The second project in the Home Ec online sewing class is a drawstring gift bag. I was very excited about this project because I've been thinking for the past couple of years about making reusable gift wrapping. It seems so wasteful every Christmas when there's a big pile o' paper on the floor after the gift exchange.
This project was surprisingly challenging, with some unexpected turns. Now that I've done it once, I know what changes I'll make next time. The pattern wasn't difficult, but not everything went the way I thought it was going to.
First of all, I was surprised by the size. By the original photos, I thought this bag would hold something maybe the size of a grapefruit. In reality, it's big enough for a shoebox:
(It's funny -- in this photo, it looks like it could even be as large as a pillowcase. Guess it just needs something next to it for perspective.)
So that was odd. A friend of mine who is taking the class (Hi, Jan!) said, "Oh, did you change the size of yours?" when she saw mine (she hadn't made hers yet), so I know I'm not the only one surprised by the size of it. It's not really a problem. It was just... unexpected.
When I first saw the tutorial, I had some trepidation about the way it deals with the hole for the drawstring to come through. Of course, you want that hole to be strong and you don't want that fabric to fray. To that end, they used hand embroidery and I knew I'd botch that. (To see the original for yourself, go to Home Ec and scroll down to the second project.)
I went ahead with the pattern as described, knowing I wasn't going to do the embroidery but not 100% sure about what I was going to do. When I finally got to that point, it was too late (it's the last step) to do what I think would be the perfect thing there, which is to make a buttonhole with your machine.
It requires planning, because you cannot tack the buttonhole on at the end, but next time I make the bag, I'll know where the hole is going and I'll make a buttonhole right from the start. This time, however, I had to think of something else to do with the project already complete.
So I used eyelets:
(Unfortunately, mine are uneven, but you get the idea.)
That photo also highlights something that confused me when making the bag -- can you see the parallel stitching lines on either side of the eyelet? I thought those were going to create the channel for the drawstring. As it turns out, the drawstring actually goes around the top of the bag as its "channel" and then it comes out where grommets are. It works fine, it's just not what I thought it would be.
When I make this again, I'm going to make those lines the channel, so that the bag has a bit of a ruffle at the top when it's pulled closed (which it currently does not, even though it kind of looks like it in my photo at the top. That's an optical illusion.)
The final problem I had with the pattern didn't really show up until I was done, which is that the edges on the inside are all raw and fairly visible from the outside of the bag:
I guess the thinking is that this is a replacement for wrapping paper, so it's just got to be one-step-above-disposable. But my thinking is that, if I'm going to replace wrapping paper with these things, I'm going to want to re-use them again and again and I want something neat and solid that will last.
All this to say, I'm going to line future gift bags I make. Plus, if the gift recipient wants to use them for something else, they'll hold up to that.
I fear this post sounds negative, because it outlines my struggles along the way, but I am happy with this project and look forward to making more. Now I know exactly how to make it, I'll modify my future bags.
Also, the class is great in that there are a ton of photos, lots of descriptions of what's going on, and really great responses to questions (that's how I found out about the drawstring channel -- someone else posted a question about it and they got the correct answer. Yay for support!)
The next lesson is a tote bag. And you know how I love me some tote bag!