I had been rather busy with broken umbrellas this summer and autumn. It really got started after I helped at the Galway repair cafe, and met Cathy from An Mheitheal Rothar (its a community bike workshop which helps repair and service bikes, run on the principals of ‘Meitheal‘ – and I am a huge fan of theirs).
Being such a fan, I suggested to Cathy I could run a free sewing workshop which reused rain gear someway, especially as being in the west of Ireland, there is a shocking amount of umbrellas that become single use items, and she came up with the catchy title ‘save it for a rainy day’. So I was off, gathering umbrellas from anywhere I could. I did pick up some from the street, my sister put a shout out in her workplace and I did a shout out on ‘freecycle’. After all that I got
- 10-15 umbrellas (mainly black)
- 2 tents (one had a ripped carry bag now repaired and tent still a tent and the second was donated without poles to Cope Charity Shop so got repurposed)
- 12 high viz jackets
- 2 shower curtains
- 1 rain jacket (already had this from the €1 rail in charity shop)
When I got to working the umbrellas, my main ideas were a backpack cover, shopper and saddle cover and my idea for shower curtains was rain poncho. When I got to working the fabrics, the shower curtains were polyester so soaked and contained water so not much use there, but I did notice the umbrellas shape lent itself well to a kids poncho.
The Play Poncho
The poncho was quick to realise, and I used the black umbrellas to test the pattern. I had to use the high viz jacket to give some ‘interest’ and the reflective strips were reused to make it visible and suitable for safe play. I was quite chuffed with how it worked out and decided to enter it to an upcycle competition in September but wasn’t sure how it would get on as the black appeared a bit dowdy (and I wasn’t going to remake it as I had a load of other ideas to try out). I don’t have many photos of the making as the ones I took ended up in some ‘ether’ as I had computer issues last month. The pattern for the hood and guide to the make are in the pattern section of the blog.
From the other umbrella I made a shopper, which was rather basic and not really anything to write home about so I was on to the tents and other fabrics to see if I could make backpacks.
Vogue denim lunch-bag
I had been meaning to make some backpacks for a while as I needed a new lunch-bag and also wanted to try and use up smaller pieces of fabric.
The first backpack was from scrap denim and the hardware straps and zips harvested from a ‘stiga’ ping-pong ball bags used in retail ‘point of sale (and would have been discarded when empty except I worked in the store and took it home about 6 years ago).
Its a vogue pattern and not much to say on it except I thought using the pattern would get me making up a bag with detail and save me the hassle of drafting and measuring. It worked out fine but as the instructions became a bit fiddly at the end I took some short cuts to finish! Overall, it was a very useful make and worked well through August and September as my work lunch bag.
Repurposed tent/Japanese Bag Making Book
The second back pack was all tent, which had been donated to Cope charity shop without the tent rods. It took longer than it should as I sewed it twice, or so it felt as I kept sewing the fabric back to front! The other tricky part was the nylon was a fine weave so I had to use a 70 needle so it would not skip stitches (I didn’t have a 70 when I started sewing and took me a while to figure the finer needle would give a better stitch).
I used a Japanese bag making book pattern as I like the detailing of the 3-way wear. Its a very useful bag (now my current waterproof work lunch bag). The bag made up in a day or so and you can wear 3 ways, as bag, as cross over and as backpack. The zip was from the tent and the red gross-grain had been on a dress and the sliders came from a soon to be upcycled coat, and I gave the bag some reflective strips. The lining is the tent lining.
Upcycled rain jacket backpack
The third back pack was the simplest. It is really just 2 rectangles and a zip. I had been meaning to make a bag like this for a while as I did need an ‘overnight’ bag, and had been reluctant to buy one, especially as each time I saw one in a shop the ‘stop shop’ reflex took over (ie don’t buy unless you really have to).
I had a nylon jacket in the sewing room picked up from a discount rail in the charity shop. I don’t have the before photograph due to a tech issue (long story but end result was lots of various data now lost)
I was rather pleased as I got to use all of the jacket (with some velcro tabs and cord stops left over). I did have the bag strap already and as red, it added some colour. The bag is lined with a shirt, and tied with one of those clips which was ‘found’ at home. The d rings came from tent 1. The back of the bag ‘rectangle’ shape is made from sewing the 2 fronts together, and the pockets were left! – To cover the lower seams, I used old brown canvas scrap fabric. As this bag needed some structure, I used heavy sew in vilene as the interlining.
The pattern was really cutting 6 rectangles
- 2 rectangles from jacket
- 2 rectangles from shirt
- 2 rectangles from sew-in vilene
I did add to the outer layer by putting a front pocket, the band to hold the backpack strap and the d-rings, as well as the strip of brown canvas at the base.
Once the rectangles are sewn 3 sides, the corners are then sewn across to make the bag stand up.
I did use 2 strips to bind the top raw edges and also attach the zip.The rectangles are approx 70 cm x 45 and when rolled down the bag measures about 45 cm high. Once the rectangles are sewn, the bag has a depth of approx 15cm (by sewing triangles at the corners).
I put 2 small loops to the side so it can be worn as a ‘record bag’ if needed, and also a d ring at the top in case the bag needs to be filled up and worn cross body with one strap or over shoulder.
After the samples were made (including a bike saddle cover, and produce bags from the linings), I did the workshop with my friend Cathriona in An Mheitheal Rothar, and enjoyed it a lot. There was a mix of age groups and abilities, and a lot of ambition. 2 of the makers did get the play ponchos made, and some tried shopping bags, but the most useful make was the produce bag as it was the better introduction to the sewing machine for beginners, as well as using up some of the tent cord!
The Upcycle Competition
So in the midst of preparing for the workshop, I got a call from the competition, and it turned out the play poncho was selected as one of the 8 prizewinning entries.
Below is a chair made from a redundant whiskey barrel, and a runner up in the peoples choice (these patchworks were amazing)
Anyway….the Play Poncho got the EPA Award in the mywaste.ie competition. I was well pleased, and had to go to an award ceremony at the national museum and hold a very large cheque!
Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and thank you for all your comments and reads over the year. Really looking forward to remaking a wool coat and skirt after all that nylon and hopefully getting to do more posts in 2020
here is this years hand drawn card.