Bring me Back Bags
When I first saw on Facebook that Hampstead Norreys Community Shop was looking for ways to replace plastic carrier bags, I thought I’d do some research. They still found that customers were happy to pay the 5p plastic bag charge if they had no alternative means to take their shopping home.
I found out about a scheme to make simple cotton tote bags from recycled duvet covers, curtains and any other scrap material. It sounded such a brilliant idea. To make reusable bags from recycled fabric and to encourage the shop’s customers to ditch the plastic carrier bag for good. A way to use my sewing skills and recycle all that unwanted fabric. I had been planning to take a huge bag of duvet covers to the charity shop and I also have boxes & boxes of scrap material.
I offered to make a few bags for Lesley and she invited me to come for a chat.
I had not been to the shop before, although my husband occasionally stopped off on his way to work. I arrived at the shop and must admit I was a little bit daunted when I discovered I was up in front of the Sustainability Group Committee. Lesley introduced me to Vanessa & Mary, 2 fellow members of the Hampstead Norreys Sustainability Group.
The shop is set within the courtyard of Manor Farm with its beautifully restored barns which are now available to rent as holiday homes. The shop was built in 2011 and has since been extended to include a cafe and outdoor seating area.
Walking into the shop, I was greeted with such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. It was busy and full of lively chatter. I live in a small village where there is no shop. The only meeting places are the one pub, the social club or the Church.
Set up in the corner of the cafe, we began to discuss how we could proceed. I’d brought various examples of bags which I’d made. We decided to set up our very own Sewing Bee to make some simple fabric bags the Hampstead Norreys shop can use to replace any kind of disposable bag, be it plastic or paper. The aim with these bags would be that people would return them to the shop – basically community reusable bags. And so the concept of Bring Me Back bags was born.
We needed to find somewhere where we could meet up and all make the bags. We weren’t too keen on hiring a village hall as that would cost money. Looking around us, someone suggested why not use the cafe, we could meet in the evening after it had closed. There was a nice long table we could use for cutting and some smaller tables where we could set up our sewing machines. We checked there were plenty of electrical sockets. “And there’s cake!” Sadly I was told that I couldn’t help myself to cake when the cafe was shut.
As a couple was leaving the cafe, the lady came over and apologised for overhearing, but she loved sewing. She asked if she could join our group, so now we had recruited Karen.
Lesley asked me what I would get out of the project and I think I am looking forward to sitting having a chat to new people whilst sewing and helping to reduce the use of plastic.
We wanted to create our own logo and somehow transfer it onto the bags. I’d looked at various options. Screen printing was one, but it all seemed quite costly to set up. Iron on transfers also would be costly.
Vanessa offered to come up with some design options for a logo and I’d look at transfer methods.
We decided to set up a trial workshop to see how we got on. To my delight, Vanessa offered to bring cake!
Many years ago I used to do stencilling and would cut all my own stencils. Vanessa produced a very simple, but effective logo which was easy enough to replicate in a stencil. With a 2-colour design and some fabric paint, it was very easy to run off a whole batch of patches. We then just needed to add the lettering. I had a printing set, but that seemed too lengthy a process. I finally decided to transfer the lettering just with a fabric pen and a light box. My daughter had used a light box at school for her A level textiles. I discovered that I could make a very effective DIY box out of a plastic storage box with a lid and a set of Christmas fairy lights.
There’s even a children’s version.
A really exciting idea and a lovely way to gather as a community, for our community,
doing something we enjoy.