Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tarot Bag

Okay, so I figure you can probably tell this is a bag of some kind, correct?

Betcha can't guess what it's for! (well, okay ... the title does give it away!)

But -- if you guessed Tarot Cards, you're right!

I normally keep my Tarot cards in little wooden boxes that I make (but that's another story).  Recently I had a need for some fabric bags to hold some of my decks.

Tarot card bags are kind of a standard thing -- if you go to Ebay, you'll find a few zillion of them.  Practically every one is just a drawstring bag, though.  Not that I have anything against drawstring bags -- I just wanted something different.

I wanted a cotton bag (it has to be an organic material) and I also wanted a little pocket or pouch in the bag where I could store a small cache of herbs.  I like to keep certain herbs next to a Tarot deck that I use a lot -- I really find it helps keep the deck active.

Tarot decks come in a wide variety of sizes -- I'm sizing mine to fit my Robin Wood deck, but I'm making it a little large.  I'm measuring the box the deck came in -- it's 3 inches wide and 5 inches high ... and about an inch thick.  I'll normally take the cards out of the deck when I put them in the bag.

I had a couple of fat quarters left over from a project -- and figured just one 18" x 22" piece would do just fine for the Tarot bag. I cut a 7" strip along the 22" length of my fat quarter.  From this, I cut a 5" piece for my pocket (5" x 7").  I cut the remaining 18" x 7" piece so that I had an 11" back piece and a 7" front piece. 

First, I sewed a tight double-rolled hem along all four sides of all three pieces. I could probably get away without doing this on all sides, but I'd rather do it and not need it than not do it and need it later!

Now, I'll assemble the bag.  Lay the longest piece down, wrong side down (pattern side up).  Next, lay the pocket on top of this (align all the pieces along the bottom edge), pattern side down.  Finally, lay the remaining shorter piece on top of these, pattern side down.  Make sure all pieces line up at the bottom and the edges.

Now, sew the pieces together.  Leaving about a 1/2" seam allowance, join the three pieces.  Sew along the sides and the bottom -- sew 7" up each side to set the front and back (and the pocket) and also sew along the bottom to set the bottoms.

When you're done, you have a bag that's open on one side with about a 4" "flap" that's hanging out.

Time to invert the bag -- it's already inside-out, so you want to turn it outside-in!  But wait -- once you do, the wrong-side of the pocket is facing the outside?  What went wrong?

Nothing went wrong -- it's time to invert step #2.  Just invert the pocket piece (you basically flip the pocket from one side of the bag to the other).  Once you've done that, all three pieces have the pattern side on the outside.

Check your bag for fit -- clip away stray threads and such while you're at it.  Work the inverted corners so they straighten out as much as you can.  It's okay for the deck to fit loosely (well, unless you want to make it a tight fit).  A loose fit means you can use different sized decks fairly easily.  Close the flap to see how things look.

Once I closed my flap, I felt the hemmed sides on the flap part stuck out too far.  So -- I took the bag back to the machine and doubled over the rolled hem to make the sides a tiny bit narrower.

Checking fit once again, I like it better now.  Now I'm trying to think how I want to secure the flap.

I could use a toggle, velcro, ribbons, etc ... but I thought I'd use a button (actually, I was going to use velcro, but I can't find where I put my velcro tabs I just bought.  I sing that song a lot.)

I'll position the button, mark it, then open the bag and take it to the machine for a buttonhole.  One of the things I like best about my Bernina 930 is that it makes wonderful buttonholes.

Once the buttonhole is sewn and cut (I use a seam ripper to cut it open), I'll check the button position and sew the button on.  Rather than fiddle with the machine, I just sewed the button on manually.  One button I'll do manually; if it's more than that, I'll break out the button foot and use the machine.

And there's the finished product!  It's hard to see one the small photo, but if you double-click it to view it larger, you can see the pocket in the front.  Plenty of space for herbs, tea-bags, etc -- what feels right to place next to the Tarot deck.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dish Towel Tote Bag

This one was kind of an accident.  I had wanted to make a placemat totebag -- take two placemats, sew together, add straps -- and voila, a totebag!  Problem was, I never could find a color/pattern placemat that I liked.

Was in a kitchen store and finally found just the right placemat!  Bright colors, nice pattern -- just what I wanted.  Picked them up, showed it to my wife and explained how I was going to make a placemat totebag (we do a lot of beach trips, so always need more tote bags).

She though it was a good idea, but said "But that's a dish towel, not a placemat."  I began to correct her, then looked closer at my "placemat".  Darned if it wasn't a dish towel, after all!

Okay, I can salvage this.  My original plan of sewing two "mats" together wasn't going to work -- dish towels aren't as stiff as placemats, so I'll have to use just one towel and reduce the size.

The towel already has finished edges -- and I wanted to keep these.  So -- I folded the towel in half -- that puts the finished edges on the sides.

And the problem now -- is that that the pattern is upside down on one side after folding!

Alright, I can fix this.  I'll just cut the towel in half and then set the two sides together ... being careful to orient the pattern the same way on both sides.  This means my already finished edges on the top of the bag are now at the bottom of the bag-- meaning I'll have to hem the top.  I guess that's better than having upside-down flowers on my tote bag, though.

So -- quick and dirty -- I sewed a double-roll hem along the cut sides along the "top" parts of the bag.  I used red thread because I thought it stood out a little and looked nice.  Here are my two pieces after the hemming.

Ready for the next step -- I matched the good sides of the bag and sewed the bag together on three sides.  Note how the bottom seam has a little greater seam allowance -- this is because the "bottom" of the bag was the original "top" -- and it had the store-bought finished seams.  They were kind of thick -- rather than try to fold them, it was easier just to sew just above them.

Next part's pretty easy -- turn the bag right-side out and attach the straps.  I used some 1-inch webbing.  I wanted the straps a little long since I envisioned hanging the bag off our shoulders rather than holding it in our hands.  So -- I cut two 32" pieces of webbing.

I'm really conservative when I attach webbing to a bag.  I figure I'm going to load the bag up with books and stuff and don't want the strap to tear loose.  So -- here's how I normally do it:

I attached my straps about three inches in from the sides of the bag.  Three inches isn't a magic number -- it just looked kind of right on this side bag.  I positioned one strap about three inches in -- and arranged it so that the strap flowed towards the bottom of the bag.

I sewed a "square" to attach the strap -- the square is about 3/4" along each side.

Now, I fold the strap back up towards the top of the bag. This covers my initial sewn "square".

I'm going to sew this strap down again -- this folding over and sewing twice will securely attach the webbing -- and finish the webbing edge as well.

When I sew my folded over strap, I again sew a square -- but I then sew an "X" in the middle.  I'm sure this is over-engineered -- but I've never had a strap tear loose, either!

Follow the same scheme to attach the remain ends of the straps.  Be sure you don't have any twists in your strap before you secure the ends to the bag (found this out the hard way!)

Here's the finished product with the long straps:

By the way, I created all this trouble for myself when I selected a "placemat" where the pattern had a definite "up-down" orientation.  

I liked the bag so much that I bought another dish towel -- but this time the pattern didn't really have an upside-downside.  That let me do my original "fold the towel in half, sew the sides, attach straps" scheme.

Here's what it looked like: