I made tote bags for two of Del's fabulous bosses and a very helpful administrative assistant. I wanted the bags to be practical, yet chic. I had no trouble choosing the pattern - the Aivilo Pocket Handbag is as functional and stylish as they come. Fabric selection, however, gave me fits. I've been very good about using my stash for giftmaking, but I really didn't have anything suitable for these recipients (polka dots and cutesy prints just weren't going to cut it). Since the "Thrifty Under Fifty" challenge ended on the 15th, I lifted my spending freeze and made a trip to Super JoAnn's. Del and Lou were with me (actually, they were in the neighboring Home Depot, thank goodness), so I didn't have all that much time to shop.
I wandered around, finding lots of fabrics that would be great for other projects, but nothing for the bags. It was getting close to our lunchtime, and I knew Lou was going to pull the heart-wrenching "I'm HOOOONGRY" routine on his dad. In the interest of time, I narrowed my search to the Legacy Studio quilting prints. These fabrics are in line with what you find in a high-end quilt shop (both in terms of quality and price). They are normally $8.99 /yard, but were on sale for $6.29/yard - yippee! I decided to go with the cool-colored, gold-touched Asian prints. There were six different ones, so I figured I would just get them all and use 2 for each bag.
When I got home, I played with the pairings a bit, but wasn't all that inspired. I put the fabric aside, hoping that I would have a more creative brain on a non-shopping day. Nope - even well-rested, I couldn't come up with three winning combos. The problem was that the collection looked so great all together. I thought about doing a patchwork thing using ALL the prints in ALL the bags, but decided that it would look too busy. Plus, some of the bigger motifs would be lost. I came to a compromise and went with three prints for each tote - 2 for the pockets, and 1 for the main bag.
Feeling proud of myself for finally coming up with a solution, I got out the rotary cutter and cut out my pieces. All went well (meaning no mislicks or blood) until I came to the strap. Because of my little modification, I didn't have enough length - WAH! There was no way that I was going back to the fabric store, so I decided the only solution was to piece the straps.
After stitching my pieces together, I started to worry about durability. Even though I had used good thread and small stitches, I was concerned that a full tote would put too much strain on the seams. And no matter how good looking the fabric combo, a busted strap would be an ugly thing (and could result in the boss having bruised apples or blemished books - ack)! I had to come up with a reinforcement.
Interfacing was a possibility, but all the stuff I have on hand is pretty flimsy. I also considered cutting strips of canvas, but I was really sick of using the rotary cutter at that point. I had a little webbing, but not enough for three bags. In the same snakepit of a drawer, however, I found the perfect solution- grosgrain ribbon!
Ok, I know it doesn't match, but it is the perfect width, very strong, and I have miles of it (post-Independence Day clearance). I noticed with the first strap that the fit was a bit tight in spots where I didn't do a perfect job with the folding. So for the remaining straps, I used a little tool to improve my accuracy.
I cut a piece of cardstock that was just a bit larger than twice the width of the ribbon, and used it as a folding template.
I folded the edges over snugly and pressed (the iron is disgusting at this point, so no action shots).
After pressing the edges, I folded the straps in half lengthwise and pressed again.
I then unfolded the straps and tucked the ribbons inside.
I refolded the strap and stitched. I'm pretty happy with the finished products. The straps have a nice, substantial feel to them. I think the ribbons will provide the support needed to mitigate mechanical failure of the seams, but if not, at least the apples/books will be saved, and the boss will get a patriotic surprise!