When I was 20 years old and had just moved into an apartment style dorm with one of my friends, I made one of the first "grown up" purchases of my life - two sets of beautiful, filmy green curtains that were on sale at Marshall's. Almost four years later, and it's time for me to say good bye. We are replacing them with less beautiful (but more practical) energy efficient curtains to help with our exorbitant electricity/heating bill. Because I'm no good at saying goodbye to things for real, and because I never like things to go to waste, I decided to transform them into a tote bag.
Because my curtains are filmy, I needed about one yard of base fabric to give strength to my bag. I chose undyed muslin from Joann that sells for $1.99 per yard. If you want a bag with a bit more structure, I would recommend using canvas as your base; I did this a few years ago and it came out as a great, heavy duty bag for lugging groceries. Also, for the pockets and strap, you will need either lace like what I used, or a color/texture of fabric that complements your curtains. I used 0.25 yards of the same lace I used for the scarf in my last post, which comes to $1.50. Because I'm recycling my curtains, that means that this project comes to a grand total of $3.50.
If you don't own a sewing machine, this is possible to do by hand sewing - I have in the past. However, it's a terrible experience that will make you want to kill yourself/other people/possibly me so I do not recommend it.
Decide how large you want your bag to be: I need a larger tote for my day to day because I carry a lot of stuff with me If you want to try for a mini tote or a handbag instead, now is the time to decide. Once you've decided, add about an inch to each side of your rectangle, and cut out four pieces of curtain fabric and two pieces of muslin. Iron everything smooth. Because of how delicate my curtains are, I ironed on low setting.
Time to break out the lace! Cut out two rectangles of lace, curtain, and muslin to be your pockets. Hem them, then pin and sew onto a layer of curtain and muslin, pinned together. This will be the front of your bag. When you place the pockets on your bag, keep in mind that seams are going to eat up anywhere from 0.5"-1.0" of outer fabric, so don't pin them too close to the edges. Also, make sure to place them at least 2.5" from the bottom of your cloth.
You're going to sew the outer layer of your bag before the lining: Line your fabric up so that you have two curtain pieces in the middle with the good sides (the side with pockets, for your front piece) facing in, and one piece of muslin on each side, like a sandwich with lettuce in the middle. You will have two pieces of curtain fabric left over to use for your lining later. Pin your layers together and sew the two sides and the bottom of your bag. Leave the top side of your bag unsewn. Then, turn your bag right side out so that the raw seams are on the inside.
Take your remaining two pieces of curtain fabric and pin so that the good sides are in the middle, then sew the same way as you did for step three. Leave inside out.
Put your outer layer of your bag inside the lining you just sewed. Pin along the top, then sew all the way around, leaving about two inches at each end of your bag. When you're done sewing the top, go to one of these holes and pull the insides of your bag through it. When you're done, your lining will be in the middle and your shell will be outside; there should be no raw edges showing except at the two holes of each end of the top.Then take your bag and flip it inside out. Flatten the corners so that you make triangles and sew across at about the 2" mark. If you want a shorter, wider bag, sew further down so that you have a bigger triangle.
You're finally ready for the strap! Cut three pieces of curtain fabric, three pieces of muslin, and one piece of lace, to be 1" wider and 3" longer than you want your finished product to be. Hem all three straps, then overlap the ends and sew in one place. Braid your strap, making sure that you keep the no so pretty side of the strap on the inside of. Sew the ends in place once you're done with your braid.
Finally, last step :) Pop one end of your braid in each hole you left in the top of your bag. Pin it into place and try on, to make sure it fits right. Then hand-sew the edges of your bag shut, sewing the braid into the lining of the bag. This is quite a few layers, so you may want to have a thimble ready, unless you enjoy being stabbed repeatedly in the thumb.
It was a long project, but now all you have to do is enjoy your bag.
Happy sewing, fashionistas :)