Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Creation of a Tote Bag—the process

We had our Annual Guild Challenge exhibit, "Fiber and Caffeine get me going..." this weekend. The Challenge was to create a tote bag inspired by a favorite mug. I emceed the event again this year and we had 10 wonderful entries.
One of the best things about working on an assignment that has been issued to a group of artists, is sharing information about our processes, detours and solutions after the pieces are complete. This time, I remembered to periodically document the process (via my digital camera) from the initial sketches through finishing.

Here is a pictorial documentation of the journey of my Challenge Tote Bag. My piece is called "How to be a Fiber Artist," which was inspired by this SARK coffee mug.
Coffee mug inspiration piece.
Here are the initial sketches. They were drawn to actual size: approximately 18" x 15".
Sketches for both sides of the tote bag.
One of the requirements of the Challenge was to include a decorative design element. I used painter's drop cloth canvas for the fabric and hand painted the trees using acrylic and fabric paints. When dry, the paints were heat set.
Hand painted images. Side 1.
Side 2.
I auditioned bits of hand knitted and felted fabric for the "studio / tree house." This knitting was wet felted by hand in a little glass jar (shake, shake, shake).
Felted hand knitting.
Auditioning fabrics and threads:
Auditioning threads for the quilting and thread painting.
The house with the door was proportionally too big for the tree and I was not satisfied with this fabric option for the roof. The colors needed to be clear hues for this palette. I knit and felted 2 more pieces.

The house (below) was a better solution for the tree house and the wooden slat steps. It was more inviting to have windows in the tree house. There is light and energy coming from inside.
 Free motion thread painting was used to create the lettering.
Bag front with free-motion stitching. Choosing a zipper.
Side two of the bag before assembly.
The trees were free-motion quilted. Extra batting behind the tree trunks provided a dimensional (trapunto) effect.
The lining fabric is 100% cotton with a directional print (from one of Kaffe Fasset's collections). Care was taken to insure the direction of the print was oriented correctly inside the bag as well as for the flanges of the zipper. A pocket was added to the inside.
Directional print lining with a pocket and zipper.

I wanted a zipper in the bag to keep the contents from falling out. I made three muslin prototypes to figure out how to sew together the lining, zipper, handles and embellished outside. Canvas tabs were sewn to the ends of the zipper. The handles (another requirement) were made from a purchased woven trim.
Close up of the zipper.

The finished bag.
"How to be a Fiber Artist" bag Side 1.
"How to be a Fiber Artist" bag Side 2.
Other Challenge entries can be seen here on the Riverbend Fiber Arts Guild web site. Other inspiring and fun books by SARK include:
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