Recycling I thought and then I remembered reading a book called 'Patchwork Pizzazz' by Lise Bergene. In it she describes making bags (quilts and cushions) using a 'frayed edge technique', which she'd come across on one of her trips. She uses quilt weight cottons as well as denim in her 'frayed' projects. I think others may call this approach 'scrappy'. Just think though denim and fraying ......that's a marriage made in heaven isn't it?
I can't argue that this is a totally eco-friendly project unlike Dottycookie who is re-purposing sheets (What happened to the Barbie sheet?) or Linaloo who issued the re-purposing challenge but these little bags are quite good fun to make. There's a lot of scope for quite varied styles from shabby chic to just plain shabby, as many 'looks' as there are for jeans I suppose.
Let me know what you think to the tutorial - I need your feedback. I'd like to get better at it you see.
To create a characterful denim bag
First identify the pair or pairs of jeans that you're going to butcher cut up. (It's definitely best to get permission from the jeans' owner before you cut them up. People can be 'funny' about these things and I'd hate to cause any arguments.)
And yes, I know you're all 'growed up' people but think about your precious fingers when chopping up denim. Those seams can be tough - take care!
Another friendly piece of advice is that you should only embark upon this project if you're psycholoigcally strong enough to cope with all the little thready bits it creates that secretly migrate to the furthest reaches of your house. (Check the calendar - any important visitors about to pop in? No. O.K, maybe you can get on now.)
You will need;
- 2 pieces of denim fabric 23cm (9 inches) by 30.5cm (12inches) for the front and back
- 2 pieces of denim 5 cm (2 inches) wide and 30.5cm (12 inches) deep for the bag sides
- 1 piece of denim for the bag bottom 5cm (2 inches) wide by 23cm (9 inches). Lining
- 2 pieces of lining fabric 23 cm (9 inches) by 30.5cm (12 inches) for the front and the back
- 2 pieces of lining fabric for the sides 5cm (2 inches) by 30.5cm (12 inches)
- 1 piece of lining fabric for the bottom 5cm (2 inches) by 23cm (9 inches). Batting/wadding/fusible fleece
- 2 pieces of Batting/wadding/fusible fleece 23cm (9 inches) by 30.5cm (12 inches) for the front and back
- 2 pieces of Batting/wadding/fusible fleece 5cm (2 inches) by 30.5cm (12 inches) for the sides
- 1 piece of Batting/wadding/fusible fleece 5cm (2 inches) by 23cm (9 inches) for the bottom. Backing pieces - this is the fabric you want to show through your design ('through the holes')
- 2 pieces of denim backing fabric 23cm (9 inches) by 30.5cm (12 inches). Bag handle To make a bag handle like mine you need;
- 1 piece or pieces of denim sewn together 5cm (2 inches) wide and 89cm (35 inches) long.
- 1 piece of wadding/batting/fusible fleece 2.5cm (1 inch) wide and 86cm (34 inches) long.
- 1 piece of fabric 5cm (2 inches) wide by 89cm (35 inches) long.
(Note:if you piece/sew denim strips together to make the handle remember to have the seams on the rightside of the fabric facing outwards)
- scissors (for cutting fabric, thread, etc)
- Cutting board
- Rotary cutter (optional)
- Ruler (optional)
- matching thread
- non-permanent fabric marker
- embroidery threads (optional)
- buttons (optional)
- sewing needle
- sewing machine
- denim sewing machine needle
- tape measure
- A4 piece of paper (optional)
- Leave about 1cm seam (approximately 1/2 an inch) allowance inside your drawn shape. It doesn't need to be perfectly accurate, it isn't that kind of project. The fraying looks good when it's a little random.
- If the shapes you've drawn are enclosed shapes like the square inside the square that I've drawn, cut out the middle square but I can only snip into the outer square. If I cut out both, the central square will fall out! I will be able to cut the square out later after stitching my design and avoid damaging the backing fabric.
- If you've drawn curvy, wavy lines which stretch fron one side of the denim front/back to the other then skip this section for now because you'll be able to insert your scissors between your sewing without risking cutting into the backing fabric.
- placing the lining piece face down on your work table.
- Place the fusible fleece/wadding centrally on top with a even space all the way around. (The aim is that the wadding/fusible fleece will not show in the seams - they'll be enclosed by the stitching.)
- Place the 'backing fabric' right side facing up on top of the wadding/fusible fleece.
- Then place the denim fabric right side facing up on top of that. Phew! four pieces of stacked fabric.
- Place your 'bottom' lining piece right side facing down on your work table and place the fusible fleece/batting centrally on the top.
- Place the 'bottom' denim piece right side facing up on top of this. (Another sandwich.)
- Fuse together if appropriate, otherwise you may wish to pin these layers together whilst you fix the bottom to the front and back pieces. Alternatively you could sew down the middle of the wadding to hold it in place.(If you're using a matching thread this will probably be almost invisible.)
- Place one of the exterior (front or back) bag pieces right side down on your work table.
- Place the denim bottom piece, right side facing up against the bottom edge of the exterior bag piece. The linings should be facing one another.
- Pin the bottom piece to one exterior piece. Leave a 1.5cm open (unstitched) at the beginning and at the end of the seam to allow for sewing in the side pieces.
- Sew together using a 1.5cm (half an inch) seam allowance. Remember that the seams need to be facing outwards.
- Fix the other side of the 'bottom' piece to the bottom edge of the other exterior bag piece in the same way
- Make a fabric sandwich with the side pieces in just the same way as you did for the bag bottom.
- Fuse your pieces together if you're using fusible fleece or pin everthing securely together down the middle of the side piece if you're not.
- Place the short edge of the side piece together with the short edge of the bottom piece. Linings should be facing one another. (The photograph should help to clarify this!)
- Sew the bottom (short edge) to the bottom piece of your bag, leaving the 1.5cm seam allowance open at each end so that you can sew the sides up without too much stress. I've marked this with a pen (Removable - don't panic.).
- Repeat this for both sides.
- Take the attached side piece (now sewn to the bag 'bottom' piece) and pin it to the side of the bag front piece. (long side to long side.)
- Check that all the fabric is tucked securely into the seams and nothing has got rucked up or wrinkled. It should be fairly straightforward to fix everthing together.
- Sew approximately 5cm (2 inches) down from the top edge if you want to turn over the top as I have. If you don't want to, then sew all the way around at least 1.5 cm (1/2 an inch) from the top edge. If you've made a separate lining then insert this into your bag and top stitch it into place in the same way.
- Next snip vertically into the seam allowances being careful not to snip your stitches at approximately 0.5cm to 1cm (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 an inch) intervals all the way around your shape.
Seam allowance is 1.5 cm (approximately half an inch) throughout.
When selecting the pieces of denim to isolate and cut out try to avoid having any weak/well worn pieces or tough seamed pieces in the stressy areas of your bag. I'm thinking of where the sides get sewn into the bottom piece and where you want to attach the handles. Permanent grass, mud or oil stains may not look too attractive either. So pick and choose and have a little fun. The denim can be pieced together to make bigger pieces, just put any seams on the outside (so we can fray 'em)
Step 1 Cut out the denim pieces.
It's a good idea to cut out the larger pieces first and then decide where to cut the smaller pieces from.
Try cutting off a leg piece then cut up the inside leg seam and open the fabric out. Use your ruler and rotary cutter to cut out your pieces.
If this proves difficult because of seams preventing the ruler laying flat and secure don't risk slipping with your rotary cutter. Use a piece of paper (newspaper - any sort of paper) to mark out a pattern and use that to cut out your bag pieces with.
You may wish to incorporate the jeans pockets into your bag. Take a minute to think about the look you're aiming for and then cut.
You can see where I was 'playing' around with a design on the paper. Didn't use it!
Cut out denim pieces for the handle
Cut out as many pieces as will make a handle 5cm (2 inches) by 89 cm (35 inches) long. We'll sew those together later.
These are the front, back, sides and handles pieces all cut out.
Cut out fabric to go behind the 'holey' design.
This fabric goes behind the denim. It shows through the 'holes' you fray in the denim, supports the denim in those weakened areas and adds a splash of colour in the seams.You can choose to be subtle with co-ordinating blues or garish with hot, exotic reds and oranges.
If you're going to make 'holes' on the back and front of the bag then you need a piece to go behind the front and the back only. If you want to add a 'fray design' in the bag sides then you will need side pieces too. Use the measurements as for the lining sides. (This will make perfect sense soon. I promise)
My 'support' pieces for the front and back on my bag. I used this fabric. Link
Cut out lining pieces
Cut out all the lining pieces (front, back, sides and bottom) and the fabric backing for the handle.
I chose a pretty little polka dot for my lining. Link
Cut out all the fusible fleece/wadding pieces
Cut out all the wadding or fusible fleece pieces. I've tried both sorts when making these types of bags and both work perfectly well.
What a lot of pieces!
Mark out your design
Now that you've cut out all your bag pieces it's time to mark out you design onto the denim. I tried out some different ideas with patches and hearts and all kinds of shapes.
I sewed a running stitch using embroidery thread along the seam (my daughters favourite jeans have this design on them) and drew a square and then played about with some arty lines.
I embroidered the lines I'd drawn onto the front and the back and sewed on some little pink buttons to resemble flowers.
Still thinking about patches!
Get happy with the scissors Now that you've decided on your design you need to cut into the shapes you've marked out. The things you need to think about are;
Cutting into the middle square I've cut out the middle square but only snipped into the outer square, otherwise the middle piece will fall out. This way I'll be able to cut it out later.
This bag is quilted together as one piece. If you wish to install the lining separately then ignore the instructions concerning the lining. Construct your lining in the same way as the bag outer. The reason for constructing it as one piece is so that the colour of the lining shows in the outside facing seams - more of a colour sensation. You are of course free to choose. (I won't sulk!)
Making the bag exterior front/back panel
Make a fabric sandwich by
You should now see your backing fabric peeping through your design (at least you will do if your design required you to cut pieces out at this point.)
Fusible fleece centrally placed on the fabric.
Sewing your design
If you're using fusible fleece, fuse your pieces together, ensuring that everything is square and even. If you're using a non-fusible wadding/batting then pin everything squarely together to prevent 'slippage' whilst you sew your design.
Stitch through these four layers, using your sewing machine denim needle. Follow the line of the design you've drawn. Complete the sewing for all of your design and for all pieces.
Prepare the bottom piece
I pinned down the middle.
Attach the bottom piece
I might have over done the pins a little!
If you lay your bag out flat it should look like this.
Exterior bag view
Sew in the sides
Looks a bit unlikely at the moment doesn't it?
Attach the side pieces
Nearly a bag - I quite like the look with the top turned over.
Completing the top edge
Now we need to sew around the top of the bag. It looks like quite a tight fit but just remove the extension 'table' piece to your sewing machine and it should fit around it quite nicely.
O.K. now is the point at which to do a little more snipping.
Start by completing any snipping/cutting out of your design.
Don't forgetthough that sometimes less is more and it's easier to snip more fabric away later than try and add some back in!
Can you see all those little thready bits bidding for freedom!
Making the handle
- Join all the pieces of 5cm (2 inches) wide denim together using a 1.3cm (1/2 inch seam) until you have a strip approximately 35 inches long.
Seams are on the right side facing out.
- Place the fabric strip for the handle rightside facing down onto your work table.
- Place the 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide wadding/batting/fusible fleece centrally onto this.
- Place the denim strip you've created rightside facing up onto this.
- Make sure that sides are all neatly aligned and pin or fuse everthing into position.
- Machine stitch 1.5cm (1/2 inch) down one long side of your strap, and then down the otherside, again 1.5cm (1/2 inch) from the edge. It is possible because of the width the handle to sew four equally spaced 'stitched lines'. This makes a really strong and sturdy handle.Sew across the handle ends 1.5cm (1/2inch) from the edge.
Snip into the seam allowance all around the handle and at the handle ends. Same as before at 0.5 to 1cm intervals (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 and inch) and being careful not to cut into your stitches. Do this to any outward facing seams where you've sewn strips together to make the handle length.
Fix handles to the bag
- Position the handle 10 cm down on the bag 'side' panel. (If you're not going to turn the bag top over you may wish to attach your handle higher up the bag.)
- Sew both ends of your handle to your bag 'body'. I sewed a rectangle and then sewed across the diagonal both ways.
- Ensure that you leave a 1.5cm (1/2 inch) at the sides and the bottom of the handle to ensure that these will fray. (For once fraying = good)
I've marked where I'm going to sew.
For a bit more decoration I sewed buttons over where the handle is fixed to the bag.
The bag complete with handles! You can see all the snipping.
To complete your bag
- Put your bag in the washing machine and wash it. Note: because denim frays you may prefer to wash it in a wash bag or pillowcase to avoid getting all those bits on other items. A cool wash will do.
- All the 'agitation' (Hopefully not yours!) causes the denim to take on that really frayed look and the lining and 'backing fabric' colours should show beautifully in the seams too.
Wash completed. Dry your bag! If you happen to be using the tumble dryer - that helps with the fraying too.
Inspect your bag. Does your design show up as well as you hoped? I found that I hadn't cut enough fabric away from the outer square in the middle of my design so the 'backing fabric' didn't show up as well as I wanted it to. So, I snipped out a little more and washed and dried it again. Love it now!
One view without the top edge folded down.(It's stuffed full of tissue to help it stand up!)
Another view with the top edge folded down.
Congratulations if you got this far and if there's anything I've missed or just not explained very well, just contact me and I'll try and be clearer.
If you try out this 'frayed technique' to make a bag I'd really love to see it.