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.




Anita said...

Great bag and great review. I've toyed with the idea of making this bag. I think that I will keep it on the back burner.

Little Island Quilting said...

I like your style: I sometimes have 'it sounded odd' moments with my machine but carry on regardless too. Well written and explained post and a great bag to boot.

Archie The Wonder Dog said...

This is a marvellous post about your marvellous bag - I'm not planning to make a weekender (although I did have a moment a few weeks ago where I thought it would make a wonderful knitting bag...) but if I ever decide to make the leap then this post will be my first stop!

Patti said...

Leanne, thanks for the wonderful tips on making this bag. It is on my list...but WAY down! I also discovered the joys of the walking foot with piping and zippers when I made some cushions recently!

Catherine said...

Its fantastic Leanne: if it needs someone to takes it on a ski weekend, I will volunteer!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome bag Leanne. And thanks for taking the time to share your insights with us. I'd love to make one of these one day but we'll see...

Jenelle said...

I really appreciate you taking the time to go through each step and talk about how you made it work for your own purposes. I know I will be referencing this post many times in the future as I make my bag. The walking foot idea seems brillant and I'll have to give it a try.

Cindy said...

Wow this is a lot to take in. I'd like to read and re-read this again. Much like that pattern of Miss Butler's :)

Your bag looks amazing. The fabric is perfect for this project. Beautiful. And your stitching (and persistence) is incredible. I don't think this is for me, though. Thank you for such an honest review of your experience.

Annabella said...

Exactly - if I ever make this bag then your post will be the first stop. Great post Leanne and a beautiful Weekender.

Canadian Abroad said...

Love, love, love it! What a brilliant fabric combination, and your unique quilting. Thanks for the review.

MariQuilts said...

Wow......this is fabulous..

Ali said...

I really like what you did with the handles, I wish I hadn't already finished my bag too since you had a few good tips that would've come in handy!

Kelly said...

Gorgeous bag Leanne and thanks for the review.

Sheila said...

What a comprehensive post, as usual, on a great bag. I like your fabric choices very much. I wonder too, thinking of a particular bag I have made several times, if the pockets were actually not meant to meet at the corners - saves on extra bulky seams.

Mrs Flying Blind... said...

Wonderful - I will be re-visiting all these posts 'one day'!! Love the longer handle straps going inside the pockets x

Nat at Made in Home said...

Gar bag, and lovely quilting!

elle said...

Ohh, what a great job you have done. If I ever get caught up on all the other stuff I'd like to try this. Thanks for all the little details.

CapitolaQuilter said...

The fabric choices are so great. Thanks for the review. Love it when we ask our machines to do so much and they cooperate. The zipper and piping are my two big fears

Marci Girl said...

It turned out fabulous Leanne, and yes, I love the fabric you used too! Great job working through the hard bits!

Di said...

Love that bag. You have done such an excellent job. Your post was full of tips and clear directions. Well done on both the post and the bag. I will blog hop but there is no way I will be making that bag any time soon. I will leave it to the experienced sewists. Di x

Isisjem said...

Love your bag and this is a great post I'll be referring back to. I started the bag and really I lost enthusiasm once I'd cut out all the pieces. I'm QAYGing on Duck Cloth - which is actually like canvas - and I've done piping before and decided to be rebellious and not put it in my bag...if I even get it sewn up that is!

Susan said...

You have done an amazing job of this bag! I have sewn many items of clothing over the years but would never consider making something this complicated! It is a real credit to you! Proudly use it and enjoy the compliments!

Sarah said...

Leanne this is the best weekender post I've read yet.... I so want one! lol

Anonymous said...


Judith, Belfast said...

Your bag is stunning L! Well done on sticking with it! Jxo

Lori said...

Your bag is amazing! I love how colorful it is! Thank you so much for joining in the blog hop!

Karen said...

Just love it :)

Danih03 said...

It's so pretty! I love the variegated thread you used. It looks like the streaks of quilting are sparkling!

Judith said...

I love your bag and the fabrics you used for it. This is a fantastic and honest blog post about making this bag. Posts like this are essential for those who will attempt it (me probably not though ...)

Wendy said...

Your bag is wonderful, I love the fabrics!

Wendy said...

Your bag is wonderful, I love the fabrics!

Svetlana said...

Beautiful!!! Leanne, this bag is so "you"!!! Love it!

Katy Cameron said...

Colourful language? Surely not ;o) Love the fabric choices you went with :o)

Poppyprint said...

Congratulations Leanne, you survived and your bag is gorgeous! Your post has encouraged me. I've just purchased a FQ set of home dec fabrics from a destash for this bag. Despite the fact that I said I would never make another Amy Butler bag after barely surviving the Blossom, I can resist no longer. The FQly retreat in July is the best excuse to make one, is it not? I'll be emailing you, no doubt!

Holli said...

Thank you for this extensive post on the Weekender. I am done with mine (finally finished hand sewing the lining in - gees, what a pain that was!). I agree with everything you said. I wish I'd seen this before making mine - I'm afraid my straps are going to totally pop off, and today I actually took it out with my laptop AND iPad inside and was worried I'd lose them both. We held fast (for now). I do want to make another and have some (though not enough) of a particular fabric, and your piecing together so your fashion fabric remains the focus is brilliant!! No reason to have the pretty stuff behind that pocket! Just a great post, Leanne. Your bag is fabulous!

Betty said...

Leanne, I'm so glad you posted about the trials and tribulations of the "weekender"! I have the pattern and plan to make it in 2013 - not sure of the fabric yet. For sure I'll reread your post a few more times before starting mine! Good job and I love the fabrics you chose.

OPQuilt said...

Bravo to you for making a Weekender Bag. I am beginning to think it's kind of a macho-quilter kind of thing to do, because even though you are very encouraging, I'm thinking: No Way. I'm impressed! I also like that you showed some of the warts to making this bag--those sticky spots--and then encouraged the sewer to keep going. Walking foot is a brilliant idea--we never think of the easy way, do we?

Anyway, congratulations on making the bag. Impressive!

Elizabeth E. said...

Thanks for all the tips. If I ever make this bag I will double check with all these great tips. Did you send a photo to Brigitte? I know she will love to see the Juggling Summer fabrics used here. They really do make a beauty of a bag.

Taryn V. said...

Beautiful bag and great tips! The dobby dot fabric is so gorgeous, I love that you chose it for the lining of your bag!

Brigitte said...

This is Super beautiful, love, love, love it!

tusen said...

I love your version of the bag, especially with the wider, comfortable looking straps. Great choice of fabric, too.

Amanda Jean said...

It's a beautiful bag! You did a great job on it! Thanks for all the insider tips. They are very helpful!

Kati said...

I love this! You did such a great job. I love seeing all the weekenders, but your's is one of my favorites!

Kymberly said...

Thank you so much for such a helpful review of this bag. I'm getting ready to make the weekender bag in the next few months. I have to say this is one of the best blog postings I've read so far. I really appreciate that you used fat quarters since I want to use 3 or 4 fabrics for the body of my bag. I've got a much better idea of how much fabric to order for each section now.