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This instructable was spurred by the Etsy.com Sew Useful Contest.
I created a tote/caddy for my dad's walker. Once one starts using a simple walker it is difficult if not impossible to carry anything. The older we get the more peripherals and attachments we seems to need. Reading glasses, dentures, hearing aids, etc. (I would want the kind of walker with wheels and a seat that one can sit on to rest. There is usually storage under the seat too.)
Supplies: Minimal. Use what you have. If you feel the need to shop; Michael's, Hancock, JoAnn's and Wally World are where I buy most of mine.
Tools: Minimal. For sewing with denim I strongly recommend a good sewing machine. Most of the project can be done with glue. Embelishments can be done at any point. If you are going to machine stitch embellishments it will be easiest to do after cutting off the legs and stitching the center front and back, but before stitching the bottom of the bag.
Skills: Minimal. An eight year old can probably do this. Depending on their abilities, they may need assistance/supervision. If you are a beginner you will probably have fewer problems and greater success if you read ALL of the instructable first.
This tote is designed to hang on the crossbar of a walker or it can be modified to hang on a wheelchair. For the picture mine is hanging on a cage style personal shopping/utility cart.
My research was pretty much limited to Nancy Zieman's work and her Creative Kindness projects that I saw on her Sewing With Nancy PBS program. (Unfortunately my local PBS station dropped her program.) The walker caddy project in the Creative Kindness pages finishes about 24x12 with four ties. Simple and inexpensive so that they can be mass produced by anyone. There are many other projects including hats/turbans for people who have lost their hair.
For my dad I wanted something more personal and used velcro to aid in ease of attaching and removing the tote, instead of tying it on the bar. I used a pair of old jeans, the lining has KC Chiefs design and sparkly lettered name for identification. Unfortunately, I can't find the picure I took of the one I made for my dad. I think it was one of the last I took with my film camera before I realized it no longer worked.
What I'm not going to teach you:
I'm not going to teach you how to sew, although this is a great beginner's project since precision is not needed. Neatness counts for most of us, tho.
I'm not going to teach you how to use a sewing machine. Sewing machines come with manuals. Besides the newer electronic ones probably vary quite a bit in their operating instructions.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
The supplies you use will depend your skill and the needs and personality of the person that will be using the caddy/tote. The size and style of the caddy/tote is determined by the needs and desires of the user of the tote and the skills and personality of the creator.
Supplies I used are:
Old pair of jeans
Fabric for lining, about one half yard
Thread - regular and topstitching to match the topstitching on the jeans you are altering
Velcro - ? long - 3/4 inch wide
Ribbon - ? long - 3/4 to one inch wide
Webbing for straps - one yard of one inch wide
Fabric Glue - I use Fabritac
Embellishments - This can be anything from contrasting thread to sequins and maribou feathers. I used iron on patches
Step 2: Assemble Tools
You can probably use what you have for this project. The exact list of tools you will need are dependent on the your materials and embellishments.
Tools I used are:
Sewing machine- A sewing machine makes for stronger seams and less pain in your hand or finger from pushing the needle through tough fabric. I doubt that the $20 sewing machine can handle multiple layers of tough fabric. Ask before you buy. I bought mine in 1970 at Sears and it still works fine. These days you can buy new at places like Wally World or used at thrift stores, etc.
Sewing machine needles - For the denim you have to use denim needles or be prepared to change needles frequently.
Straight Pins- I like the long ones with a large head. Glass heads won't melt from the iron.
Scissors - Pinking shears and embroidery, I have to use the spring loaded type because of hand and wrist pain.
Ruler - I like the see through rulers designed for quilting.
Marking Pencil or Tailor's Chalk- The marking pencil should be something that will wash out or hidden within the seams.
Iron - An inexpensive iron is good enough. I have an iron I bought many, many years ago. When I'm sewing is pretty much the only time I use it. The Clover iron is great for small areas. Clover iron is basically a soldering iron with a larger flat head.
Ironing board or surface - You can get by with folding a towel and putting on the bed if you don't want or have an ironing board. For sewing I like to use the June Tailor Cut'n Press II. The mat is designed for quilters with rotary cutting (gray side) and ironing (white side).
Fray-Check - This is like a liquid plastic that works well to prevent fraying.
Step 3: The Basic Jeans Bag
For this instructable I mostly used what I had. A pair of women's jeans.
I decided I wanted the caddy/tote deep enough for magazines and books. So I planned for a finished bag roughly 12 inches deep.
I opened the crotch seams by ripping out the stitches to a couple inches beyond where I would be cutting the jeans off. I used a small pair of spring loaded embroidery scissors. I could have used a seam ripper. Snip about every third stitch the pull the two pieces of fabric apart.
Now lay the jeans out flat. Align the top front and the top back and pin together. Measure down about 13 inches and draw a line. I measure in 4-10 locations, mark and then connect the dots. Pin the layers together so that you have basically a rectangle formed by the side seams, top and your markings. Cut along the dotted line.
If you are a beginner the lining is easier to cut and construct but you need to take measurements from the outer bag so you can pin this bag together, measure, construct the lining and then come back to this point.
Denim frays easily. What? You already knew that? For those who don't know how to control the fraying, it is done with different seam finishes. The raw edge of the side seams are serged. If you have a serger this is the perfect time to use it. I don't so I use one of the following. The center seams are flat felled. The seams are stitched with the wrong sides of the fabric together and then one side of the seam is trimmed and the other side is folded over and topstitched. That's too much work for us. So trim the seams with pinking shears if you have them and stitch the seam twice using a 1/2" seam allowance and again about 1/16" apart. Or zigzag stitch the raw edge.
Originally the seam that goes down the center from the zipper to back waist is a flat felled seam. When you deconstruct you can see how one side is over the other. As you look the first picture here the side on your right overlaps the left side. The opening for the zipper is on your left.
Pin the right front over the left front until the front lies flat. Actually, you should have done this as best as possible before cutting the legs off. I ripped the center front seam upto the zipper.
Do likewise with the back left and right. On women's jeans I usually rip to about 3-4 inches from the waistband to get the fabric to lay flat. I couldn't find an orange topstitch thread so I used regular thread in an orange that best matched what was on the jeans. With the orange in the top of your sewing machine, and blue or medium gray in the bobbin, stitch over the stitches you ripped out earlier.
In the second picture you can see where I have stitched the front and back and started to cut the excess fabric from the back seam with pinking shears.
Now with the right sides of the jeans together and the bottom edges of the bag even, pin the seam from side to side, as you see in the 4th and 5th pictures. You may notice that the side seams are not on the edge. That's because most of us have larger hineys that our front. When viewed from the side it appears to be more centered. Stitch with a half inch seam and finish however you decided you will finish the seams.
Now we're going to square up the bottom. This step is optional. Open up the bag and line up the bottom seam with the actual side fold. You should have a point as seen in the last picture. Measure from the point down the bottom seam 1 1/2", mark a line and stitch. This seam is about 3" long. That's a good size for most totes. Do the other end this same way.
I read this in a quilt magazine. Use a medium gray thread if you are working with multiple colors and it is impractical to change the threads every few minutes. Or you just want to buy one spool of thread. Dark colors, dark gray. Light colors, light gray thread.
Step 4: Make the Lining
Measure the jean bag at the widest point which most likely is the lowest edge. Mine measures 19". Add an inch gives me 20" for the width.
Next, measure the depth of the bag, add an inch and double. The depth of my bag is 11" + 1" = 12" x 2 = 24". This is the lenghth.
I cut this piece first, since it's the largest, and then cut pockets from the rest.
I decided to make the pockets double fabric and turn them inside out. I cut one pocket piece 7 x 13 inches. The other is 13 x 15 inches.
Again precision is not a big deal. If you are unsure then cut too big and pare down to size as you go. Unless you choose a lining fabric that frays alot you don't have to finish the seams the way the denim needs it.
In the 3rd picture the larger pocket has been stitched and trimmed and the smaller pocket has been turned inside out. Fold the pockets in half across the width. With right sides together stitch around the raw edges with a 1/2" seam allowance leaving a 2-3 inch opening at the bottom as shown in the third picture. Trim the corners as shown in the same picture. Turn the pockets inside out. They make a gizmo just for working the corners out nice and sharp. I usually end up what is handy. In this case a large-ish crochet hook. Pencils and pens can leave marks. Sharp pencils and scissors poke holes. Finger press the opening closed. The heat and the pressure from your fingers is usually good. You can get the iron out and heat it up for this if you wish. Avoid pulling the fabric and stretching it out of shape.
Next step, place and stitch the pockets. You can eyeball this or fold the edges and match those folds up. Place the folded edge of the pocket about 1 1/2" from the edge of the lining. Topstitch around the edge of the pocket about 1/4" from the edge of the pocket.
Next, I stitched a gathering stitch slightly less than 1/2" along the edges because the bottom of the bag is larger than the top. This helps ease the extra fabric into place.
Now fold the lining in half right sides together and stitch the two side seams.
Do the bottom corners of the lining the same way as the outer jeans bag. Match the bottom fold to the side seam. Measure down the side seam or the bottom fold 1 1/2" draw a line across the seam and stitch. With the lining I folded up the little triangle and stitched it to the side seam. Do this to both bottom corners. As seen in the last picture.
Step 5: Join Jean Bag With Lining
With Lining inside out insert lining inside jean bag. Align side seams with sides seams of lining. With top edges even, pin the two parts together. Stitch around the top almost 1/2" from edge using a basting stitch. If you don't know a basting stitch is a long machine stitch or hand stitch. It is meant to hold the pieces together temporarily.
It is difficult and will probably break your needle to stitch too close to the button and zipper. Stitch as close as the presser foot allows. Then I just glued the rest in place using Fabritac.
Now put the belt back in place. Align the inside edge of the belt with the edge of the of the bag right sides together. Stitch using a regular stitch length.
Fold over the belt into it's regular place and topstitch in place using a regular stitch.
Now we have something that looks like our original mini skirt.
Step 6: Replace Belt Loops With Velcro Loops
You can leave the belt loops on if just making a tote bag and skip to the next step.
For the caddy it is now time to cut the ribbon and Velcro. Many elderly people have trouble seeing especially in shadows. I chose this ribbon in part because of high contrast. Useful for people with low vision. On my dad's caddy/tote I used black Velcro for the loop side and white Velcro for the hook side. Or was it the other way around.
Since I don't know for sure who the recipient is or how they are going to use this caddy/tote I cut these pieces slightly long for a thick bar. Cut 5 pieces of ribbon 4" long. 3" will probably work for small bars. Cut 5 pieces each of Velcro hook and loop 3" long. 2 1/2" for a smaller bar.
Most ribbon frays. To control the fraying put a couple of drops of Fray Check on the cut edges of the ribbons. Let dry about 15 minutes.
Take one piece of ribbon and one piece of Velcro hook tape and put them together with ribbon on top of the hook side. Stitch 1/4" from the raw edge. Fold the ribbon over the raw edge and down the back of the hook tape. Also, place the loopy side of the Velcro tape over the hooky side overlapping about 1/2". For this I used gray thread in the bobbin and black thread in the top of the sewing machine. I used a straight stitch for across the top and bottom, and a zigzag for the sides.
Attach to the waistband in the same place the belt loops were. These are going to get a lot of stress so lots of stitching helps reinforce. If you have anything with straps like a tote bag or backpack, you will notice that they have stitched a box and then a X inside the box. This is what you need to do now. I like to start accross the top area near the top of the waistband, straight down the edge to the lower part of the waistband, across the lower edge of the waistband, up the edge, diagonally down, accross the bottom again, diagonally up and finally accross the top. It is also important to reinforce the major stops and starts by stitching forward a few stitches, back a couple, then forward. Repeat at the end of attaching this loop. Repeat until you have them all on.
Step 7: Handle Straps
Cut the one yard strip of handle straping in half. You should now have two 18" pieces. This makes a handle long enough to pick up with your hand and slip over your forearm. For shoulder length you will need to buy twice as much or more.
Fold the bag flat and lay it down. Mark with pins between the rear left "belt" loop and the front left "belt" loop. Likewise for the right hand side.
Open up the bag and place one end of the strap about 1/4 - 1/2" below the top of the waist band over one of the pins. Pin the strap in place. Likewise for the other three ends of the straps. Stitch across the strap near the lower edge of the waistband. Be sure to reinforce the stitches where you stop and start by back stitching as with the loops in the previous step.
Now fold the strap up and box stitch as with the loops in the previous step. Stitching about 1/4" from the edges of the waistband and 1/8" from the edge of the strapping.
Step 8: Enjoy!
This is the finished product loaded up and ready to move on a shopping utility cart. First picture is the opened front view. Second picture is closed front view. Last picture is close back view. Enjoy it by using it yourself or by giving to someone who needs it.
And remember if you don't want to make one yourself then buy one from me at my etsy shop.
Buy this on Etsy while it is still available
An unlined tote.
A tote without the caddy "add-ons".
I chose red, white and blue because it is popular and I like it. Perhaps, you prefer black jeans with a skull and cross bones. Or, pink sequins with maribou feathers.
If you make one please share it with us here. We love seeing how other people interpret and use our instructables.
Myself I tend to prefer plain and simple.
BTW: this is my first instructable and my first etsy product for sale. While there is quite a bit of stopping to document the project which slowed me down quite a bit, it has been so much fun it should be illegal!