Tag Archives: Tutorial

A Sunbrella Tote

From February 2010 –

You don’t have to use Sunbrella for this tote, of course, but it is a very strong, water proof, UV resistant fabric that will stand up to years of wear. It will probably be around after the Apocalypse – this stuff is that tough! Any heavy canvas, cordura or denim fabric will work almost as well.

Chief Inspector Pookie approves of this tote which is based on a paper grocery sack. The bottom folds out when it’s in use to create a really strong bag.

On to the tutorial!

Materials –

One piece of Sunbrella or similar fairly stiff fabric measuring 24″ x 39″ or thereabouts. You can make the bag any size you want. Measurements are given for a finished bag 18″ tall (when loaded) x 13 1/2″ wide x 6 1/2″ deep.

One scrap of canvas or similar measuring 1 1/2″ x 26″ for the bottom trim.

2 pieces of nylon webbing 1 1/2″ wide x 16″ long for handles.

Thread, etc. I used a heavy duty polyester thread in black – pardon the waves on the photos – trying to get the camera to focus on the thread and not the weave of the Sunbrella proved a bit problematic. Remember that the bag will only be as strong as the thread you use – regular home sewing thread will not give you long-lasting results. My old Singer 403 sews just fine with this heavy thread after a few tension adjustments. If you have trouble getting a nice, regular stitch (you will do a bit of sewing on a swatch of fabric, right?) try a narrow zig-zag to see if that solves the problem. Use a size 18 needle for the best results.

1. Sew a 1″ hem along one long side of the fabric with a double row of zig-zag stitching –

2. Sew two of the short sides together with a French Seam to enclose the raw edges, topstitching with a narrow zig-zag stitch.
3. Fold up the side with the seam like so –
Creating the tuck on one side. Pin or mark where the second side seam will go and sew it up with a narrow zig-zag –
Do the same for the other side and you will have a boxy rectangle.
5. Fold the sides in and sew across the bottom of the bag, lining up the tucks so it lays flat –
Sew over this seam a couple of times for added strength.
6. Sew the handles on with a X in box pattern in the desired position. Use longer web if you want to sling the bag over your shoulder –

7. Hand sew the canvas over the seam on the bottom to enclose the raw edges (Sunbrella ravels like crazy!) for a nice, neat finish –
Fold and iron the canvas like bias tape and neatly tuck the ends under as you go.
Done! Here’s the bag in action –

This tote will hold a lot of groceries and is convenient for carrying the assorted things that need to go from car to house to car again. The handles ensure it can be slung over a hook or cleat for easy stowage. It will fold flat for storage –

Or roll it up and secure with a small cord or velcro strap or somesuch.
You can just as easily piece this bag if you don’t have scraps large enough to make it in one. Vary the size, add a closure at the top, or make it roll over like a lunch sack. The uses are endless. And there’s no need to worry if you carry a bunch of heavy tools in it – this tote can handle the weight!

Covering a wire lampshade

From September 2009

This old floor lamp shade has seen better days –

I took many pictures of it Before because I know that projects like this tend to be started and put aside here at Studio T, where the crafter has serious ADD:

You can see that the metal frame is rusting right through the fabric.

Materials needed:

Some things will vary according to the size of your shade. The shade pictured here is 12” at the widest point and 10” tall and materials are based on that size.

Two packages of seam binding or seam tape
½ yard silk fabric
½ yard heavy iron-on interfacing in white
½ yard lining fabric (optional)
Thread to match fabric
One curved needle – optional, but it will make the job much easier.
Straight pins

I had no idea initially what sort of new shade I wanted to make, so I took several close-ups of the top trim and how it was connected.

I took more pictures as each layer came off so I could study the construction. In the end it didn’t make much difference, but I still have them for future reference.

This lamp shade is old and it shows in the many layers of fabric used in its construction – modern shades are all paper and glue with little hand finishing.

Here’s the naked frame before clean-up. I used a very fine steel wool to take off the rust. I considered painting it with Rustoleum or something similar but decided to leave it in its “vintage” state.

The next step is to cover the upper and lower supports in seam tape. I couldn’t find any 100% cotton tape so I settled for poly. Wind the tape around and around, overlapping the layers until the whole circle is covered. No need to sew the ends, just loosen the last couple of folds and slip the end under, tightening it up to keep everything secure. The end is poking out of the folds above – just cut it off when all is secure. This new covering will serve as a base for sewing on the new cover.

Using the old cover for a pattern, cut out the required number of pieces, one for each facet of the shade in both outer fabric and interfacing, being careful to keep the grain of the fabric running the same way for all pieces:

I used a silk fabric that changes color in different lighting conditions. The picture above shows the interfacing already ironed on to the fabric and the edges finished on the serger. The silk fabric raveled very easily and I felt that the additional step was needed.

I wanted to keep the original look of the shade, so each panel was joined with a narrow strip of silk lined with interfacing:

Finish those seams off with the serger and iron the whole thing, pressing the panels towards the narrow strips so everything lays nice and flat. Top stitching was not necessary in this case, but you might find it enhances your shade.

Try the shade on for fit:

Now is the time to make any adjustments by taking in the strips or panels. This old shade was no longer symmetrical, so some bending of the wire was needed to even things out. Funny how I hadn’t noticed that when looking at the old shade.

Sew a strip 1.5” inches wide to the top and bottom of the shade, topstitching if needed. No need to add interfacing to these pieces – they’ll be folded over as above and neatly tacked to the seam binding top and bottom. Use as many pins as you need to keep everything straight and tack 3” or so at a time. A curved needle will really help with this step.

You can really see in this picture that the panels have the grain of the fabric running one way and the strips and top and bottom binding have the grain running the other way. I like the contrast, and since I used interfacing there’s no worry about the panels getting stretched out of shape with handling.

Here’s the “new” shade in action:

I wanted the light to be directed down which is why I chose to use a thick interfacing. You may want more light to shine through your shade, so use a thinner interfacing or none at all. Or you may choose to line your shade, in which case just make an inner layer as you made the outer and sew them together at top and bottom.

Here’s another view: