After making the Retro Bag from my newest and favourite book purchase 101 Fabric-By-Fabric Ways To Sew A Metre I decided that I couldn’t wait to get back to cutting, basing, pinning and sewing. I have found myself in a rhythm these past two weeks …
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After the relative success of the shopping tote I made on Friday I decided that I would allow myself loose on one of the pieces of fabric that I had brought back from our weekend of shopping in Wales. I have been kind of building up to this as I have never followed a sewing pattern, even a simple one, up until this point, and I really wanted to give my new book, 101 Great Ways To Sew A Metre by Rebecca Yaker and Patricia Hopkins a try.
I decided to try my hand at making a bag, partly because I seem to be on a bit of a roll with bags at the moment and partly because I don’t think you can ever have enough pretty handbags, carry-alls and shopping totes. My favourite of the bags in this book is the Folklore Bag, with it’s slightly voluminous bottom (to match my own) and structured top band. The example in the book is made of a charming little squirrel motif fabric.
I had considered making this bag out of a squirrel print too, but thought that the larger motif on the print might become too obscured by the pleats in the bag to make best use of the fabric design.
Instead I decided to use a big, bold graphic design fabric that, if centred properly, should have still looked good with the pleats in place. The issues of pattern repeat placement was something that struck me when planning this bag. I am sure that with a project like this it is customary to centre any symmetrical motif, but I couldn’t find any basic information or tips about this kind of thing in this book. That’s not a criticism, it is a book of patterns and project ideas rather than a ‘how to sew’ book, but it’s something that I hadn’t considered up until this point and I am lucky that it occurred to me when it did.
If buying this book as a real beginner at sewing (such as myself) it might be good to also purchase a beginners guide to sewing type book for general sewing and machine hints and tips, such as how to use paper patterns.
This was the first time I have ever used a paper pattern and it was a slightly daunting prospect. The patterns in the book either come with basic geometric measurements to marks and cut your own pieces, or for slightly more complex shapes the patterns are included on four gigantic tissue paper pattern sheets. As there aren’t any real instructions on how to use these I went about with pure guesswork. I ironed the sheets flat first as they were slightly wrinkled from being in the pattern envelope. Once they were all laying nice and flat I carefully cut the pieces out before transferring the cut pieces to my fabric, lining them up with the design on the fabric so that the bold graphic motif was perfectly centred.
The instructions included for the pattern were clear and easy to follow with clear and simple diagrams detailing any confusing steps.
I did make one (accidental) deviation from the bag as shown in the book. The pattern shows two little sets of dots which are supposed to be lined up to form the pleats. The information on how to do this is minimal, and where the pleats in the book leave the centre piece of the main panel at the fore, the sides of my bag sit forward of the centre. This is something that I should have noticed if I had paid attention to the photograph of the bag in the book, but I don’t think one way is aesthetically beneficial over the other and rather like how my pleats turned out.
One thing that I did find very positive about the book is that it doesn’t seem to ‘cheat’ on the one metre (or one yard, if you have the American version) rule. The pattern for this bag can be made with a single metre of fabric, including the lining. Obviously, this might be compromised if you have a very large print which might require more fabric if you centred the motif.
As it happens, I decided to use a different fabric for my lining, for two reasons. Firstly it would leave me with enough fabric for a matching coin purse one day, and secondly because the fabric I was using was so bright and busy I was worried it might be difficult to locate my items in my bag.
With the lighter coloured fabric lining the bag everything is bright and easy to see and locate – better than rummaging for my purse whilst the bus driver rolls his eyes.
The pattern and instructions gave enough instruction so that even a complete beginner sewer can make a not only functional but attractive bag. If I were to make this again I would change only one thing. Because of the bold fabric design that I chose it makes it hard to see or appreciate the pretty curve that the structures top band has. It would have looked lovely if I had just edges this with a piece of chartreuse or dark purple piping so that that slight curve was more noticeable.
I can see this bag getting a lot of used, and I am really impressed with the professional results I got from following the book instructions. So much so that I have decided to treat myself to the second book in the series: 101 Fabric-By-Fabric Ways To Sew A Metre.
After my little creative blip leading up to the weekend that I wrote about yesterday I decided to test the waters with a little sewing project and the aid of my new sewing machine accessories. I knew that this project would not be perfect, and …
Here it finally is: my completed knitted and embroidered bag, knit in superbly gorgeous Jamieson & Smith 2-ply wool, it has folk-inspired charm by the armful, and I adore it.
I had finished the knitting portion of this bag quite some time ago, but was awaiting buying some lining fabric and handles before I got on with the rather big task of embroidering all of the detail.
The number of French Knots on this bag is not to be underestimated. It wasn’t until I actually picked up my tapestry needle threaded with yarn and consulted the charts for the embroidery stitches that the momentous task actually struck me for all that it was. Of course, the hundreds of French knots, cross stitches and duplicate stitch could be left off, but they add so much to the charm of the knitted piece that they are absolutely worth the effort of the extra work.
The result is decorative and intricate but without any flounce. For all of the embellishment it is in no way over-the-top. In fact, I think it is just about perfect. And because I wanted it to be as perfect as possible I blocked it a second time after the embroidery to give the best possible finish that I could achieve.
I deviated from the pattern slightly by beginning the project with a provisional cast on. The bag is knit from the bottom upwards, and I had originally intended to Kitchener stitch the base of the bag closed for a perfect smooth finish, but as I was piecing the bag together I instead decided on a three-needle bind off for the added strength and structure that this technique lends to a join, and the finish looks so neat and perfect that I am convinced this was the right choice.
The only other modification I made to the pattern as written was to add in a further repeat of the ‘upper leaf’ pattern in the charted design, because though my stitch gauge was bang on, my row gauge was off and I didn’t want the bag to end up too short.
If I were to knit this pattern again I would change one further thing. After the decreases that shape the top pieces that lead up to the handles I would have added an extra 3-4cm of straight knitted fabric, to give a bit of extra length to the fabric that feeds through the handles, because knitting them as written leaves only a bit of leeway in the opening of the bag. I have compromised slightly by sewing down only the lining fabric to secure the inside and have the knitted fabric stop just inside the bag, but I think I shall cover the join with either a knitted strip or piece of matching velvet ribbon at a later date.
This was a really enjoyable project to knit and finish, and I absolutely love the finished piece which I shall cherish using.
Yarn: Jamieson & Smith 2-ply