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Sometimes a piece of fabric just sits around for a long time, waiting to be used and loved. Some fabrics sit around longer than others! In this case, I had some fabric that had been purchased almost 40 years ago. It wasn’t in my possession that entire time, just the last year or so. But it kept staring back at me, crying to be used. I knew where it had originated, but not its entire journey to me. Here’s what I know now after talking to my mom about it.

Fabric from my mom. It seems to have been something before, as there are seams for me to undo, but not sure what it was.  :)

Fabric from my mom. It seems to have been something before, as there are seams for me to undo.

The fabric was originally purchased by my grandparents when I was 6 or so, when they were visiting Tahiti (and returned to Wisconsin to find an ice storm had caused a lot of damage to their property). It’s a very tightly woven cotton, rather like the current batik fabrics in the quilt stores. The dye doesn’t go through quite as completely as current batiks do, so I’m not sure it is a true batik but it is similar. They had also purchased some white fabric with large red flowers on it and my mom made a dress for me out of it. That dress was given new life when, a few years ago, I gave it to one of my husband’s coworkers, and his little girls loved it.

This fabric did not get quite as much love. It was used (possibly by my brother) in a home ec class in middle school to make “jams”. Remember those? Long, baggy shorts that were all the rage once upon a time? This fabric looks like, once the jams were made, they were never worn. He probably used the fabric for the class because that is what my mom had on hand, and then put them away once they were finished. I’m just guessing here.

Pieces of fabric picked apart with a seam ripper. Due to previous deconstruction, it had little resemblance to its previous form.

Pieces of fabric picked apart with a seam ripper. Due to some earlier deconstruction it had little resemblance to its “jams” prior life.

My mom recently told me she had used the fabric in the jams to make a travel pillow for my sister. This explains why, by the time I got the fabric, the disassembly had already started and I couldn’t figure out how it could have been an outfit. I could identify one side pocket, and that was about it.

But good cotton is good cotton, and I thought I could come up with something. So I left it on top of the scrap bin, hoping some kind of inspiration would strike at some point. It watched as I grabbed the Christmas fabrics to make ornaments. It watched as I grabbed a pretty green and blue batik to make a wallet. It watched as I grabbed strips of this or that to make scrappy things.

And then I decided how I would use it. I have lots of black Kona on hand, and some larger scraps were left over from other projects. So I started trimming the brown and black fabric into somewhat rectangular shapes to see what sizes I could get from it. I started with the smallest pieces first and worked my way through the larger ones. Very little measuring was done, it was more like “what will fit together” using the two different fabrics. Using leftover binding from another project, I even had enough for side borders. This thing obviously wanted to be a tote bag!

One section done, with larger pieces waiting their turn.

One section done, with larger pieces waiting their turn.

Tackling the larger pieces next, I decided to have different patterns on each side of the bag. Still using only scraps of the black and the Tahitian fabric, I ended up with this for the other side:

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Second side, pinned and ready to be machine quilted.

The long strips allowed me to use the bigger pieces with less waste. But wait, I still have some left! Pockets it is.

Inside lining with two pockets ready to sew on, and the outer part of the tote bag quilted and assembled (inside out to show the machine quilting).

Inside lining with two pockets ready to sew on, and the outer part of the tote bag quilted and assembled (inside out to show the machine quilting).

The lining fabric is something from my stash that I bought years ago. I have a lot of it, but not sure why I bought it. Amazingly enough, the color almost matches the brown in the Tahitian fabric. What are the odds I’d have that shade??

And now the tote bag is complete. I still have a few scraps of the Tahitian fabric left, tiny things that might just be enough for a wallet or something like that. But at this point, I’ve used enough of the fabric that I feel it finally has a good purpose, and I’ll be listing this bag on my Etsy store for sale (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ExtraShotofQuilt).

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Finished tote bag!

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