I dedicated January of this year to working on my unfinished projects. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might recall that the majority of projects in my UFO pile were totes. Twenty three totes, to be precise (out of 58 UFOs). Three of those were patchwork totes, but each was different than the others.
First Patchwork Tote: An Experiment in Piecing Upholstery Fabrics
A few years ago, early in my bag-sewing adventure, I started experimenting with piecing upholstery fabrics as if they were quilting cottons. As a part of that experiment I created two patchwork panels, which I intended to turn into messenger bag flaps. The experiment didn’t go very well. Home décor textiles, it turned out, were nothing like quilting cottons, and piecing them was more difficult and time-consuming than I expected. My experiment started and ended with these two pieces.
Shortly afterwards, I stopped making messenger bags. The two pieced pieces went straight into my UFO pile, where they lay for years. A couple of years ago, a good friend visited me and braved the mess in my sewing room. She saw these pieces and suggested that I combine them into a tote instead. It took a while longer, but I finally did.
Here it is. Tote number 1:
And from back:
I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. My friend was right 🙂
Second Patchwork Tote: From Busy Work to a Memory Piece
In January 2019 I visited my parents. I really enjoyed spending time with them, but I was used to working with my hands, and really needed some fabric to stitch and keep my hands busy. My dad had a pile of torn jeans he no longer wore, so he gave me one, along with some rags. I started stitching Sashiko-style patches, just for fun. When I returned home, I added a few pieces from my scrap piles, with the intention of eventually making a tote.
Two months later my father passed away unexpectedly.
I couldn’t touch these patchwork panels after that, and into the UFO pile they went.
I’ve now finished that tote, which became so much more than just a way to keep my hands busy. I gave it to my daughter, as a memory piece for my dad. She’s already using it, carrying a bit of her grandfather with her every time she does.
Here it is from the front:
And the back:
Third Patchwork Tote: A Tribute to Japan
The third patchwork tote bag took a LONG time to make. It started way back in summer 2018, in a narrow alley in Nara, Japan. My daughters and I browsed interesting little shops and boutiques (in the good old days when this was still possible!), when we went into an artisan shop and saw these gorgeous, hand-carved wooden handles. Of course I had to buy them! Right there and then the image of a Japanese-inspired tote popped into my mind.
We kept walking and browsing, and came into a store selling antique Japanese fabrics. I bought a bundle of mostly indigos, but also some bright red. I knew exactly what i was going to make with them!
Back home, I used some of the vintage Japanese fabric to make a Boro-style patchwork panel (I later used the remaining fabric in my jacket). I also added some fabric from my stash. I spent days (weeks?) Sashiko stitching it all over. I finished the outer layer, and then got distracted. The stitched panel ended up–you guessed it!–with my other UFOs.
Well, I finally completed the tote. I even added a wooden hand-made button that I bought years ago (and haven’t found use for until now!).
It turned out just the way I imagined it, in that narrow alley in Nara. This is the front:
And this is the back:
I’ll be giving this tote as a gift to my sister, once I can finally see her again. Something to look forward to…