pattern. It’s so simple to adjust to your needs that I can see it being used in different ways to make different bags for all kinds of use.

Sew Fresh Quilts

Teaching My Son To Sew!

My son is 8 years old. He’s growing like a weed and venturing out into new and unexplored territory. This Spring he played baseball for the first time and he’s reading more and more.

It’s hard to believe that this baby…

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Is now this boy…

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And after all the years of watching me sew, he’s now interested in it himself. After I brought my sewing machine home from the repair shop, he’s been very curious about the story behind it and what I use it for. He’s watched me repair his costumes and create mug rugs and now he’s ready to learn how to sew!

My favorite part of being crafty with him is watching how his mind works. Seeing how he picks his patterns and colors amazes me. Even without knowing much, he’s got a great eye for color. The end of the school year is upon us and as a gift to his teacher, we plan to make her a bag and a matching mug rug. So together we walked to the craft store and bought some fabric to make her an adorable reservable bag.

He’s a little antsy to get the whole thing started but I had to explain how we had to clean the fabric first and get all the prep work done. He wasn’t thrilled. When everything was ready and it was time to cut, he was STILL frustrated that he couldn’t sew yet. So we sat down to cut our strips for the mug rug.

I’m keeping that pattern simple. Just 2 inch strips sewn together with a simple border and binding and solid backing. I taught Jake how to hold the rotary cutter and how to measure out the strips using the clear ruler and our green rotary pad beneath. Math is a WONDERFUL thing to learn when doing a hands on project. Makes it much more easily understood plus it makes fractions fun.

My lefty

My lefty

At first I couldn’t figure out why the rotary cutter wasn’t working for him then I realized my lefty was angled wrong. He was cutting from the wrong side of the blade so I had him switch his position. Much better!

He did get frustrated more than once with the cutting. He would roll it along the ruler and it would skip across the fabric, only cutting here or there. I explained to him it takes pressure against both the ruler and the cutting pad to cut through the fabric from one end to the other. And then I explained that the time it will take to become good at all this won’t be in a matter of minutes but over a longer period of time. That for some it takes years. This seemed to ease his frustrations and he continued to work on it.

After cutting enough strips we pinned two together and set to work on the machine. He threaded the needle (!!) and took his time to sew a straight simple line. I was soooo proud!!!

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And here he is with his first piece! It came together great and he did a fantastic job sewing and cutting. I plan to work a bit with him each day and to remind him that sewing isn’t an overnight project. It takes time and patience, something I hope he will learn to have more of. The side benefit, this project will hopefully strengthen his hand and eye coordination AND build his fine motor skills, an area in which he’s always struggled.

He may not be interested in sewing for long as all 8 year olds tend to jump from interest to interest but I’m thrilled to have someone to share my love of sewing with, even if it is only for the time being.

This mama is super proud!