Saturday, 9 May 2015

The Sew Together Bag

If you use Instagram you will probably have spotted many pics of the Sew Together Bag (pattern from Sew Demented).  I don't think a day has gone by where I hadn't seen another version of it, just take a look at all the pics with the #sewtogethertag.  

The first few times I spotted it I thought it looked cool but not something I wanted to to make.  But the more I saw the more I wanted it so eventually I gave in to Instagram peer pressure and bought the pattern!   I'm not so keen on pdfs so I bought the paper version from Sew Hot and spent a while looking for the perfect fabrics.  I decided on the beautiful Winter's Lane collection pictured below.

I'm not a fan of project prep I have to admit, I'm impatient and just want to get on with the sewing so I was a bit frustrated at the time this took to get everything cut and interfaced and find zips the right size and colour.  I decided to do the prep on one day and sew on another, I was pretty excited about making it and seeing the finished results.

Firstly I have to warn you if you are thinking of following this pattern unless you are very experienced you are likely to find the instructions lacking.  I was a bit concerned when I first read the instructions as a lot didn't make sense and there are very few photos , it's very text based.  I have heard from a few people that it's a bit of a tricky pattern, and there are plenty of blog posts out there with people sharing their tips and experiences.

Luckily a quick search on Google and I found the brilliant Quilt Barn Sewalong which has photographs of every single step, plus much more detailed instructions.  I highly recommend you have this next to you as you sew.  I couldn't have managed without it.

I had expected the zips to be the tricky bit but they were simple, the whole first part of the project was easy, constructing the lining and making the zipped pockets.  I was feeling pretty confident by the time I got to the end of that - and then things got much more difficult!

I have to admit I didn't have any light interfacing to hand so I used medium, but this made it harder when it came to joining layers. The sides were my first little struggle but I got through it and it was all looking pretty good at this stage (although I wish I'd tucked my zip ends in a bit better on the blue and grey zips).

When it came to joining the lining to the outer layer things got more difficult when sewing along the edges where the side bit (in red) was.  My machine did struggle in a few places and I had to drag the fabric through. I also somehow ended up with a fold of excess fabric on one side so had to unpick that side and restitch it.

But the binding was a nightmare.  Firstly my machine struggled sewing through so many layers in places (1 layer interfacing, 2 layers fabric, 1 layer zip and 4 layers binding fabric!), and with the size and weight of the bag and trying to manuouvre it under the machine made it very difficult to keep the stitching straight.  You are also stitching the zip into place whilst sewing the binding so everything needs to be really well pinned.  My binding ended up with folds or creases in a few places. 

Sewing the second side of the outer zip (and binding) is even harder because with the first side attached you have much less maneuvering space.  I was totally gutted to finally get to the end of sewing the second side of the zip only to find when I tried to close the bag that the zips weren't aligned and it twisted the bag.  The zip must have gotten pulled out of alignment when I was trying to force it under the presser foot :(  Make sure that both sides are lined up perfectly before you stitch because it took a long time to unpick and restitch the zip and the binding.  I was pretty sick of it by then and almost gave up!

I did persist and finally got the bag finished but I have to admit I'm not overly happy with it.  The binding doesn't look good in a few places (the unpicking damaged it slightly and there were a couple of folds/creases in it).  I feel like it wasn't worth all the hard work to make it and I can't bring myself to use it at the moment.

I'm sure when I feel less frustrated with it I'll probably realise it's totally fine and useable, but I won't be rushing to make another one any time soon.   For now I'm just going to put it away and come back to it in a few weeks when I'm less annoyed!   Then hopefully I'll find a good use for it as it's be a shame not to use after all the blood sweat and tears!

I did buy a pattern for another Instagram favourite at the same time as this one - Hazel Hedgehog - by Elizabeth Hartman (see pics here) so hopefully I'll have more luck with that one when I give it a go!

Have you tried the Sew Together Bag?  How did you get on?  Are you tempted it give it a go?

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Style and Swing Bag Making Book

Many of you have probably come across Susan Dunlop aka. Susie D Designs through her bag patterns in magazines, including Sewing World Magazine and Love Sewing.  When I heard she was writing a whole book on bag making I was very excited.

I've been wanting to have a go at bag making for ages but just hadn't had time to get around to it.  Now I have Julie working on The Sewing Directory I actually have a couple of days a week off to sew.  So when I got a review copy of Susan's book I just had to make one of the many beautiful bags in the book.

Hobo Handbag

I decided to make the Hobo Handbag as pictured above.  I have to admit I spent ages trying to pick the perfect fabric, the one Susan used in the book was so pretty it was hard to find something as good, but I think I managed it with Cloud 9's Peacock print from Alegria (a 2012 collection).  I'd been stashing it for a while waiting for the right project and this was it.

The most time consuming part of the whole project was the cutting and interfacing, I spent most the morning doing that.  But the instructions were simple to follow plus the book has full size patterns for you to trace and use.   Books with patterns that require sizing up totally put me off so it's a definite plus point for this book.

One of the reasons I picked this project was that you didn't need any special bag making supplies other than a magnetic snap (but you could use velcro if you don't have a snap).  The actual construction was quick and simple, I added a few extra pockets internally so I could fit everything in, this is simple to do.  The instructions were easy to follow, not confusing at all and there were useful diagrams to help guide you too.

The most difficult part was the final stitching when sewing through 4 layers of fabric and several layers of interfacing, it got a bit tricky but all turned out ok in the end.  I was very impresed with my finished bag, this is the first handbag I've ever made.

Although I split the project over 2 days you could easily make this in one day.  There are several other bags in the book I want to make, especially now I know how easy the book is to follow.

I think this will have to be my next one, it looks really spacious.  I'm thinking it'd be a good project bag for taking supplies to my sewing group.  It'd also be a good beach bag too.

I also like the look of this bag too as a bigger handbag, I like wearing cross body bags.   You can see more of the bags in her book on the look inside feature on Amazon. 

When it comes to buying the book through do pop over the Susan's site, not only is it available early there (not published on Amazon until the 28th May but available on her site now) but it's £5 cheaper than Amazon and comes signed!

I think the book is great, and even if you haven't made a bag before it's easy to follow and covers all the bag construction techniques you need.  She has rated the projects by difficulty, the one I picked was an advanced beginner one but was still simple given that I've never made a bag before.

 Hopefully this is the first of many projects that I'll get to sew now that I have a little more free time :)

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Sewing Bucket List

Over the last 5 years, since launching The Sewing Directory, sewing has been something I have had to squeeze into the odd hour here and there when I wasn't working.  There have been so many things I wanted to make and no time to do it.  I've been limited to quick and easy projects to make the most of the small amount of sewing time I had.

I finally decided last year that working 7 days a week every possible hour was not good for me or my health so I have a new business partner starting and I will drop to working 4 days a week.  Which means suddenly I will have time to sew!

So now is time to remember all those projects I wanted to make and make a start on them.  I've decided to write a sewing bucket list of things I want to sew and new techniques I want to learn.  It's in no way a definitive list but just the things I want to start with first.

I've bought a couple of books in preparation for a couple of the new techniques I want to try: Applique Art (for free motion embroidery applique) and  First Steps in Free Motion Quilting.  I definitely want some time to work through the techniques in these books and have a go at some of the projects.

I've also bought a few of the patterns I've seen online that I wanted to have a go at including the Sew Together Bag that I've seen all over Instagram and really want to make, The Hazel Hedgehog pattern from Oh Fransson I have plans to incorporate this block into a project bag I want to make.

How cute is Hazel Hedgehog?  Image ©

I've been wanting to make an oven glove, a project bag for taking supplies to my sewing group, a new handbag, storage pockets to hang from the bed, a bag for my embroidery supplies, a pencil case, new cushion covers, a rag quilt for my son to finish plus I have close to 100 sewing books that I want to make projects from so I suspect I have enough to keep me busy for years!

I'm looking forward to rediscovering my love of sewing an trying new projects and techniques, and blogging about them as I go.

What do you plan to sew this year?  Any new techniques you are looking to master? 

Monday, 16 March 2015

New Business Partner and more Handmade Gifts

Apologies for the lack of blog posts lately.  It's been a manic few months, I have a new business partner starting next month and it's taken a lot of work to get to that point which hasn't left much time for blogging.

I'm pleased to announce that Sewing World editor, Julie Briggs, will be leaving the magazine at the end of this month and then starting with me me at The Sewing Directory mid April.  She will be focusing on the content side of the site building up more great projects, tutorials and features for you to read.  Find out more here. 

I've managed some sewing in between all the business side of things and have kept on track with my pledge to make a handmade gift a month.  In February I made my mum the yarn holder she wanted from the book Sew-Licious Little Things by Kate Haxell.  It was a mother's day present so I have it to her this weekend and she loved it.

 For March's handmade gift I made fabric boxes from the book Stylish Home Sewing by Torie Jayne.  I made the celtic one for my mum, and the woodland one for my mother in law - again both as mother's day gifts.

I couldn't resist making a few for myself to, they perfectly fit fat quarters of fabric in (around 25-30 per box) so are great for organising your sewing room.  I made the black one above for myself plus another woodland one. I'm sure I'll be making more in the future too.

If you'd like to make your own one the publishers, Cico Books, have kindly let me put the project from the book onto my site - find it here.

I'm hoping that once Julie starts I'll have even more time for sewing (and blogging).

What have you been making lately?  Do feel free to include links to pics/details in the comments.

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