So around 2005, I got a wild hair that I should make reusable shopping bags.  They weren’t readily available, you had to find them online, and people were selling organic cotton bags for like $10 a piece.  I’m terribly cheap about little things and said, “Psssshaw! I can make those for less than a dollar!”
I took a grocery bag, opened it on it’s seams, and made a pattern.

I started buying fun fabrics and making bags, but I was having trouble with the edges.  In order to keep the price under $1 per bag (my cost), I had to come up with a way to make the bag single layer (not reversible) and have a nice edge. The end result was using the piping foot and the rolled edge stitch on the serger.  The result was pretty darn cute.  I sold a couple to friends and family, and even at my mom’s book store.  I thought, “This could be huge, if I get grocery stores to carry them!”  This was before all the grocery stores and Walmart sold their own bags in the checkout lane!  I then sat down and started a business plan, came up with a business name, made cards and tags for the bags. Spent a lot of time shopping for fun funky fabrics for the bags.

Then I cut out a TON of bags. My back hurt, my hands hurt, I was miserable.  I had cut out like 50 bags, it took two whole days.  I figured it took about 3 hours to make a bag, start to finish.  If I were going to sell these for $2/bag (I figured that was a good price point, since I need about 10 bags for my groceries, and spending $20 on bags is reasonable, 100 dollars is not), I’d have to make dozens an hour to even make HALF of what I made at my full time job.  So the realization dawned on me that unless I wanted to make a sweat shop with the kids as child laborers, it would have to just be a hobby that I did in my spare time.  So the bags went away.

That said, I do periodically take one of the cut bags out of the stash and put it together.  With a single layer of fabric, these bags hold 3-4 Two Liters of soda!  They are incredibly strong.  But, I also like the idea of a reversible bag, so I’ve been making some of those, too.  Last night I used one to practice on the new embroidery machine.


There are tons of tutorials on making reversible shopping bags out there, so I won’t bore you with it. I will say, you don’t need the tutorial. Just go get a plastic bag, cut along the side seams and cut the seams across the top of the handle. Lay it flat against your fabric, with your folds matching (the fold of your fabric matching the fold of your bag). You’ll see that it fits perfectly in the ~21-22″ space between the fold and the selvage, and takes up about 18″ horizontally.  Add a little seam allowance (or don’t), trace, cut, then sew up the seams (the ones you just cut on the plastic bag).  Then you can turn under the raw edges along the handles and opening, serge, serge with piping and rolled edge, or use one of the tutorials for making reversible (you’ll need to cut two bags, obviously).  This takes half a yard of fabric, so depending on the fabric you buy, you can get these for a dollar or two, in more fun, personalized fabric than what the grocery store offers.

Please note that  you should wash and iron your fabric first so it doesn’t shrink AND you should wash your bags frequently especially if they carry meats, etc.

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So I opened up the box. Here’s the contents (minus all the books).  There is an instructional CD and a Quick start guide. I watched the cd and skimmed the quick start

New Machine and Accessories Fresh out of the Box



The operation manual bored me to sleep. Twice.  So we skipped that.

Check out all those accessories! Look up close.


So I had a hat I was making for a friend of mine, and I wanted to embroider his name on the front.  Before I did it “for real” I wanted to give it a test run.  I had another hat which was a “spare” I was making for a different friend…a less picky, more forgiving friend.  So I decided to try my hand at my first embroidery experiment.

I won’t go through all the gory details of how you set up the Brother SE400. I will say it was dead easy. The hoop is the only real pain, and I’m starting to get the hang of it.  It comes with a preloaded bobbin, and the correct embroidery needle installed.

I simply plopped in my machine embroidery thread (Coats and Clark, black), and whizzed through the menu.  My friend’s daughter’s name is Afton, but the machine would only take Afto.  I realized that this is because the hoop is longer than wide, and the words were being sewn left to right, horizontally.  IIRC, there should be a way to rotate these, right?  I looked but couldn’t find it.  I’ll give it more of a search tomorrow.

Anyway – long story short, I simply had to rehoop for the “n.”  The problem with that is trying to get the placement exactly right. WHAT A PAIN.  I bought the bigger hoop, but by then it was too late. In for a penny and all.

So…Here’s some pix of the process:





and the finished product:



That’s all for now!

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