Making Drawstring Bags—Another Option for the Top

 

Hello!  There’s been just a little more radio silence around here lately than normal, but hey, that’s what retreats are for, right?  Today let’s jump back in with some thoughts about drawstring casings on bags.  In the second part of Hello Sewing Machine, I guide you though making a drawstring bag and leaving a “buttonhole”—a gap in the side seam for the drawstring to pull through.  That’s probably my favorite way to finish the casing, and one that helps you think about how a piece of fabric becomes a finished project, which is why I chose it for my beginner e-book.  There are lots of other options though, basically any method that encloses the raw edges and leaves a place for the drawstring will work.  One of my proofreaders asked about making a little hem on the sides of the bag instead, and I wanted to present that option here.  In my example, I’m altering a commercially made bag which doesn’t have much in the way of seam finishing, and is not going to stand the test of time.  You can also easily use this technique on DIY bags.  Click on any of the pictures to enlarge for a closer look.

 

drawstring bag 1

 

On this bag, there’s nothing to keep the raw edges from unraveling.  I’m especially concerned about the area where the drawstring emerges from the bag, because it’s likely to get a lot of wear and tear, which will cause the fabric to unravel faster.

My first step was to take apart the seam stitching, down to where I wanted the seam to stop for the new finish.  I stitched up to that point and back down (with red thread) to hold all the stitching in place.  Then I took apart enough of the seam holding the casing down to let me make a narrow hem on the edges.

 

drawstring bag 3

 

If you are making your own bag, just stop sewing the side seam a little ways from the top, and back tack over the seam end.  To figure out where to stop, think about the parts of the casing you need to leave room for at the top of the bag.

 

drawstring bag 2

 

At the very top is a little extra fabric, usually turned under (or stitched over) so that it won’t unravel.  It serves the same purpose as a seam allowance.  Then you have the inside and outside of the casing (keep in mind we are looking at the bag from the inside), and you will also need a little more room (about 1-2″ or 3-5 cm) for the transition between the hemmed edges and the seam.   Once you figure out where the end of your seam will be, go ahead and overcast the seam edges, continuing a little bit past the point where your seam stops.  Then on each edge above the seam, fold over and press down 1/4″ (or .5 cm) with your iron, towards the inside of the casing.  Fold over the edge again in same direction, using your first fold as a guide, and press in place again.  Then stitch down your hemmed edges, sewing close to the edge with a straight stitch.   Sew across the seam as well, below the top where you stopped stitching, so that all the stress from opening the bag is not on just one point.

 

drawstring bag 4

 

Next, sew your drawstring casing in place.  Normally I would press a small fold at the top edge towards the inside, and then fold and press down the width of the casing.  Since the casing here is already sewn in place around the rest of the bag,  I opted to replace the original stitching, overlapping it with the red thread.  Make a small back tack at each edge, since those ends won’t be held down by any other stitching later.  Then I used a mock-serger stitch to go over the small raw edge below the casing, since I don’t want it to unravel and lead to my casing pulling loose.

 

drawstring bag 6

 

A quick note about ends: I like to bury them inside the casing or hem, or wherever there’s a double layer of fabric, so that enough thread remains to keep the stitching from pulling out, but it’s hidden.  I thread the ends on a hand-sewing needle, pull them between the fabric layers for one long stitch, and snip them off where they come out.

 

drawstring bag 5

 

Here’s an another example of a commercially-made drawstring bag using the same concept.  I think they hemmed the sides of the drawstring first, and then caught them in the side seam, and finished the seam allowances with a serger.  As I said, you have a lot of options!

 

drawstring bag 13

 

There’s lots more thorough and friendly beginner-oriented directions for sewing seams, overcasting, using your iron to make a casing, and everything else you need to know to plan and sew a drawstring bag in my e-book, Hello Sewing Machine!

If you have other beginning questions, feel free to let me know, I’m always curious about what’s on your mind.   You can also read my answers to others’ questions in this post on Sew,Mama,Sew!

 

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Just a Wreath

 

SW wreath 1

 

I spent this morning making wreaths with my crafting buddies at my friend Elena’s house.  She’s been making them for 20 years, so she gave us expert advice, and it was super fun.  Her whole living room floor was covered with a big blue tarp, and on top of it, buckets and boxes stuffed full of all kinds of wonderful greenery, dried pods, and beautiful berries, chiles . . . with that much natural beauty it would be tough to make anything that didn’t look good.  I made this one with lots of stuff from right around here.  I wish you could smell it!  Piñon cones and juniper are two of my favorite smells in the whole wild world.  I guess we all like smells that remind us of home.

 

SW wreath 2

 

I hope you’re enjoying the season!

 

Body and Earth, Home Territory

 

I’m pleased to report we’re home at last!  At last – without a crazy amount to do, with all my beautiful supplies and tools right in front of me, in my studio, in the kitchen!  Bliss.  We got back late Wednesday night (the same day I took these pictures), and the last thing I did before falling asleep was read the last chapter of a really interesting book I’ve been working my way through, Body and Earth by Andrea Olsen.  It was the textbook to a class one of my cousins took at Middlebury College.  My aunt read it too, she kept talking about how much she liked it, and finally they let me borrow a copy.

To be honest, it starts off a little bit, umm, out in left field for me – talking about our evolutionary history and how that relates to the way our bodies move.  But, it moves on pretty quickly into more concrete territory, talking about body processes, earth systems, and ways we can affect both, in a really integrative way that I loved.  I have been working on posture and healthy ways to work with my body a lot lately, and there are a lot of exercises and ideas in this book that I found really interesting and helpful.  But as far as just things to think about, the end of the book may be the best part.  There are a few chapters about connections between earth, body and society, again talking about how everything is related rather than each part on its own.  There are a couple of quotes in this part that speak to what I’m trying to say here.

 

 

Our culture breeds dissatisfaction in order to sell products . . .  As we realize that we are sensual beings, living as part of a world that delights the senses, we can distance ourselves from the cultural baggage of dissatisfaction.  We need less, not more, to experience a full life.

 

 

As we commodify art and creativity, we see art as other and creativity as foreign, rather than familiar.  In the process, we risk losing access to our deepest visions and our intuitive resources.   Conversely, as we reclaim creativity, we engage the unknown on a daily basis and listen for truth.

 

 

We have grown accustomed to high-end art: perfect recordings, museum paintings, and multimillion-dollar films.  But creativity is personal.  As we participate in the process, we recognize that it is not just about observing, not just about buying and consuming, alienating ourselves from our own creativity.  It is about participating in the creative universe we live in.

 

 

It seemed fitting somehow that as I finished this book, we came back into the landscape of my childhood, the places I feel the most connected to.  When we started into the plains and mountains of southwest Colorado, I felt such a tug on my heart, it’s not just that this place is beautiful (spectacular this time of year as the leaves change), it’s that I love it and I feel rooted here.  The desert, so close and yet so different, I love it too, even though I hated it driving across it as a kid, it seemed so empty.  It still seems stark, but so open, so subtle, so much a part of my home.

 

 

Just the clouds are amazing.  I’ll be back soon with more on participating in our creative universe!

 

 

 

Home is in the Details

In the last week or so, our travels have shifted from camping and/or hotels to staying with a series of generous friends, family and extended family hosts.

I have been thinking a lot about what makes a place seem homey.  It’s the clean soft mismatched towels, the live plants, the smell of good food that’s been cooked, mixed with soap and lotion and a thousand other things that a hotel can’t replicate.  This feeling of home is so welcoming at the same time that it makes me homesick for our own little place.

One great thing about traveling is that it reminds me of all the things I should never take for granted; like ice, hot showers, and that smell of home.

Announcing My First Tutorial!

I’m super excited to announce that my first tutorial is finished and available in my Etsy shop!  And, it’s also available as a kit with wool and practically everything else you need to get started.
I’m really happy with how it came out.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time and energy on it, but 28 pages, lots of flowers, and over 115 color photos later (LOTS of photo editing), it’s everything you need to know to make your very own felt flowers, all from my brain, hands, and laptop!
Looks interesting, right?  Why not try it out!

10 Tips for Drying Laundry Outdoors

 

The last post was all about how I felt about hanging the laundry out to dry, and not so much about how to do it if you never have before.  This blog is supposed to have lots of information, so here are some tips:

  1. You can string up a rope just about anywhere and use it to hang up clothes.  Two trees, a tree and a porch rail, a hook on the side of the house . . . I had a small clothesline on an upper story balcony once.  In Italy, everyone still hangs their laundry on a line just below the window (and, their downstairs neighbors return the socks they accidentally drop)!
  2. My trees are about 20 feet apart, a rope looped around them so I can hang clothes on both sides holds a large load of laundry.
  3. You don’t need special “clothesline”, any rope or cord thin enough to get a clothespin over will work.
  4. A really handy knot to use to tie your clothesline is the taut line hitch, you can cinch it up after it (inevitably) sags after you tie it the first time.  There are clear and concise directions at netknots.com.  If those don’t work for you there are a lot more to be found by searching for “taut line hitch” – if you are a sailor or otherwise knot-preoccupied, look out – good thing I have this post to write so I won’t get too distracted by learning new knots.  Hopefully.
  5. If your clothesline has been out of use for a while (maybe it was abandoned by a previous resident?), run a damp rag along it before you hang anything up, to keep from getting any dirt on it onto your clothes.
  6. You can take your clothesline down during the time of year you’re not using it, it will last longer, and won’t rub bark off your trees in the same place all the time.
  7. I highly recommend keeping your clothespins inside and bringing them out with the laundry each time.  You can store them in a bag, or a jar or whatever.  It keeps them from rotting and/or being new homes for tiny spiders who build their webs in the “tunnels” made by the spring.
  8. Hang shirts and tanks from the bottom (see pic), that way the clothespins won’t leave a visible mark or make a crease in the top.
  9. If your laundry is in the sun, hang things you don’t want to fade inside-out, and/or with the back facing the sun.  Hang things you want to bleach in as much sun as possible (more about that in another post soon).
  10. If you, or possibly other members of your household, prefer laundry as soft as it comes from the dryer, you can always throw clothes in for just a couple of minutes when they come off the line.  You still get your mid-day laundry hanging meditation, and save money and gas for the dryer!

Do you have more tips?  Please share them!