Jane Market Bag

I got to do a little sewing recently. I’ve been dragging around my Purl Soho tote bag for months and months and it is sorely in need of a wash, but I hate all my other bags. So I thought I’d make something similar, but less NPR-free-tote. (Not that I don’t totally love a free tote).

So, anywho, I started checking around the interwebs for some inspiration and found about a zillion people had made this lovley Jane Market Bag. As evidenced by the very numerous search results on flickr here and the fact that it has it’s own group here. I should note that this pattern is actually supposed to be used as a fun grocery bag. Most of the changes I made (that I’m about to talk about) came about because I wanted to turn it into more of a big catch-all purse.

I bought the pattern for the bargain price of $6. It took me longer to pick out some fabrics than to do the cutting for this VERY easy and user friendly pattern. (Kudos to Alicia at rosylittlethings.com for such an easy to use pattern.) Recommended for beginning sewists. (sewers? I always think that reads like sewers where rats live…not sowers.)

So first – here was my initial fabric selection:

planning a new bag

I really needed a neutral bag that I could carry anytime. So that eliminated most of my prints for the outside. I love linen, and although I’m not sure it’s really sturdy enough for a bag, I went with it. Sadly, I didn’t have enough of this brown linen to do a front and back pocket, so I just did a front pocket.

I deviated from the pattern a little by adding some piping strips to the front, back and handles. I also added pockets inside and a little key hook inside so I wouldn’t have to dig around for my forever-missing keys.

jane market bag front

jane market bag inside

here's the back!

I really liked the piping, but it was a little too fat. I used a one inch strip, folded in half and sewn into the seams between the panels on the front and back. I should have just done a half inch. So it looked more like this piping (the super skinning piping on the left and right of the pocket):

vanessa prototype-1

For the straps, the pattern calls for 4″ x something (21″ I think?) strips. But that seemed like it would be too short for me (I measured my Kroger .99 cent grocery bags as a baseline because they never fall off my shoulder), so I went with 4″x 26.5″. But to get the print on the edges that I wanted, I did 1″ of brown and 3″ of pop garden – sewed them together along the long edge, and then closed the loop by sewing the other long edge of brown to the long edge of pop garden. Make sense? It gave me a tube – inside out. I used my crochet hook to flip it right side out, and pressed it centering the brown linen. Then I top stitched it inside and outside the brown.

strap detail

Finally, instead of sewing the straps to the outside of the bag like in the pattern, I sewed them in at the same time that I sewed the lining to the outside of the bag. I’m not spatially smart enough to explain how this works, but you sew them in before you pull everything out through the bottom hole. You can see a great video of this ‘birthing’ method here: birth of a bag video by sugar sugar bags. She’s got the straps sewn inside also.

I’ve been carrying my new bag around for a few days now, and overall, I like it a lot. I’m planning a 2nd one, and next time, I’ll sew a bottom seam at the bottom of all pockets so my cell phone doesn’t slide down UNDERNEATH the bag. I just hate that. Also, I may consider interfacing. I was too lazy to put it in this time, and the pattern certainly doesn’t call for it. But even cotton batting would make this bag a lot more stable.

Here’s the fabric selection for the 2nd one – natural linen body, green red riding hood fabric for the pockets, green solid for the inside and piping. Should be cute!

in the works - another jane market bag

The new compost bucket!

I’m sure this isn’t huge news, but we finally got a new compost bucket. Here’s our old one – well used and VERY broken. We got it for free at the little composting class at the local library.

retirement day

So I was so excited to get the box from Gaiam with my large 9 qt compost bucket, but was so sad when I opened the box and found packing peanuts. Gross. And bad news.

the new compost bucket

BUT THEN, I read the enclosed info card and learned that the peanuts Gaiam uses are called Renature peanuts, made from a wheat and potato mixture. They’re completely biodegradable and water soluble. Watch this!

Awesome. And here’s my new compost bucket! So super awesome!

a shiny new compost bucket

Happy Belated Earth Day

My new favorite blogger, Kirsten, posted a nice Earth Day “here’s what I’m doing to help the Earth” post with some goals for next year, and I really liked it. so here’s mine.

First, a roll-up of 2008’s efforts:

We’ve cut out all napkins and most paper towels. We actually gave up paper towels too, but the landlord had to fix the roof and he had tar on his hand, and I didn’t have anything disposable for him to clean his hand with! I think sometimes you just need a paper towel. But we only buy the 100% post-consumable recycled ones (like 7th generation), and we only buy about 3 rolls every 6 months or so. We also only use the 100% recycled toilet paper. Harder to find, but well worth it. Here’s why it’s important.

We’ve loved using the cloth napkins made from soft quilting cotton. I gave them out to all the family for Christmas and they were a big hit.

And I can’t say enough how much I love, love, love my reusable grocery bags bought from the store. I use them for EVERYTHING – carrying toys to the park, carrying library books, cleaning out the car, oh – and of course, groceries. They go on my shoulder – I can carry 4 or 5 totally packed at a time. Awesome. If I forget them, I don’t take a bag. The other day, I was juggling coffee creamer and milk and butter. I stuck some apples in my purse. It was awkward, and it motivates me not to forget my bags. I try to always keep at least two in the car.

Along those same lines, I don’t use produce bags at all. No need. Who cares if the tomatoes are all over the bag, as long as the milk isn’t on top of them. And I don’t take bags from stores unless I really really need it. If I can carry whatever I’m buying in my hands or purse, and still hold my kid’s hand, I don’t need a bag. It’s just going to my house anyway, right? No new bags in the house!

For 2009, my #1 goal is to wipe out the wipees. I use Kirkland baby wipees like there’s no tomorrow! Waste waste waste. And I’m sure they’ve got some wierd chemical component that is bad news.

#2 – plastic bottles. My husband worked for a water bottling company for the last few years, and now he works for a major soft drink manufacturer. We’ve always got plastic bottles around here. We’re pretty good about using them a couple times before recycling them, but still. No good. We’ve got to get rid of them. Just because he works there doesn’t mean we have to fill our house with them.

#3 – Turning off power strips. This is such a simple power saver, but I ALWAYS forget. My goal is to concentrate on the TV/Cable/DVR/DVD player strip and the computer strip. Every night. Switch them off!

#4 – Water. My kid loves to play with water. But he’s just as happy with a bucket full of water and a serving spoon as he is with a running hose. We’re working on that.

#5 – Pick up more trash. It’s not like I can’t wash my hands if I pick up that empty chip bag or crushed water bottle in the parking lot at the park. We pick up some, but we walk by a lot.

Sorry if that got preachy :) I was up on a soapbox for a minute there.

holiday spirit

I’m working hard on Christmas gifts. I’m trying to avoid the last minute purchasing spree because all the crafts I had planned never got made. So, so far, I’ve completed two quilt tops, one back and binding – ready to be sandwiched, one waiting to be ironed.

I’ve also finished cloth napkins for everyone. These are about 8″ x 10″ – one fat quarter makes two. I’ve got enough here for six different families :) This is one part of my “green” Christmas, where everyone gets a reusable grocery bag and cloth napkins. And maybe something else – but I haven’t decided what yet. Any ideas? Here are my napkins:

cloth napkins

Thanks to Unspeakable Visions for providing this fun naughty and nice list for planning gifts. I love it! Also, thanks to the Handmade Holiday 2008 group on flickr for keeping me honest and inspired. I do still plan to give a few Oxfam gifts this year though – if you haven’t been on Oxfam America Unwrapped, you should check it out. Lots of great gift ideas – especially for people who have everything!

Just a note about those cloth napkins. I instituted them at my own house about six months ago, and I thought they might be a pain, but actually, they’re awesome. First of all, I love to use them – they get softer and softer with each wash because they’re made of good quilting cotton. Second, they make me feel fancy, even when I’m eating ramen. Third, we have been using the same roll of paper towels for about 4 months now – and it’s still over half full! When they’re dirty, I set them on the washing machine, and they just get thrown in with whatever load I’m doing. If they get too stained with spaghetti sauce or whatever, I’ll just make some new ones, but so far, they are perfect. I highly recommend them for everyone! Reduce – Reuse – Recycle!

Pickens Plan

Well, I just looked up T. Boone Pickens. I guess he’s gone from bad to good, which I find hard to believe. The Sierra Club seems to be behind the Pickens Plan, but to me, it seems a little unclear. Plus, that guy is Shady McShady. I wonder what Al Gore thinks of T. Boone.


I recently saw something on Zaproot.com talking about how ethanol really isn’t much better environmentally. My brother in law just bought a new Ford F750 or something – just kidding, it’s a F150, but it’s huge and ridiculous. But the sad truth is that it’s awesome. My dad has a Toyota Tundra and it’s also awesome. He’s always looking at truck parts on ebay – like a billy bar and a brush guard – or something like that. My husband wants a bigger car. If we have another kid, we’ll need a bigger car.

We looked at Hybird Altimas but really, their gas mileage isn’t any better than our current electric lime saturn ion, but with a MUCH higher payment! My step-mom drives a Honda Civic and gets 38 mpg! The hybrid civic only gets something like 46 mpg.

The moral of this story is that there really aren’t any viable options for people that NEED bigger vehicles, but don’t want to do more harm to the earth. There aren’t really any options at all for someone who wants a bigger vehicle with a reasonable payment and a little resale value. Unless you can afford an unreasonable payment, of course.

I think I post something about this every few months. Basically, we always start looking at cars and feel like there’s nothing out there for us that won’t make us feel frivolous or guilty or both.

going greener

It’s a struggle. We buy our son toys that are so over-packaged in crazy plastic, that I wonder what possible improvements we could make that would ever counteract the waste we’re producing. The sad fact is that that kid loves his Thomas and friends trains, and we want him to have them. So we do other things. We recycle that packaging.

Lately, we’ve been really focusing on unplugging all of our plugs – especially cell phone chargers – so that we’re not wasting all that leaking energy. I found this super cool little gadget – the Kill-a-watt – that tells you exactly how much energy your appliances are using when sitting dormant.

The Kill-a-watt and a whole bunch of other cool eco products are available to make life easier. For example, it turns out my TV is energy efficient. It has an off switch so that I don’t have to unplug it. I have to physically turn the switch back on in order to use the remote, but it’s not using any standby power in the meantime.

On greenandmore.com, they have these things called solar juice bags – laptop cases, totes and book bags that take solar energy and charge personal electronics. How cool is that? And the company lives it’s message – no plastic ware, recycled office supplies and kitchen goods, 100% recycled cardboard boxes, etc. I love someone who practices what they preach.

composterMy most favorite product is the indoor kitchen composter. We’ve got a plastic compost bucket on our counter that is so sad and overused (and smelly! no matter how many times you rinse it!). I’d love to replace it. I’m proud of our composting efforts – there’s no reason we can’t do it with a nicer container on the counter!

If you’re looking for a source for green products, or even green info, greenandmore.com is an excellent resource. With their green learning center – full of top notch information from sources like the EPA and US Dept. of Energy and the going green blog: a community and staff blog called “GreenMusings” where the employees and public share their going green stories and photos, I know you’ll find as many resources as I have.

Sustainable Christmas

Trying to live green? I know we are, and it’s not always easy. I’ve been looking for some different ideas and best practices, and here are a few ideas:

Reuse wrapping paper, gift boxes and gift bags. If the paper is too wrinkled, use it as packing material to pad your presents. Doesn’t that sound festive? Use other things for wrapping paper – like newspaper or fabric. Ask department stores for their gift boxes, and then don’t wrap them at all. Have your kids color on them. Or cover them with Christmas stamps (like rubber stamps) or stickers.

I have this big coloring/painting pad that my almost-two year old colors in. I tear out the used pages and use them as wrapping paper. Let’s face it, he’s really just scribbling, so I’m not going to save every sheet in a scrapbook, and this is a nice treat for the grandparents.

The biggest point here is to try to reuse anything you can, and to be sure to recycle any paper products you receive.

This year, save the holiday cards you receive, and then cut their covers off, and reattach them to cardstock to make your own cards. You could get really creative here by cutting out specific shapes or words and attaching them to the cardstock with dimension dot stickers, paint on them, add glitter, etc. I think that would be a fun project for kids.

I read an article on treehugger.com about how plastic Christmas trees can be harmful because they are generally made of some sort of plastic that is dangerous and harmful to create, and they leach toxins after a while. They recommend getting live trees from sustainable growers.

Finally, there are new options for Christmas lights available. LED Christmas lights use 80-90% less energy than incandescent lights and can be reused year after year. They really should be a part of any sustainable holiday celebration. Now, you can find LED Christmas tree lights, Warm white LED Christmas lights and Outdoor LED Christmas lights.

We can all reduce our carbon footprint a little. The holidays are a great time to start. For more ideas, check out this article:9 Things You Can Do to Make Your Holiday Greener.


We have to be vigilant. Even if distrust of our politicians is pervasive, we’re not powerless. It’s easier than ever to write your Representatives and your Senators. Don’t wait.

How sad that anyone would allow a blank check for something as unproven as nuclear energy, when SCHIP fails again. Don’t let it happen.

Take Action:

  • Sign the No Nukes petition by October 22!

BTW, Bonnie Raitt wails. She’s freakin’ awesome.