Serena of Sew Giving decided she wanted to make a Sew Together Bag, and she did not have to put much pressure on me to get me to join in. I had been toying with the idea for a while, and we thought they would not be too difficult if we worked together. So, we decided we would have a sew-along, starting in February. I even gave our sew-along a snappy working title: The Sew Demented Sew Together Bag Sew-Along with Sew Giving.
Anyway, independently, we started planning the outsides of our bags. I got carried away and started planning three. When you cannot decide which fabric combination to use, make all three. I chose to use selvedges on one, some Liberty print on another and a Japanese hedgehog print I bought in Spain on the third.
Serena and I consulted a bit about fabric choices before our sew-along evening. She was a great help when it came to my hedgehog bag as I wanted to use the hedgehog fabric and somehow include an appliquéd hedgehog. I was struggling to decide where to use each until she straightened me out. We also quizzed any of our friends who had already made one about tips and techniques.
Then, we met up at my house one evening to tackle the zippers together. Honestly, the zippers were not at all problematic (unless you get bits of fabric caught in the wrong spot when top-stitching). We both took Crazy Mom Quilts’s advice and added end bits to our zippers. I really like the finished look and how it avoids some bulk in the side seams.
The only truly difficult part when sewing these bags is sewing the sides. You might have to adjust your tension, needle type and foot pressure when sewing the side panels to the pockets. I tried my walking foot but my machine skipped stitches. In the end, I found my normal quarter-inch foot with a reduced foot pressure and a heavyweight needle was the winning combination. Also, when you attach the sides and pockets to the outside, it looks totally wrong, but keep going. It looks like the pockets will get pinched in the corners. They will, a little, but not so much it will be a problem. Persevere.
Here are my Sew Together Bag tips:
- Once you have bought and downloaded Sew Demented’s pattern for the measurements, go straight to Quilt Barn’s tutorial. The pictures help enormously. Only go back to the pattern to fill in the gaps.
- Add zipper ends like Crazy Mom Quilts. It looks nice, it avoids bulk and you can use fun little scraps of colours on each end of the zippers.
- Watch which way your zipper pulls are pointing as you sew. You want them all to be at the same end of the bag.
- Consider cutting the binding on the bias. I did that out of necessity on the selvedge bag because I did not have a big enough piece to cut on the straight grain, and the bias binding sits so much more neatly than the straight-grain binding does, in the same way that bias binding sits more neatly on quilts.
- Consider hand sewing the long zipper ends instead of top stitching it. I tried top-stitching, did not like the way it looked and hand sewed instead. Now I have made three, I have an idea about how I could cut this piece differently and machine sew it next time. Serena and I both left part of the side binding open so we could tuck the bottom ends in neatly.
- Hand sew the binding. It looks neater. Much neater.
If you want to make a bag with selvedges on the outside, as I did, fuse a lightweight piece of interfacing to a plain piece of white fabric. Then, with the interfacing side facing up, place a narrow strip of fabric, not a selvedge, across the middle of the outside (which will be the very bottom of the bag) before laying and top-stitching your selvedges in place. I made my panel a little large and then trimmed it down, and I worked from the middle (base) up to the top of each side, checking often to make sure they were still parallel.
Partway through, I thought I was daft to make three. However, now they are all finished, this bag no longer frightens me, and I would happily make more. All sorts of decoration ideas are still bubbling away in my head.
You really should read Serena’s post and check out her version of the bag, which is very different from mine. She has used hexies, and everyone loves a good hexie, right?