Tag Archive | first time

Bag lady

I have returned! My trip back East was wonderful beyond words. We didn’t really “do” anything other than just spend time together. It went by so quickly (well, maybe not for anyone else staying in the same hotel who had to listen to us), but it was worth everything it took to get there.

A couple of days before I left, I assessed my carry-on luggage options and decided that I needed a new bag. I had a small carry-on suitcase for my clothes, but I needed something that I could actually get into on the plane without thunking another passenger on the head, not to mention big enough to hold all my entertainment during hours of layovers. My purse doesn’t cut it. I like to keep my purse as small as possible. This bag needed to be able to hold my purse plus a water bottle, book, and small crochet project all while still looking like a purse so as not to arouse the ire of picky flight attendants.

I needed the body of the bag to be big enough to hold all the aforementioned items without being too big (Please store your personal item under the seat in front of you). Neither did I want it to be just one big cavern where small items would sink to the bottom making me That Person in the security check line. Obviously, multiple pockets were required to hold those smaller things. Also, knowing that I would be schlepping this thing through multiple airports, I wanted to have a long strap that I could wear cross-body to keep my hands free. This is more practical in my daily life, as well, when I’ve got to be ready to guide kids across parking lots and through busy stores. It needed to be a wide strap that could bear the weight of the bag without digging into my shoulder. With those criteria in mind, I spent some time searching online and I found two tutorials for different bags that I liked and created an amalgam of the two. I used the body of the Pleated Tote by Artsy-Craftsy Babe and the strap and pockets from the Olivia Bag by Dixie Mango.

Both of these tutorials are well-written, well-illustrated, and produce great-looking bags. And that’s high praise coming from me, because I’m not normally one to get excited about bags and purses.

Finished bag ready to fly!

Finished bag ready to fly!

So next came the question of fabric. Since it was only two days before I left, I didn’t have time to go to the store and I knew that I had enough in my stash. Sadly, the fabric I had in mind for the interior was actually yardage I had bought to make another blouse like the rose/leopard one of a few weeks ago. Why “sadly”? Because the print was terribly, obviously off-grain. That made it unsuitable for clothing, but for the inside of a bag — who cares if the stripes are a bit askew? I needed something heavier than just a plain cotton for the outside and, lucky for me, I had enough denim leftover from a skirt I made years ago (I think that was pre-blog). Well that was easy!

After cutting out pattern pieces, the first order of business was getting the pockets sewn onto the interior fabric. I made an easy pouch pocket for one side of the bag and sewed it down in little sections to fit my phone, pens, and pack of tissues.


But, the most fun was the zipper pocket that I put on the other side! I have never done anything like this before, but it went together like magic. More scrounging in my stash turned up this bright green zipper that I had bought years ago. It was originally intended for a dress, but… I changed my mind about the fabric and all of a sudden I had a bright green zipper with no immediate use in sight. Ah, but that’s why I save everything. The zipper was a few inches too long for this pocket, but a little zigzag stitching at the right length and *snip* Hello, appropriately sized zipper! The link to the zipper pocket tutorial is included in the Olivia Bag post, but I’ll give it to you here, too, just in case that’s all you’re interested in. Show me the zipper pocket!

Interior of the zipper pocket, in progress

Interior of the zipper pocket, in progress

Zipper inserted and looking all professional!

Zipper inserted and looking all professional!


Two other features that I wanted for my bag that were not included in either tutorial were an elasticized pouch for my water bottle and a flap to keep the bag closed. The flap was easy enough to devise on my own, just taking measurements of the bag and sketching out a pleasing shape on paper to use as a pattern. I sewed it onto the exterior of the bag at the same time that I sewed the ends of the strap on, before attaching the lining.

The pouch for my water bottle wasn’t necessarily difficult, but it did take a little bit of advance planning. I measured around my water bottle, allowing enough for seam allowances and a slight bit of ease, and I also measured how high I wanted the pouch to come up on the bottle. It took a few pinning sessions to figure out the placement of the pouch within the bag. I actually sewed the side edges of the pouch onto the individual interior bag sides before sewing the bag sides and bottom together. The rest of construction was the same as the tutorial.


I found the outside a little plain in just the denim, so before I had sewn the exterior together, I cut out a little flower from the interior fabric and appliqued it the the bottom front. It’s not really “my style” necessarily, but it’s nice enough.


So how did the bag fare on the actual journey? Well, I packed that thing to the gills. And therein lay the only real problem I had with it: When I had sewn on the toggle button, I hadn’t taken into account where the buttonhole on the flap would fall once the bag was packed. I ended up really straining the buttonhole to reach the button. It doesn’t look so hot anymore. I’m going to have to reinforce the buttonhole and move the toggle button up higher on the bag so that it won’t be a problem for next time. Other than that, though, the bag worked beautifully. The strap gave nice support, the pockets held my stuff. The water bottle pouch was a wee bit flimsy so next time, I would interface it first to give it a little more structure. But all in all, I deem it a success! And was surprised to find that I had a lot of fun sewing it. If you’re on my Christmas list, you may end up with a bag.

Easter dresses are ready for Sunday

First up was Granota’s blue dress which I managed to crank out nearly all in one day. I constructed the entire thing and then let it hang overnight so the bias could stretch. Hemmed it and put in the zipper the next morning! The whole thing went together like a dream. Seriously, it was like an out of body experience where my spirit just watched my body sew that thing up without so much as one grab for the seam ripper. It was beautiful. It would stand to reason that, having made the pattern once, the second one would go together equally well.

Kinda magnificent, if I do say so myself.

Well, the second time was also like an out of body experience, only this time my spirit was helplessly shouting, “No! No! What are you doing?! Oh heck, you completely forgot a step! Good gravy, woman, haven’t you ever heard of a seam allowance? Ah man, not the seam ripper again!” while my body fumbled and muddled through the entire construction process. Instead of the streamlined one+ day to make the dress, it took me four days (three for sewing and one where I completely ignored it in hopes that my brain would come home to roost before I touched the dress again). It really was weird. The whole time I was screwing things up, I knew I was screwing things up. And yet, I was powerless to stop it. I may have a little more compassion when I’m watching Project Runway and the “good” designers turn out a total hack job. My explanation is that their body, like mine, was temporarily host to some kind of sewing-impaired Quasimodo. What else could it be?

It was a long, hard road, but we got there in the end.

These dresses gave me the opportunity to try some things out for the first time.

1) Sewing with brocade. I had never sewn with any kind of slippery fabric before, but this pattern was just calling out to be made in a brocade. (At some point I’ll eventually have to get up and go find the pattern to see what it is since the online catalogs are not listing it. But right now I’m comfy in my chair and don’t want to move.) This brocade is a rayon-poly blend, so it’s not the real deal silk stuff, which is completely ok with me. Knowing my girls and Easter Dresses Past, they are going to wear these things into the ground. No sense in shelling out the big bucks. I read up on important things to know about sewing with brocade and then decided I had better stop wimping out and just get to it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not nearly as finicky to work with as I had anticipated. I didn’t notice any extra slipping as I sewed. I was very careful about where I pinned so as not to leave marks. And, all my trials and tribulations with the pink dress proved that you can remove seams without damaging the fabric. You just have to be careful. Of course, it’s better if you were careful in the first place. Despite the mess-ups, which were no fault of the fabric, I really loved working with it. It’s so slinky and shiny and the colors are beautiful. I want to make everything out of brocade now.

I can't get over the color.

2) Using piping. I had never made a pattern that required the use of piping until this one, and even then, it was listed as “optional.” I opted in because I think it really completes the look. It was actually not hard to use at all. Just use a zipper foot when applying it. I loved the outcome so much that now I want to put piping on everything, too. It was actually cheaper than I thought it would be (under $2), so there may very well be more piping in my future.

Fun fact: Did you know that piping has a wrong and right side?

3) Mandarin collar. I wasn’t scared of doing this, but I was interested to see how it would come together. I really liked the process. Pretty simple and straightforward. The collar on the pink dress does not stand up in front as it should; I think I sewed it in too far. Even the blue one is a little turned out. But we’ll see how they look once there’s a neck inside them. It was fun to do, and adds another technique to my arsenal, but I don’t feel the need to put a Mandarin collar on everything.

Earlier, I mentioned hanging the blue dress overnight before I hemmed it. When a skirt is cut on the bias like this one is, letting it hang is a good practice, even if the pattern doesn’t outright tell you to do so. Fabric stretches most on the bias. If you hem it and then hang it, you’ll very likely end up with weird puckers as the fabric tried to stretch, but was prevented by the stitching. Better to just let it get that out of its system before you hem. And if you ever doubted the necessity of it, check out this picture where you can see how far past the pattern paper the skirt stretched.

Lo and behold, the skirt is a 1/2" longer than I cut it.

Convinced now? I promise, you’ll be happier in the long run if you curb your impatience to finish.

Good zipper application

Drunken monkey zipper application

One change I made to this pattern was eliminating the facings. I hate facings. They never lie down right once they’re done, making weird lines and lumps on the outside of the garment. So I lined the bodice with lightweight cotton instead (besides, it’s nice to have breathable fabric against your skin). To make the lining for the front bodice, I traced the outline of the two bodice pieces; I just used the back pattern piece as-is to make the back lining. I think the interior finish turns out much nicer with the lining. It encases the zipper edge and covers the waist seamline as well. Everything is nice and neat!

Lined bodice prior to being attached to the skirt

So there you have it, folks — completed Easter dresses. Not your typical Easter dress what with the Asian flair and all, but I thought it was a nice change of pace; we’ve been down the Puff Sleeve-Gathered Skirt road before. Next up, a little linen suit for my tiny man! I’m really hoping for another one of those sewing zen days like I had with the blue dress. Stay tuned!

Ok, so it's kind of a puff sleeve. But how cool is that piping?