Busy Bags…We’ve Switched To Cloth!

“Whoever wants to understand much must play much.”  ~Gottfried Benn

You remember a while back when we did this round-up? Well, it went crazy! It’s the top post on Small Potatoes still to this day. Woot! That must mean you all like these little things called “busy bags”! Well, recently it was brought to my attention that maybe plastic bags are not the best idea for storing all these fun activities. At first, my reaction was “hmph…not using plastic bags just means more work for me!!” I was not impressed. What in the heck was I supposed to do with all these activities? So what do you do when you can’t figure it out on your own? You call your mama, that’s what.

Mum had a solution…make a cloth bag with a window! I wanted the kids to be able to see the activities without having to open each and every bag until they found the one they wanted, and I didn’t think this was too much to ask! After I complained and grumbled and finally got around to making these bags, I now have to admit that I LOVE THEM! Hehehehehe! Not only are they safer and better for the environment, they are much prettier than plastic bags!

Now, before you get all “I can’t sew a darn thing” on me…know this: I CAN’T EITHER! What I know, I learned from watching my mama. If you are an expert seamstress, you may want to look the other way..that means you, mum. This tutorial is from the biggest “hack” out there: ME! I don’t measure, I am not exact, and I don’t follow the conventional rules. If you’re good with that, then this tutorial is for you!

That being said, let’s get started.

I used flannel pieces that come in a bundle at Walmart. They are cute, soft, and inexpensive. I can make 5 bags with one bundle and the bundle was under $12.  I folded one piece in half and trimmed off a few inches on the top. But really, the size of your busy bags it’s entirely up to you.

Once I had the bag the size I wanted, I used a board book to trace a window on the front of the bag. I warned you this was a hack job, didn’t I?I simply placed the book where I wanted the window, and traced around it with a pencil, removed the book, and started cutting. Just remember to ONLY cut the top layer of your bag…For the window, I used plastic tablecloth sheeting I found at Jysk for $3.99/metre. I used the same stellar measuring technique as I did on the front of the bag…I simply placed the book on the plastic, and cut out around it about an inch and a half from the edge of the book. Mum, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry…you did teach me to know better!! (But it worked!)

Now pin your window to the inside of the window frame…I repeated these steps for EACH bag before continuing with the rest of the sewing. This way, you have all your cutting and pinning done, and then you can sit and sew.

Once you are finished your cutting and pinning, sew a straight stitch around the edge. I kept the inside edge of the window, right on the outside edge of my machine’s pressure foot to keep me in a straight line.

For extra reinforcement and to keep the fabric from fraying too much, I did a zigzag stitch between my straight stitch and the inside edge of the window…If you want the inside of the bag to look nicer, trim the left-over edges of your plastic sheeting. This little step is for my mum. She likes the inside to look just as nice as the outside!Now we can a hem at the top of the bag! I did a simple roll hem, turn the edge over, and then over again, and sew. If you want to haul out your iron and actually make a nice, big ol’ pillowcase-style hem, feel free! I was all about simply getting these done for a deadline, so I went easy on myself.

Your bag is now ready to be sewn together…Fold your fabric back in half, but this time, with “right” sides together. If you have a separate front and back piece, place the two pieces with right sides together. Sew a straight stitch with at least 1/4″ seam allowance…Because my bag was folded, I only had to sew two sides together…the bottom and one side. If your bag is two separate pieces, you will sew around 3 sides before turning the bag right-sides-out. This part is so simple, I turned the job over to my 12-year-old daughter. She sewed all 10 bags together for me.Turn your bags right-sides-out, and…

Voila! You’ve done it!I did not bother with a fastener for the tops of the bags, as mine are hung up with clips on a towel rack…The smalls simply pull, and the bag comes off the clip… already open and ready to go! If you want your bags to close, maybe use velcro, or a button, and if you’re a show-off seamstress like my mama, you can install a zipper!

If you have any questions, you can ask me below in the comment box…then I’ll relay the message to my mum and then get back to you!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Arlee, Small Potatoes


41 thoughts on “Busy Bags…We’ve Switched To Cloth!

  1. Awesome looking bags Arlee! That’s how I sow too! I know the right way and can follow a pattern but this is way more fun! I was thinking about making some of those the other, great minds think alike 🙂

  2. I’ve been doing the busy bags in my classroom and used small buckets instead. The flanel bags are a great idea and they just look awesome! Thanks for sharing this. I might try making this project with my stellar sewing techniques 🙂

  3. This is great! I have been meaning to
    Make some cloth bags but am glad I read this as your way is easier than what I was planning!!!! Thanks as always for the awesome ideas!

  4. I was in like Flin ..until I spotted the sewing machine! *gasp* I dont own one of those creatures!! they frighten me!!…..perhaps I’ll try the hand sewn method?

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  7. They are awesome! I want to do them NOW, but I have no plastic sheeting. How dare the craft store be closed at 1:30am???

    How big are your bags? I know you said you like the size.

    • These bags are the large sized ziplock bags. I have since switched fromnthe plastic and made cloth bags out of flannel fat quarters, which I made the same size as the ziplock. Enjoy!!! They really are fun to put together!

      • Thanks! What thickness did you use for the viewing window, and did that work well? I can get several different thicknesses.

      • I don’t know what thickness…it just came off the roll at Jysks. It’s thick like a plastic table cloth. Maybe even a bit stiffer. It worked well, but sometimes the pressure foot on the machine would stick if you stopped sewing and tried to go again. I had to pull it along. As long as I was moving forward, there was no sticking…

  8. I was wondering where you got your towel rack , I’ve been looking for one similar but not much luck, any help???

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