We’re transitioning (albeit slowly) into a culture of re-purposing, which is really pretty awesome. Like everyone else, I’m trying to find my way and see the creativity and possibility in the things I used to just throw away or donate.

That’s what led me to grab a bunch of shirts my husband was getting ready to give away. Before, I would have just piled more stuff into the giveaway bag. But instead, I realized that these weren’t just old shirts. They were fabric! Sorta fabulous fabric, actually (I’m a sucker for prim-looking pin stripes). There was definitely possibility, I just wasn’t sure yet. The first thing I did was to cut them up for a make-and-take I did at this year’s CHA (embroidered hearts for Valentine’s Day cards--see the tutorial here!
 That was fun, but I still had an awful lot left, including all of the button fronts and sleeve cuffs I’d cut open.

I was playing around with the leftover pieces, and I started to arrange them onto a solid lilac fat quarter (another little piece of happiness that was part of a fat quarter stack I ordered from Anna Maria).  And that’s how I wound up with this fun tote!

The specs:

Easy! I cut the fat quarter to be about 19” wide by 16-1/2” high, and I pressed the top edges down 1/2”. Next, I added my menswear trimmings. The two pockets are made from sleeve cuffs, cut open, and the strips on either side and on the bottom are made from the button-front of the shirt. I just took a basic straight stitch (by machine) all the way around each piece, as close to the edge as I could get. Raw edges only add to the charm of this, as far as I’m concerned. I also left all the buttons on, just because it looks cooler that way! I did take a row of stitching down the center of each cuff pocket, to make the pockets a little more functional (you could also add Velcro or a snap if you wanted the pockets to close).
 For the back, I used seersucker leftover from the “magic” quilt I made for my bed, (which I’ve written about on AOL’s ParentDish, right here) I stitched bag front to bag back, and then made 1-1/2” gussets on either side (click here for a gusset tutorial).
The seersucker back. Note the wild tuft of hair at the bottom right (Max insisted on standing right there as I took the picture).
 I lined it with a light blue cotton I had on hand, just cutting the lining pieces to the same dimensions as the bag and assembling in the same way, including pressing the top sides down 1/2”. That way, when you insert the lining into the bag (you turn the bag, but don’t turn the lining), the pressed edges on both the bag and lining line up. Sandwich your handles in between the layers, and then stitch all the way around to close up the top, right next to the folded edges, and then again about 1/4” away. (After the fact, I wish I had lined it with fusible fleece, which is what I often do, since it adds body. Ah well.)
I made this bag for a friend of mine, to thank her for passing on a valuable writing lead. You know who you are, my dear friend, and thank you!
3/17/2011 01:19:56 am

I smiled when I read your post because I have been eyeing my husbands old clothes too! I have permission to use some of it. It's a great way to create fun little projects without having to spend money. Yea!


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