Sunday, October 9, 2011

Grocery Bags

My grocery bags are wearing out. You know the kind you buy for 99¢ that have an odd plastic fiber feel and all seem to come from China. Not long ago the bright colors on these bags were linked to lead paint. If one tries to wash them, the fibers all develop a fine fuzz.

This Friday I got a post card from Fabric Warehouse that all the fabric was 30% off and the NEW winter fabrics were in. The last few times I went to FB in Rahway, NJ and Belleville NJ I was really disappointed. It was the same stuff that's been in the store for the last two years. I swore the place off.

I've been giving a lot of thought to a future business in sewing. I like to make shirts, but I like to make them for me. I don't think I'm good enough to make them for someone else yet. I'm working up to it. So what do I do? I was shambling through the eBay ads for sewing machines looking for an inspiration when I hit a rather odd machine from from Sail Rite. At $900, it's an expensive bugger that makes sails, boat covers, flags, and bags out of canvas and polyethylene woven fabric. Polyethylene is really tough stuff!! People who try to sew it using their home machine usually end up taking the machine to their service tech soon after.

Well, I saw this machine and followed the links back to Sail Rite's web site.

On the site there are many projects submitted by folks who've bought the machine and supplies from the Sail Rite company.

Where am I going with this? I decided that I want to make grocery bags too see if I liked making bags. I went to Fabric Warehouse to see if I could find tough canvas or upholstery cloth on sale. Wow!! I bought about 6 yards total of four different pieces of canvas and heavy woven cloth for $3.85. The two canvas pieces were printed with Red Wings and St. Louis Blues NHL logos. The two upholstery cloths were neutral colors with a thick dimensional feel. OK, so now I have the cloth. I have no idea how to make a grocery bag.

A google search produced more confusion on the subject that I expected. Most of the 'free' grocery shopping bags are made by ladies who probably really don't use these bags for grocery shopping. Grovcery Shopping is tough on bags. One can load up to 40 lbs of stuff in one bag. The store conveyor belts invaribly make the bags filthy. Meat tends to ooze into the bag. Get the picture? Not an application for a pretty little bag with embroidered flowers.

I pulled together my collection of real grocery bags. Two were made by supermarkets, one was made by my wife years ago, and one by my mother years ago. The only one that seemed to do the job was a plastic fiber gocery shopping bag, but there was no way I was going to copy its pattern. There were some special stitches at the corners that I suspect some big commercial specialized sewing machine did. But the size was right. The other supermarket bag was a canvas bag. It was precisely the construction I wanted but the size was too big and not favored by me when I go shopping. My mother's bag was no help at all.. way too big and extremely skilled work at the corners. I think she did some hand stitching and no way was I going to do this. My wife's bags were too small, but she made really good handles. So I copied her design. And here is the result:

They came out well. I did improve the handles with a center stitch that my Pfaff had, which was a combination of a zig-zag stitch inside of parallel straight stitches. I've cut out two more bags from the St. Louis Blues canvas. Not sure what I'm going to do with the two remaining fabric pieces yet. I made these bags as strong as I could. There's edge stitching all around, and the inside seams are serged. I have a little finishing left to do. A small loop on the upper edge of one side, so the cashier can hang the bag in their normal bagging rack, and a tough plastic sheet for the bottom of the bag for canned goods and bottles.

I think I like this. Good night.

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