Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mini-Project #3: Book Bag

For my final Spoonflower mini-project I decided to make a book bag, and for the design a free pattern I could find available online. I chose this Hip to be Square pattern posted on because it was a good size, looked different and came with a free .pdf of the pattern pieces I could print out on standard paper.

At first I didn't bother to register with the site to get the printable version of the sewing instructions. It was a little bag; I thought I could figure it out from the pattern pieces. (we'll call this Major Mistake #1. Print out and read the instructions before you try putting it together.)

Originally I had picked out a pretty embroidered organza to use for the front panel, but on closer inspection I found that even lined it would be a bit too delicate for my application. Fortunately I am an abstract batik junkie, and among my stash I found a pretty remnant that almost exactly matched the background of my swatch. It was thin cotton, but I figured I'd just double up on the batting (yes, I also decided to bat it to give it some substance versus using a heavier textile as the pattern maker suggested. Major Mistake #2.)

I started cutting and sewing, and quickly discovered that I wasn't putting it together correctly. I'm stubborn, of course, so I ripped out the seams and tried two more times before I finally accepted that no, guessing wasn't going to get the job down, and went back to register with the site to get the printed instructions (registration is free and all they want is your e-mail.)

Here's the finished bag:

I did make some adjustments to the pattern. I intended to use the opal tower swatch from Spoonflower as a patchwork inset, but it was the right size to make another pocket, so I made it into one and added that to the outside of the bag. I used contrasting broadcloth for the handle on one side, but it was such a pain to sew in place I decided to just run a satin stitch around the edges of the handle on the other side -- and in the end I actually liked the look of that better than the handle.

Because I didn't bother to quilt any of the component pieces I also had to constantly pin and repin the batting to keep it from bunching up while I was putting the tote together. To avoid this problem if you want to bat yours, definitely quilt the pieces before you assembly them into the tote.

The things I love about this pattern are that there are no handles to attach; they're built into the bag. The size is good -- almost more like a purse than a tote -- but not so big that it feels like you're carrying luggage. It has a roomy inner pocket you attached to the lining, but you can probably add more to suit your needs. In fact if you're good with altering patterns you could probably make this work for more than just a book bag; with some resizing and different fabrics and notions you could probably use it to make a gift bag, a smaller make-up bag or even a clutch purse.

My final Spoonflower project will be the quilt I'm planning to make with the yardage I designed. I haven't started that as some other fabric I need won't be arriving until next week, but as soon as I have it done I'll post some pics and tell you how it went.


  1. Lynn I love this! You are such a creative person. I remember taking on such projects when I was younger...I wish I had more time nowadays to go back to it. I like the outer pocket you included on your bag. Looks great.

    Can't wait to see the quilt!


  2. Yeah..this is so lovely... I can't even imagine myself holding thread and are amazing... <3 <3 <3

  3. Beautiful color choices!

    On the batting thing: I'm pretty sure I've seen fusible batting somewhere, which might help with the bunching problem. Though my experience with fusibles is that sometimes the glue is thick enough to gum up sewing machine needles.

    I made a couple of tote bags several years ago that used batting. I'm pretty sure that I used pre-quilted yardage for the lining and the pretty print for the outside layer, but the handles were a problem and I was never happy with them (I couldn't get the batting to behave and left them unlined, which made them way too flimsy to hold). I may check out this pattern. I like the inside pockets on it better than the ones I had made.

  4. That bag is gorgeous! Of course, a lot of that has to do with the original artwork too ;o)

    I have a question...Not only does the Don't Quit journal match, but I need that. Is it handmade? Or available?


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