Friday, October 9, 2015

Purse Palooza 2015 - Becoming the Better Bag Maker

Hi Lovelies!  Welcome to my maker space aka sewing room!  I'm Tracy from I've got a Notion (my school sewing based blog) and Maud's Daughter (my website and Etsy store)

What you can't see is the floor!  Snips, trims... threads....
How exciting is it to be asked by Sara to contribute to Purse Palooza?  VERY!  I've been testing for Sara for a few years now, but my bag obsession began way back in year 9 as a 14 year old ( and in the mid 70's), when one of the first commercial patterns I bought was for a wrap around skirt, vest and bag.  I think it was a McCalls 'sew easy' one.  I loved making all those things!  I used the bag A LOT!  And so began my love of sewing and my superpower of working with textiles.

Enough about me and, lets get on with the 'purse'!

I'm celebrating the wonderful work of Australian designer and maker Nikki Mallalieu aka You Sew Girl.  Nikki makes wonderful bags, brilliant instructions, fabulous tutorials and classes and is a brilliant teacher in person.  I was fortunate to have participated on one of her 'bag in a day' workshops a couple of years ago.  I learnt so much!

Im going to make the MELBOURNE WEEKENDER from her book THE BETTER BAG MAKER

It's a brilliant book with step by step photos and illustrations to guide you through the basic bag and then onto adaptations, each increasing in skill and ability. Nikki has identified the Melbourne Weekender for those with a 'confident' skill level.
From the book - will mine look like it?  Lets find out!
The 'Melbourne Weekender'' is what I'd call a large bag.  It certainly can fit in overnight necessities.  With options for the configuration of pockets inside you'd be surprised at how well it packs!

Finished Bag: 12 1/2" x 10" x 5 1/2"   or about 32cm x 30cm x 14cm.
With an adjustable shoulder strap and carry handle this bag is easy to pick up and wear on the shoulder or messenger style.

Some thoughts as I begin:
  1. This is a pattern that also about the making journey and the processes, not just a finished product!  Be accurate, follow exactly as you not try to short change both the design or your effort!  Nikki shares brilliant techniques you may not have come across with other designers.  Relish the differing methods!  
  2. READ, READ, READ! To accommodate the range of patterns in this book Nikki has very cleverly designed the bags in the whole book on a basic pattern and then has you make specific alterations as you draft/trace to suit your chosen bag!  Some may find this a pain but I love to draft anyway, and find this always helps me become familiar with the bag and steps to come!
  3. You will find yourself flicking back throughout the book to previous techniques and descriptions - that also makes the book very usable and reflects the versatility of the pattern processes!  If you are a beginner I'd recommend starting with the first project in the book so you become familiar and then you can progress through the steps and techniques as you become more confident!  I mean to say - you aren't just ever only going to make one bag are you?
  4. Each designer has favourite interfacings.  You may find you have to get some different ones to what you have used in the past.  I had to make some substitutions I knew may create some issues for me down the track, but I was prepared for that.  (Even though I live in a city the availability of specialty interfacing and notions can sometimes be more than a challenge - and I wanted to get this made without the online and shipping wait! )
  5. the materials list seems extensive - a range of interfacings, stabilisers and hardware.  When you consider though that you are essentially making a suitcase, it's not surprising!  Don't scrimp on it! Without the inner structure this would just be a floppy tote bag!
  6. PRESS AS YOU GO!  TRIM AND GRADE AS YOU GO!  Do not try to avoid this!  Your final prodcut will be a let down if you don't!  It really does make such a difference!  Follow Nikki's grading and trimming steps to the letter or you will not have fun pushing all the bulk through the machine!  Did I say PRESS AS YOU GO?!

Fabric choice:

I used a fun Japanese 'Kokka' cotton canvas (an upholstery weight) and a new pair of large jeans from the thrift shop! Durability and contrast.  (The two legs provided enough denim for the base, side panels, handles for very little cost!)
The Pattern:
  • Nikki's instructions are always very clear and thoroughly presented - sketches, photos....brilliant!  You know too that they have been thoroughly tested by a range of sewers. You are not just learning how to make this bag - you are learning excellent techniques to apply elsewhere.
  • The pattern needs to be traced off and adjusted from the tear out  pattern sheets in the book. They are clearly marked and I found it very easy to make the adjustments required for this option.  if you are used to working with full size paper sheets from a pattern envelope you may not like this.  
  • I suppose one thing that continued to 'niggle' at me was that, once again, measurements were only provided in Imperial.  Make sure you have rulers for this - conversion to metric isn't worth the grief.
Bag Features:

  • Wide comfy adjustable strap - made with the 'bagging' method not 'four folds'.  What's this you ask?  Read the book and learn from a great maker!
  • Two twist locks on the large front flap - and a different way to secure and stabilize them!

  • An excellent structured handle with O Rings on the flap - a completely new way of preparing this compared to other methods I've used!  LOVE IT!  ....but don't be in a hurry!  Lots of bits and steps but SO worth it! Given I was using a heavy denim I was surprised at how the bulk was reduced and sewing it was a breeze!

  • Rigidity without bulk!  This bag is so well structured yet it remained easy to maneuver through a standard domestic sewing machine!  With weight in the bag and carrying it by the handles the bag does NOT sag!  Excellent!
  • A great solid base with purse feet.

I'm  used to using a hammer regularly from my tailoring experience - flatten the seam bulk!

  • A zippered closure under the flap for added security

    • Pocket options inside.  I did three types - a zippered divider pocket (full width of bag), a slip in pocket and a zippered pocket inserted between the facing and lining.  All well described and shown.  easy to follow and prepare.

    Changes I made:
    • The changes I made were purely driven by fabric and haberdashery availability.  I was using heavy fabrics as recommended.  I didnt have the interfacing S320 or Craft-Fuse so used a combination of 71F or Soft and Stable depending on the section.  SF 101 provided the basic backbone for the fabrics - yes, even though they were thick I like the stability and finish they provide to the fabric.
    • I did not have template plastic so used offcuts of 71F to stabilse the locks
    • S520 was recommended for the bag base.  Once again I didn't have access to this readily so did the combo of 71F for the outside and SnS for the lining base.
    Im happy with these alterations.  The only time I regretted this was in the turning of the bag!  Gosh those sections were tough to turn!  
    Always a challenge - and where you wish you really did leave the required amount open in the lining base, not do fancy top stitching here and leave only a small side open instead!
    What did I learn?

    Let me just say I've been sewing for a very long time - and have extensive experience sewing and designing with garments and bags....but I still learnt fabulous NEW processes to add to my repertoire as I make bags from this book!  I absolutely loved how the handles evolved!

    The combination of new and known methods made for a completely satisfying make!  ...and some brilliant mistakes too!  Let's just say here that when you Mum pops in to tell you all about aphids on her roses STOP sewing and pay real attention....I didn't and the sewing gods delivered bad karma as I realised all too late that I'd twisted the zipper closure and need to unpick it all......

    Always to be referred to as the 'Aphid Incident' in this household!

    The outcome:

     A fabulous bag!

    A happy and very satisfied maker!

    A brilliant pattern that will provide the confident sewer with hours of learning and a great product!

    Buy the book!  Dive in!  Learn!  Enjoy!

    Thanks for taking the time to read and look!  
    This is certainly a terrific challenge.  I hope you have a try. 
    Remember that you learn best when making mistakes so be easy on yourself, have a laugh and give it a go!

    Let me know how your sewing adventure develops!  
    Purse Palooza 2015 at Sew Sweetness

    Thursday, September 24, 2015

    Pattern testing the Filligree Double zip pouch for Sew Sweetness

    Looking for a neat storage system to pop in your handbag or tote?  A makeup bag?  Or toiletries for a trip away?  You can even use it as a fancy pencil case!

    This is the Filigree double zip pouch!

    Not just your average single zip case, this one features two very neat pockets and some lovely trim on the front!  As a tester I was lucky enough to have a couple of pieces of Tula Pink's new ribbon range from Renaissance Ribbons in the USA.  Very pretty!  Thanks Sara Lawson for sharing  posting them over!

    I made two - one while I was waiting for the postie to do his thing!  Here they are!

    The medium size - featuring some fabric offcuts and ribbon bits I had at home.  This project is also  good stash buster!

    Some dark grey bias binding under some ribbon with an off-cut of polka dot fabric forms the feature on this one!

    Look!  Two zippers and pockets!

    This is the cutie featuring the Tula PInk ribbons and some piping

    a nice wide gusset increases the holding capacity of these pockets!
     My zippers were a bit short so you can still see the metal ends....

    Pretty colours and designs!  Such a lovely match with my fabric and zippers too!

    Wednesday, September 23, 2015

    Lillium by Sew Sweetness - Revisiting and reinventing an oldie but a goodie

    In preparation for my participation in this years Purse Palooza, coordinated by Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness, I thought I'd revisit a few of the bags I've tested for Sara over the last few years!

    Back through the photos, taking them out of storage (I have a large number of bags!) I spied one that I thought I could 'play' with and make some changes to suit my fabric and needs. The Lillium is the one I am 'show and telling' today!

    My original tester bag 2013

    My newer Lillium circa 2015
    Here's the thing!  This pattern was developed and tested in 2013.  .....that's only the other day right? Well, in the land of fast developing, and even faster uptake, technology this one made me smile.  It has a dividing pocket for storage and slip in pockets for laptop charger, extra foam padding for laptop and available in the smal and larger sizes.  Do you carry a laptop anymore?  I'd say in the last two years we have akll adopted smartphones and pads and tablets, so we don't need to carry around all the tech anymore.

    BUT,,,,,,, it's still a terrific bag and design!  You can re-purpose the pockets and store your colouring book and pencils, pop in the tablet and smart phone, the big wallet, essentials for the day like glasses/sunnies, some makeup...with plenty of room to spare!

    So, I'd like to reintroduce you to the Lillium Laptop Bag.  The easy to follow instructions will help a becoming confident maker and provide some fun to alter for the confident!

    What did I do this time?
    First time I used interfacing 71F, this time Soft and Stable.

    I kept all the fabulous features of the original inside the bag.  Slip in pockets, dividing sippered sections, back zippered pocket (although this time I poppped it into the front under the flap)

    Using the Soft and Stable was a breeze. Working the corners of the bag and gusset was easy with some clipping and the big clips!  LOVE THEM! 

    This time I extended the accents and used thicker marine vinyl for them, top stitching into place
    ...and then the problems started...
    I decided to use vinyl for the gusset and up the front and back instead of the original accent pieces. All cut and attached, using a good dose of wash away tape, I noticed the vinyl had slipped and was no longer symmetrical.  Booooo!  Out with the seam ripper and away we go!  Re cut and restitched, much better.....but something wasn't working for me....I kept feeling like I was watching some old 70's TV show, seeing this bag with some high waisted flares, and Farrah's hairstyle.

    OK, the 'design lines' were sound, both vinyl pieces reflecting the other, but the blue and beige just wasn't right.  I didn't go with the magnetic snap this time, preferring a fold over purse lock.  Antique brass rivets and hardware were fine, I loved them, it was the flap piece that was annoying me.  The beige was it I think!  The contrast with the denim blue....too much.

    Nothing for it.  Out with the ripper and away we go again!

    Off came the flap, the catch unscrewed and removed, the vinyl unpicked and tape pulled off.
    Ahhhhh, that's better!

    This was all easy to do as I adapted the original Lillium so the flap was sewn onto the back rather than in the top seam.  I also attached the strap extender on the gusset rather than in the top seam. Sometimes the layers are just too much for my machine!  Oh yes, and this time I added some fleece H630F in between the exterior flap and the SnS.  I found the flap 'creased' when it fell over the top of the bag and I wasn't happy with it.  ( the SNS had creases from transport and packaging I couldn't remove with steam and heat...) The extra interfacing did the trick and she sits smooth now!

    Lillium's gone to a new home now too!  My Mum loves it!  Cool! 
    My verdict?  Still a great bag.  No need to carry the heavy laptop anymore, but you can never have too much storage in a never know where your daily adventures may take you!

    Tuesday, August 11, 2015

    Where I have been and what I'm doing!

    New things!

    I haven't been posting here at all lately.  I have been busy sewing as always, but things are a bit different now.  
    • I work part time now
    • I am sewing more bags and purses
    • I have a website and have opened my own Etsy store.
    I'm certainly not going to take the market by storm - there are so many other crafty, arty, talented people out there, but it has given me a focus for all my sewing and creating and I want to give it a good try.

    So, blogging about my classroom isn't the focus anymore.  I still create and love working with my students, and the ideas they come up with are always exciting!  I will still be developing new design briefs with them, and creating the resources to accompany them.  I am still working on my I.T. skills and ways to incorporate them into the classroom.  I just wont be here that often.

    Doesn't mean I don't value you Dear Reader.  I will still maintain this blog and keep it open.  I hope there are still things here to provide ideas and inspire.

    But for now, its just evolving into something different.
    Thanks for your 'follow' - you are all busy and taking a moment to read this is appreciated.

    Where I am heading now

    Sunday, July 5, 2015

    Promise Ring Backpack - Test Pilot reporting for duty!

    Those of you that know me know I have a new 'favourite' bag every week!  My sewing bag obsession is pretty 'full on', and with the Bag of the Month subscription, and one with Swoon Vintage too there are plenty of new bags!

    Case in point!  This little gem from Sew Sweetness - the Promise Ring backpack.

    It's a little cutie and a quick put together.  I used the same fabrics I did previously with two of Sara's other patterns -  so I have a travel ensemble now!

    I hand finished the binding around the sides - I didn't fancy fighting with twisting bias and the layers late at night!  Sara's instructions were very clear and had great tips but my gusset fabric was a thicker upholstery fabric and together with the Soft and Stable and interfacing and fabric it was getting a bit of a challenge for the machine!

    The mandatory addition of Emmaline's bag bling is always a nice touch!  My other hardware was from a salvaged bag from a Goodwill thrifting expedition one day!  Clips and D rings for this cost me $1!!!

    Make it!  It's just the fight size for the tablet, NCWallet and other bits and bobs....including room for a snack!

    I think this can become a new pattern for the students at school when it is released!    

    Tuesday, May 26, 2015

    Playing with the idea of being a Virtual Teacher

    I don't mean virtually being a teacher!  I mean the idea of not being there in the room, but still teaching.  Being 'Virtual'.  Get it?

    ...just another end of day at 'Everyschool' High

    It doesn't involve a stunt double or clone.  it involves some time to play with some 'virtual' avatars and animations to deliver information to students.  Some might say it's a 'flipped classroom' technique....where students get the info 'out of school': that is, listen to the lecture or view the demonstration at home on the internet, and then,come into school to work WITH the teacher, not sit and listen to them only to go home and try to nut it all out!

    Probably the worst description ever!

    Anyway, here is a link to my info sheet with examples I have been playing with.  I have shown them all to my students, and I regularly use the sewing safety one with my Yr 7 and 8 students.  My 'kids' know I like to play with new ideas, so they are used to me coming at them with, "Hey, I tried this, what do you think?"  Believe me, they will let me know if it's 'crap' or suggest better ways of using my time!  You have to love the honesty of a teen!

    There are quite a few but this one I love because of the music!  I got a kick out of it, the kids reckon it was a bit over the top!  Cant keep them happy!  :-)

    I love this one because I like the way you can get the expressions and closeups!  Only 2 characters at a time, but there is scope to do so much, or to get a message across simply!  Good fun writing scripts and previewing too!

    If you want to try something new, you can take a few minutes and give it a go!  It could be a great way for students to share information, go 'multi-modal', use info tech for work by them, not just a cut and paste quickie!  If you re in a school, you will know what I mean!

    Have some fun!  Don't be afraid to try!  Mistakes can be fun!

    Playing with spoonflower

    Have you?  ...Played with Spoonflower?
    As part of my Stage 1/Year 11 Fashion and Textiles class I have the students develop hand drawn repeat patterns and finally upload one to the online fabric printing company "Spoonflower".  At the end of it each student will have a 'test swatch' that is just the right size for the inner pocket of their NCW wallet.  Yes, these students make the original or mini Necessary Clutch Wallet from Emmaline Bags.

    Here's my design with some Picmonkey edits printed onto canvas
    I will share the final pieces from the students once done.  I did however use my canvas for a Betz White bag  - the Field Study Tote!  I tried to do the Sew - A - Long, but I couldn't wait, and went on to finish it!

    As the fold over messenger bag style

    Opened up as a shopping tote

    Love the fancy tab end treatment in Betz' bags

    Padded and zippered pockets inside.  Ooooo!
    Great size and I love the versatility!  I recommend this one for beginners and confident sewists.  I reckon my yr 9's could manage this one.  Even though they all have their eyes on a Sew Sweetness pattern I just trialed and yet to be released.
    ....more on that one later!

    Wednesday, April 22, 2015

    Bag of the Month Club 2015 - April - the Manhattan

    This months bag was from Emmaline Bags.  A terrific bag with storage and secret pockets!  This one fits my wallet with ease!  (Also an Emmaline pattern!)

    Bag bling from Emmaline too!

    nice big pocket in the bag

    Pocket on the front. I also added one large magnetic catch not the suggested two - what I had on-hand
    Good size with darts to form the curve and base. I made an extra long adjustable strap - I'm a messenger bag style of girl - hands free and bag secure across the body.
    I had some trouble with the top-stitching on the closing flap - with the sipper - don't know why, there is nothing tricky about it.....maybe it was getting late in the day! I added another pocket in the flap with a zip. Handy for personal items that don't need to got at all the time - but nice to have just in case...someone always needs a bandaid or something!

    ...big pocket in the flap - and I added another small one in it!  

    The zip was a double ended thick nylon one.   I would have liked a metal zip as a the metalic feature, but didn't have one on hand.  It sewed into the curve quite well but its thick teeth show up any seam allowance inconsistency I think.  (Im fussy, and I didn't notice it until it was too late to un pick....grrr)

    I used fusible Bosal foam interfacing and trimmed according to Janelle's instructions, but in hindsight I will keep the interfacing the same size and trim back AFTER the seam is sewn.  (Some seam sections didn't quite catch the interfacing, and while the fusing seems secure. Id rather have the machining to hold it all in place to!)  I normally use Soft and Stable or Innoware foam, but tried Bosal this time - Lisa from U-Handbag recommends this one.  I like it!  Wish I could just go to a shop and buy any of them!  My only option is to go online for all three - thank goodness the postage is reasonable quick from  here in Australia, or the UK or US!  It just means I always need to have it on hand - I have a sewing 'pantry' of interfacings and bag bits!

    ...two more big slip pockets inside - with some red poplin trim on one so I remember which one to look in for the phone!
    Will I make this one again?  Probably!  But now Im off to make the February BOM by Sew Sweetness.....the Hyacinth bag!

    Exterior fabric from Spotlight - cotton drill
    Feature pocket panel on from - linen copper screen printed remnant from Ink and Spindle
    Braid trim - really old piece from the stash!
    Llining - a remnant from Kaffe Fassett I think (had it for a long time)
    Bosal fusible interfacing

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