Making a Bag: How Hard Can It Be?

I invite you to join me on a bag making adventure 🙂 This is a self imposed challenge to learn new skills and maybe, maybe add bag making to my repotoire of workshops. I will endeavour to share with you what I learn as I follow the Pelican Tote pattern from Bagstock Designs. I’ve also be posting on Instagram @allisonreid.neweveverymorning using the hashtag #bagmaking🤔

In the past I have made lined tote bags and one or two zippered pouches but have always shied away from making a bag with zippered  pockets or structured interfacing. The Pelican Tote has both and is labelled a beginner level project. I’ll certainly be putting that to the test 😀

Without further ado, here is what I’ve been learning (skip to the end of the post to find links to online bag making tutorials and book recommendations):

Day 1: Cutting out the fabric pieces and applying fusible interfacing.

  • I followed the pattern requirements, purchasing woven iron-on interfacing, Pelon S-F 101. I fused the interfacing to the fabrics before cutting out the shapes using the templates. The woven interfacing gives quilting cottons a lovely feel and weight – they still move and drape like cotton but don’t crumple, they look smooth and feel soft. (Of course, woven interfacing is more expensive than standard interfacing!).
  • I’m amazed by how much fabric I used! Definitely a surprise. The bag pieces took just about all of the 1¼yds of fabric and all of the 2m of 20″ wide interfacing. Homemade bags, not cheap! Who’d have thought it?

Day 2: Making a zippered external pocket.

  • I followed the pattern instructions, applying some of the tips and techniques I remembered from my bag making research – see links at the end of this post.
  • I struggled to use the zipper foot correctly. I even switched to the standard foot a couple of times. My seam ripper came in handy as my top stitching failed to make the grade! In the end I decided to compromise so my topstitching is about 3/8ths from the seam edge rather than the 1/8th prescribed by the pattern but at least it’s reasonably straight.
I really struggled using a zipper foot on a straight stitch machine! I couldn’t figure out which side I should have the needle!
  • Longer stitch length is required for neat topstitching – how many times did I forget to adjust the stitch length on my machine? *sigh*
  • Matching up fabric prints above and below the zipper is tricky! More unpicking!
I got quite a sense of achievement when the external pocket was finally finished!

Day 3: Making an internal pocket and sewing in foam interfacing.

  • I watched a tutorial by Professor Pincushion to pick up a few extra tips about constructing the internal pocket; stitch across ends of zipper to keep it lying straight was one of the tips I applied. I also watched this quick tutorial by So Sew Easy – she used double-sided ‘wonder tape’ rather than pins to position the zip as does Lisa Lam in her Craftsy Class (see link below). I couldn’t get hold of the tape and someone said it can gum-up machine needles (have you experienced this?) so I fiddled about using my Sewline Glue Pen. The glue wasn’t really strong enough to hold the zipper in place but in the end I managed to stitch the zipper into the letter-box like gap.

  • After the zipper trials stitching the foam interlining to the front and back outer panels was an absolute breeze! I used a long basting stitch. Too late I picked up a tip to smooth out and pin the fabric to the interlining before basting to make sure the fabric didn’t shift or pucker. I didn’t have any real issues with this but I could create a slight bubble of fabric against the basting stitches by sweeping my hands across the fabric surface.

Day 4: Making handles, tabs for magnetic clasps and stitching the bag sides together.

  • I followed the pattern to make fabric shoulder straps. I’d run out of woven interlining so cut strips of Bamboo wadding to give the handles a little body.
  • The instructions for making the tabs were straightforward to follow. I used little pieces of the foam interlining as the ‘extra’ layer to add strength and protect the fabric from the metal clasp. 😀 The magnet in the clasp was really strong – I had real trouble separating the two parts before making the tabs!
Tab basted in place to the top edge of the bag lining.
  • I stitched darts in the bottom corners of the bag exterior and lining pieces as per the pattern before stitching them together. The foam interfacing is really easy to stitch through. I remembered to lengthen the machine stitch to about 3 to help keep the thick layers moving under the machine foot. What I forgot to do was widen the lining seam from ½” to 3/8ths so the lining sits a little bit baggy in the bag – if you know what I mean?

Day 5: Turning right-sides out and top-stitching.

  • I followed the pattern which gives instruction for turning the bag right sides out through the bottom of the internal pocket. Of course, despite all the reminders, I forgot to open the zipper before stitching the lining and exterior bag together – what am I like? 😀 So I had to unpick a few inches of stitching to reach inside and open the zipper! Never mind it was mistake that’s quick to correct! It was quite an effort to push all those layers through the gap in the bottom of the pocket but not impossible. (Birthing a bag is one of my favourite things! Many, many years ago I did seriously consider training to be a midwife!). I was pleased to see that all the squishing and tugging didn’t crease the foam interlining.

  • Final touches included hand sewing the open bottom seam in the internal pocket and machine stitching around the top edge of the bag. Julie the Juki stitches through the thick seams with barely a stutter but top stitching around the rim of the bag was a bit awkward as Julie doesn’t have a free arm option. I found turning the bag inside out was the most comfortable way to have the right side of the bag in view as I stitched.

Hurrah! The bag looks like a bag! It’s a finish!

I’m already sorting through my stash to make another. I’ve downloaded the instructions to add a recessed zip next time around – keep adding on the skills 😉

Here are some handy resources for novice bag makers like myself:

If you are mystified by the types of zippers and their uses then I recommend this link: Information about zippers

I watched this ‘Tips for Using Zippers’ tutorial by the Crafty Gemini before zipping (ha!ha!) through this tutorial by Sew Sweetness to find handy tips re. fitting and top stitching zippers.

For an alternative to using a zipper foot and some other tips take a look at Amista Baker’s short tutorial.

I watched a tutorial by Debbie Shore demonstrating how to create a zippered dividing pocket in a tote bag. I like her relaxed but professional style of presentation.

I’ve also been delving into some courses on Craftsy. I took advantage of the offer to take out a one year subscription for $3. This gives access to all the courses but only for the duration of the subscription. A bargain – as long as I remember to cancel the direct debit instruction prior to the $79.99 being removed from my bank account next year!

  • Joan Hawley ‘Zip It Up: Easy Techniques for Zippered Bags‘.
  • Sara Lawson ‘Building Better Bags: Interfacing & Structure‘. This provides a comprehensive look at the different types of interfacings and linings, their uses and how to apply them. Sara demonstrations methods of attaching zippers when interfacings and linings are being used and gives clear tips showing how to use interfacings to strengthen bag fastenings. There’s also a lesson on finishing bags with bias binding and how to add piping. The course notes include a table comparing interfacings by manufacturer which is a great help when trying to select the right product for a project.
  • Lisa Lam ‘20 Essential Techniques for Better Bags‘. I haven’t finished this course yet, learning lots as I watch. I have Lisa’s book, ‘The Bag Making Bible’ and have been dipping in and out of it throughout the process of making the Pelican Tote.

And a final ‘link’ to Samantha Hussey’s book ‘The Complete Bag Making Masterclass’ which has been another handy resource.

I hope this record of my foray into bag making has provided some useful information or provided you with an opportunity for a knowing smile or two as you recall your first bag-making projects.

Linking with Susan for Midweek Makers .

Allison

Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (260)

Welcome to Saturday Quilting Bring & Share 🙂 I hope you will find time over this weekend to relax, bring along a project or two and share in the inspiration filled conversations doing the rounds of our Worldwide Quilting Community.

So a little bit of a catch up. As you may (or may not) have noticed Saturday Quilting Bring & Share took an unscheduled break last week. After the quiet, sheltered, home-centric existence of the past 15 months our little world has unexpectedly gone through some significant changes. Happy things have happened as a result; our short break by the sea and spending lots of time with family (even seeing all three of our children and their partners together – nearly a year since that last happened). The past week has seen the culmination of the changes. We are a tad weary now as our minds continue to process all that’s happened and our emotions settle. We are so thankful we are all well; modern tech is keeping us in touch with family members who have moved away; and, most thankful of all, we know change happens through God’s will and within the hope His eternal plan brings us.

Alongside the personal changes has been the belated and most welcome onset of Summer after one of the coldest, wettest months of May on record. There has been plenty to do outdoors with rapidly maturing seedlings needing re-potting or planting out and many weeds to be composted.

Slowly emptying my greenhouse of plants now the temperatures are rising and the frosts are long gone.

Working outdoors is such good therapy isn’t it? I nearly always feel the reward of spending an hour or two at the allotment – both in seeing the effects of my ‘labours’ and being made aware of muscles benefitting from the workout!

I have been even more scatter-gun than usual in my approach to sewing but remarkably I do have two finishes to share! Neither were planned! First up: I finally added the binding to the Basket of Blooms wall hanging 🙂

I had plenty of the golden yellow gingham in my stash so the binding matches the flange I added with the borders way back when… I hand stitched the binding to the back in time for the piece to be hung for our guests to see. The Basket of Blooms block/cushion cover pattern is a design by Jo Avery available as a pdf from the Quilters’ Guild.

My second finish is a bag.

Lots of new materials and techniques for me to try in this free ‘Pelican Tote’ pattern available from Bagstock Designs. I did mange to keep a record of my progress, along with links to the resources I found helpful, so I will share all the details in a separate blog post – too much to share here 😉

Sorry I’m sharing so few links to inspiring posts this week. I will apply myself to my brim-full email in-box in the coming days and have more to share next week 🙂

Lorna has captured the haughty expression of a camel perfectly in her latest animal patchwork design.

Wahoo! Another way to use up scraps of fabric! Linda shares the braided rug she is making – the spiral pattern is intriguing.

Rachel has shared a comprehensive Economy Block tutorial. She has included a tip to ensure directional prints run in the same direction around the central square. Useful, as I know I can spend ages trying to puzzle this out and still get it wrong!

Yvonne Fuchs is well known for her carefully designed transparency quilts. Here she delves into colour blending theory. It is quite deep but give it a try, Yvonne’s explanations are clear and created with patchwork quilters in mind.

Lot’s of wonderful inspiration in the gallery of the ‘Favourite Finish Monthly Linkup‘ run by Cheryl aka Meadow Mist Designs.

Linking my finishes with Michelle for Beauties Pageant and Wendy for the Peacock Party.

Happy Stitching!

Allison

Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (259)

Welcome to Saturday Quilting Bring & Share… Or should I make that ‘Bank Holiday Weekend Quilt & Share’? Here in the UK we have a long weekend in which to bring along our project(s) and share in the inspiring news, tips and views posted by members of our Worldwide Quilting Community. I hope you have time to click on a few of the links below, join in the sharing by leaving your thoughts and ideas in the comments boxes you’ll find at the end of most blog posts 🙂

The busy Old Harbour area of Weymouth is lined with Georgian buildings.

I have to confess that I have not passed thread through a needle in the past seven days! We were fortunate enough to be able to take a mini-break to Weymouth – so good to have a change of scene 🙂

I’d carefully prepared my English Country Garden QAL fabrics and templates as my holiday project but somehow never found the right moment. After long walks each day I was happy to be occupied either watching activity on Portland Harbour from our window or reading Mansfield Park (for the umpteenth time!). Actually reading a Jane Austen novel and spending time enjoying the Georgian architecture and heritage of Weymouth was all very ‘in keeping’. In chapter 13 I read one of Jane’s characters had begun a friendship whilst ‘at Weymouth’.

 

On a much more modern note: Cruise liners have been moored off Weymouth Bay throughout the pandemic. We saw the brand new  ‘Virtuosa’ manoeuvring in and out of Portland Harbour several times during our stay.

MSC’s ‘Virtuosa’ leaving Portland Harbour

 

Cruise liners moored off Weymouth Bay.

Walking along the South West Coast Path was a great pleasure. As you can see the cliffs are very unstable with sections regularly breaking away so the route of the Coastal Path is often diverted from precarious edges.

South West Coast Path looking west towards Weymouth Bay.

 

The view looking inland.

While we were away both Julie the Juki and Phyllis the Pfaff (my sewing machines) enjoyed a spa day. They’ve returned home in tip-top condition ready to resume duties in my sewing room. For this week I have several small projects in mind including the third block of Melva’s Pieces of the Santa Fe Trail QAL and a wall hanging I designed and cut out over a month ago.

I hope you have had a more productive week than me and will enjoy reading some of the links I’ve hi-lighted:

Sometimes quilts evolve as fabrics are found and grouped together. It has taken Cynthia a while to curate the perfect collection of fabrics but once put together she instantly knew one of her popular patterns would make the most of each of the prints with the low volume background.

Jo has created a new pattern, the ‘Heart Spool’, to test a new brand of papers designed for foundation piecing. The pattern has a rainbow heart in a thread spool and comes in two sizes, mug rug and cushion! See Heart Spool and read Jo’s review of the foundation paper here. Jo’s also included a video clip explaining how she chose the free motion quilting designs for her Heart Spool block.

Katy has made great use of left-over solids to make a bright and BIG ‘Postage Stamp’ quilt. What a wonderful wedding gift – definitely one to treasure.

Woah! Yvonne used two spools of Aurifil thread to densely stitch out the quilting on her latest project, the Pulsar quilt. Her design involved a lot of thread stops and starts. There was a sizable quantity of thread cut away after Yvonne had buried all the ends in the quilt. She was curious enough to calculate the percentage of thread that went into the quilting as opposed to the percentage removed. (She used 24 full bobbins in the quilting!).

Charisma Horton made a trip to California to spend a few days working on a project with Rob Appell. Find out how she coped behind the scenes and in front of the camera.

If trying to keep up with the ‘should dos’ of modern life are getting you down take time to read Alyce’s contemplations on how to face down the pressures.

Happy Stitching!

Allison

Saturday Quilting Bring and Share (258)

Welcome to Saturday Quilting Bring & Share. Bring along your projects(s) and settle down to enjoy sharing in the company of other members of our Worldwide Quilting Community. I hope you have time to be creative and also click through to some of the inspiring blog posts hi-lighted in this edition of SQB&S.

I’ve been hand sewing and researching bag-making whilst enjoying the company of our house guests. How lovely to be able to invite family members back into our home and have them staying over night too! We’ve had an easy paced week, time to relax and just ‘be’ together. You may have seen the post I shared a couple of days ago following a walk in a bluebell wood. In the chilled-out family times we’ve been sharing I’ve made some progress with the fourth block of the English Country Garden QAL and continued my research into the craft of bag-making. I’m excited to be learning so many new things, ready to get practicing and already planning to share what I’m learning via in-person workshops. So many ideas whizzing around inside my head! 😀

The leaves are stitched in place onto the background of the fourth block of the English Country Garden QAL. Next to stitch down the stems and make the EPP flowers.

I hope you are able to enjoy more time with family and friends and that the pandemic restrictions are not hampering your creativity. There may be just the inspiration you need in this weeks links into the Quilty World:

Julie aka Jaybird Quilts has a new take-it-at-your-own-pace Quilt-A-Long. Use her speciality rulers to create fascinating shapes and patterns. More information here.

Nancy is figuring out a quilt layout for a large collection of Hourglass blocks. Decisions, decisions!

Lissa and Cassandra have collaborated to create a week-by-week QAL, ‘Quilt Concert Series 2021‘. The quilt has a modern twist with blocks of different scales combining to make interesting patterns and providing an opportunity to learn and practice cutting and piecing skills.

Jane gives a quick tutorial in response to all the interest in her ‘Four Patch Scrappy Quilt‘. It really is very effective with lots of secondary patterns created by the arrangement of four patch units within Economy Block style surrounds.

Patty’s Scrappy Fabric Rug adventure wasn’t without it’s traumas but she persevered and shares lessons learned the hard way to ease others down the rug making adventure trail 🙂

Happy Stitching!

Allison