Monday, August 11, 2014

Make it Better: Broken Umbrella DIY

Broken umbrella to swimsuit bags DIY
I love umbrellas. I have a collection of tall umbrellas in various solid colors and small folding umbrellas in all sorts of patterns and sizes. Some have been given to me, like the one friends brought back from Mexico, the Kelly green one my brother's friend offered on a rainy day, and a whimsical pink and red one that opens to look like a parasol from my wife. I prefer umbrellas with bright colors because they help cheer up a cloudy day, and I really love happy prints.

Whether it's due to a strong wind or a sloppy closing, it makes me so sad to reach the point where a happy colored umbrella is bent beyond help. I find it so hard to part with the pretty patterns that I've actually used broken umbrellas when it wasn't raining very hard! Realizing how ridiculous that is, I recently spent some time working on a few projects I could make out of a broken umbrella canopy. This way, I can keep using the great colors and prints long after the umbrella itself has seen its last useful day.

Since the canopy is already water-resistant, I decided a swimsuit bag would be just the thing to take advantage of the nylon material. I made three different types of bags out of my eight-panel umbrella. Most umbrellas consist of eight panels, so while broken umbrellas come in different diameters, which will affect the size of the final bags, all three of these bags can be made from one umbrella. The advantage to this is that if one makes any combination of these bags, she will have a matching set when she's finished. After finishing this project, I plan to use my set for traveling -- I now have a shoe bag, a swimsuit bag, and a dirty laundry bag, all made out of matching lightweight nylon.

While all three bags could be used for a wet swimsuit, the first bag I made is the one I've designated as my swimsuit bag because its got the tightest closure. I really wanted to stay away from working with zippers, so I used an origami-inspired fold and snap technique instead. The second bag could also be used for a swimsuit, but with a drawstring top, it will not hold water in as well. I've decided this will probably be a shoe bag, as it's the right size for a pair of flats, but I've already used it for a wet swimsuit and it worked fine when placed upright in my purse. The third bag requires the least work, but also has the least secure closure, using the umbrella's original "tail" as its closing mechanism. It could be a bathing suit bag if positioned upright when a wet suit is inside, but I've decided to use it for dirty clothing instead.

Using this method, the umbrella's finished outer edge works to decrease the number of seams necessary, while making the bags edges nice and neat. This project is great for new sewers because small mistakes won't show on busy patterns, but beginners should avoid striped umbrellas because misaligned stripes will be noticeable.

Continue reading for the tutorial...

Supplied needed:
-Broken umbrella
-Small scissors
-Sewing machine with small needle
-Needle and polyester thread
-Polyester thread
-3 Snap closures (for the first bag)
-2/3 to 1 yard length of ribbon or trim (for the second bag)

For all three bags:

Step one: The first thing is to remove the canopy from the umbrella. The canopy is attached with thread to the spokes of the umbrella, so I snipped the thread off, which does not damage the canopy fabric. The purple center "button" piece unscrewed from this umbrella.

Step two: After removing the canopy, cut out the two sections (as one piece) next to the section that has the tail, and the two section to the side of that, leaving the section with the tail attached to a total of four sections. (Another way to describe this is to cut the canopy in half along the side of the section that has the tail. Then cut the non-tail half in half again.)

There should now be a total of two triangular sections, and one section that is half the canopy.

Note: It's important to use a small needle for the nylon fabric. The picture on the left shows a medium size needle making holes that are too big, and the picture on the right shows the same seam done with a small needle. My machine pulled the fabric through smoothly, but some machines may need gentle guiding of the fabric. If a mistake is made, be careful removing the stitches so the fabric doesn't snag.

Step three: For each of the three sections, fold in half along the existing seam with right sides facing. Close the long side by lining up what once was the outer edges of the umbrella (the finished edges), and start the seam there, moving toward the point. This way, even if the point doesn't line up perfectly it will still work out neatly when we do the next step.

Step four: Fold up the point, and sew a seam to create a flat bottom for the bag. Cut off excess fabric as shown above. Now on to the fun part of making the different closures for the bags!

Snap closure bag

For the Snap Closure Bag:
Using a total of three snap fasteners, there will be six spots to hand sew on the pieces.

Snap #1: Centered, and 1" down from the top of the bag, attach the stud side of the snap.
Snap #2: Centered, and 3.5" down from the top of the bag, attach the stud side of the snap.
Snap #3 & Snap #4: These two can be sewn on at the same time as they will be back to back on the front and back of one of the top corners of the bag. Place them as close to the corner as comfortable, and attach two socket sides of the snaps.
Snap #5: At the other top corner, attach the stud side of the snap.
Snap #6: On the back of the bag, centered, and 3" down from the top of the bag, attach the socket side of the snap.

To close, fold the right corner to the top center (#3 to #1), fold the left corner to the top center (#5 to #4), and tightly roll the top of the bag down (until snaps #2 & #6 connect).

Drawstring bag
For the Drawstring Closure Bag: 
This is an easy way to add a drawstring. It ends up on the inside, but works just as well and looks better when using fabric that has one right side and one wrong side.

Step one: With the bag inside out, attach the middle of the rope or ribbon to the seam by hand with just a couple stitches, about an inch down from the top. This keeps the drawstring in place, and eliminates future fishing for a lost tail.

Step two: Fold the top edge of the bag over the rope. The end of the rope is now hanging out through the opening. Starting where the side seam is, use the sewing machine to close the edge over the rope. Be careful to not catch the rope in the machine, and to stop at the same seam where the stitching began. This leaves space for the tails of the rope to exit.

Tail closure bag
For the Tail Closure Bag: 
As promised, this one is the easiest to finish... It's already finished! To close, just gather the top of the bag, and wrap closed with the tail.

I'm so pleased that I didn't throw away the cute broken umbrella. Now that I've got a few little lightweight travel bags in a matching set, I know what to do the next time one of my pretty umbrellas break -- don't try to use it in light rain, just repurpose it.


"There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- God damn it, you've got to be kind."
-Kurt Vonnegut