A bag of sunshine

I made a bag, and I think it is fabulous, but it has taken me a while to rebuild confidence in my bag-making skills.

Basic bag from The Better Bag Maker

This is an orange bag hanging from an orange tree!

Wombats are one of my favourite Australian animals. I like their short, determined stockiness. WOMBAT can also be an acronym for waste of money, batting and time, and that is what an earlier bag project of mine turned out to be.

I walk my dog once or twice every day. We have a bag that hangs over a hook on the back door with our jackets. It contains her stuff – lead, treats, poo bags, ball thrower, etc. – and we just have to drop my keys and phone into it, grab the bag and go. Our first dog bag was a simple calico freebie from a conference. When that wore out, I made a replacement. It was still calico, but it had her name appliquéd on it and pockets. When that started to wear out, I tried to make a fancier replacement bag. It was a disaster.

Where I came unstuck was my choice of fusible batting or interfacing. Unable to buy Annie’s Soft and Stable as the pattern recommended, I tried to substitute; however, the type of Pellon I bought was much, much too stiff. (I have only limited choices in local shops and made a poor choice for a substitute, for which I can only blame myself.) The top flap of the bag was so rigid that it would never have drooped as it should; it would have stuck out like a patio roof. Not ideal. Frustrated, I bundled it all into a drawer, tucked it out of sight and kept using the ratty old bag until I was in the local shopping centre and bought a ready-made bag for $14.

However, I still wanted to make bags, and I wanted to make them well. When I saw a copy of Nicole Mallalieu’s The Better Bag Maker in Spotlight and noticed that it had a whole section about interfacing and that it was written by an Australian, i.e. someone working with materials that I too could easily access, I bought it.

On the weekend, I started with the basic bag. I followed the instructions – apart from the instruction that told me not start with my good fabric – and everything looks just as it should. Hurrah!

Basic bag from The Better Bag Maker

I cut both of the side panels and one of the end panels to include a large bouquet.

The bag looks like a simple tote from the outside, but it has an internal base, a magnetic clasp, a zipper pocket and other pockets. It is a simple and functional bag, but the generous side panels allow the overblown bouquets of the Victoria Findlay Wolfe print to shine. I used a Carolyn Friedlander print for the lining. This bag is for me, not the dog.

Basic bag from The Better Bag Maker

The lining is a Carolyn Friedlander print.

I like how Nicole’s book is structured. It provides step-by-step lessons on how to make the features of bags, so you can mix and match as you need for each project. It also has an interfacing substitution chart! The only criticism I have is that a couple of photographs had me a bit puzzled. Why does the picture show a patch pocket when the pattern says to sew a compartment pocket? And why does the lining fabric look like it has interfacing fused on when that is not mentioned in the instructions? But if you ignore minor photographic discrepancies, stick with what is written and appeal to other Instagram users for second opinions even though you know you are being a nervous Nelly, it works perfectly. I have the feeling that this book really will make me a better bag maker.

The earlier bag was quickly nicknamed the WOMBAT bag. This one is my bag of sunshine. Yes, I nickname projects. I also nickname clothes. Let’s just say that there are dresses in my wardrobe known as the titty-flashy-dress, the frumpy-nun-dress and the stunt-dress.

Basic bag from The Better Bag Maker

This summery tote is a dash of sunshine on a dreary day.

Best of all, I now know that I will be able to repurpose the expensive Pellon from the WOMBAT bag – even with the doggy novelty fabric fused to it (what was I thinking?) – and use it in internal bases of any new bags I make.

Now to decide which pattern from the book to try next …

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17 thoughts on “A bag of sunshine

  1. Amazing colours, but I sympathise with you when it comes to the interfacing ,stiffening ,stabilisers…..it’s a mine field! Especially as ever country seems to have different names for the same product! I’m just about to cut out a new bag for sewing class, I’m using a product from the USA called Bosul ,soft but firm. Let you know how it goes.

  2. Although the bag is beautiful and a real burst of sunshine on this rainy Melbourne morning, I am more intrigued by your reference to the stunt dress! Pray tell, what sort of stunts do you get up to wearing it?

  3. Good on you for facing your fears and trying again, with a lovely result. Yes, too nice for the dog I’m afraid! It’s always good to find local content in a book, it does help source materials, especially if you have to buy online. I have a pellon dilemma myself today, hoping something from the local (not very good) store will work.

  4. That’s wonderful that you were able to find a book that worked for you, especially with the substitution chart. I love bright oranges and that bag is perfect for the larger print. Your wardrobe outfit nicknames made me laugh. I too, have a titty-flashy dress, and now it has that nickname!

  5. I am definitely not a bag maker. I finished my first bag “succesful”. I am happy with my first time result but even if it’s not a true WOMBAT, it still feels that way, as I could have bought a similar bag for way less then the cost for the materials included. Don’t remind me of the time it took to sew it together.

    I will stand safely on the sideline and admire all the nice bags other people finish. So congrats to yours! The bright orange is just great, whatever dress you pair it with it will make it really stunning. Hope you can keep enjoying your new bag making process.

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