Sewing on Sundays: Tote bags

I have an unhealthy relationship with bags.  For a while, I wouldn’t let myself go into an Eddie Bauer outlet store because my eyes would get drawn to the bags and I wouldn’t be able to pull myself out of the store without much drama and maybe a little bit of drooling.

Bags are great, of course, for knitting.  And the sturdier bags are great for grocery shopping.*

What’s a girl to do?

Why, sew some bags, of course!  My first bags followed a really simple tutorial. I prefer to use a sturdier fabric for the outside and a cute fabric on the inside; my first two bags were denim with a cute lining (one was zebra print for my nephew–age 7–who until he discovered dinosaurs of the late paleolithic era, was infatuated with zebras).  This tutorial shows one way to box the corners of a bag; I had trouble with that method and prefer the method that involves cutting the corners before sewing them, rather than after.

Okay, that was fun, but reversible totebags can only get you so far.

I wanted to make myself a bag to take to work.  I’d been shlepping a backpack because I take lunch, and knitting, and until I decided it wouldn’t kill me to drink from the water fountain, I was taking two water bottles** with me.  So I needed something big, and a backpack worked, but it wasn’t terribly professional.  Josh Lyman aside.  (I couldn’t find a photo with the backpack. Sorry.)  But I wanted something just the teensiest bit more interesting.

So I made the same bag, same tutorial, nothing different.  (I used home decor fabric for the outside–love the remnants bin at the fabric store.)


I made myself a wallet to match.  I wanted to try out the tutorial I had found for making a zippered pouch.  Let me just say this: if you have ever heard anything about zippers being difficult or scary–FORGET WHAT YOU HEARD.  Zippers are easy peasy.

And then once I discovered that zippers are easy peasy, I decided to combine the two projects.  A zippered tote bag.  It gets a little thick up at the top when your sewing the handles and the zipper and the two layers of fabric and maybe some interfacing but then you have a 17 year old foster daughter who is so excited about the Winnie the Pooh lining of her bag that she says she is going to use her new bag to take to school.

I’d share pictures, but really, they are tote bags.  And I gave you that picture of Josh Lyman to look at.  What more could you want?

If you want to make bags for a good cause, I have two suggestions.  First, if you live somewhere with a bag fee, make some bags to give to food pantries.  Here in DC, Bread for the City (one of my favorite organizations) has reusable grocery bags on their wish list.  They give clients their allotment in the reusable bags, and then the clients have bags that they can use when they go to the grocery store.  Second, at least where I live, a lot of kids don’t use backpacks when they go to school, so a nice totebag would be useful in their place.  Foster care agencies do school supply drives at the beginning of the school year; I know that’s months away, but that just gives you plenty of time to make school-sized bags!

*Ever since I’ve started exclusively using reusable bags at the grocery store, I’ve had trouble finding paper bags for my recycling.  Thanks to one of my neighbors, though, I just got six more.  You know how? He left them, empty, in the recycling part of the garbage room.  Seriously.  He cared enough to recycle the bags but didn’t put anything in them.  And we have a bag fee.  That was thirty cents worth of paper bags that he essentially was wasting.  (I know the neighbor in question is male because one of the bags was only 99% empty; in the bag was an envelope with his name on it.)

**Not the single serve bottles that you buy.  Reusable bottles filled with water from my brita.

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