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

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.

Ouch, there’s a plank in my eye.

What a world we live in. Today I went to a fun first birthday party at a beautiful city park. On one side of the park was a farm with horses in the pasture. There was one foal, and I walked over with my son so he could see them. He loved it. We played in the dirt, ate fruit salad and chips and salsa and drank Capri Suns. It was such a nice day.

I’ve had this nagging guilt – or as my sister would say, “a check in my spirit” for the last few days about the judgmental posts I’ve been writing. I mean, I still think clubbing a seal is awful. BUT, I am rational enough to see that some villages of people have subsisted on seals for centuries. Just as Alaskan natives have subsisted on whales. What they do is no different, in my mind, than a bear eating a salmon or a snake eating a mouse.

I don’t mean to demonize people that are trying to feed their families. And I have no right to. I was born into a lower-middle class family with two working parents – I always had food and a roof. I may have always been behind on the fashion train, but who cares? I mean, I cared when I was 13, but that’s pretty normal.

The problem is that it’s so hard to decipher what the real cause to fight is here. Is it the big fishing trawlers that gobble up all the fish? Probably. Is it the Japanese whaling ships that don’t properly account for their catches? Probably. Is it the individual sealer that makes 30% of his annual income by participating in the annual seal hunt? Maybe – but I’m a lot less sure about that one. Do I wish they had better aim and really killed the seals with one strike? Absolutely.

Basically, I have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m just talking. And that can be pretty dangerous.

There are people like this guy who is so strongly against recycling, that he’s willing to call Al Gore a nazi. To me, this makes no sense. To him, it’s perfectly justified. I didn’t even realize there were people against recycling. Stupid me. If there are still people that don’t believe the Holocaust happened, and I’ve met at least one (raving, scary lunatic), and there are people that still doubt global warming, and there are people that still think they might find WMDs in Iraq, then I guess not believing in the benefits of recycling is par for the course.

So how do I fight without judging or belittling others beliefs? Even though I’ve been a Christian for many years – this has always been one of my main problems with my faith. I have friends who are Buddhists, Muslim, Jewish. I don’t think the Jesus I love would forsake them – even if they never “prayed the prayer.”

Jeez, I’m really all over the place on this one.

Basically, I want to live a life that I can be proud of. I want to teach my son to stand up for what he believes in just like my mom and dad taught me. But I don’t want to be another sealer, clubbing people over the head with my rants. It seems okay to share information, like the bake sales to save whales. I think people can participate if they want, right? But only if they know about it.

And who am I to say Alec Baldwin is an ass? I’ve probably said something just as bad to my husband. I’d like to think I’d never say things like that to my son, but he’s so small I can’t imagine it. One day he’ll be a surly teenager, and I may very well lose my temper and say terrible things. I hope not, but who knows? I think I was really just so sad for his daughter. That message must have hurt her so much and I wanted him to feel really awful for doing it. And then when his statements – on his site and on The View – didn’t seem very apologetic (apologetic to his daughter, I don’t really think he owes any one else an apology, except maybe Tina Fey, because I love her), I was even more sad for his daughter.

So anyway, there’s a big plank in my eye, and I don’t like it.

Join the fight against plastic grocery bags!

Hooray, a victory for environmentalists (and shoppers with lots of groceries!) Check out this blog post from Good Magazine:

And just a word about those reusable canvas-type bags you can now purchase at the store for .99. They are AWESOME! I can empty my whole car into one of those things, sling it over my shoulder, and carry my toddler up five flights of stairs. Can you say that about plastic grocery bags?