Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thrifty Acres: 1977 - Cool And Crazy Crafts

Hello! It's back to the 70's once more as we flip through the pages of The Total Tote Bag Book, published in 1977 (Joyce Aiken and Jean Ray Laury, authors). 

Tote bags of all shapes and sizes are still popular home sewing projects. This particular book, a recent church rummage sale find, received several positive reviews on A couple of reviewers commented that they've used this book just as much, if not more, than the much newer patterns they also own. Considering how old this book is, that's high praise!

I have to agree - there's a wide variety of tote patterns before, some pretty cool, some quite unique, and some a little crazy! 

For example:

Above, a Shopper's Tote. "A piece of clear plastic provides a surface on which to list errands to be run or groceries needed...Nonpermament marking pen or wax crayon can be used for writing notes. Both wipe off". Don't think I'd ever keep my grocery lists in this fashion, but I hadn't seen this idea before, so I thought it was rather clever. 

A piece of clear plastic appears again in this tote:

This is a Window Tote, with a clear plastic panel open at the top. By inserting fabric that matches a blouse or dress, we are told, the tote will match anything. But a scarf (shown above), photograph, cartoons or a calendar could be placed in the window instead. 

Most of the bags, however, are more about carrying various items inside them, such as:

The designer's tote: "Sketch pads, graph paper, and architectural drawings fit easily into a big over-the-shoulder bag...always has room for one more illustration board or one more set of plans". 

I don't know if computer graphics programs and other high-tech tools have made the lugging around of such materials obsolete, but it would have been a very useful tote back then. 

And still a good idea:

This is the "Ms.'s Tool Kit", we are told, "For kitchen or car, here's a way to keep your tool collection intact for emergency use". I am not sure why this was considered to be a woman's tote, as a Mr. would have likely found this type of "tool kit" handy as well. 

But it wasn't all work; The Total Tote Bag Book has many totes for recreational uses as well - picnics, sports, gardening, birdwatching, photography - you name it, your favorite leisure time activity could be enhanced by a special tote bag. 

I enjoyed the book's back cover photo of a gentleman ready to head off to the tennis courts:

I was in high school when this book came out, so I do recall tennis being very popular at the time. But I don't recall if many people had their own  home-sewn Tennis Tote, complete with "Pockets inside and out (that) provide spaces for everything. The racket is zipped into a racket-shaped pocket, and small pockets in the interior hold billfold, car keys, or change". 

I was amused that they had to specify that the racket is zipped into a racket-shaped pocket - what other shape would that pocket be? Nevertheless, a practical tote, I'm sure. The gentleman, who looks like he could be related to Barry Gibb (of Bee Gees fame), seems happy with it. 

If tennis wasn't your thing, there was biking. More than one tote project was dedicated to that sport, one of which was:

The Biker's Bag. "Bicyclists will enjoy this bag since it leaves both hands free. Anyone would find this type of carrier handy..." I dunno...seems to me it would get in the way on that side of the body, but the woman above seems pleased to have both her hands free.

Running - or, as it was often called back then - jogging (I think jogging was used to describe a slower pace) - had become popular by the time this book came out, so yes, there's a tote for this sport as well. 

I think the word "tote" was rather loosely-applied for the following project, and I think it qualified as "crazy" as well. Are you ready to see it? 

Okay, here you go:

If you're thinking that this looks like some sort of winged-shaped object around the jogger's ankle, you are correct:

As the description above mentions, "the winged portion is a pocket to contain the house key, a dime for a phone call (very dated now, of course), or a bus ticket". (in case of exhaustion, it's explained)

Certainly it's a good idea to have such practical items on one's person when out for a run, but a pocket shaped like a wing? I think I'll run right past that one! 

But the craziest tote of all was in the "Totes For Children" chapter:

The caption accompanying the above photo explains: "A boy's special tote carries his white rat, leaving his hands free to ride his bike". The description of the tote's features is charming: "The designer made this bag for her son who found it difficult to carry his white rat while riding his bike. The shoulder strap slips over his head so that the pak fits smoothly against his side. The white rat (or mouse, hamster, or gerbil) enters through the zipper door. The buttonhole-stitched circle at the bottom allow the animal to stick his nose out to sniff the air...The rat pak is not meant to provide protection over any long period of time. But it does provide a safe, easy way to transport a very small pet for a short distance, leaving the cyclist with both hands on the handlebars". 

Hmm...when I was growing up, I had siblings who had white mice, while another kept gerbils. I don't remember these siblings expressing a desire to transport their pets around town on bikes. But then again, we didn't own The Total Tote Bag Book, so rat paks weren't known to us.

Just as well, I think. For although our mother was an expert seamstress who could have whipped up a rat pak in no time, I'm willing to bet she would have refused to do so! 



  1. I am so glad you shared this! How fun! I love the "window/pocket" totes. There are some available now that you can insert photographs into each pocket. Fun idea to be able to put your grocery or to do lists in there too. I can see why this book got good reviews. Just goes to prove that if you can get past some dated photography, there are lots of good ideas to be found in some of these "vintage" craft books. Oh, and I can only just say "Wow!" when it comes to the idea of making a "rat pack". Maybe she was a Sinatra fan and just came up with this idea thinking it was clever?

  2. Glad you liked this ! It's a fun book. Obviously the designer got the name "rat pak" from Sinatra's gang, but the project was created to help her son. Perhaps he liked to take his pet rat along with him when he went over to friends' houses? Must have been a bunch of understanding parents!