Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two-Timing Tote/Diaper Bag Sew Along: Finishing the Exterior, and the Zip Casing

At this point you should have front and back pieces with straps attached, and a gusset with piping and pockets attached. We now need to make those parts fall in love and get married.

Assembling the Exterior

Mark the bottom center of the front and back bag pieces, as well as the center of your gusset. With right sides together (let's start with the back piece), match those center points and pin/clip. Starting at the center and working around one side of the bag, pin the gusset in place (I recommend a lot of pins around that curve) up one side. Repeat from the center towards the other side of the bag. I find that no matter how careful I am, I sometimes need to ease one into the other, or trim my gusset at the very end, so don't panic if this happens to you. If you need to adjust I do recommend trying to keep the side pockets even with each other.

With the gusset facing up (it's easier to get neat corners this way), stitch all the way around. Note: there is no seam allowance here. If you've omitted piping use a 1/4" seam allowance. If you haven't just stitch to accommodate the piping. But look what we have here amidst our bulky piping trying to keep us from getting a neat seam:

A happy little stitch line to follow along! So as long as you keep that in sight as your guide everything should end up hunky dory!

Repeat for the back of the bag and the gusset. And boom. Your exterior is finished.

If you are not adding a zipper, you can stop reading as that's what we're doing now, and we'll see you for the lining! But this zipper is painless, I promise.

The Zipper Casing

Grab one of your zipper casings. Fold and press each short edge in one-half inch. Then press in half lengthwise.

Unfold, then fold the raw edges towards that center crease and press (just like we did for the straps).

Repeat for the other casing. Get your zipper. Sandwich the casing around it. Don't get too close to the teeth so your pull doesn't get stuck.

I like to sew around three of the four sides (the two short ones and the one nearest the coils). So I stitch as close to the edge as I can, starting on a short edge where the fold is--

Stitch to about 1/8 inch away from the edge, put my needle down, and pivot. Then sew down the length of the zipper.

Then stop, pivot, and sew the other short edge.

Repeat with the other casing, getting them as even as you can. Now take those two little squares we cut. Those are going to be our zipper tabs. Fold each short edge in about a quarter inch.

Fold, right sides together, short (folded) end to short (folded) end, and sew each side with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Apologies for this blurry photo. You get the idea, but still, did I sneeze when I took it or something?

It doesn't matter what end of the zipper you start with, but if you have to trim your zipper make sure you don't cut off the pull. I know that I want about two inches of zipper tape sticking out of the casing before the tab starts (if you think you might want it longer go for it--you can check the length against your exterior bag to see what you like), so I line things up on my mat (but a ruler is fine) like so:

See where my pin is? That's where I cut my zipper tape. Then stick the end of your tape into the tab--

--and stitch closed.

Now this is what you have--

I'll see you next time for the lining!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two-Timing Tote/Diaper Bag Sew Along: Piping and Pocketing the Exterior

Now we're going to tackle the details on the outside gusset.

Prepare the Gusset

If you're using directional fabric as I am, we need to sew our two gusset pieces together. Lay them out so that the pieces are going in two different directions so they'll look proper on the finished bag--

Take the right piece, flop it over to the piece on the left (right sides together), and sew using a half-inch seam allowance. Press open. Lay it on top of your gusset fleece. You can edge-stitch these layers together if you feel more comfortable. 

Making and Attaching the Elastic Side Pockets

Take an exterior and a lining side pocket piece, and put them right sides together. Sew using a 1/4 inch seam allowance along the top edge only. Press this seam open. 

Then put it wrong sides together and press the seam/fold nice and neat. Now we make a casing for our elastic. I am using 3/8 inch elastic, so I'm sewing a line that is 1/2 inch across (backstitching, of course). 

Now that my stitching is set I find that I usually need to neaten up the bottom edge. I use my pinking rotary blade to do this, trimming off just enough so the edges are pinked and even. If you can't pink, that's fine, but neaten up the bottom edge anyway.

OK. Now, we know that our pocket is eight inches wide, and our gusset is only six inches wide. That means we have two inches to tame so thing are nice and even, and we're going to do that with a single centered pleat. Fold your fabric in half, and place a pin at the one-inch mark from the fold.

To make sure the pocket fits just right, open it up and measure to make sure it's six inches.

Flatten out the pleat fabric on the wrong side and pin so that it looks like this, giving it a light press to help keep its shape:

Take a piece of elastic that is about seven inches long, and pin a safety pin to one edge. Insert the pin into the case, and feed the elastic through. When the edge without the pin reaches the edge of the pocket, stop, and stitch it to secure:

Keep feeding the pin through. Gently pull on that end of the elastic so the top edge gets nice and gathered, and measures about six inches:

Stitch that edge of the elastic in place, and trim off the excess. Adjust the gathers so they are nice and even. Make your other pocket the same way.

Find the center of your gusset piece (if you sewed it together the seam line is the center). 8 1/2 inches up from that center point is where our pockets will be placed but please pay attention to the placement. Place your pocket with the lining facing up and the raw edge at the 8 1/2 inch mark, the elastic end towards the center of the gusset.

Pin in place like you see above. Then stitch about 1/4 inch from the raw pocket edge, taking care your pleat doesn't try to run away on you.

Fold your pocket up so it looks like it will when we're finished, and press that fold. The rest of the pocket can flop around until we stitch it to the bag front/back, or you can edge stitch it to keep it in place. Repeat for the other pocket.


I posted a piping-making tutorial recently to give you a few options on how to make your own piping. If you aren't adding this feature, or are using store-bought, you can keep moving. If you want to make your own piping for this project, get your half-yard of fabric we set aside at the beginning, and follow this tutorial. You are going to need about 84 inches of piping total (make one long strip--don't half it). I recommend a little bit longer stitch length, and do not backstitch. See you soon!

Back already? That didn't take long. If you've made a bag before, I'm sure you're aware of how the top edges where the seams all come together can be awfully bulky. In order to cut down on that a little we're going to remove a little bit of the piping cord. At one end only, open up your seam a little, and give the piping cord a tug. It should slide out a little. Trim so that there is one inch of empty piping fabric at that end, and then pull your fabric nice and smooth again.

Starting at one end of your gusset, pin the piping in place. I usually only do this at the start as I find it easier to use my fingers for this little-bit-bulky situation.

Stitch, making sure all of your layers stay lined up. My piping foot makes this step very easy (what? You think I'm trying to convince you that you need one? Pshaw!).

Stitch until you're a few inches away from the end, then stop with the needle down. The piping fabric is on the bias so it might want to stretch a little as you sew (which is why I do this part as I go). NOW cut your piping off at the edge of the gusset. Pull open that edge as we did before and cut off an inch of the piping cord. Make your fabric nice and neat, and stitch to the end. Your piping is attached to one side of the gusset, nice and comfy-cozy.

Repeat for the other side of the gusset with your remaining piping.

OK, that feels like a lot for one day, so I'll leave you to it. Next up we'll be finishing the exterior bag and creating the zipper casing. The lining will seem super simple after all this detail work!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Two-Timing Tote/Diaper Bag Sew Along: Straps and the Front/Back

Ready? Set? Sew!


We're going to start off by making the straps. I don't know why, but making straps is an annoying thing to me. I like to do them first to get them out of the way.

Take one of your strap pieces. Fold it in half length-wise, and press. 

Unfold, and then fold the raw edges towards that center crease and press (like gigantic bias tape).

Unfold. Take one of your skinny strips of fusible interfacing and lay it down the center, between the creases. Press to fuse and let it cool for a few minutes to really set. Your strip won't be long enough, so grab another one and slightly overlap the edges so the length of the entire strap is covered.

Take a strip of fusible fleece, lay it down on top of the interfacing, but start it about one inch from the short edge--

The fusing part here is two-part--one is like a basting fuse, and the other is the good solid convincing fuse. I like to refold my strap like this and press--

--then turn it over and really press, getting a good fuse. Let it cool for a few minutes. Then fold it in half again and press along the fold. All raw edges are enclosed (except the short ends that will end up in a seam).

Mark a line twelve inches from each short end. 

BETWEEN those lines we are going to stitch the edges of the straps about 1/8 inch from the edge (or as close as you feel comfortable). Sew from line to line, backstitching neatly at the start and stop.

Then stitch the other side, trying to get your stitching to start and stop at the same spot as the first side.

You can stop here and skip the next few steps, but I love the look of a quilted strap, so I'm going to add more stitches. For this part we are going to stitch the entire length of the strap. I want my stitching to be a certain distance from those first lines of stitches, so I line up the edge of my presser foot like so--

--and take note of where I'm lined up on my throat plate. I'm between a half inch and five eighths. I can eyeball this fine but if you're not feeling lucky you can use a small piece of tape to line up your strap against to keep the seam straight. Now, I remove the strap and put it back under with the short end being my start point, lined up with the reference point I just noted--

--and stitch the whole length of the strap. Repeat for the other edge of the strap. You should have something like this--

Repeat for the other strap and give them another press. Pressing is the secret ingredient to a neat finish on anything you sew, so get in the habit of doing that.  

The Front Pocket

Remember that two-inch by eight inch strip we cut? Get that. Fold and press in half lengthwise, then fold the raw edges towards the center crease and press (just like we did for the strap).

Fold in half and press again to make those creases really crisp. Now take your pocket pieces, put them wrong sides together, and fold the bias tape around the top edges, pinning in place:

Stitch close to the edge near the pocket. Check the back to make sure you've caught that edge as well.

I didn't, but if you'd like to mimic the quilty look of the straps then throw in another row or two of stitching on that binding strip.

The Bag Front/Back

Take one of your fleece pieces for the front or back of the bag. Lay your exterior fabric piece on top of it. Pretend it's one layer. I didn't do this but you can sew the layers together with a scant seam allowance if that makes you more comfortable. Mark the bottom center (a pin is fine). Mark the bottom center of your front pocket, lay it on top of the bag front, and line those center points up. I use a few pins on the pocket to keep it from squidging around.

Take one of your straps and lay it down so that it is four inches from the side edge of the bag, covering the side of the pocket. Pin in place. I like to do one end at a time.

Trot on over to your sewing machine, and line up with your previous line of stitching (the one that ran between our marked lines). Now we're going to finish that stitching while we secure the strap to the bag. So start at the line, backstitch neatly, and sew to the end. Do this for the other edge of this end of the strap. 

Now, go back to that line we drew. Sew across it a few times, neatly. My sewing machine has a triple-stitch function that looks like this:

It goes forward, back and forward again for every stitch. This helps keep me from having a sloppy line of stitching.

Then, making sure the strap isn't twisted, repeat for the other end of the strap. 

Now do the same thing for the back piece of the bag and the other strap (obviously you won't have a pocket this time).

We need to round those bottom corners. I use my pincushion to do this (highly technical, I know). My pincushion has a five-inch diameter, so try to find something of similar size to use to curve your bottom corners--this will ensure that your gusset and piping are long enough. Trace and trim.

It'll now look like this (I don't know why it looks so tall--there is no end to the wonders I can achieve with my camera, haha).

At this point you've got your front and back with the straps attached, one side with a pocket. Next up we'll tackle the gusset with the elastic pockets and the piping.


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