Over the last few weeks I have talked about my experimentation with printing onto fabric with an inkjet printer. The challenge was to end up with a worthwhile, washable, art piece considering that the colour from an inkjet print is not stable when washed. I added the additional challenge of using only stuff that was at hand in my studio or home. Extra work was required on all of the prints to bring them up to my satisfaction. This work was carried out with Derwent Inktense pencils, Prismacolor pencils, Sennelier oil sticks and various mediums.
The finished prints/artworks were used as a pocket on grocery bags that I made with curtain fabric and hessian. This week, I am sharing my pattern and instructions for making the grocery bags.
To make the grocery bags I raided my fabric stash which included a large amount of remnants of curtain fabric. Curtain fabric is useful to have on hand for all sorts of sewing projects. Old curtains in good condition could be upcycled to make the bags - or upholstery material or any sturdy fabric or a double layer of lighter, weight material or a lining could be made for a bag made out of lighter, weight material (don't use stretch fabric). The sides and handles of the bags can be different fabric to the body of the bag. Make your own decision whether you want a pocket - or not - or a decorative feature - or not. You might prefer to add an internal pocket rather than an external one - just sew it to the inside instead of the outside at the relevant point in the construction of the bag.
Let us get started.
1. Cut out the pieces from your selected fabric/fabrics to the sizes shown in the diagram below.
2. Make straps. For each strap - (a) fold strap fabric in half, right sides together - pin and stitch seam together (5 mm seam allowance) - (b) turn through so right way is out - top stitch down each side.
- OR - using a hot iron (heat setting to suit fabric) fold and press 5 mm edges towards wrong side - fold fabric in half with the right side out - pin open edge together - then top stitch down both sides. Note: I will admit to doing the -OR - option without pressing or pinning - just folding edges in as I top stitch the open side together - 'cos I am impatient.
3. Hem the top of the front and back panels. There is a 2.5 cm hem allowance - 0.5 cm (5mm) to fold under for neatening and 2 cm for the finished hem. These hems need to be done now so that the straps (and pocket or decorative features) can be sewn in place before the bag is constructed.
4. Attach straps to front and back. Pin first strap 6.5 cm from side edges of front or back panel - down each side - aligning with the bottom of the panel. Top stitch down each side and across top and bottom of strap to attach to panel. Attach second strap to the other panel in the same way. Be careful not to twist strap when pinning to each side of panel - check before sewing - how do I know I hear you ask?
5. If you are adding a pocket or decorative feature do it now - over the top of the straps (or inside the panel if an internal pocket is preferred). Note: the straps are placed where they are for strength and functionality.
The pocket or decorative feature needs to be at least 2.5 cm away from the side and bottom edges unless you wish it to be sewn into the gusset seam.
To make the pocket on my bags, I used my A4 sized (all but one of them) prints/artworks on calico. This size worked well with the size of the bag. Hem the top edge of the pocket then fold and press under (with iron) the sides and bottom edges of the pocket - centre the pocket on your bag in relation to the sides - choose how high or low the pocket sits in relation to the bottom (remembering to keep it at least 2.5 cm above the bottom) - pin and topstitch the sides and bottom onto the bag.
6. Hem one end of the gusset strip (2.5 cm allowance) - leave the other end until gusset is sewn into place - stitching will stop about 7 cm short of the top of the bag on that side. This is to allow an error factor to compensate for the awkwardness of stitching the gusset corners which can be compounded with thicker fabric. As this is only a grocery bag fussiness is not necessary - sorry Mum.
Placing right sides and hemmed edges together (bag front - or back - and gusset) pin the first side then stitch a 5 mm seam down to 5 mm from the corner. Machine needle needs to be in the down position at that point.
7. Swivel bag around machine needle to sew across bottom - push rest of gusset material out of the way.
You might find it helpful to nick the corner of the gusset piece (after doing a couple of stitches across the bottom) by doing a diagonal nick from the outer corner edge towards the corner stitching (almost to the stitching). The gusset fabric at the corner will then open out to 90 degrees and lay flat.
8. Pin and sew the gusset to the bottom ending 5 mm from the other side. Repeat action for turning the corner and then pin and sew the gusset to the other side until about 7 cm short of the top of the bag (the top of the hemmed edge of the front - or back - panel).
9. Attach other panel (back or front) to the gusset in the same manner as the first panel.
Now, make final hem on gusset to match level of back and front hems then finish stitching gusset to the back and front panels. Trim the seams to about 3 mm width so they will be contained within the double seam - described next.
Turn through so that right sides are facing out. You are now going to topstitch around the seams - effectively creating a reverse French seam - outward facing double seam.
You might like to iron (at a heat suitable for your fabric) the seams in preparation. To do this fold the gusset in against the back or front panel - make sure the seam is sitting evenly - press with iron to flatten - do both sides and bottom for both front and back of the bag.
10. Now, topstitch the seams about 5 mm from the edge in the same way as the original seams were completed - EXCEPT - do not nick the corners - REPEAT - DO NOT NICK THE CORNERS (sorry for yelling at you - just wanted to be sure that you heard me). You have just completed the reverse French seams. Note: I find that the bag sits better with the seam thickness to the outside instead of the inside - my reason for reverse French seams. You may, of course, make the bag with normal French seams (double seams).
To finish off, either machine or hand sew a piece of ribbon (about 7 cm long with 1 cm turned under at each end to give finished length of 5 cm) to the inside, upper edge in the centre back of bag - leave a little slack in the ribbon when sewing the ends into place - ie don't stretch it to its full 5 cm. This loop of ribbon is used at the check out to hook the bag into a standing position.
The bag is now finished. All it needs is the base. See last week's blog for some base ideas. If you don't have suitable material to recycle for the base you should be able to find packs of flexible (but strong), inexpensive, cutting boards at supermarkets or variety stores.
Last week, I also mentioned that I needed to make some more vegetable/fruit bags to go with my grocery bags. I dug up some very, fine curtain and dress fabric to make some more vege bags. These are of varying sizes and a couple have ties. I don't like having to pull open drawstring bags (think I've mentioned my impatience elsewhere) so I attached some ribbon as a tie with an opposing loop on the other side of the bag so that the tie doesn't slip.
They all have normal French seams and a hemmed top. No pattern is necessary - just cut a piece of fabric to the height and double the width needed (plus seam and hem allowances) - fold in half wrong sides together (right sides facing out) sew first narrow seam (about 5 mm) - trim seam to about 3 mm - turn through and sew second seam about 5 mm to complete double seam - turn through and hem - add some ribbon for a tie by stitching the halfway point of a short length of ribbon (long enough to comfortably tie the top of the bag closed) onto one of the side seams about 5 cm down from the top (make little knots at the end of the ribbon to stop fraying) and then sew a loop of ribbon vertically aligned on the opposing seam.
I have never written instructions for patterns before, though I have made my own patterns for stuff in the past. Mostly, I don't even bother to make or use patterns. I just cut out the fabric to my desired size and shape and that includes when I make my own clothes. Having now made this admission, I am hoping that my instructions are clear enough to follow. Please let me know if I need to clarify any point/s.
Until next time
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I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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