hey, look! i finished my amy butler weekender bag!
no. really. i made that. i know the photo is WAY better than the photos i usually post here. jared has the day off for thanksgiving break, so he took ramona to the library & i had time to actually take the bag outside in the sunshine & do a little art directing in the alley. people in lawrence, kansas are weirdly proud of their alleys. people take their engagement photos & shit in the alleys. i guess for that “shabby chic” aesthetic? the alley behind my house features this lovely stonework snake fence. it’s actually on the walking tour of historical lawrence landmarks.
anyway, i finished the bag up last night after ramona went to bed. i wound up going to the thrift store to harvest a cheapo bag for its slider hardware. i feel like an idiot for not thinking of that sooner. the fabric i ordered for the lining also arrived earlier than i expected (thanks, fabric.com), so i was able to cut that out on wednesday & sew it up yesterday morning while jared made pies & stuffing & dinner rolls (our contributions to the potluck thanksgiving we attended).
once i had all the supplies i needed, i pretty much followed the pattern directions for construction. here are some stats:
number of needles broken: zero
number of seams torn out: zero
number of times i had to stitch around the perimeter to get the piping tight: one
i mean, i’m not saying it’s an easy pattern. it would probably reduce a beginner to tears. but its reputation as this insane pinnacle of difficult bag-sewing seems a bit hyperbolic to me. yes, there’s a lot of interfacing. but the thickest bit, the peltex, is cut out of the seam allowance before sewing begins. at no point are you ever sewing peltex into your seam allowances, unless you didn’t trim it down enough or are sewing your seam too wide. you’re still sewing through a lot of layers, & turning the corners without getting a bunch of wrinkling requires a certain degree of patience & finesse. but it’s a fairly straightforward pattern. the worst part, honestly, was the degree of muscle required to force the layers through the machine at the thickest parts (for me, that would be where the straps meet the bottom of the bag, & the sides at the piping on the side pockets & the exterior pocket zippers, which are both features i added to the original pattern). it does take some work to force everything under the foot & keep your seam allowance steady. it probably would have been easier with a walking foot, but i used a zipper foot so i could get really close to the piping.
maybe i should also mention that i did not cut the fabric for my piping on the bias. instead i clipped it to make it fit smoothly around the curves. that worked perfectly fine for me. i kind of hate cutting fabric on the bias, but if you don’t mind it, go ahead & do it because it probably is a little easier to sew that way.
oh, i also hand-basted the layers together before i did the final stitching. that made things WAY easier. even though i used my wonder clips liberally (no way would a regular pin get through all those layers without warping), hand-basting was a great move for really making sure the layers didn’t shift on me a millimeter, so i could focus all my attention on staying close to the piping.
double pocket action! i lined my zipper pockets with the same fabric i used for the tops/bottoms/sides.
& i made my lining from classic yellow pearl bracelets. i don’t care if this print is kind of over-used in the quilting/crafting world. i really like it.
the pattern doesn’t call for any interior pockets, but i made this elasticated, padded pocket for my laptop. i was envisioning using the bag as my carry-on for traveling, & i always bring my laptop & keep it in my carry-on. making the pocket was pretty simple. i estimated how tall i wanted it to be & then added 3/4″ for the elastic channel. i didn’t need it to be super-wide. i think i added three inches of width. i cut two pieces of fabric this size, & then cut a piece of batting half an inch sorter all around & a basted it to the wrong side of one of my fabric pieces. i sewed the fabric pieces with a 1/4″ seam allowance, right sides together. i flipped them over so they were right side out & pressed. then i folded the top edge down half an inch & sewed the channel. i stretched the elastic & cut it to the width of the bag (so the elastic is shorter than the channel). i threaded it through the channel & stitched it down at both ends. then i basted the whole thing to my lining. i think i actually could have made my elastic a little shorter, but it turned out okay.
the biggest pain of the ass related to making this pocket was the fact that the elastic made it want to buckle in on itself. so sewing it the the top/side piece required stretching it, feeding it through the machine, & trying to maintain my seam allowances all at the same time. plus, lengthening the fabric to make a pocket distorted the curve just a tiny bit. not enough to be catastrophic, but enough to be really annoying. the lining fabric isn’t interfaced at all, so…it’s pretty wrinkly in the corners. good thing you can’t see them. i probably could have taken more care & gotten a cleaner finish, but by the time i was constructing the lining, i just wanted to be DONE. next time i make this bag (next time?! oh yes, fabric has already been purchased), maybe i’ll make the lining first.
so then amy has you slipstitch the lining seam allowances to the bag seam allowances in a few places. that was fun. (it was awful.) i really went all in on my slipstitching though. i read some review of the bag where the person wrote about adding an interior laptop pocket, but the weight of her computer tearing out her slipstitching. i didn’t want that to happen so i doubled my thread & stitched every 1/8″. i went in as far as i could reach & stitched to the other side as far as i could reach.
then the whole thing gets turned lining side out & you pull the lining up to cover the main zipper tape & slipstitch again. not sure how long this step took me. almost three hours? i listened to a lot of “judge john hodgman”. i again took no chances & stitched every 1/8″.
& then it was done!
so you ca get a sense of how big the finished bag is. jared took this photo. you can tell because my hair looks awful & there’s some random pick-up truck in the background.
i took it out on a trial run & it held up great under the weight of a few library books, a set of play dishes, & a small ukulele. (those last two are birthday presents for ramona.) the straps are just a little bit narrow, so i think i’m going to make a shoulder pad for them. it’s fine without one, but you know. why not?
so, that’s that! the bag isn’t perfect, but i think it turned out very well & i’m sure i’ll get some use out of it. i already pre-ordered a truly insane amount of the new melody miller viewfinder fabric (jared crunched the numbers & realized i bought enough to literally wrap our entire house in it–though, to be fair, our house is pretty small), so i plan to make another with that in january. (along with everything else in the world because i bought SO MUCH of that fabric, ZOMG.)
this bag is definitely a major commitment of time & interfacing. it took me five days of sewing several hours per day to finish it. at one point, ramona was crying & jared was in the kitchen, & i found myself saying, “jared, i need you to deal with her because i am in a really dark place with this bag right now.” you do need to know your way around a sewing machine. it would probably help if you’ve done at least one other, simpler project with piping (like a waistband on a skirt or something–something without a bunch of curves). & if you hate hand-sewing…well, apparently there are ways to sew the lining in by machine, but i’d just say you might want to give this pattern a miss.
all right! the end!