When the stars are truly aligned, I get an idea or find inspiration and I have a justifiable reason or opportunity to do it right away. When I saw these adorable bags on a guest post that appeared on Come Together Kids, I think I actually gasped out loud! GORGEOUS! I had three teachers that needed gifts this year so there's the justification. AND, school doesn't finish until June 29 here so I still had time to do it.
I searched everywhere for pre-made canvas bags but no luck. Lucky for me, I have a nasty slipcover habit which means I have a lot of dropcloth bits lying around. I love the feeling of dropcloth canvas, it's so soft. Nothing in this project was complicated, just time consuming. It would have been a fun afternoon project to make one but three bags took up a good chunk of my weekend.
First I laid out two squarish pieces of dropcloth canvas (I had prewashed it when I bought it). My pieces were 24 x 30. I took one piece and using a blue marker and red marker, I marked the lines just as Rachel did in her excellent tutorial. I wrote the teacher's names on at that point, but I would recommend doing that once it is in bag form, it makes it easier when you are attaching the straps and you don't have to work around the words.
When you do the printing, put some cardboard or plastic sheeting behind the canvas so you can write on it with permanent marker without it bleeding through to the other side. Rachel embroidered hers which is absolutely gorgeous, but I knew I would never have time for that. My 5-year old is not fond of printing and I didn't want him to feel stressed so I had him print each teacher's name on a piece of paper.
I used transfer paper under his paper and traced over his printing, then went over the lines with a permanent marker on to the canvas. I used the marker cap to mark the outside of the circles on the left and filled them in with the marker, but I decided not to do it with the other two bags. I noticed that Rachel had the same experience with hers - I just found that it felt "softer" without the black circles.
Now, to make it into a bag - put the right sides together and sew along the the sides and bottom. Finish the seams with a zigzag stitch or whatever way you like. (dropcloth is a very loose weave and if you don't finish all the edges really well, it will disintegrate when you wash it, if not before).
To make the straps, I cut 34-inch strips that were 2 inches wide (4 per bag). Sew the long edges together with the edge of the fabric against the side of the foot rather than the usual 5/8" edge - you don't need to finish the edges. Turn the strap inside out, iron the straps flat and then overstitch along each side, just about a 1/4 inch in from the edge. This will keep the straps nice and flat.
Trim the ends of each strap very slightly and then finish those edges really well. I use a zigzag stitch and went over each end twice. Pin the end of the strap inside the front edge of the bag, two inches down from the top edge on each side and sew just inside the edges of the strap. the straps should be 30 inches long for a shoulder bag, but of course you can make them whatever length you want. Same thing on the other side - now it's a a bag!
I have my little artist create some quick art for each bag and transferred that the same way I did the lettering. Once the design was transferred, I went over it with the marker and we filled in the drawings here and there for a pop of colour! Give the whole thing a good ironing on the high setting to set the ink.
What I love about this idea is the simplicity and the warm fuzzy feeling you get from the nostalgic look of a child's printing on paper. It's such a brilliant, personalized gift for a teacher that captures the beauty of those oh-so-important early years.
I am already looking forward to next year because I get to make three more bags. Well, maybe I will buy the bags next year and stick to drawing the lines.
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