I learnt this word whilst hanging about on Etsy recently and it means making something of more value from something old. Or something like that anyway. Here’s an example…
Hands up who looks forward to using a tea towel – show of hands please….ok that’s precisely none of you and that’s as it should be. If anyone wanted to admit to being happy with wiping up then I’m afraid I’d have to ask you to leave. So we know we’re not so keen on household chores – hands up who likes shopping…..well that’s good. That’s everyone! So how about we take a tea towel and make it into a shopping bag? That my friends is what upcycling means to me!
I’m sure there are a million “bag-for-life” tutorials out there but there must be room for another one so here goes..
From your main bag fabric (in this case, linen tea towel – 3 for £3 – bargain!) and lining fabric, cut out your bag pieces. With clever folding and adjustment of sizes as necessary, you can make it so you only need to sew side seams. I was able to make my bag 15” x 17”. Fold your fabrics in half and cut to size – the piece (when unfolded) measured 15 ½” x 34 ½”. I think it’s a good idea to make the lining piece a tiny bit shorter – I cut mine to measure 15 ½” x 34”. It just seems to make the lining sit in better.
To give it a bit of “oomph” I ironed on some Vilene H640 wadding but you don’t have to do this – your fabric might be perfectly oomphy enough without it. Also, as this was going to be a little gift for a friend, I wanted to pretty it up a bit. I raided the stash and found the fab tree fabric, gritted my teeth and cut a design out, after ironing on a bit of “Wonder Under” first. I ironed the tree on to the main bag piece, then using the free motion foot on my sewing machine, went round the edge to hold it in place – over time, this will fray and give a lovely effect.
Next, line up the short edges of the main fabric and lining, right sides together, and pin to hold together. Sew down both of these edges (NB: If you’ve made your lining a bit shorter, don’t expect both pieces of fabric to line up and lay flat, they won’t – this is perfectly normal and nothing to get upset about – have a biscuit if you need to calm your nerves) You’ll now have a big tube. Flatten the tube out, still with right sides together. Lining up main fabric on main fabric and lining on lining, make sure that the seams line up and pin the long edges in place to hold them. Sew down both long edges but leave a 3” opening on one edge – in the lining fabric – for turning.
Turn through and give the whole thing a good press. Slip stitch or sewing machine stitch the opening closed and run a little top stitch around the top of the bag to make it look nice and neat and perfeshernul.
Set aside – handles time…
I think handles are personal preference so I tend to make them long then “try the bag on” for size before shortening them to the length I like. I chose to make this one a shoulder bag but I think it would work just as well with shorter handles. Cut 2 pieces 3 ½” by whatever length you fancy – again, I added Vilene H640 for a bit of oomph but if I’m being absolutely honest, I did live to regret it and would probably just use a lighter interfacing for handles next time round. I learn by mistakes so you don’t have to!
Ok, fold the handles in half along the long length, wrong sides together and press. Open out again and fold each short end in about ½”, press carefully. Fold each long side in about 1/2” and press carefully. Fold in half again so that the folded in sides are on top of each other and you have no raw edges. Top stitch along the short sides and both long sides, about ¼” in. Ta daaaaaaaa you have handles.
Position on your bag as you like them and pin in place. Using the same stitching line you made when you top stitched, attach the handles to the bag, sewing backwards and forwards a few times to reinforce.
And there you have it. A bag from a tea towel – upcycling at work! I like to think this bag will be put to good use with trips to the shop for a forgotton pint of milk or for transporting interesting library books or a nice packed lunch – anything that doesn’t involve gym work or anything stressy. In short, nothing that could feasibly require a tea towel!