DIY Home: Adventures in Tote Bags


First, allow me to give credit where credit is due. Here are the instructions and pattern that I used: HOW TO MAKE A SIMPLE REVERSIBLE TOTEBAG. There were lots of photos in the instructions, which helped me a lot. I’m a visual learner.

I had recently purchased a particular fabric for making Christmas presents but then decided wasn’t a good fit for its original purpose. But, I still loved the fabric and thought that using it to sew a tote bag (a Christmas gift for the woman who takes care of my son while I’m working) would be perfect! This tote bag is actually reversible, so (1) it’s stronger than a single layer and (2) if the outside ever gets stained, you can just flip it inside out and you have a new bag!

For those who don’t know, I have a disorder: I can never just take a pattern as it is. I always need to change something. In this case, I changed the size of the bag, remove the gusset corners, and, for reasons I still can’t explain, decided to use one strap (attached diagonally) instead of the standard two. But since this was my first time ever making a tote bag, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to get the diagonal strap affixed correctly between the outer and inner lining fabrics when the bag was inside out. To make a long story short, I decided to do two shorter straps, as I know the person I’m making it for will use it as a tote bag rather than put it on her shoulder.

So there you have it. Now that I’ve made a bag one time, I think I could figure out the diagonal strap. Maybe next time…what do you think?

Encouraging and Preserving Your Child’s Masterpieces

If your child is anything like mine, you accumulate handmade artwork at an alarming rate. Personally, I love it, and I think each piece is wonderful in its own way. And I think we can all agree that creative time is great for hand-eye coordination and for imagination. But let’s be honest, some masterpieces are truly worth framing, and others are more suited for the “save” bin.

I’ve divided this post into two categories: Encouraging and Preserving.

Encouraging: I have a couple tips to share about giving your child all the tools he or she needs to be able to create art freely.

  1. Be prepared. I’m sure you already have the obligatory arts and crafts bin and the smocks to go with it. I do, too. In addition to that, I also purchased a huge roll of brown paper at Home Depot. I found it in the section with all the painter’s tape, it’s about 3 feet tall, and who knows how many feet long. It looks like standard brown craft paper, but is much thicker. To be honest, it was so long ago that I don’t even remember how much it cost (I think it was $10 or $12), but that just proves how long it will last. I cut a big piece of that paper off and lay it across the floor, table, or whatever surface my son is using at the time. Then he can paint, glue, whatever on his smaller paper on top, and when arts and crafts time is over, I just roll up the large sheet, crumpling it in to itself, and toss it. No mess!!
  2. Plan ahead. I go to the craft store at least once a week. My favorite is Michael’s, but I’m sure this would work for any craft store, or even Target or Walmart. I buy a value pack of a certain size frame. For me, I prefer black 5×7 frames, and I can buy a package of 10 for less than $10. Then, I pre-cut my son’s standard white art paper (and some black construction paper, too) that he uses as the background for almost all projects into 5×7 sheets. Now, he has a stack of paper just begging to be turned into art and I have frames at the ready. And more importantly, if he creates something gorgeous, it’s already the right size for a frame.
  3. Let your child be free. Ok, so maybe I’m the only one who needs to follow this advice. My perfectionist/OCD tendencies sometimes make it difficult to just allow my little one to create whatever he wants, how ever he wants. I do catch myself giving my son advice on where to stick the tissue paper, or telling him that area of the picture has enough blue and that maybe he should try some yellow. But the look on his face reminds me that such comments are not necessary. He has much more fun when I keep my recommendations to myself and tell him that everything is beautiful. He’s only 4. I think he deserves that consideration.

Preserving: Here’s what I’ve learned about saving artwork from my experience so far.

  1. Keep artwork protected and dry. I have a plastic bin with a lid where I save all non-frame-worthy artwork. I keep it in a closet and occasionally slip parchment paper between pieces if I’m worried about glitter or something sticking to other paper. This works great for me, but I make sure to leave all artwork out 24 hours to completely dry before I put it in the sealed bin. I know that seems like an obvious step, but the last thing you’d want is to put something in a sealed container that was still wet with glue.
  2. Devote a wall. Something else I’ve learned is that my son gets a real kick out of getting his artwork displayed. (Bonus: If you purchase multiple of the same frame, anything you put in there will automatically look like a collection when hung on the wall together.) We happen to have a rather large laundry room with a door that serves as a secondary entrance to our house. I’ve devoted one wall in the laundry room to my son’s artwork. It’s perfect because it’s kind of out of the way, but everyone who comes in that door of the house walks right by it. There’s limited space, though, so let’s say I can fit 11 frames on the wall. If he creates a 12th piece of artwork, it replaces one that’s already up there and then the old one goes into the “save” bin. Those are the rules (and my son can choose which one goes). And speaking of rules, don’t think you have to hang everything in a straight line. Mix it up and have some fun. (Helpful tip: collections usually look better when using an odd number, so having 7 frames will look more balanced and interesting than having 6 frames. Plus, having 7 gives you the opportunity to hang a row of 3 on top of a row of 4, or if you have a narrow wall, a row of 2, a row of 3, and another row of 2.)
  3. Other ideas for preserving masterpieces. If your child tends to create large art that can’t be framed, lots of online stores sell kids art portfolios (they look like giant expandable file folders). Or how about this one? If you really have no space and/or are emotionally ready to part with some older artwork, take hi-res photos of each piece and turn the photos into a coffee table book! Shutterfly, Lulu, and Walmart have terrific options. They’d also make fantastic holiday gifts for grandparents.

I’d love to hear what your tips are. Please comment on this post to share with me and with other readers!