Monday, November 12, 2012

The Long Weekend Blog Hop - my thoughts on the Weekender Bag

Weekender Bag

Imagine my Weekender Bag, off on a ski weekend getaway. I have spent that last three weeks planning and making a Weekender Bag, which is a pattern by Amy Butler. I have wanted one of these bags for a long time and when I was invited to participate in the Long Weekend Blog Hop, it was the push I needed. My assignment was to make the bag and today is my day to write about the experience.

Weekender Bag

This is a large bag, it could easily hold enough stuff for a weekend away, including the extra shoes and hairdryer. It uses a lot of fabric and interfacing and can be quite pricy to make. I decided to see if I could use fat quarters and fabric on hand and only purchase the zipper and interfacing.

And I had these beautiful Juggling Summer fat quarters from Zen Chic - Brigitte Heitland, that were begging me to use them. In fact this might be one of my new favourite fabric lines, just look at it.

Weekender Bag

To make the fat quarters stretch, I used some Kona Coal for inside the pockets. I measured about 1.5" down from where the pocket would cross the side of the fronts and sides and then seamed in the solid. I also had to seam the side pieces at the top where you would normally have cut them on the fold. If you do that, remember to add a seam allowance when you cut.

Weekender Bag

I took advice from the tips shared by Elizabeth Hartman at Oh, Fransson! to quilt my panels. I layered a piece of heavy weight woven non-fusible interfacing, then a layer of quilt batting/wadding trimmed a generous 1/2" smaller than the pattern piece and then the outside fabric. I used the heavy weight woven interfacing as I don't know what she means by "cotton duck", and it worked fine.

Weekender Bag

I made my handles differently from the pattern, in part because I read Debbie from A Quilter's Table's cautions about the handles in her post here. To make stronger and more comfortable handles, I cut a 6" piece of Essex Linen that was about 50"long - as that was the longest piece I had on hand. I am happy to report that it just fits over my shoulder should I want to carry the bag that way. I folded the linen just like a quilt binding - in half and then both sides to the middle and I also put one layer of quilt batting into the folds. Then I quilted them shut.

The handles are 1.5" wide and have a softness which should help in holding the heavy bag. I  sewed them down a lot, 4 lines across and also I traced the quilting lines up and down the handles so they are seriously secure now - the bag will break before these handles pop off.

Weekender Bag - stitching in the piping

Another challenge I had was that my sewing machine is not very happy to work with its zipper foot for this kind of application. It does not manage the layers of fabric, batting, interfacing well with its oddly shaped zipper foot. And that foot does not snug in nicely to the piping either.

So I though, the walking foot is for thick fabric and my machine is a dual feed with the walking foot built in for easy use. Well, much to my surprise, it works wonderfully.  In this picture you can see it sitting on top of the piping (my piping is 1/4" thick). It sewed along, moving the fabrics evenly on top and bottom. I moved slowly and it sounded odd but the stitches are strong and it looks fine.

Weekender Bag - stitching the pieces with piping in place

The thickness problem is compounded when one is sewing those layered pieces together with the piping in between. The walking foot worked excellently. Here you can see the left side of the foot is on the piping so that the needle can fall just to the right of it. I used the walking foot for almost every part of this bag.

Weekender Bag - stitching the zipper

Even the zipper - who knew that a walking foot would chug happily along with half of it on the zipper. Remember that this piece is thick, it has fabric, batting, interfacing, and then those are all folded over (if I had read carefully I could have cut my batting smaller here as this seam allowance is larger but I did not so the batting was folded in too). Those of you with the pattern will also note I sewed this upside down,  with the zipper on top, so I could see what it was doing and so that the zipper did not have to move along the feed dogs of the sewing machine.

Weekender Bag - before lining

No one shows this part. After I stitched the bag together, I went back and stitched closer to the piping on those bits where it needed it. Yes, some parts needed it, it is really hard to stitch close to piping. My stitching was wobbly too. And I did a whole extra round of stitching inside the seam allowance after I was done, just to reinforce the bag - remember I am a bag stuffer and my bag will be heavy.  It looks a fright. Do not sweat the mess, it will hide in the lining.

One thing, I did not clip the curves. The pattern did not suggest it and I assumed that was to make sure that the bag has the most strength with the seam allowances intact. When it was turned it looks fine, especially given all the bulk but if your corners are oddly shaped, a clip or two to release the curve a little will likely help.

My lining fabric

I chose this lovely dobby dot woven fabric which is Etchings by Three Sisters for the lining. It is a thicker fabric with actual dobby dots, which is a weaving technique seen far less often now. This bag, its size and shape remind me of my grandmother, who had proper luggage, as a lady did. Her suitcases had beautiful linings, like this and so I wanted my bag to remind me of her. Also, the thicker fabric worked well without any additional interfacing.

Weekender Bag - stitching the lining

A lot of folks found stitching the lining in by hand to be a chore. First, I tacked it in the bottom corners. Then I sewed up the side seams catching the edge of the seam allowance from the lining to the seam allowance from the side seam - sorry I did not take a picture of that but you can see how the lining sits at the seam in that picture above. Then I folded the lining and pinned it in place along the zipper and stitched as you see above. I used large stitches, there will be little wear on this part so the key is to keep it from catching in the zipper.

Weekender Bag - Lining

No one mentions that you will have folds at the corners but this is necessary to make that thinner layer of fabric only fit around the full corner on the inside. Just fold it as required.

Weekender Bag - lining

See, it looks nice when it is done. It took about a couple of hours to stitch the lining in, but I did it while I was making dinner and waiting on things to happen, so I did not pay that much attention to the time. The most important thing is work where there is good light, the bag gets in way and it is difficult to see what you are doing.

Weekender Bag - Lining

And here is my lining, all stitched in. I still need to make a false bottom, I just don't have any plastic on hand. Given its size, this bag will pooch down from the bottom when it is full, especially since I did not use Peltex, and a bit of plastic or something sitting on the bottom will help with that.

Weekender Bag

This picture shows this classic bag design off. The wide opening makes it easy to pack it full. Also, you can see how I did not match the pockets that well. I am good with that but if it is the kind of thing bothers you it would be important to watch the placement and pin carefully as you sew together the outside pieces.

Overall, this is a challenging bag to make. In the "real world" this kind of luggage is produced on industrial strength machines, not on home quilting sewing machines. It would have been easier without the piping, but the piping makes the bag - it is part of the classic design - so there is no way I would leave it off.

My Weekender Bag

The pattern is written in the same format as standard garment pattern. If you are not familiar with the approach of such patterns it will seem difficult to read and understand. As with all garment patterns, it is important to read and re-read the whole pattern - I am sure I read it all at least 20 times. And take your time with the pieces and the steps, think them through. One of the reasons garment makers make a "muslin" (trial piece) is to work out the kinks of construction, so if you just dive in to the real thing, it is important not to rush through.

I did most of the actual cutting and sewing the bag over this last weekend, and that was not a great idea. It would have been better spaced over a week or two, with time for things to sink in and for me to have a break from it as I went. There might have been less colourful language that way too.

My Weekender Bag

Imagine it, packed and ready to go, just waiting on the bed. The Long Weekend Blog Hop is underway and you can visit all the bloggers for more hints and insights into making this bag. I have to tell you that  they have all made the best bags too, well worth a look.

Here is the list of blog hop stops:

October 15: Lori Hartman at Lori H. Designs and Heidi Staples at Fabric Mutt
October 22: Debbie Jeske at A Quilter's Table
October 29: Beth at Plum and June
October 5: Jenelle at Echinops and Aster
November 9: Jennifer at Ellision Lane Quilts
November 10: Courtney at Mon Petit Lyons
November 11: Sarah at Blueprint Textiles
November 12: Leanne at She Can Quilt - you are here, that's me.
November 13: Lori at Lori H. Designs
November 14: Heidi at Fabric Mutt
November 15: Taryn at Pixels to Patchwork

Then, on November 16 - 18 you can link up your own Weekender Bag at Lori H. Designs to share in the prizes from our wonderful sponsors! There will also be some encouragement to show "What's in your Weekender?" at that time - hmm, I wonder what my grandmother would have said about that?

You can see more Weekender Bags on Flickr here. There is also a Threadbias group here.

And we have a long weekend here, the day off in honour of Remembrance Day, so it truly is the Long Weekend for me.