Monthly Archives: September 2022

Morgan Messenger Bag #1 – trial and error!

Further along the way of my bag-making journey I am booked into a Bag Making Retreat in early October. In advance of the retreat we were sent a copy of the bag pattern that is planned. After perusal of the pattern I felt it would be a good idea to make a ‘trial’ version.

According to the pattern envelope the Morgan is the perfect gender- neutral, device carrying companion with secure top zip closure & flap in 2 sizes. The small size fits a tablet up to the size of 12.1” (30.7cm) screen inside the padded interior pocket, whilst the large size will accommodate a laptop up to the size of 15.4” (39cms) screen. With zipped pocket, cargo pocket and hidden under-flap pocket, you’ll be sure to have plenty of space.

So, from this description I realised that the bag would be quite an involved and complicated sew. As I knew that I had no need of the large sized bag, I planned to make the smaller version. I had just over a 1 metre remnant of cotton fabric from cutting out a ‘Harley’ dress and decided to use this to make an ‘in your face’ BOLD bag!

BOLD cotton print fabric

Construction notes: Although the instructions are very comprehensive, I did manage to make some minor errors in the construction. As envisaged, the bag is a complicated make. I usually budget 4 hours to make a blouse or shirt, 6-8 hours for a dress, but this bag took 10 hours of intense work!

I have a large stash of nickel hardware so was able to use that, together with ‘headliner’ foam instead of the recommended Bosal ®. I made an error in applying the foam to the front flap BEFORE inserting the zip for the hidden pocket and that made the zip facing and insertion a little difficult. The tab at the end of the inserted zip is not my best work and I added an elasticated key keeper.

Morgan Messenger Bag – internal pockets

I left the bottom of the internal zip pocket unstitched and it was fairly easy to turn the bag through to the right side before stitching the opening closed again. The top stitching around the top of the bag was completed using a size 100 top-stitching needle which worked well – something to remember next time.

Morgan Messenger Bag – small version

Conclusion: This could be a very useful bag for someone needing to carry a lot of ‘kit’ around. As I do not have a need for this type of bag, although I will be making again at the retreat probably using fabric from my stash, it is not something that I will keep.

Project #43 completed 23rd September 2022

Sofia dress #2

After the disaster of the Annette handbag, to restore my confidence I decided to make version 2 of the Sofia Dress by Victory patterns.

Sofia Dress by Victory Patterns

I have had this bold printed cotton lawn in my stash since December 2021 and as I have previously made the Sofia thought it would be suitable as a (relatively) quick make. Well I was wrong!

Riviera Walk Marlie Cotton Lawn by Lady McElroy

As I had a generous 3 metres of the wide fabric I cut out elbow- length sleeves plus an almost maxi-length skirt. First thing to do was a test swatch of shirring. This worked out well so on with the construction.

Test swatch of shirring

I like to get the sleeves constructed first, followed by attaching concealed side seam pockets to the skirt panels. As the overlocker was still threaded up with White thread, I finished all the construction with French seams. The first thing to do with the sleeves was the shirring at the cuff. I started with the first row 2 ½ inches from the raw edge and managed to get just one row completed before the sewing machine decided not to play! Several broken threads and ‘bird’s nests’ of shirring elastic and top thread meant that it took a long time to shirr a band of 4 rows for each sleeve. After that experience I was not looking forward to shirring the bodice front and back, but continued with the construction of the sleeves. The underarm seam is Frenched and a narrow hem top stitched in place.

Now I was ready to shirr the front and back bodice. I had exactly the same problems as on the sleeves. I applied plenty of seam to the first bodice piece and finally managed to shrink down to approximately 20 inches in width. Before shirring the second bodice piece I took the time to change the elastic, this time using a brand new spool from a multi-pack recently purchased from eBay. I also changed the top thread spool. I decided to ignore the usual advice and rather than hand wind the bobbins, I used the bobbin winder on the machine but ran the thread through only one of the tension hooks. For this second bodice piece I stitched the rows of shirring ½ inch (1 cm) apart (the previous piece has shirring circa ¼ inch apart). The shirring worked beautifully! After steaming the second bodice piece, I stitched the sides with French seams.

First fitting of shirred bodice

Next step was to add the shoulder pieces. Before I attached them to the dress I made little straps with KAM snaps ® to keep my bra straps in place and ensure that the shoulders of the dress stayed put. These are a much better solution to the safety pins that I have been using on Sofia #1.

Lingerie strap keepers

Again French seams were used to insert the sleeves which gives a much neater finish to the insides of the garment.

Now to attach the prepared skirt. As I had made the skirt panels to match the bottom edge of the bodice pieces this was relatively straightforward to do with French seams. Next was to attach a length of ¼ inch elastic to the seam allowances and turn up the hem of the skirt. This was completed about 7am as I woke early! The elastic insertion was steamed and dress given a final press, Voila! Sofia #2 is complete.

Sofia dress #2 in Riviera Walk cotton lawn

Conclusion: I love this dress and it has turned out much ‘smarter’ than I expected. I will keep in reserve as a ‘Party’ dress especially as I plan to attend the Sprat & Winkle Quilters Christmas Dinner in December. The only change that I will make for the next version will be to lengthen the front and back bodice pieces so that the shirring finishes closer to my natural waistline rather than as the ‘Empire’ line of the pattern.

Project #42 completed 16th September 2022

Annette handbag #1

By way of easing myself back into the process of bag making, I decided to ‘have a go’ at the Annette bag. I have had the pattern for a very long time but simply never got around to it.

Screenshot of the Annette bag by Swoon Sewing Patterns

According to the Swoon website the Annette bag is perfect for all occasions. The tote is stylish and practical with a sleek and classic look. The bag features handles, a removable shoulder strap, two exterior pockets and optional decorative feature. The bag can be made in fabric or vinyl/faux leather. Bag dimensions are listed as width: 13″ (33 cm), height: 9″ (22.9 cm), depth: 5″ (12.5 cm).

This bag pattern was the project undertaken at Kittenish Behaviour’s most recent Sewing Retreat but unfortunately I was unable to attend. However, Sian has released a vlog demonstrating how to add an internal zip closure to the bag rather than a zip at the top of the bag and this was the prompt for me to try the pattern.

As this was going to be a ‘trial run’ of the bag, I chose fabric from my vast stash of ‘landfill’ furnishing fabrics. I had a small piece of print featuring birds in autumnal shades plus some geometric print in a coordinating colour. I decided to use nickel hardware as there seemed to be plenty of that in my bag-making stash.

Construction notes: I used fusible interfacing to stabilise the furnishing weight linen and ‘headliner’ stabiliser. ‘Headliner’ is a foam stabiliser (an alternative to Bosal ®) that is used in the car manufacturing industry to line the insides of cars e.g. roof and door panels. As it is not fusible I machine basted within the seam allowance to the interfaced pieces of the bag. Inside the bag I added a zip pocket, a divided slip pocket that is specially sized for my ancient mobile phone and an extending key keeper. I added 6 bag feet and my own ‘Carousel Cottage Crafts’ label.

Internal pockets
Extending Key Keeper

Conclusion: Unfortunately constructing this bag was not a particularly pleasant experience especially as I made so many basic errors during the process it has rather coloured my view. I don’t think that I will use it very much, if at all.

Small Bird Panel

It all started to go wrong when I realised that I had cut the outer of the side pockets in the wrong print and by the time I realised the error, there was insufficient of that print fabric remaining. When attaching the D rings for the handles I did not notice that I was blocking out the head of the large bird print on the panel.

Large Bird Panel

I was impatient to get the internal zip fitted and did not take the time to check online for instructions. I now know better! I took on board Sian’s suggestion to leave part of the side panel lining unstitched so that I could turn the bag right side out through that larger opening. It was still a wrestling match. Had I taken the time to layer and clip the seam allowances the top edge of the bag would be neater as would the top stitching. Although I was aware of the dimensions of the finished bag, to be honest it is larger than I like. I cannot envisage that I will ever use the external pockets as I don’t consider them to be secure enough, except perhaps for a water bottle. I have a strong suspicion that my next bag will be the Carpet Bag by Mrs H. I have previously made at least 3 versions of that bag and it is definitely my favourite!

Project #41 completed 7th September 2022

‘Flora’ a Peter Pan collared blouse

In the search for a neat collared bodice, this time I have hacked together the Violet blouse from Seamwork with my Hyacinth bodice and the sleeves from Sophia by Victory patterns. The Violet blouse is the nearest pattern to what I wanted. The button-front blouse has a gentle, loose fit that’s reminiscent of the 1960s, and looks equally adorable tucked in or worn loose. Violet can be made with short or mid-length sleeves, is shaped with bust darts and has a back yoke with centre gathering. Based on the origins of my design I have called her ‘Flora’.

Violet Blouse by Seamwork
Flora line drawing, fabric and button swatch

For this ‘wearable muslin’ I used 2 metres x 110cms wide fabric cotton abstract floral print – total cost £12.00 bought in the sale from New Threads Quilt Shop at Weyhill Fairground. I noticed that the fabric had a one-way design so was careful when cutting out to maintain the correct orientation of the pattern pieces.

Construction: Darts and shoulder seams were stitched.

The collar: Once again, to highlight the collar, I added some Dark Red satin pre-made piping from my stash. The collar was machine basted to the neckline of the blouse. It looked good so continued with making up the blouse. The facings were added and seam allowances trimmed and under-stitched where necessary.

Piped collar

Bodice: The side seams were pinned so that I could check the fit. Hmmm, not too sure about this as it is looking very boxy and too long.

Sleeves: I used the short sleeve from the Sofia dress by Victory patterns but due to shortage and width of the fabric had to reduce the width at the hem. This still made the hem about 20 inches wide so enough for shirring and a little frill, plus lots of ‘puff’ at the sleeve head. They have turned out very well.

Closure: Originally I thought that I would use Red polka dot buttons that I thought would coordinate well with the colours and print design. However after a night’s sleep decided that they were ‘too busy’ and chose a different set that I received as a gift from Rainbow Fabrics. The hem of the blouse was overlocked before turning up twice and top stitching in place.

Much more subtle buttons

Conclusion: I am disappointed with the end result. I give it only 5 out of 10. It certainly has the look of the 70’s which is not what I was after! I need to refine the fit of the blouse, adjust the length and maybe another time use a less structured fabric such as a viscose. It may well be that this version finds itself being listed for sale on eBay!

The ‘Flora’ blouse in quilting-weight cotton

Project #40 completed 31st August 2022.