Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Wednesday's Workbox (29th February)

Something that is very useful for every frugal mama to have in her workbox is a "rag bag". It's referred to in the "Little House on The Prairie" story books by Laura Ingalls Wilder several times, because back in our great-great-great grandmothers' day, no one would have ever considered discarding a garment that was worn beyond repair, or a sheet or bed cover that had become too thin to "sides to middle" any more times. Instead, the worn out items would be cut into useable pieces, and reserved to make into quilts, baby garments, patches for repairing other clothes, or to use to create small useful or decorative items around the home. Little girls learned how to patch and quilt by using pieces of fabric from their mothers' rag bags, and it was also a lovely resource for creating dolls clothes, too. As I grew up my mams always had a rag bag, and when I became a wife and mama myself I carried on the tradition. So it is that in our home, I always have a reserve of fabric swatches that I can draw on whenever I need to!

Pictured below, are two little bags that I created using fabric from my rag bag. The main fabric is acutally a pillowcase that I picked up from a charity shop because I liked the cheerful sunflower pattern. I knew it would come in handy! I've put these wee bags in our bathroom (they match the decor in there, which is yellow and white with beechwood trim - it sounds more opulent than it is!) for Little Bear and I to use for "personal items". They're just perfect for keeping everything stashed safely out of sight!

They were extremely simple to make, but I did use a sewing machine. If you don't have one, something like this could easily be done by hand also, although it will take a little longer.

I started by ripping the side seam of the pillow case, and undoing the top hem. The bottom edge I cut, for speed rather than anything else, as I only lost about 1/2 inch fabric by doing this. I then folded the opened pillowcase in half widthways, and cut it in two equal sized pieces.

Having done this, I then took one half and folded it again with the right side facing inwards, so that the fold became the base of the bag. I tacked both side seams, right to the top. Then I stiched these on the sewing machine. With something this symmetrical and simple I did not bother to pin before tacking but I would reccomend this if you are a beginner as it will result in a neater finish. Having done this, I then turned in a hem at the top about 1 1/2 inches deep all the way around the bag, to create a channel for the draw cord, turning under the rough edge about 1/4 inch for neatness. I did pin this, both the rough edge which I tacked, and then again to form the channel, before tacking and then stitching it on the sewing machine. For a garment, I would not use this technique, but I wanted something simple and speedy. To create a channel for an elasticated waistband, I would instead add interfacing, and sew this down before the side seams, using an invisible hemming stitch so that the seam did not show from the right side of the garment. But that's for another time!

To create the draw cord you could use rope, ribbon or whatever else comes to hand. I used some calico fabric that was in the rag bag, to create a long enough draw cord to tie a bow with when pulled through. Again this is really the simplest approach to doing this. To create a more sophisticated version, you could leave the two side seams open at the top, the width you wish the channel for the draw cord to be. This will involve hemming a neat seam down the 2 sides of the channel on either side of the draw cord, before turning it down and proceeding to sew it as above. This means you fetch up with 2 separate channels for 2 drawcords, one on each side of the bag, which creates a more symmetrical look to the bag when it is pulled shut. As I wanted to hang our bags, I decided to use the simpler one cord approach so that the loose ends of the cords could be tied together to make a loop for hanging them.

Having finished the main body of the bag, I then added applique embellishments. I cut hearts from the same main fabric and the calico fabric, with the calico hearts being slightly larger. Onto the top of the 2 layers of hearts I sewed co-ordinating buttons (I squirrel away buttons as well as fabric and wool scraps!), and then tacked these directly onto the front of the bag before stitching down with the sewing machine (in truth you could easily get away with doing this part by hand, as it is a little tricky to do it with the machine, but the bags are quite wide, so I had no real trouble doing it).

And voila, they were done! It took about an hour and a half all told - the second bag is identical to the first, and they are proving to be very handy for us! I really enjoyed making these, and Little Bear was so inspired when she saw them that she's created some more, for her toiletries and other possessions, to keep her bedroom tidy. You can make them as large or small as you like - a sweet friend of mine from Ohio sent us a huge one that she'd created - out of teddy bear fabric. What could be more appropriate, for a bear family? We love it - and she loved making it too!