Tag Archives: Bags

Crafty Challenge 4: Fused Fabric Willis

Coach Willis and Chanel inspired handbag.

Lynne: I suppose that Crafty Challenge 4 really was my idea. I have been carrying the handbag I made for Crafty Challenge 2 and it was not really designed for everyday use. So I needed a bag to carry through the winter. The crafty challenge seemed like a good way to make myself make one.

I believe Cheri deserves the blame for the Coach Willis idea. The Willis bag is a deceiving design. The rod and handle assembly is complicated and that type of handle puts a particular stress on the closing clasp. This means that the bag needs to be made of strong reinforced material and that the position of the clasp has to be precise for the handbag to hang right. But what you don’t know beforehand can keep you from ending before you start.

Since I was still fascinated by the possibilities of fused fabrics, I wanted to make the handbag from plastics. At a garage sale the other day, I found two white carrier bags for 10 cents. These were department store bags that were made of the same material you find in the rectangular totes that are sold in supermarkets to reduce the number of plastic bags they give you. This material is some type of polyester and it does fuse with an iron. Not easily, but when used with other more amenable plastics it works.

I made a fused fabric sandwich of bubble wrap, carrier bag and plastic vinyl sheeting. Each layer of the fabric has its own purpose. The bubble wrap provides sturdiness and a unique texture that I am particularly fond of. The carrier bag provides color and the plastic vinyl fuses everything together while making a durable surface for the exterior of my handbag. I used black duct tape to add stripes to the white of the carrier bag and to reinforce the top of the base of the bag.

I fused the layers into a rectangle of the size I wanted following the general directions of the duct tape bag described here. I added extra inches for the flap because I did not want to put a flap on after the main body of the bag was done. I wanted the strength of one continuous layer of fabric.

The hardware for the handle and rod assembly was the hardest and the most interesting part. I have always liked the leather-laced chains of the Chanel 2.55 bags and I had several feet of wonderful chain left from when Loryn and I put up new chandeliers in my living room and studio. The shape of the chain made it difficult to use standard rings to attach it to the handle. This meant I needed to go to the hardware store. I love our local Arone Hardware store because there are lots of parts and pieces that are not packaged and can be bought one at a time. I needed the plastic sheeting for the fused fabric, stiff plastic hose for the handle rod and smaller, clear tubing to lace through the chain. I thought the chain needed a little more cushioning and I found that the spline used to make screens made a great black accent in the chain. Rubber-coated hose clamps, fasteners, nuts and bolts and a turnbuckle for the handle made up the rest of the hardware I needed.

I don’t want you to think that I had much of a plan when I went to Arone’s. I spent a lot of time wandering from one aisle to the next just picking up things and checking to see if they would fit together. The staff there are great and let me look without interruption, although I see the guys shaking their heads every now and then. That is one of the fun things about these challenges, we are going into areas we have never been before and anything can happen. A terrible mistake can turn out to be the most brilliant idea ever and vice versa of course.

The clasp closure was the next most difficult thing. I did not want the weight of a hasp type of hardware attached to the front fabric of the bag. I wanted to use some of our vintage buttons and I thought that buttons sewn together with a button on the interior would help carry the weight of the bag through the whole structure of the fabric. The bottom of the clasp is 4 buttons sewn together. Two buttons with a small button in between to make a channel for the gasket loop were sewn to the outside of the bag and another button was sewn to the inside of the bag. The top of the clasp is 3 buttons sewn together with a rubber gasket. Small button, gasket, large button were sewn to the outside and another large button was sewn to the inside. I put holes in the gasket with an awl and just sewed through it the same time I sewed the buttons.

The clasp was also a process of trial and error and I had buttons strewn everywhere on my table. I was getting desperate for a loop when Cheri showed me a zip-lock bag full of washers she had just picked up at a garage sale. I casually snagged the largest one and went home to finish my bag.

The handbag is much roomier than I thought it would be and I really enjoy carrying it. It has a solid feel without being too heavy and I know there is not another one out there like it.

Click the thumbnails below for a gallery view of the photos.

Cheap Tricks: iPhone Bag

Cheap tricks are great and most of the time, they are things you just don’t think about, you just do them. Today, I did one that I had to think about. I love lounging around my house in comfortable clothes. However, very few of those pajama type bottoms that are the perfect lounging wear actually come with pockets where you can stash your phone, and since I like to listen to audio books and music while working around the house, I definitely need someway to carry my phone around. Hence, I created the Kitty Bag (named after the fabric I used, not the actual application of the bag, although, if the Kitty Bag were big enough, our cat, Jamison, probably wouldn’t mind being carried around in the bag too).

I bought this absolutely adorable, kitty-patterned flannel some time ago. It was just too cute to pass up a few yards and was on sale to boot.

Black flannel with neon kitty figures.

You can see the three pieces I cut out of it today. They are all cut selvage to selvage (45″). I then sewed the long, thin strips at one end, right sides together. Then I sewed this even longer strip into a tube, again right sides together and turned it for the handle. The last piece of fabric (which is about 1″ wider on each side than my iPhone) I also sewed right sides together, leaving the selvage side open to turn the fabric through.

Next I ironed the two pieces (thank you Loryn for stressing ironing projects, it really does help). After determining the length of the handle (the handle is actually sewn all along the sides of the bag, so it needs to be long enough to go from the bottom of the bag over your shoulder and back to the bottom of the other side of the bag) I ended up cutting off about 3 inches on each end. I made the bag to go across my body, not just over my shoulder. Then I sewed the handle in, starting with the front panel of the bag, down and around to the bag with only about a 1/8″ seam. I did the same thing with the other side of the bag. This created a flap of the extra body fabric.

Side view of the handle stitching to the body fabric

I needed to decide how much of a flap I wanted and I also wanted something to weight it down a little and after digging through my supplies, found a pretty ribbon that looked perfect with my neon kitties. I cut off about three inches from the flap and turned it under and wrapped the ribbon all the way around and sewed two seams, one towards the top edge of the ribbon and one at the bottom. This also has the benefit of closing the opening left from turning the fabric.

Finished bag.

All-in-all, this was about 1/4 yard of fabric (if even that much), 6″ of ribbon, black thread and some time, all of which I had on hand today. It was done very quickly (about an hour) and works just perfectly. It is also big enough to hold my ear buds and hangs just at my hip when wrapped across my body. Then flannel lining helps protect my phone from damage or anything else I choose to stuff in it.

Finished bag open to show my iPhone.

Well, time to get some housework done now that I can carry my phone around and bop to the music. Have a wonderful Saturday!

P.S. Sorry about the odd lighting effects, I just got my very own studio lighting and haven’t quite got them where I want them.

Finishing Unfinished Projects

A pile of unfinished sewing projects
Unfinished business

Loryn: Unfinished projects are the bane of every crafter, and I have more than my share of them. The ones above are just my sewing projects. I’m not even going to bring up home improvement projects or beading!

It was really helpful to pull all of the projects out and evaluate them. Many are quite good and deserve to be finished. Others are a good technique that I should revisit. If you haven’t looked over your unfinished stuff recently, try it out. You might be surprised how inspiring it can be!

Unfinished tote bag project

This one is a puzzler. Why on earth didn’t I finished this large tote bag? The body is a poly/silk brocade, and the base and straps are ultrasuede. The lining is cut and inside the bag, and the zipper is there, too. I think I’ll finish this one soon. I like sturdy bags that can stand on their own, so I think I’ll add another layer of canvas for structure.

Unfinished bag and lining

You might recognize this canvas from the chair in my laundry room/entry way. This is a mid-size bag, about half the size of the one above. I absolutely love the bright lining fabric with the paisley canvas. I sewed the side seams of the body and lining before getting distracted. This one has a very heavy canvas interlining, which gives the bag great structure. I think I’ll finish this one right away, so I can use it before summer is over!

Unfinished quilt

This is the oldest project in my unfinished project pile. I started this for my friend Melissa’s son. He just turned 16! All it needs is quilting perpendicular to the current quilting and binding, and it’s not even very big. She has a second son who is now 15 months old, so I need to get this done before he grows up! This will be the second project to finish up.

Unfinished knitted stuffed animal

This is really a knitting project, but since all it needs is sewn together, I’ll lump it in with this group. This is a knitted stuffed cat that I started as a Christmas gift for someone several years ago. It’s hard to tell scale in a photo, but the body is just under 3″ tall. I knit it in lace weight alpaca at 12 stitches per inch. This one definitely needs to be finished. I did so much knitting on tiny needles that I really messed up my hands. All that effort shouldn’t go to waste! The pattern is from The Knitted Teddy Bear by Sandra Polley. It’s one of my favorite knitting books.

Beaded velvet birds

Aren’t these adorable? I started these more than ten years ago, and I think I set them aside because I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with them. At the time, I was doing a lot of hand beading. I’ve been wanting a hand sewing project (they’re hand beaded and hand sewn), so I think I’ll work on them in the near future and use them as Christmas ornaments, or maybe put them on a wreath.

Unfinished quilted bag

This is a long, narrow bag with a free-hand quilted texture. I didn’t finish it because I didn’t plan the construction well enough. I should have finished the flap edges before I quilted it, and I didn’t think of that until too late. Bulky hems or binding at the flap edges would ruin the look. Still, I really like this technique, and need to try it on a different bag, or maybe a pillow. The fabric is muslin, sandwiched around flannel. The closely spaced stitching is time consuming to complete, but it gives an inexpensive cloth like muslin a rich look and great body.

Unfinished mini quilt

Here’s another miniature. The finished patchwork squares are 1/4″. I love the beautiful colors of the linen, but this one was too fiddly, even for me. I had visions of tiny, hand-quilted miniatures, but I will never get beyond this point. I don’t have the heart to get rid of it, and it doesn’t take up much space!

Those are my current unfinished projects. Of course, this doesn’t include the hundreds I’ve gotten rid of over a lifetime of crafting, just the best of recent years. I’m going to get started finishing these, and you’ll see them in the blog soon!