What should one do when…

What should one do when one has a very very important Spanish exam the next morning, an exam which, if one fails it, will prevent one from receiving one's lovely Ph.D.? (Granted, they will let me take it over and over again until I do pass it, but still...) Clearly one should get sick and tired of studying and then spend three hours compulsively handsewing a pretty bag out of scraps of sari fabric and Thai silk. It's actually a recovered black tote bag which had a boring MLA logo on it. I wanted something that I could take to conventions to carry around my books and such, and I find the standard convention totes that get given out both unattractive and confusing (since everyone has the same ones). So, now I have a convention bag in pretty spring colors. And three hours less of studying time. Sigh. Although my college days are long past me, I have clearly not forgotten how to effectively procrastinate.

7 thoughts on “What should one do when…”

  1. that’s cool! and not something I would have ever thought of doing, but now the idea is lodged in my brain. Thanks for sharing (and procrastinating ;-D ).

  2. Heh. Glad you like it, Heather. I miss my sewing machine, though. If I’d had the machine, it would have taken no more than an hour, and that would have included threading the bobbin and all that nonsense. Ah well.

  3. Oh, there was no measuring. Let me see if I can lay out the process I went through:

    a) I laid out all my big scraps and chose colors

    b) I roughly eyeballed the size of the black tote bag and picked sufficient pieces of fabric to more than cover both sides

    c) I ironed all the pieces to make them easier to work with

    d) I sewed together two pieces (right sides together, half-inch hem roughly) along one side

    e) I opened it up and ironed that flat

    f) repeated d and e, connecting pieces until I had a long piece of fabric about two inches longer than the bag when wrapped around it (pressed flat), and about three inches higher than it (measuring from top to bottom of the bag) — all of this is eyeballed

    g) I folded it lengthwise in half, right sides together, and sewed the bottom closed, about a half inch hem

    h) I placed the bag inside what was now a side-bottom pocket, to check sizing, figured out how much my side hem needed to be, removed the bag, and sewed the other side closed

    i) I turned the whole thing inside out, checked to make sure the tote bag still fit inside it, and then ironed it flat. So now the basic silk bag was done except for the top. Time to attach!

    j) I cut off the handles on the tote.

    k) I turned my bag inside out again, put the tote inside again, and folded down the top twice (about an inch each time?) and ironed to make a flat hem with the ragged edges hidden inside. (This should now extend roughly one inch higher than the tote.)

    l) I took the tote out, turned my bag right side out, put the tote back in, folded that top hem into the top of the tote, ironed flat, and then stiched the top of my bag to the top of the tote.

    m) Just so everything stayed in place a bit more, I reached inside the black tote bag and sewed the two bottom corners to the corners of the silk bag. Now you’re done with the bag part.

    n) I took one of the handles I’d cut off, folded a long piece of silk fabric over it, folding over the edge to hide any ragged bits, and sewed it down. Repeat with other handle.

    o) I stitched those handles to where the old handles had been (now the handles are about an inch shorter than they were.

    p) I still need to reinforce that stitching right there, btw, so that the handles are sturdy enough to carry the weight of several books. Since I used the tote bag for the inside of my bag, it provides enough structural support that I didn’t worry about making my stitching strong on the silk bag. Just invisible. 🙂

    I used very simple stitches too — don’t even know what they’re called. What is it when you just go in and out in a straight line? That’s what I did for almost everything. I did do something different for the bottom — argh, but I can’t even think how to describe it. Go in one side, loop over the bottom, go in on the same side a little further along? I think it’s a sturdier stitch, and while I don’t really need more support on the bottom, somehow it seemed like a good idea. It’s visible, of course, but I did tiny stitches in a coordinating color, so it still looks pretty.

    Whew! It sounds like a lot of steps, and I guess it is, but it’s also really straightforward — I just made it up as I went along, and it worked fine! Next time I do something like this, I’ll take photos as I go along! 🙂 Didn’t realize people would be interested in the mechanics…

  4. Mary Anne, this is gorgeous.
    It looks to me like something you could sell
    at conventions. I’d certainly like to buy one,
    if you ever make more to sell.


  5. Heh. That’s so sweet, thanks. I’m afraid without a sewing machine, it’s not time-effective; to charge a reasonable amount for my three hours of hand-sewing time, plus materials, the bags would end up prohibitively expensive, I think. With a machine, and some practice to get fast — you could maybe make a profit or at least break even if you charged around $30/bag. Though keep in mind that you need something sturdy for the actual bag — either an old tote (and I assume most people don’t have *tons* of those around) or some heavier fabric to use as a base.

    But hey, I lay no claim to the idea — if anyone else wants to take it and run with it, feel free. You could do pretty beaded handles as well, for a change. 🙂

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