This project is a versatile, serviceable item which will have an application for nearly every household: something I am calling an “odd-job” tote. Together with some other materials that would normally be tossed out, an empty cat litter container becomes a tote with numerous pockets, a roomy storage area, and a removable padded seat that also doubles as a kneeler! All the materials required are an empty Tidy Cat bucket, some old jeans, a bandana (or other trim), an old pillow, and about eight brass paper fasteners.
Your finished product can be as simple or decorative as you desire. After cleaning the inside of the container, I also took some time to clean the printing off of the outside. This is not a requirement and does not affect the usefulness of the tote in any way, but what can I say? I just like to put the best face on my recycling efforts as I can! If you would like to remove the lettering on your bucket, there may be several ways of doing so, but I used a soaped steel wool pad and some elbow grease.
The next step in the work is to gather some jeans that are no longer suitable for clothing. I keep a stack of these in my work closet for just such projects as this. I chose a pair in which the waistband was still in good condition and used a seam-ripper to separate it from the rest of the garment. I did not take the waistband apart; I simply opened the lower seam of the band and removed the lower stitching on the belt loops. Then I tested the size of it by wrapping it around the bucket, just under the lower lip. Depending upon the size of the waistband, it may need to be cut down or a piece added in to make it fit. The band I was using was not quite large enough, so I removed a second waistband that was about the same width as the first and cut a large enough piece to make the band go completely around the bucket. Next, I buttoned the waistband and stitched it closed along the top edge leaving the lower edge free. The plan is to add pockets to the waistband by inserting them between the front and back portions of the waistband and stitching through all the layers. In order to do this, a small portion of the end seam on the button end of the band will have to be opened to allow the pocket to cross over the overlapping section of the waistband where it is buttoned together. You will also need to make a small cut in the lower back edge of the button hole end of the band right at the edge of the overlap. (Please see the photo detail of this cut.)
Now for the pockets. Any jeans that still have the lower fourteen inches of the legs still intact will serve for the pockets, but I recommend using legs that are cut fairly straight and are wide enough to cover the side of the the bucket without overlapping. I used four legs from some of my husband’s very well-worn jeans where the holes had all developed from the knees and up. The only thing that I had to reinforce were the badly frayed lower hems. I did this by covering them with a strip of yellow bandana, though you can use whatever fabric you like. This lower hem on the legs will be the top of the pockets once they are sewn in place in the waistband. Once I had the bandana strips stitched down, I chose some small back pockets (cut from children’s jeans), and stitched them to the front side of the pant leg, about a half inch below the bandana-covered hems. These just add smaller pockets to the tote for keeping things that would get lost in the larger pockets. They are optional and do not have to be included in your final design.
To make the pockets, I folded the legs in half with the front of the lower leg facing me, hem to the top. Then I pulled the back portion up until about two and a half to three inches extended beyond the bandana edge. I pinned the sides of the top leg sections to the back, forming a double pocket, and then inserted the upper back portion in between the front and back sections of the waistband. I pinned everything into place and then slid the whole thing onto the bucket. (Refer to the photo for details.) Here is where you will need to make adjustments. Be sure that the bottoms of the pockets do not extend below the bottom edge of the bucket, that the hemmed edges of the pockets are even, and that the pockets are centered on all four sides of the bucket. I also re-pinned the legs to form a thinner back pocket section to hold flatter objects, and a wider front section to hold larger tools. After I had everything in proper position, I sewed it together and stitched the belt loops in place.
Now that the pockets were sewn down, I had to find a way to keep them in place on the bucket once I had added my tools. To do this, I positioned the pockets back into place on the bucket and used an ice pick to pierce a hole through the waistband and bucket behind it. Then I inserted a brass paper fastener and secured it on the inside of the bucket. I used two on each side of the bucket, but use as many as you think you need.
With the bottom of the tote completed, I moved on to the the seat/kneeler. I took apart an old pillow with filler that had matted together and cut a section to fit the lid portion of the bucket. To cover the lid and hold the padding in place I used a thigh portion of denim from the jeans. I thought about gluing the cover in place, but decided that I wanted it to be more secure. I used a wood burning tool to pierce small holes (they need to go in at an angle to allow a needle room to get through them) along the edge of the lid so that I could sew the cover on with upholstery thread. (If a wood burning tool is not available, an ice pick held over a candle until hot should also work.) I covered the sewn edge with more bandana fabric. My final touch was to thread the remaining section of bandana through the belt loops like a belt (to cover the paper fasteners) and knot it in the front. If the remaining aqua-colored section of the handle bothers you, you can always cover it with fabric or paint, but I have not decided yet which way I want to go on this, so these pictures show the finished project with the handle as is.
As you can see, this “odd-job” tote can be used for pretty much anything! Farm tools, garden tools, fishing materials, children’s travel toys, beach or picnic supplies, crafting tools… the possibilities are numerous.
When I finished making my tote, it was pretty and had all kinds of potential for aiding me in my day-to-day tasks. But if I never took the time to stop by my shed and load it with the tools I expected to need for a given task, it would still support me if I needed a place to sit, but would not be able to render any aid in achieving my jobs. This demonstrated for me an illustration that I once read in Donald Whitney’s book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Many Christians often face life with a “mental tote” completely empty of tools. The Lord provided every “tool” we would need to live a life of godliness and holiness within the pages of His printed Word. He also gave us the ability to memorize things and meditate on them, a kind of mental tote so that we can take His Word with us to face the situations that arise each day with the tools we have brought along. But for many of us, temptations and pressures arise or tragedy strikes, and when the Holy Spirit turns to our “tote” to hand us just the right tool, He discovers that we have only brought Genesis 1:1 and John 3:16 –the equivalent of trying to use a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to perform open heart surgery! How sad to lack the things we need, not because they were not available to us, but because we failed to “pack” them in our memory. May each of us be challenged by Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee”, and have the discipline to load our mental totes!