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Monday, November 10, 2008

Bag it

[posted by risa]

The other day, Beloved came home with a twenty-pound bag of rice -- "terrible food miles, I know -- but I couldn't resist the bag" -- neither could I.

It's burlap, something we don't see much of around here these days, but with a zipper sewn in and a carrying handle. Once you've removed the twenty pounds of rice, you can keep the bag as a purse, or a shopping bag. This is beyond clever! One of the nicest things I've seen -- why the stores are not full of such things is ... it's frustrating, this throwaway culture we have.

The bag stirred memories.

Way back in my twenties --we're talking early 1970s here -- eek, and all that -- I heard about a way that people in some places reuse burlap bags, and saw a drawing, and liked it, and made one as shown in the drawing, and liked it even better.

It was my shopping bag for a long, long time. I kept it patched until it was in tatters and in the end, mulched it. But then burlap seemed to disappear, and I haven't made another one since -- until now.

A short story: when I lived in Atlanta, which was when I had that bag, for several years, my bicycle was my only transportation.

I had a very young son, he was about three at the time, and he rode in the child seat on the bike. Which was fine, but we went to a concert at Piedmont Park, which is in a great bowl with hills around, and -- he was tired through and through and fell asleep, deeply asleep, and I couldn't put him in the child seat without waking him, which I was loath to do, so I rolled him into the shopping bag, suspended him from the handlebars, as I had seen Vietnamese do in documentaries on our black-and-white television, and walked the bike up the steep streets twelve blocks home. A very successful expedient -- he slept peacefully the whole way.

A local coffee shop has begun making burlap coffee sacks available, at first for a dollar each, and then fifty cents -- we thought they were a steal at a dollar, and might have paid two.

So we have been collecting them for various projects. Not buying coffee at the counter at all, just going in to get burlap bags, with our spare change, really.

So, with a fond remembrance from Oldest Son's childhood in mind I have attempted to resurrect this project. The results are not perfect but I will improve on it my next try, I'm sure.

Take your burlap bag and spread it out on the dining room table and cut a line around from the bag's waist to its shoulders, so to speak, and back down to its waist, about two inches or three away from the edge, through both sides of the bag, so that you've cut a big inverted letter "U".

Fold both flaps down. Take a sailmaker's needle and a skein of yarn, and work the edges of the cuts on both the "handle" (which you will stitch together, closing what had been the mouth of the bag) and the flaps, with a diagonal stitch.

You may need to shorten the strap by cutting six to eighteen inches out of it, so that the bag does not drag on your thigh (which unfortunately mine does -- I cut out six inches and should have cut out twelve -- will fix later).

That's it. Takes almost no time. To use, roll up the bag, put it in your shopping cart, and at the register, unroll it, open one flap, tuck in your ill-gotten gains, throw the flap over the other one, put the strap across your off shoulder, and go.

Being as it's half a sack now, it's good for -- oh, say fifty pounds -- if you are.
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