Thirty Days of Making: More Bags

I’m in Day 8 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entryThirty days of making: drawstring bags will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what i think i learned from the endeavor.

Reason for the Project:

I have sewing class this afternoon with three students.  I wanted to have the parts for my shirt cut out, but I haven’t been anywhere close to having the time to iron the fabric or iron the pattern pieces. Most frustrating. But I did want to have some things made, to show the students in the class how to use scrap pieces of fabric to make other things besides cut-up bits of fabric for stuffing of pillows and animals and suchlike.

So I made some more drawstring bags today, in a variety of styles, in order to showcase the range of possibilities from finished to unfinished.  In all, I made a total of five drawstring bags today, two without drawstrings at all, and three with drawstrings; two long skinny ones, and three squarish ones (the four shown beside yesterday’s big bag are four of the five I completed today; the fifth wasn’t done at the time I took the photograph.

Process and Results

The resulting bags are, I think, not particularly elegant.  But neither are they entirely slap-dash, either.Thirty days of making: drawstring bags I wish I’d had better ribbon or thread for the drawstrings, but the fabric itself is pretty nice.  All the bags illustrate nicely the importance of having a ‘stash’ or cache of materials from which to draw construction materials — it’s hard to build bags if you have to go to the store every time.  As it is, I’ve learned the importance of stocking thread in various colors and weights to go with the machine.  I only had black and white thread for these projects, and the black thread in particular is very noticeable, at least up front.  In the photos, it doesn’t show so much; but believe me, it’s there.

So, I now have six or seven bags to show to my students this afternoon, and show them a variety of ways of making such bags.  I think my next step is to make myself a lunch bag.  My lunch usually comes to school in two standard-sized plastic containers, a roll for bamboo utensils, and space for an apple.  I should really make a bag to hold those items in one, maybe with a shoulder strap, as well.  It would be a good project, and illustrate to students the possibilities that sewing makes possible.  Maybe it could even have a matching napkin!

Reflection on My Learning

I think that one of the key takeaways for me is the degree to which making something immediately raises the possibility of making more things.  I made one big bag — not well, but well enough — and then almost immediately I thought to turn my scraps into a half-dozen more bags of varying sizes (there certainly weren’t enough scraps left to do anything else).  I scavenged materials from other projects (the ribbon) in order to finish the main project of the day.  Working through the smaller projects raised the possibility of larger projects — making these small bags made me realize that I know how to make belt pouches for my halloween costumes and Renaissance fair projects, and how to make a lunch bag, and how to make any one of a dozen other small things.  As Tess from Beehive Sewing said to me, “The goal of this studio is to make more sewing enthusiasts,” because that not only means more customers coming to her shop, but it also means a greater likelihood that fabric stores and sewing machine manufacturers and more will stay in business. This is about forming constellations of skill in a community.  If I teach six or seven other people how to sew at least as well as I do, and some of them get better than me at this skill, then we have a range of tailors and seamstresses and seamsters ready to call upon to complete almost any project.  And I like that idea.

Reflections on Learning in General

I think the real challenge is getting kids through three or four similar projects, to the point where the next few projects begin to appear over the horizon to them, and they know how to proceed on their own.  I know I’m almost there — but I’ve got forty years of prior experience on most of my students to draw on (and perhaps some other, Supernatural, assistance, as the wise may know), and six months of prior coached experience as a sewing enthusiast. Some of this is beginning to come to me naturally. It won’t come as naturally to them, at least not yet. Not until they’ve run through a few projects in a very guided, direct way.

Rating:

Four out of five stars.  It was important for my learning to repeat the same project a few times, in order to see what could be learned from repetition.   And the answer is, quite a lot.  But just because it was a useful exercise doesn’t mean that I actually challenged myself in any way.  I didn’t.  These were lickety-split projects — my biggest challenge was having to rethread the Design Lab sewing machine.

On the other hand, I immediately gave out most of my bags to colleagues, so there was an immediate dividend to the Design Lab.  Here was a product of the Design Lab that they could hold in their hands, and see as a complete and finished project, and they could understand that kids who went through a Design Lab experience would become more competent seamsters/seamstresses as a result of the training I could provide.  That’s a bonus.  When they, the studentsstart making stuff on their own and giving it away to teachers and parents, then we’re on the right track to something amazing, I think.

4 comments

  1. […] Drawstring bags are another great project. They can be very simple — a square of cloth folded in half, and then stitched up one side and one end, with a tube sewn across the open end. There’s a very cool sewing tool for pulling a ribbon or a cord through that tube once it’s made. Or you can be brave, and try to sew the ribbon into the tube in one flawless seam:  if anything will perfect your straight stitching with a sewing machine, it’s probably this. […]

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