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Vintage Fabric Tote

I had to buy these from the grocery store because I adore the smell of hyacinths.

Last week I had the amazing luck of being able to pick up a box of vintage fabric from a flea market for only one euro. Inside were two large pieces of fabric, one floral pattern and one off-white striped fabric, about 3 metres of the floral pattern and 8 metres of the other. I couldn't decide what to make with them, but bought them anyway thinking that it would come to me eventually. Later in the day I had the idea to use some of the fabric to make myself a tote bag.

I've no idea what I will do with the rest of the fabric, an apron maybe?

I managed to get the final parts of them finished and photographed yesterday afternoon, after returning from an important botanical and meteorological exploration with Mikey. Our mission was to attempt to find some new green foliage during the beautiful afternoon that would help us to determine whether Spring was well and truly on it's way. We also had to pick up some groceries to make dinner.

Sadly, we did not find any early Spring flowers, neither snowdrop nor crocus (did you like how I neatly avoided having to look up the plural form of crocus? I pondered it for a good minute or so). The only things we could find were moss and one green sprout of something that was probably just grass.

In order to put aside our frustrations and disappointment, Mikey suggested that we spend the rest of the afternoon soaking our jeans up to our knees by jumping in muddy puddles. Mikey said "Ooooh, lala." which is his word for water, and proceeded to stomp and jump. He realised that the stuff he was jumping in was very similar in composition to the stuff that he takes a bath in or drinks from his cup. In the mind of a toddler that can only mean one thing, it may be edible (much to mummy's disgust.)


Anyway, enough of that nonsense.

Making this tote bag is pretty straightforward, the only interesting parts are the gathered front and the knitted straps. Of course you do not have to use knitted straps if you do not wish to, you can just fold and sew a couple of strips of fabric.

First you want to cut your fabric, I didn't use a pattern, I just eyeballed it. So, fold your fabric in half so that the fold is the bottom of the bag. Cut out a rectangle a few inches wider than you would like your finished bag to be to leave room for the gathering and the seams.

To make the gathering you want to take what will be the top of your bag and baste a nice wide stitch with loose tension. You want it about a 1/4 of an inch away from the edge, then run another alongside it making sure you leave plenty of loose thread at each end.

Take two threads and pull them lightly so that the fabric gathers, spread the gathers along the whole edge until you have as much as you want, as evenly as you want. If you would also like to gather the back, just do the same at the other end of the fabric.

If you want to add frills or something like that (like my little knitted edge shown above) now is the time to add them. Sew your embellishment along the bottom of your gathering, furthest from the edge. You could use lace, or even a different coloured fabric.

For the foldover top part, cut some fabric to the same length as the width of the top of your bag, leaving an inch or so extra for seams. The width of this piece of fabric should be double the measurement from the bottom of your gathering to the top of your bag, so that you can fold it over inside. Fold the fabric in half width ways and iron a crease. Sew it onto the top of your main bag fabric, making sure that it is folded over the top so that half of it will be on the outside of your bag and half on the inside. Do this for both sides.

Now you can stitch together the main body of the bag, this is pretty self explanatory, turn it inside out, stitch the side edges leaving the top open and turn right side out.

My handles are knitted from lightweight wool on oversized needles, I cast on 8 stitches on 8mm needles and knitted until I thought it was long enough. Do this twice, once for each handle and then sew them securely to the top part of your bag.

And you're done. All in all, this probably cost me less than a Euro to make.

Reference: Sew Mama Sew for gathering tutorial and inspiration.

P.S. I have totally just cast on what will be a knitted camera strap cover. My current strap digs into my shoulder and neck, I fully intend to vanquish this annoyance.

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I am a 24 year old British stay at home mother to a two year old boy. Married to a U.S. soldier and currently living in Germany.

I have seen the Vatican from the very top of St Peter's Basilica, the mud in the World War I trenches outside Ypres. I have walked through Montmartre side streets bustling with people in the evening, gotten lost in the streets of Greenwich Village NYC, run through cornfields on the Welsh border and sat outside with a cup of tea watching fireflies in the fields of the outer Chicago suburbs.

I have held the hands of others through addiction, fear, suicide, despair and come out the other side. I have left everything behind to begin anew.
I have fought mental illness and walked through snow in the mountains of the lake district, England. I have explored the morgue in the bowels of an abandoned hospital on a summer evening, climbed to the top of scaffolding on the outside of a five floor warehouse to look at the city lights of Nottingham at night and I have watched the sun setting on the Texas horizon.

I have held my son's tiny hand through the plastic window on an isolette in the NICU ward. Walked, speaking only in whispers, through the catacombs beneath the ground on the outskirts of Rome and seen the fireworks over Heidelberg castle.