Getting My Crafty On

I don’t do much crafting, but once in a while the need arises. A couple of days in early January found me hunched over my sewing machine busily creating.

We all received Kindles for Christmas. They should help cut down on the number of books we have to move overseas, so we’re really happy to have them. To help guard against catastrophic accidents, I wanted some way to protect the girls’ when they weren’t in use. I did a lot of looking but couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for: a padded storage case or sleeve at a reasonable price. Since that doesn’t seem to exist, I decided to make some.

Let me interject here: a seamstress, I am not. I know how to work a sewing machine and I can follow a pattern, but it’s not something I’ve ever really worked at enough to be good at it. But I was given a bunch of fabric scraps a couple of years ago, so I went through those and pulled out some pieces that I thought might suit the purpose. I dug around some more and found an old mattress pad that we weren’t using and really didn’t need. It took quite a bit of playing around, but I eventually came up with a design and pattern and made three cute padded drawstring bags. The girls love them, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. I wouldn’t want to do any serious gravity testing on the Kindles with them, but I think there’s adequate protection from everyday bumps and knocks. They should also be good protection if they’re in a backpack with other stuff. Best of all, my total cost was exactly zero since I was able to find everything I needed around the house.

I liked the bags I made for the girls so much that today I decided to make one for myself. But since I can never keep things simple, I decided to make mine slightly smaller and out of some difficult-to-work-with material, a silky synthetic that I cut from a shirt I got in China on our first trip there. (The shirt didn’t fit me anymore and was falling apart.) This did make it a bit more difficult. The silky cloth kept slipping and the smaller size made for smaller tolerances on my seams, less room for error. It also frayed LIKE CRAZY. If you decide to try this for yourself, I’d recommend sticking to a non-silky cloth and a longer length unless you’re a more skilled seamstress than I am.

Just in case anyone cares to know how to make one, here you go. These instructions are for how I made the girls’ bags, but the pictures were taken while making mine.

Supplies:

  • fabric for the outside (I recommend cotton blend)
  • fabric for the lining (I used something silky on two, fleece on one, a smooth cotton on another. You could also use the same fabric for outside and inside.)
  • something to use for the padding in between. (I used an old mattress pad but you could also use quilter’s batting, a old blanket, or anything else soft and squishy.)
  • something to use for drawstrings. (I cannibalized the strings from a couple of drawstring backpacks we had lying around. You could use ribbon, shoelaces, whatever.)

I first made two pattern pieces out of paper. When I made the girls, I used one that was 8 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ and another that was 8 1/2″ x 13 1/2″. After making mine today with a too-small pattern, I can say that 8″ x 8 1/2″ and 8″ x 12 1/2″ would probably be just about perfect. If you’re better at cutting than I am you can just cut the fabric without the pattern pieces, but as I said: I am no seamstress.

Lay out your outside fabric, folded in half with right sides in. Pin the bigger pattern piece on top and cut so you end up with two identical pieces for the outside. Do the same with the lining fabric and the smaller pattern piece, then use the smaller pattern piece again to cut out two pieces of padding.

Stack the outside pieces right sides together. Put one of the padding pieces on top of the fabric sandwich and line up the bottom edges. Put a piece of the lining on top of that, right side up, and pin it together with just a few pins. Turn it all over and repeat the process on the other side: padding then lining, right side up. Pin all six layers together securely, removing the extra pins as you go along. You might have to fiddle around a bit to keep everything lined up. Big quilter’s pins are helpful.

Once you’ve got everything pinned, sew the long sides and the bottom. Begin at the top where it’s just the two outside pieces. Carefully help the needle along where it transitions to all the thick layers. Oh, and you should probably have a heavy-duty needle in your sewing machine.

Sew the long side, then the bottom, then back up the other long side. Trim your seams with pinking shears and cut away the corners so you won’t have big lumps when you turn it right side out. (Don’t turn it right side out yet, though.)

Then you just need to make a channel for the drawstring. Turn over about 5/8″ around the opening and press.Then, turn it down again until it overlaps the padding and lining.

(This is where it got rough on the one pictured–I made the outside pieces too short so getting those two folds was a real pain.) Press and pin, then sew all the way around so that the drawstring channel/hem covers and closes the lining and padding across the top.

(With the one pictured, I ended up adding a zigzag stitch over the edges because I was afraid they would come apart.) Press again if necessary, then sew a seam maybe 1/2″ down from the top of the bag so that the drawstring isn’t right up against the top. Just be sure you leave a big enough channel for the string. Turn the bag right side out. Use a seam ripper to carefully open up both side seams between the hem you just made and where you sealed off the lining and padding. Thread one drawstring through from one side and back out the same hole, then do the same with another drawstring and the other hole. Trim and finish off the ends of the drawstrings if needed (mine were nylon so I melted them with a match), tie them together at each side and you’re done!

Pictured are my bag (the red one), Ellie’s (striped) and Micah’s (flowered). Bethany’s isn’t pictured because I used a completely different method making hers. It turned out fine but the way I did these ones was simpler. As an added bonus, the girls can fit their iPods in the bags with their Kindles and I can fit my reading glasses in with with mine.