It was a tough sewing night, thanks to a mere quarter-inch elastic.

I came across this awesome tutorial for a grocery bag holder, and I made one two days ago for our house. It is a great beginner project – easy, satisfying, and pretty quick.

But that first time, I used 1/2-inch elastic, since that’s all I had lying around. The directions specifically say not to use anything wider than 1/4-inch, and I can see why. The 1/2 inch is functional, but it looks far from perfect, with rolling at the top.

So, I bought some 1/4-inch elastic today and tried the project again, this time to make a bag for my mother. Threading tiny 1/4-inch elastic into a 25-inch long casing is… difficult. And that’s putting it politely. There was a lot of cursing in the sewing room tonight.

First the casing wasn’t wide enough. Then the elastic got caught in the middle. Then it got completely lost in the casing. And finally, right as I completed the project, that 1/4-inch elastic snapped out of the zig-zag I used to “secure” it.


It actually ended up being a lesson in improvisation. By the time the elastic snapped out, there was no way I was willing to spend even 5 more minutes struggling with it.

Here’s the finished product, which isn’t elasticized at the top. My mom will want to overstuff it with plastic bags anyway, so it still works. And it doesn’t look half bad.

My boyfriend would like you to know that he is the awesome hand-model in this picture. And that’s Buck Jr in the background, the cardboard cutout deerhead trophy.

I think I’ve found it comforting to turn to instructions and patterns when sewing. There’s something predictable and assuring about going step-by-step, and of course it’s essential to learning. But I also realized tonight that making something unexpected but functional and beautiful is quite satisfying. Improvising is just another form of art! And I have a feeling that improvisation is going to be key to keeping cool through sewing roadblocks — and it is likely an essential ingredient for creative sewing.

And here’s a shot of the bag, with a pug for context. It’s a ridiculous, blurry photo, I know, but keep in mind that Mushu is convinced that anything hanging above his head is stuffed with treats. He is adorable and insatiable!