Create handmade and heartfelt gifts by following the simple tips and instructions provided by Jennifer Worick in Simple Gifts: 50 Little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook & Knit (Voyageur Press, 2010). Not only does Worick outline eco-conscious gifts for any holiday or occasion, she also provides resourceful ideas for gift wrapping. The following farmer’s market tote, from chapter two "Fiber and Fabric," is easy to customize on an individual basis.
You can purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: Simple Gifts
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I love bags—purses, handbags, clutches, you name it. And lately, I’ve been collecting and making roomy canvas and fabric totes. The way I see it, you can never have enough bags for the grocery store and beyond. This sturdy, eco-friendly tote has a million uses, and you can customize it for each recipient. It’s such a snap that you’ll start knocking out totes for friends, family, and random passersby.
Farmer’s Market Tote
SIMPLY PERFECT FOR: Eco-conscious folks
1 1/2 yard (1.2 m) of canvas
Iron and ironing board
Measuring tape or ruler
Sewing machine with a number 110 denim needle
Poly-cotton blend thread
Small scraps of cotton fabric (for appliqué: optional)
Fusible web, such as Stitch Witchery (optional)
Pinking shears (optional)
Prewash and press fabric. Spread out your fabric on a flat surface. With a fabric marker and measuring tape or ruler, measure and cut out two pieces of canvas, each 12 1/2 x 18 inches (31.7 x 45.7 cm), for the front and back of the bag. Cut one piece that measures 9 x 50 inches (22.9 cm x 1.3 m) to form the sides and bottom. Cut two pieces that measure 5 x 46 inches (12.7 cm x 1.2 m) for the straps.
Fold straps in half lengthwise and press to crease. Open. Fold and press edges into middle crease. Refold in half and press again. Position and pin a strap to the front bag piece, so that the folded edge of the strap is facing the center of the bag and the open edge measures 3 inches (7.6 cm) from each side. Make sure not to get the handle twisted when you are pinning. Using a number 110 denim needle, topstitch both sides of the strap 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the edge, to about 5 inches (12.7 cm) from the top of the front bag piece, using a sturdy straight stitch and backstitching at the beginning and end to reinforce your seams. When you are done, the strap will be sewn down on both the left and right side of the front piece, and the strap will be sewn on both left and right edges. Still with me? Repeat for second strap on the back piece.
Tip: Topstitching, a row of stitching close to the seam or edge on the outer side of the fabric, provides a decorative finished element and helps edges stay crisp and in place.
Before assembling the bag, add some fun appliqué to personalize the gift. Cut out a few simple shapes like circles, squares, or flowers from fabric scraps, in different fabrics and sizes. Cut out corresponding pieces of fusible web. Position the shapes on the front piece of the bag one at a time, placing the fusible web piece between the bag and your fabric, and avoiding the straps. Cover with a damp cloth, and with your iron set to “wool,” press your appliqué sandwich for ten seconds. Repeat on the wrong side of the canvas piece. Allow to cool. Press again if the bond isn’t secure. Topstitch 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the edge around the perimeter of each appliqué. As the bag is used, the edges will fray in the most charming and devil-may-care of ways.
Using sharp scissors or pinking shears, clip the corners of the front and back pieces, about 1/4 inch (6 mm) from the edge. With right sides facing, pin the front panel to the side/bottom piece on three sides. The side/bottom panel is longer than it needs to be but that’s okay; you’ll trim the excess on one side after sewing. Using 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) seam allowance and backstitching at the beginning and end, sew the front panel to one side of the side/bottom piece. Now with right sides facing, pin the back piece to the other side of the side/bottom piece and sew together, again using a 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) seam allowance and backstitching at the ends. Trim the excess fabric from the top of the side/bottom piece so it’s flush with the front and back pieces. Press open your seams.
It’s time to finish up the top of the bag. Keep the straps away from the edge for now. With the bag still inside out, fold the top edge 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) over and press. Fold another inch (2.5 cm) and press. Pin in place and stitch with a 3/8-inch (9.5 mm) seam allowance from the fold (you want to be stitching through that hidden 1/2-inch fold). Of course, backstitch at the beginning and end.
Let’s complete the straps. Turn the bag right side out. Finish your line of topstitching, sewing all the way to the top edge of the bag, up and around the handle part of the straps, and back down to join the other line of topstitching on the opposite end of the strap. Repeat for the second strap. Stitch an X across each strap at the top edge of the bag and then sew a box around the X to reinforce (this is the stress point of the bag). Enjoy!
Wrap It Up
It’s great to make the bag the packaging, seeing as it’s, well, a bag. Fill it with homemade foodstuffs, a fire-starter kit, or even a supply of favorite magazines and DVDs for a friend who’s laid up with an injury. Affix a handmade card to a handle—just use a hole punch and tie raffia or ribbon through the hole and tie to the strap—and include a note about the many ways you thought they could use the bag.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Gifts: 50 Little Luxuries to Craft, Sew, Cook & Knit by Jennifer Worick and published by Voyageur Press, 2010. Purchase this book from our store: Simple Gifts.