Saturday, August 6, 2016

i made some bags: manhattan purse #2

This is the last bag post (for now), I promise.

This year my mom's birthday fell on Mother's Day, as it does every so often. I didn't have any exciting ideas for her, so when she asked if I could make her a purse like mine, of course I said yes! And then... work got busy (I had deadlines and my very first intern!), there was Thurlow shorts drama, and I was caught up in sewing class homework, and a full month went by before I even got started on the purse. :/

The preparation took the most time by far - picking out and ordering contrast + lining fabrics online, and then going to the fabric store to find exterior fabric and a zipper to match. And of course, cutting out all the pieces (seriously, so many!). Fortunately, I had extra interfacing and magnetic snaps left over from the first one I made. Once I got everything ready to go, I kind of breezed through the construction in a weekend morning or two, and it felt super fast this time around.

I took some of the things I'd learned with mine and incorporated them into my mom's purse, and I feel like hers is much sturdier and more professional than mine. I used a much heavier fabric for the exterior, which makes the bag feel less flimsy and also works better on the strap. I got better hardware (no d-rings!) and a strap slider, all from Britex in downtown SF, so there are none of the weird strap issues mine has.

I'm really happy with my fabric choices for this one. My mom wanted something dark and not too flashy, but I still wanted to give some interest with contrast panels, so I found this pretty abstract mountain fabric by Art Gallery Fabrics. My mom has always loved butterflies, but they felt like too much for the exterior, so they make up the lining. And the navy exterior is a sturdy mystery apparel fabric from the Fabric Outlet I go to in the Mission in SF.

I sent this to my mom in mid-July, and she seems to love it :D I don't often selfless sew, but it warms my heart when I do get around to it. Happy (very late) birthday, mom!!

i made some bags: oversized pencil pouch

Another bag for sewing class. I realized I needed a place to store a ton of sewing and drafting tools - pencils, sharpies, red colored pencils, chalk pen, eraser, tracing wheel, seam ripper, fabric & paper scissors, thread clippers... the list goes on. So a zipper pouch seemed like just the thing.

I made this bigger than a typical pencil pouch - I basically sized it to be roomy enough for my large fabric scissors, and everything else fits beautifully. I found a tutorial online to make a boxy one, rather than a flat rectangle, and I modified it a bit. I did some math to figure out how much of the length I would lose in the box shape and made my initial rectangles large enough that my scissors would still fit. I think I even traced it out of pattern paper so I can recreate the same pouch in the future if I need another.

I also sewed the outside and lining separate from each other so that there are no raw edges on the inside. This basically involved attaching the zipper as in the tutorial, and then instead of sewing one seam across both fabrics to create the bottom, I created one inside-out pouch, seams showing, on either side of the zipper (see below). I left an opening in the bottom seam of the lining fabric until everything else was finished, and then I flipped the whole bag through the hole, which was super fun. So fun that I made Tim take a video of it.

This fabric is one that I saw on instagram back when I very first started sewing, and I needed it. It's from Birch Fabrics, but all of the normal retailers had sold out and I snatched up the few yards I could find on Etsy. I had planned to make a Megan Dress with it, and then I made a Megan Dress and wasn't in love with the dress on me, and then I started questioning my ability to wear such a loud print on my body, and then before I knew it the fabric had been sitting there for a year. So I decided at the very least I could make something I'd see once a week, and I can still make something for myself with the rest if I get over my decision paralysis.

The lining is a nice golden yellow cotton that I had left over from one of my many Clemence skirts.

Even with the enclosed seams fanciness, this was a really quick sew and so useful. Hooray for instant gratification sewing projects!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

i made some bags: grainline stowe bag

Bag blog post #2! 

I really liked the look of the Stowe Bag as soon as it came out - just the right balance of simple, elegant, and useful. I decided this would be great for storing my supplies at sewing class, where I have a little locker to keep my sewing and drafting kit. I got the PDF pattern a week or two before class began, thinking I could start making it more quickly than if I ordered the printed pattern (ha!), and then I wasted about a week and another $14 gearing myself up to go to FedEx to print it on the fancy super-wide paper. But as you can see, I did indeed sew the thing, and it's been hanging out in my locker at sewing school ever since. I do get to pull it out every Thursday, so it's not totally neglected, but I'm sort of trying to find an excuse to make another that I can use more than once a week.

I bought a remnant of some sort of canvas-y home goods fabric at my local fabric warehouse and got pre-made navy bias binding to contrast it. The fabric is nice and sturdy and works well here. I was planning to make this in a beautiful canvas from someone trendy like Cotton + Steel, but my thriftiness got the best of me for my first go at this bag and I went the cheap route.

I was a little surprised by how much fabric this bag took, given its compact finished size (although in hindsight it makes sense, with the boxy shape and interior pocket panels). I also had a hell of a time figuring out how to flatten and sew down the bottom so that it stays in that nice, squared-off shape. The instructions vaguely mentioned how to do this, but I ended up googling for awhile with little luck and finally figured it out myself. This (plus lots of bias binding) meant it wasn't quite as quick of a sew as I had expected, but I think I still threw it together in an evening or two.

I don't think there's much else to say - it's a good bag and a relatively quick sew!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

i made some bags: manhattan purse

Despite huge pauses here on the blog, I do still have ambitions of blogging finished sewing projects that I've done. Newly sewn clothing has been pretty scarce around here lately (most of my time is still going into my sewing class and a little volunteer side project for a brand that I'm really excited about. And you know, my full time job). But I also have a fair amount of things I sewed last year and never photographed or just never blogged, so really I have no excuse but laziness (and busyness, for sure).

But hey! No blog apologies, I'm just going to try to pick things up a little bit. So I'm going to show you all a few bags I sewed over the course of spring and summer. I'm a very perfectionistic garment-sewer - I like clothes that fit well, and I've never been a fan of loose, forgiving outfits on my body, so anything I sew to wear takes a lot of time and iteration to get the right fit. Bags are a great break from this - the joy of just sewing a project start to finish, with no muslins, no fitting and pinching seams and ripping out stitches to resew a seam! And easy to photograph, since I can do it with no giant mirror or tripod (although this means no "action shots" for you).

The first - a lovely little purse, the Manhattan Bag from Emmaline Bags. I made the "Miss" size, which is the smaller one. It's exactly the right size for my wallet, phone, and sunglasses and pops right into my commute backpack when I head to work.

This was my first time sewing a purse, and it was pretty intimidating cutting out what felt like a billion pieces of three different fabrics and two types of interfacing. But the instructions were super clear, and the second half of construction felt really fast - everything just sort of came together into a finished purse, almost like magic.

I got a gray quilting cotton for the main body (in hindsight, I wish I'd gotten something sturdier but it works okay). The interior lining is another quilting cotton, which works fine, and I got a lovely Cotton + Steel canvas for the front panel. I agonized (slightly) over pattern placement and ended up centering the cozy pine trees and woodland creatures.

I really love the features of the purse. There's a front pocket (exterior, but sealed up with a magnetic snap when the top is down), and it's the perfect size for my phone and makes it easy to pull out. The zipper pocket on the front flap provides interesting contrast and is perfect for my transportation card (super easy to dig out even when the purse is buried in my backpack). The inside is just roomy enough to store what I need without losing anything in the bottom, and there's another interior pocket where I often end up stashing fabric scraps that I need to match thread to at the fabric store.

There are only a few small tweaks I would make if I did it again (and, spoiler: I did! As a gift). In addition to using a heavier fabric for the body, I regret some of my notion choices - the d-rings that hold the strap don't stay in place and always swing up vertically and bunch up the strap ends, and I wish I'd found a slider and made the strap adjustable. This was mostly because I ordered everything online (all from, iirc) and options were limited, but I later went to Britex in downtown SF and had much better luck finding great metal bits for my later iteration.

Despite its imperfections, I use it almost daily since I made it in February and it's holding up great. I'm starting to think about making one (or something similar) in a nice leather, but I think it'll be awhile before I get that far through my "to sew" list, so I have some time to think about it.

Stay tuned for three (!) more bag posts, assuming I get my blogging shit together, including another Manhattan purse.