I was recently commissioned to do a custom piece for a very important client, my father. Other than being a stellar dad, he is also a published author, blogger and a life long lover of books. He also takes public transportation to work in Atlanta and came up with this idea while dodging traffic on the way to the MARTA station.
He requested a tote bag that would not only be functional (durable fabric, crossbody strap and zipper to prevent spillage on the train), but also make a social statement. He wanted the bag to read "Thanks for not running me over" and be in bright, street sign like colors. This message could be read in a sarcastic tone for those drivers who almost run him over while crossing the street, or in a sincere tone for those who respect his right of way.
I am going to show you how I made this creation come to life. It actually proved to be quite a time consuming project because as I am not sure my dad realized, I do not have the means to make my own screen print! Thus my other options were fabric paint or pen (which I think can look amateur and not end up lasting) or what I chose, which was hand embroidering or appliqueing on all 25 letters.
To grab your attention, here is the finished product.
Now for the tutorial!
This is really just a basic tote with a lot of applique and embroidery detail (Thus you can easily change the details to suit your taste)
First I started off with 4 pieces (2 for outside and 2 for lining) of bright orange ripstop nylon. I wanted a fabric that was bright, to catch the attention of the drivers, and durable so any mess form the MARTA could be easily wiped off. My starting pieces were 14" x 16" and I bought 50" of some black canvas strap. For the decoration I used black wax linen thread (because I found this in the closet before I found embroidery thread) and black vinyl.
The first task was to decorate the front of the bag. I hand sketched and cut out the appliques for "THANKS", the car, and the dodging pedestrian. I suppose a more perfectionist designer could easily print some stencils out and trace the patterns, but I knew what I wanted it to look like and thought I would try free handing it first. I sewed all the appliques on with a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine.
Next I did the smaller text by drawing it out with a pencil, then embroidering it on by hand using wax linen, an embroidery hoop, and a lot of care. I liked the dotted line look but next time might try a thicker line so it stands out even more.
Now, after more than an hour of hard work, it was time to construct the bag. Using the basic zipper technique I explained when doing cosmetic bags, I layered the fabric with edges lined up as follows: outer front of bag face up, zipper face down and inner fabric face down. (Obviously if you are using 4 identical pieces of material all you need to worry about is that your pretty embellishments are facing the right way). Next using a zipper foot, I sewed these three pieces together.
I repeated this step for the other side of the zipper. Again if this is a little confusing, check out my other cosmetic bag tutorials for more zipper explanations. After that I top stitched along the zipper.
I made sure to unzip the zipper halfway. Then it was time to turn both sides right sides facing each other and sew all around the outside, leaving a few inches not sewn in the lining to then turn the bag right side out.
I turned the bag right side out, sewed up the hole in the lining, and pushed out the corners. Lastly it was time to add the strap.
I finished off the raw edges of the strap with some more vinyl then sewed these onto the outside of the bag.
And this is how it turned out!
Here are some more photos of the happy client sporting his new bag.
To read his own personal review of the bag, visit the Bookshopper's blog!
What do you guys think? Did this project inspire you to sew or to read?