Don’t worry, it’s in the bag…

This week it’s been all about bags on the making front. As always I have to admit that my making started from a ‘selfish’ place. I wanted some nice project bags for my ever growing WIPs collection – Slow fashion makes 2020. And also as 2020 is also the year that I wanted to be even more conscious in my consumption, if I wanted them I was going to have to make them – and from recycled fabric from the stash.

The creative process

Once again no creative process with Scatty Knits is ever a straightforward A to B journey. Generally I go all round the houses distracting myself but knowing that I will eventually get there, but possibly not with the outcome I intended. I’m happy with that state of affairs but I suspect it drives others nuts. 

Actually I’ve just realised that the project bags were not the start of the bag making escapade. Originally I started thinking about messenger bags and made a few prototypes but dithered about style and size as well as construction material and fastenings. (Scatty remember!) So that went on the back burner and I made dog walking bags instead. But this now meant that I had left over cut out fabric from the messenger bags so that brings us to the project bags. 

To explain what happened next it’s worthwhile to remember that one of the central purposes of Scatty Knits was to aim for zero waste production. I had no real idea how I would achieve that but as usual I presumed a way would present itself as I got stuck in. Faint heart and all that…

But then what began as I must ‘make some project bags’ became ‘but what will I do with the scraps’ so then the notions pouches were made to use up the squares cut when I was boxing the bottoms of the bags. That, of course, then sent me down the rabbit hole of raiding my scrap stash to see if could cut some more squares which led to the ‘patchwork tote’, cutesy small and functional medium. 

By this point I was now fully committed (or is it that I should be committed – never sure on that one). I’d made coin purses before so what about matching coin and card wallets? Bear with me now because that somehow made me realise that I wanted to make two styles of messenger bags – one of a classic minimalist style, the other a bit modern with a zip!  So that sorted that problem. 

So what’s been the creative journey takeaways this week. I don’t think any of these will be ground breaking but they might be of use if you would to delve into bag making. (I highly recommend it)

Bag making essential reading

Luckily I have a very generous brother and sister in law and for 50th birthday, they got me ‘The Bag making Bible’ by Lisa Lam. It’s a treasure trove of techniques to get the creative juices flowing. Of course the internet is also a great place to see video tutorials as well but generally I’ve found that often the technique is described in the context of a specific pattern. Whereas the book while it contains patterns setting the techniques apart so that they are more easily transferable to your own designs. Everything from the basics to edging and trimmings are covered. I’ve referred to it daily and it’s got me out of a lot of tough spots.

It’s also worth noting that Pinterest is great at providing a great array of style ideas and also free patterns. I’ve created a Pinterest board – Sewing projects which has specific sections for different bag styles that you can follow.

You can also check out my progress in makes in my Etsy shop.

Cutting table double as photo studio…

Bag making workspace set up

I have been sewing seriously for over two years now and I am almost (but not quite there) with my workspace. I am fortunate that I have a good size room to house my industrial machine – Jack the Juki, my trusty Toyota workhorse and Beast the overlocker. But here’s the thing sewing is not just about sewing, its the cutting and the dreaded pressing that need to be accommodated as well. At first I was up and down to my cutting table and table top ironing board like a fiddler’s elbow. But after this weeks making I think i might have cracked it. I using the kitchen triangle approach – so there’s Jack on one side, table top ironing board along side and small cutting station behind for the on the go cuts with my recycled wheelie chair to scoot about on. Main and large scale cutting still takes place on the fab Ikea hack that Ian produced.

I love my Juki…

Must dos – cutting and pressing 

To my great annoyance probably two of the most important things about having a professional finish are the accuracy of fabric cutting and amount of ‘overpressing’ that you complete.

Despite coming from a family where my mum and gran would iron everything except for tights, I am possibly iron phobic. I firmly place myself in the ‘you look like a crinkly chip’ category or best case scenario I’ll iron the front and wear a cardigan. I firmly place the blame for this state of affairs on my gran. A rather formidable lady to say the least she felt one of the best ways to keep me out of mischief was to teach me to iron or smooth as they say in Northern Ireland correctly.

I don’t know what I’d done, but I’d done something…

Bear in mind I was six at this point and couldn’t reach the ironing board, so she made me stand on a stool. For the first few weeks she went easy on me and I was allowed to do the straight things – towels, tea towels and handkerchiefs. However, she soon realised the possibilities of this health and safety child labour nightmare as my grandfather wore dress shirts for his work as a chauffeur. And so began my apprenticeship in the correct procedure in ironing a shirt (my gran pressed shirts for living before she retired and believe me she was a stickler for doing it precisely.) I could probably still iron a shirt with my eyes closed but as I am now an adult (I use that term loosely) I do it my way (quickly, sloppily and wrongly) and hope that my gran is too busy bossing God around to see what I’m doing.

Right I might have digressed there – back to the point – yes there was one. Over pressing is essential for a professional finish – I’m getting in the habit (in a really grumpy way) of ironing every time I sew a seam. It makes hemming a breeze. 

As for accurate cutting I’m going to write a separate post later on that one as it is the bane of my life and I still feel like I’ve got lots more learning to do.

Useful tools

The usual suspects…

Usually a bone folder is used to crease paper edges smoothly but I use it for firmer finger pressing and poking poking out corners without poking through the seam.

The seam allowance guide is constantly used to check and recheck my seam allowance. I discovered very early on that ‘ah, that looks about right’ is not a viable strategy 🤦🏻‍♀️.

Washi tape is fab when used as a seam guide on the machine sewing plate. I use a nice bright neon one particularly if I am using a different seam allowance to my usual.

So what about you? Are you a bag maker too? Any tips to share? 😊

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