M.I.Y. (Make It Yourself) - Kindling Foraging Bag

Our house is powered by fire. We have a log burner that heats the water and a number of radiators in the bedrooms and bathroom, with a separate open fire in our living room for that extra bit of warmth and comfort that you get from listening to the cracks and pops and watching the flames flicker.

So we inevitably have both a need for wood / fuel, and the main reason for this post - kindling. Without kindling there is no fire (although matches help too). We use allsorts of wood scraps (offcuts, last years dried pea sticks etc) for lighting the fire but at this time of year, after the winter storms have passed and when there is a good period of dry spring weather, it is perfect kindling foraging time. We're fortunate to be surrounded by small pockets of woodland so a short walk is more than enough to collect a couple of days fire lighting sticks - so all we needed was a little bag that we could carry it home in to stop us leaving a trail of dropped sticks all the way back to the house (like the monkey in a field of sweetcorn scenario!)

So, the second in our M.I.Y. series is a kindling collecting bag and here's how you can make one of your own.

Materials needed - feel free to improvise with whatever fabric and leather you have to find, but we used:
22oz waxed canvas - 200 x 800mm;
16oz duck canvas - 280 x 600mm;
7/8" (22mm) wide leather strap - approximately 52" (135cm) long;
a 7/8" brass rectangle and a 7/8" brass D-ring;
6 rivets (we use solid copper rivets but brass ones might be more readily available);
a scrap of waxed linen thread.

Tools needed:
sewing machine & thread;
long ruler (ideally with both metric and imperial measurements);
pencil, chalk or other textile marking implement;
folding device (depending on your fabric this could be an iron - but we use a wooden roller);
sharp cutting knife and cutting mat or strap cutter;
half-round strap end punch (you can also use a 2 pence piece as a template, cutting around it with a sharp knife to get the same result);
3mm (1/8") hole punch or a rotary hole punch, 13mm (1/2") punch;
rivet setting tool (to match whichever rivets you are using);
small (1mm) punch or awl;
a couple of leather sewing needles (or a blunt needles with a big eye);
panel diagram sheet (click here for pdf)

To make:
First, mark out and cut out your fabric panels as follows:
base - 200mm diameter circle dark waxed canvas (using a compass or a suitable sized plate to mark the circle); top side panel 280mm x 600mm duck canvas; lower side panel 85mm x 600mm dark waxed canvas (see panel diagram sheet for more details).

A quick note about seams. On the panel diagram sheet we've shown a side and base seam width of 10mm. We actually sew our seams using a 1/4" seam allowance as this corresponds to the width of the foot on the machine. However the 10mm on the diagram seems to work out about right once the thick fabric is opened out at the seams, and usually results in a bag the size we actually intended it to be! So if you have a wider foot on your machine you may want to adjust the 10mm allowance - or otherwise just stick with it and maybe the final bag will end up a tiny bit smaller - but that's probably ok!

On the inside face of the lower side panel mark a line, parallel to one of the long edges, 30mm in from the edge. Using a seam roller fold the edge of the fabric back to this line and press [see photo]. Now on the outside face of the top side panel do the same - marking a line 30mm in from one of the long edges, fold the fabric back to this line and roll / press.

On the inside of this same top side panel (on the opposite long edge to the one you've just marked and folded), mark two long lines parallel with the long edge, 30mm and 115mm away from the edge - these are for the large top seam of the bag. Fold the edge of the fabric down to the first 30mm line and press, then fold this new edge down to the second 115mm line and press. For now we'll open this top seam back up as we won't be sewing it for a while, but it's good to have the folds pressed into the fabric, ready for later.

So next you want to slot the folded seams of the lower side panel and top side panel together, so that they overlap the full 15mm. Use a clip on each end or some pins (depending on the weight of your fabric) to hold them temporarily in place. On your sewing machine, and with the outside face of the two panels facing upwards, sew two stitch lines along the length of the fabric to join the two panels together. We sewed the first seam just down from the edge of the lower base panel (at about 1/8"), and then used the edge of the foot lined up with the first stitch line to sew the second line. The plan is to have a rivet in between these two stitch lines to hold the leather strap so you don't want them too close together.   

Back on your work table, lay the newly sewn side panel flat out, with the smaller dark waxed canvas part nearest you and the duck canvas part furthest from you and with the outside face of the fabric facing upwards. We'll now refer to the dark waxed canvas edge as the bottom, and the duck canvas edge as the top (just to be sure - the other two edges are the sides!). Make a small centre mark along both the top and bottom edges of the fabric. On both sides of this centre marker, make a small mark 145mm to either side - on both the top and bottom edges (we line the centre mark up with 145mm on the ruler and then mark at 0 and 290mm).

With a long rule line up the top and bottom marks on the left hand side of the panel and mark two lines; the first starting 65mm down from the top edge and about 50mm in length; the second up from the bottom to the top of the dark waxed canvas panel. On the right hand side of the panel, again line up the top and bottom marks but this time only mark the top line, starting 65mm down from the top edge and about 50mm in length.

Back on the sewing machine, it's time to sew the circular base panel to the bottom edge of the side panel - good luck! With the outside faces of both panels facing each other, line up the right hand edge of the side panel with the edge of the circular base panel. You want to start sewing 10mm in from the side edge of the side panel so that there is a seam allowance for sewing the main side seam in a minute (sorry - lots of sides there!). We find it easiest to keep the edge of the side panels aligned with the foot of the sewing machine, with the base panel on top, manoeuvring and rotating the base panel as we sew the seam [see photo]. Sew all the way around until you reach the point where you started.

Next sew the side seam, starting from the base and working your way up to the top. You may have a little excess fabric here depending on your seam allowance / size of sewing machine foot, but you want to start sewing the seam so that the side seam intersects the stitch line that you've just sewn between the base and bottom edge of the side panel.

You should now have an inside out version of something that should resemble a bucket bag. So - remember that top seam that we folded and pressed earlier, but then unfolded - this can now be refolded to form a nice chunky top seam. Before sewing stick a short length of masking tape onto the bed of your sewing machine for use as an edge guide. You want the guide to be about 45mm to the right of the stitch line. With the bag inside out align the top edge of the bag with the 45mm masking tape guide, and sew a top seam line around the rim of the bag [see photo]. Sew a continuous top seam around the rim of the bag. Sewing done. You can now turn your bucket bag the right way around, using a finger or poking device to push out the base and side seams.

Leather time. You will need a long strip of leather 7/8" wide and about 52" long. The reason for mixing imperial measurements with metric is that nearly all leather hardware and tools (buckles, d-rings, strap end punches etc) are measured in inches, so when working with leather we nearly always revert to imperialism. We use a strap cutter to cut a 7/8" strap from a larger hide, but you can just as easily use a knife and long ruler to cut the strip.

From one end of your strap cut a piece 4 1/2" (4.5") long (see panel diagrams). If you have a strap end punch use this to shape the ends, otherwise you can carefully cut around a 2p piece to form a nice round end to each end. From both ends, make small marks (central to the width of the strap) at 7/16" and 1 5/8" and using a 3mm punch - punch out these four holes and put to one side.

On the remaining long length of strap cut a piece 46" long, again using a strap end punch or knife & 2p to round both ends. On one end of the strap (which will be fixed to the top of the bag) make small marks as you did on the short strap, along the centre line of the strap and at 7/16" and 1 5/8" from the end. On the opposite end make two marks (again on the centre line of the strap) at 7/16" and 2" from the end of the strap.

Back on the bag - find those marking lines we made earlier - there should be two around the rim of the bag, on opposite sides of the bag. Along both these lines, make two marks (like cross hairs) 10mm and 40mm down from the top edge of the bag. With a 3mm punch (a rotating punch is ideal for this bit) punch holes in the fabric at these four points.

All being well, at the base of the bag there should be another line (that you marked earlier), that aligns with a couple of the holes you've just punched. On this line, and in between the two stitch lines that hold the lower section of waxed canvas to the upper section of duck canvas, punch a 3mm hole. Using the bottom of the long leather strap as a guide, line the top hole with the hole you've just punched in the fabric, and align the lower hole with the line marked on the fabric. Make a mark through the lower hole (the one nearest the end of the strap) onto the fabric beneath. Punch a 3mm hole here too.

Rivet the short 4.5" length of leather to the top of the bag - on the same side of the bag as the holes punched in the base. This piece of leather is to hold the brass rectangle in place, so don't forget to thread this through to the mid point of the strap before wrapping the leather over the top of the bag and riveting.

Next, push two rivet stems through the bottom two holes in the bag and the bottom end of the leather strap, to temporarily hold the long shoulder strap in place. Thread the shoulder strap through the brass rectangle, laying it flat against the fabric, and use a pencil to mark a small pencil line across the strap [see photo]. This will give us a guide for where we need to attach the brass D-ring which acts as a stopper for the strap, and helps to support the top rim of the bag when you carry the bag down by your side (as opposed to when it's slung over your shoulder and the bag is cinched closed).

Remove the strap from the temporary rivets, and make marks for stitching holes as per the diagram (four holes spaced equally across the width of the strap should do). The line you just made on the strap should be the first line of holes, and the second line of holes wants to be 7/8" further up the strap (away from the bottom end). Punch holes for hand stitching using the smallest hole punch you have or using a sharp awl. Slip the D-ring onto the strap and using a couple of needles threaded onto each end of a short length of waxed linen thread, sew a line of saddle stitching to join the two bits of the strap together wrapping it around the D-ring. Sew a couple of back stitches to secure the thread.

Last few steps now - nearly done! Punch out four 1/2" leather washers from the remaining scrap of leather and punch a central hole in each. Push all the washers onto the remaining four rivet stems ready for riveting - these will help to strengthen the joint between the straps and the bag fabric. Slip the shoulder strap through the brass rectangle, making sure the D- ring and shorter length of the strap is below the rectangle, and rivet the bottom of the strap to the base of the bag. Finally rivet the opposite end of the shoulder strap to the top of the other side of the bag, and you're done. You can now go kindling foraging!