I had a request to make a little mini-tote in jute (a.k.a. hessian/burlap) or oilcloth, and decided to try it out with some jute first, then write and attach the instructions in case you wanted to make one too!
The bag pattern was not a problem, I had one I could scale that down to the required size (9 1/2" wide, 8 1/2" high and 4" deep). I bought my jute fabric on eBay and cut the pieces out. I overlocked the edges to prevent the loose weave from fraying. My worry was the interfacing required to make it stiff enough. I know I can use spray starch, but I wanted to try a liquid fabric stiffener. I used liquid fabric stiffener years ago to make a roller blind.
However, my first step was to fuse on some woven interfacing to act as stabilizer, as I wanted to add some applique and free motion embroidery. I'm using one that is new to me called Stayflex in a natural undyed colour. I marked the front panel and added the base flower shape using a fusible web.
Here is my finished applique, a poppy, complete with a hairy stem! I have to say I am inordinately pleased with it, I think it's fab! Now I can get on with assembling the bag. I did add some spray starch, to help keep things smooth.
I mark the stitching line to box the corner and make the bag four inches deep. As the bag is folded (not two pieces joined together) there is no seam to match up to, so I used my ruler to draw a square two inches by two inches on both sides of both the corners.
Then when the corner is squashed flat I check to make sure it is 90 degrees and the seam is central, and all the lines I had drawn, line-up correctly. Then it's ready to sew (I love boxed corners, and 'strongly dislike' gussets!) I trimmed the seam to half an inch and pressed it.
I recently bought myself the 'stitch in the ditch' foot for my Janome, as I discovered it could be used for accurate top or edge stitching. The big 'keel' goes against the edge of the fabric and then you simply move the needle over to the left. I edge stitch down, across and back up on both sides, then across both sides of the base, to give nice creased edges.
Next I made the handles, using a belt from my great-nephew's trousers! My niece gave me a pile of belts and this red belt caught my eye. I unpicked the ends, removed the d-rings and heat sealed the raw edges. Cut in half it was perfect as a pair of handles, and I pinned and stitched them 1/4" from the top edge.
I used a striped cotton fabric for the lining and fused on some white Stayflex to add body. The lining is made the same way as the main bag, but slightly smaller Here it is after boxing the corners and pinking the seams, ready to attach to the outer bag. I remembered to leave an opening for turning this time!
I turned it right side out and it's ready to slip stitch the opening shut (you can machine it, but prefer to hand-sew it). Then I push the lining down inside the bag, press and then pin it down about an inch from the top to stop it from rolling out, then top-stitch it all around the top edge to finish.
The finished burlap poppy bag. Despite the interfacing, starch, and a good press I still felt it was too limp and rather crumpled looking, but I still love the poppy flower! I decided to try out my idea.
I stuffed the bag with books until it was the right shape, and painted it with a liquid fabric stiffener (having tried it on a sample first, honest!) and left it overnight to dry.
These are the before and after pictures, inside and out. I'm happy with it now, although I don't know how long it will stay crisp! I did make it a little Corex bag base, to help prevent a weak bottom and covered it to match the lining. Did I mention how pleased I am with the poppy?
Mini Tote/Gift Bag in Jute/Hessian/Burlap