Making a bag

  Is a thing that I have done now.  Hmm.

This marks my first ever “craft” project for work (craft projects like quilts, home dec projects, etc. are a separate category from our regular monthly clothing projects.) I’d actually been thinking about making a bag since my long-suffering backpack crapped out before Christmas, but the impetus waned when I found a replacement backpack in the closet. I have this creeping feeling that I should accept the fact that I’m no longer a student and just ditch the backpack (if only because it doesn’t go at ALL with the rest of my style and on some level I’d like to be a person who can Accessorize, but, well, I like backpacks. And I hate purses. And I hate the ginormous sleeping-bag-sized purses everyone seems to be carrying these days with a special brand of venom. Anyway. Things crystallized when we got this heavy felt in in some colors that actually spoke to me: heathered greys. I am really into grey this year. How boring. 😛

  I took the opportunity to try as many of the bag doodads Fabricland carries  out as I could—D rings, swivel hooks, belting, leather base (which turned out to be faux leather, boo hiss.), decorative cord. I had the idea of a roll-top bag in my head (Thank you, Taylor Tailor) but it wasn’t going to work with my stiff felt. However, some very satisfying Pinteresting highlighted plenty of nice felt bags including several with a simple foldover top, and also lots of variations on the kind of strap I wanted—the sort that lets you swap a bag from a purse-style (so you can look like a grown-up) to a backpack style (which I still think is a far more practical and healthy style.)

  Now, the pre-made bag bottom (faux leather cunningly crafted with a sueded contrast inside so it looks like leather in the package :P) is of a fixed size, so that was the dimensions I went with for my bag, with the height constrained by the width of my felt. The proportions looked reasonable, so then I just added the fold-over in the darker felt. (The darker is slightly thinner and softer for some reason.)

  I had a lot of fun playing with sample stitches and practicing lapped seams, but I wound up using only very basic stitching, for that clean modern look.  I still love the machine catch-stitch in the grey on grey, though…

  Originally, I hadn’t been going to bother with any internal pockets, mostly for the sake of keeping things simple. However, a few internal pockets are really a necessity if I’m going to make full use of a bag, so I free wheeled an insert to attach at the side-seams. I actually love a lot of things about it, especially how my exposed zipper turned out in the felt. And while the additional layer made the eventual side seams just a little more hellish, (we’ll get there.) it all worked beautifully in that it hugs the back of the bag closely, without me needing to topstitch it down in a way that would show on the outside.

  Now that I have the bag finished, though, I’m doubtful they will get any usage. Why? Because with the foldover top they are buried DEEP at the bottom of a dark well of felt, and I can barely see them, never mind reach them to use. The above photo was taken from within the well by using the flash, otherwise photography of any kind would be impossible. On the upside, I can’t see the ugly seams and stray threads like you can in the photo, either.

  Did I mention it’s deep?

  Fortunately I have monkey arms. 

  The construction with all those rectangles was lovely, and easy and even with a bajillion layers at the bottom corners my new Janome soldiered along quite well. (The only needle casualty happened when the needle came right out of the machine, which probably has more to do with me not bothering to use a screwdriver to tighten it in like you’re supposed to.) the fact  that I was using an 18-gauge denim needle probably helped. I mean, it was not a happy Janome. I’m sure it’s wishing it had been purchased by a nice lady who just makes placemats and teeny wall quilts. But it did it, and deserves plenty of credit for that. Also, the feature where you can lift the presser foot higher than up is the best feature ever. Except for the auto thread cutting and the variable speed feature. Those are also the best features ever. But in this case, the presser foot height. 

  Turning the bag right side out was a production. Tyo had to help me. And the polyester felt is completely immune to pressing, at least at any temperature that won’t turn it into a little puddle of plastic, so the side-seams look terrible.  If it were more flexible I would topstitch them down but no way I could maneuver the tube through the machine neatly. 

  In the end, my only real disappointment is that it’s quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be—full backpack sized, really, not just glorified lunch bag. Fine for wearing on the back, but too big to carry as a bag. Well, in my opinion. 😉 but I already told you my opinion of giant bags. 

  Now it has to go hang for like 3 months!!! (I know, right?… So I won’t even get to road test it until practically winter. Oh, well it’s a wintery bag anyway. And my backpack is doing fine…


(Also it occurs to me that I probably shouldn’t fret too much about backpacks for grown-ups when I’m still running around in a polkadot mini dress.)



Filed under Sewing

19 responses to “Making a bag

  1. Sox

    Yay Spring!!
    and the bag will be great for winter, whenever that happens again.

  2. Glad you are having some beautiful weather! Hooray spring! I love the look of this bag, but not being the owner of monkey arms I’m not sure how it would work for me. I am totally with you on the hatred of giant bags (they are terrible for your back!) and I carry (as seldom as humanly possible) a teensy little kidney shaped cross body bag that basically holds a wallet (and my keys if I’m feeling sneaky 😉 ). Now if only fanny packs would come back in style or I could find a cool one…. 😉

    • Man, I got my husband the coolest leather belt pouch in the Czech Republic as a souvenir—got it home, and he loved it, until one of his friends called it a fanny pack. Never worn again. I’ve seen some little bag/pouches set up like underarm holsters that I thought were really cool, too… I guess the quest for the perfect bag is unending, isn’t it? 😝

  3. Jeff Laskowski

    Looking wonderful. The bag looks good too!

  4. I’m with you on using a backpack instead of a purse. I’m actually right at the point that I’m ready to make another one, though I think I’ll chose a different style than this one since the deep reaching/fold over top isn’t my style. I really like how yours came out though.

  5. Love the bag!

    I totally agree with you re sleeping bag sized purses… my theory is: the bigger the purse, the smaller the brain….especially if the purse is covered in logos…those lours vuitton and gucci ones have a special place in hell

    • Thank you! LMAO about the giant bags… especially since I’ve now apparently made one (except when it’s being worn as a backpack. 😉 At least it’s logo free! 🙂

  6. could you cut the top part off to make it slightly shorter to dig around in? might make it more usable? i love the felt tho and the 2 greys are perfect!

    • Not without redoing the strap that the swivel hook is attached to. I might cut it down to a flap if it’s really a pain though.

      • You may find that is worth it. I mean, you have a seam ripper. You sewed it to begin with. “You may ask yourself: how did I get here?” And this is the start of the special hell that is : The Bag That Is Always Under Construction (which is a little like a Talking Heads song)
        I grew up in a house that was never done, so maybe that’s where i get it from. But right now you have a bag that is done! Barefootin’!

  7. haha – totally cracked me up – I JUST reread a post I wrote 5 years ago after making an amy butler tote bag and…. ALL THOSE RECTANGLES – I hated cutting them, marking them, keeping them straight… I mean, i can TELL what a sleeve is without having to pin the pattern piece number to it 🙂 And I’ve had a case of eyes-are-bigger-than-arms-are-long with nearly every patternless tote bag I’ve made!! Love all that lovely grey felt!!

  8. I pop in here now and then to see what you have sewn. I had to laugh with the photo where you are looking into the deep bag. It is almost big enough for you to wear as a dress!
    But you could put your skateboard in it…or your cutting mat…etc
    Sandy in the UK

    • It’s kinda gigantic! Funny how hard it is to get a sense of size until it’s completed; I’m not that familiar with making bags, I guess. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Your bag looks really fab! It is pretty large but you may like it once you get to use it–you never know!

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