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Saturday, April 30, 2011

ECHO Totes--Sometimes it's Easy Being Green

In my experience of trying to "live green", I find free or very low-cost art supplies everywhere. That cellophane bag the microwave popcorn came in? A perfect bag for water-proofing the beautiful Artist Trading Card you made from your last batch of junk mail. Need adjustable straps? A quick trip to the thrift store and you’ve got a selection of them---they used to be belts. Using paints for a project? Keep a soon-to-be-re-purposed shirt nearby. Before you clean the brushes, wipe the extra paint onto the shirt. Soon you’ll have a snappy new item for your casual wardrobe, AND you’ve just put that much less paint into our water supply.
I began making ECHO Totes as a way to re-use ephemera I’d been collecting, especially bags I was given at conventions. I couldn’t see tossing the bags into the landfill after one or two days’ use, but their original “look” wasn’t very trendy. I sew the ECHO Totes on a vintage 1940’s portable Singer sewing machine. If you’ve ever seen one of those, you know this means I keep the stitching aspect s-i-m-p-l-e.
The easiest way to make an ECHO Tote for yourself is to start with a used bag made from at least 50% post-consumer materials. An example would be a re-usable grocery bag sold by stores, one that’s out-lived its intended purpose. These are great because the material has already been rendered water-resistant and is easy to sew. Cut the material down to the size/shape you want. Before you stitch the sides and bottom together, add embellishments, paint on designs, draw in words with a Sharpie, just add any elements that will personalize your Tote and make it more fun to carry. Next, stitch all sides together to form the bag part of your Tote. Pick sewable re-purposed materials (cloth belts work very well for this) to make the bag’s strap.
Pack it up, put it on: I'm off to the art gallery.
Until next week,

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