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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spring Jute Totes

 As Spring is right around the corner I wanted to include a post on the process by which I made my Spring Jute Totes.  These are perfect for friends and family and you can make them whatever size you wish-smaller or larger and they make perfect Easter Totes as well. I made these for a bride last summer and she wanted a total of 6, three in lime green accent and three in hot pink accent. For those of you who don’t know, there are varying grades of jute and burlap is considered a jute, which is a natural fiber. In order to make this project for the woman I purchased about 3.5 - 4 yards of the lightest shade of burlap fabric I could find. This particular fabric was purchased ad Joann Fabrics for something like $2.50/ yard. I ended up dying both the lime green and hot pink pieces as the only colors available other than the natural shades of the burlap were red, black and a very light pink. None of the colors I needed were available so my other option was to dye the fabrics.

Dyeing fabric materials for projects was a new one for me and after consulting with a worker at the shop I decided to go with an iDye for natural fibers. The directions were included with the package and it also required a 10-12 oz bottle of white vinegar. Since I knew I was going to be dying two sets of fabric, lime green and hot pink,  I got a large 32 oz bottle of vinegar for the project. Plastic gloves are also a must have and I used a pair of dish washing gloves for the dyeing process to project my hands. You will also need a bucket or plastic container of some sort that you can mix the dye, water and vinegar in. I found a dish cloth for drips was helpful as well as some newspaper to cover the surface in which you are working, and then a bit more to lay out under where you are going to be drying the wet and newly-dyed pieces of fabric. Just be careful because the dye can stain surfaces, hands, etc. After I was finished dyeing the pieces, I hung them to dry in the sun, pinning them up with laundry pins and I placed paper underneath so it wouldn't stain the surface below. 

As a side note, I find laundry pins to be very helpful on the organizational front, as well as hanging craft projects as they dry so if you have some, hold onto them because we will use them as we craft together in the future. As you can tell from the photo above, I also use them to organize my zippers. A brilliant move on my part as I can finally see what zippers I have available. You might be thinking this is the work of a mad woman, but trust me, after sorting through an entire box of zippers every time I need a specific color, this is an awesome alternative. Who’s the sane one now? Huh?...Don’t answer that!

So, moving on, here is a breakdown the materials you will need for the project:
1)      1) Jute Fabric-The amount depends on how many totes you plan on making and if you decide on going with a trim, you will need less than you would if you decide to dye segments of the natural burlap yourself. See below-Determining how much fabric you will need for this project:
2)      2) Fabric for the inside lining. I went with about 4-4.5 yards of a cream colored cotton for the lining as I wanted it to be as invisible as possible, but as these make really great beach bags, going with a really cute printed cotton for the inside that matches the trim and the sides works well too (see above for amount of fabric needed).
3)      3) iDye fabric dye-1 packet for each color you intend to make.
4)    4)  white vinegar
5)      5) Gloves and a bucket (for dyeing the fabric-skip this is you decide against dying the fabric and opt for a trim being sewn on instead)
6)      6) A rack or rope with clothing pins…something in which to hang the fabric pieces up so they can dry (for the dying process-skip this step if you are going with a fabric trim instead)
7)      7) Scissors
8)      8) Thread-you will need a cream colored thread to match the natural jute color and then another spool of thread to match whatever color you have picked for your dye (I used green thread for the green trimmed totes and pink for pink trimmed totes, as well as a cream color for both), or if you have opted for just purchasing a trim, if the trim is going to require a different color of thread, pick out a matching color. 
9)     9)  Fabric trim-If you have decided on dyeing pieces of the burlap bright colors then you can skip the trim. The amount of trim is determined by how large you want your tote to be. If you are going to a 12” x 14” (30.5 cm x 35.6 cm) tote, then you will need about 80” (203.2 cm) for the sides and bottom on each side, and then an additional 12” (30.5 cm) for the front and back, and then an additional 3” (7.6 cm) for each side, and then about 2-4” (5.1 cm x 10.2 cm) extra to tuck in and under at the end of the seam. So for each tote, you will need about 104” (264.2 cm) total, per bag.

**Determining how much fabric you will need for this project: It’s pretty easy to determine how much fabric you need once you decide if you are going to dye your own fabric segments or if you are only going to go with the jute for the front, back, sides, and handles. For the set of 6 bridal totes I made, I intended for each tote when finished to be 12” in width (30.5 cm) and 14” in length (35.6 cm ) with a 3” gusset (7.6 cm ) for the depth. For each tote I cut 2 pieces of natural jute that were 13” width x 15” length (33 cm  x 38.1 cm ) (the outside front and back of the tote), 4-16”x 3” (40.6 cm  x 7.6 cm) jute (handles), 2-15”x 4” (38.1 cm  x 10.2 cm) jute (sides-outer fabric) and 1 piece of fabric that is 13” x 4” (33 cm   x 10.2 cm) (bottom-outer fabric). For the inside lining, cut one piece of fabric that is 13” x 34” (33 cm x 86.4 cm). If you also want a pocket or two on the inside of the bag then you would cut the fabric for the pocket, and sew it onto the lining. You also need trim, and if you have decided on dyeing the burlap to match the other colored areas, then you will need 4-16” x 3.5” (40.6 cm  x  7.6 cm) fabric strips for the sides vertically, and 2-32”x3.5” (81.3 cm x 8.9 cm) fabric strips for around the top and bottom. As an estimate, you should be able to make one tote that is 12”x 14” (30.5 cm x 35.6 cm) out of about a yard of jute.

So, you have your fabric cut and we can start the dyeing process. Take the dye, water, and vinegar and mix them together in the plastic tub. Follow the directions on the back of the dye mix for the correct amounts and be sure not to water down the dye. If the dye package does not say how much vinegar to use, then I would say a cup and a half will do. When I dyed the lime green it turned out perfect. After I dyed the hot pink I felt like the color was too light so I re-dyed the pink pieces a second time. Take the fabric you cut for two of the handles (I only dyed the top piece of each handle), both sides, bottom, and the strips of extra fabric that are to serve as the trim and dye them, taking care not to agitate the burlap pieces too much. I found that the burlap is at a very sensitive stage with the cut seams and the more I agitated the fabric pieces the more the weave wanted to fall apart on me. 

Once the dyed pieces are dry and ironed with all strands trimmed, we move onto sewing. At this stage, you will want to pay attention to what color of thread you are using in relation to the color of fabric you are sewing. For example, when I was sewing the top of the handles that were either green or pink with a natural colored underside, I used a cream colored thread in the bobbin and used either lime green or hot pink for the top stitches so the thread color would match. You will want to alter the thread colors as needed. 

Then make the handles, and you will take both a 3.5” (8.9 cm) strip of natural burlap and a strip of colored burlap and make sure that both pieces are ironed. Put one piece on top of the other and trim down the sides to 3” (7.6 cm).  Do this with all four handle strips and then for each strip, turn it over and iron down ½” (1.3 cm) under. Next, align one colored burlap piece (edges turned in) up to a natural burlap strip (edges also turned in) and sew both strips together so that the turned in edges are sewn inward. Do this with the other set of two handles as well and put aside. If you decided you wanted a pocket on the inside lining, or perhaps a loop to attaching keys, or magnetic closure or Velcro or something of that nature,  then you would add that at this time to the lining, before you sew the lining in later on. Put the lining aside. 

Now we move onto sewing the bag itself and you start by sewing the bottom colored burlap piece to the front and back natural burlap panels, keeping the seams outward facing. Add the colored sides, again all seams should be facing outward, starting with sewing the bottom pieces on and then sewing up the sides. If, before you add the handles to the top of the bag, the sides look uneven or anything, you want to trim them up a bit at this point. We also calculated a few extra inches for trimming when we measured out the pieces so go ahead and trim around the top and at the outward facing seams around the bottom and the sides as needed. When I made the set of 6 totes I sewed the seams once, followed it up with another seam for good measure, and then I sewed each seam one more time on a zigzag stitch. Just keep in mind that you have that be a narrow zig zag stitch if you can because the trim will be added afterwards and the width of the trim isn't too wide (if you can alter the setting on your machine). By having a narrow zig zag stitch you ensure that the stitching won't appear on the sides out form under the zig zagged seams. I also found the colored burlap was tough to sew with because the weave was weak after having been dyed and all of the seams started to fray so the extra stitches were definitely needed. 

Once all of the seams have been checked to make sure they are completely sewn, then I added the side trim vertically, and then I added the rest of the colored burlap trim all the way around the bottom, and then all the way around the top, tucking in that last bit before you have reached the end. 

Next, you will  take the handles which you already made, and sew the handles to the top of the bag. You can alter the spacing of the handles as you wish but I usually sew each handle-colored burlap facing outward-about 2.25”-2.5” ( 5.7 cm x 6.4 cm) on each side from the middle of the front and back panel. Finally, you will turn the bag inside out and line up the inside lining with the outside bag. If you find at this point that the lining is bigger than the outside shell of the bag, sew the seams up a little bit so the inside and outside panels will fit well together. You also want to leave about 5” (12.7 cm) of an opened seam toward the bottom of one side of the lining. Pin and sew along the top of the bag, and then once more for good measure. Turn the tote right side out via the 5” hole you left in the lining, and sew up that seam. 

You are now officially finished! 
You can now iron on a patch or pin on a pretty flower...feather…whatever your crafting heard desires really! The only other last things I would mention with this project you should be aware of is as tempting as it is to go with a really bright fabric print for the inside lining, keep in mind that a lighter color works best because the burlap tends to be a wider weave and is a bit thin so it is possible that a printed fabric for the lining will be somewhat visible on the outside of the tote. You can modify this however by adding a piece of interfacing or lightweight, light colored solid fabric as a middle layer between the inside and outside pieces of the tote.

Definitely keep in mind as you work on this project that burlap is a bit itchy when you are working on it so I would recommend wearing an sewing apron and cleaning your sewing area after you have finished this project. Also, if you decide to make one tote and have some excess dye, you should be able to save some of that dye in a jar for a day or two in case you need a re-dye or decide you want to make more colored strips.

When I dyed the hot pink burlap strips originally they came out too light and I had to re-dye, but I had to pick up another packed of iDye since I had watered down the first dye lot. It was an easy mistake so definitely be careful not to water the mix down and I would even recommend having the mix be too concentrated as you can easily rinse some of the dye out before you set the pieces to dry. I did this with the lime green and it worked well. I didn’t with the hot pink and I had to spend another $2.80 or so another pack of dye, use more vinegar, and it took an additional day to re-dye and let the hot pink pieces to fully dry again. Also, one more thing and then I am definitely done giving you advice, keep in mind that once the fabric pieces are dyed and dried out, iron them on a scrap piece of fabric. When I went to iron the pieces I found that some of the excess dye stained my ironing board cover. I beat mine up on a regular basis so it wasn't a big deal but if you have a nice one you don’t want to stain it, go with something that you don’t mind ruining. I found a tea towel or old t-shirt worked well for absorbing any additional dye. Spray the dried dyed pieces of jute with a water bottle as you iron them to get the best results.

In looking back on this project I have to say that having dyed the colored jute was a very long process and I probably would go with a trim instead of the colored jute. It turned out well in the end and even  inspired me to whip up some beach bags as we get closer to the warmer months. The itchy factor with the burlap was ...well..super itchy! I don't recommend shorts on the hottest day of the year...while sewing burlap, so if you can cut and sew this project outside with a sewing apron or spare pair of clothes I would recommend all of those!

All for the love of crafts, I know...


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