Sunday, March 20, 2016

Just A Spoonful of Sugar, A Chenille Upholstery Remnant, and Hot Glue: A Magic Carpet Bag for Mary Poppins

Magic Carpet Bag Prop for Mary Poppins
I've not been sewing as much lately because my whole family (except Bernie) is currently rehearsing for a production of Mary Poppins that opens on April 15th (get your tickets here!).  Lars is playing Robertson Ay, Anders is an ensemble member and a teddy bear who comes to life in the nursery, and I'm the Bird Woman.  I'm also the woman who opens her mouth and volunteers to make things like magic carpet bag props.

This is what I started out with, an old, musty doctor's bag in horrible condition that we picked up from a vintage/antiques shop for $30:

Vintage Doctor's Bag that has Seen Better Days
It stank, the leather and cardboard structure of the bag was distorted, ripped, and misshapen, the hardware was badly tarnished, and the edges of the bag frame were covered in a once-black cloth that was fraying and faded.  However, it's perfect for Mary's carpet bag because of the way this bag style opens:

Why This Nasty Old Bag Was Perfect
The top of the bag opens up to be a firm, rigid rectangle wide enough to pass other props through. 

In the show, Mary needs to pull an assortment of objects out of the bag that are obviously too big to actually fit inside the bag.  In order to accomplish this illusion, we need a trap door in the bottom of our bag so that props can be passed through by stage hands.  So the bottom of the bag was cut out on three sides, leaving one long side attached so that the bottom can be pulled up inside the bag and then put back down again. 

I hunted through my stash of fabric-remnants-too-precious-to-discard and found two small pieces of $250/yd Highland Court paisley upholstery chenille that was left over from a client's project years ago.  I wished it was a deeper red rather than a cinnamon, but I liked the luster of the fabric and the give of the weave.  By piecing the remnants together I was able to get a piece big enough to go all the way around my doctor's bag.  I serged the raw edge along the top because chenille ravels like crazy and I sewed the fabric into a tube that fit snugly at the base of the bag, with just a bit of excess fullness at the top.

Then I hot-glued the serged edge of the chenille fabric right up against the top edge of the bag along the front and back sides, leaving the ends free. 

Front & Back Edges Hot Glued Down, Ends and Bottom Edges Free
I ran a gathering thread to evenly distribute the excess fullness prior to gluing the ends. 

Gathering Excess Fullness Prior to Gluing

Once I'd gathered the fabric, adjusted the gathers evenly and knotted off the thread, it was easy to glue the top fabric edge in place at the ends of the bag.  Like so:

Top Fabric Edge Hot Glued in Place at Ends of Bag
I had left plenty of excess fabric hanging off the bottom of the bag, but I did not have enough of this fabric to do the bottom of the bag.  I hunted through my stash and found another luxurious, Mary-worthy scrap -- a Scalamandre silk ottoman ribbed fabric in crimson:

Scalamandre Silk Ottoman Rib for Bag Bottom, Highland Court Paisley Chenille for Bag Body
I cut my scrap of the silk ottoman fabric about an inch larger all around than the flap at the bottom of my bag, and I serged the raw edges to prevent fraying.  Then I positioned this piece of fabric on the outside of the flap, wrapped the edges of the fabric around to the inside of the bag, and secured them with binder clips (the kind from office supply stores).  That way I could remove the clips from one section at a time for hot gluing them down, without having to worry about the fabric slipping out of position.

Once that was done, I trimmed the lower edge of my upholstery chenille just long enough that I could fold it under and glue it in place around the edges of the flap.  The upholstery fabric actually folds to the inside of the bag around the three sides of the flap that are cut, and the bulk of the chenille helps to prevent any gapping between the bottom flap and the rest of the bag.  On the long side of the flap that is attached, the chenille is simply turned under and glued in place on the outside of the bag.  I thought about adding purse feet to the four corners of the bottom of the bag, but opted not to because I didn't want to draw any extra attention to the bottom of the bag.  After all, Mary will be holding the bag when she comes flying in for her grand entrance, and don't want the audience scrutinizing the bottom of her carpet bag!

Final steps on the inside of the bag included gluing a wooden stir stick (the kind you get at the paint store) to the long edge of the trap door flap and adding some tabs of industrial Velcro along that edge as well.  The wooden stir stick prevents the flap from falling open on the outside of the bag, and the Velcro ensures that when the flap is closed it STAYS closed.  I initially put the Velcro all the way along the wooden stick, but the Velcro was really hard to rip open and it was too loud when I pulled it apart.  I was afraid the Velcro sound would be picked up by Mary's microphone during the performance.  So I cut just a few tabs of Velcro and spaced them several inches apart instead.  This still holds the bottom of the bag closed, but requires much less effort and noise to open.

I had attempted to clean up the hardware with brass polish initially, but I discovered that it was only plated, not solid brass, and it was just a dull aluminum color once I cleaned away the tarnish and grime.  Mary is a stylish character who prides herself on her personal appearance and tidiness, so her luggage shouldn't look shabby and beat-up.  I used a black Sharpie marker to cover the fading and fraying of the fabric that covers the bag frame, and I used some metallic gold spray paint that I found in my garage to make the hardware look like shiny new brass from a distance.  I just sprayed the gold paint into an empty yogurt container and then painted the hardware with a tiny paint brush.

Bag Hardware Before

Bag Hardware After Painting
I think that came out pretty good, don't you?  I'm glad it's done and off my To-Do list!

If you're in the Charlotte area, I'd love for you to come see our version of Mary Poppins!  There are six performances April 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24, both evening and matinees.  Mary and Bert will be FLYING through the brand-new sanctuary of Christ Lutheran Church under the direction of Billy Ensley, and proceeds from the show will go to The Sandbox to support families of children with terminal illnesses.  It's going to be a great show for a great cause, fun for the whole family, and I hope to see you there.  Ticket prices are very affordable, and the performance/worship space was designed so that there are no "bad seats" in the house.  Get your tickets online here:

Feed the birds, y'all!


Katie said...

You are seriously clever. Love it!! :-)

Marti said...

I love it! You did a great job covering the bag and disguising the frayed edges on the handle. I thought it was a new one.

Unknown said...

Wow, it looks so brand new. Lots of effort for a fantastic result. Mary would be proud.

greg @ grey dogwood studio said...

I love how you finished your bag WAY before the performance! And such fancy fabric too. I have a few yards of vintage Scalamandre chintz - maybe you could make a steamer trunk for me to use as a table?! :-)

WrapUp BD said...

You have changed the whole look of it. Thank you so much for sharing this precious thing with us.