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Grocery Bags for Dad!

January 13, 2011

For my dad for Christmas I wanted to think of something a little offbeat and fun. And now that everyone drags their own grocery bags everywhere, I decided to make him a customized set.

Dad always grocery shops with my mom – it’s like a family Saturday morning activity. Sometimes it is more of a “thing”, where they will head into the city and go wander around the market for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s a more normal affair, where they will run up to the local grocery store. Regardless of the “where”, it is almost always a two person expedition. I kind of love it – going to the grocery store with my husband is practically a DATE given that we usually have two shorties to juggle – but I digress.

So I knew that dad would get some use out of the bags. The ones I made are totally and completely inspired by these bags that Dana made – I loved them as soon as I saw them. And you will see in my finished product that certainly the “greens” bad and the “ice cream” bag (well, duh) come directly from hers, but definitely the idea for the whole thing came from her.

That said, I did do things a little differently than she did. First, fusing plastic seems like something to put on the “interesting stuff to try” list, but I didn’t have the time or the patience for it this time. Or the bags, come to think of it – I would have needed an insane number of plastic bags to make that work.

Instead I opted to use fabric. I trotted off to the fabric store, fully planning to look for some heavier cotton canvas or something like that…and promptly fell in love with the burlap-y look and crazy softness of hemp. Yes, hemp. And anyone who has ever sewed with this before is probably laughing hysterically at me right now…but anyway. I thought it was a good plan, so I bought a lot of it.

Next mission – designing my bags. I looked through the reusable grocery bags we have, and found the ones I liked best and used those elements to make my design. I ended up deciding to make slightly larger bags than the average (with the exception of the ice cream one – lets be reasonable people), and with handles that were long enough to go over the shoulder or be carried by hand.

The other piece that I really wanted to include was some sort of contraption to store the bags in neatly – a pouch or something – that would keep things reasonably neat in the trunk, and that would be easy to grab when heading into the store – but that went on the “worry about it when the bags are done” list.

Execution time – I was all set to prewash and dry the fabric, and riiiight before I threw my load of fabric into the washing machine, I thought “Huh, I don’t actually know anything at all about hemp. I should google.” That’s when I learned that hemp shrinks like MAD. Apparently. If the internet is to be believed. I wasn’t sure if my hemp had been preshrunk already or not, so I cut a three-inch test swatch, serged the edges, and tossed it into a cold water wash/low heat dry with another load.

What I got out, as near as I can tell, was a ball of thread. There was nothing actually that I could even MEASURE to figure out the shrink factor. It was pretty much gone.

OKAY! So no washing the bags. Ever. Under any circumstances. MAYBE spot cleaning. But that’s all. And for crying out loud, do NOT iron them.

Moving on. I cut out all the bag pieces – I used a slightly different design from what Dana did in her tutorial, in that I used one long rectangle to form both the front, bottom, and back of the bags (rather than cutting separate front, back, and bottom pieces). I also cut two side pieces and two handle pieces from the hemp.

Newsflash – hemp frays! Kind of a lot! Once the pieces were cut moving it around much was a BAD idea – I figured out that if I very carefully rolled the pieces for each bag together into a bundle and set them aside until I needed them, it reduced the fraying – not perfectly, but better.

I chose contrasting fabric for each bag, and cut pieces to line the handles and make the letters for each bag type (a slow and painful process if ever there was one!).

Et Voila! Bags.

To actually construct the bags, I appliqued the words I wanted on the front piece of each of the bags. (I used “greens”, “dairy”, “dry goods”, “meat & fish”, and “ice cream” – and I will tell you for free that the ampersand in the “meat & fish” bag nearly killed me to get appliqued properly!). Then I used my serger to sew the sides and bottom together (just line up the long part of the side piece with the front of the bag, serge down the side, turn it 90 degrees, serge across the bottom, rotate again and serge up the back). I serged so that the seams were on the outside, which I thought kind of added to the kitschy appeal of the finished bags.

To make the handles, I serged the hemp piece to the contrasting fabric piece. Then I attached the handles to bags, sewing an additional X across the middle portion to make them strong.

Finally, I needed a case for the bags – I ended up doing a simple velcro wrap thing.

Basically the wrap is just a double thickness of fabric (in my case, a layer of hemp and a layer of cotton), stitched wrong sides together, leaving a small opening. I included small loops of ribbon in the seams where I wanted the velcro to go. Flip it right side out and press it; stitch the opening closed. Then add the velcro where you want it – I did short pieces of the hook side on the inside of the wrap, just under the ribbon pieces, and then put longer fuzzy strips on the right side of the wrap so that they lined up.

This way, all dad has to do is fold up his bags, place them in the middle of the wrap, secure the velcro, and throw the whole thing in his trunk for his next trip to the grocery store. All done!

I think they are cute – they are very much home-made looking, but I kind of don’t mind for this sort of thing – I don’t really want my clothes to scream “I made it myself!” but for something like this…I think it works.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 14, 2011 3:52 am

    I adore these. And yes, once again I helped with the photos… I enjoyed propping up the Ice Cream bag! But now that I read the original, I can’t believe you didn’t at least TRY to fuse together some plastic grocery bags… #fun.

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