Hello one and all, I’m back with another sewing project!
My parents are the best. Knowing that I don’t really eat chocolate, they decided to get me something much more special as an early Easter present – a sewing machine. Since my mum’s birthday was on April 9th, I decided that I was going to make her a really special present to show my appreciation for the sewing machine.
The pattern and tutorial I used to make my mum’s present is from The Bag Making Bible, which I purchased on holiday in Hebden Bridge. Little did I realise I had already pinned a free copy of the book chapter and pattern for this bag on my Sewing Projects Pinterest board! Having said that, I’m still glad I bought the book because it is very useful to beginner sewers like myself, clearly explaining techniques relevant to so much more than just making bags.
The bag is a large, beach bag tote, featuring straps made from bias tape and a wide, flat base which creates plenty of room. The best part? It’s reversible! You can create two completely different looks with the same bag, perfect for saving space in your luggage when you go on holiday. It is also lightly padded and supported enough by interfacing and fleece to stand up by itself.
It was quite difficult to choose three corresponding fabrics, but when browsing through the book my mum commented on how much she liked the red polka dot straps of the reversible bucket bag, so I knew that red polka dots were my starting point. My mum loves Cath Kidston designs so I decided to use some Ikea fabric designed by Cath Kidston as one of the sides of the bag. I chose the pale blue fabric with large red and pink flowers and bought it as a pre-cut piece from eBay – just type in ‘Cath Kidston Ikea’ and you should find similar results. The reverse side is a cute ditsy floral and stripe patterned fabric I found in my local Abakhan fabric shop which I thought was pretty Cath Kidston-esque. I love the combo of the Cath Kidston big floral pattern and the polka dots but I’m not so sure about the reverse side, if I were to make the bag again I’d probably go for something a bit plainer, perhaps a turquoise and white striped fabric instead.
The interfacing was the absolute bane of the whole process. I got so frustrated at one point I threw away the bag, the book and my entire fabric stash, declaring that I would never sew again and that I was about to put my machine on eBay. Thankfully after a little peppermint tea break I reconsidered this decision and rescued everything from the waste paper basket.
My first problem was that the book doesn’t explain the difference between ‘fusible interfacing’ and ‘fusible fleece’ particularly well. I assumed they were similar and I could get away with just using the interfacing. Wrong. The bag was way too flimsy. Once I realised that the fusible fleece was indeed necessary, I returned to Abakhan and asked an assistant for some. She initially had no idea what I was talking about. I roughly explained what I thought it was and she informed me that I was most probably looking for fusible wadding, and that they did not sell it. I instead came away with sew in wadding (I guessed that I should probably go for the lightest 2oz weighting, not that I knew what the hell that meant, and I think I chose correctly) and had to guess how it would work in the pattern.
My second problem only became apparent after I had sewn and reinforced the sides and the bottom of the bag with my triple reinforced super strong stitch. My interfacing was too heavy for my relatively light cotton, meaning that the fabric wrinkled horribly every time it was turned inside out. Not a good trait for a reversible bag. I had to unpick every. single. bloody. stitch. and peel away the overly heavy interfacing before replacing it with something lighter.
The worst part about that? I ended up doing it twice. The second interfacing I used was also too heavy. Realising that I would have to undo all the stitching again was what caused me to bin the whole thing!
I did eventually get my hands on some super light interfacing and it worked really well. I did make a couple more silly mistakes, such as forgetting to cut my bias tape on the diagonal bias (the clue is in the name, Poppy!), but it didn’t really make much of a difference and in the end I’m really happy about how the bag turned out. The only time I strayed from the instructions was for the button fastening – instead of making a removable flower I sewed a contrasting button on each side to avoid faffing with safety pins and the like.
My mum was really happy with the bag and I was so relieved – before giving it to her I was panicking about it not being good enough! I would make the bag again, it makes a lovely present and assuming you know what you’re doing and don’t end up making several failed trips to the fabric shop for the wrong weight of interfacing, it’s relatively simple even for a novice. I would recommend The Bag Making Bible to novice and advanced sewers alike, the full size patterns included with the book are a lovely touch and there is some wonderful inspiration, including a section all about how to draft your own bag patterns. If I made the bag again I would try to add some zipped pockets, assuming they wouldn’t frustrate me to the point of wanting to throw it all away again!
I had quite a bit of the red polka dot fabric and the Cath Kidston fabric left over so I made something else with the remainder, but you’ll have to wait until next Sunday to read about that!
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Until next time,