Notes on a Gunny Sack

Recycled coffee bag

This is a project that has rolled around in my mind for quite a while.  I’m as supportive of recycling as the next person.  But I love how the young people think it is something they thought of.  I grew up during the Energy Crisis of the 70’s and I remember when all of the public facility light switches had a fluorescent orange sticker on them saying to turn off the lights when the room is not in use. I am also a reformed plasti-holic.  I have actively returned to using glasses and fabric towels and real plates instead of the paper versions that kill trees.  But I love bags and I grew up on a farm with gunny sacks and my husband has recently discovered coffee so I found a certain appeal in the purses and bags on websites that are recycled from a burlap coffee sack.

Surprisingly, on a fall Rural King visit, I found a large pallet of used burlap bags.  One look revealed a multitude of coffee houses and roasters from exotic European countries as well as the South American continent.  I couldn’t help it.  I grabbed up 2.  One was a standard dark brown burlap with green and black stenciled markings  from the Rain Forest.  Another visit to another regional Rural King yielded another bag.  This could become a habit! The price was right.  When the cashier could find them in the register (they were listed as gunny sacks and she couldn’t spell that,) they rang up at 99 cents.On particular one enticed me.  You see a portion of it in the photo.  it was an especially light colored burlap, coarsely woven with 3 pink and green stripes woven in.

A visit to a local quilt shop produced another bargain that just screamed to be paired with this particular bag.  The fabric was adorable, something from the Fiesta dinnerware days.  It was in a particularly familiar pink and dark seafoam green and there were Mexican motifs all over it.  There was a quaint Mexican couple in sombreros with their donkey and cactus and pottery scattered over it.  It was perfect!

So, on MLK, I could ignore the voices in my head no longer and grabbed up the colorful gunny, a favorite bag pattern and the lining fabric as well as some piping in the corresponding pink and green.  A bag materialized from my efforts but let me say, many a lesson was learned in fabrication AND patience.

This I learned:

  • use a finely-woven burlap bag……coarse burlap is too open weave to use with a backing of white canvas.
  • wear a mask when cutting and sewing….these fibers fly everywhere when cut or stitched, so always wear a mask to keep the guck out of your lungs. (Beware, it goes everywhere.)
  • choose a flexible bag……when the burlap bag did not want to fold up and go in the bag at the cash register, I should have seen that as a warning sign.
  • use a very unstructured pattern ….this fiber does not lend itself to pressing seams open and turning shoulder strap.  I spend an hour trying to get the fiber to flex enough to turn the strap.  There were cuss words.

So here it is.  I’m not so sure that I’ve done Juan Valdez justice.  But I had to answer its call instead of working on e-book readers that I had cut wrong and growing list of projects.

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