Friday, March 10, 2017

DIY Market Tote from a Feed Bag

Like many dirt road dwellers, we have a tendency to collect animals of all shapes and sizes.  From chickens, to pigs, to sheep, cows and horses.  (We draw the line at goats, but I know many people love them.)  There are usually a few dogs and cats to round things out as well.  Keeping these animals fed and happy generally involves buying bags of feed.  Raising a few 4-H pigs can require a huge pile of feed.  We end up with feed bags stuffed with other empty feed bags and often those bags end up in the trash.
I hate the idea of throwing away packaging that is actually tough and possibly useful, so we try to re-use feed bags as much as possible.  I use them to bag up empty pop cans until time to recycle them because regular trash bags fall apart too easily.  I use them as sandbags to hold down row covers in my garden.  I use them to line the ceiling of my chicken coop to hold in the insulation.  My sister uses them to line the inside of her barn.  I had been playing with the idea of making a tote out of the feed bags since many of the reusable market totes you can buy seem to be made from the same stuff and some feed bags have fun designs on them.  I finally decided to try to make one for myself.  It turns out I'm not the first to think of it.  There are lots of feed bag totes available on the internet.

I decided I would try to do a tutorial on how I make my totes.  It isn't especially complicated, but it does take time and the feed bags work up differently than fabric would.  Also, I forget to take pictures as I sew, so if the bag color suddenly changes, it's because I tried to take pictures as I made several bags in hopes that I would get enough useful pictures to show what I do.
Fabric pins don't work very well so for my first few bags I used paper clips.  They weren't quite tough enough so I upgraded to binder clips.  They have a tendency to get hung up on the table and sewing machine, but they hold the pieces together, so I have stayed with them.

The first step is to choose a feed bag to work on, clean it up and decide what part of the bag you want on the front of your tote.  I like to wash and cut several feed bags at a time since getting my cutting board out is kind of a pain and takes up most of my bed.  My "craft room" is also my bedroom.
Most market totes are about 13-15 inches tall.  Figure out what section you want for the bag and add 1/2" for the bottom seam and about 1 1/2" for the top.  Depending on where you want the bag from, you may need to make the top seam a little smaller.  I have gone as small as 1".
From the remaining pieces you will need to cut a bottom piece.

For most bags, I use the fold lines that are already in the feed bag as guides.  This makes it easy to measure 1/2" past the folds on the front for the seam allowance and then measure how wide the feed bag is and add 1" to that.  I also cut the straps 3" wide and about 24" long.  On this bag, I cut three inches from the bottom and then cut it in half to make the two straps.

 Now, it's time to put the bottom onto the bag.  I clip the corners to help it lay down in the corners better. These seams are made by folding both layers over toward the bottom and stitching.  I found that sometimes the inside layer would move, so I started doing a quick baste stitch to hold the two together while I wrestle with the side seams.  You can skip the basting step and go right to the folding and sewing if you feel like it.

 Line up the fold lines and let the extra be free for now.  I don't stitch all the way to the fold line to allow myself a bit of room to work with the corners.

 I also get the straps folded and stitched at this time.  I fold them in half lengthwise and crease the fold as well as I can.  Next, I pull out my little sewing ruler and fold one side in to make it 1" wide.  Once that side is all folded in, I fold the other side in to match it and clip it together.  Finally, I stitch close to the edge, making sure to catch both sides. If I want to make it look even, I stitch on the other side as well, but I is just for looks.

 Now it is time to fold the bottom over and clip it.  You should be folding over about 1/2", but you may need to adjust a bit to get the corners to work.  Once I get it clipped all around the bottom, I turn it right side up and stitch along the edge.  The corners can be tough and I haven't figured out how to make it look wonderful.  I stitch as close to the corner as I can, making sure to keep the next side out of the way of the needle.  I take a stitch or two back and come forward again, to lock it.  Then, I leave the needle down, turn the bag and pull all the extra material toward the stitches I just made and help the needle step over the bunched up corner.  I do a little forward and backward stitching to lock it again and head to the next corner.  You can tell that this is the most tricky part, because I didn't take any pictures.  Sorry.

 Once the bottom is finished, it is time to add the straps.  For most bags, I measure 3" from the crease and clip it in place. I stitch it in place and remove the clip.  Then I stitch the strap with an x to give it stability.

Finally, I fold the top inside the bag, making the straps stand up.  Stitch close to the folded edge and then again to hold down the inside edge, and you are finished!

As I said at the beginning, making these bags isn't horribly difficult, but it does take some patience and sewing know-how. I've been on a bag making spree and I even made some egg carton totes for the lady that buys extra eggs from me.  If you would like a feed bag tote, but just don't want to pull out the sewing machine, you can buy one from my etsy shop here: Cowgirl in the Garden