Oooooooh wow … this bag took a lot. It’s beautiful and worth it, but wowwy. I think it took almost 40 hrs in total to complete. That’s more than I work in a week at my paying job! Thank goodness I was on vacation last week or I never would have been able to finish it. It probably shouldn’t take 40 hrs, by the way … but I find that the first time I make a pattern, I have to devote 5-10% more time to it to account for mistakes, getting lost on the next step, and just generally not being sure of the full process. Let’s learn together!!
Step 1: Do all the cutting.
Unlike making a quilt, you can’t just cut as you go. Actually, I don’t think you’re supposed to cut as you go with quilts, but it’s definitely an option and I find it makes the quilting process easier in some cases. If you’re tight on fabric, definitely cut it out beforehand so you can figure out what you need to do to meet the pattern if you don’t have enough fabric. When making bags, though, you absolutely have to cut before you sew. Simple totes like the Tiki Tote I did for SisterN are an exception to the rule. My first time-consuming mistake was attempting to cut out only what I needed for the first step. After floundering for an hour in confusion, I sat down to cut out everything.
Cutting out and taping together the paper pattern pieces: 1hr.
Cutting out all the fabric and interfacing – 4 hrs. I was already angry at the bag at this point. 😀 Luckily, it looks SO CUTE.
Step 2: Make the piping.
Piping is when you have a fabric cord around the edge of your project. You’ll most often see piping in cushions and on bags. It gives your project a very professional finish. I considered doing a piping on the pillow I made my dad for Christmas, but I was intimidated by the process and already under the gun to finish projects (I may still have had delusions of grandeur that I would complete the bags on time). There are two wonderful videos attached to the bag pattern. You can find them on YouTube under Andrie Designs – Crating and Attaching Piping. The process was actually a lot more straight forward than I expected. Making bias strips is easy due to all my practice with making bindings for quilts, but I had to make the strips on the fabric’s diagonal instead of with/across the grain like I usually do. This allows the fabric to give more easily, similar to how a tee-shirt stretches. If you’re curious, watch the first video on creating piping. She explains and demonstrates how bias works.
I should have cut a 1/2 meter to make my bias strips out of, but I had no idea how much fabric I would need and decided that more is better than not enough … so I did a full 44” instead. 😀 As you may imagine, HUGE overkill. I now have enough binding strips to do another bag and enough excess piping to do a small cushion or wallet … hmmmmmm …
Piping creation: 2-3 hrs. This is adding up already, isn’t it? And we aren’t even ready to start piecing yet!!
Step 3: Fuse all the things.
Remember I mentioned cutting all the fabric and interfacing? This is where I got to learn more about interfacing and stabilizers. They are roughly the same thing – they get attached to the back of the fabric to provide rigidity. The main difference is that interfacing helps the fabric to keep from fraying after it’s cut. Stabilizers … well, stabilize or stiffen the project. You can think of it as the difference when buying one of the reusable fabric grocery bags that you can roll up into a ball and one of the stand-up reusable grocery bags that you probably use for your heavy products. Those ones are usually stiff due to a vinyl exterior, but the concept should help you visualize the difference.
There’s also sub-categories of these interfaces. There’s fusible and non-fusible (fusible has a thin layer of glue that bonds to the back of the fabric when you apply heat with your iron, the other just gets attached by stitching in). There’s webbing, batting, and light interfacing. I’m not doing a deep-dive on the differences. For this bag, I needed a light-to-medium interfacing (keeps fabric from fraying), fusible batting (exactly like quilt batting except you can iron it on to the fabric instead of using basting spray or pins like I usually do), and a heavy stabilizer to give structure. I used Pelion Deco-Bond which is one of the heaviest interfacing I have. It also happened to be what I had in a drawer. It probably should have been a little more rigid, but I used what I had since the stores are all closed.
Fusing layers: 1-2 hrs. At least we get to move on to the sewing!!
The first panel was the most exciting panel to work on (in my opinion) because it highlighted the absolutely adorable Tula Pink skunk fabric I had ordered especially for this project. I LOVE it. It’s the perfect pattern for black-and-white projects. Since it is a Tula fabric, I think no one is surprised that there is still some colour in it, but just little pops that add to the design. I had chosen a mottled coloured fabrics for the piping from my stash. The colours matched perfectly and I think it added to the bag. Husband thinks I should have stuck with a black piping as he thinks it pulled focus a bit. I also took a survey at my UFO club and they told me the coloured piping “made the bag”. Let me know your opinion in the comments! I won’t re-place the piping, but it helps for me to know on future projects that I intend to give/sell.
This panel also introduces a new concept – zipper tape!! There are two options for buying zippers. You can buy lengths from your local fabric store (16”, 22”. 8”, etc.) or you can buy a roll of zipper tape and a handful of zippers to go with it. The advantage to the individual zippers is mostly a range of colour. You can buy zipper tape in many colours, but if you only use them occasionally in your projects, it makes more fiscal sense to buy the individual ones in the colour you need at the time. The advantage to zipper tape is that you get a massive supply of zipper length and don’t need to worry about making a mistake if you cut it too short – you can just cut more! You can also mix-and-match the zipper colours. Since I was using gold rings for the handles, I went with yellow zippers on the black zipper tape. I could have done black zippers to have everything blend in, but it should surprise no one at this point that I would find that too boring to bother with, 😀 The one challenge to zipper tape is that you have to insert the zipper into the zipper teeth. That can be difficult to do. There are lots of hacks online for doing it. My hack was using a very old coat with a broken zipper last winter as my new good coat was stuck at my parents’ house 2 hrs away during a lockdown. I made do with re-zipping the coat each time I got in and out of the car/house/bending down to scoop dog bombs. I got VERY good at threading zippers into the teeth, so doing this part was no challenge. I also got an extra zipper and 20” of tape just in case I made a mistake and needed a second zipper. Smart on me, as I cut the zipper 1” too short on the first pocket. I still have some zipper tape to save and use on a future project!!! Maybe a matching wallet??
The final thing I’ll warble on about regarding the bag is the inner section. I wanted to make this bag big enough for SisterD to transport her laptop in when she starts going back to work after COVID. That requirement dictated the bag pattern I used. I know what model of laptop she has (and her work just issued the new device to her, so she’ll have it for at least 4-5 years), so I could make sure the bag would accommodate the laptop. Issue is, when you put a laptop in a bag, you really do need it to be in a separate section from all your other bag-things or it becomes very hard to fish up, say, your building ID to get into the office. The bag pattern only had one big pocket on the inside, so I included a divider to keep things separate. I also built two fabric pockets into the divider for tucking the power cord & mouse into in an effort to keep the main pocket as clear as possible. This was relatively easy to accomplish. When cutting the liner fabric, I added an extra 1” to the side pieces. I then cut them in half and stitched the divider in between them. One thing I did not do is make the divider go all the way up to the zipper. I feel like this adds too much weight and makes it harder to look for things/get things in/out of the bag, so it’s about 3/4 the hight of the pattern liner. I will be asking my sister to give me feedback on whether this was helpful or if things kept moving between the two sides. It’s a free bag – she can be a guinea pig!
Bag sewing together: 2-12hr days, give or take. Multiple rip-outs and forgotten pattern pieces are included here.
Yeah. On the first day, I literally got up in the morning, had breakfast, and vanished into the sewing room until much later at night than I should have been up. The next couple of days, I spaced in meals and naps. It’s a vacation, for crying out loud – I’m supposed to be taking a break!!! Was it worth it?
Uh, YEAH … I think it was!! I may be biased (and sleep and energy deprived), but I think this looks stunning! After I finished it, I switched thread and made another mug mat to go with SisterN’s tote. I decided the one I made during the sewing challenges wasn’t good enough to give as a gift, especially considering all the work that went into SisterD’s bag and mat. If this seems like an unfair demonstration of giving, rest assured that SisterN is getting the major time-sink gift next Christmas. I had that picked out before I even started the bags. I intend to start it in October – I want to give myself loads of time to get that one done this year!!
For July/August, we don’t have to pick UFOs if we’re too busy. We didn’t pay into the kitty for the summer months, which works out for me. New house does not have central air and the sewing room is WAY too hot to spend large amounts of time in during heat waves. I intend to work on the two 6” feature block quilts I started in April/May whenever we have cool days. If I’m lucky, I’ll have them both pieced and the flimsies ready for quilting by September. If not, that’s okay too. I still have the Tula monthly quilt blocks to do and the Christmas Fig quilt to assemble when the stores re-open, so if that’s all I manage during my summer, I’ll be happy with that!!