french seam

Things in other things


Of all the classes of things that my Singer has stitched together, by far the most populated is the bag/bucket category, things that hold other things. Mr. New Media will label it a compulsion, some kind of sickness. He comes home and finds stray toys corralled into yet another little bucket, and he snickers, gives me the this-is-how-you've-been-spending-your-time eyebrow tilt. But really, what couldn't use some corralling into a bucket or tote or gift bag or purse or large purse or purselet or wristlet, or something to which I've added a pocket to make it self-containing? Nothing.

And I've been on a bit of a roll lately. 


This book has been next to my sewing machine for a couple months. It's title might suggest that it's all about patchwork, but all the linen is what sold me on it. It doesn't get much simpler and cleaner than that. This box-bottom tote folds up neatly into its built-in pouch. It was a no-brainer that this would be my first project from the book. We're good and diligent about bringing reusable grocery bags to the store every week, but when it comes to other shopping expeditions, the ones where we come home with clothes and electronics and candy by the pound-ful, we're lousy. So having these little bags stashed compactly away in the diaper bag or car is key.


I had bought this pattern for a round bucket last year and made about a dozen of them out of burlap and heavy twill and home dec fabrics, sending them off for the holidays as gift baskets. But there are also a bunch tucked away around the house holding things like socks in my dressing area and hats by the entry. I'd been so smitten with those buckets that I bought the pattern for the rectangular, nesting version the day the author released it. I made one to hold all those napkins I'd made up, because while they all fit neatly in our old napkin holder when they were freshly pressed and sewn, rumply and fresh out of the dryer they're not quite so crisply paper-flat. And if there's something I'm not down with, it's ironing cloth napkins. The only solution was to make a larger home for the napkins, a home of wool felt and some fabric left over from my chair redo. I would totally live in that home. I made another large bucket to house loose toys in the office. Because, yes, I often set the baby down on the floor with a toy or two or nine while I download the latest batch of blurry photos. 


A long-time denizen of my to-do list, making reusable produce bags was in desperate need of fruition. I'd wanted to make them out of some kind of cotton netting, but could never find something durable enough for constant use and wash. So I used muslin instead. Not exactly transparent, but definitely lightweight and cheap. I love this stuff, actually. I love it's color, the little bits of fiber thrown into the particular muslin I get, the softness and forgiveness. I package our holiday gifts in them, hurriedly whipping them out by the dozen, unlined and with frayed edges for a rustic look. These produce bags needed to be a tad more durable. I plan on using them a lot. So I went with a french seam, which is a damn fancy way to say I stitched them, turned them, then stitched them again. Still, they're so useful and happy-making, I decided to make up a little tutorial for all the how-to hounds out there. 


In all, I made fifteen, a couple being larger to fit the lettuce we get when we feel compelled to eat lettuce. Which is, admittedly, not often. But there they are, a couple bags that are not quite like the others. They needed to be differentiated. So The Boy and I made a morning of leaf and apple printing. The leaves, fittingly enough, were chard harvested from our container garden. The apple had been sitting lonesome in the fridge for a little too long and needed to be consumed. Half was sacrificed to some fabric paint, the other half eaten. Had I given it some forethought, I would have just sliced off a thinnish cross section for the project, leaving us with more edible parts. At the end of our printing session, The Boy looked up at me and said, "Painting with the apple was fun, Momma."

How's that for happy-making? 


Produce bags

Hands down, the greatest thing about being married is having an in-house spider catcher. The greatest thing about being married to Mr. New Media is having an in-house web-developer. Thanks to him, I now have this nifty new slideshow thingie. 

Made of muslin (I get the 108"-wide stuff), these things are crazy-cheap to sew up. Get yourself one of those 40% off coupons at Joann's and you're in business. 

Produce bags in muslin

This neat little stack of sacks is freshly french-seamed and drawstrung, all ready for market.

  • Muslin — I used about a yard and a half of muslin to make 15 sacks
  • Cotton string — I used a thick crochet yarn
  • Threaded sewing machine — duh

Cut out the pieces

Cut a lot of them. I did mine in a variety of sizes, but the vast majority were made from 25” x 13” swatches of muslin. I also did a few that were a bit longer, to accommodate unwieldy things like lettuces and chards. Just remember to cut pieces about twice as long as your intended bag length.

Fold in half and stitch

Fold in half, wrong sides together (if your fabric has a wrong side) to get a squarish shape. Stitch the two sides, starting at raw edge and moving toward the fold, about a 1/4" from the edge.

Turn and stitch

Turn the sack inside out. Push out the bottom corners (I use the point of my scissors for this) and lay seams as flat as possible. Stitch again, a little more than 1/4" from the edge, making sure to entirely encase first seam.

Turn again

Turn the bag right side out again, so that the encased seam lays on the inside of the bag. Push corners out.

Make the drawstring casing

Fold the top of bag 1/4" toward the outside and press. Fold over another 1/4" to encase that raw edge and press again.

Stitch the casing

Stitch the fold down, leaving a teeny tiny opening at one of the side seams. (Funky camera issues and tree-filtered natural lighting lend this shot its dramatic flair)

Insert drawstring

Cut a length of string about 5" longer than the circumference of the bag. Use a large darning needle to run it through the casing at the opening you left in the seam.

You're done!

Fill with produce. Store in fridge. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.