I know it has been a really looooooong time since I posted anything. I have a valid excuse. Terry and I went to Cozumel for our second wedding anniversary! “For a whole month (or two)?”, you may ask yourself, incredulously. Well, no, not a whole month (or two), which is about how long it has been since I posted last. And now my valid excuse doesn’t seem so very valid. But honestly, I am hoping that you understand. I have lots and lots of things to share with you, and just because I haven’t been posting, doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing things. The second wedding anniversary has a traditional wedding gift of cotton. I really wanted to make a nice, manly quilt for Terry, but frankly, I just don’t have the time to work on anything like that right now. Instead, I decided to make Terry some shoe bags. He’s a pilot, as you may know, and he usually uses grocery bags to wrap up his tennis shoes. For the record, please don’t just throw your shoes into your suitcase without putting them in something. Ever. You don’t rub your shoes all over your clothes at home, or at least I hope you don’t. That is basically the same thing. And also for the record, that water on the floor in the aircraft lavatory is NOT water. Trust me on that. The moral of the story is that you should always wrap your shoes in your suitcase. And when you have stylish shoes bags? You’ll get bumped up to first class and drink champagne! Or at least you would if I were in charge!
Terry is a fan of raccoons, and when I saw this fabric at the quilting store, I knew that I had to get it. I got 1 yard of it, and one yard of a coordinating polka dot fabric. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with it until I was watching him pack and thought: this man can do better than plastic bags. He needs shoes bags, and I have raccoon fabric, and this is the Cotton Anniversary. LIGHTBULB FLASHES HERE WILDLY.
I really kind of made these up, but I did look at some other lovely blogs online to get an idea of how I wanted my shoe bag to look. Also, I needed two rather large shoe bags instead of one largish one for a pair of ladies’ flats, if that makes sense. Terry bought a new pair of tennis shoes, so I measured (adding a good 2.5 inches to each measurement) the length and width of the shoe itself and went from there. I made these double-ply, but you can do it single-ply. The single-ply version will be a bit easier to work with. I decided double-ply because Terry travels for a living and these will need to be washed fairly frequently. I also like how the double-ply version looks – when you open the double-ply bag, you get a peek of coordinating fabric. In any case, if you are newer to sewing or have a lower patience threshold, start with the single-ply because the double fabric will be fiddlier to work with, and frustration is a dish best served NEVER.
First, I measured my shoes loosely (17″ by 13″); I added about three inches to make the fabric bags plus an extra inch for a ½-inch seam allowance. My measurements were 21.5″ by 17.5″. I put the fabrics wrong sides together and sewed around each edge with a ¼” seam allowance. It doesn’t have to be perfect. (You can skip this step, as noted below, and fold the long edges under ½” and sew with a ¼-inch seam allowance.) From this photo, you can tell I was not accurate. Whatever your measurement is, give yourself a ½” seam allowance total for the sides of the bag. For extra strength and to prevent fraying on the inside of the bag, you will fold a ¼” seam over into a ½” inch seam (see below). If you are newer to sewing, subtract 1 inch from each measurement that you will instantly ‘lose’ to being sewn into a seam and measure accordingly. I needed a total length of at least 20.5 inches, so that is why my cutting measurement was 21.5″. You basically lose ½” from each side once you sew the sides of the bag. I also made these pretty roomy, so if you are cutting your fabric, remember that you need some extra in there so that you can get the shoe in and out easily!
If you do this with single-ply, you will still follow these instructions, just skip the step where you sew the squares together. Also, if you are better than I am, you can skip step one and just do a ½” seam on each long side of the fabric. I didn’t really know where I was going with this project at first, so bear with me. You can also make one shoe bag, say, for women’s flats, or two shoe bags, which are really nice for men’s shoes or for really nice heels. Or money.
Now you have your nice rectangle pieces. I had four total, for two shoes. Fold down the sewn long sides of the rectangles by another ¼” and pin in place. That will equal a total of ½”
I sewed directly on top of the ¼-inch seam I just made. That’s why I said you can skip this step. I’m sure people who are good at sewing are banging their heads on their machines right now in exasperation with my “method”. It’s probably not proper to do this project how I did. Essentially, I was too lazy to pin two pieces of fabric together. Also, I didn’t quite know where I was going with this when I was making them exactly, but I loved the end product and they are really sturdy, and that’s what you want. You want them to last, right? In any case, the inside of the shoe bags I made will withstand lots of shoes being put in and pulled out. Perfect.
Once you have your ½-inch seam on all the long sides, put two pieces together – right sides together – and sew down the long sides with a ¼-inch seam. And yes, I pinned at this point because now things need to be more exact. The next step involves cutting. If you are slightly off, you can still make it work. You can still do things willy-nilly at this point, just make sure both bags are equal in whatever you do so they look the same!
Now you have two (or one, if you are making just one shoe bag) fabric sleeves. To make a “stand-up” bag (like a brown paper lunch bag), you will cut two equal squares from each corner. I cut a 2-inch square from each corner using a square ruler, but you could certainly use a regular ruler and mark it on the fabric.
Cut out the squares, but leave pinned. Now you will need to sew the bottom of the bag together. Just sew on that bottom strip with a ¼-inch seam allowance. (In my case, I just sewed directly on the seam line I made in the beginning when I sewed the two pieces of fabric together).
Now to make the bag: You will “open” the bag and flatten the bottom, and then sew the bottom of the bag to the sides. Here are some photos to demonstrate. You will sew the pieces together with a ¼-inch seam allowance. Basically you will squish the bottom of the bag together. The bottom seam and the side seam will match up in the center. You will be sewing through some fabric here – especially if you did a two ply bag. It’s ok. Just don’t rush it so you won’t break your needle.
Flip your bag open et voila! You have a bag!
Now it’s time to finish the top of the bag. Flip the bag back inside-out. Fold down about 1-inch of fabric (you can go more or very slightly less. You are basically making the tube that the drawstring will go through, so as long as you think you can pass that string through it, go for it – just remember you will lose the seam allowance. I folded it down one inch. Then sew around the entire inside of the bag with a ¼-inch seam allowance. The sides of the bag involve quite a bit of fabric – especially if you have a double-ply bag. I cut out triangles at the two thick seam lines (the base of that triangle being the bottom of the strip I just folded down, cutting up to the center seam. Like this Δ) to make the sewing a bit easier. Not a technical step, but it sure made things much easier and less bulky.
Once you have sewn around the edges of the bag, you will need to pick one side open. I am sorry that I didn’t get a great picture of this. To explain: you just sewed around the inside of the bag. Leave that seam alone, because that is what forms the tube for the drawstring. You need to open the one side of the bag; just open a couple of the stitches on each side seam between the line just sewn and the top of the bag, as seen below. This sounds really complicated, but it really isn’t once you just do it. That’s not a very exact explanation, but it will be easier to achieve than you think. I was pleasantly surprised myself!
Now it is time to make the drawstrings. I originally thought I could turn a long drawstring. Nope. You will need two long strips of fabric. I cut two strips along the width of the fabric (selvage to selvage), and then trimmed the strips to an equal length Each strip was 2 inches wide. Now, fold the strip in half and iron it. Then fold the raw edges under to meet up in the center, and iron again. Now sew with a ¼-inch seam allowance on the side that is folded under and you have a perfect drawstring that requires no turning whatsoever. For whatever reason, I didn’t sew these with a ¼-inch seam allowance I just said to do it with. I don’t really remember why. As long as the drawstring is able to fit in the drawstring tube, it doesn’t really matter. I’m not really OCD about any of this. If you are, then just be more careful with it.
Turn the ends under and sew. I went over that seam a few times for extra strength. You could also tie the ends into knots or put beads on them or whatever you like. Just do something to make them stay together.
Now, hook a safety pin at the end of one drawstring, and slowly push it through the drawstring ‘tube’ you sewed. I scrunched up the fabric just a bit, and then would pinch down hard on top of the safety pin and pull it a bit. It takes a bit of time, but it isn’t difficult or particularly tedious work. When you are done, you will have this!
And now you’re done! This is an afternoon project that you can adapt to suit your loved ones. You can make whatever sized bag you like. I think this is also a cute idea for a pouch for electronic devices or cables or even a makeup bag. There are as many possibilities as there are fabrics. So have fun! I really enjoyed this project and Terry loves his new shoe bags!