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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Toiletries Bags and Fused Plastic

A few weeks ago a friend passed on some information about a church group collecting items for women in our local community. When you live in a place with a high rate of domestic staff (nannies, housekeepers, cleaners, etc), especially ones who are sponsored by their employers, come from impoverished countries, and may not speak the local language fluently, there is, sadly, a high rate of domestic abuse and mistreatment. I won't go into detail about it here, but you can read about a few cases in particular here, here, and here.

The group I was recruited to help supports the women who have luckily escaped abusive employers and are currently living in safe houses around the city. The current focus is to collect toiletry items and undergarments for the women.

Normally, I prefer to support independent organizations. (I'm defining "independent" as "no affiliation whatsoever to a religious group.") Otherwise, there just always seems to be a caveat involved, as I felt there was in this present option. However, choices for charities or support groups are quite limited in my present locale. After an email plea to a couple of ladies back home and reading their thoughtful responses, I decided that the need of the women outweighed my own personal discomfort.

So let's get on with it!

In addition to collecting toiletries and undies, I also made a few toiletry bags. For some reason, toiletry bags are difficult to find here so I ended up making four in total (though only three are shown).

Cosmetic Pouches

To construct the bags I put my brain to work and combined my sewing knowledge from two projects. The zipper pouches from Bend the Rules Sewing, and the beloved Market Bag tutorial from Film in the Fridge. (I also made a weird and lumpy box bag, but you should just ignore it).

My favorite part of these bags is the lining. I decided to use up a resource that I have plenty of... plastic bags! Oh good grief... it pains me to see how overused plastic bags are here. If you go to the market to buy 15 items, the attendant will bag them up in no less than 5 bags! Not an exaggeration. There is a movement by the government to reduce the use of plastic bags... but someone needs to relay the message to the supermarkets. Seriously. As much as I try to remember to bring my reusable bags, I still end up with plenty of the plastics. Thankfully, I was able to put a few to good use.

Cosmetic Pouches

So you might be wondering how I did it. In that case, you should check here and here. Both are awesome resources for fusing plastic. Basically, the process I followed was:

1. cut open the bags
2. layer 3 or 4 bags on top of each other (depending on desired thickness)
3. put plastic between two sheets of parchment paper (baking paper)
4. run a hot iron (you have to experiment with the heat) over the parchment paper, paying close attention to the edges

Eventually you'll end up with a sheet of material that is surprisingly easy to sew through. Treat the plastic just as you would a regular fabric lining and sew your project as usual. Pay special attention to any wrinkles you're adding to your outer fabric. You won't be able to iron them out very easily once the plastic is sewn in.

Pretty easy. Pretty neat. Don't forget to crack a window.


Nikki said...

bravo! these look fabulous, darling. I think you could sell them at a farmer's market back home and make some decent money.

I'm sure you made a few ladies' days :)

Jamie said...

Great job! I love that you are not only helping people, but you are also reusing something that we have way too many of. Way cool!

ashley said...

ahhh these are great. i've had a bunch of fused plastic bags sitting in my closet for probably six months. I think this post got me excited enough to take them out again and make something!