Thursday, September 26, 2013

When Your Pants Fall Down

... it is prudent to wear a belt.*

One of my children (who shall not be named, to protect her identity) has a problem with her trouser waistbands. That is all I will say. And we have only one child-sized belt in the entire house, which came into our possession as part of a store-bought suit. Last week, that belt vanished completely and, to that child's horror, she had to go to school with Fallingdownpants and tug them up throughout the day. The way the child recounted it, it was a nightmare of epic proportions.

So I went shopping for a belt. I always go shopping before sewing, by the way. I thought I'd debunk any myths about me making stuff. My Handmaking Motto is: Save The Time, Spend The Dime.

Of course there were no belts to buy in the shops. Apparently, my child is the only one in the whole of Minnesota whose pants fall down. 

So I detoured to JoAnn and bought webbing. Not the tacky shiny nylon sort that melts if you stand too close to someone's birthday cake candles, but the lovely cotton kind. Couldn't decide between the colors, so I bought three. Then I saw that nice woven brown faux leather strap and bought that too. And came home and made these belts.

Here follows the tutorial. Today's photos are hideous because I took them all with the wrong shutter speed and didn't realize it till after. Bah.

So, back to the webbing. Mine was 1" wide, and I bought 7/8 of a yard of each.

I also bought these 1" D-rings.

Very easy. Thread one end of the webbing through a pair of D-rings and fold over to the wrong side, and sew.

See? This is the WS.

This is the RS.

The braided trim was bulky and didn't work with D-rings so I used a pair of rectangular rings instead.

If you want a really, really simple version of this belt, you'd just finish the other end of the belt by folding it over to the WS and sewing it down in the same way as the D-ring end (except minus the D-rings). But where would be the fun in that? 

So I exhumed some leather and vinyl scraps from this earlier project and cut out some end shapes. I cut one out to the final shape and left a second piece uncut. 

Then I sandwiched the end of the webbing between those two leather pieces (their RS are facing out), with plenty of border around.

And then topstitched (edgestitched, actually) all around. I used a leather needle. They're very thick and totally prevent stitch-skipping. 

See - my leather needle gave such perfect stitches (no, I didn't use a roller foot or 3M tape or any other sewing aid) that I threw caution to the wind and used contrasting thread. 

Here's the pink belt with brown vinyl - it more clearly shows the WS of the uncut vinyl piece behind the cut vinyl piece. It also clearly shows that I didn't align the webbing nicely. Well. 

Then I trimmed the larger leather piece to match the smaller one. 
Tada! Instant belt-end!
Not only neater but its pointed tip also makes it easier to thread through the D-rings.

Then I made the other three.

End of story. 
Hopefully the Fallingdownpants Syndrome will now be a thing of the past.

*or suspenders. But suspenders are like socks - they come in pairs and all too easily lose their twin. Which translates to DemiFallingdownpants Syndrome. Which means we're back to square one. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Act 2: When A Blog Becomes More

Welcome back to our blogging miniseries (and by "miniseries", I mean "two miserable chapters separated by the entire summer of 2013")! I wrote the earlier post on blogging-without-hating-it (aka Act 1) with the intention of saying everything in just that one installment. And then I realized that there was so much more to say about what happens after the initial stages of getting one's blog off the ground. 

I mean, suppose we imagined this whole Blog Adventure in scenes like this:

And Act 1 would end about there, with you enjoying your blog and rubbing shoulders with some other like-minded bloggy people and feeling like you've grown some roots in the neighborhood. Many of us spend years happily hanging out right there. 

For others, their blogs take a different turn and skid right into Act 2: When A Blog Becomes A Monster With A Mind Of Its Own!!! More. Oops - spoiler leak. Uh, let's get on with the story.

So, now that your blog is nicely afloat, you start gaining readers and followers. As you get more well-known in the community, you get invited to blog parties and your projects and posts get pinned and mentioned on other blogs. All those shoutouts lead to more publicity and even more shoutouts and airtime and all kinds of other good PR whatsits. People might even start emailing you for stuff. You feel wonderful and buoyant and gratified and thrilled by all the attention and positive feedback and encouragement. You try to answer every email query. You accept every offer to review a commercial product. You open an etsy shop and start selling handmade items and pdf patterns and ebooks because you've heard that those are good ways to earn money while staying home with the children. You write sponsored posts and let people make things from your tutorials and patterns to sell independently. You order your first batch of labels and business cards. You buy a domain name for your blog and register your spanking new blog-fronted online business and start paying taxes. You take on custom orders and sign license agreements with publishers and craft magazines to put your name and craft in print. You run blog events and coordinate contests and network like there's no tomorrow. You reorganize your blogging space to make room for advertisers and sponsors. You sign up for five different statistics counters and obsessively monitor your visitor profile to pinpoint the best time of the best day of the week to publish your posts in order to maximize page views. You buy a smartphone plan so you can blog on-the-go at the playground or while waiting in the car pickup line at your kid's school. You link your blog to Twitter and Instagram and every other social media site on the internet. You are on a virtual adrenaline high and it's addictive and glorious. You fall asleep at night thinking you're the luckiest person on earth to be doing what you love and getting paid (in money, credit and/or popularity) for it. 

And then you crash. Someone lifts entire posts from your blog and publishes them on their websites. Someone sews a stuffed elephant that looks exactly like the one in your tutorial two weeks ago and claims it was theirs. Someone writes to ask if they can make bags from your pdf patterns to sell to raise funds for textbooks for their homeschool co-op. Someone enters your cookie recipe in a competition under their name. Someone translates your post on paisley-inspired granny squares into a foreign language on their blog without asking you first. Someone emails you to review their sewing pattern in exchange for a "free copy to keep". Someone offers a handsome remuneration to design a tutorial for their website but it's a content mill and you don't know if it's legit. Someone wants you to write an endorsement of their product in exchange for a check in the mail. Someone requests permission to use your text and photos for material for a class they're teaching (or studying). Someone writes to tell you they saw your free pattern being sold in someone else's online store.

They all require your immediate response and action, so you respond and act. But the learning curve is so steep and you aren't a lawyer and you can't discern between shades of grey and you wish you had someone professional to consult for free and you feel powerless and violated and inferior and stressed. And you want to say no to this person and no to that person because you feel it's the wise thing to do but you can't explain why. And you can't bring yourself to write a half-decent (or honest) review of that free sample that your children hated. And you don't know how to write an email without sounding emotional and you really, really don't have the time to answer all those questions, anyway. And you're so tired of lining up posts every day to keep your sponsors happy.

Suddenly, Act 2 doesn't look as sparkly-shiny as it used to. You still like blogging and most days online are lovely but those occasional spanners-in-the-works leave such a sour taste in your mouth that it almost eclipses the good altogether. You might even wish you had your old blog back - the one with just 6 followers and the calm safety of anonymity. You feel like you've crashed and burned(out). 

Friends, may I offer you one word of advice? 

It is this: BOUNDARIES.

TheFreeDictionary defines a "boundary" as "something that indicates a border or limit".

Remember that the internet is limitless and has no boundaries. This means that once you upload or publish anything, anyone can see it. Forever. You no longer have control over what happens to that information, that blog post, that tutorial, that template, that photo. The various powers-that-be have kindly created laws and policies to try to regain some of that control and assign protective rights to some parties and punishments to other parties who violate those rights. Unfortunately, not everyone is subject to those laws and rules and even those who are can be ignorant of them for any number of reasons. The truly anonymous bloggers among us might escape most of these unhappy scenarios for an extended time but sooner or later, particularly if you post stuff that people want to use for their own purposes, like tutorials, you will realize how little control you really have. This is why you need to set boundaries, or limits.

Boundary #1: Exclusion

Do not ever post something that is supremely important to you.
I've mentioned before that I have an old and dear friend with a legal and editorial/publishing background whom I consult regularly on blog issues in those areas. This friend gave me that bit of advice and it is my first and most important guideline whenever I'm considering sharing a project, tutorial or pattern on the blog. Once it's out on the internet, I can never take it back. And I can never know who's got their hands on it and is using it for whatever purpose. So if it's something that's really precious, I keep it off the internet (and off the blog). This means that there are many, many things I've made that you, my readers, will sadly never get to see. I will never get pats on the back for them. But I also never have to see them abused.

Boundary #2: Use of Blog Content

Decide the limits on the use of your blog content e.g. your text, images, etc. Know what copyright, fair use, DCMA, intellectual property rights and guidelines are for bloggers and what to do if someone violates your rights. 
Everyone is up in arms about copyright violations and stealing of intellectual property and suchlike. If you aren't, it probably means it's never happened to you (yet). I don't want to get into the how-tos because there are zillions of sites and posts on the internet to google and read. And just when you think you've wrapped your mind around everything, some new grey-area scenario will be thrown in your face and you'll have to do your research all over again. We're always learning. If you're not sure if you're infringing on someone else's rights, it doesn't hurt to ask for permission to do something before you do it.

If your rights are violated, you need to have a plan already in place to act on so you don't just sulk and fume and feel like an incapacitated victim. For example, if someone copies your entire tutorial post onto their own blog and reposts it, you might have this Action Plan:

Bear in mind that there are a lot of grey areas and that it is almost impossible (and highly expensive) to successfully sue anyone for copyright infringement unless they are stupid enough to copy your product down to its last exact detail. Also bear in mind that sometimes you might get stymied at some early stage in your Action Plan because, for instance, the website is in a foreign language and you can't even navigate the site well enough to locate a means to contact anybody, or you don't know what blogging platform hosts the errant website because they went and prettied it up beyond recognition. In that case, your fancypants Action Plan needs to have an allowance for you to Let It Go Because You Did All You Could. That's part of boundary-setting, too.

Boundary #3: Commercial Limits

Decide the commercial limits of use on your tutorials, patterns, templates, printouts, etc. Even before you release your first free tutorial, it is wise to have a policy on how people should use it. We are not talking about bad people stealing your tutorial and claiming it's theirs. We are talking about good people wanting to use your tutorial to make stuff for all kinds of purposes that you never dreamed of, like selling to neighbors to raise funds for the aforementioned homeschool co-op textbook fund. Obviously you can't dictate (or even guess) all the possible allowable uses for your precious tutorial, so what you'll need is a general policy. Examples:
  • Your tutorial should only be used to make items for personal retention.
  • Your tutorial should only be used to make items for personal retention or gifts.
  • Your tutorial should only be used to make items for personal retention, gifts or charitable fund-raising (define "charity"?)
  • Your tutorial should only be used to make items for personal retention, gifts, charitable fund-raising, or limited (how many? 20? 100?) retail sale at physical locations (e.g. craft fairs).
  • Your tutorial should only be used to make items for personal retention, gifts, charitable fund-raising, or limited retail sale at physical locations and online sites.
Some bloggers offer limited commercial licenses for their paid patterns so that customers can buy those patterns and sell the items they make with those patterns for commercial profit. Some bloggers say okay to charitable fund-raising on a case-by-case basis and create a system of accountability (e.g. a record of all individuals selling their Butterfly-cum-Caterpillar Tote Bags for charity) so that the users know it is not an anything-goes-for-all thing. Some bloggers freely let their readers do whatever they want with their patterns in the name of karma. Whatever the case, remember that you are not obliged to justify your decision - it's your pattern and you can dictate the limits on its use as you see fit. Two important things here: one, that you actually set the limits you are comfortable with and two, that there will always be people who will flout your rules. If that latter point gets your insides in knots, then re-establish Boundary #1: if it's that precious to you, don't share it with the world. 

Boundary #4: Sharing/Selling Your Blog Space

Have a policy for product reviews, sponsored posts and similar.
Some bloggers solicit products to review, promising a positive review in exchange for a chance to try a new product for free. Some bloggers accept invitations to review products based on whether they think they can give a positive review. Some bloggers accept products with the disclaimer that they may give a positive, neutral or negative review. Some bloggers (like me) respond to review invitations with, "Send me as much free stuff as you like. I may or may not review it at all, based on whether I have the time and whether I think I will like it, after which I may or may not write a blog post about it at all." I prefer to review products I actually already use and chose myself, like my favorite drafting books. For the same reason, I also don't do sponsored posts. I personally feel more transparent that way and my readers know that I won't say something is even half-decent if it isn't actually half-decent. Conversely, when I do write a review, it's probably going to be extremely thorough because I respect my readers and the company whose product I've decided I like. You may have a different outlook and value system regarding product reviews and sponsored posts, so your policy might be more welcoming and technical e.g.
"I will try out your product and review it within 3 months of receipt. I will write only positive or neutral things in my online post and I will privately revert to you the negative feedback for the further improvement of your product."

as opposed to mine, which is more like, 

"Feel free to send me whatever you like. I promise nothing."

Boundary #5: Guest-Posting

Decide on the rules of behavior for and responsibilities of guest bloggers, including your response and a course of action if these are violated. Also decide on the parameters of your own commitment as a guest blogger on other people's sites.
If you host blog parties and guest-posting festivals, it is prudent to set guidelines from the start so that everyone is aware of deadlines, required commitment and the logistics of submitting their post content to you. It is also wise to have a private contingency plan in your head if your guests fail to honor their commitment e.g. they had a family emergency and couldn't write their promised post, or if they were just irresponsible or tardy. Most guests are considerate and punctual with their submissions but some aren't. And for that reason, I know of many bloggers who only invite personal bloggy friends they know very well to guest-post on their blogs; it isn't because they're a clique, but because they're just much easier to trust and work with. That, in itself, is a boundary.

Boundary #6: Collaboration

Decide on the limits on commitment when collaborating with other agencies on regular projects. Sometimes, you might get to work with commercial organizations in various capacities, for example, writing posts on home improvement tips for Lowe's DIY section. Often, as part of the arrangement, these organizations will make their expectations clear at the outset, for example, "You must write 2 posts per week, each 1000 words long, with 4 photos, to go live every Wednesday and Saturday at 9 am." Your boundaries, however, should be set even before that, and they should be based on how much you are objectively willing to commit. This will save you from inadvertently overcommitting yourself just to land the assignment and dying from burnout later. If you can only feel sane doing one post every fortnight because you already have 3 other assignments, you would do well to turn down a fourth that requires 10 posts in that same amount of time. Even if the money is good.

Boundary #7: Publication

Have limits on what you consider acceptable rights for yourself as a published author or contributor.
At some point in your blogging journey, you might get a thrilling email asking for permission to include your delightful Cyclops Sock Monkey tutorial in a craft magazine. It is a dream come true! Your name in print! In a physical paper book thing that you can buy extra copies of to post to your mother and brag about to your children! Bear in mind that, depending on the policies of that magazine/book company, any of the following could be required of you:
  • Your old project gets published for free and you only get printed credit as the author/ designer.
  • Your old project gets published for a sum of money in return for you waiving certain rights to it.
  • You have to create a new project for the publication for a sum of money, to which you then relinquish all rights, and the magazine then has free rein to alter it, rename it, claim creatorship of it and (if they so wish) sell the idea to a toy company without your permission.
Some publishing agreements are more restrictive than others and it can be scary to read all the fine print. Boundaries can help you decide which restrictions are acceptable and which aren't. For instance, if you were hoping to approach a toy company with your idea yourself, you might not wish to sign an agreement that prevented you from doing that. Or you might only want to be published in magazines that have a certain reputation or circulation.

Boundary #8: Readership and Platform Building

This isn't really a boundary as much as it is opportunity cost, I think. It's like this: suppose you have a new blog with, say, 20 followers (and probably a few more actual invisible readers and subscribers). And suppose you also want to launch your first sewing pattern because everyone is doing it and, from what they say, it's a lucrative business. You have two alternatives:
  1. Launch the sewing pattern now while the trend is hot and hope your 20 followers will each buy one.
  2. Take a year to build up your readership to, say, 1000, and then launch your sewing pattern.
I'd say to go with (2). When I first opened my etsy shop 4 years ago, I stocked it with ribbon ball kits. I had fewer readers then, and I sold 3 kits in one year. I packed away the 8 unsold kits and forgot all about them. I found them again last year and, on a whim, relisted them. I sold all 8 in one month. Same kits, same price but a much bigger readership and market now than 4 years ago. By the time I felt inclined to release my first sewing pattern, I knew enough to wait before launching it. In the meantime, I kept busy with the blog, writing tutorials as dry runs for that first pattern. The tutorials brought in even more readers, which was a happy (but unplanned) side effect in my favor.

What I'm trying to say is this: if you're using your blog as a marketing channel for your shop, business, or a book you want to publish, it's a good idea to build your platform first. This means that 1000 potential customers are better than 20, or 1000 potential readers are better than 20. If you're going to be putting in the same amount of work to write that pdf pattern or that book manuscript, it might as well be for a 1000 as for 20. Where then do the 'boundaries' come in? Answer: at the point where you're deciding whether to launch or to wait for your readership to get to a certain level before you're willing to put in the work involved in producing a pattern or book.

Boundary #9: Standards

If I open my blog to commercial opportunities, what level of professionalism should I expect in my workmanship, expectations and standards?
Those boundaries are harder to quantify because, well, they're so nebulous and relative. Someone I know who sews-and-sells admits that she has higher standards for the products she sells than for the items she makes for her own children. That's a realistic boundary for her children's stuff. On the flip side, what is a realistic limit for the perfectness of a product onto which one slaps a price tag? When I started stocking my etsy shop with finished products (i.e. not ribbon ball kits), I found myself obsessing over the workmanship. You all know I'm normally anal with stitching and finishing and aligning print but it got to the point where I felt I could not charge anyone money for something that I personally considered substandard, even if my "substandard" might have been far and away more perfect than anything I'd even seen made by anyone else (excluding my Auntie Laura, who still has the best workmanship in the galaxy). It took me a while to realize I needed to set a boundary on my obsessiveness - not to lower my standards but to be okay with putting an arbitrary dollar amount on the work of my hands.

Boundary #10: Balance

Saved the easiest for last: personal boundaries between work and play, public blogging and private family, the shiny-sparkly outer face and the real person inside, the thick skin and the bleeding heart, that sort of thing. This is the pattern: you get thrown off-balance and you climb back on the gameboard and set new boundaries. That's not just blogging; that's life, and we've all been there.

Incidentally, you know that earlier paragraph about nightmare copyright and ethical scenarios and other ways to guarantee blog burnout? That's not self-disclosure. Well, maybe some of it actually happened to me, but only some. There's so much more drama out there that I've never even heard of, let alone read about on other people's blogs or experienced myself. All I'm saying is that the more public your little blog becomes, the more you might be smacked in the face with public issues. Many of these issues are unique, one-off occurrences that make you feel like you'd been blindsided but others are common and predictable enough to be dealt with by preparatory blog policies. 

And now, before I sign off, I have one more annoying story-with-a-moral. I laugh whenever I think about it, because even knowing what I do now, I don't know if I'd have done things any differently at the start. What am I talking about? My name. My blog monicker. LiEr.

When I first started blogging, I had no idea I might someday get published in magazines and whatnot. I didn't want to blog under my full name because it was so formal and not-me. I picked my middle name instead, for various reasons: long ago when I was running my first bag-making business, I used that name; it was shorter and faster to handwrite on labels; it was unusual; it had ties to my home culture, and so on. 
Then nice people invited me to be on their blogs and magazines and books. They wanted my full name, they said, because of remuneration and taxes and social security reasons. And so I was published under a different name than people knew me from my blog. 
And then the fun started. Concerned readers wrote in to say, "Hey! Did you know that such-and-such a magazine published this project that's straight from your blog and some heinous person called Lorraine Teigland claimed designer rights?"

Uh... yeah. That would be me, aka IdentityCrisisBlogWoman. 


I'm not implying that this happy scenario is on your radar, because -no doubt - you only have one real name and you're happily using it on your blog. However, just in case you were thinking of a clever avatar like ChunkyBobbinsAnderson-Lee or whatever, be aware that someday it might come bite you in the backside, okay? Just sayin'.

Whoo! I'm almost done! Just two more things: a couple of posts I remember recently reading that I'd like to link to for further insight. One is my bloggy friend Rae's post on how she fits everything (blogging, parenting, business) into one lifetime. The other is Destri's series on Whip Up on starting and growing a creative business, beginning with her intro post and continuing with a month of interviews and advice from some pretty amazing creative businesswomen.

And now, I'm finally done. Your turn now - if your blog is more than just a blog, what are some issues you've had to deal with? Please share them in the comments so we can all learn!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Helmet Kit Winners!

Thank you all for participating in the Crafteeo helmet kit giveaway!

We have winners!

Congratulations, y'all! An email has been sent to each winner to send me all the relevant info we need to get the prizes to you, so please look out for it.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mesh Wet Bag Tutorial Part II

These are the instructions for making the wet mesh bag from Jenna's pool party here. Check out Part I which contains tips on how to work with the materials used in this bag: cargo netting, ripstop nylon, vinyl tubing and webbing.

Stage I: The Patch Pocket
This stage is actually optional if you don't want a pocket. Feel free to skip ahead to Stage II. I picked the simple patch pocket because it was quick to make (since I was mass-producing about a dozen) and adds a lot of color to an otherwise largely black bag. You could also use cargo pockets for more volume, or patch pockets with flaps (and velcro/button/snap) for more security.

Incidentally, if you already know how to make a lined patch pocket, go ahead and skip this section. Just make your pocket and topstitch it to the RS of the main bag.

I cut my pocket double-size and folded it along its lower edge with RS together. Leave an opening for turning out on one of the other edges and stitch it into a closed rectangle.

Finger-press open the top seam, particularly where the opening is.

Prepare the corners for turning out. I don't snip the corners off ripstop nylon because it weakens it. Also, ripstop nylon is not bulky, so I prefer to double-fold the corner

before turning RS out 

to a perfect, sharp point.

Finger-press (or use seam ripper to ease out the seamline) the edges

before topstitching onto the body of the bag. Separately topstitch the top edge of the pocket to close the hole, then topstitch the remaining three sides directly onto the bag.

Here's a shot of the black version of this bag, because the topstitching on the pocket is helpfully illuminating: the blue lines are the top edge of the pocket, sewn before attaching the pocket to the main bag. The orange lines are the stitches that attach those three sides of the pocket to the bag.

Here is that pocket, centralized on the bag body. Ignore the darker black region at the bottom edge of the mesh piece. It's like mesh selvedge. I photographed different bag innards models for different stages of construction, so you'll see that selvedge appear in funny places throughout this tutorial. 

Stage II: The Base Trim
In the next stage, we'll be attaching the Base Trim to the bottom edge of the bag body. With regular cotton fabric, we'd sew a seam, serge the SA, press it, topstitch on the RS and be done. However, the raw cargo netting SA does not hold up to serging, and needs to be bound. You can bind it with something like bias tape (convenient but not waterproof for this bag) or nylon ribbon but we're going to do a self bound hem using the Base Trim fabric itself. This part is a little challenging to visualize if you've never done a self-bound hem, so don't be surprised if you only "get it" after seeing all the photos. 

In the first picture below, the RS of the orange Base Trim and the black netting Body are touching. However, the orange Trim is upside down so that that exposed edge you see is actually its top edge. Begin with this alignment as shown, with the Trim protruding below the netting by approximately 1". That 1" is the hem allowance we'll be folding. Sew a line of stitching to connect the netting to the Trim.

Make the first fold - approx 0.5"

and then the second - another approx 0.5", to meet the stitching line.

Flip it over

and fold the entire orange Trim down from that stitching line.

Topstitch through all the layers to hold that folded hem in place. You can do it either on the WS 
or on the RS.

This is what we have so far - the bag Body, the Pocket and the Base Trim (folded up to show how it's attached).

Stage III: Main Seam 
This is the main seam of the bag and because it involves solely the cargo netting, the SA will again need to be bound. 

We bound it with some heavy duty grosgrain ribbon. Easy.

Stage IV: The Strap
The following sequence demonstrates how to create an adjustable slide-and-loop system.  That plastic piece in the first photo is called a slide. We're working with the 1.5" webbing now.

Now introduce the other plastic piece, called a loop.

Pull that free end until that big circle of webbing is reduced to a short double-layered length between the slide and loop.

Now introduce a shorter piece of webbing, looped through the plastic loop, doubled over itself and its free ends sewn together. This shorter piece of webbing is called the strap anchor because it holds the whole strap system to the bag while allowing the longer portion of the strap to adjust in length.

Sew the free edge of the main strap to the top edge of the bag Body, protruding by about 0.5". I positioned the strap directly over the main bag seam we made in Stage III. This extra bit of strap will get sewn onto the webbing that frames the bag opening later. Having it protrude gives us more strap length to securely attach to that webbing.

Sew the strap anchor to the bottom edge of the base trim. 

Here's how it looks from the side.

Stage V: The Bag Opening

We're going to attach the 2" webbing around the rim of the bag. In preparation for attaching the carrying handle in the next stage, we're deliberately positioning the ends of this webbing off-center by 4". First, seal the fraying ends (both) of the long strip of 2" webbing using the Candle Method. Lay the cargo netting edge on top of the webbing as shown and sew to attach. 

The webbing is longer than the circumference, so overlap the ends

and sew them together as shown. I used a rectangular stitch configuration. These ends will remain exposed, hence the need to seal them earlier. Also sew down that 0.5" bit of strap from Stage IV onto the 2" webbing (later photo shows this more clearly). 

Cover the exposed edge of the cargo netting with some kind of trim - I used random black ribbon. This is very similar to the technique used to bind the inside seams of T shirt collars.

Here you can see that 0.5" bit of protruding strap, X-stitched onto the 2" webbing.  

Stage VI: The Base and the Piping
I'm going to speed through this section and refer you to my old tutorial on SewMamaSew for making and attaching piping to a circular base. Essentially, you wrap piping fabric around the piping cord and, with a zipper foot and a sideways-positioned needle, baste the fabric over the cord to make piping. 


Except this piping "cord" is actually vinyl tubing that people use for plumbing. Very waterproof but also very stiff and has a mind of its own. 

Attach the piping on the RS of the bottom edge of the base trim.

This is a sequence of photos showing how to join the ends of the tubing when you've sewn around the entire circle. Unlike with soft piping cord, this tubing will not produce a smooth join without help. I cut the tubing to fit, broke a round toothpick into thirds and shoved them into one end of the tubing to connect to the other end. Wrap the junction with electrical tape (or something else that can stand water). The result is a smooth join.

Make quarter marks on the circular base (I basted two layers of ripstop nylon together to make a double-layered base) to help you attach the base trim to it.

The process is identical to the fabric version in my SMS tutorial. However, be warned that ripstop nylon, paired with very unyielding vinyl tubing piping cord, takes some brute force to manipulate. It will tend to pull away from your zipper foot, so be patient and always keep the needle down when you raise the foot to reposition anything. 

Here are the finished base-and-base-trim-and-piping.

Turn the entire bag inside out and bind all those raw SA with another round of trim (ribbon, grosgrain tape, etc.) 

Part VII: The Grommets 
This is the funnest part of the bag, which is saying a lot, because the earlier bits were tough to do. Yes, they were - I'm being honest.; they are a rite of passage for bagmakers.

But back to the grommets: all grommet packages come with detailed instructions on how to set (i.e. install) grommets, so don't worry if you don't understand my version here at all, okay?

We're going to first install just the two grommets that will be tucked under the carrying handle.  Make two holes (I used the tip of my scissors and gouged them out) 3" apart, symmetrical about the strap of the bag.

Work with the WS of the webbing facing up ALWAYS. See that grommet part in the background - the one with the sharp protruding bit? Poke that through the hole, from the RS of the webbing.

Like so. And slide the smaller half of the grommet setting tool under it.

Then put the washer-shaped grommet bit on, followed by the long half of the tool. Pound it hard with a hammer.

Side view

Two grommets installed.

Stage VIII: The Handle
Fold in 0.5" of one end of that 9" piece of webbing

and position the folded edge 3" from the point centrally between the two grommets. Sew down that folded edge of the handle - I used a 5/8" wide rectangular stitching pattern.

Repeat to attach the other end of the carrying handle. 

Finished handle.

Stage IX: Remaining Grommets And Cord
Install the other 6 grommets equally spaced around the remainder of the webbing framing the bag opening. 

Thread the nylon cord through the grommets, so that it lies on the outside of the bag between those two grommets we first installed. 

This will allow the cord to weave in and out alternately through the remaining grommets 

to emerge in the front of the bag 

where they can be threaded through the cordstop.


Remember, this is a technically challenging bag to sew, so if you made it this far, even if your bag looks lumpy and irregular, give yourself a pat on the back. If your bag looks somewhat professionally-made, go share your photos on flickr or someplace and claim all the bragging rights you want. 

They're very useful, these mesh bags. My kids use theirs for carting their gear to swimming lessons all the time. 

And I've "borrowed" them for my own swimming paraphernalia when I head to the pool for laps. 

If you'd rather buy one than sew, I made an extra green bag that's in the shop. Go here to buy it.