Mermaids Aren’t Just For Swimming

What happens when you want a new bag to take along on your beach vacation and then you run out of time? You get a cute bag to add to the stock in your Etsy shop.

Sara Lawson’s Sew Sweetness Paladin Pouch is a brilliant little multi-purpose bag. It comes in three sizes, Small (7” long x 5” tall x 2½” deep), Medium (9” long x 6½” tall x 3” deep), and Large (10½” long x 8” tall x 3½” deep). Sizes Medium and Large have an interior zippered pocket. All of them have a single exterior zipper that encloses all three pockets. You can purchase an instructional video where you can sew along with Sara as she constructs the bag—for this bag, I highly recommend watching the video. There are some tricks to making this bag that are not intuitive. And when you join Sara’s user group on Facebook, you’ll find likeminded “Bag Ladies” and “Bag Dudes” who are constantly supporting you and also finding ways to hack the patterns to make the bags their own.

Several people have asked me how to make the strap for this bag. Watch Sara’s video on adding a crossbody strap to a bag, then leave me a comment if you don’t understand. I’ll try to help you out.

The middle section has a little faux pocket cleverly sewn into place. Perfect for my 6½” by 3¼” (with case) iPhone 7 Plus.

[Optional: I like to add fusible fleece to at least pieces 4 and 5 as I plan to carry my phone in the middle slip pocket and I want it protected. You can add fleece to all four exterior pieces (1, 4, 5, 8) if you want, but 4 and 5 or the crucial ones, in my opinion. I used Pellon 987F Fusible Fleece, and cut it ¼” smaller on all four sides to decrease the bulk when sewing those seams. I fuse the Shape Flex to the wrong sides of the exterior pieces, then center the fusible fleece over the Shape Flex and fuse the fleece in place, using a teflon pressing cloth.]

As I stated above, the Paladin Pouch pattern has a zipper that spans all the pockets, and Sara’s design has that zipper extend out past the edge of the bag by a couple of inches, making it extremely easy to access all the goodies you’ve stashed into the pockets. I didn’t think someone carrying the bag crossbody would want that zipper hanging out there. (Getting dirty, in my mind ….) So I decided to put zipper tabs on both ends of the zipper, which would be only as long as the bag was wide. The zipper was then sewn into place such that both ends were enclosed. (Again, if you’re stumped, leave me a comment and I’ll help you out.)

Topstitching by hand

Further, Sara’s design specifies that you don’t top stitch the edges of the bag openings until you’ve finished the bag. This works fine when you’ve got a long zipper that opens wide to say “Ah!” But when you’ve got parts of the bag openings hidden underneath the zipper, you’re out of luck. As I was scratching my head to figure out how to resolve this problem I had created, I remembered a little bag I made for my then-little granddaughter. The bag was the Coraline Wristlet bag, from Swoon Patterns. I printed this pattern at 80%, giving me a great little bag for a five-year-old sweetheart. But it was too small for topstitching, so I topstitched the edges by hand with perle cotton, and love the outcome. I decided to give these mermaids the same treatment, and again loved it.

Is there a moral to this story? I guess it’s that there’s a solution to every problem you can create. And that every problem you solve makes you a more creative sewist. And that makes me happy.

Exterior: Hello Lucky, Mermaids in Navy for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. Lining: Sioma, Wild Collection by Leah Duncan for Cloud 9 Fabrics. Hardware from Emmaline Bags. Zippers from Zipit on Etsy.

By Request Only

Baby Boy (okay, so he’s 45!) has been traveling much more in his life lately, including several trips overseas. Years ago I made zippered “Pet Mesh” bags to hold the charging cords for their various electronic devices. A couple of weeks ago, after his Christmas/New Years/Wife’s Birthday trip to Austria and Italy, Dear Son #2 asked for a new bag that had greater depth for holding his international converters. And a new bag was born, at his request. There’s no greater compliment than your own child asking for a new bag!!

The pattern I use for such bags is the “Zip It” bag pattern from Nancy Ota. The Sew Thankful retail website carries the bag pattern, along with various colors of Phifer Pet Mesh. I buy my pet mesh in black from Lowe’s or Home Depot—I believe it’s cheaper, and I really like the basic black.

So the only trick to tell you about with this bag is how to give it more depth. I’ve been sewing a lot of bags lately, mostly designed by Sara Lawson for her Sew Sweetness pattern line. Sara is an absolute genius both in designing bags and in writing pattern instructions. She also makes videos for most, if not all, of her designs. So there’s no way you can fail at making one of her bags. And, the more different patterns you try, the more you learn about bagmaking. So figuring out how to give my son the depth he wanted in the bag was just a matter of reviewing couple of Sara’s patterns and “hacking” Nancy Ota’s Zip It pattern.

A boxed corner would give my son exactly what he wanted, I was sure. I sewed the pattern as written, then zig-zagged the inside raw edges, instead of binding. Leaving the bag wrongside out, after zig-zagging, I flatted out each bottom corner, forming a triangle of the corner with the side seam centered, and sewed a diagonal seam across, about an inch or so down from the corner. It looked sorta like this /_\ , the bottom line being the seam. When those two seams were done, I cut off the excess, leaving about ¼” raw edge on the outside of the seam. I then zig-zagged that raw edge, and turned the bag rightside out.

My son said it’s perfect! (He’s a good boy. 😉)
-The fabric is from the very bottom of my stash, purchased at Josephine’s in Portland around 2000 or earlier. It’s from the DeLeon Design Group.
-My Pipher Pet Mesh was purchased on a roll from Lowe’s or Home Depot in the screening aisle. Also see the Sew Thankful site (link above) if you want colored pet mesh.
-The zipper is from Zip It on Etsy. Great vendor!! Wide variety of zippers, great prices, fast shipping.
-The pull charm is from JoAnn’s in the jewelry aisle.
-The hardware to hook the charm to the zipper pull is from Emmaline Bags in British Columbia. She has the very best selection of bag hardware. It costs me a smidge more and shipping takes a few days longer, but I absolutely love her stock. I frequently use her “Handmade” zipper pull charms.

(I’m going to put this here, just in case you want a piece of that fabric – different colorway.)

A Last Minute Make

Two weeks after returning from vacation and spending lots of time editing photos and writing my vacation travelogue, I just realized I never wrote a post about the last bag I made before vacation.
. . .
I actually started the fabric preparation to make another Sew Sweetness Paladin bag (that pattern I love to hate). As I started fusing the first exterior piece to the interfacing, I realized, to my horror, that the fabric was actually directional and I had cut it upside down. (Look at the black eyeglasses frames at the bottom of the first picture. Imagine those glasses at the top of the bag, upside down. Nope. I cannot let that happen.)

I didn’t want a bag with upside-down print, and I didn’t want to throw away a perfectly good piece of fabric. I began racking my brain for the best solution. The bottom of the side pattern piece has the corners cut out—that’s the part you sew diagonally to get the boxed corners. (See the picture with this paragraph.)

<Sidebar On> Paladin has boxed corners—meaning that after you sew the sides and the bottom, you pinch the corners flat and sew a diagonal seam across the corner, giving the bag some depth instead of having a flat bag. The traditional way to give a bag depth so it can easily hold more items is to make a separate piece for the bottom and the sides. Boxing the bottom gives you the depth without the extra work. Look at the two frog bag pictures and you can see the diagonal boxing seam. Notice how nicely the bag stands up because of that seam. (This is the Bellevue Pouch from Sew Sweetness, with the construction blogged here. The Bellevue has much deeper boxed corners than the Palladin. But a box is a box. 😉)
<Sidebar Off>

So how could I save this fabric and get the print right-side up? I started by cutting off the bottom. Then I again had a simple rectangle that could become a slightly smaller bag.

I dug into my brain, remembering the first zippered pouch I made years ago, and replicated that. Sandwich the zipper between the exterior fabric and the lining fabric. Sew the first side of the zipper, then the other side. Sew up the sides, remembering to leave an opening to turn the bag (and remembering to open the zipper before sewing the sides). Voila! A bag is made.

A dear friend of my son’s has serendipitously become a cyber friend of mine. This woman loves bright linings in bags so that one can actually find things in the bottom of a bag. When I posted a photo of the finished bag on Instagram, she immediately said “I want that!” So I packed it up and ran to the post office. This sweet small bag was flying to California as I was flying to Mexico.

Sometimes the stars align.

The details:
Exterior fabric: The Wordplay collection by Sarah Fielke for Windham Fabrics. It’s been in my stash for probably four years, but there’s some—as of this writing—at the designer’s website and some on Etsy. 9You could also try FabShopHop’s excellent fabric search feature to find it. There are several color-coordinated word prints in the same Windham collection that I like a lot. (See here.) This print comes in a black background, a gray background, and a black and white print. Windham also makes 108” wide quilt backing in the same print.
Lining fabric: A hand-dyed cotton in a green I love. I picked it up somewhere in my long history of hoarding fabrics. Love that dye job!
Zipper: YKK #4.5 purse zipper from Zipit on Etsy. She ships quickly from Wisconsin. She also stocks the charm on the interior zipper pull in a variety of prints.
Pattern: I highly recommend Sara Lawson’s Sew Sweetness bag patterns. The Paladin Pouch pattern can be purchased with a companion video. Buy it! I predict that if you try to make the Paladin without the video assistance, you will throw it in the trash can before finishing it. The Bellevue Pouch is part of the 12-pattern Minikins Season 1 bundle. The $80 price tag is very reasonable when you see the bags that comprise the bundle. All easy and quick makes with a minimum of hardware to purchase.

The bag’s new owner texted me yesterday to say how much she loves the bag. She said the gray background has the ability to appear as different colors in different lights. She and her partner refer to it as the “magic bag” because of this color morphing. That made me smile.

A Flower Child Pouch

Some bags take longer to finish than others. This one has been hanging out in my sewing room since … early February, 2019! As I type this, we are 27 hours away from 2020! That’s a long time to be a WIP (Work In Progress). What got in the way of its completion? The problems I was having with my primary bagmaking machine. I was having problems with “birdsnests” (nasty tangles of thread that mass on the underside of a seam) which the machine repair tech called “user error.” My reaction to her statement: “Grumble, grumble.”

You might be wondering what I did to get around that birdsnest problem. I just bought a new machine! I had saved all the money I earned in a few gigs during the spring semester and my summer job at Interlochen. Then, when I returned home from Interlochen, I ordered a Juki TL-2010Q from Sew to Speak in Worthington, Ohio. I am in love with this machine, and it’s solved all my sewing problems that were caused when a machine refused to handle eight layers of bag fabric and interfacing. This is a semi-industrial, straight stitch machine, and I haven’t yet found a combination of fabrics that it can’t handle.

I’m still using the Bernina 330, but I reserve it for simpler, thinner bags. And it works fine, most of the time. So I keep it threaded with a neutral color of thread in a light color. The Juki stays threaded with black, until I need a different color for topstitching.

Within the past few weeks, I’ve sold three bags in my Etsy shop. So now I’m motivated to get some more bags finished and posted. Tonight I was working on a couple of other bags that are close to completion, but I needed to change thread. I glanced around my sewing table and realized this little WIP just needed a small amount of work in black, so I decided to finish it before changing the thread on the Juki.

This is another Metro Double Zip Pouch from Sew Sweetness bag patterns. I’ve made a number of these bags before and love the pattern. [See blog post detailing these bags.] It’s a versatile little (or not so little, depending on which of the three sizes in the pattern you choose to make) bag. I made it with an extra pocket in between the two zippered pockets. This pocket is perfect for holding a smart phone.

The bag is made from a favorite fabric that’s been in my stash for a while. It’s guitars adorned with flowers. The background is a deep royal blue. I selected the pink in the guitar on the front of the front pocket for one of the zippers. The lining fabric is a wonderful hand-dyed cotton that I bought in my favorite Tucson quilting shop when I lived there fifteen years ago. The top zipper is black, and the zipper pull charms are a “Handcrafted” charm on the top zipper, and a treble clef charm on the front zipper. The bag includes a wrist strap to make it easy to carry.

This wristlet bag will be posted on my Etsy store tomorrow, if you’ve a hankering to purchase it.

Thanks for looking!

Stocking Up

Two days after Christmas, one of the two beloved nieces of my partner got married, quietly, with only the couple’s children in attendance. But the next day, the extended families would gather at the bride’s parents’ home for a celebration.

Between them, the couple has four daughters, high school and college aged. Because we hadn’t made it down to the Columbus area to celebrate Christmas with the family, I bought some Panera and Starbucks gift cards for the four great-nieces. I wanted something nice in which to present the gift cards to the young ladies. So I started sewing bags. After several hours of work on these bags, I sternly said to myself, “You’re crazy.”

Bag Back

I’m thrilled that three bags have sold off my Etsy page in the past two weeks. And I want to stock more bags on the site. That means I must be smarter than to put lots of effort and energy and resources into some very carefully constructed bags that will not necessarily be used, or even liked. I realized I needed to put these bags in my shop, and just buy little gift bags on post-Christmas sale at Walgreen’s and be done with it.

So here are the first two of the new bags going up on my site as soon as we get home from the wedding celebrations. These bags are a pattern “hack” of the Sew Sweetness Paladin Pouch that I’ve made twice. Those earlier bags are blogged here and here. Look at this picture of the second Paladin I made. You can clearly see that it’s constructed from two separate bags cleverly sewn together. I saw a picture on the Facebook Sew Sweetness Patterns users group of a bag made from just one of the two bags. I decided that would make a cute bag that would be a quick and easy make. I shortened the zipper so it stops at each side of the bag, rather than overhanging the end. And I added a tab and D-ring on one side, and made a wrist strap to hook onto that D-ring. I’m very happy with how these bags turned out. I think they are great bags that are perfect for carrying one’s phone and a small credit card folder with ID and money.

The fabric for both these bags came from my “deep stash,” 😉 by which I mean fabric that’s been in place for a very long time.

The first bag is “vintage” Cotton + Steel fabric, dating from one of the their early collections. Both the exterior and lining fabrics are from Alexia Abegg’s collection, Hatbox. I haven’t been able to determine the pattern name for the exterior fabric, but the lining is called “All the States.” Googling will “alexia abegg”, “cotton + steel”, and hatbox will get you some hits, if you’re wanting some of the fabric. It still exists in sellers’ stashes.

[Edit 1/2/2010: Happy New Year! In the middle of the night a couple of nights after I wrote this post, it suddenly occurred to me that just because the strap tab held a ¼” D-ring, that didn’t mean the strap had to have a ¼” swivel hook. That part of the hook that one measures when choosing the size is just the loop at the end where the strap is connected to the hook hardware. A ½” swivel hook is going to be fine with a ¼” D-ring. Sometimes I can be so dense!! So yesterday afternoon, before going to our friends’ house for New Year’s dinner, I whipped up a ½” wide, ~6″ diameter wrist strap and sewed it onto one of the ½” swivel hooks I picked up at JoAnn’s yesterday morning. The bag with both its straps is up on Etsy now. Sometimes I just have to let a project sit in my brain for a while before it all gels.]

The second bag is made from fabric designed by Amy Schimler for Robert Kaufman Fabrics. The collection is Creatures and Critters 3. The exterior is Fox and the lining is Diamonds, both in colorway Ivory. Love those foxes and the sweet little birds sitting in the trees.

I’m pleased with these bags, and have a third cut out for when I return home from this party trip. Check out my Etsy shop, Jananza, if you’d like to own either of these bags.

Perfectly sized to hold your phone and essentials. A great vacation bag.

Wishing you and yours a happy new year, with 366 days full of peace and love.