the current craft hope project is a safe childbirth supply kit for konbit sante in haiti. craft hope's mission is to send handmade items to those in need, as a gesture of goodwill and hope in a human-to-human context. for this project they are asking for handmade tote bags to send the birthing kits in. this is how i'm making the bags for my local craft hope group.
my bag is serged for speed of construction. the pithy instructions are this: trim and serge finish corners—fold and serge casing—fold and serge side seams. four short edges and four short seams. you should be able to construct a single bag in less than 15 minutes. if you work assembly line fashion--cutting all your pieces at once, doing each step all at once, etc.--i believe even a beginner should be able to construct several bags an hour.
for those who will be using a sewing machine i have included alternate instructions at the end of this post.
this bag will hold a one-gallon ziplock brand bag as called for the konbit sante project description. if you use a different brand of bag, please measure it and adjust the tote bag measurements if needed.
set your machine for a 4-thread balanced stitch, short-ish length, wide-ish width. the exact settings will depend on your machine, so consult your manual and make a few samples to check your settings.
for each bag, cut a rectangle of fabric 12 1/2" wide by 30" long. on each short edge mark 1” in and 2” down from the corner, mark a line, then trim. serge finish these trimmed corners.
form the casing as follows: fold the short edges to the INSIDE, aligning the edge with the bottom of the serged corner, then fold this casing to the OUTSIDE with the raw edge on top. serge this edge, fold and all. this stitches the casing and finishes the raw edge in one pass.
press the casing up and the seam allowance down.
fold the bag in half with the right sides together, casing edges and side seams even, and stitch the sides closed. start the seam from the casing edge and stitch toward the bottom fold--that way you can be sure the top edges will match.
tip #1: deal with the loose serger tails as you stitch: when you start the seam, lift your presser foot and pull the threads just enough to free them from the stitch fingers. then bring them around to the front, under and to the right of the presser foot.
place your work right under the presser foot, right at the needles. lower the presser foot and begin serging. the thread tail will be integrated into the seam as you stitch.
to finish the seam, stop at the very edge of your work, lift the presser foot, and flip the work over. again place the edge right up to the needles, lower the presser foot, then serge for an inch or two. trim the tails flush with the finished edge.
turn the bag right side out and insert the drawstrings. i like to use two drawstrings, threaded opposite directions (see picture at the top of this post), but you can use just one to conserve materials. cut the string twice the width of the finished bag plus enough to make a tie. for this bag i used strings that were 28”.
tip #2: to turn sharp corners, fold the seam allowance flat and place your point turner exactly on the corner. hold all this in place while you turn your work right side out. the corner will be sharp and square.
if you are using a sewing machine instead of a serger, proceed as follows:
instead of trimming the corners, fold them to the inside along the trim line, then fold the corner under again, enclosing the raw edges.
stitch these corner folds to make a narrow-hemmed edge.
press the short edges of the rectangle under 1/4", then fold again so the fold is aligned with the bottom of the finished corners as in the serged version. stitch the fold in place to create a casing.
sew the sides using a french seam: fold the bag RIGHT SIDES OUT and stitch the side seams using a 1/4" seam allowance. press the seam, then fold the bag WRONG SIDE OUT, and stitch the seam again using 3/8" seam allowance. this encases the raw edges and creates a finished seam inside the bag.
i am committing to make 10 of these bags for my local craft hope konbit sante group. i might make a few more, just for gifts. these make great bread bags, fresh veggie storage bags, shoe bags, etc.
*if you're making items for the craft hope konbit sante project, you might also like my tutorial on quick dollies to include in the kit. instead of max and ruby, i'm going to have ella draw a dolly to use.