Craft Wars: The Beach Bag Challenge

Here are two ways to make your own summertime tote with things you probably already own.

It’s finally (almost) summer! Which means it’s also just about time to lounge seaside with a good book — and maybe a cocktail or a few. Since beachwear is all about the balance between cute and practical, I asked two crafty and stylish bloggers to come up with a fashionable but functional tote for hauling your sunscreen, towel, and other beachy necessities.

First up, Kirsten from Studs and Pearls makes a warm weather carryall out of — what else? — a towel.

Here’s how she did it.

1. Gather your supplies. This beach bag requires a towel (size of your choice), a spool of ribbon, sewing pins, scissors, needle and thread, and clear nail polish.

2. Fold and cut. Fold your towel in half, and place pins along the left, right, and bottom sides, as indicated by the white lines in the photo. The placement of these pins will determine how big or small your tote will be. Next, hand sew along each line of pins, either by hand or machine. Be sure to keep the top open. Cut away any excess fabric and turn the bag right side out.

3. Cut the handle holes. Using a sharp pair of scissors, cut a slit on each side of the bag, a couple inches from the top.

4. Add the ribbon handles. Take a long piece of ribbon, and fold it around one of the slits you just made. Make sure that you are using just one side of the towel, not both (otherwise, you’ll close the opening of your tote). One half of the ribbon should be under the towel fabric, and the other should be over. Fold the bottom half of the ribbon over the top half.

5. Continue to weave the ribbon. Slip the top half of the ribbon under the towel and through the slit, then fold it back over the towel. Pull the ribbon to tighten as you go.

6. Keep weaving. Soon, you will see a woven pattern start to form. Continue until the entire length of the slit has ribbon woven around it, remembering to pull the ribbon tightly as you go. Tie a tight bow, and trim any excess ribbon.

7. Apply clear nailpolish to the raw edges of the towel near the straps. This will help prevent fraying. You can also sew a few stitches to further prevent the towel material from shedding.

8. Repeat the strap on the other side of the tote. You now have a nice big bag for the beach!

Next up, Renee from 11 Eureka transformed a vintage tablecloth and linen napkins into a summertime tote.

Here are the steps she took.

1. Collect your materials. You’ll need a vintage tablecloth, vintage linen napkins (the bag shown used seven), colored embroidery threads, a sewing needle, scissors, and fabric dye (yellow and red RIT dye were used in the bag shown).

2. Dye your fabrics. For the bag shown, only the white linen napkins were dyed since the tablecloth was already a pretty green hue. Pick whatever color dye you like (the bag shown mixed red and yellow) and follow the manufacturer’s directions to dye your fabrics. You could dye them all the same color, or mix it up.

3. Allow the fabrics to dry and wash out any excess dye.

4. Pick a size. Decide how large you want your beach bag to be (the one shown is 19” x 22”). Cut your tablecloth to this size for the back of the bag. For the front, sew together as many napkins as necessary to achieve the same size — in the bag shown, four napkins were hand stitched together through their lace edging. Using colorful embroidery thread will add a little contrast and pizzazz.

5. Stitch the front and back together. Lay the napkin front and tablecloth back together, right sides facing. Stitch around three sides by hand or with a machine, leaving the top of the bag open. Turn the bag right side out. Add pockets by hand stitching additional napkins to the front of the bag, using colorful embroidery thread. If you overlap your napkins, you’ll have a variety of pocket sizes, from large to small. These can be used to stash your sunscreen, sunglasses, phone, etc.

6. Make your strap. Gather up leftover pieces of the napkins and tablecloth and stitch them together to make a simple strap. In the bag shown, strips of the tablecloth and napkins were folded and stitched together along one edge, then stitched to the bag using strong embroidery thread.

7. Give your bag a good weight test. Make sure the your stitching can withstand the weight of your usual beach necessities. And voila, you’ve transformed old fabrics in a snazzy new beach bag.

Pippa Armbrester is a quilt maker and designer. Follow her adventures in quilting and life on her website.

Which beach bag is your favorite?

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