Our environment is important to me – that’s one of the reasons I shop at thrift stores and recycle. Now that I live in Boulder, Colorado I’m trying to be even more environmentally conscious, especially since Boulder instituted a shopping bag fee. This small fee (10 cents per bag) has really helped me remember to bring my own bags when I grocery shop. (See – being thrifty helps the environment – hurrah!)
The bag fee made me think about how I could be even “greener” in the pursuit of being “green”. Umm, did that make sense? What I mean is: Maybe I shouldn’t buy new reusable grocery bags (probably manufactured in an overseas sweatshop) in order to create less landfill. Maybe I should be even “greener” and make bags from recycled materials – thus keeping even more material out of landfills. I decided to challenge myself to combine my love of thrift store “rescues”, my passion for sewing, and my desire to be “greener”.
In my thrift store forays I often find hand stitched art in the form of framed needlepoints and crewel embroideries. Knowing how many hours of effort go into stitching these, I feel sad to see them abandoned and selling for just a few dollars. So I often “rescue” the ones I can’t turn my back on. But these sweet pictures don’t match my decor and my husband would freak if I hung them up in our home. So my hidden
hoarding collecting closet is now overflowing with my art “rescues”. My idea: Use my thrift store artworks to make unique shopping bags and simultaneously create a little room in my stash. This combines my love of sewing and thrift store shopping in a creative, practical way. And it’s more fun to shop when you have cool and unique grocery bags!
Pictured above are three of my “conservation effort” bag creations. I use the two larger bags for groceries and shopping at the farmer’s market. I use the smaller bag to hold books when I walk to and from the library. I’ve detailed the process to make these bags below. Give it a try – it’s super simple and fun to do!
1. Find a framed needlepoint or crewel embroidery in the art section of your local thrift store. (The bigger the better if you want to make reusable grocery bags, but smaller pieces can be used for purses or totes).
2. Remove the frame and the backing (careful, there will be staples holding it together).
3. Chose a bag that’s smaller than the stitched canvas. If you don’t already have the right size bag, there are plenty to choose from at thrift stores (I thrifted the 2 smaller bags for 25 cents each; the large canvas bag was a giveaway with purchase). I prefer bags with the sides and bottom cut as one continuous piece since they are the easiest to sew back together.
4. Remove the sides and bottom piece from the bag by unpicking the stitching.
5. Lay the front and back pieces of the bag on the needlework and cut the needlework to fit, leaving an extra 1/2″ at the top edge of the art to turn under. (If your artwork isn’t big enough to cover both the front and back of your bag, get creative with the back side and use leftover fabric that coordinates with the artwork).
6. With the right side of the art (or fabric) facing up, cover the right sides of the bag, turning under 1/2″ of the art (or fabric) at the top so you have a nice finished edge. Match all the art edges with the bag edges and machine sew the art (or fabric) to the front and back bag pieces along the 3 unfolded sides.
7. Machine topstitch or hand stitch across the top edges of the bag front and back pieces, turning under 1/2″ of the raw edge of the artwork (or fabric) at the top. This stitching will show, so match your thread to your artwork or do a decorative stitch for this step.
8. Machine or hand sew the sides and bottom piece back onto the front and back of the bag now that the artwork has been attached. This is a great place to show off some cute embroidery stitches and use up extra embroidery floss, yarn or topstitching thread.
That’s it, you’re done! Good for you, you environmentally sensitive, creative genius you – you did your part and helped save our environment today, bravo!