Revisiting an Old Idea

A few years ago I wrote about this tote bag,

473 tote in woods

I up-cycled a thrifty find by covering its’ large logo with a handwoven “rag” panel.

At the time I thought, “What a good project for a beginning weaver!”, as even a first sampler can embellish a small tote. But I never pursued the idea because sewing the handwoven fabric on by machine would not be easy for a novice and hand sewing would be very time-consuming. . . so much for a quick, fun project.

Now that I’m teaching at the Artisan Soul Gallery I am reconsidering this project idea. If I can’t figure out a way to simplify things enough for a beginning student, I’ll just embellish the totes myself. They would make great gifts, especially if filled with a few fun treats!

I bought two dozen black cotton totes and started to play, pulling fabrics from my quilting stash that coordinate with the colors in my scrappy handwoven panels.

Note to Self: Choosing a fabric and then weaving to match it would be much easier!

First I tried lining the shoulder straps on a tote. Easy-peasy and I really like the look of surprise when people first notice the long narrow strips.

Next I sewed a pocket inside, like I had on the red tote. I made the pocket small so the stitching on the outside of the bag can be covered by the woven panel.

473 tote pocket

Boy, I’d forgotten how difficult/frustrating sewing something to a finished tote could be, even when using a machine with a free-arm. – sigh – I thought this step would be easier with an all-cotton tote than it had been on the red tote which is nylon? with a rather stiff rubbery-feeling lining, but no. Decided, considering the effort involved, there simply isn’t enough benefit gained from adding a cute little interior pocket.

Maybe the totes could be happy with only a handwoven panel and contrast straps?

– sigh – Nice, but. . .

they need something.

ah ha!

How about a larger pocket on the outside? Still not the easiest thing to sew, but at least now I’ll get more bang for my buck, so to speak. A large pocket on the back is much more obvious to a customer than a little one tucked inside.

After struggling to attach a few handwoven panels – this is supposed to be fun?! – I set my brain on “ponder” for a couple of days.

Would the heat required to melt fusible webbing also melt the acrylic and polyester yarns in my weaving? There was only one way to find out. . .

I’m sure other brands of iron and fusible would differ but, I get the best results when I set my iron at the low edge of its’ wool setting, spritz the front of the tote with water and use a WET pressing cloth.

The upper right-hand corner is curled up on the bright blue one because I wanted to see how much force it would take to pull off a fused weaving. The answer is LOTS! – lol. – It will not happen accidentally.

Here’s my second set of five, with fused panels. Let’s call them totes #6 – 10:

The cream and khaki totes, #s 6 & 9, I found at Savers, like-new – $1.00 each.

Took these first ten to Fiber Night to show Laura.

The one with purple roses, #7. . .  It now lives with Laura’s teen daughter.lol

Having shared my story of frustration over the little interior pockets, they gave me a very good idea. . . sew down only the interior pocket’s upper edge, so it hangs down, like a pouch. And I can hide the stitching in the seam where the band at the top edge of the tote meets the body.

Next I’m going to try fusing a handwoven panel to the front of a rubbery-lined nylon tote, like that old red one. I have three thrifty ones to pick from. Difficult to decide which to experiment on, as I may ruin it in the process.

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4 Responses to Revisiting an Old Idea

  1. AnnB says:

    You figured out what I was going to suggest; a hanging pocket. It could span the one entire side….for slipping paper in to keep it straight. Or other sizes. Perhaps add a loop or tab with snap for keys. Of course too many options sewn in, you’ll need to raise the price.

  2. Donna says:

    Love these totes! My favorite is the Khaki one #9(?). Good job and very creative!

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