Monday, September 2, 2013

A Mixed Bag of Everything

An odd amount of my sewing tales lately seem to be starting with the phrase "My sister asked me to..." and this one shall be no different. She sent me a link to a backpack/handbag from Victoria's Secret (which, of course, was pretty stinkin' expensive) and asked if I could make anything like that. I never had before so I hemmed and hawed, and she said "I don't need it right now, so you've got time" which is sister-speak for "I really want this so figure it out." I tried to whittle down the elements that gave me heartburn in thinking about figuring them out, but the only thing I could get knocked off the elements checklist was the brown leather tab thingees (but believe me--I tried to find something similar, just because).

"You can figure this out, right?"

This bag was full-on schoolbag size so we knocked a little off the size, and there are a few differences in the sizes of pockets and flaps and such, but for the most part I did pretty well (especially since there were several things I've never done before). This is probably going to be wordy and pic-heavy, but I worked for an entire week straight for hours each night on this and I'm pretty proud of it. So here we go.

Luckily the fabric wasn't a beast to find as chevrons are still all the rage. But we couldn't have plain fabric when the original shimmers, now, can we? So I bought some of that Martha Stewart multi-surface craft paint in Sugarcube and painted my pieces with it to give it a bit of shimmer. I followed the directions to set it, and I'm hopeful she isn't trailed by a shower of glitter wherever she goes, but you never know with glitter.

It's hard to take a pic of shimmer, so this will have to do. But when the light hits it the effect is pretty dazzling. OK--so let's discuss the elements.

It's hard to see and it's a wee line, but darted pockets that aren't smack-dab on a bag but kind of sewn into the seams are a bit of a math-thinker and take some tinkering to get right. I have a terrible skill of mucking up the placement of snaps/velcro on flapped pockets, so I made sure these were just right. The bias tape was a beast around such a tight curve, but it's on there.


This 3-D zipper pocket was the cause of needless worry. I couldn't fathom how this was going to take shape, but I had a cute bag I bought at Target that had just such a pocket that I used as an example. It was a little tight getting it together, but it really worked out. The weirdest thing was sewing it to the bag--you have to smoosh things out of the way to sew it down, but if you smoosh too much you end up with a flat pocket. I went slooooowwwwly and it came together fine.

Those were the parts I worried about and didn't really have to. I was feeling good about the straps and so on, but that is where my worry should have been directed. I completely underestimated the bulk situation. This is a home dec weight fabric that I lost my head on and decided to interface and fleece. Even my super-strong machine balked in a few places and asked for new needles periodically. I ended up sewing bands over the ends of all the straps so they wouldn't end up in the seams, but even that was thick.

The stitching isn't the prettiest I've ever done but it's a concession I had to make to get through those layers. If I made this again (and I'm iffy on that ever happening) bulk reduction would be the number one thing I'd keep in mind. It was the only thing that made this less than pleasurable to sew. I enjoyed the challenge, enjoyed the thinking and planning, but hated getting these straps down. It was the only thing that (literally) almost had me in tears of frustration.

I made the straps so they'd be adjustable, but they're kind of not. In a technical sense they are, but in a length sense--not so much. It was really hard to gauge the length of the straps on myself so they ended up slightly shorter than I had hoped. They're set at a great length now, but the shiny bits are just for show (but that's OK as they look good :)

We went with a fun coral lining. I used a scrap of Medrona Road to line the pocket--it might be my favorite bit, kind of like a little secret.

Normally I would put the grommets just on the exterior of the bag, but this time I put them through all layers so I could get the placement right. I really didn't have it in me to make my own drawstring cord, so I bought some and added a double-cord stop for easy tightening. I love how they work--just a simple squeeze and pull and the bag is cinched, no fuss with tying anything to keep it together.

I did the faux piping method at the top where you pull up just a bit of the lining. I like the pop of color, and it saved me from some crazy bulk while top-stitching.

As I was sewing this together I kept thinking "I hate everything about this!" but that's not entirely true. I hated the parts I didn't think through fully. I had convinced myself that never again would I make one, but I may have to retract that statement. If I hadn't made some parts so bulky the whole thing actually would have been quite enjoyable to sew. I won't be making one of these for quite some time as my brain and my machine are on a bit of overload. This is the longest it has ever taken me to sew something, but it also has the most new-to-me elements in it. Leave it to sisters to ask for the 'impossible,' right?

And if you're wondering if she liked it--she did. She loved it. It makes it quite worth all that time and effort. And now--I am off to hand-stitch the bindings to some table runners. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to simple, soothing handwork.

I'll be linking up to these parties:


  1. WOW!! You did an AMAZING job!!

  2. You, my dear, are amazing! I hope your sister knows too! The bag turned out beautifully. I love how you added the sparkle to it too. Can I be adopted into your family? I need a sister who can sew like you! :)

  3. It's a beautiful backpack Bethany!!! I understand about your brain hurting. I get like that too when I am figuring out things that are a bit tricky. It's enjoyable to work on mindless sewing from time-to-time too to relax our brains too, lol.

  4. Fabulous dahling, and I love that you made it glitter too!

  5. What a BEAUTIFUL bag!!!! Just beautifully made!!! And I love the coral lining and LOVE the inside of the pocket - how CUTE and what a fun idea!!!

  6. You did a great job.I love all you made.Simple beautiful!!

  7. Wow!!!! Simply gorgeous . . . and your sister owes you big time. :)

  8. This is awesome.. I completely appreciate the work done.. I just finished a backpack which I used a pattern, so I can imagine how challenging it is to figure out all the details.. Lucky sister!

  9. You did a fantastic job!

    I love the lining! I have a little zippered bag to make this week, and I'm still trying to decide on a fabric! That gave me some more ideas!

  10. You did an amazing job. It's gorgeous. Love the lining fabric and the pocket lining even more. That wasn't an easy design to figure out, if you could make this you can make anything now.

  11. This looks absolutely fantastic!!! Better than the original in fact which was far too glittery for my liking. What an amazing job, I can imagine that it would have been a nightmare to figure it all out, but you've really pulled it off. Wow!!! xo

  12. It amazes me how you can look at something and then figure out how to make it!! So wish I had that talent. You did a beautiful job... I think my favorite part is the lining of that pocket, so cute :)

  13. Great bag!!!! I love the gray and coral chevrons! I also love the fabric inside the pocket! Such a cute bag, and you did a wonderful job! Thanks for sharing at Submarine Sunday!!

  14. That is really cool! I like the front zip pocket, and the lining on the inside pocket is such a fun little detail.

  15. This is absolutely beautiful! I would love for you to share this at the Krafty Inspiration Thursday Link Party over at Krafty Cards etc.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  16. The bag turned out ADORABLE! you did such an awesome job on this project! I especially love the lining!


    Kristy @ 3 Peppers Recipes - Crafts, Cooking and Color

  17. This is just absolutely amazing. You are very talented! So good!

  18. Oh my goodness. I cannot believe you made this; it is incredible! So many fun details; I really love the shimmer and the colored lining. You must love your sister a lot! :) I'll be featuring this on my blog tomorrow.

    Thanks for linking up to the Block Party!

  19. So wonderful! I read every word! The bag is unique with the different, colorful fabrics! She will always know it's hers! Thanks for sharing this with us! I really enjoyed it!

  20. That backpack is just wonderful and your stitching looks just about perfect to me! I hear you about sewing those many layers, you did so well!! I love it, and may well need to make one when I'm feeling the need to have a brain challenge! I often feel like you when sewing bags, the first one seems to be a confusing fuddle, the next one not so and the next one you can realise which bits you would change etc....hurrah for sewing bags!!



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