Tuesday, 8 April 2014

To travel handmade ...

... you need enough handmade bags to hold all your stuff, obviously.

I have made my beloved Weekender bag


And also a Sew Sweetness Aeroplane bag

but I wasn't any good at travelling light before I had children, and so now that I do these bags barely hold the tip of the packing iceberg.

I bought the StudioCherie Travel Duffle pattern sometime last year, after seeing Elizabeth's fun version. The main appeal was that this bag is BIG. Like if you fill it you can hardly lift it big. That's my kinda luggage.

So, I sourced some jute webbing for the handles. I couldn't find the required 3.5" width so I bought 2" wide instead. After pondering a variety of patchwork and QAYG options splurged on 1.5m of this awesome Anna Maria Horner print (Social Climber in teal from Hand Drawn garden). I have to admit - and I realise this is bordering on sacrilege - that I don't have the unreserved adoration for all AMH's prints and collections that so many people do. But the ones that are good are just so beautiful. I think I appreciate the prints individually more than all together in collections. And I thought this would be perfect for this bag.

And then, as usual, I stalled. So many new projects, new fabrics to buy, blah blah, that's how I am. My Travel Duffle sat unmade. Until this month. The whole point of the fabric fast for me is to make me return to all those unmade projects - those WNQIPs (works not quite in progress) that I bought the stuff for but didn't ever actually even start. So I looked at my fabric again.

Pulled some chocolate brown sketch for the handle trim. Poor old brown gets a bit of a hard time these days, yes Hadley and Kelly I'm looking at you ;-). But I actually really quite like brown. My living room curtains are chocolate brown. So are 2 of the walls. I have brown boots, brown bags. I like it. And as you can see from the picture above it is an accent colour in the Social Climber print. I didn't have an orange or yellow that matched and I have no desire for a bag with pink trim. Grey wasn't going to work due to the brown - so brown it was. I only had half a yard but as my webbing was narrower I only needed 2" strips to trim the handles. I used an aqua Aurifil 50wt thread for the top stitching (#5006) to pick out the main colour of the print. And was pretty happy with how they turned out.

I grumped a bit about the fact I didn't have a long enough cut of the aqua Lizzy House jewels I wanted to use as the bag interior. And reluctantly cut some Kona Snow instead. I had panic stashed yards (about 8?!) of this at the very end of December so no worries there. Unfortunately I failed to read Jeni's advice on cutting the backing and batting slightly larger than the front before I did it and did experience a little shifting. Turned out that it didn't matter at all as the pattern allows for that and your final panel pieces are cut from the quilted pieces with just enough to spare.

This bag is unlined. I think that is one of the things that made me stall on making it as I was unsure how to finish the interior. I don't have an overlocker and didn't fancy zig zagging all those seams so I made 1/2" finished double fold bias binding (from 2" bias strips) and used those to bind the quilted pieces.

I did ponder ignoring the pattern and making regular cross grain binding but I am glad I didn't, the main panel ends up curving as it meets the ends so that bias stretch is definitely needed. Finishing the pieces this way means you do actually end up with 3 small quilts before you start constructing the bag which felt rather odd!

Soon to be a bag quilts ...

I have to be honest, I found this bag a bit of a battle. I don't know why, as I have made bags before and not struggled but this pattern wasn't quite so detailed as others I have used and I was scratching my head at times. I managed to insert the main zip incorrectly not once, but twice. Thankfully for once I had used pins rather than glue basting it so it was relatively easy to unpick.

3rd time lucky! I added topstitching to hold down the inside flaps rather than handstitching them down

The pleats on the end pocket had me flummoxed until I actually looked at the pattern pieces (I had cut everything with a rotary cutter or scissors). Once I had added the end pocket that panel piece was a mess so next time I would hold off binding it until that pocket was on. And actually I will make 2 end pockets next time. This bag has no interior pockets so I think the more exterior ones the better-  I already added an extra side pocket.

I added topstitching alongside the zip on the end pocket 

Unfortunately at the final stages of construction my machine let me down. There are a lot of things I love about this machine but its inability to handle multiple layers is not one of them. Thankfully it got me through all the topstitching, but when it came to the final bag construction it started skipping stitches. Ugh. I had this with the last bag I made on it, a Super Tote for my mother in law. It is really disappointing, as I love to make bags and made several (including the beast that is the Weekender) on my old machine -  a lower spec Janome - without it batting an eyelid. I changed needle several times but it didn't help at all and I ended up adding in some hand stitching over the zip area to reinforce it as the skipped stitches were so troublesome there. I just went around the rest of the bag several times. Which looks not so great, as you can imagine!

Some interior photos - you can see the binding, and all the quilting and stitching lines

And here the raw (zig zagged) edge from adding the end pocket - yuk!

When I finished this the other night I breathed a huge sigh of relief that it was done.
Stuffed it full of quilts and cushions to take the photos.

And marvelled at its capacity, plus its ability to scrunch down small. I just used my regular cotton quilt wadding so it is soft when empty.

Apple for scale - big bag!

And so I immediately pulled fabrics for another.

I have a twofold plan to tackle the skipped stitches. It involves purchasing some titanium tipped needles.

And pulling my husband's Grandad's old machine out of the garage. This is the machine I started sewing on, and I reckon it can handle it.


  1. I think the brown is spot on! #brownpower

  2. Lovely bag. Brown just needs a rebrand. Stop calling it brown and start calling it chocolate - it will soon gain in popularity.

  3. It looks fab Hannah, and I'm a fan of brown too! Could you maybe add binding over the pocket ends once it's all sewn together if it bothers you? Lovely bag - if you make many more of these you won't have any fabric left ;) x

  4. Love the AMH and it's a great looking bag! I tried titanium needles but don't rate them so hope you have better luck (mine were a cheaper brand though!)

  5. I admit I am a brown disliker generally, but when it's teamed up with this other great colours then that's all good, it's the whole 50 shades of sludge i dislike! I also get what you mean about AMH fabric, as a whole it doesn't appeal, but individually there are some gorgeous prints. Great bag, and good luck with the next one! x

  6. It looks great, well done. I'm intrigued about you machine not coping, I assume you used the acufeed foot for the thick layers? I've sewn through 8 layers of denim with my machine!

  7. My machine is not a fan of layers! I was nearly in tears over the hopscotch skirt in corduroy, it really ruined the finish! Fiona told me about a Jean-ma-Jig but I've not tried them yet, although your Grandad-in-laws machine looks like it would laugh at tough layers

  8. Love the fabrics you chose. The brown really sets everything off nicely.


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