The rest of the country may eventually follow suit, because plastic bags are an environmental hazard. The laws banning them are bad for the plastic bag industry (here's hoping they can retool), but they're good for wildlife; landfill reduction; minimizing vast oceanic plastic garbage whirlpools; and above all, for quilters and other fabriholics. The growing demand for reusable bags, small enough to bundle into purses or pockets, but strong and large enough to carry a significant amount of stuff, are a huge opportunity for us to use our
d. can only be appreciated close up
e. what was I thinking/drinking when I bought this?
My initial grocery tote bag made a couple of years ago choose both (a) and (c) from the options above. I used a genuine 1970s cheater fabric. (cheater = pretending to be patchwork; genuine = really from the 70s). It features squares of delightful red, white, and blue florals and geometrics, plus a color that might be described as overripe-avocado-green - or is that crop-failure-harvest-gold?
You know a fabric is trouble when the gold is also green. That right there defines hideo-beautiful. Here's the finished bag:
I made it the exact size of the yardage that I started with (minus handles), which turned out to be huge. The piece started at about 27" x 30", and I folded and seamed at the sides (with enclosed seams) to wind up with a bag that's about 26" wide and 15" high. It can swallow almost anything that daily life throws at me, including, just today, six pairs of denim jeans donated by a friend (for cutting up and making stuff.)
What I didn't anticipate is how much a bag can become a bridge to my fellow humans who happen to be retail workers. When I pull it out of my purse, clerks are often surprised, and ask me if I made it. How did they know? Some of them are obviously trying not to laugh. Which always makes me laugh. So we all end up laughing. Thus the clerks, the baggers and I are all having a better time than we would if we were just thinking about about whether my almond milk coupon expired last Thursday.
Though it's only single-layered, the bag has held up well. (I wouldn't put three cartons of almond milk in it, but I would put in one carton, two cans of beans, a large box of cereal, romaine lettuce, a pair of jeans, and a couple of pairs of socks.) After a year or so, rips started to develop at the base of two handles. In keeping with the eco-theme, and my faith in serendipity, I patched them with whatever I grabbed first from the box where I keep scraps with fusible backing.
Like black and white computer keys fabric....
On the reverse side of this patch, I fused and stitched (with invisible thread in both top and bobbin) a Simpsons patch.
Even the most somber grocery professionals have to crack a smile (or not).
This bag has an outer pocket with a button, and a buttonhole, set in locations that allow you to squish everything up and stuff it into the pocket turned the other way out.
I'll explain how I do this below.
Much readier for prime time, and even suitable for gift giving, is my newest squish-'n'-go-tote, made, like George M. Cohan, on the Fourth of July.
I used a heretofore unusable 'How to Quit Smoking' fabric, purchased years ago online, for reasons that, immediately after purchase, vanished forever from my brain. (I didn't know any smokers at the time.)
You might ask, What are those Hershey's kisses on a red background shaped like an upside coffee cup doing there (above)? Good question. It's another randomly-selected fusible-backed patch that I placed over one of the fabric's anti-smoking cartoons that is in very bad taste. (It's a suicide joke, which is a horrible oxymoron.) I covered every place that the awful cartoon appeared, with a different patch (one had bananas, another had sushi, in keeping with the theme that smoking cessation might cause more eating.). They already had fusible on the back, so I just pressed them into place, and zigzagged around the edges.
I made the pocket from a nice cotton plaid. Folded up, the tote looks like this:
It bundles to about 6" x 5", which, not coincidentally, is the size of the pocket. Next is the back view of the pouch pictured above. When the tote is open, this portion is covered by the pocket.
My only regret so far about choosing this fabric is that the background is white. It will eventually get grubby in my purse. But it's completely washable!
I hope the clerks and baggers who see it will find it more amusing than preachy (but if it helps them think more about giving up smokes, that's good!) The finished size is about 21" wide by 15" high, a little smaller than my first one. If I'd had more fabric, I'd have made it bigger. From my experiences, bigger is better. Just don't stuff it with anvils.
Want to try a bundle-able tote? Start by making your favorite easy tote bag pattern, unlined, with enclosed seams (called 'French' seams and much easier to make than the name implies.) I invented mine as I went along, but if you need a pattern, here's an excellent, simple tutorial: Tote 1 (I would go one step further and box the corners, so it stands up a bit.) Use a good quality cotton fabric in regular quilting weight, not upholstery fabric, which won't bundle as easily or as small. Don't use interfacing.
The magic reversible pocket explained below can be added before or after the main body of the tote is finished. I prefer to add it after, so I can more easily find and align the centers of the bag, button, buttonhole, and pocket.
Pocket size is up to you. About a fourth of the bag's side is a good rule of thumb. Just keep in mind that the pocket size will determine the bundle size.
Start with a rectangle of raw edged fabric, a little more than twice as high as you want the pocket, x the width you want (say, 10" high x 7" long). That's the first piece below. Then, fold it in half, right sides together.