"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Friday, April 19, 2013

yoga as a spiritual discipline

This Saturday, I'm going to a young adult gathering put on by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. There are several break-out session options, and one that I chose is yoga. I used to do yoga somewhat regularly, and I enjoy it. Planning to go to this, however, got me thinking that I really should have a less dorky way of carrying around my yoga mat, i.e. not in the box it came in. I've often thought of getting a bag for my mat, but they're expensive and I'm cheap. Then, Monday, I thought, "You know, it probably wouldn't be that hard to make my own bag." So I did.

I thought I could figure out how to do it on my own, but I wasn't super confident on how to attach the bottom, so I found a few tutorials, and then pieced them together into my own thing:
I used leftover fabric from my curtains and upholstery projects. The curtain fabric is plain cream, and I wanted something a little more fun than that, but I thought that a whole bag of the cushion fabric would be a little too much. So I made the main bag out of the cream fabric and sewed on stripes of the pattern. The drawstring material I used was also left over from my upholstery project; it was the cord I used to make the cushion piping.

First, a note about needles. I should have mentioned this in my other posts, but I don't think I did. Be sure to have the right needle, or you could break it. I did that when making the bench cushions. When I went to JoAnn to get a new needle, the sales lady recommended getting number 80 for regular fabrics (like my trousers) and number 100 for the thicker upholstery fabrics. I don't know if these are the actual "right" needles, but I haven't broken any more, so I count that as good enough.

Now, here are the steps I went through to make my bag:

1. Measure your rolled up mat. Mine measured 24" long, 4" in diameter, and 12" in circumference. The length and circumference will be the basis of your fabric measurements. I added 1.5" to the circumference to account for hems and to give some wiggle room to get the mat into the bag without it being skin-tight. This turned out to not be enough, so I would recommend adding at least 3" instead (more on my fix later). I also added 6" to the length to account for hems and to leave some extra room at the top so the drawstring can pull closed. This may have been excessive. I will explain later. So my final measurement for the cream fabric was 30" x 13.5" (if I had done it right, it would have been 30" x 15"). Cut your fabric.

2. Sew on pattern pieces. I cut four 3" x 13.5" strips from the pattern fabric and spaced them 3" apart on the main fabric. I used a tight zig-zag stitch to help keep the fabric from fraying. I only stitched the top and bottom since the sides will get sewed into the hem later.

3. Fold in each side 0.5", iron, pin, and sew (back to straight stitch!) for side hems. This is important. I initially wasn't going to do this, thinking I would just sew the two sides together, so why would I need to hem them first? But then I realized that there will be a small not-sewn-together section at the top where the drawstring comes out, and you want that to be a nice edge, not all rough and fraying. 

4. Fold down the top, iron, and sew. One of the tutorials I looked at said to make this a 2" hem, so that's what I planned on and did. However, the drawstring I used was not nearly that thick, so I ended up sewing another line higher up to hold that in better. So, depending on what you use for your drawstring, you probably don't need that big of a hem, in which case, you could probably drop an inch or two off the total fabric length. My drawstring casing is only about 0.5". 

At this point, I did a test of my bag size, wrapping it around my mat. Sadly, I discovered that it was only just barely going to fit, and I wanted a little extra room to make it easier to get the mat in and out. I didn't have enough of the cream fabric left to start over, so I improvised. If you measure well and add enough slack, you won't have to worry about this, but I'll share it anyway, in case you're like me and think you added enough slack, but it turns out to not be enough. I still had tons of the pattern fabric, so I cut a piece of that 2.5" wide and 27" long. I got the width by estimating how much more would give me enough slack, and then increasing that by about an inch just to be safe, given my previous lack of estimating ability. I got the length by measuring the now-hemmed fabric from the bottom to just under the drawstring. I thought leaving the edges a little farther apart there might actually be helpful. Then I just pinned the fronts of the pattern strip and bag together on one side and did a standard hem.

Also, if you're like me and made the original top hem too big for your drawstring, now is when I sewed the real drawstring hem. The way I did it was to drop the drawstring through the big hem since that was easier than it would be to try to stuff the string through the tiny hem later, and then I sewed the hem close around it. 

Now, back to the regular steps:

5. Make the strap. I cut a strip from the pattern fabric 36" long and 5" wide. Fold the top and bottom in for 1" hems and iron. Fold the entire piece in half (the long way, so your piece is 36" x 1.5") and iron. I pinned it a bit to help hold everything in place. Sew straight stitch on either side (one holds all the hemmed and folded side together, the other side just balances that and looks nicer). 

6. Pin the strap to one side of the main fabric. Pin it to the 'out' side; I pinned mine about 2" from the bottom and 2" from the top. Don't forget this step, which is what I did! If you do, you'll have to spend a lot longer taking out the seam you just sewed than it took to sew it!

7. Bring the two edges of the main fabric together with the 'out' or 'right' side on the inside (basically making your tube inside out). Your strap will be trapped inside. Pin the edges together and sew.

8. Cut out the bottom piece.

9. Pin the bottom to the tube (keeping it inside out). Carefully sew together. This is hard. Go slowly and rearrange things frequently to keep the fabric from bunching up.

10. At this point, I decided to zig-zag stitch all the hems to keep the fabric from fraying. Fraying was a big issue with my fabric, especially the patterned cushion fabric, so I thought this was a good idea. If your fabric doesn't seem prone to fraying, you could probably skip this.

11. Turn everything right side out. Put your yoga mat inside. Smile and breathe. Namaste.

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