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I am a mother, a new grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon


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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sew kraft-tex bags blog tour: caboose edition

When the very nice folks who published my book over at C&T asked me if I was interested in participating in a blog tour for a new book Sew kraft-tex bags  I said sure, 
I would love to.

Now this was not because I have actually ever sewn with Kraft-tex, or that I am a particularly crafty person, or even that I am a bag-maker. Sleeves, hems and zippers are more my end of the business.

No, I said yes because I got an advance look at this book and thought wow, I have to get myself into some bag-making.

Here's a taste of the projects in the books, all of which can be made wholly or in part with Kraft-tex, or alternatively in many cases also entirely in fabric:

I have been feeling an urge to start making some bags lately and have been thinking about materials. I like the idea of sturdy natural materials, but I have some thoughts on working with leather.

Years ago I once ordered an entire calf hide to make a skirt. 

The hide was huge.

So big that I spread it out on my double bed to have a good look at it. Then I noticed a hole.

Right in the middle. A bullet hole.

I felt terrible.

It's one thing to work around a flaw in fabric. 

It's another thing to be working around a death. 

(My kids claim I am prone to over dramatic statements - you can probably see why).

So the concept of vegan leather has its attraction for me.

But not vinyl, off gassing is a poor trade-off, in my opinion.

So when I heard about Kraft-tex, a paper type product made in Germany and distributed in C&T,  I just wanted to try it out. 

I had heard that it was tough and when washed and dried looked like leather, or at least like itself, interesting in its own way.

So I signed myself up.

When my roll of Kraft-tex arrived,  I began to have my doubts.  

Kraft-tex comes in two formats, plain and unwashed and dried (the basic colours like the Stone I ordered come like this) or pre-washed and pre-dried in multiple colours and therefore soft and leather-like.

My do-it-yourself selection looked a lot like a roll of construction paper when it arrived.

Is this going to hold up to my wild lifestyle I wondered? 

Kids climbing over my purses in the car, dog walking and poop bag carrying, stuff from the grocery store stuffed in because I forgot my reusable bags and am too cheap to pay for plastic. 

Around here an everyday bag is thrown and jammed into corners. 

I need an under the seat bag, a back of the restaurant chair bag, a full of library books bag.

That I would also take out for dinner.

I just wasn't sure that something that started out looking like construction paper was going to hold up to all that.

So my assistant or supervisor, depending on who you ask, and I decided to take the opportunity to do some material testing of Kraft-tex, before we committed our high priced time to it.

Here are three videos we made during the testing phase of this project. 

First the road tests:

Then the tensile strength test:

And finally the test results:

Pretty thorough lab we are running here. We even brought in an outside expert to ensure our results were objective - sort of a highly qualified peer view, by a representative of a larger group:

So we really established that Kraft-tex is very, very strong. Very durable. Probably even Babs proof, and that's saying a lot.

Next up was how does it sew?

  • Crumple, machine wash and machine wash a manageable section to prep the material. Iron it with a hot steamy iron but really some of the texture is really what you want - the pre-treatment turns it from construction paper to vegan leather and you can do it yourself. Even in a camp ground Washeteria with all your old messy campground clothes.
  • Use ordinary thread and stitch settings and off you go normally. However this is a fibrous material so I lengthened my stitch length a lot. The book covers all the sewing and prep issues in great detail.
  • Use clips instead of pins.
  • Understand this is stiff stuff so sew as much flat as you can. The authors of the book, and this is well-illustrated by the projects, suggest that a combo of Kraft-tex and fabric for many details, like bag handles, as the most effective way to put together many sections.
  • Oh and if you get your bag dirty, just through it in the washer and dryer. Apparently this is the same material they use to make the labels on the back of jeans so think of that as a point of reference.
So what did I make?

First off I made one of the projects in the book, the Stephanie bag, in which Kraft-tex is used as an accent almost, as one surface of the straps and as the band the straps fit into, on an otherwise fabric bag. I love this bag, and the Kraft-tex was so fun to work with:

In fact I had so much fun working with Kraft-tex that I decided to use the same pattern and a small piece of black cork, because I always travel with a bag of random scraps for obvious reasons, to make and entire Kraft-tex bag:

At this point, understanding completely how strong but stiff Kraft-tex is, I changed up the construction steps in the  pattern from the book.

First off I changed the darts used in the original pattern to add shape, to a boxed bottom. I also used a drop-in lining, which is what it sounds like it is, rather than a turned inside out lining used in the fabric version.

I really feel that I am just getting started in my Kraft-tex adventures. 

It is so easy to work with and such a hard wearing, cost effective, alternative to leather or vinyl. Even as a strip to apply to a fabric strap for body, or as the bottom of a fabric bag for stability, even small amounts of this material would be so useful.

Let's brainstorm. The book is an excellent place to start but what else can I make with it. I am thinking super class sewing machine/serger covers, nesting baskets, belts, could you make belts? Wallets? Cutlery holders? Hats could I make a brim for a hat with it.

What ideas do you have for me?

In the meantime make sure you go back to the C & T site  for links to the other wonderful bags made by other bloggers and for a chance to win a copy of the e-book here.https://ctpublishing.lpages.co/sew-kraft-tex-bags-giveaway/

*Update: since I wrote this blog post C&T has sent me an affiliate link as one of their offers. I haven't done this before but my understanding that if you follow-up through this blog I will receive a small compensation:

Here's that link


SewTypical said...

hmmm... interesting!
Hard to tell from just looking at pictures, but would it work to make a biker jacket or a moto jacket? Just wondering if it's "leather like" enough...
:-) Chris

Elle said...

Hilarious lab work. You could be a sewing stand-up comedian. Headliner for Puyallup sewing expo or American Sewing Guild conference.

Bunny said...

I was intrigued as well. My Kraft Tex is still awaiting my wandering attention span. Your bag looks great. I've heard some people "wax" them. I am curious about that. I am looking forward to any future projects you do with the KT.

SuzyQ said...

That is so cool! Definitely got me interested in trying it.

Judith said...

Biologist here. First, DO NOT go and look up how cattle are dispatched for food/leather consumption. Just suffice to say that the hole in that calf hide was more likely a bot fly exit hole. Come to think of it, don't look that one up either if you might be squeamish.

Kay said...

Every time I see something about this stuff I'm intrigued. Thanks for the scientific testing! ;-) How heavy is it? Would it be suitable for shopping bags? I used to have lots of reusable grocery bags, but now that our county requires them I find I have fewer every time I go shopping (just one of the downsides of having adult children living with you). I hate to keep buying them - sort of defeats the point of reusable bags. I also miss the way paper bags stood up while you loaded them, rather than sagging and flopping over. Would 5-6 of them be too heavy to carry around while shopping?

Barbara said...

Kay in my opinion Kraft-tex would be ideal for shopping bags. It's paper based and light, machine washable and dryable and yes it does stand up really well on its own - see the gray version with the black band. Now you have given me a excellent project to think about, we use those too and yes the fabric ones are so annoying when you are trying to pack groceries.