Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Something Simple to Start

Ok, so I thought I'd pull out the simplest thing I've sewn recently, since Gina told me that she just learned how to sew on buttons last year. Just now, as I went to post this sucker, I see that she has already posted a whole thing on homemade scrubs. I guess you can do quite a bit without sewing on buttons!

So anyway, you're still getting the simple project for my first post. Because I realize not everyone grew up in a house where everyone sewed. And cross-stitched. And painted. And drew. And washed off styrofoam meat trays and egg cartons to use for future craft projects. Apparently we had a lot of free time.

So these are two little book bags I made for my kids when they went to preschool. First, because the regular backpacks were as tall as they were when they were little 3-year-olds hitting the preschool scene for the first time. Second, because you have to put their name on the bag anyway, so why not put it in big letters on the front. And third, because my mom did the same thing for me when I went off to kindergarten, and I just couldn't resist reliving history with my own kids. So here's how it's done....

Get some heavy fabric. I picked a thick corduroy because I had it on hand, but canvas would work nicely, too. And it probably wouldn't hang on to every hair and piece of dust that comes its way like the corduroy does. (Enlarge the pics and you'll see what I'm talking about.) Cut two identical rectangles (think that you're probably going to want to be able to put 8 1/2"x 11" papers in there, so leaving an inch for seam allowances, you might cut them 10 1/2 x 13 or larger. If you want matching fabric straps, you'll also need two rectangles that are about 2 1/2" x 17 1/2". I wouldn't go much larger on the straps if this is going to be for a little kid, or it'll be dragging on the floor.

Now you get to decorate the front. I picked a square of fairy fabric, turned the edges in with an iron and stitched it in the middle of the front side for Maya, then (this is hard to see in the picture) I pinned her name using ribbon over the fairy fabric and sewed it down using a zig-zag stitch that was as thick as the ribbon. For my son, I did the same basic thing with the truck picture and hand-sewed his initials (yeah, his name isn't "Ebm") over the picture. There's no reason you have to hand sew the initials, I was probably just too lazy to change the thread color on the machine 3 different times to sew 3 little letters.

Once you have the front done, put the two large rectangles face sides together and sew from the top of the left side, across the bottom, and back up the right side. Then turn down and hem the top edge of both sides...if you turn it under twice then the little scraggly threads won't escape.

If you're doing fabric handles, now is the time to fold each long rectangle in half, so it's now 1 1/4" by 17 1/2" and sew from the bottom all the way up the 17 1/2' side. Now you have the hellish job of turning that sucker inside out. There's no easy way to do it...which is why I used blanket binding for my daughter's bag. If I recall, I think it took a lot of poking the material through the long tunnel with fingers, pencils, knitting needles, maybe a coat hanger, and lots of swearing. Once you have a right-side out strip, poke the last 1/2" back up inside of each end and iron the whole thing flat. Turn the bag right-side-out and pin both ends of one handle to the inside of one side. It should only hit about an inch or so under the top of the bag. Then sew a little square along the bottom of the handle, up the inch of each side, and along where it meets the top of the bag. If you don't want the square to show through to the front, hand-stitch it to the inner layer of the 2-layer top hem that you're attaching this to. Lay the bag flat and use handle #1 as a guide to where to pin handle #2 on the opposite side. Rinse. Repeat.

If you want to save yourself the headache of turning handles inside out, buy some 2" blanket binding and instead of hemming the top of the bag, just fold that over the top and sew it down with a zig-zag stitch. (In case you haven't used blanket binding before, it will be very obvious how to do this once you see it.) For the handles just cut a strip of binding about 17 1/2" and sew up the open side using that fancy zig-zag stitch. (Ta-da! No turning inside-out required!) Then stitch the handles on just like I wrote above.

Wrap it up and give it to your big kid on their first day of school. Then put a big smile on your face and do your best not to break down crying until after you've dropped the kid off at preschool!
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Clubbs said...

Wow, and I just let Eva take that little Winnie the Pooh bag that came with the first installment of the Disney Reading Program (which we promptly canceled after getting the bag). Both the bags are super cute. Do you think this bag could be attempted without a sewing machine? Do I just need to buy a sewing machine eventually?


nicole said...

I'm sure you could hand-stitch the entire thing, but it would take about 6 hours, as opposed to 5 minutes of actual sewing on the machine. Still, if you have a backlog of tivo-ed shows to watch, hand-stitching might be just what you're looking for...

a witt said...

PFFF! Nicole, you are hilarious, and your instructions are fun to read. I might make a big version for myself. You know, grown-up tote. For stuff.

I really enjoyed this project, but don't go too easy on us now! I like to see a project I can do, but I wanna see you trot out all those skills, too. BRING IT!