Charity Tote Bags

This Christmas I will be again donating to Share The Dignity “It’s In The Bag” campaign. The principle of it is that you grab a bag and fill it with every day things that a woman who is homeless or fleeing a domestic situation might need, the little things we all take for granted. The idea is that you fill an old handbag so the person also get a new bag they can use. I don’t have any handbags so I made some tote bags to fill with my collected items. I decided to make basic cotton tote bags and change the design on the front to make each one different.

Button Bag
I have wanted to make a button front bag for a long time, it was one of those random things that I see once and think I want to try that idea out sometime.  A few months ago I brought jars of different coloured buttons during a sale, at the time I had no plans for them but they were perfect in this project. On the front of the bag I drew out a rough spiral shape, I randomly pulled out buttons from a jar of blue buttons and hand stitched them on using the same thread tying each button off as I went so if one came undone they all didn’t . Once I completed the spiral I then went through the jar and found a heap of the same small blue buttons so I made a second spiral with these. This was a lot of hand sewing in front of the tv work but I am happy with the result and I made a button bag. Originally I was going to do all 3 bag fronts in buttons but I realised it would take way too long.

Free Motion Bag
After deciding there was no way all 3 could be buttons I decided the second bag would be done with free motion quilting. I used the same metallic blue thread that I used on the button bag. I was trying to think back to all the things I learnt when I did the class with Deb Louie. I had a rough idea where my seam lines would be so I just went about going from section to section with my quilting filling the bag front with stitches. I didn’t follow a pattern, I managed to get a heart or two in there and I am very good at doing curls or waves. This reminded me of when I was a kid I would get a black pen and on a piece of blank paper randomly draw lines and swiggles to create little sections that I would then colour in with different colours. Free motion is a lot of fun and I really should do more of it. I used tear away stabiliser on the back of it, removing it was another tv job as there was lots of tiny areas that I had to remove the paper from, again it was worth it.

Decorative Stitches Bag
I am actually a person who does use those fancy decorative stitches that are on your sewing machine, they are a great way to jazz up a plain piece of fabric and that is what I have used them for on this bag.  I used the same metallic blue thread again and just randomly selected stitches on the machine to do a row of stitching across the front of the bag. I never measured anything out I did a row of stitching at the top, bottom and about the middle of the bag all by eyeballing the placement. I then in my head divided up the areas and did rows of stitching to fill in the sections. I decided less was more not doing too much as I didn’t want the front to look too busy. I did squeeze in my favourite heart stitch design because if I can add in a heart particularly a blue one I’m going too!

For the front of the bags I used a cotton drill fabric, this wasn’t from my stash but I did buy it in an Easter sale. On the insides of each bag I have used a cotton that had been in my stash after buying it on sale a few years ago. A few months ago I almost gave it away but held on to it so it was great to use it in these bags, the remainder of it I have cut up and used for WIRES pouches after doing to the burn test and discovering it was 100% cotton.

These are crossover the body bags. For the straps I used some nylon webbing I had in my stash. I just stitched the straps the outside of the finished bags. The webbing is about 2″ wide so nice and sturdy. Confession I did make the straps too long. I over estimated the length so they ended up hanging towards your knees and not near you hip, I only discovered this after they were finished and I had taken the above photos. I didn’t want to cut the straps otherwise you would have ends you would need to cover up to stop fraying.

My solution to the strap situation was to fold the excess webbing and stitching down as a decorative feature of the strap. It is a little hard to describe. At the centre point of the strap I folded it and ran my fingers down about 6″ and pinched the straps so you had a loop of excess strap at the top, this was the amount that I had to stitch down. I decided it would be better if you had this excess fabric on the inside of the strap so it would like another layer of support against the shoulder. I separated the loop at the area where I had it pinched and folded the sides in so that the loop was now folded down to the underside of the strap and not the top. I flattened the loop into a rectangle and clipped it into place. On the outside of the strap you now had 2 folds that need to be held together. I did the widest zig zag I could over these 2 folds to secure them down, going over the fold a few times until I was happy the would stay in place. I did this on each bag. I then changed to a straight stitch and went around the flattened  rectangle twice on each bag to secure it into place.

I only got away with this because I used black thread on black webbing. It doesn’t look too odd, I have seen bags that have added support at the shoulder so that was the look I going for. When something goes wrong call it a design feature.

I am happy with these bags, they are big enough to hold all the items I have been collecting this year. Making them was a lot of fun, I got to be creative and try out ideas. I had to overcome problems with the straps so I had to think. I used up a lot of items just sitting in my stash. I love sewing for charity, I love that I can help with someone using the simple skills that I have.

Cassiy

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