As those of you who have been following this blog have probably picked up, it is no longer active. The existing posts will stay up for reference, but I am no longer adding new content. Thanks for a fun two years! ~Tamara

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lucky Cat Bag in 10 Steps

Since summer began, I've had time in the mornings to pack a real lunch to bring to my internship/work each day. Usually it's just PB&J, a string cheese and some fruit, but it beats paying $5 for a piece of soggy cardboard in the cafeteria. The thing is, I have difficulty carrying my food with me. When I worked sort-of-full-time I had an enormous kitchen practically all to myself to put tons of ingredients in, but now I'm a nomadic intern and have to schlepp my containers wherever I go. My purse is too small for that and I'm certainly not breaking out the backpack from high school, so for the past couple of weeks, I have been walking around dressed my professional best with a plastic grocery bag knocking against my knees.

I did have some alternatives. My mother gave me a posh pack that looks as nice as a purse but holds twice as much...but it's leather so I didn't want to put my wet water bottle and squishable bananas in it. I have some old mesh grocery bags lying around, but I think those only look appropriate in, well, the grocery store. Otherwise you just look like a hippie too hoity-toity for a proper resource-guzzling capitalist handbag. My final resort was a canvas bag I had lying around. Big enough, sturdy enough, and only slightly bag-lady-like.

The problem: the painted pattern on it was ugly. After a couple of months of walking around with the ugly painted side facing my body, I forgot it under the kitchen table, where it became one of Luna's numerous options for bedding. It's been a couple of years since, and I have a brand new sewing machine whose cost needs justification.


Step 1: Visit Joanne's Fabrics and pick out some shiny string. While you're there, peruse some pattern books while veteran housewives three times your age peer at you in a mixture of shock and suspicion.

Step 2: Find a pretty picture of a Lucky Cat (a.k.a. "Maneki Neko") online.

Step 3: Copy cat.

I've never been particularly artistically inclined, but I do plagiarize well.

Step 4: Pin cat to fabric matching the color of the bag. Attach to an embroidery hoop.

Step 5: Trace Lucky Cat in highly visible string. If you're smart, you'll do this in the color that will eventually be laid on top of it. If you're not, you'll do this in a color that clashes horribly and which you will then have to pick out fuzz by fuzz for an hour after completion. For example, teal blue on a Lucky Cat that will be gold and red.

Step 6: Embroider the bold lines of Lucky Cat with a zig-zag stitch on the lowest width. Tear embroidery apart and repeat until your lines almost look intentional. Finish the finer lines (nose, kanji, whiskers) by hand. Take slightly blurry photos so your blog readers can't see how messy those lines really are.

Step 7: Pin your Lucky Cat over the ugly old pattern on your bag. At this point, realize three crucial things: 1) You have to take it off again because you forgot the inner ears. 2) You made one of the strokes on the kanji for "good luck" wrong, but there's no way you're going to fix it because that's all one thread. And 3) Your bag is fully assembled. This means to actually get your Lucky Cat onto the bag, you will either have to take it all apart, or take your machine all apart.

Step 8: Take your machine all apart (i.e. slide out the base to expose the free arm, and praise the ingenuity of sewing machine engineers). Straight stitch what you can reach and wrangle your stitches embroidery-style (no pressure foot or feed dogs, just your fingers at the mercy of the fast-moving needle) where you can't. Which is most of it.

Step 9: Thank your lucky stars you kept all your fingers. Relax and admire the result of the past 8 hours.

Step 10: Model.

Perfect? No. A step up from Kroger bags? Definitely. As long as no one who knows Japanese or Chinese sees it and laughs at me for that erroneous stroke, I'm golden. Or at least my Lucky Cat is.


  1. :) this is cute! kudos to you for not giving up on it, after the first hour i would have gotten so frustrated and stuck w/ the plastic bag! lol

  2. from the Broken Spatula to the Thrifty Needle.


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