Last weekend, I went to a bag-making class at the Attic Window in Grand Rapids. I was really happy to learn that my friend Caroll was taking a class there on the same day (a different class, though). So, we were able to spend some time together and have lunch together. Always such fun to see her.
This is the bag we made in class. It's called the Metro Slouch Bag, and it is from Lila Tueller Designs.
Here is my finished bag! I didn't finish it in class that day, but I did get it done on Sunday. I did it in the same fabrics as my teacher, LeeAnne, had done hers in. These fabrics are Artful Home by Heather Mulder Peterson. I have always liked the fabrics, so it was really fun to use them. I wanted to say thanks to LeeAnne for a fun class. I did some things differently on mine than she did on hers. For example, she quilted her bag. I did not quilt mine. (If you want to see hers for a comparison, click here.) I had a really stressful week last week, and I couldn't handle sitting down to quilt all these sections first thing. I didn't have the patience, and I wasn't in the mood to free-motion quilt in front of people. LOL. I needed to decompress. So, I just sewed it together, instead. :-)
I will show you my bag, and I'll incorporate some comments and tips about the pattern as well. At the end, I'll sum up my thoughts about the pattern.
Here is the bag from the side. It has a nice pocket for a cell phone or something. I put my iPhone in there, and it fit very nicely. The pattern only calls for a pocket like this on one side, but I put one on each side. Why not? More pockets are always good!
TIP #1: The "ingredient list" on the back of the pattern does not mention that you need elastic for these pockets. You'll need a 4.5" piece of 1/4" elastic for each side pocket. I had to leave my class and go to JoAnn's to get some. So, make sure you add elastic to your supply list!
Here is the back of my bag. The flap is attached in an interesting way. The pattern recommends using "Dungaree Buttons" to hold it on. (You can also use regular buttons, but this is the preferred method.) I gave it a try. I like them, overall. I can see I didn't measure perfectly on the third button. See how it's pulling a little on the fabric? These are quite interesting. I wish I had taken a photo of them before installing them. But the one side is like a tack. It slides and locks into a hole in the back of the button.
TIP #2: The pattern tells you to punch holes for the tacks. It's tough to get holes through all the layers of fabric, fleece, etc. inside the bag. I found my Crop-o-dile worked GREAT for punching the holes, however. Punched like butter!
Tip #3: I am not convinced you need to punch the holes, however. I think the tacks are sharp enough to just push through all layers of fabric. Then, put the button on and squeeze a little. They will sort of snap together until you can hammer them more firmly. I wish I had done it this way, because then you could adjust your flap to make sure your hole measurements are correct, and you wouldn't have the pulling that's evidenced on mine.
I tend to be pretty heavy handed with my hammer. The instructions say to "tap" the tack into place. Well, I "whacked" the tack into place and the tip of the tack came right through the outside of the button! I used the ball peen end of the hammer to pound it down a bit so it wouldn't poke anyone.
Tip #4: Keep a light hand when pounding the tack into the button!
Here is the front of the bag when it's open. I chose to put a black and white striped binding around the top. I really love it. I think it adds a nice surprise on the inside! And look at the cool magnet closure. LeeAnne had some with her, and I bought them from her. I've never seen magnet closures painted in such fun colors. I know it doesn't match the rest of the hardware, but I loved the blue color with my fabric!
Of course, the seam on my binding landed right front and center on my bag. Dang it! Well, I wasn't going to take it out and do it again, however. It was not easy to sew on in the first place (see below). So, it is staying right there.
Here is the inside of the bag. I used a contrasting fabric for the pockets. On one side, there are three pockets. You can also kind of see the other side of the Dungaree Buttons here. Those are the last thing to go on the purse, just about.
Now, let me talk more about the binding. See the green magnet closure here? (Again, I loved the fun colors of the closures. And I love that this bag has a closure inside, as well as on the flap.) This closure goes on before the binding. It has to, in order to hide the backside of it inside the purse. But I tell you, it makes it really hard to sew the binding on. Your machine foot has a hard time getting past these closures.
Tip #5: Either move the closures a little further down than the pattern suggests to make the sewing easier, or consider putting your zipper foot on to get around these babies. Also, I found sewing on a free arm made putting the binding on around this edge. My Janome doesn't have a free arm. So, Mom, you'll be glad to know I sewed that part on your Viking Designer I, and it did a fantastic job. What a great machine. (My mom gave me that machine, and I primarily use it for machine embroidery. I haven't really sewn on it, which kills my mother to hear. Mom, it really is a fantastic machine to sew on!)
I made the shoulder strap out of the same fabric as the flap straps and lining fabric. Love those polka dots. And it hits me right at the hip. Just the right length, in my book. (I don't think you can see it in the photos, but there are four little brass feet on the bottom of the bag, to keep the bag up off the ground. I love that, too. Should have gotten a photo of them. Forgot. Sorry!)
I'm not sure if this is a tip or not. But here is something else I did a little different than the pattern. Since I wasn't quilting my bag, I wanted to give it a little more stiffness and body. I know the pattern is called a "slouch bag," but I don't like my bags too slouchy. On the wrong side of all the exterior bag pieces, you iron on woven interfacing (I suppose to give the fabric more body and "toughness"), then you fuse fusible fleece to that. On the back of the fusible fleece, I also added another layer of stiff interfacing. Again, I just wanted to add a little more strength and stiffness to the bag. I like how it turned out. I also added this stiffener to the little tabs that hold the brass rings on the sides of the bag (where the strap clips on). Again, I did this for more strength and body.
EDIT: SINCE MAKING THIS BAG, I HAVE TRIED A NEW PRODUCT CALLED SOFT AND STABLE, FROM BYANNIE.COM. I BLOGGED ABOUT ITS USE WITH ANOTHER BAG HERE. I WOULD PROBABLY USE IT WITH THIS METRO SLOUCH BACK IF WERE TO MAKE IT AGAIN.
I was missing page 11 in my pattern. I don't know if it didn't come with it, or if I left it at the store, or what. (LeeAnne, if you happened to pick it up, will you let me know?) So, I kind of winged it when it came to attaching the strap to the hardware. I think I did it right.
Finally, another thing to be aware of is that this bag requires a fair amount of hardware. The pattern provides a list of what you need, and there is a place on the pattern where you can order a hardware kit. I would recommend doing that, because my experience was that I couldn't find all the pieces I needed in my local stores. It was a pain to find them. My friend, Lynne-Alamosa Quilter, said she found a hardware kit and the pattern together online. Click here to find that, if you are interested.
As a result of the hardware, fabric, interfacing, and fusible fleece, this bag is also not inexpensive to make. Just a heads up if you are thinking about making it.
All in all, I thought this was a really fun bag to make. I think the instructions are very clear and easy to follow. I think the result is a very professional looking bag. I love it. I would say, however, that this pattern is for at least intermediate sewists. There are a lot of layers and bulk in some areas. Sewing the sides of the bag on, and especially around those two bottom corners, was pretty challenging, I thought. And putting that binding on wasn't the easiest, either. But everything went together really nice, so I think the pattern is well written.
Tip #6: Use your walking foot for most of this project! It really helps move all those layers through the machine much more easily. Thanks to LeeAnne for reminding me of that!
Does anyone have any tips for me for adhering fusible fleece to fabrics? I tell you, I find it REALLY hard to get it to fuse to fabric. I usually press from the fleece side, which doesn't seem to work well. The only way I could get the fabric to fuse to the fleece was to put the fleece on the ironing board, glue side up, and then put the fabric on top of it, wrong side to the glue, and press from the fabric side. Even then, it was tentative how well the glue would adhere. I know a lot of you like fusible fleece, but I just can't seem to get along well with it.
I LOVE this bag. To be honest, I do not need a bag of this type. But I HAD to make it, and I love the end result, as well as the fabric. This might become a gift for someone else. I need to think about it a bit. I need to fondle it and admire it for a while first. LOL.
Hop on over to Caroll's blog and see what she was working on in her class. She was doing some really fun sewing on paper pieced log cabin blocks, and she has some neat organization tips for you. I am going to have to start collecting 1930s prints now, because I want to do what they were doing now as well! Thanks, Caroll, it was great to see you!
Here is a sneak peek of the class sample for what Caroll's group was working on, but go see what Caroll was doing with it. She is so inventive and cool!
And LeeAnne, thanks for a fun and relaxing day. I enjoyed the class a lot!
Until next time,