Traveling Again

Everyone I know is hungry to travel. I snuck in a quick trip to Orlando at the beginning of YSU’s Spring Break, flying on Friday and Monday, enjoying the warmth and sunshine on Saturday and Sunday.

<Jan, I don’t care who you saw or what you ate. I’m only here to see the Hackney Pouch.>

I stayed with the elder of my two brothers and his lovely wife, whom I have admired since I first met her when she was 17 or so. The middle brother and his wife drove up from Tampa on Saturday morning and we all went to lunch at Seasons52. Now I’m wishing there were a Seasons52 anywhere near me. We (minus the Tampans) ate several meals at Broadway Ristorante & Pizzeria on 434 in Longwood. This is my elder brother’s “Cheers.” Everybody knows their names. Sunday morning, while my brother was waiting for the screen repair guy to arrive, his wife and I drove up toward Heathrow and ate at Peach Valley Cafe. That’s another place I’d like to visit again. “Two orders of Very Berry Stuffed French Toast, please.” I’ve never eaten mascarpone cheese and known what it was. Now I want to research recipes using mascarpone. That was one delicious breakfast. And on the other end of that scale was the breakfast I had the next morning and didn’t enjoy at Bahama Breeze in the Orlando airport. Really, how can one kitchen screw up avocado toast and scrambled eggs?! Oh, and the meal the night before at Bar Louie near my airport hotel. I jump at any opportunity to eat at Bar Louie in Beachwood when I take a shopping trip to Nordstrom on the east side of Cleveland. But in a situation where trying to hire any experienced waitstaff during Covid times is probably to blame, there was no hostess when I entered. The person I flagged down said, “Just sit anywhere.” Bad idea. I sat on the patio to enjoy the Southern breezes before heading back to frigid Northeast Ohio the next morning. And I sat. And I sat for over 15 minutes before going inside to try to find anyone to take a drink and appetizer order. I was so disappointed in the service, I don’t even remember what I ordered, except a large glass of chardonnay.

By the way, the whole trip wasn’t made just to hang out with family members, although I hadn’t seen the middle brother and his wife since our mother’s memorial service in the summer of 2016! That’s just too long. So why this trip at this time?

I went to a Seventh-day Adventist elementary school. We attended from first through eighth grades, and had one teacher (plus band, choir, and 6th grade home ec) for each of the eight grades. My class was lucky enough to have Mr. George Pickel for both seventh and eighth grades. Then the class behind us, who graduated in 1965, had him for eighth grade after my class of 1964. He was young and energetic and loving to us. What a great teacher! After the graduation in May of 1965, he and his wife and two small sons (one of whom was delivered by my daddy), moved to California where he became the principal of an Adventist school. In the past year, one of the members of the class of ’65 happened to learn he had been widowed some years back and was currently living in south Florida with one of his sons. She spoke with him at length and was touched to learn how well he remembered all the students in his two classes at Orlando Church School. And a party was planned, which coincided with my university spring break. I bought plane tickets and consulted with my brother about playing the piano for the Sabbath service at the small church he attends near my high school, Forest Lake Academy. And I arranged time for a quick glass of iced tea with a college suitemate who lives in Lady Lake. I packed a lot into that short visit, and had a ball. And, as an added bonus, I got warm for a change! On my way from the party, in Mount Dora, to my hotel, I stopped by Greenwood Cemetery to visit my birthmother’s grave. When I visited there four years ago, I was surprised to see that neither her nor her husband’s graves had headstones. My sister, Debbie, and I arranged for a headstone for Gertrude’s grave, and I contacted the Department of Veterans Affairs to have a marker made for the grave of her husband, a United States Navy veteran. This was my first trip back to Orlando since the markers were put in place. It was an absolutely blue-sky gorgeous day. I finished my nostalgic trip by driving around Lake Eola, and remembering many walks in that space.

During the week I was preparing for this trip, I made time each day to sew. Here’s the report of that project:

As I type this on my laptop, I have open on my iPad, watching the progress of my younger son and daughter-in-law, for whom this pouch was sewn, as they head back home to Amarillo from spring break in Germany.

All my kids love to travel as much as I do, and take every opportunity to do so. My DIL, a university dance professor, travels frequently for work, when she is asked to come choreograph for a dance company or present at a conference. And then there are her summer gigs at Interlochen Arts Camp. She has need for pouches such as this to store her small travel items so nothing gets lost. One of the things I love about the Hackney Pouch is the zippered mesh pocket in the lid. See how I’ve tucked Aveda Foot Relief and Hand Relief Moisturizing Lotion tubes into the mesh pocket? And how about that little dispenser of Stress-Fix stress-relieving concentrate. For me, this pouch would be a stress reliever all on its own.

When Leslie and Tyler came to visit over New Year’s, she was carrying her daughter’s Hackney Pouch, size medium, which she had borrowed for the trip. That’s when I knew she needed her own—size large. And because it was to be a travel bag, I knew exactly what fabric I would use. The exterior fabric comes from DearStella. This map print, Va Bene, is available from several Etsy sellers. The lining is Thatched, designed by Robin Pickens for Moda. The color is “Meadow.” This is a fabulous lining and coordinate fabric available in a wide range of very matchable shades. I had a beige zipper that would match the beige mesh yardage in my stash, and not detract from the beautiful map fabric.

This is the third Hackney Pouch I’ve made. It’s part of designer Sara Lawson’s Minikins Season 3 collection of patterns. The minikins series all contain easy pouch and bag patterns that require a minimum of hardware pieces, so they’re less expensive to make. They’re all great as gifts or donations to charity events. And the patterns can be purchased with a tutorial video. Perfect for visual learners like myself.

This make was straightforward to me, as I had made it before. But one big change occurred to me, and I’m so glad I was paying close attention at the appropriate time. The center back panel, the top, and the bottom all have a piece of stabilizer inserted after they are sewn, but before the opening for turning is sewn closed. I tend to stock up on stabilizer, foam, fleece, and interfacing that I use on bags, hopefully avoiding a last minute rush to JoAnn’s when I want to crank out a quick gift. Years ago I had bought a couple of yards of Pellon’s Peltex stabilizer and had used it in the previous two Hackneys I made. But this time I watched the video and read the instructions carefully, and realized Sara Lawson seems to prefer Pellon’s Deco Bond or Decovil heavyweight fusible stabilizer to give the right inner support to the top, bottom, and back of this little bag. I made a quick trip to Joann’s and got the Decovil. Once I had cut out the pattern pieces, inserted and fused them in place, I was so glad I had really read the instructions this time. What a difference! What a nice finish to this gift.

I had hoped to have this pouch finished before Tyler and Leslie left for their trip to Germany. That would have worked if they lived here. Alas, travel time to Amarillo for a travel bag is not overnight without wasting a ton o’ money. I’ll ship it to her on Monday, and she can tuck it away, ready for her next trip.

I’ve been looking for an opportunity to cut into this Va Bene fabric, and so happy this project came along.

Promises and Expectations

Why can’t I find what I want?! It’s like the Perfect Man; Maybe the Perfect Bag doesn’t exist?

I have heard sewists in the Sew Sweetness FB group talking about the Tower Crossbody Bag since the day the pattern was introduced in 2020. It’s a free bag from Sew Sweetness, so it’s very popular. Who doesn’t like a free pattern?! I’ve wanted to make it, but it never reached the top of my Next Make list. So I decided to make a test bag out of the pattern and, while I was at it, make it out of a fabric I thought my BFF would love. She’s all about purple. In my stash, I found Tula Pink Pinkerville Gate Keeper in Day Dream for the exterior; Moda Fabrics Grunge Basics—I think the color is Freesia—for the lining; and In the Beginning Fabrics Dit Dot Pale Aqua for the exterior pocket lining.

I really thought this was going to be The One, until I got to the zipper. What’s with me and zippers in these test bags? I’m great with zippers. I’ve never had a problem with a zipper, until this round of bags.

But honestly, the issue is not my sewing of the zipper. It’s the method the designer has chosen for the insertion technique for this particular bag.

The #3 (apparel size) zipper on the front exterior pocket was perfect.

The goal of the designer, as I see it, is to insert the zipper in such a manner as will enable the user of the finished bag the greatest access to the contents of the bag. So the zipper is sized and inserted to have the zipper’s opening space be larger than the bag’s opening space. Then the bag can be opened as wide as possible for easy access. That means you’re going to have a zipper tail hanging over the end of the bag. But if you’ve also got an adjustable strap attached to both ends of the bag opening, and the strap is fighting for real estate with the zipper tail, well, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a fight on your hands.

This is how the top zipper looked when I finished the bag. I had a tail that was several inches long. I tucked it inside the bag between the end of the zipper and the outside of the bag.

And here’s what’s inside the bag, underneath the zipper: the tail. When you want to open the bag as wide as possible, you can pull the zipper tail little further out of the bag and unzip it all the way. Remove what you want from the bag, close the zipper an inch or so, then reach inside and pull the zipper tail back down and close the zipper fully.

I went to Instagram and searched on #towercrossbodybag. Some of the photos show no sign of the zipper tail. Others show a 4″ tail hanging out. That’s not what I want for these bags. So I’m back to trying another bag.

I’ve explained to my BFF the details that I don’t like about this bag. She doesn’t care about my perfectionism. She’s excited to have a new bag in her favorite color. So I’m going to pack it up tomorrow and deliver it to the post office, after I fuse one of my “Jananza!” labels inside.

And next I’m going to dive into the Sew Sweetness Dot Dot Dash bag. With crossed fingers that I can make this The One.

What To Do With This Bag?

My search continues. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know I’m making tester bags trying to find just the right pattern from which to make three bags from vintage fabric that belongs to my cousin, Diane. This pattern is not It.

ByAnnie’s Ultimate Travel Bag

After the Sew Da Kine bag, I thought I would turn to designers whose patterns I had used more frequently than Sallie Tomato and Sew Da Kine. So I looked at byAnnie, the patterns designed by Annie Unrein. I’ve made several of her bags, including my very favorite, the Ultimate Travel Bag. Another of my favorites is her “Take A Stand!”, which I made up in some Tula Pink fabrics that I love. (While looking at byAnnie’s bags, I also considered some Sew Sweetness bags. Sara Lawson, the creativity behind Sew Sweetness, is another favorite designer, but that’s another blog post, two days hence.)

Knowing that I wanted some exterior pockets and some straight horizontal seams in the fabric that I showed you in the previous post, I turned to Annie’s “Daytripper II” and bought the pattern.

I receive way too many marketing emails from quilt and fabric shops. I had, within the past couple of weeks, received an email from “My Favorite Quilt Store” showing a new fabric collection from a quilt teacher I have long wanted to study with. Her name is Katie Pasquini Masopust, and the collection is called Game Day. The multi-colored print is called “Life”, and it also comes on a white ground, which Katie calls “Candyland.” The orange print is “Twister.” There’s a story about the orange, which I thought would go great with the Life print. Unfortunately, when I was shopping this fabric collection, I was on my iPad and didn’t have the screen brightness turned all the way up. So I thought this print was more of a rust color, and bought my zipper-by-the-yard in a darker orange. When the fabrics arrived and I saw how bright the orange was, I wasn’t sure what to do. After posing the question on one of the sewing FB groups I frequent, I went ahead and used it. But I wish I had gone for a blue coordinate rather than the orange.

Daytripper was first published in 2015, and both designers and bag sewists have learned a lot about bag construction since then. I was not really pleased with the zipper technique used on this bag. As the bag developed, I loved the exterior fabric more and more, and decided it would become mine when it was finished. I would use it to carry my iPad back and forth to school for all the voice lessons I accompany. However, the iPad is not all I carry. I took it one day, and tucked in my iPad, along with my page turn pedal, iPad charging cord, iPhone charging cord, and Apple Pencil with case. Nope. The bag may be tall, but it’s not big. Hence the title of this post. Now what?

I really struggled with the zipper insertion method on the top of this bag. There is no instructional video to accompany this bag, and the illustrations in the instruction sheet did not make it clear to me exactly how to make this zipper happen. I put it in once, and could barely get my iPad into the case. So I unsewed the zipper, cut a new zipper, and tried it again. I was successful in finishing the bag, thanks to all my bagmaking experience, but I didn’t love it.

One thing about byAnnie is she used her specially designed foam, called “Soft and Stable” for many of her bags. Instead of having a separate lining, she sandwiches the lining, the foam, and the exterior fabric, which she has cut larger than the required dimension for the pattern pieces. Then she quilts the three together and cuts to size. The Daytripper doesn’t use this technique, but has the exterior and foam layered together and basted around the edge before constructing the bag. This is not obvious on the front of the bag because of the large exterior pocket. But it’s very obvious on the back, where the exterior fabric and the foam are loose from each other—very obviously loose.

If I were to make this bag again, which I won’t, I would quilt these pieces together and finish the interior with binding.

And now what do I do with this bag? What I know is I’m moving on to a Sew Sweetness bag, which you’ll read about next.

The Search Continues

In my previous post, “Kissin’ Cousins,” I told you about my search for just the right bag pattern to use for three bags I’m making for my cousin’s wife, Diane, and her sisters. So far I’ve made the Sallie Tomato “Zippy” crossbody bag, followed by its big sister, Sallie Tomato’s “Myrna” crossbody bag.

When I finished the Zippy, I felt it was too flat to be able to throw more than a thin wallet and a phone into. The Myrna, with its boxed bottom, was thicker. You could also tuck sunglasses and a few other essentials into that bag. Maybe something a little deeper front-to-back would be better.

I searched through the websites of my favorite bag designers, and decided to try the SewDaKine crossbody bag the designer named “The Triple Zip.” I dug into my stash of beautiful Richloom vinyls designed by my neighbor and found a piece that went beautifully with a piece of batik I purchased on my 2018 textile tour of Bali.

Where the Zippy was a flat bag, and the Myrna had a boxed bottom, the Triple Zip used small darts in the bottom “corners” to increase the depth. Click the picture with this paragraph and you can clearly see those darts. And the Triple Zip is tall. The photo at the top shows the bag standing next to a full-size 16.9 fluid ounce water bottle. The pattern cover states the finished dimensions are 12″ tall, 11.5″ wide, and 2″ deep.

This is the first Sew Da Kine pattern I’ve made. I do know that she makes beautiful bags, which she sells on her website and in various boutiques in Hilo, Hawaii, where she lives. Those bags are from her line of bag patterns, which she encourages buyers to make at will. Many bag designers restrict the number of bags the sewist can make for sale or gifting. Not this designer. Knock yourself out, she says. Make all the money you can selling them. To me, that’s generosity.

As long as we’re talking about the bags I plan to make for my Diane and her sisters, I should show you the two vintage fabrics. Then you can understand why I keep looking at patterns with horizontal sections on the front of the bag. It just seems natural to me to want to accentuate those graphic strips.

I think all the crossbody bags I’ve made to this point have had the adjustable strap attached to the bag with swivel clips. This is the first one where the strap was constructed as part of the bag construction. In turning a long strip of fabric into a strap, one end was folded over so there were no raw edges, and the other end was left unfinished. The unfinished end was sewn into the top seam, while the finished end, was looped through the D-ring and sew in place. So that was interesting to me. I love learning new things. (If you don’t know how to make adjustable straps and are curious, there are lots of videos on YouTube. Just search “crossbody” or “adjustable strap.”) I don’t know that I like this technique better than the swivel clips, but it does save the sewist a couple of dollars on hardware. And you’ll see this technique again in a post yet to be written.

The other personalization I used on this pattern was to add a slip pocket in the back of the exterior. I used the technique I learned in the Zippy bag, three posts earlier, and made a pocket that will be protected, next to your body, when you’re “wearing” the bag.

I purchased my zipper-by-the-yard for this project from My Handmade Space. There has been some controversy on a couple of social media groups about this vendor posting something not politically correct somewhere. I try not to get into politics on social media except when it comes to Covid. (I hate that masks and vaccines have become politicized!) But I wanted these star zipper pulls on this bag, so bought them on this site.

The fabric is a Richloom RV and mobile home upholstery fabric designed by my generous nextdoor neighbor. JoAnn’s carries some Richloom products. If you happen to purchase some for a project, whether a bag or pouch or a chair cushion, you will be one happy sewist. The fabric is wonderful and sews like buttah. Some of the vinyls my neighbor designs look like cotton fabric. The lining for this bag is a batik I picked up in Bali three years ago. I had enough to use for the exterior inset, the lining, and the pocket linings, along with the strap. I always love the hand of a Bali batik. The zippers, which are nylon coil, crafted to look like metal. The link to My Handmade Space is above.

The more I look at this finished bag closely, the more I like it. This may be The One for Diane. I’ve got to closely examine the necessary yardage to make three of these, and ensure I’ve got enough.

Kissin’ Cousins

In the “How Time Flies” post a few weeks ago, I mentioned some bags I promised to make for my cousin’s wife and her two sisters. I was auditioning the Sallie Tomato “Zippy” crossbody bag for that purpose. But then I learned there was a similar bag to the Zippy, a little larger and with boxed corners, so it carries a little more. That pattern, also from Sallie Tomato, is “Myrna.”

<Sidenote On>
If the term “boxed corners” is foreign to you, it’s a method used in sewing bags and home decor to add dimension to a flat rectangle. Where the Zippy is constructed somewhat like an envelope, in the Myrna you sew a bottom rectangle between the front and back, then rotate and sew across the corner of the front and back. This results in a bag that is about 2″ deep. Instead of just slipping your wallet and your phone into the Zippy, with the Myrna you can also fit your sunglasses case and a checkbook and pack of tissues. Make sense? If you want some pictures to make more sense, this page may help.
<Sidenote Off>

I think the more I make this bag, the easier it will get. It’s really not a difficult pattern—I just have to pay attention to what I’m doing.

For the sample Myrna, I used some more of the fabulous Richloom vinyl which is designed by my nextdoor neighbor for Richloom’s RV and Manufactured Housing line. This particular fabric looks sort of like a nice heavyweight linen. It comes in a number of rich shades. I chose a brown that goes beautifully with the accent fabric, “Floral Philosophy” designed by Maria Kalinowski for Kanvas Studio. I love that print. It’s been in my stash for several years, waiting for just this moment. The front pocket lining is another high threadcount quilting cotton that’s been whiling away its time in my stash—I have no idea when or where I purchased it. And the interior lining is a lightweight white linen, Limerick Linen from Robert Kaufman Fabrics. It’s 3.51 oz. per square yard. I bought it to make curtains, but changed my mind. For this project, I tea-dyed it and fused it with Pellon Shape Flex to give it the body that I believe a bag lining requires. I love this combination of textures and prints.

The bag front has two zippered pockets. The back has a slip pocket that closes with a magnetic snap. This is a crossbody bag with an adjustable vinyl strap.

I treated the vinyl strap differently than instructed in the pattern. It said to cut a 1½” strip and fold it in half, then topstitch at &frac18;” along both long edges. But if I used the Sallie Tomato method, I would have had one side folded and one side with raw edges. I could have folded both sides to the center, but then I would have had to topstitch the raw edges with zigzag stitch, and I didn’t want that look. Instead, I cut two ¾” strips the width of the fabric—just under 60″. I used Wonder Tape and clips to hold the two strips together and topstitched the length on both long edges. But I now had two long raw edges. I dug around looking for my bottle of Edge Kote, but it didn’t want to be found. So I remembered a set of Sakura Micron Brush Pens, found the set and pulled out the brown pen. I then sat with an episode of “Maine Cabin Masters” streaming on my little sewing room TV while I painted over the almost 120″ of raw edges with my brown brush pen. Zen! I am very pleased with the finished look of the strap.

My only complaint about this pattern is the construction of the boxed bottom. The size of the bottom insert creates a nice depth to the bag, allowing you to carry more than just your wallet and phone. But it’s an awkward method. Instead of the size of the bottom matching the size of the side where the seam creates the box effect, there is excess fabric on the side. And neither the pattern instructions nor the video available on YouTube address this inconsistency. What is a sewist to do with that extra fabric? If I were to decrease the size of the bottom insert to make the bottom and the side match in length, then the depth of the bag would be smaller, and the bag user wouldn’t be able to carry as much, comfortably, in the bag. Something has to change here, and I may have to make one more sample before I dig into the special, vintage fabric my cousin sent me.

Would you like to see the lengths a perfectionist will go to in trying to solve a mental puzzle? Here were my notes yesterday morning when I was trying to understand the difference in the seam lengths between the bottom insert and the side. Too bad my Health app can’t see all the whirring in my brain and award me steps for that work!!

Am I pleased with this bag? You bet I am! Now to go cut out my cousin’s vintage fabric to make three more.