Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Weekender bag is finished!

As a quick update, today's post is all about my big finish for the week, my Amy Butler bag, but I've also been making good progress on my nativity quilt so yay!

For a long while I've been wanting to make an Amy Butler Weekender bag, and actually had my LQS order the pattern for me over a year ago.  As I mentioned last week, I finally got started working on it.  It seems like one of the most popular and most challenging bag projects in blogland, so I've been slowly reading  up on everyone else's experiences with the bag.  I found so many fabulous hints looking at all the beautiful bags made by these ladies, I thought I'd gather up some of the tips in one place.  I've summarized them all below the pictures, if any of you are interested in making a weekender, I think it's probably worth a read.

So my overall opinion: interestingly, due to the profusion of talk in the blog world about how challenging this project is, I was actually prepared for something much worse.  Don't get me wrong, it took forever and was definitely the hardest bag I've ever assembled, but I'm not a particularly good bag maker and it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  Basically what I'm saying is, if you're interested in trying it, don't talk yourself out of it!  The results are worth it (but read over all your tip sources first and make your handles a bit longer!).

So while the above sentences are completely true, and I totally encourage you guys to make this bag,  I feel it incumbent upon me to say that I wrote that after doing one half of the dreaded step 11C (main bag assembly).  However, last night I was sewing on the other half (these are really the only two hard steps) and you guys, it was terrible! I sewed over my very own fingers.  TWICE!!  I did not think this was actually possible, but when pushing/pulling a giant thick bag through a sewing machine with a zipper foot on which does not have much front (for the cording), it is very very possible.  And, incidentally, when my fabulous new Horizon 7700 encounters something it cannot stitch through, does it recoil back like an elevator door?  No it does not.  It just bangs away (lovely grinding motor noise), trying its best to penetrate whatever is underneath it.  Eventually, on the thick part of my fat middle finger it encountered something impenetrable (oh I don't know, the bone, or maybe some thick muscle) and broke the needle.  The 100/16 jeans needle!  The second time, on my index finger, it just ground away until the needle came out the other side.  Sorry for all the histrionics, but there isn't much more startling than seeing your sewing machine needle going into your finger one one side and out on the other.  Obviously as large catastrophes go, this wasn't one, but it was fairly traumatic and my fingers are still throbbing this morning, so when you make this bag, be careful!

Anyway,  here's my {awesome} finished bag.  In the tips section below you can read more details about changes I made, but mostly, I followed the pattern pretty closely except I added inside pockets and a shoulder strap.

Here you can see the internal pockets I added and the shoulder strap tab .

Tips from others.
In purple are the ones I tried, parentheses in black are my notes.

From Sew Allegorical

Use fusible hem tape for the piping  (this was by far the most popular hint, and I definitely did this).

Use #60 covered fabric buttons for feet. (not sure what #60 size means, but I am trying to make feet out of fabric buttons, but haven't done them yet).

New and Extra Needles (I definitely bought extra needles,  I used Jeans 100/16 as suggested in the pattern.  They seemed to work fine.)

Sew Crafty Jess

Use fusible hem tape for the piping

Make Handles longer   (Several people suggested this, sadly, I didn't notice until after I'd already made the handles. The handles are definitely too short for me to put the bag over my shoulder, but to compensate I made a shoulder strap)

Use clothespins to hold the corners together instead of binder clips  (at the dreaded step 11C I used a combination of pins and clothespins, but I think the key was that I hand basted the whole thing as suggested below.  This helped a ton!)

Use double ended zipper  (I did this, it was all I could find.  I was really excited to have double zips actually, so you can unzip from both sides.  I thought that would make it more like real luggage- interestingly though, the parka zippers like I and SewCraftyJess used are the opposite of regular zippers.  It took me a really long time of staring at it to get what was off, but I finally figured it out.  Basically, on a normal suitcase with two zippers, when the zipper pulls are right next to each other, the zipper is closed and they both slide outward to open the zipper.  But on the parka zipper, the closed zipper is with the pulls at opposite ends.  It makes no difference to the effectiveness, but it was just weird how long it took me to figure out why it felt just a bit off)

Inside zipper and flap pockets  (did this too, it worked fairly well)

Very important/complicated tip about sewing the lining  (I followed this tip and it was very helpful, it's basically a way to line up the lining so you can machine sew in at least part of it.  Check out her blog for a better explanation.)

Needle Book

Inner Pockets
Loops inside end pockets to attach a longer strap  (I did this, see above, seemed to work well!)

All Buttoned Up

Hand baste all the final pieces together instead of pinning  (hugely beneficial!  I definitely recommend this!)

Fusible Hem Tape for piping
Bottom panel a little long-(my pattern was new enough that this wasn't an issue)

Wise Craft

Bottom panel a bit long-check Amy Butler website updates for this. (again not an issue for me)

The Crafty Blackbird

Longer shoulder straps says ~3" extra?
Fusible Hem Tape

Fat Back end zipper foot.  Yuck!  (this was interesting, I looked long and hard for a zipper/piping foot without a fat back end but couldn't find one.  My zipper foot did ok, but one with a thin back end would have been better I think.)

Added internal zipper pocket with this tutorial  (Great tutorial for the inner zip pocket)

Binder clips around corners

Link to pattern updates!

1/8" clear plastic plexiglass in bottom (I just used template plastic, seems fine)

Recommends bag feet and shoulder strap


Lengthened Handles 1.5"
Added pockets
hand basted corners
fusible hem tape


Good advice for how to pin before hand basting.

Mon Petit Lyons

Watch out for the recommended seam allowances!
Lovely removable shoulder straps with D rings.

Fabric Mutt

Finally, Fabric Mutt has the Long Weekend Sew Along Going on now, but I've never been able to figure out how blog hops really work.

Anyway, I love my bag and hope you'll try to make one if you like.  Let me know if you have any questions!'

Linking up with Lee at WIP Wednesday and Sew Much Ado.