Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Placemat Totes - part of the "Every Weird Thing..." series*

A young friend of mine named Jessie has a really cute tote bag she uses on Sundays to cart her scriptures and other church paraphernalia around in. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes known as Mormons) attend three consecutive hours of church meetings on Sundays. Yes, three hours. Really! First we attend our main church meeting, known as Sacrament  Meeting (See February 26, 2010 post "Now Go Sit Down"). It lasts for seventy minutes. Then the adults and youth attend Sunday School classes until the end of the second hour. During the third hour, the women attend Relief Society (see my first ever blogpost  "The Visiting Teacher" posted on July 8, 2009) and the men go to Priesthood Meeting. There are youth meetings for ages twelve to eighteen during the last hour, too. The children attend what we call Primary for both the second and third hours. There is also a nursery provided for babies between eighteen months and three years. In order to run all these classes and programs, everyone in the church has a responsibility. Maybe you teach the five-year-olds in Primary. Maybe you're in the presidency of the Sunday School. Maybe your responsibility keeps you busy on a day other than Sunday and you just attend to hear lessons prepared and given by others. Either way, a good L.D.S. church member always has books. And Kleenex. And maybe highlighters. A baggie of Cheerios for a small child. Breath mints. No-doze. (Just kidding - Mormons avoid caffeine.) Anything we might need to sustain us through three hours of church. And my young college-age friend, Jessie, has a really cute tote bag she uses on Sundays to haul all this stuff around in.

"Jessie, I love your bag," I told her one Sunday.

"Thanks. It's made out of a placemat."

Ha! Who'd have thought?

Many months later, I found myself needing to come up with an idea for a homemade gift. My responsibility in the church is in the Relief Society. Occasionally, the Relief Society holds additional meetings during the week. (Because sometimes three hours of church on Sunday is just not enough.) At these meetings we might learn a new skill, be educated on a topic, have a parenting class, go on a field trip to a museum. My job is to coordinate these weeknight meetings. We decided to have, in conjunction with our Annual Soup Dinner, a Homemade Gift Ideas Night. Women could share ideas for homemade gifts, giving help to whatever degree they felt comfortable. They could simply show the item. They could provide an instruction sheet. The could give a link to a website. They could offer personalized instruction to anyone who might want to make their item. As one of the women in charge of this activity, I felt like I needed to come up with an idea.

Jessie's placemat tote bag!

I actually made three of them. It was really easy. I'm pretty sure chimpanzees could be trained to produce these bags.

All you need is a placemat and a yard of grosgrain ribbon. And a sewing machine. If you can sew forward and backward in a straight line, you have the skill necessary to complete this project.

Step one: Fold the placemat in half (the hamburger way). Stitch along the sides. Make sure to backstitch at both ends.

Step two: Flatten the seam allowance open and form corner into a point.

Measure 2 1/2 inches from point and mark with a pencil. Both sides.

Step three: Stitch across from one pencil mark to the other in a straight line, backstitching at beginning and end. Repeat steps two and three on other corner of bag. Turn bag right-side-out. Voila!

Step four: Cut the yard of ribbon in half. Cut a notch out of each of the four ends by folding the ribbon in half ( the hot dog way) and snipping out a triangle. Make sure you snip in the right direction!

Step five: Position ribbon on bag. Stitch a small box-shape to secure in place. Stitch over it three or four times for added strength. Repeat with remaining ribbon ends so that you have two handles on your bag.

Step six: Load up bag and go to church. Don't forget the No-doze. Just Kidding!

*Every Weird Thing You Wanted To Know About Mormons But Were Afraid To Ask Because Then The Missionaries Might Show Up At Your Door


  1. I just love your blog and your writing! It has such great personality!!

  2. Since when did you start folding hamburgers and hot dogs in half?

    P.S. Love the idea!