Saturday, February 1, 2014

Creating usable art: the tote bag project

I have been part of a Yahoo Groups crochet circle since about 1999. I'm not sure exactly when I joined the group but it was some time ago. It's a small group that has, as its list mom, a lady that we all call "Mommy Lois." It is a term of great affection because Mommy Lois brings so much love and care to a group of people who, without the internet, would be complete strangers to one another. In our group, we do exchanges, we chat about crochet, and we share details of our lives. We have really bonded, and I am grateful to Mommy Lois that she has created such a great group. We have actually become a family through our love of crafts.
So, anyway, we had an exchange with Valentine's Day as a theme. We could use any craft medium that we wanted. I was all excited about this and was determined to create something... but I didn't know what...
all I knew was that it would be a decorated tote bag...
I ordered a plain tote bag from Amazon...
and then I got an idea...
I drew a picture freehand on the cloth, with pencil...
then I embroidered. I had to embroider fast because the pencil marks were quickly fading!
It looked like this.
In effect, you are drawing with pencil and using your needle as a "paintbrush" and your thread as the "paint."

As I continue embroidering the picture, the images start to get color.  The thread that I use is embroidery floss. I use two strands of floss because... um... that's how my friend Ellen taught me to embroider!

Once the embroidery is completed, I have what I consider to be an outline. I also added some beads to make the design more three-dimensional.


Here is a closeup of the butterfly, with beads to make the wing stand out a little more.

I start the process of adding fabric paint to the tote bag. I choose bright colors to make the tote bag fun because it's a Valentine's Day project. In Ecuador, Valentine's Day is called "el dia del amor y amistad," which means the "day of love and friendship." Love and friendship is about happiness and fun!!!

Once I finish the first coat of paint, I add glitter paint to really add to the fun factor because there is little that I think is more fun than a good dose of glitter!

So, now, I need to think about the inside of the tote bag. What kind of fabric do I want to use as a liner? Well, I really enjoy butterflies... so I choose this cool fabric. Besides, the fact that it has a snail mail theme and the fact that the words are in French can only help. French is romantic!!! Unfortunately, I can't really remember much of my French. I'd love to be able to speak French!

I get the sewing machine out and I start making the lining. In the past, I did all of the sewing by hand and the process was interminable! I am grateful to have a sewing machine and even more grateful that I know how to use it, thanks to Jinni, who taught me how to use the sewing machine.


I added two pockets to the tote bag to make it more practical and useful because it is annoying when small objects get lost on the bottom of a large tote bag.

I also added Velcro to the tote bag so that it would close because having all your stuff spill out of a tote bag is no fun.

Here is one view of the completed tote bag.


Here is another view of the finished tote bag. Notice the little hearts in the corners. I noticed that I had a little bit of red paint in one spot. Since it was too difficult to simply remove the paint, I decided to cover it with a little heart but one little heart looked silly so I added a bunch of little heart... which made it look more like a Valentine.
Happy Valentines Day!
And happy creating!!!