Two Bags, Same Fabric

I love wearing twin sets, although in clothing, a twin set means a matching tank top and cardigan. This is my bag version of a twin set, both using a black Richloom vinyl (Pattern: Sunrise; Color: Onyx) and a canvas print that I (Rifle Paper Co.; Print: Bon Voyage.) Link to the fabric collection. Travel and I are dear friends, but you already knew that.

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If you really love this print and would like an item using it, here are some goodies you might like. Rifle Paper Co.
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The back story is twofold: I’ve been struggling for a very long time (one year? two years?) to get some bags made for my cousin Ken’s wife, Diane, out of vintage fabric. As I understand it, the fabric was purchased in Egypt or India on a trip with Diane’s dad, who is now deceased. It was purchased a Very Long Time ago—thirty years? forty years? Yes, I’m short on the details here. Sorry. Anyway, I’ve had about six weeks off this summer and wanted to try very hard to get three more bags made before school starts again on August 28.

There were two fabrics that Diane gave me. Out of the first fabric, I made tote bags.
(Tote Bag Blog Post #1)
(Tote Bag Blog Post #2)

Ever since I started mulling obsessing over this project, I thought I wanted to make crossbody bags for these women. I love the hands-free nature of crossbody bags. But there are so many patterns—good patterns— on the market, I wanted to make sure I have the perfect one before cutting into this precious fabric.

But here’s the thing about perfection: it’s vastly overrated. And as I look around me at the bags women carry every time I’m out in a store, I notice most of the bags are solid colors. A lot of people would not be drawn to a bag they’re going to carry every day in a print rather than a solid.

Diane sent me a sweet note after I sent her the third bag. She said she likes to keep a bag of bags around to toss into her car when she gots on a trip, whether a long road trip or just to the store, and that was how she would use that tote bag: to tote around extra, useful bags.

And suddenly it hit me. Why not make her a useful bag. This will be the topic of the next post, in a few weeks.

But back to the Hillside crossbody bag, above. The tiny Groom crossbody bag that I carried every day suffered a broken zipper that I refused to figure out how to fix. So I wanted to replace it with a crossbody bag that was a little larger that I would love every time I picked it up to go somewhere: school, shopping, and for vacation. I had bought a yard of the Bon Voyage fabric several months ago, and knew this was something I would love every single day.

The pattern shows exterior front and back slip pockets (full depth open pockets that sit close to the bag which you can just slip things into). One of these has a magnetic snap to hold it closed. The second is divided in half by a vertical seam. The interior also has a divided slip pocket. But I feel more secure with zipper pockets, especially to have on the exterior to hold, for example, my phone.

So I hacked the pattern and replaced the exterior divided slip pocket with a zipper pocket. I also added a zipper to the interior pocket, making it double duty. It sort acts like a divider in the bag interior.

To cut to the chase, what would I do differently?
(1) The most frequently-bought magnetic snaps (the male/female type) come in two sizes: ½” and ¾”. I grabbed a ½” to use on the front slip pocket. Wrong! I should have used the ¾” one, as it is stronger. The slip pocket doesn’t stay closed well and it bugs me. Taking that finished bag apart to switch out that snap is simply not going to happen. I’m choosing my battles. Next time, I’ll use the ¾”.
(2) The interior zip pocket is awkward. Next time I will use the back lining piece and put an inset pocket there, making the other a divided slip pocket, as designed. One simple interior hack rather than this awkward one.
(3) The vinyl I used, which is designed by my nextdoor neighbor, in her textile designer position with Richloom Fabrics. Most of her vinyls are a heavier weight. This one is softer; it’s absolutely a lovely weight, but just softer and more pliable. This bag would have benefited from having a more substantial weight fabric.
Lesson learned.

End of the story of Twin #1 and the second half of the twofold story:

The second Twin to pop out was a response to the whole debacle of another broken zipper, this one in the little (purchased) zippered pouch in which I’ve been carrying cash (bills, not change) and cards for several years. That zipper got mucked up and I couldn’t unzip it to pull out bills for tips or whatever. I looked for a replacement pouch, which was documented here. It was not the solution for me, but my daughter-in-law said it was perfect for her uses, and happily took it off my hands. Aren’t I lucky that those are her favorite colors?!

I turned to Sotak Patterns, which is run by Svetlana Sotak, a bag designer based in Germany, selling her patterns and handmade items on Etsy. It seemed to me her Lisbon Pouch would be more to my liking.

I am now using both the crossbody bag and the little pouch every day. The pouch—not exactly as I envisioned. I haven’t carried change with me for years. Now I put coins in the front zipper and bills in the top zipper, and it works fine. Just yesterday I went to Aldi and “bought” a shopping cart for the first time, because I actually had a quarter available.

What might I have done differently on this sweet little pouch? The main thing was the zippers. Svetlana uses metal zippers, which are difficult to cut, and a great way to ruin fabric scissors. I didn’t pull out my jewelry-making snips to cut it—shame on me. Anyway, Svetlana’s zipper techniques are a little different that what I usually do. Next time I will use a zipper with nylon teeth, and not have that oopsie that is visible on the front zipper.

Otherwise, I do love this little pouch, and can see it sticking with my for a long time to come.

So what did I do with the cards I carried in the old pouch? I cleaned out my purse drawer and found a Perlina card case that I bought at Nordstrom a thousand years ago, probably when I had an employee discount. It has room for twelve or sixteen cards. The IDs and debit cards go on one “page” (#4), infrequently used cards (Sam’s, Shell Oil) on page 3, and frequently used credit cards on pages 1 & 2.

My time is now freed up to quickly make up the bags for Diane (stay tuned) and to practice for my first Zombie Prom rehearsals in two weeks.

My Best Laid Plan

I have been using this little Lodis zippered bag for several years. I put all my IDs and debit cards in the front slip pocket, and my credit cards in the back slip wallet, then my folded bills in the zippered pocket.

It was the ideal little bag to switch from one purse to another, or tuck into my pocket when running to the grocery store or going out to dinner. I had a favorite small Groom crossbody bag that it fit perfectly into, next to my phone and proof of covid vax.

Then, within one week, two things happened: My Groom bag zipper broke. And the zipper on my little Lodis bag started getting caught on the stretched-out lining so that retrieving a dollar bill or two was impossible. What to do, what to do?

I sew. I make bags. Surely I could find a pattern for a similar bag. I thought the Sotak Patterns’ Two In One Pouch might be the one.

But I neglected one important factor—the front and back pockets were only attached to each other at the bottom, not at the sides. There were only two pockets, not two zippered pockets and one effective pocket in the middle.

So, during a busy week, seeing doctors and preparing to go out of town for a week, I made time to construct this bag. I finished it twenty minutes before going out to dinner with friends on Wednesday night before we were leaving to drive to Wisconsin the next morning.

That’s when I figured out there was no middle slip pocket for my bills. Ugh.

Sitting in bed this morning in my son’s guest room in Interlochen, looking out at Bronson Lake, I began thinking about bags I’ve made in the past that have center pockets, zippered or not.

I have enjoyed making several Paladin Pouches in the past. But it’s far too large for my purposes. I can study the architecture that creates the center pocket, then figure out how to downsize it. And here’s another Paladin. Or …

The Metro Double-Zip with my stealth center slip pocket that I figured out how to add to this pattern. If I size this down and figure out how to add a zipper to the middle slip pocket, this might work. Once I get home and can measure the original Lodis bag, I’ll dive into this project.

In the meantime, I did find a new substitute to keep my cards and cash handy. This little wallet, made by Hammitt, holds IDs on one side, credit cards on the other, and bills in the zippered center pocket. (And I found it at 40% off. 👍) So the function is the same, the form is just slightly different. Oh, and it doesn’t fit in the pocket of my jeans.

Oh, well, I’ll keep trying, and will post here if I ever figure out the solution that’s Just Right.

Woo Hoo!! The little Two in One Pouch now lives with my Darling Daughter-in-Law. She loves the colors. She couldn’t wait to have a pouch where she had a side for bills and a side for coins. 💚💙

And, for your viewing pleasure, here’s the annual picture with my younger son, Tyler. We’re in my family’s Happy Place, Interlochen Center for the Arts.

And the first of such pictures, from 1988, I believe. That was his first summer at National Music Camp, since renamed to Interlochen Arts Camp.

The Third Cousin-Bag

Two years ago, my mother’s eldest nephew’s wife (i.e., my cousin) texted and asked if I’d make some bags for her and her two sisters out of vintage fabric she purchased years ago on a trip to Egypt. (I may have gotten some or all of the facts wrong, but two years is a long time during a pandemic.)

I stay busy as a collaborative pianist at Youngstown State University, and have to make time to sew. And I had to choose a pattern. So I spent the entire summer of 2022 auditioning bag patterns.

For the camel fabric, I finally settled on the Tourist Tote Bag, from Sew Many Creations. If you’re just starting out as a bagmaker, this pattern is an ideal starting point.

The fabrics I used to coordinate with the vintage camel fabric are:

  • The base is an upholstery vinyl from Richloom Fabrics’ manufactured housing and RV line. My nextdoor neighbor is the designer, and she frequently gifts me with her unneeded samples. They are a dream to sew with. JoAnn’s carries some Richloom home dec pieces, which you might also like. Or you can let Google help you find other vendors of the Richloom fabrics.
  • The straps are made from “Dimples” by Gail Kessler for Andover Fabrics. I believe the color name is Amberglow. Follow that link and look at all those incredible Dimples colors. I’ll be ordering more of this fabric in the future!
  • The lining of the zippered pocket is Carved Rounds Batik in Orange, available from Lunn Fabrics. If you love batiks and don’t know Lunn Fabrics, you’ve just found your new best sewing friends! They’re located in central Ohio and have the best batiks made to their specifications in Indonesia. Here’s that link, and look at those colors!
  • The bag lining it Whisper tonal floral, from P&B Textiles, but it’s not on their website. If you want this orange, my LQS has it—Village Quilts in Canfield, OH. Type 00537 (the number 0, not the letter O) in their search bar. The number is the manufacturer’s number for this fabric. I used Whisper Orange.

The interior of the bag, showing the zippered pocket on the back.

The lining of the zippered pocket.

I shipped the bag to my cousin the day I finished it, and almost forgot to take photos. I received a text right after it arrived. She said she liked to always keep a “bag of bags” available if she needs to make an unexpected trip. So inside this camel bag will be a small bag of cosmetics, another bag of medications, maybe some device chargers, and so on.

Now to get started on the second fabric. I’m determined to have these done before the summer is over!

You can read about the two “sister” bags here.

Brushing Up

How awful is it that I haven’t posted a new make in almost six months?! That’s just terrible! Well, in my defense, there was a bit of a sandstorm in my basement sewing room that coated every surface with concrete dust. I’ve gotten half the room cleaned up, but there are still a lot of surfaces that need to be cleaned and fabric that will have to be washed. If you look at the pictures on this page, you’ll get an idea of what happened.

But I needed a mental break and was able to grab an hour (or maybe a little more 😉 ) on three different days to make this Sew Sweetness Vacation Packing Cube for my youngest granddaughter. Tyler, his wife Leslie, and Leslie’s daughter, Caroline, drove down from their new home in Interlochen, MI, at Christmas. The primary impetus for the trip was the 90th birthday of Tyler’s college mentor, Dr. Ron Gould. But while spending three days with me, the kids and I got to spend time with my eldest two grands, Celeste and Cody. We played games, ate, worked on a new jigsaw puzzle, ate, and just generally had a lot of enjoyable bonding time together.

I noticed that Caroline carried her brushes and curling iron loose to the bathroom to do her hair, and I thought she might like a special bag to hold them when she traveled. On the last few trips I’ve taken, I had to search around for something to hold my similar items. I didn’t like the idea of the brushes’ bristles getting caught in my sweaters. I had been thinking of making a similar bag for myself when I found a padded bag in my basement bag stash. I used that on our January cruise to the Eastern Caribbean, but I didn’t love it. It took up too much space.

I made three packing cubes for myself two years ago, and I use them every time I travel. I have a large Eagle Creek soft-sided suitcase that I love and use every time we go on a cruise. Those three packing cubes hold all the clothes I need for a 7-day cruise, and leave just enough room in the suitcase for my shoes and toiletries. It thought that bag would be perfect for Caroline’s hair things. But if I used the mesh panel, it wouldn’t protect anything in the suitcase from the bristles.

I really thought I was being brilliant to think of using vinyl instead of mesh for the zipper panel. Then, when I looked at the Sew Sweetness blog post (above), I realized I was not the first person to think of this modification. Oh, well.

I had a hot pink zipper-by-the-yard with rainbow coils and flower pulls, and thought Caroline would get a kick out of that. Luckily, I had two different coordinating batiks in my stash that went perfectly with the zipper.

I cut the bag pieces an inch wider than the Small size pattern to ensure that the curling iron would fit in. When I tested the size after completion, there’s plenty of room for more brushes or a container of mousse or hairspray or shampoo. Everything in one place. And the bag is soft, so if all she wants to put in it is the curling iron, it will smoosh down to fit in the available space in her suitcase or carry-on bag. 👍

The only other change I made was to quilt the bottom exterior panel to some Insul-Bright Insulating Thermal Lining. This would protect the bag and the surface on which it was placed if Caroline had to put the curling iron away in a rush. I also told her mom about the heat resistant mat I have and suggested Caroline might like to have one. I found mine in Walgreen’s in Traverse City five years ago when I was spending three summer weeks playing for dance classes at Interlochen Arts Camp. The one I have is made by OXO, but they may have discontinued production of these items. Here’s a similar mat on Amazon.

With the combination of the heat resistant mat and the insulated bottom of the bag, Caroline’s belongings will be safe if she has to finish packing and rush out the door while the curling iron is still warm.

The only major error I made in this construction was to cut the exterior back out before deciding to quilt it to the insulation. Quilting any fabric to foam or insulation draws it up so the finished piece is smaller than the dimensions you cut. Ugh. I kept thinking I could work around that smaller back piece, but it was going to make the pieces of this puzzle not fit together properly. So on the last day, I cut another piece of fabric an inch or so larger all the way around, and another piece of insulation, and did the quilting all over again. Once quilted and trimmed to the right dimensions, the bag went together beautifully.

Today I’ll pack it up and ship it to Caroline, and then hope I can find some time in the next three months to make one for myself before we fly to Seattle to cruise to Alaska and explore Denali National Park.

I do love the time I get to spend in my sewing room, even if half of the space is still dust-covered. Maybe before I make a second bag, I should find some time to finish cleaning that room.

Two Bags Delivered

The whole time I’ve been testing crossbody bag patterns, I was thinking about the circus fabric my cousin gave me. I knew I wanted to make tote bags out of the elephant fabric, as there was much less of that fabric, and I needed to stretch it to make three bags.

Hmmm, now that I’m looking at these two fabrics again, I don’t even know why I have envisioned it as circus fabric in my head. I don’t even know what to call it, but I sure love those colors!

Anyway, I used the Tourist Tote Bag pattern from Sew Many Creations. To get three bags out of the elephant yardage, the widest any bag could be was 17″. I figured out the ratio of 17″ to the width of the bag in the pattern, and those were the dimensions I used.

This is the first bag I made from this fabric. The base is a cork fabric from SallieTomato. It sews like “buttah”!

The lining was a teal quilting cotton that perfectly matched the teal in the print.

The bag pattern doesn’t call for any pockets, but I can’t stand totes with no pockets, so I added a zippered pocket in the back of the interior.

Honestly, this is such a great pattern. If you’re a beginner sewist and are wanting to learn some bagmaking, you couldn’t go wrong beginning with this pattern. Or if you’re experienced and just need a quick gift for a special occasion, this PDF pattern should be your go-to.

Here’s the second bag. This is made out of a 10 oz. waxed cotton canvas, which is water resistant. I’ve been making waxed canvas bags this summer in an Intermediate Bagmaking Class offered by Ellie Lum of Klumhouse Patterns. That was a 12 oz. Canvas, and stands up beautifully. That’s what I thought this bag would do, but I was wrong. So I used some plastic needlework canvas and made a false bottom to lay into this bag to help it stand up better.

And here’s the lining. You can see the bonus zippered pocket and the false bottom in the bag.

Honestly, I love how these two bags turned out, and can’t wait to start the third one when I get home from vacation.

Here’s the post of the test bag that led to these two.

So Proud of Myself!

Every time we travel, the Jazzman forgets to take along a container (think: plastic grocery bag, shopping bag, cloth tote from car trunk for bagging groceries or one of the hundred or so Jan-crafted bags sitting around my sewing room!) in which to stash his dirty clothes before we head home. Every so often, I think I should make or buy him a bag for his laundry, and then once we’re back home and I’m in practice and performance mode, I forget all about it.

This week I was busy with: 1) my cousin’s bags, making a false bottom for the one that wasn’t standing up the way I envisioned it should so I could ship those two bags to her before leaving for vacation; and 2) making three of my special masks for the trip, one for Jas and two for myself.

Let the record show that by Wednesday noon I had not started packing for our cruise from Boston to Montreal. If you aren’t on Facebook, you wouldn’t know I came down with Covid and had my first Positive test on May 8. I wasn’t sure I was going to get over Covid in time to be allowed to board the ship tomorrow (8/27). I finally tested Negative on 8/18 and again on 8/20, but when I completed the Holland America-required health assessment two days ago, was told I couldn’t travel. I had to call their medical department and hold for three hours! to have a woman tell me I should be okay, but that I would have to test again when we got to the pier on 8/27.

So, anyway, while I was procrastinating packing, lest I burst into tears over missing this cruise I’ve been waiting years for, I had a lightbulb moment that said, “Make a laundry bag for Jas.”

And in the photo above, you see how that turned out.

Happy, happy me!

It’s modeled on an undie laundry bag I got at Nordstrom about ten years ago. I just grabbed some mesh and cut the largest rectangle I could out of that mesh, grabbed a coordinating zipper, and whipped it up in about 30 minutes or less.

Now, I’ll never have to look around for “this oughta do” bags in whatever hotel room we’re living in for a few days.

The dimensions are about 18″ x 20″. The zipper has a dress-zipper-size pull on it, so I found a coordinating zipper pull (that the lovely lady who owns Zip-It Zippers on Etsy sometimes sends along as a gift to her customers) to hook onto that pull. On the other end of the zipper, I made a loop out of the excess zipper tape and hooked a spare shower curtain ring onto that loop. That way, Jas can hang it from a hanger in the ship room closet (Ahem. Actually, we’re in one of the Neptune suites. 😊) and easily tuck his dirty clothes into the bag.

You can bet I’m patting myself on the back over this make!

What Was I Thinking?

For some reason, this spring and summer somehow became my time of buying bag kits. I look back on this box full of kits sitting by my feet whenever I’m sitting at my Juki, and wonder what I was thinking. What appealed to me about these Sallie Tomato kits that were promoted in the weekly emails from the designer?

I love choosing fabrics for bags, sorting through my stash of bag hardware to choose the metal color that I think will best complement the fabrics, and relishing that entire design process. Why did I think I wanted to choose another person’s options? It’s not that the kits were cheap (i.e. inexpensive). They weren’t. But they were on sale. And everything was included—the hardware, the zipper, the exterior fabric, the lining, and the pattern.

It’s not that the pattern cutting was already done for me. That’s the most tedious part of sewing—cutting out the pattern and fusing the interfacing.

So here I am, begrudgingly making a bag that I really didn’t want to make and that I certainly don’t need, when I’ve got a stack of bags that I owe to my cousin, and when I’d rather be whipping up a sundress to wear on a cruise that’s headed north as the weather turns cooler. (You see the wisdom in that desire, don’t you? she asked, ironically)

Sometimes I astonish myself with my gullibility. Just say no! Say “no” to emails encouraging me to buy something just because it’s on sale.

Yesterday’s make, as I wait for this damned Covid virus to leave my body, was a “Carry Along” wristlet bag. This is a nice little pattern, especially if you’re new to bag making and want a good place to start. The kit includes the Carry Along pattern with three sizes of bag; Sallie Tomato cork fabric, which is soft and sews like buttah; a coordinating piece of 100% cotton lining; a zipper cut to the size you need for the Medium bag; a “Handmade” label for the outside of the bag; and 1″ key fob hardware for the wrist strap.

The finished size Medium bag measures 8″ wide and 7″ high. Size Small measures 4″ wide and 3″ high; size Large is 12″ wide and 10″ high. I believe, after finishing the Medium, that I would have enough cork to make a Small, so long as I can scrounge up some coordinating lining fabric and a suitable zipper. It’s the cork that’s the most expensive component.

Was this an easy sew? Yes. Will I make it again? Probably not. There are so many bag patterns in my repertoire.

And yet, if I’m looking for a cute not-too-expensive make to use up some of my stash of vinyls, it would be a good item to have on hand for a maker’s market. Maybe I’ll do that in the spare 15-minutes-a-day I’m going to be reduced to once YSU classes start up again in a week and I’m spending all my days on a piano bench.

A Sweet Blast from the Past

Back in the early 2000s, when my two grandbabies were born, I bought them each Barefoot Dreams Receiving Blankets from Nordstrom. These were the original Barefoot Dreams blankets. They were flannel on one side and a polyester satin on the other side. They were bound with satin piping, and my first babe loved to rub that satin while falling asleep. On the flannel side was a satin square, with the following words woven into the square: “Laugh With Me,” “Dream With Me,” “Grow With Me,” and “Cuddle With Me.” The receiving blankets measured 27″ x 36″. (How do I know this? Because there’s one new receiving blanket on eBay, for sale.) Barefoot Dreams also made what they called a travel blanket. This was made the same, with the satin for fiddling with, and they measured maybe 16″ square. My daughter-in-law always kept a travel blanket in the car. The babies LOVED all their blankets. The elder baby was the most attached to their blanket, and repeatedly wore them out. The blankets cost about $50, which was a lot for a security blanket, and I bought quite a few of them through the years. When the younger grandchild was about four, they asked me to make them another blanket after wearing the latest one out, and specified that it be in yellow, their favorite color. I hadn’t thought about that blanket in years.

Now that baby is about to turn 21, and is living with me while between jobs. This afternoon I was in my sewing room, and she walked in, asking if I could fix something for her. I looked up, and here was the yellow blanket. Holy cow! What a long and beloved life that blanket has had. The only things I remembered about the blanket was that it was flannel and satin, and that it was a pale, buttery yellow.

As I looked at and fingered it, trying to figure out how to resecure that small butterfly to the flannel without taking the blanket apart or damaging it, I was astonished at the creativity and quality of my work from sixteen years ago. I don’t know where I found the drawing or pattern for the large butterfly, or where I got that beautiful turquoise and yellow fabric. Nor do I remember making the small butterfly. But I think they’re brilliant! The creativity of my 54-year-old self surprises me.

Most importantly, I’m so glad to see this blanket again, and to know how many hours and years of security and warmth it has given my precious granddaughter, who has always held my heart in her gentle and beautiful hands.

Thanks for walking down Memory Lane with me.