Adventures in Sewing and Repurposing

One of my 30th birthday bucket list items was to learn how to werk a sewing machine. Up til a few months ago, my sewing knowledge consisted of fixing frayed hems and sewing buttons back on. By hand. One look at my work and you'd swear the eight-year-old kid down the street fixed my clothes for me.

But I get grand craft ideas in my head, and sometimes, a desire to attempt to pull them off. My first big sewing machine project came about when my fiance's stepmom showed me a beach bag she created. We made plans for a craft afternoon - a CRAFTERNOON if you will - and I started hunting around the house for materials.

I knew I wanted to repurpose some kind of fabric instead of spending money on something new. I can't do anything if I don't attempt to be sustainable! I grabbed a few shirts, a spare towel and a scarf. Now, I have a slight obsession with scarves. Collection of scarves, I mean. Damn autocorrect. I had quite the large pile of scarves, and while I loved most of them, I just didn't wear all of them. This berry-colored fringe scarf was one I didn't wear as often, though I loved the colors.

We decided it would be perfect for a beach bag, since it is a lighter material. Armed with instructions via iPad (paperless!), we started off on the project.

I would share more of a step-by-step, but honestly, it's been so long, I have probably forgotten half of our steps. We started by measuring how big we wanted the bag to turn out. Because of it being a scarf, and because we wanted to salvage the fringe for a design element, we sometimes had a tricky time.

There was lots of measuring. Lots. I know the old saying, "measure twice, cut once", but I am 99% too impatient for that. But that's why it was helpful to have a mentor on this project. Well that, and she had the sewing machine. :) (Love youuuuuu, Su!) She kept me on track, making sure each step was done correctly before moving on.

Not to say we didn't have our Oops! moments, though. Because the scarf fabric is so gauzy and thin, we decided to add fabric backing. However, there was no technical 'back' because we were using both sides of the scarf, so it was more like slipping the fabric backing in between. Then getting it straight. Then ironing. Then ironing harder. Then wondering why in the world it wasn't adhering. Then trying other methods. Then ironing again. Oh, and then doing it all on the other side of the future bag.

Probably two hours into the project, and I still hadn't gotten a whirl at the sewing machine. This might be why it took me 30 years to use one.

Once the fabric backing was inserted and adhered, giving the fabric better structure, we took to the sewing machine. Su taught me how to insert the thread and thread the needle.

Sweet, done, let's go! I'm ready to hit the pedal to the fl-oh, nevermind. We created invisible hems and stitched the basic pieces together. There was lots and lots of pinning (and very few pin stabs, which is impressive for me), and then some sewing! On a machine! And I enjoyed it!

We stopped after a few hours because of wine, and because more family members were coming over for dinner, and we wanted to hang out on the patio and enjoy the sunny afternoon. Priorities, people. Family and wine over sewing four million seams.

The next time we got together, we completed the bag. Okay, Su technically completed the bag for me. I am not ashamed. We sewed the two sides together, finally starting to see a bag take shape.

Because I am apparently the pet whisperer, I can't go anywhere to do work without having a visitor. I am not complaining.

Now, here's what happens when you get impatient, or distracted, or you drank your wine too fast. You get a little too zealous and don't watch where your stitch is going. And then you realize you sewed a stitch at a 45* angle into the bag area instead of in a straight line. And then you have to use one of these mofos to fix your mistake. STITCH PICKING. I DO NOT RECOMMEND.

That mistake was part of making the flappy things for the bottom. Technical term. Once those were sewed down, it actually resembled a bag. But - still not done! We measured a piece of sturdy cardboard, wrapped it in batting, and then wrapped it in a spare piece of scarf fabric, which serves as the bottom insert to further keep the bag structure.

The last part was sewing the straps on. The straps were also made from scarf material, and also reinforced. Su graciously and speedily sewed the straps on, so we could finish sometime before midnight. Normally the strap seam would be hidden between the inner and outer bag pieces of fabric...but I decided to be green and repurpose a scarf. So the strap seam is on the inside, and it makes zero difference.

Normally, I would say this project would take about 3-4 hours, even if you are not super familiar with sewing machines. If you add wine, family visitors, chats and dinner, spread over two nights, it will probably take you 5-6 hours.

But, HEY LOOK! I have a brand new beach bag! Repurposed from a scarf! And I salvaged the fringe without having to cut it off! And the inside pink happened to match my shirt! I did not plan that.

It was quite an involved first sewing machine project, but I'm really happy with how the beach bag turned out. Since we haven't gone to the beach this year, it's served more as a pool bag. And it has seen multiple uses, so yay for that!

The other project we did was a fairly simple dress alteration that has made me very happy. I had ordered a fair-trade cotton dress online, and it was slightly too big, but was the smallest size available. A little taking in of the arm holes and a little tightening of the waist elastic, and I probably wear that dress once a week.

At least, these won't be the last sewing projects I take on. Consider this bucket list item checked off!


Unknown said...

Fantastic article. I loved working with you. Let's see what I next sewing adventure will be. Su

Caitlin said...

Thank you! I've got a few ideas up my sleeve, so we'll have to plan another date soon. :)

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