So I actually started small in the bag-making game, and I mean that literally. This past year I did a project called SmALL, where I put together a business that made small hand-crafted pouches. It was a ton of fun and I learned a bajillion things doing it (literally, obvs). Here are some of the things I made:
So then after a year of making small things, I was excited to make some slightly larger things, and a purse seemed like a natural next step. I learned so many things making this bag!
Pattern/Mods: I used the “Oversized Fashionista Bag” pattern in this book for the basis of the bag, then I built on some fun decorative elements and plenty of extra pockets! Like I do.
Sequin Applique – “Hey Mr. Tambour-ine Man”
When I make SmALLs I’m was always trying to take a concept and figure out which hand crafts or techniques I need to make the idea happen, using it as a way to explore new arts and crafts, which I love. Did I tell you I love arts and crafts? So this was more of that. The question “how do I make eyes?” has brought me to applique and embroidery before in different ways. This time I wanted sequin eyes to fit the snake-like silhouette of the pattern and THAT brought me to tambour embroidery.
A tambour is what you would get if you crossed a needle with a crochet hook and added a little wooden handle with a knob on it. If you want to see some real arts and crafts porn, do a little dive into youtube videos of people doing this craft well. It’s super mesmerizing.
It looks nothing like that when I do it. There’s always a little bit of a learning curve for hand crafts when you’re actually physically teaching your hands to do the craft, but this one was trickier than some others I’ve tried. I LOVED making this in spite of some frustrating false starts and many do-overs, and I LOVE sequin appliques, so I hope to do a post where I make one soon! And when I do I’ll tell you more deets on how this is done, but if you decide to tackle it on your own in the meantime may I offer you this advice based on my misadventures: 1)Don’t use clear thread, you idiot! You’re not an idiot. I feel pretty silly that it never occurred to me just to match the thread color to the sequins, because clear thread is made of plastic and it doesn’t function like fiber. It’s super unruly and not very stable. 2)Make sure to use a fabric with a stable mesh. I guess this is one of those embroidery lessons you usually have to learn the hard way, and I think I’m still somewhere in that process. If I had this to do again I probably would have used some kind of linen? I don’t know I’m still figuring that out. The kona cotton I pulled out of my scraps bin was OK but probably shiftier than it needed to be. Let me know what fabrics or stabilizers you like best for embroidery (bonus points if you’re a tambourer)!
Teethsies and Tongue
For the teeth and tongue I drew up a pattern on illustrator and printed it out just to get some smooth curves and straight lines, but if that’s not your bag (pun intended!) a good old fashioned ruler goes a long way to this type of task. Anywho, I basically just traced the pattern onto the wrong sides of the fabric and used these as my sewing lines, sewing right sides together and then turning them out. (BTW do you know about point turners? You wouldn’t think you would need a specific tool just for turning out corners, but YOU’RE WRONG! Point turners are the bees knees). Then I stuffed them with some firm stabilizer that I cut to the same pattern shape with no allowances. If I had this to do over, I would try some type of scrap plastic in place of the stabilizer, because the tongue is a little scrumplier than I would like. Plastic canvas maybe? The teeth are cool, because they’re made of leather so they stand up better.
Pockets 4 Dayz
I had so much fun adding pockets to this bag. Here is the grand accounting of pockets in the monster bag:
- There’s an embedded zipper pocket in the interior of the bag built into the pattern. Dig!
- Underneath that I added a slip pocket with dividers and a little snaky trim at the top. I made two medium-sized dividers for knick-knacks and a couple skinnies for pens.
- My last purse has this teeny little pocket in the back that I use for eye drops and chapstick, so I recreated it! I just basically cut a slit, sewed a pocket to the back and put some trim on it. I love it!
- My favorite pocket in the bag I call my “Handmaid’s tale” pocket: it’s a hidden pocket in the base of the liner, specced to be just the right size to fit a passport. Because a modern lady has to be prepared for anything! I learned how to sew an invisible zipper into a seam for this. Like many things in sewing, doing invisible zippers isn’t scary – it just uses a different foot! Anyway here’s a pic. See it there in the base of the liner? No? Cool that’s the point.
Walking Foot – An Ode to Thee
I think this has to be a moment in a lot of sewists’s lives: you’ve heard about the walking foot, you know it’s a thing, but you would have to buy it, and then after that you would have to figure out how to put it on there, and like, where to put the needle, and how to use it and you don’t know if that’s hard or not and do I really need it and blah blah blah – STOP! Get the hell out of here, why didn’t anyone tell me how great the walking foot is? It’s not hard to put on – you just have to make sure the little hammer thing is over the needle so that it can follow the needle’s movement when you stitch. Then after that it’s like a miracle – the foot pushes your fabric through on both sides, preventing the inevitable and very frustrating puckering that you get when the fabric is being pulled from the bottom feed dogs only. This is great for layers of fabric, which is why quilters use it all the time and also why it was AWESOME for sewing the flap to this bag. It also doesn’t skip a beat with thicker weights or transitioning from one weight to another (like I did when I was catching the teeth and tongue in the flap seam). I’ve also heard it’s good for sewing shifty fabrics like satin and jersey. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’m excited to!
Structure and Stabilizer
So I think there is probably a lot of trial and error in which fabrics and stabilizers and interfacing you like to use in bag-making. In this case the pattern called for a combination of medium-weight interfacing and fusible fleece (and also suggests you do your own experimenting). In my case I think the fabric was a little too light for the interfacing I used. The pattern describes itself as a “modified clutch,” and as such doesn’t have a whole lot of structure built into the body of the bag except some darts at the corners. So the bag turned out pretty slouchy and you can definitely see my stuff shifting around in there. If I had it to do over I would have used something much thicker, like maybe a fusible foam instead of a fusible fleece.
Twist Lock placement
In the future I will definitely make sure to do twist lock placement at the latest possible time. I was using the wrong seam allowances for part of the construction of the bag, which didn’t have much affect on the shape or outcome of the bag, except for the fact that it affected my twist lock placement. So now the button of the twist lock in the front body of the bag is too low. This makes the bag kind of pucker up when I button it. On the bright side, it kind of makes me laugh because it makes the monster look like it’s grumpy. Here it is grumping around in my car:
Down the line, though, I might try raising up the twist-lock button and patching the old hole with a little hand-embroidered patch. Another day another project!