How to Make a Tote Bag

If you're like me, you have TONS of clothes sitting on your shelves that you don't use. I am always going to thrift stores and buying random crap. I often buy things for their bold colors or vintage patterns even if they don't fit properly. I tell myself I will alter it and wear it to death...but this rarely happens. In any case, one simple thing you can do with an article of clothing you love but never wear, is turn it into a tote bag.

I especially like to turn skirts into totes. I find that because skirts already have a nice finished waistline, that when upcycled into a bag, it gives the illusion of excellent craftsmanship. But the work required is minimal. Here are the steps.

1. First, find your favorite skirt that you NEVER wear. I literally have had this skirt over 5 years and have NEVER worn it.

2. You'll also need something for the straps. You can easily use the scraps from the skirt, a necktie, or a fabric belt. I opted for the fabric belt. I had one lying around that never fit me anyway.

3. Once you have selected your items, turn the skirt inside out, and just fold back the sides until you find a size and dimension you find pleasing.

4. Then simply take a sharpie (or any marker) and draw a line right on the fabric along your folds. Remember this is not an exact science. I just eyeball my measurements. I hate measuring! (You're not going to see the marker anyway, since it's inside out.)

5. Take scissors and cut right along your line. If your line isn't straight, don't worry. Just try to cut as straight as possible. You should now have 2 squares of fabric (3 cut sides and 1 finished waistline which will be the top of your bag). Now you are ready to sew!

6. Just sew up the 3 cut sides. Make sure the inside of the fabric is facing out. I use a sewing machine because it is so quick and the stitches are even and tight. But you can certainly handsew it.

7. Now for the straps...Loosely measure the length you want your straps. Cut them to size. And decide how you want to secure them to your bag. I personally like when my details are revealed. Sort of a craftsman approach. I prefer to see the stitching because it gives it more character. Turn your bag right-side out. And sew the straps to the bag.

8. You now have a super cute totebag and I guarantee no one else will have it!! And now you can feel good that you are finally using that skirt!

Monster Making How-To

This is a great project to do with kids or by yourself. Please use your own discretion for how much you allow a child to do. But from my experience, they love to make something come alive from choosing fabrics and a shape to decorating and naming.

What you will need:
Two pieces of fabric, or one folded in half
Sharp Scissors
Fabric Pencil/chalk
Polyester Fiberfill or fabric scraps
Sewing Machine (optional)
Needle & Thread
Pencil, pen, or chopstick
Decorations: Anything! Fabric scraps, ribbon, buttons, felt shapes, fabric paint, glitter
Glue (optional)

Step 1

Have your child draw a picture of a monster shape (simple is best).

Step 2

With a fabric pencil, draw the shape on the wrong side of the fabric however large you wish it to be when finished.

Step 3

Place the two piece of fabric together or fold one piece of fabric (right side in). Pin the two pieces together to keep them from moving as you cut.

Cut out the monster shape leaving approximately 1/4 inch seam allowance around the drawing. Don't worry about being perfect, monsters like to be a little messy.

Step 4

Decorate the right sides of the monster, don't forget to add decorations to the back as well.

Use whatever you have at home. Go on a treasure hunt to find great things to adorn the monster. You are only limited to your imagination

For young kids, gluing and drawing (with permanent markers) is easiest. For older kids they can cut out shapes and scraps and sew pieces on to the monster.

If you use paint or glue, it's best to let it dry completely before moving on to the next step. Alternately, you can wait to decorate until after Step 8 so you won't have to wait for the glue to dry before finishing the monster.

Step 5

Pin the two pieces of monster shape together, right side in.

Sew along the line you drew in step two, leaving a straight section open (we'll use that to turn the monster right side out). It's best to use knots or double stitch the section right around the opening.

Step 6

Cut small snips on the curves, snip off corners, and cut darts at sharp indents.
Be sure to cut only 2/3 of the way into the seam allowance and DO NOT cut the seam. This is easiest if your scissors are very sharp. On very rounded seams, the more snips you make, the more curvy the seam will be when turned right side out.

Turn your monster right side out through the opening. A pencil or chopstick is an excellent tool for making sure all the appendages and curves fill out.

Step 7

Using polyester fiberfill, stuff the monster. Use small amounts and start by filling in the furthest reaches and appendages first before filling the main body cavity. Again use the pencil or chopstick for this.

A greener alternative is to use fabric scraps cut up small instead of fiber fill. For tight places, make sure the scraps are very small.

As you fill the monster, squeeze the monster to make sure you're not over-filling or under filling the monster.

Step 8

Tuck in the seam allowance in the opening and use a slip stitch to close the hole.

Step 9

Name the monster and commence playing!

By Karen
of Karen's Monsters

Indie-pendent Craftepreneurs of the Bahamas Straw Market

by Lorina of The Original Beadscarf

Who doesn’t love to visit local markets while traveling? Sure you have your usual souvenir suspects: shot glasses, t-shirts, caps, the list goes on. But my favorite is always the local craft, especially when the person who created the item is also the person selling it. The item just seems to have more meaning.

On a recent trip to the Bahamas, I visited the Straw Market. The largest of its kind in the world, the Straw Market houses some 200 vendors selling everything from those ubiquitous tourist t-shirts and counterfeit handbags to figurines and toys.

But just past that knockoff “status” bag, you will find the most prominent of all the items. They are the bags, hats, fans and baskets all made from colorful straw, and their purveyors working tirelessly on these items.

These are the indie-pendent craftepreneurs of the Straw Market. Tourism is the most viable industry of the Bahamas and these craftepreneurs are ready (and eager!) to provide a personalized straw item on-the-spot! For many of the vendors at the Straw Market, this is their primary means of income. You can find them stitching dried palm and sisal plants, which are sometimes dyed, to create beautiful and useful souvenirs every day of the week.

At this market, I also found someone who created toys from recycled soda cans.

A fun day out, the Straw Market in Nassau, The Bahamas is definitely worth the trip!

All text and images
©Lorina Pellach Ladrillono 2008

Renegade Day 1

Well, I just got back from The Renegade Craft Fair, and after a quick tour around - had already seen several of our members selling. I checked out Cakehouse's new napkins - oh stripes! and made my way to see BetterThanJam's unique silkscreen dresses, bags, aprons - you name it (shh I think some of it was on sale) and NewYorkClocks fab creations. Then rounding the corner I came upon MetalSugar who had worked out some very clever display ideas for her fun line of jewelry.

I also picked up some great freebies - Etsy is giving out limp balm and temporary tattoos, and Readymade magazine is giving out free magazines and CHEAP-O one year subscriptions for only $5 - that's right, one year $5 - I got mine :)

It's HOT out there folks. Go out and show your New York Team your support (and bring water)


Etsy Labs has reopened!

Starting tonight Etsy Labs is open again for their weekly craft nights! Etsy Labs was closed for the past few weeks due to a move from the 6th Floor to the 3rd floor of their 325 Gold Street building. The move is complete and the space looks great:

Julie [below] hosted a live chat on Etsy and gave instructions on how to make a pillow.

Danielle [in the photo below] and Christine worked on sewing the pillows. Check out all the Labs' sewing machines and sergers!

If you'd like to visit the Labs, the space is open to visitors every Monday from 4-8:00. The building is at 325 Gold Street in Brooklyn, which is right near Downtown Brooklyn, a close walk to several subway stops.


Connecticut Team at the Brooklyn Homeshow

Woooo! It has been quite an afternoon! I have been a busy little beaver, working on all sorts of exciting new projects. One of them being my table display for the Brooklyn Home Show! I think if I were any more excited about this I'd wet myself.
Aside from being a devoted member of the {NewNew} York Etsy Street Team, I am also team leader of the CT Team. So my little fantasy is to have these teams work in conjunction with each other. One big happy Etsy Team family! In my efforts to do that, I have offered the CT team my table to display some of their handiwork at this upcoming event, as well as my own. It took a lot of blood sweat and tears, but I think I am finally getting somewhere with this.
I have included some pictures as a sneak peek of what my table will offer! But by all means stop by the show! The ladies on this New York team are incredibly talented and saavy crafters! I am constantly inspired to make my work better. So stop in and say hello! We'd love to see you there! (More details are available at

Friday Night Beauty Tip

Since this winter weather will keep many of us indoors with a little extra time, I wanted to share some beauty tips you can do at home. There is nothing better for the skin than natural, preservative free products. And what better than some you can make yourself! One of my favorites is face scrub used every other week (oily skin) or once a month (normal/ combination), it can make any complexion radiant and help promote cell rejuvenation.

The scrub I craft is a dry oatmeal base scrub and an ‘essential’ water that is mixed together before use. I currently make two types, one a rose-lavender blend shown in picture for normal/combination skin and the other a new blend, tea tree-green tea for oily skin. The green tea used I bought in Korea and it was part of the first picking, the aroma is light and herby when mixed with the tea tree 'essential' water, it is by far my favorite. Both will be available at the Brooklyn Home Show.

Following is a recipe made with Chamomille (anti-inflammatory and redness reducer) suited for this killer weather, it takes approx 10 minutes start to finish, try it!

5 Tablespoons quick cooking oatmeal – grind fine, hand grinding would be best for this amount

1 1/2 Tablespoons Chamomile Tea – try brewing the tea in half a cup for a strong golden color

Mix the two above and let sit together for 2-5 minutes, the mixture will cool and become paste. Once ready take a small amount, what ever two fingers can ‘scoop’ out and use over face and neck. Use circular motion and soft pressure, the oatmeal will be fine enough to do its ‘scrubbing’ without aggressive efforts. Remove by washing with warm water and pat dry. Any left over can be refrigerated up to a week.


by Josie

Subway Series Issue #1

Subway Series Issue #1
(©2008 Lorina Pellach)

My commute to work is probably longer than the average in NYC being 1 hour to and 1 hour from. I pass daily from Queens through Manhattan to my mostly un-creative, IT Specialist/ Systems Admin job in Brooklyn. So in addition to the usual ho-hum of looking at overhead ads, people watching, reading, sleeping or doing sudoku (discloser: I actually never did sudoku), what I like to do is bring something crafty on the road (er, rails.) If you think about it, it makes total sense. It's found time. Sure, I rather sleep in that extra half hour in the morning, or send emails, but heck, I'm stuck on the train and I want to be crafty!

Clearly, not all crafty work is portable. I wouldn't want to deal with itty bitty beads on the subway, lest they fall and roll away into some unidentifiable sticky liquid on the floor, gross! And Although I could do part of the process to create new styles of The Original Beadscarf (, I choose instead to try something new.

I learned to crochet about 2 years ago and the thing I love most about it is that it is TRULY portable! And the time passes so quickly I cannot believe an hour has passed! A seat helps and I usually get one, but it is not entirely necessary.

When I learned to crochet it was from a Trinidadian lady I used to call Aunt Janet. She's a senior who conducted 3 hour workshops on Monday and Friday in midtown Manhattan from noon-3pm. Back then I wasn't working fulltime so I learned to read patterns and even write my own!

In this series, I will bring you some of the things I work on and complete during my commute. Of course there will be pictures and maybe even a pattern, as long as copyright infringement is not at risk.

So stay tuned for my next edition of "Subway Series" and remember, next time you have to wait for something, whether to arrive at work on the subway or at the doctor's office or for a flight, hey, it's not so's found time, crafty time!

by Lorina Pellach
The Original Beadscarf