DISCLOSURE: This blog contains Google Adsense ads and affiliate links to Bluprint, Creativebug, and CreativeLive via which potential commissions are earned when visitors click through.

Search This Blog > > >

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Do You Wash Your Handmade Bags?

washing your handmade bags
Do you wash your handmade fabric bags?
Recently took off for two weeks to get away from the coldest (and, as it turned out, some of the snowiest) parts of our winter and enjoy the sand and surf in the quaint city of Mazatlan, Mexico.

The city is often referred to as the shrimp capital of the world. With vendors selling them just steps from where they are harvested daily, hubby and I make a point of cooking ourselves at least two camarĂ³n dinners in our hotel every time we go down.

Take a look at the caldo de camarĂ³n that we whipped up this time... yum!

First time for us... shrimp soup!

When eating out a lot on vacation, it's often difficult to get enough veggies into your system. We turned to soup as a fast and simple solution, especially since fresh ingredients were aplenty and cheap.

Back to the subject at hand, however, being around seafood, sand and humidity is not ideal for handmade fabric bags. I had two with me: my beach tote and my original proof of concept Make it Yours bag (as shown in the washing machine above).

The sand and humidity by themselves made my clothing difficult enough to deal with; having bags that were routinely being handled in that type of environment made it a no-brainer that they would be washed when I got home. In fact, my MIY bag actually landed full on the floor at a McD's (we were there for the free wi-fi) so there was no way that it wouldn't be washed!

That said, an actual "dunk in the water" type of washing is not something that most bag makers would recommend.

Nevertheless, how many of you have done it and what results have you gotten?

Check out Craftsy's latest promos... Craftsy
[affiliate link]

My MIY bag had actually been washed before, so I knew it would come out fine. It was constructed out of tea towels and duvet cover material; all highly washable in themselves. However, most of the fabric was also interfaced with Decor Bond and none of it had been pre-washed prior to being sewn.

washing your handmade bags
Still pretty darn vibrant after a couple of washings...

I tossed it into the machine and washed it on the delicate setting with cold water. (I didn't bother changing my usual laundry detergent.) It was then air dried. I used the steamer setting on my iron to freshen it up afterwards, but it didn't really need any additional attention.

The beach tote bag was washed for the first time. I removed the ribbon zipper pull, but otherwise the whole thing went into the machine along with the MIY bag. Air-dried also.

And because I still haven't made myself any of those pressing tools I posted about several years ago, I stuffed a cushion inside it before giving it a renewing press with a hot iron.

washing your handmade bags
First time washed - came out fine.

This bag was also made out of repurposed bed linens, so I anticipated that it would make it through the wash just fine. I was a little bit concerned about the grommet hardware, but am happy to report that they were neither damaged nor loosened in any way.

mazatlan zipper pull
Palm trees, sandals and iguanas... all part of Mazatlan

Speaking of hardware, the above is a keychain converted into a zipper pull that will now hang from my tote.

Watch live classes for FREE at CreativeLive!
[affiliate link]

By the way, nothing compares to slippers when it comes to needing a wash after a couple of weeks at a beach resort. Here are hubby's new kimono slippers after a thorough washing.

handmade kimono slippers
Wrinkled, but nice and clean and ready for the next trip!

But getting back to washing bags, do you have a handmade bag that you'd like to wash but have reservations about doing so?

Since most of us do not pre-wash the fabrics that we use to make bags (it would unnecessarily reduce the crispness and vibrancy of the fabric), sometimes we're reluctant to do so after the fact. I believe that if you stick with quality fabrics, you should be fine with a cold water wash, even if you resort to the old "swish it in the sink" method.

Now, I can't guarantee that a washed bag will look the same as the day you originally made it. But neither does a used bag look the same as the day you originally made it. If we're making bags to use and not just to clutter up our homes — LOL, we all know that happens a lot too — then at some point, washing a bag is going to be preferable to keeping a dirty bag.

My main concern is about colour fastness. I still haven't washed my bucket bag because I've been worried about the red bleeding into the white. But then a little research turned this up online:

Courtesy Speed Queen...

image courtesy of Craftsy...
Haven't experimented with these techniques myself, but from what I've read, the colour catcher sheets (the most common brand seems to be from Shout) do work and I found one source that indicated success with the vinegar method.

As an added bonus, since we are all about DIY (and saving money), you can make your own colour catcher sheets. Check out the "recipe" here on Craftsy. All you need is a bit of washing soda and some squares of white fabric or felt.

There. Hopefully I've given you a bit of encouragement if you've been wondering about washing your bags and being afraid to do so.

If you've washed your handmade bags before, were the experiences successful or less than stellar?

In the majority of cases, it should be no big deal, given that we routinely wash much less durable things in our everyday lives with few issues.


  1. I can vouch for the color catchers! After I used one successfully with a new red and white shirt I've used them a lot. While I usually sort my laundry fairly accurately, sometimes I'll find one leftover bright shirt when I toss in the whites, or I'll jump in the shower and instead of waiting for the next laundry day, I'll throw my undies in with a load of darks, even black jeans. Everything comes out the right color, except the color catcher which is a dingy grayish pink or whatever color I washed it with.
    I've also used the vinegar rinse when I've dyed something. It might still bleed a little if I'm not careful, but it absolutely keeps the color from fading to a pastel after a couple of washes.
    One reason I usually don't prewash my fabric is I love that crisp new fabric texture. When it washes away and the item needs the stiffness there's always starch.
    That's my 2 cents.

    1. Thank you for your testimonials about both methods, Jan. Vinegar I have on hand, but I'll have to check to see if I can easily buy those colour catcher sheets (having never looked for them). Depending on price, I may just grab a pack instead of doing the DIY thing.

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. I have only washed simple no-lining type tote bags in the past and because I didn't pre-wash the fabric they shrunk and wrinkled. I haven't washed a bag since becoming a "real" bag maker, lol! But I do have one that is lighter in color and needs washing, but it has a metal frame and I worry about what will happen to the frame if I toss it in the washer. I make do the sink washing for it. I don't dry in dryer because I don't have one, so shrinkage should be minimal. I will let you know if I do wash it and the results. This bag I want to wash is quilted to foam with decorative stitches too, so everything should hold together nicely. I worry about washing bags with fusible foam, as if the fabric were to shrink then it will really be wrinkled and ironing that fusible foam already gives you wrinkles!


You have the power to brighten my day. Leave me a comment; I'd love to hear your thoughts... you can even remain ANONYMOUS! And rest assured that I acknowledge all comments, either here or via email. (That is, if you don't see a response from me here, I would have responded privately to the person.) Spam or generic comments with unrelated links, however, are promptly removed... and I may take appropriate action or report you to Google. Thanks for reading! (✿◠‿◠)