Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ree's Bag

This bag was one of the most exciting and terrifying projects I've tackled yet.

You see, I don't actually know what I'm doing.  When things work out well, its due mostly to luck and perseverance.  And the generous support of my seam ripper.  But my sister, Ree, has great faith in me, so when she asked if I could make her a purse with customized pockets to hold all her stuff, she probably thought I could do it.  (Probably because I said "sure, no problem, I can do that."  She's so gullible.)
So we got to work.   I photographed my stash so Ree could choose fabrics.
She chose 3 & 4, lined with A.

We browsed the Internet for pretty bags.  There were a lot.

Eventually,  Ree settled on this design, from a talented bag maker named Sweet Bee, who I don't know and does not have a blog (as far as I know).  (But she should.)

And then I realized I had a problem.  I meant to only suggest bags that had tutorials or online patterns I could follow.   There are hundreds of them out there, so it wasn't a particularly hard rule to stick to.  Except, you know where this is going, do you?  Somehow, this one slipped in.  And Ree liked it.  And I didn't realize until after she'd already picked it that Sweet Bee didn't share a pattern.

Now, what I should have done was say, "Ree, the bag you picked doesn't have a pattern?  How bout we go with your second choice?"  But instead, I uttered (to myself) the five most treacherous words in all of craftdom:  "How hard can it be?"

Answer:  Hard.

You see, I'm not so good with the 3-dimensional spacial intelligence.  And I'm really more an eye-baller than a measure-twice-cut-once-er. And even though I  mostly knew how to do all of the individual steps, it's important to complete those steps in the right order.  You know, like putting on  your pants first, then your shoes.  If you get ahead of yourself, you're just going to end up having to take off your pants.  Wait, no. Your shoes.  You have to take off your shoes.  And use your seam ripper.
And it seemed like each problem  I fixed only created another one.

Like, the air soluable marker I was using to mark pocket seams kept disappearing too quickly.  So I used tailor's chalk.  And then of course, I couldn't get it off.
See the red line in the center of the right-side pocket?  That's persistently immovable tailor's chalk.  The kind that's not supposed to be permanent, but is.  Apparently.

Ree didn't care, really, but I was determined to give her a pristine bag.  So I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that thing, but that chalk wasn't budging.  And not only did I not get the chalk lines out, I created water stains on the outside of the bag.  So then I had to scrub and scrub some more to get those (mostly) out.  

And then the exterior of the bag was crazily wrinkled from being turned right side out.  And the stiff interfacing I'd ironed to the back of the fabric was puckering weirdly.  So I went at it with a hot iron until I scorched patches of the fabric a subltle shade of "toasty."  (It was perfectly smooth, though.)

And in some places I made so many reinforcement stitches that I made the fabric tear from over-stitching.   Argh!

Other complaints (mostly just for me so I can remember what to improve next time.):  The exterior fabric is a heavenly soft cotton that I fear won't wear well. (I thought with heavy-duty interfacing it would be OK, but with a bag this structured, should have used a thicker material from the start.)  The straps pull the exterior of the bag in an odd way when the bag is worn.  (This is partly because of the thin material, I think, but also because the straps are only sewn to the exterior fabric, not the lining.  I'm not sure how to get around this problem without having stitches on the inside of the bag, which would get in the way of the pockets.)   The circle rings I used came from an old thrift store purse.  I looked for rectangular rings like Sweet Bee used in the original, but they didn't have them at JoAnn's, and I didn't want to wait for an online order.  (Next time, I'll wait.)  The curve is not perfectly symmetrical or smooth, a detail you might not notice until you take another look at Sweet Bee's masterpiece.   (If I try this look again, I think I'll try sewing the contrast pieces together on a curved line first, and then cut the curve, rather than try to sew along the curve with a narrow seam allowance.)  Finally, I made the interior pockets extend the entire depth of the lining, closing them up in the bottom seam of the purse.  But I hadn't considered that the box seams at the bottom sides would interrupt the pockets, making them awkwardly shaped.  (This wasn't a huge deal because those pockets were customized to different depths anyway (for chapstick, pen, lip gloss, and ipod.)  But next time I will not enclose the pockets in the bottom seam.  With lining and pockets, there were way too many layers down there anyway.) 

On the positive side, despite its imperfections, I actually think the bag turned out OK.  I love the fabric combination, the pockets on the inside, and the creamy quilted cotton I used for the lining. 

I also love the zipper pocket, because I think every purse needs at least one zippered pocket.  "For tampons!" Ree exclaimed.    Exactly.   I used followed this tutorial to create the placket pocket, and then just sewed in a zipper.  I'm more proud of it than I should be, and it might just be my favorite part of the bag.  I also added a magnetic snap, which was so easy I'll probably be putting them in everything from now on.

And the good news for me is that I learned a lot constructing this bag, which will make my next bag even better.  In a way, I feel sorry that Ree gets the guinea pig prototype bag, and I'll be the one who benefits when I make version 2.0 for myself.  Sorry Ree!

But,  even if it's not perfect, it's got a place for everything.  And I'm hoping that finding her car keys will be so easy that Ree will forget about all the other flaws and just enjoy the bag.


Ree said...

You are too hard on yourself! It is a great bag, and I am really enjoying it! I will be the guinea pig anytime.

Ree said...

Plus I have never even noticed half of the the stuff you thought was a problem -- toasty fabric? circle rings pulling? News to me!