Last year during the end of year sales, I convinced The Husband to buy me a basic sewing machine. I have had a tiny little craft machine for a while, but I never use it because it refuses to thread fine sewing thread through it. I keep thinking that surely it’s the way I’m using it but if I look at it honestly, I think it’s more that I bought a cheap little machine and it’s giving me cheap little results. The Husband, bless him, doubted I’d use a sewing machine but since it was on special he bought me one and much to our surprise, I have made a handful of things – mostly kids things. A toy mei tai, a pair of pants for my son, a pair of shorts for baby girl, a cover for the couch, a skirt for myself, and so on… It’s such fun.
The only down side is that I seem to have fallen down the rabbit hole when it comes to fabrics. Ermahgerd. Fabrics. I can spend hours at my local fabric store, browsing through the fabric. I buy canvas and drill cotton because hey, who knows when you might need to upholster something!? I buy synthetic stretchy fabric and lace because mini skirt with lace. I buy fat quarters because PATTERN. Recently I’ve also been buying cheap t-shirts so that I can cut them up and make clothes for the kids. The result of is that I now have a stockpile of fabric and very limited skills to use it.
The last thing that I sewed was a library bag for my son. He started pre-school this year and the class will sometimes take a trip to the local library. Personally I can’t imagine herding a bunch of pre-school aged kids to the library, but if that’s what the teachers want to do they are MORE than welcome. The only thing is, in order to borrow books he needs a library bag. I trawled the shops for a suitable bag – one that was cute, inexpensive, a good size for him, and also well constructed. It turns out your options are limited when your requirements are that lengthy! There were plastic type drawstring bags, canvas totes from the local super market, the list could go on, but they were either too big, too small, too cheap looking, too expensive…
So I decided to combine my basic sewing skills with Pinterest, and set out to search for the perfect library bag pattern. I opted to sew a tote style bag – mostly for aesthetic purposes, but also because an adult sized shoulder strap would be large enough to be a cross body strap on my little guy.
The tutorial I found on Pinterest was this one –> “The Library Tote bag” by Diana, from Saving by Making. Her bag looked so cute and I knew immediately that my fabric (thank you stockpile!!) would work.
I had half a meter of this cute dog print canvas but to me it seemed a little on the thin side. It’s not like I thought my son would be bringing home mountains of books, but I wanted to make sure the bag was sturdy enough, so I hunted down a couple of other tutorials and opted to sew in a layer of navy blue linen as a lining.
I followed Diana’s instructions to make the bag, minus the French seams. To make the lining, I just made the bag body again – using the linen this time – and before fixing the shoulder straps, I sewed the lining to the canvas (right sides facing), leaving some small holes for the shoulder straps. Carefully, I turned my bag the right way around and pinned my shoulder straps in between the two layers. Then I sewed up the shoulder straps and closed the holes. I added a little snap to the center of the opening so that the bag could be “closed” (ie the books wouldn’t fall out if a slightly clumsy pre-schooler fell over)
This bag is so cute. On the days where my son isn’t in pre-school, I confess to taking his library bag out to the shops with me and using it as a shopping bag. It’s much better constructed than the canvas tote bags they sell in the supermarket (even with my beginner skills) and the fabric is divine. Soft and silky, but sturdy and strong.
If I were to make another bag I’d probably do the French seams in addition to the lining – just so that the finish was a little nicer. I’d probably also make the shoulder straps a little thicker – just a personal preference – and I might have a go at sewing in a zipper. The zipper is only because my kids and my cat all LOVE to raid my bags. I don’t keep food in there, but apparently items in my purse, my hair clips and elastics, pens and notebooks, are ALL worthy of little fingers or paws… a good zipper keeps the little people (and cats) at bay!