Tag Archives: tote bags

Where do you find your inspiration?

When I buy magazines, I don’t save them or put them on a shelf in the study. Nope. I’m a ripper. I enjoy reading all sorts of magazines, but when I’m done, I immediately start ripping things out. Recipes go into my recipe drawer, but craft projects and home decorating ideas go onto the inspiration boards in my sewing room. My main board is a large, inexpensive cork board that I framed with a half-price open-back wood frame from Hobby Lobby. Total cost: around $25. It’s a great way to display the things that inspire me, and its much more effective than putting them in a drawer or envelope and forgetting about them. When I have extra time or I’m stuck in the house due to bad weather, I go to the boards and pick a project. When my green throw pillows in the family room started fraying around the edges, I made new pillow covers based on this photo from a Pottery Barn catalog. So easy. Sew easy? And I love that tree quilt pattern. When I took down the old denim curtains in the family room, I didn’t throw them away. I washed them and used one as the backing on a quilt for Jonah Bear. When I found these awesome bottle cap photo magnets in a Martha Stewart magazine, I e-mailed everyone I knew and asked them to save their bottle caps. The result? A fabulous craft project for our annual girls only family weekend. Each of us walked away with magnets created from a box of family photos. See those pumpkins in the bottom left corner? Styrofoam balls covered in yarn, then brushed to make them fuzzy. The stems are crocheted. How cute is that? Looking for a fabulous idea for table decorations for a rehearsal dinner or wedding reception? How about making these gorgeous photo luminaries? I love this project. You scan and convert photos to a sepia finish, then print them on velum paper, frame them with matte boards, connect 3 of them and place a lighted candle in the middle to illuminate the photos. This idea knocks me out. It would also be fabulous for a 50th anniversary celebration, a graduation party, 50th birthday…the possibilities are endless. And check out that white pillow with the layered felt “buttons” all over it. Some day, I’ll make a pillow like that. Maybe. If I can find pre-cut felt circles so they’re perfectly round. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’ve been making a lot of tote bags lately (again, for our girls only weekend in March), but I’ve had my eye on this little beauty for years. It’s a felted wool tote bag. I love the color and texture of this bag. So much so, that I think I may have ripped this page out of a magazine in a doctor’s office. I never do that, but I couldn’t stop myself in this instance. Sorry, Dr. Greenberg. I hope you’re not reading this from your retirement home in Arizona. For the record, I have no idea how to felt wool, and I have no wool to felt, but some day I WILL make this tote bag, because it calls to me. Speaking of felt, these little felt Christmas ornaments are adorable. I ripped these out of a Crate & Barrel holiday catalog (yes, it was mine) a few years back. I can’t wait to make these. They’re adorable. They would make a great Christmas garland if you tied them onto a pretty ribbon. Or you could attach one to a folded piece of colorful card stock and make your own Christmas cards. Or you could hang them on your Christmas tree, or give them as gifts at a school holiday party, or use them as place holders at your holiday table. These are on my “to do” list for Christmas 2011. I’m leaning towards the garland for my fireplace mantle or the handmade Christmas cards. Maybe both. I love those beaded snowflakes in the same photo. I can picture myself tying them to gift boxes and bags, or stringing them onto a white or silver ribbon and hanging them across the top of my kitchen window for the holidays. They would also look great on my mother’s Christmas tree, with her hand crocheted snowflakes. And while we’re on Christmas trees… I love this little table-top tree. It would be great for someone with very young children who wants to decorate a tree without fear of it being pulled over on top of a toddler. Or on a teacher’s desk. Or even on your own desk if you want to perk up your office for Christmas. It makes me happy. Like these snowmen. Is it wrong to want to cover every surface of your house in fluffy quilt batting (fake snow) and cute snowmen? If loving snowmen is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Some day, I’ll create an army of adorable snowmen and take over the world, one Scrooge at a time. And if my snowman army needs help, I’ll enlist these little paper-mache Halloween cuties. These are just too stinkin’ cute! These will require more work and skill, but I’m up to the challenge. Besides, these will last forever and can be added to my collection of family treasures to pass along to the kids some day. They could be my crafting legacy. Check out that photo of a perfectly organized closet in the top right by the Pottery Barn pillows. I only WISH my closets looked like that! This photo is definitely one that I saved for inspiration. It’s probably the most unrealistic of all the projects I’ve posted on my idea boards. I cannot foresee a day when I’ll ever be that obsessive…er, I mean anal…uh, I mean organized. I dream of it, but I don’t see myself fulfilling that dream. Oh, well. The idea behind the boards is inspiration. Who knows if I will make all of this stuff, but at least I can look at it and sometimes even attempt it. My boards spark creativity. They compel me to try something new and fun, and I find that inspirational. And that’s why I go back to them over and over again. Ideas are everywhere! What inspires your creativity?

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When opportunity knocks…you should like totally make a super-cute tote bag!

JoAnn’s Fabrics is one of my regular haunts. I like to pop in there often to see what I can dig up. I just found out my local JoAnn’s store is moving, and they’re clearing everything out of the old store. Last week, I found upholstery samples on the clearance rack for $1 each. Now you may be thinking, “NanaBread, why on earth do you need upholstery fabric samples, even for $1 each?” Well, I’m proud to say that I was blessed with my mother’s “artsy fartsy” gene, so I’ll tell you exactly what I was thinking:

• Upholstery fabric samples are pre-cut into 18” squares
• All 4 edges of the squares are already finished (serged)
• Upholstery fabrics are usually a heavier grade of fabric
• There are usually multiple samples of the same fabric
• If I can find 2 of the same fabric, I can make a tote bag
• Two squares for each tote bag = $2 per tote bag

With the addition of some woven belting in coordinating colors to use as handles, I was off to the races. I found at least 8 matching pairs of fabric samples, which means I can make 8 tote bags. I picked up another yard of upholstery fabric so I can make a total of 10 bags. I’m planning to give them as gifts for our annual Hoegarden Weekend in March, so I’ll need 10 bags. If you’re not familiar with Hoegarden, it’s our “girls only” family gathering named after a beer and held each March. It’s 3 glorious days of shopping, eating, board games, make-overs, one-handed croquet, chocolate and cocktails. Sorry, mom, sisters, nieces and granddaughters – if you’re reading this, the gift cat’s out of the bag. The tote bag! Get it? Hello? Anybody there? {crickets chirping}. Ahem….so back to the tote bags. Here’s how easy it is to make an upholstery sample tote bag, just in case you find a good clearance sale in your area:

1. Start by ironing your fabric squares
2. Turn the 2 squares with the “good sides” facing each other & pin 3 sides
3. Stitch the 3 pinned sides together; I like to go around twice for extra strength

4. Turn your bag right sides out and press the side seams to flatten them

5. Lay your bag down flat and cut off the top 2” (the unsewn side is at the top)
6. Turn the 2” piece inside out and pin it to the bag so the right sides are facing each other and the cut edges are at the top of the bag; pin them together, matching them at the outside seams
7. Cut the woven belting into two 22” straps and pin them into the edges of the bag for the handles, making sure the handles are between the 2 pieces of fabric
8. Stitch around the entire top of the bag

9. Turn the top edge of the bag out and iron to flatten the seams
10. Turn the edging inside and pin into place

11. Hem the top of the bag to hold the edging and handles in place (I like to use 2 hems, ¼” apart)

12. Fold the bottom corners up 1” and pin them to the sides of the bag, matching the side seams again; stitch the corners in a triangle to create a wider, flatter bottom to your bag; press the entire bag one last time to finish

That’s it! Each bag took approximately 30 minutes to complete. If you have your woven belting pre-cut into 22” straps, your iron on and ready to go, and you’re using the same color thread for each bag, you can do it in 20 minutes. For a bonus, stitch a coordinating colored ribbon to the inside edge of your bag and attach a metal swivel hook to hold your keys. They’re super handy and only $1.50 at Home Depot, which STILL keeps your cost under $5.00 per bag.

To re-cap: that’s 2 upholstery fabric samples for $1 each, woven belting for $1.50, a key hook for $1.50, thread I already had in my sewing room, and 20-30 minutes to stitch up each bag. And just like that, you have a one-of-a-kind heavy-duty super-cute tote bag for only $4 … a tote bag that would easily sell for $20 in stores. Now that’s my kind of crafting. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again… I absolutely love it when I can be creative and cheap at the same time. And I must be on to something, because I’ve laid this out and described the process to at least 5 other women at JoAnn’s since I started this project, and each time I do, they take off running for the upholstery fabric sample racks. Sometimes the best projects just fall into your lap. Like I said, when opportunity knocks…

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