Essential Non-Weaving Tasks

When I started my business by making jewelry, it was important to me that I repurpose materials as much as possible. Old beads and buttons became parts of my new creations, sometimes in the background, sometimes as the focus. I also made my packaging from wallpaper books that were no longer being used, and wrapped the jewelry in previously-used-and-then-ironed tissue paper.

When I made the switch to weaving, there was no way that wallpaper books would make my packaging anymore. What would I use? I tried a variety of options that weren’t successful, eventually settling on making bags from old pillowcases I rescued from thrift shops. Although I’ve also used curtains, napkins, and sheets, pillowcases require the least amount of sewing, and therefore time. I get three bags out of each pillowcase, so it’s cost effective, too.

Time saving it’s not.

I was down to one lonely bag, and needed more just to mail the orders that I have. I had to get up from my loom and sew. I decided I’d make all the pillowcases I have into bags – once I’m in the mode, I might as well continue. It was also a good opportunity to record my time and thus know how long it takes to make the bags.

Cutting was really efficient – just over 1/2 hour to cut out all the bags. I didn’t count how many at that point, I just cut. Here’s a short stack waiting for the sewing.
cut pillowcases

I brought my mother’s old Riccar down to the kitchen to do the sewing. Some bags need a side & bottom seam sewn, some need a casing and a side seam.
sewing bags

The sewing goes smoothly, but before I know it three hours have passed. Here they are all sewn, waiting for their threads to be cut and turned right side out.
sewn bags

Next I needed to go to the computer and print the tags, cut them, and punch two holes in each one. Since I didn’t know how many bags I had, I made about 100 tags, figuring I’d use them all up eventually. That step took another hour.

Finally, I sit on my couch to string & tag each bag. I decided this was a good time to watch a movie. While I can listen to lots of movies while I weave, I can’t watch much: I need to watch what I’m doing at the loom. Cutting & threading a ribbon, stringing a tag, and tying a knot didn’t require lots of careful attention. This was one of my first chances to watch Avatar, a movie that has to be watched, not listened to.

I was really surprised that it took me another three hours to string all of the bags. Trust me, I couldn’t have been much more efficient if there was no television on; I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to this kind of thing. After they were done, I finally counted them when I was stacking them all up.
finished bags
76 bags total, 7.5 hours. When I consider that means that each bag took me only about 6 minutes, I think it’s really amazingly quick. When I think about the fact that I have to devote two more days to this activity in the next few months to have enough to get me through the year, it seems pretty time intensive. Like so much in life, perspective is everything.

More than the time involved, I’m concerned about my pillowcase supply. Lots of thrift shops don’t sell pillowcases separately. Those that do don’t have an endless supply – I can usually only pick up a few at a time. I don’t want to buy sheet sets, not only because they require more time in cutting & sewing, but also because there’s likely to be more waste. There will be stains or rips I can’t see till I’m working on them.

So, if you have old pillowcases that are in good condition that you don’t like anymore, send them to me. I’ll mail you back something I’ve woven – maybe a bookmark, maybe a mug rug, maybe something else. I’m open to pillowcases in all colors, both prints and solids, lights and darks. The higher cotton content the better, but beggars can’t be choosers.

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