Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Weekender - Upper Body Workout Episode

Alright, so I got the side pockets sewn on to the middle zipper panel, so now I need to make the bottom panel:

I decided to steal Annie's idea from the Ultimate Travel Bag Craftsy Class, and I'm using buttons as purse feet.  Other peeps have recommended 6 purse feet, so that's what I did.  I bought big flower buttons, and then used a glue stick to temporarily stick a plain round red button on top to add additional height.  Then I sewed them on using my older/other machine which has all the fancy stitches so I could do a stationary zig-zag in the button holes:

I tried out white & red thread, and although I thought the white was cuter, I also figured it would get dirtier.  Thus I went with red.  I also wanted to point out that I had to eventually rip out and then re-sew the 4 outer buttons so that they were placed farther in toward the center; I didn't realize that the bottom panel actually curves up the side panel after we attach the main panel.  Therefore, they ended up 2 1/2" in from the short edges.  I would recommend doing that the first time :-)

Also, I don't like Amy's fiddly instructions for the bottom.  I read them a few times, and I got tired of trying to figure it out.  So I'm just making the bag bottom with interfaced linen and foam, and at the end will make a false bottom out of foam core for stability.  I think that should work, and will take out that extra crazy sub-step in Step 11 wherein Amy advises that once you get the layered Peltex into the bottom before you sew in the final panel, to take even MORE caution when sewing this thing together.  Yeah, no thank you.

Speaking of layers, take a look at what I got to sew through when I attached the bottom panel to the zipper panel:

That there is 3 layers of Flex Foam, 3 layers of canvas, and 3 layers of interfaced linen.  Surprisingly, my machine only skipped a stitch once, and that was near the middle.  I did squish the material as I went, but I was still pleasantly surprised.

So with the zipper and bottom panels together, I could really see how sturdy this thing is:

So now, on to the infamous Step 11, wherein madness awaits!  Let's sew this thing to a main panel, shall we?

Yeah, fun times.  A word about the clips you see in my pic.  These are knock-off Wonder Clips I got on Amazon at the amazing bargain price of 100 for $10.  I already had 10 of the real WC's from Clover, and loved them so much that I wanted to buy more.  But I'm kind of cheap financially responsible, and I just couldn't spend the kind of money Clover wants for just some plastic clips!  Well.  Some of these cheapo clips popped off during this step and/or slipped off the bottom layer.  I replaced them with the real WC's, and there were no further issues; the grip was tight and sure.  Final thoughts: the Cheapos will be wonderful for normal projects like clipping quilt binding, but for times like this where you're wrangling a gazillion layers of thick materials through your machine, Clovers are the way to go (aka, you get what you pay for).

Anyway, I found out how sewing can qualify as an arm workout.  I thought others were exaggerating when they would claim soreness after this step.  Really?  It's just sewing.  Um, yeah.  Because of the stiffness and bulk of the bag, and the shiftiness of my Cheapo clips, I struck some exquisite yoga poses while trying to keep the raw edges even, keep the needle from going through the cording in the piping on the other side while still staying close to it, squishing down the fabric in front of the needle to prevent skipped stitches, and wrestling the bag body out of the way.   

But I persevered, and once I got that first set of stitches on, it wasn't too difficult (relatively speaking) to go back and identify where I needed to re-do the stitch lines, which was basically everywhere.  I suggest flipping it right side out several times just to make sure that piping is how you want it before you declare this part done:

YAY!  So next post, I should have a completed Weekender exterior to show off! :-)

Friday, June 17, 2016

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like a Weekender!

Okay, so I'm getting close to only having 1 week left to get this Weekender Bag finished.  I work 10-hour days, with a 1-hour commute each way, so it leaves me very little time during the week to do crafty stuff, but I'm forcing myself to do something, anything, every night on the bag.  It's working because I can finally see this thing coming together!

So I sewed the outer pockets on, then clipped the piping in place:

As I sewed around, my piping started doing the wave thing, because I had mocked it up too loosely:

I ended up un-clipping it and just sewing it on as I went along, kind of like binding a quilt.  The corners are tricky, and a wonderful Weekender genius M. at Three Owls Handmade reached out on Instagram and shared a tip to sew the piping in the bottom corners 1/2" in from the edge (in this pic I was an 1/8" in too far, so I unpicked, pulled it over, and fixed it):

She says this will prevent the piping from being "eaten" when all of the layers are assembled.  She's made 3 Weekenders now, so I believe her!!  Also, she has a fantastic pattern called the Nova Tote, which I've now bought and downloaded for a future project.  You should totally check her out!

Here's a finished pic of the magnetic snap I installed between the pocket & exterior panel.  I placed it about 1 1/2" below the top edge of the pocket and I think it'll be great!

And we have exterior Weekender panels!

These guys are already pretty substantial, and are relatively heavy.  This bag is going to be a beast!!

The zipper panel instructions are weird.  You actually sew the outer panel together first, then sew the zipper in blindly, stitching along that mid-seam line as your guide, and then seam-rip the basting apart to expose your zipper.  Say what!?!  I couldn't wrap my mind around this, so I just followed the instructions blindly, and it worked!  So here's what I did:

After sewing & basting the 2 panel pieces together, I clipped the zip in upside down along the middle (the zipper pulls are beneath the tape in this pic).  I tried to clip only the very edge of the tape, because the next step has you sew along either side of that middle seam, and I didn't want to find out what happens if you sew into a clip:

Now, the sewing part.  I used my zipper foot, as per the instructions, but I really should have used my patchwork foot so I could ensure at least a 1/4" seam from the middle.  Because my seam was so close to the zipper teeth, my needle ran into the zipper pulls, and I couldn't get my zipper pulls underneath the presser foot.  I had to stop sewing, take the piece off the machine, pull the pulls to behind the foot, then resume sewing.  After the first time I had to do that, I did this stop/start thing towards the bottom of the tape to hopefully be more hidden:

Well, the problem with sewing blindly, with clips holding your zipper in place underneath the sewing, is that this can happen:

Ugh.  But a pretty simple fix.  When I went to sew down the second side, there was no way I could get the zipper pulls out of the way, because they were "trapped" between the tape and the outside.  So I prematurely ripped some of my basting stitches to free the pulls, then finished sewing the little bit I had left:

Whew!  Like everything else with this bag, it's not difficult, just...INVOLVED!  But after slicing through the rest of the basting stitches (which was actually kind of fun, like unwrapping a present), and clearing away the thread confetti (which was definitely not fun), look at this:

Super-profesh, if I do say so myself!  However, because the seams under there were so bulky, they didn't fold under as nicely as they should have.  So I added a second set of stitches to keep those bad boys out of the way:

And that, my friends, is the zipper panel!  Now I've got the side pockets clipped on and ready to be sewn:

BTW, I used a 30" double-zip from ByAnnie. Check her out, she's a bag-maker extraordinaire!  I bought her class on Craftsy "The Ultimate Travel Bag", and it looks fantastic like the Weekender, but easier to construct, especially with her holding your hand the whole way through.  Buy it from the link on her website HERE and you can get it for 50%'s so worth the $20, and the pattern is included, which is $10 on its own.  Seriously, this is one of the best Craftsy classes I've bought (I like the 2 by Camille Roskelley the best, though, because she's like a quilting rockstar and I'm a total Thimble Blossoms/Bonnie & Camille groupie!).  The pace is perfect, and Annie gives clear explanations and fantastic tips.  Not affiliated, yadda yadda, but it's really great!  Okay commercial over, and now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

To Quilt, or Not To Quilt the Weekender...

My progress on the Weekender Sew Along is clipping right along.  I'm waaaay ahead of the leisurely schedule for the sew along, but I need this done by June 25.  11 days.  I'm sure I can do it, but I have to stay strong and work on it every day!

Although I linked up all of the tutorials I used for a lot of these steps, I also saved awesome pins to my "Weekender" Pinterest board for links to the fabulous Weekenders of other crafty peeps.  I picked out a bunch of links that had lots of process pics and/or helpful tips.

So far I finished both linings, and added pockets to each.  The in-lining zipper pocket was a first for me.  I followed this tutorial, and it was a relatively painless process:
 As planned, I added a zipper along the top of one of the outer pockets:
Pocket front & lining, with zip attached

I love how it came out!!  It was super-easy, and I based it on this Zippered Pouch tutorial from Missouri Star Quilt Co.  I've also added magnetic snaps to both exterior pocket linings as per this Craftsy tutorial.  Sorry, no pics of that process.  

I made the handles out of a layer of 1 1/2" wide canvas strips topped with a strip of Pellon Flex Foam, and layered them so that the foam would be on the bottom/wrong side to pad my shoulders.  I constructed the handles like the Crafty Gemini makes hers in the Improv Tote tutorial, and I added extra length so that they ended up being 53" long:

In the pic below you can see that I added the extra length to each end of straps so that the seam lines would be hidden under the exterior pocket.  It was a little more work, but well worth the smoother finish.  I mocked them up on the main exterior panels as per the pattern instructions.

Now, you may notice that my main exterior isn't quilted.  That's because I found that when I quilted this combo of linen, foam and canvas, it seemed to make the panel more prone to folding in on itself.  Here's what happened when I stitched one line down the middle, and then put some pressure on it:

 Here is the other panel, without the quilting line:

Much more sturdy without the quilting, IMHO.  The foam simply doesn't need quilting to stiffen it up, and it seemed to make it less-sturdy.  So I picked out the quilted line, steamed the living daylights out of the panel, and now both are un-quilted.

I sewed the handles down, and added piping to the top of the other pocket.  I cut 1 3/4" strips for my piping and followed this tutorial to make 6 yards from a fat quarter!  Then I made the piping with 1/4" Steam a Seam tape as per this tutorial.  Only took me 3 passes to get the piping just right:

You can see I sewed little "X"s in the handles for extra support.  I also sewed the handles down all the way to the bottom.  Those suckers aren't going anywhere!  I was also dealing with skipped stitches as my machine struggled through 2 layers of canvas, 2 layers of foam, 1 layer of interfaced linen, and 4 (from the folding over of the edges) layers of quilting cotton.  I used a size 16 jeans needle, even tried a size 12 "normal" needle, used a walking foot and then a patchwork foot, and nothing helped.  So I just went back over the areas where the multiple skipped stitches looked like they would be an issue. *UPDATE* - I had set my presser foot pressure very light so that it wouldn't shift the layers too much as I sewed, but I found that when I increased the pressure, I had no skipped stitches!  YAY! 

And here I am, ready (I think) for Step 7:

I have to sew the pockets on, and then have to add piping all along the outside.  Better get cracking...

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Picking Pockets!

The Weekender Bag is made of approximately one gillion pieces that you need to cut out of fabric, interfacing, and foam/batting until you want to beg for mercy.  Just FYI.

Here are my main panels:

Yup, I decided to go with the light grey linen.  I was advised by wise peeps on Instagram that the stripes might be too crazy-making for my first time around.  So although I love a good challenge, I figured that just making this bag with the mods I'm doing is challenge enough.  So this is a layer of linen fused to Shape Flex interfacing, then fused to Flex Foam (my sub for batting), then spray basted to duck canvas.  I am still debating on quilting this with a loopy meander or with straight lines; because of the sturdiness of the foam, it really doesn't need the quilting for stability.

And here are my exterior pockets:
Main Panels
Side Panels
 These are also interfaced with Shape Flex and fused to foam, but I omitted the canvas.  I'll be adding piping to tops of the side panel pockets.  I'll also be adding a zipper to the top of one of the main panel pockets:

Because the zip I had on hand was 14", and the top of the pocket is 16", I decided that I'll add a couple of tabs of fabric to the ends of the zipper tape to bring it to size.  I think this will also reduce the bulk in the seams so I'm thinking I'm pretty clever right about now :-).  I'll also be adding magnetic snaps to the interior of the main panel pockets, as I have read other Weekenders mentioning that the pockets can gape from the bag body.

I'm also prepping my linings:

I'm doing a zippered pocket on one side, and a double slip pocket on the other.  I've never done a zippered pocket in lining, so this will be yet another new thing to learn, and I'm saving it for last.  

Here's the lining with the pocket I know how to do:

I made the pocket smaller than the entire length and width of the panel to keep it from adding to the bulk in the bag seams.  Plus, I don't think I really lost a whole lot of storage space by doing this ;-).  I sewed 2 pieces of that gorgeous Hello Darling floral fabric right sides together (leaving a hole), flipped it inside out through the hole, then pressed it out.  I added a narrow binding to the top (I cut it 1 1/2" and attached with a 1/8" seam), and sewed right down the middle to make 2 pockets.  I used my handy-dandy longarm centering measuring tape to figure out middle.  Worked like a charm:

BTW, I use Frixon pens to do all of my marking, since the ink disappears when hit by a warm iron.  Brilliant!!  

Okay, so the imminent future is comprised of figuring out that main panel lining zipper pocket, finishing that main panel exterior "pocket in a pocket" zipper deal, and installing the magnetic clasps.  Then I need to quilt my main panels.  THEN, I have to make my handles to sew to those main panels.  I still need to cut bias strips and make my piping, and once that's done, I can actually start sewing pieces together! :-)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Weekender Sew-Along 2016 - Day One

I'm really doing it:
Click the pic for the deets at Happy Little Cottage
Today is Day One of the Weekender Bag Sew Along 2016.  That's #wbsa2016 to you Instagram peeps!  However, as indicated in my last post, I started early, and I've already made the Mini Swoons for the big front & back pockets, and the side pockets are are tulip and a strawberry:
Before patchwork...
At this point, I'm still not sure what color I want to make the main body!  Ugh!  So here are my choices, modeled with the Mini Swoon pockets and a mock up of the piping:

Grey Linen
Grey Linen

Grey Pillow Ticking - Vertical
Grey Pillow Ticking - Vertical
- OR -

Grey Pillow Ticking - Horizontal
Grey Pillow Ticking - Horizontal
Yeah, so see?  I can't tell what's better!  Is the ticking too "busy" for the patchwork?  But it's so cute!   Please help!

At this point, I've drafted up how I'll be fleshing out the side pockets:

 They'll look so great!  The tulip started out as the Thimble Blossoms pattern "Vintage Tulips", but I had to tweak it to (barely) fit on the pocket template.  The strawberry came from THIS tutorial by Skyberries Handmade, except that I made all of the squares 1/2" smaller.

After I finish these, I'll fuse them to some Pellon Shape Flex interfacing, and then instead of a double-layer of batting, I'll fuse them to some Pellon Flex Foam, which is similar to ByAnnie's "Soft and Stable".  I actually used the Flex Foam in some totes, and they are soft, but keep their shape amazingly well.  I'm debating also adding a layer of cotton drill to the body pieces, but I probably will just go ahead and do it, only because I plan on using the finished bag as a carry-on, and I want it to be very substantial.  Only thing is that I'm not sure how the Flex Foam will behave with the drill.  I guess I'll find out!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Weekender Bag Sew Along 2016

I'm a sucker for a nice bag.  I LOVE bags to carry all of my crafty projects along, and all the other stuff I like to take with me.  And in my recent internet travels, I stumbled upon the infamous Amy Butler "Weekender Bag".  I did a little more searching on Pinterest, saw all the gorgeousness, and the rest is history.

Click to buy the pattern from Sew Lux Fabric, who is also co-hosting the Sew-Along
So Chrissy from "Sew Lux Fabric" has made 2 of these bags, and will co-host the Sew-Along.  And it it was these pics of her bags which got me hopelessly hooked on the idea that I MUST have one (or two) like hers:

Photo Credit: Sew Lux Fabric
I mean, she put Swoon blocks on her bags!  So freaking genius, right?  And how gorgeous are they?  Seriously!  How?!?  

So Debbie at Happy Little Cottage is the other host of the Sew Along, and you can get all the deets for it HERE, or click on the cool button:

I'm going to stick this in my sidebar once we get going.  Instagram is really a very new thing for me, but I'm figuring it out (I think), so I'll try to keep up there as well.  

So I've got quite a bit of the supplies rounded up, but still need cording; JoAnn didn't have the 1/4" the pattern calls for when I stopped in last week, so I'll try again this weekend.

My stuff :-)
I've spent many hours scouring other crafty peeps' blogs for tips, tricks, ideas, and horror stories, because I over-analyze the bejeezus out of EVERYTHING.  From what I've seen, this bag is intimidating, but the general consensus is that it's not difficult, per se, it's just very involved.  I'm going to apply the "eat the elephant" theory and take it one bite at a time.

Also, up until this point I've only ever made 2 simple tote bags, and a few zipper pouches, so this experience will be chock-full of all kinds of learning opportunities! ;-)

So I compiled a Weekender Bag board on Pinterest, and came up with my cryptic list of things to think about:

As ready as I'll ever be!!