The Impetuous Weaver presents: A Summertime Tote
This quick summertime shoulder bag was inspired by sunny days and Juniper Moon Zooey, a cotton-linen blend that is crisp, strong, and soft, with an earthy, slubby texture. The medium weight makes for quick work, and the slubbed texture does not demand precision. It's the perfect formula for casual, summery weaving!
The weaving experience needed to make this bag is minimal, and the finishing techniques can be very basic, or as finicky as you wish.
You can make this bag on almost any loom. It is composed of two rectangles of the same width, one twice as long (-ish) as the other. The bag ends up being about twice as wide as your weaving width, so even a narrow loom can make a decent-sized bag.
I used the 10" Ashford Sample-It rigid-heddle loom, so my fabric is plain weave, and can be done on any rigid-heddle loom. But of course you can use your harness loom, or even a tapestry loom (though there could be a bit more sewing). You can make a more refined bag with a fine-gauge twill, or make it fancy with some overshot patterns or novelty yarns. Or imagine a special piece of tapestry weaving as the center panel of your one-of-a-kind handbag/work of art!
(I actually started this project with a different outcome in mind, and I promise I will get to that in a later post. But as it turns out, a warp "length-of-the-conference-room-table" inches long, was much longer than I needed, so this became something different.)
So, on to the process.
I chose three colors of Zooey: 03 White Pepper, 07 Cardamom, and 36 Honeybee, hereafter to be referred to as Oat, Green, and Gold. I needed 3 balls of yarn, since I had 3 colors, but you could make a bag this size with just two, probably (depending on your loom waste). The finished bag weighs 5.5 ounces- much less than two balls of Zooey. Using a 10-dent reed, I warped the full width of my loom in a series of stripes, reflected across the center line. The aforementioned conference-room table produced a warp 104" long.
After weaving a header, I wove about 5" with Gold, which was more than I needed later for a simple hem, but it established my weaving width (and later became a pocket). The piece was 9" wide, which means the finished bag would be about 18" wide, so I decided to make this center section 27" long, which would make the bag 13.5" deep when folded. I wove stripes of all three colors for this portion, which *ta-da!* results in plaid, and I'm sure many of you already know that. And if you didn't know, now you have one more trick to impress your friends! I finished with a bit more gold for the hem on the other end.
At this point, I was still planning on a different bag, which was essentially finished, so I just started weaving off the remaining yarn from my already-wound bobbin and shuttles- the remaining Gold, then Oat, then Green, which there was a lot of. And there was still so much warp left! So much.
This is when the project became something else, to make use of all that warp: a twice-as-wide bag with an integrated shoulder strap. So, I continued with the Green as my weft until I thought I was close to the end of the warp, and then I repeated sections of Oat and Gold to reflect the beginning of the strap piece. This piece was about 54" long, and I would probably make it 60" if I were to do it again (there was enough warp left over).
The next step involves machine stitching, but you can certainly do this by hand if that is your preference, or if you don't have access to a sewing machine. I used a simple zig-zag, and stitched about 1" away from each end of the plaid section, in the Gold area (use a running backstitch if sewing by hand). Then I stitched parallel to second line of stitching, leaving enough room to cut the fabric in between, for the strap piece. I measured the same distance into the Gold on the opposite end of the strap piece and stitched there too. Stitching lines are the dotted lines on the above schematic.
Once secured, I cut off the beginning and ends of the warp next to the stitching, and cut the two pieces apart. To finish the top edge of the bag, I turned the edges to the inside, and used a straight stitch to hem. To prepare the strap/sides piece, I folded it lengthwise, Right Sides together, and sewed with a straight stitch across each end, with about a 1/2" seam allowance. Then I turned it right-side-out so it would be ready to join to the center.
(There was a little piece of fabric left from my excess Gold at the beginning, so I made a little pocket and sewed it into the top edge of the bag center.)
To join the pieces, I decided to hand-sew selvedge-to-selvedge. (Of course, you can machine-sew this, in which case there will be a small amount of width taken up in seam allowances.) You want to line up the folded bottom edge of the center, with the seamed bottom edges of the strap, sewing the selvedges together all the way up to the top of the center piece. I first tried to catch the warp threads at the edge as I sewed, but this pulled the edge loose and didn't look tidy, so I started over and aimed for weft threads instead. As the woven pieces had the same picks per inch, it was easy enough to catch alternating weft loops from each edge, and sew a tidy flat seam.
To taper and reinforce the shoulder strap, I folded its edges to the underside, and stitched the selvedges together for about 4" at the center (top) of the strap. This puts the flat seam on the middle of the underside of the strap.
I had decided not to wash the fabric until I had finished sewing the bag, figuring that any shrinkage would be proportional at the seams. The crisp, unwashed fabric was certainly easier to sew by hand than it would have been after washing. I machine-washed and dried the bag, since I know that is how I'll be washing it after use, but if you are using delicate or feltable yarns, by all means please hand wash instead.
Finished dimensions before (after) washing: 17.5 (16)" wide, 13 (11.5)" deep, 24 (23)" long strap
The finished bag is comfortable and roomy, and just right for summer! After washing, it softened considerably, and is sturdy and slouchy. I added a crocheted loop and a button to close the top.