For a while now I've been saving the packaging from my Starbucks coffee beans. I buy coffee at Costco in 40 oz bags, so after I open up all the seams and wash the empty bags, I have a pretty large piece of material. If you haven't felt of these bags, the material is a tough, plasticized foil, printed all the way around with the Starbucks bag design. It would normally just be trash, so I think I started saving them because they seemed just tough and useful without having a specific idea of what to do with them.
The idea for the bag came about when I was wishing for a large, tough, not-easily-stained bag to take my stuff to the ballpark. Both my boys play baseball so we are at the ballpark a lot. I take a poster, a large scorepad and pencil, and various snacks to every game. I got tired of lugging things individually and none of my bags were right - mostly they were either too small for the 12x18" poster or not stiff enough.
When I recently got my new sewing machine (which I should post about! We'll see if I get around to it though), I finally worked up the motivation to make my envisioned tote bag. I started with five coffee bags, plus an extra, small bag from another brand of coffee that I sewed in as a pocket. I used two bags of the newer packaging design for the outer material, two bags of the older bag design for the inner liner, and another older design bag for the handles and a little anchoring strip inside the bag. I also used some sew-in interfacing purchased from Hobby Lobby to give it a little more stiffness and something in between the layers of foil.
To make it, I took four of the bags and trimmed off the previously crimped edges and made them all the same size. I should have sewn the pocket and anchoring strip in at this point, but I forgot and had to struggle with it later. But it would have been the right time to do it! I sewed the inner pieces, right sides together, on the sides and bottom. I did the same with the outer pieces, but also with the lining on the wrong side of the "fabric" (it was a stack of four pieces - lining, fabric, fabric, lining). Then on each bottom corner of each bag (inner and outer), I sewed across the bottom corner and cut off the resulting triangle so that it would make a box-bottom.
I made the handles with four strips of the extra fabric. I sewed two strips together (attaching the short ends) so that they would be long enough to carry my poster in my finished bag. A person would normally sew a tube, turn it right-side out, then use it as-is or after top stitching it, but this material is way too stiff and difficult for that. Instead I just finger pressed the edges under and sewed it right sides out.
My plan had been to nest the two bags, right sides together, sew the top seam except for a few inches, turn it right-side-out through the hole and then top stitch it closed. However, turning just one bag, before sewing them together, was so difficult that I realized I would never be able to turn it through a hole. SO, I folded in the top toward the wrong side on each of the bags and finger pressed it. Then I put the bags inside each other, wrong-sides-together, placed the handles where I wanted them, and sewed around the entire top. I had to fudge a little since the inner bag was not smaller than the outer bag and there is no stretch to the material. What this meant in practice was sewing them together with the seams of the inner bag not quite all the way open. It seems to have worked great! I did reinforce the area over the handles with some extra stitches.
This material is not easy to work with. The lack of stretch and the fact that every pin hole is permanent meant that I didn't want to pin much, and yet I needed to sew the pieces together without some helpful stitching that would be there if I were working with traditional fabric. I am not planning to run out and make five more of these (yes, I do have coffee bags left!), but I love the result!