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!

Karen's Monsters Birthday Party Sale!

In honor of my birthday (not the monsters') I'm throwing a party, and it's your good luck that it also means a sale!

There are two ways you can benefit from this.

1) July 19th thru July 27th visit my etsy store for free shipping to anywhere in the world on anything in my shop. AND you get a free party goodie bag filled with handmade samples and fun party toys (I couldn't resist).

2) If you're in the NYC area, come to Artists & Fleas in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (On N. 6th at Bedford St) anytime this weekend (July 19th & 20th) for 25% all monsters, shirts, cards, button packs, and more. AND you get a free party goodie bag with each purchase. There will also be some free giveaways just for coming out and having a good time. It is a party after all.

Thanks and hope that you enjoy the party!


Why Buy Handmade?

While many of us enjoy buying beautiful, hand-crafted goods, we don’t always think of the positive impact our purchases have on our lives and community. In support of our Indie-pendence theme this month, I have 5 reasons to buy handmade.

1. Supports Local Economies
Buying from local businesses (crafters and artists) that are buying their supplies locally, you are putting your money back into the local economy, instead of large conglomerates that funnel their money to a headquarters across the country or across the world.

Skirt by BetterThanJam

2. Builds Community
Supporting local artists allows a flourishing artistic community. It’s not just the local artists that benefit. It invites more galleries and boutiques as well as community artists projects, gardens, murals, arts education, and more.

Painting by ArtByIris photographed in front of the Brooklyn Bridge

3. Better Quality Goods
You know exactly what’s gone into each product and can speak with the crafter about the why and how of making each piece. In addition to the detailed craftsmanship, many handmade goods are made from natural or recycled materials. This and making the products to last for generations instead of years lessens our impact on the natural world.

Veggie Garden Soap Bar by NordeaSoaperie

4. More Beauty in Your Life
Many mundane and practical pieces used in everyday life can be enhanced by using instead beautifully crafted handmade goods. Beauty makes the soul rest easier and smiles more prevalent.

Cloth Napkins by Cakehouse

5. Responsible Buying
No sweatshops, less than minimum wage workers, nor corporate outsourcing. It feels good to be connected to where our goods come from, to know that each piece was made with joy and completed by one or maybe a handful of people.

Robot Card by MamaRobot

Supporting handcrafted goods means we can become responsible for where our money goes and what we bring into our lives: beauty, health, and community.

Handmade Postcards - let your crafts do the traveling!

Blech! It sure has been hot and sticky this June! Even with all this glorious talk of travel and crafting on-the-go, sometimes it’s nice to settle down with an icy cool glass of lemonade in front of the AC and do some travel-inspired crafting in the comfort of your own home. To that effect, let’s make some handmade postcards! We can dream up collages inspired by faraway places, and then, our handiwork can do the traveling for us. This is a great, cheap, quick project to do with friends, kids, or by yourself, and the variations are endless. Most of the stuff you’ll use is probably already in your house!

All you need to get to work is:

  • Something to cut with
  • Something to cut up
  • Something to stick stuff together

In this picture, I’ve assembled shoeboxes, scissors, magazines, clear tape, chip brushes, and every crafter’s best friend: Mod Podge! If you don’t have Mod Podge, I’d recommend running out to your local craft or art supply store to pick some up. This stuff is glue, sealant, and pretty shiny surface all in one! It makes all collage projects really sizzle, and you can even use it for jewelry projects and more. But, it’s not completely necessary to make postcards – you can use regular white Elmer’s glue, or even clear scotch tape or packing tape!

The first step is cutting out the basic postcard shape. If you have any shoeboxes lying around, they make excellent postcards. The card stock is usually the right thickness and they're typically white on one side (where you're going to put the address); plus, one shoebox is enough to make over a dozen postcards. Talk about upcycling!

The easiest way to prepare the shoebox is to remove the lid and cut down each of the four corners, from the lid to the bottom, so that you have one flat piece of cardboard.

Then, you can either trace a postcard you have, or just measure yourself. Many smaller shoeboxes already have great sizes built into the bottoms and sides.

****note! USPS guidelines dictate that your postcard must be between 3.5x5” and 4.5x6” – so if you want your postcard to be mailable without the risk of return to sender, heed these size restrictions!****

Cut out the rectangles with scissors, or an X-acto knife if you’re especially crafty. Frayed cardstock edges can be cleaned up by carefully running the sharp edge of the scissor/knife back and forth along the ends, perpendicular to the cardstock.

If you do NOT have any shoeboxes lying around, never fear! A clever alternative is to dive right into those magazines you’ve lined up for collage selections, cut out 4-5 postcard-size pieces from the front or back cover, and staple, tape, or glue them all together. If you use glue, be sure to use thin coats and wait for them to dry to avoid wrinkles.

Other places you might find usable cardstock/cardboard:

  • Back of a legal or other notepad
  • Junk mail
  • Boxes of envelopes, cleaning supplies, frozen dinners, video games, … etc!!

Now comes the fun part – collaging!! Going with our travel theme, I thought about how fun it would be to yank people out of their advertisment-paradise. Perhaps Ms. Bikini Model would like to spend some time with a mound of dirt?? Cut or rip out the pictures, get creative! If you want to cover the postcard with a background, use the cardstock to trace the right size.

If you’re using Mod Podge or Elmer’s glue, the first step is to glue down the pictures with just a SMALL amount of adhesive. Less glue = fewer wrinkles!

Tip: if there's a nice, clean white side to your shoebox, and a brown or less nice side, glue to the less nice side, and leave the nice white side for writing your message and address.

Then, if you’re using Mod Podge, the best way to apply it to the surface is with a handy chip brush. My 1” chip brush was literally 50 cents. Not a bad buy! Regular bristle brushes are totally fine, but need to be cleaned immediately to avoid permanent gunkiness. You can use your fingers if you’re low on time, money, or the motivation to go to the craft store (hey, it is really hot out there!!), just be sure to clean up your fingers! Oh, and please don’t let kids put glue/Mod Podge on their hands.… Pour a little Mod Podge out into a small bowl or jar, and spread it thinly and evenly over your pictures. You may want to start in the middle and work your way out to try to keep the edges as flat as possible. But wrinkles are bound to happen with cheap magazine paper! Embrace the wrinkle.

You can use normal Elmer’s glue here, but you have to mix the glue with equal parts water beforehand. This works VERY well with tissue paper, because it absorbs the watery glue. It’s not quite as good with magazine paper, especially since it sometimes stays a little cloudy even after it dries. But it will keep those edges down and provide a slightly more even surface. You can always just glue underneath and leave the edges to the mercy of the post office!

Packing tape can be a really fun way of attaching pics too! It gives it a nice industrial effect – good with maps, newspaper, and other less glossy materials. Instant shine! Be aware - there will be some tape overlapping to the white side. Work with it :)

The very final step is making sure you have a surface to write on! After all, postcards are all about communicating. If you used a plain white shoebox, you’re good to go! Felt tip pens write most easily, but you could always use ballpoint pens, markers, pencils….

If you used magazines or any cardstock that isn’t white, you can just paste in a plain sheet of printer paper, notepad paper, or any other salvaged paper that’s free of extraneous typing remnants. A secret source of glossy white paper can be found in magazine ads – just look for VW, Apple, or other such classy products! There’s much white space to be found if you do a little flipping.

If you’re fantastically crafty, you may even have gold and silver fabric pens. They write on anything, even multicolored magazine ads.

And now you’re done! You can collage all kinds of things onto your postcard … ticket stubs, photos, tissue paper, even little bits of fabric. Send some memories to a friend – just be sure to add 27 cents for postage!!

Wedding memory quilts

There is something timeless and sentimental about a quilt, and quilts can be a great way to capture memories from a wedding. I've made two wedding quilts. A bit of how-to:

Bridal Shower Quilt:
--The bride decided on her favorite quilt colors. I selected light-colored fabrics in a variety of solid and subtle cotton prints and used a rotary cutter and cutting mat to trim the fabrics into large squares.
--At the bridal shower, each guest was given a fabric square and a selection of permanent fabric markers. Participants were asked to write a message to the couple on the squares-- well wishes, words of wisdom, etc... Guests were asked to leave a one-inch blank border around the edge of the fabric square for a seam allowance.
--After the shower, I sewed the squares into a simple patchwork quilt. To add graphic interest I also included a few appliqued quilt squares.
--The end result was great. The couple married in 2002 and still have the quilt, which includes messages from their closest relatives and friends.

Wedding Chuppah:
--After hearing about the bridal shower quilt that I'd made, I was asked to make a chuppah for a friend's wedding. A chuppah is a canopy under which a Jewish wedding takes place. The photo on the right is an example of one used at an outdoor wedding (from 'paperandthreads').
--Large cream-colored cotton quilt squares (cut to 10x10 inches) were mailed out to 30 of the couple's close friends and family. Each person was asked to decorate a quilt square with some kind of memory for the couple, and then mail them back. Participants were asked to leave a blank one-inch border around the square for a seam allowance, so I didn't sew into their designs.
--The completed quilt squares were beautiful! Each one was an individual work of art, some serious, some silly. The squares included handwritten messages, iron-on photos, embroidery, etc....
--I sewed the squares into a patchwork quilt and added a border around the outside edge of the quilt. At each corner of the quilt I added a buttonhole.
--To make the quilt into a chuppah, I purchased thick wooden dowels (approximately 1 1/2 inches in diameter) and cut them to an appropriate height. At the top of each dowel I screwed in large metal rings. The chuppah was attached to the wooden poles with ribbons that tied through the button holes and the metal rings. The poles were decorated with flowers and vines for the ceremony.
--At the wedding ceremony, the couple married under this special chuppah, filled with well-wishes from many of their wedding guests. The chuppah is in their wedding photos and is a lasting memory of their wedding and the good wishes people had for them as they embarked on their marriage.

Greenpoint Hearts & Crafts Affair

Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Sunday, December 2nd, 2007
The Hearts and Crafts Affair, a network of young, bright and promising craft creators, will offer a selection of their latest work at Café Grumpy’s Greenpoint location (193 Meserole Avenue at Diamond Street) from noon to six pm. Back for a fifth time due to its unwavering popularity, The Hearts and Crafts Affair has become an opportunity that can’t be missed for the Brooklyn DIY set. Hostess Kira Birney curates a diverse and talented selection of local artists that promise a myriad of original styles. This winter the craft fair will showcase jewelry, paper goods, knit ware, confections, clothing, candles, journals, ceramics and drawings by 18 local independent artists and crafters. The event will also feature musical entertainment throughout the day by Mannequin Circus and friends.
Café Grumpy is located near the Nassau G stop as well as the B48, 43 and 61 bus routes.

The NewNew Black Friday 10% Off Sale

The NewNew Etsy Street Team is having a ONE DAY Black Friday 10% OFF SALE on Friday November 23. Here is a list of our participating stores:– Vintage scarves, ties & skirts resurrected into stylish adjustable necklaces. – Dress smart. Learn British fast with our Adult and Children's British Flashcard Apparel.

Unique silk screened tee shirts for men & women.

You will receive a 10% rebate off of items purchased only on November 23, 2007 - excluding any sales tax & shipping

KimmChi Introduction

Buy Handmade

Hello All!
Just a quick not to introduce myself and my etsy t-shirt shop.
Find beautiful hand silk screened women's shirts at All are original designs by the artist in a variety of styles and colors. All printed on high quality American made, sweatshop free - American Apparel shirts.
This present collection is inspired by Art Deco forms and patterns.