Have you read the New Yorker?
I was so excited for my “12 Issues for $12” deal (I’m sure you saw the ads, they were everywhere), but much to my dismay, it turns out I don’t actually enjoy reading the New Yorker. Yes, I felt low-brow and under-educated when I came to this conclusion (I’d rather read fantasy and tongue-in-cheek news recaps from scathingly sarcastic reporters), and when my free New Yorker tote bag came in the mail, I experienced a mixture of joy and sorrow.
On the one hand, I simply love canvas tote bags. On the other hand, I knew I’d feel like the worst kind of poser if I pranced around the city with this bag.
Aside: Were you ever called a “poser” in high school? I was, and it haunts me to this day. Of course, that was a case of some snooty punk kid commenting on the fact that I dressed like a Punk-Goth and listened to the likes of Mandy Moore.
Whatever, Kevin. You can bite me.
The only thing to do, then, was turn my New Yorker tote bag into a satchel I would use!
The Up-Cycled Canvas Bag Tutorial
The whole idea started when I was digging through my fabric bin and came across this jaw-dropping beauty. I don’t know if this fabric is actually vintage, or just doing a really good impression of it, but it’s freaking stunning and I just had to make a bag out of it. Better still, a bag with a nearly bullet-proof, machine-made canvas lining.
The fabric sat inside the tote bag for weeks and weeks, partly because I’m astonishingly good at procrastinating, and partly because I kept forgetting to wash the fabric when I had other things to wash. Then, this morning, I pulled it out thinking I’d just bite the bullet and wash it alone, and I looked more closely at the cut edge. It was all fuzzy and frayed and I realized it had already been washed. Oy.
All ready to go, I pulled out my trusty measuring tape, rotary blade, and chalk. I’m afraid I don’t have pictures of this part, but it’s pretty straight forward.
As you might be able to tell from the first picture, the New Yorker tote was one with the squared-off bottom, but without the accordion sides. After a bit of hard thinking and Google searching (I’m really bad at visualizing flat into 3-dimensional), I came to the conclusion that I didn’t need any kind of fancy pattern – I just needed a rectangle.
At this point, you could, of course, cut two rectangles the size of the canvas bag, but I decided to make it one long piece. One whole piece is stronger, of course, but because the canvas liner will be taking the brunt of the weight, a two-piece outer layer would probably have been fine.
- I measured the canvas bag from the very top to the very bottom, pulling out the squared base so it laid flat. It equaled about 18″.
- Then I measured the width of the bag: 15.5″. I planned to make my outer bag about 15.75″.
- I cut out my fabric, all the while toiling and sweating over the best way to make sure the unfinished edges were cut straight (that pattern has zero lines to follow).
- Next, I hemmed the two short edges, which I planned to sew directly to the outside edge of the liner, rather than trying some fancy fold-over style that required cutting around or removing the canvas bag’s handles.
- Then I folded the strip in half width-wise and stitched up both sides, measuring again to make sure the finished width was 15.75″. (Normally, I’d hem the edges before I sewed them, but the inside of the bag will forever be covered by the liner, so I didn’t bother.)
- Then came the more complicated part (for me, at least). After sewing the base corners the wrong direction and picking out the stitches (ugh), I turned on my brain and sewed them the right way.
It turned out to be pretty easy to figure out – I just measured the stitched edge of the canvas bag (5″), which I needed to mimic, then measured down from the point on my bag (half: 2.5″), then drew a line, made sure it equaled 5″, and stitched.
In retrospect, I should have done this step first and then sewed all the way around the bag to make the hemmed top. The way I did it, the top is slightly uneven. Ah well – you live, you learn!
Once I made sure they worked with the canvas liner, I trimmed the triangles away.
And voila, a finished bag!
I was getting ready to sew the liner to the outside piece when I decided I wanted some pockets. I chose some black quilters cotton, and doubled it up so it was thicker. Then I sewed the two pieces together like a little bag, flipped them inside out, and sewed that piece onto the canvas. That way, no raw edges, and more longevity – I hope!
The first pocket:
The second pocket, divided in two:
Then, for added cuteness, I sewed a button on one side of the two-piece pocket:
Oh, by the way: While button-hunting, I found this little metal gem. Isn’t it a beauty? I’m already contemplating what to do with it!
Finally, I sewed the outside piece onto the canvas liner. Like I said, the edge wasn’t quite perfect, but I followed the hem stitch so at least the lines are straight!
And that was that!
All in all, a pretty speedy little project, and I come out one stylish tote bag richer.
Pop on a few pins and voila, I’m mixing genres just like my old high-school self.
What do you think – will you give this a try? If you do, or if you improve on it, I’d love to see/hear about it!