11 March, 2012

How To Sew A Better Purse

When do you ditch the purse pattern as a fugli piece of. . .?

Sewing purses is gonna give you lessons on weird interfacings, zipper construction, boxed corners or not, and needle breakage.

I have a friend, Pencil Girl, who has a quilt shop near her home where the owner loooovvves bags. Kathy offers purse classes - kind of an all-day-sewathon - for $15!

Once in a blue moon when my schedule permits and Pencil Girl can get away from the farm, we go sewing. Two years ago, we made this bag. I am not going to disclose the pattern name (to protect something) here, but we nearly made wadders trying to cram too much fabric under our presser feet.
I think Pencil Girl finished hers finally - I finished mine today. We are meeting Wednesday to celebrate Pencil Girl's birthday at Moonstruck Chocolates in Beaverton.
Finishing my bag is my present to her.

Here are some thoughts you can use (free-of -charge) when next you feel inspired to sew your own purse.

1. Get a pattern. Look for a pattern that gets brand specific on interfacing and batting.

2. I have problems with fusible batting and interfacings. The drape of the material gets compromised by fusibles. It looks fine while you are sewing but I noticed (2 yrs later) that the inside of this bag is texturally 'off' where the fusible bond failed or shrunk or ???   As I sew more purses, I am using more sew-in facings.

3. With that said, starting out, fusible interfacings and battings will keep layers from shifting and make it easier for your machine to sew through the layers.

4. Hand-basting might become your best friend - to keep those layers from shifting.

5. I have yet to see a bag pattern that talks about trimming down your interfacings and battings where you are stitching. Where Pencil Girl and I got stuck on this bag? Not just because we ran out of class time but we could not get the flipping handle and the bag under the presser foot. And if you manage to get all that material under the foot --- skipped stitches are your nemesis.

6. Where handle attaches to bag -- try to envision the end sewing. Try measuring and leaving out the interfacing and batting at the sew lines. This is what I did with this bag   ---after unpicking my previous crap stitching. This bag incorporates a tab with a 'D' ring attaching the handle to the bag.
The directions told me to use fusible batting along the length of the handle - which was a long rectangular piece of fabric.   After fusing, you chop off two pieces each measuring 7" for the tabs. Then you fold and sew it up with all that batting inside. That's where Pencil Girl and I might have been asked to leave the county for swearing too loudly. It would have been better to stop the batting 7" from each end of the handle and leave it out altogether from the tab sections. Two years later - that's what happened. I still needed to hand-sew a couple of seams because of the thickness of all the layers.

7. Do not use black lining material unless you want a black hole in your purse. Plus a black zipper which became invisible. I at least top-stitched my inside pockets in a contrasting thread color. Two years later, I added a small swatch of the outside fabric to the center pocket to give a visual clue that pockets exist in this bag.

8. Re: zippers.  Some of these have tiny minute holes in the zipper pulls. The larger the hole, the easier it is to thread a ribbon through to create a zipper pull. Since my lining and zipper were both black, I added a red ribbon pull. If you have a chance for a choice, pick the zipper with the largest hole in it's pull tab.  The smaller the hole  inversely relates to the amount of swearing trying to force anything through that hole. I know I will remember this next time. uh huh.

The other option? From the jewelry friends, borrow some jump rings ( which are called that because they 'jump' away) and make a earring kind of thing with beads to act as a zipper pull.

9. I like a bag to stand up. I am not a big fan of slouch bags. Even though, some of the battings and decor bond recommended in this pattern were overkill. But you won't know until you try them.
A lot of these battings and interfacings are somewhat new to the sewing market so we are all learning what to use when we need more stability. Sometimes nothing is okay, sometimes a layer of flannel will work fine without compromising the drape of the fabric and sometimes you need serious decor bonding. I tend to use more medium-weight (home decor) fabrics. Some of these patterns are designed for use with quilting cottons. (which made this my problem because of my poor choice of fabrics!)

10.  I know when I use WonderUnder to bond fabric to fabric, my sewing machine is fine with it. If I use the Heat'nBond (garage sale find), my needles gum up and my machine (if it had feelings) HATES me. These products are essentially the same thing but they act differently for me. Same with different brands of  interfacings - they may look the same . . .When in doubt, look for someone who sews who is employed where you are shopping and ask.

11. Use your heaviest needles, back up (reverse) cautiously, and be prepared to change out needles. Use the manual wheel to move forward or backwards if you need to be extra cautious.
The presser foot lever on my machines can be lifted higher if I manually lift the lever.
A jean-a-ma-jig can be used when starting a seam to keep your presser foot level. If you don't have one, improvise. Your machine will do less skipped stitches if the foot is level.

12. Don't be afraid to make design changes. Originally the tabs on my purse were the same color as the handle (instructions). Two years later, and after I unpicked the stitches to rip out the batting, I had a lightbulb moment and made the tabs out of the pendleton fabric. Sometimes it takes two years for lightbulbs to go off.  on.

13. Editing. The bag calls for a flower brooch for the outside embellishment. I made it, but I can't stand it. It appears that any embellishment will compete with the Pendleton fabric.  Ideas?    I haven't seen a button that will work. All of my metal buckles and belt stash items aren't working. I'm gonna let Pencil Girl make the decision.

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