Guyz, real talk – I have been sitting on this post for so long! Seriously, since maybe November. My New Year’s resolution to post more blog posts has been… in progress? Eh, Onward and upward. This make was a lot of fun! …from what I remember 😉
So I recently (now several months ago) bought a set of bag patterns from Swoon Patterns that had me thinking about gifties! And, I don’t know, I guess I’m (was) on a purse-making kick. So I made the Julie Ring Top bag as a gift for the mom-in-law.
This was an awesome, fun collaborative project: I had my 4-year-old kid Maebel go to town on the piece of canvas I cut for the front pocket panel. She squirted on some tie dye and when that dried she did some scribbling on the panel with fabric markers and finished it off with some hand stitches in embroidery floss.
The front handle was made by knitting up some thin ribbon on a little hand knitting loom. I was so crunched for time to get this ready for her b-day (spoiler – I didn’t) that I put Maeb’s dad Vince to work on this part. He’s not a big fiber artist, but it helped his confidence to know that our 4-year-old daughter can operate the hand loom pretty proficiently, too! It turned out great, and his participation worked out to be a pretty neat component since this was a gift for his mom.
When I’m looking for fabric for a project, I’m always more interested in the texture and structure of a fabric than print or color. Especially for bags, I prefer to use heavier-weight fabrics like vinyl and heavy interior dec fabrics to lighter fabrics like quilting cotton and even canvas. So for this project I pulled a piece of blue vinyl out of my stash, and I came away with a couple of extra tips for working with vinyl:
- Check the edges. This one I kind of learned the hard way on this project. If you check the edges near the selvedge or raw edge of the vinyl, you can sort of rub it with your fingers to get a feel for how it will wear. Some vinyls have a top layer that will pull away from the fabric over time, causing the project to look kind of crappy and have big whitish spots where the color wore off. But some vinyl doesn’t wear in the same way. This is another one of those reasons why it’s nice to get a chance to meet your fabric before you buy it. Interior design fabric stores are a great resource for these types of fabrics! Most cities seem to have one, even the ones like Tulsa, Oklahoma that don’t have many options in the way of fashion fabric stores.
- Check the “Stickiness.” Different vinyls have different “stickiness” and “slidiness.” Those are some technical terms I just made up. But they can be pretty important when making bags because there are so many fussy elements like straps and hardware and topstitching and stabilizer, that super sticky vinyls may give you a little more trouble at the machine. Again, I learned this the hard way on this bag – my vinyl was sticky-icky-icky!
- Walking Foot. All hail the walking foot! OMG I love it so much. I can’t say this enough. Get you a tiny screwdriver and put it wherever your seam ripper is so you can use it to strap on your walking boots (foot) on the fly. If you haven’t used a walking foot, even though you need a screwdriver, it doesn’t get any more intimidating than that – you just take the screw out, take the arm from your existing foot off and replace it with the walking foot, making sure to slip the little lever guy onto the part of your sewing machine that goes up and down. Again, all technical terms. The walking foot lifts the foot a little when the feeddogs are moving the fabric through the machine, allowing for an even feed and preventing the shit that fabrics want to give you by stretching, sticking or shifting. It also can shift thicknesses and handle more and thicker layers with ease, making it very, very useful for purse making.
- Nonstick Foot. Nonstick feet are more helpful than you would think in working with vinyl, for obvious reasons (no sticking). These can be a handy alternative to the walking foot in dealing with sticky fabrics, especially in places where the walking foot is too bulky. I even managed to find a nonstick zipper foot for a home machine out there on the internet somewhere, and while it wasn’t the cheapest foot I’ve ever bought, I’m pretty sure it will pay its dues.
- Hand Sewing is an Option. So as I mentioned, the vinyl I used for this bag was insanely sticky, making it a real pain in the buns when it came to working around the hardware. Specifically when doing the topstitching around the ring top, this gave me hella trouble. The walking foot was way too bulky – I couldn’t get anywhere near my rings with it. So I ordered the nonstick zipper foot, which would have been great except for the fact that no matter which way I turned the ring was cramming itself in the way and jamming up traffic. This was especially problematic because of how easily the fabric mars – I didn’t have much room for error because any mistakes I made were very visible. After striking out with both the walking foot and the nonstick foot and feeling pretty at my wits end, I had to remind myself of a very valuable lesson – sometimes it’s just easier to hand sew. I did the topstitching around the rings in a running stitch and then went back through in the other direction to give it the look of a sewing machine. Granted, my hand stitches could use some work in the uniformity and straightness department, but any time I do it is an opportunity to improve! I remember one time in college I told my literature professor I couldn’t do the assignment because the bookstore was sold out of the book we were supposed to read. She was like “did you check the library?” and I was like “…” I think I watched her heart break a little that day. This is kind of like that. Sometimes you get so caught up in technology that you forget that sometimes the analog way can be easier, better, more convenient, and aesthetically wonderful. It’s a good thing to remember in most fields I think.
- Nail Polish Fixes! I feel like I probably picked this up on a Buzzfeed life hack list somewhere along the line, but it is a solid pro-tip for working with vinyl, especially the kind that easily mars. Painting the spot with a matching color of nail polish can be a sturdy and almost invisible (depending on the color match, obvs) fix for those white spots at seams or pin marks or damaged spots. I happened to have a great color match for my fabric in my admittedly ludicrously extensive nail polish collection, but you can get a pretty broad spectrum at the drug store for cheap. I had a hard time even finding some of the spots that I patched in this way after it dried.
So, six is kind of a weird number for a list, but life is weird I guess. If you have any tips for working with vinyl, or even leather, put ‘em in the comments!!