I have to admit that there are seasons when I'm no good at carrying my own shopping bags to the store. I leave them at home, or even worse, I leave them in my car and don't realize it until I'm in the checkout line. I"m working toward less plastic in my life, so carrying my own bags is a big part of that. I need to do better, and I think I've found a way to make that happen.
In April, one of our seamstresses, Gabriela, came to Friday Free Sew with an idea. She wanted to recycle her dog's food bags by incorporating them into a fashionable grocery store tote. She brought the heavy plastic dog food bag, and used the pattern from a class project to cut a simple tote bag from the plastic. She then chose a colorful fabric print and cut the same size tote. The dog food bag was the inside, and the fabric was the outside. Several of us took notice of the bag and had the same idea: sell it!
Gabriela prefers to sew for herself and her family, and so we asked Ada if she would be interested in making the grocery store totes and receiving income from the sales. She was, and so she and Gabriela worked together so Ada could learn the design.
I immediately set out to gather up pet food bags. I live in Owen Park, in Tulsa, a neighborhood full of generous animal lovers. I put out a request for dog and cat food bags, and within a week I had a porch filled with the kind of bags that we need for the inside of our grocery totes.
Ada got to work, and we continued to tweak and perfect the bag. To date, she has stitched ten bags, and we are so proud of them! They are lined with heavy plastic pet food bags, which is practical for the occasional spills, leaks, or when the cold items sweat inside the bag. And the outside is fabric, which makes it sturdier and guarantees a longer life for your bag.
A little about Ada: She and her daughter arrived in the U.S. from Peru last August to join her husband, and she was already an excellent seamstress. Because we require all students to attend our beginner class, she was flying through the projects and we immediately identified her as a student ready to sew for income. She's attentive to detail, sews quickly but neatly, and is willing to do adjustments when we make changes to the design. She is also self-confident and not afraid to give her opinions and ideas, which we love.
So you know where this is going. Now that Ada has made ten grocery bags, we've put them on our online store and are excited to get them in your hands! We've priced them at $20, because they are beyond your basic market bag. These could be used for the beach, a picnic, to haul your library books, and the list goes on. My neighbors are still filling my porch with bags, so we're planning to keep making these as long as they sell.
As we continue to develop products, we are finding that the women in our program are leading the way. They have a list of creative ideas and they're not afraid to try something different. Many of the women are also are talented at finding ways to upcycle and recycle things we might otherwise throw away. We're now collecting boxes and cardboard for an upcoming project. We'll be adding these new products to the online store in the coming months, so if you haven't subscribed to our newsletter yet, go do that! In the meantime, grab an upcycled grocery store bag, (or two) by heading over to the online store. Happy shopping!