Try New Things

As some of you may know already, I live in San Jose, California, and we have a plastic bag ban here. I won't get into why I think that's awesome, but it is. But one thing I noticed is how un-awesome the reusable bags I've collected are. They're terrible. And what's more: the growing collection of them is rivaling the previous collection of plastic bags they replaced. When it comes down to it, I only really need a few reusable bags. I never buy more than a few items when I go to the grocery store because I prefer to go more often. It's an opportunity to ride my bike more often, and I like riding my bike.

This tote bag is about as simple as it gets. And believe me when I say that I demonstrated much restraint in over-embellishing it with excessive ideas. With this project, I wanted to try a few things, but not to the point where I over thought the design of something so simple. As with my previous denim patchwork project (my apron), I use a running stitch to patch right sides together, then a whip stitch to seal edges, and reinforce the seams. However, in that project I was joining three strips of fabric together, where each whip stitch seam was parallel to each other. This time, I wanted to see how this technique would translate to the perpendicularity of intersecting seams. Would it be too thick? Will there be structural weakness? Can I even do this correctly?

Okay, well that last question doesn't even apply. I just do what works, and I needed to do this in order to find out. In addition to the intersecting seams, there was this issue with the bottom of the bag. I knew I wanted it to look and fold like a paper bag, but didn't really know how it would come together until I actually did it. It wasn't hard, I just looked at how a brown paper bag is constructed, and went from there.

Ironing was something I did a lot of throughout the construction of this bag, not just for the whip stitch seams, but also to get the bottom to fold the way I wanted. And when I say 'fold,' I refer to not just the sewing construction, and reinforcement. When the bag is empty, I want it to fold down, much like a paper bag does. So in order to maintain the folds, I whip stitched them into place.

I added the small loop tabs on the edges of the bag for various reasons. Mainly, I wanted to be able to clip them onto the belt loops of my jeans, but they can also be used to reduce the size of the opening, or to secure long, protruding things like flowers or baguettes. Because of this project, I feel more confident with patchwork. It's only the second patchwork project I've done. It's liberating. Now I feel better about chucking some of those reusable bags into the recycling bin.

The denim I used was from two pairs of jeans, each with their own photo essay if you'd like to see them getting recycled, step by step. The lighter blue was recycled from a gigantic pair of Kikwear raver jeans, the darker ones are from Old Navy. The thread was split from a multi-strand yarn recycled from a Fa├žonnable men’s sweater.