Tuesday 9 April 2013

Easter sewing (part 2) – pattern testing

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used the Easter long weekend to catch up on some sewing projects. I’ve already posted about the case I made for my iPad mini, but the other project was to finish off a bag that I was pattern testing for Jodi at Sewfearless. Her latest pattern is the Mommy’s Poppins baga carpet bag with an internal frame and is customisable for any size of frame.

Jodi’s instructions are excellent and her patterns are fully illustrated with clear photographs. Although this bag looked rather challenging, the pattern is in easy steps and everything is clearly explained. Jodi used a 14” frame for the pattern, but it seems only 12” or 16” frames are readily available in Europe and so I offered to test the pattern using a 16” frame. The pattern includes a table of measurements allowing you to use any size of frame. Rather than rely on my maths for calculating the size of each pattern piece, I created an Excel spreadsheet with formulas to do the calculations for me which made changing my mind over what sizes to use so much easier.
For the 16" frame, I made my bag 16" wide, 12" high and 8" deep (for comparison, the Amy Butler Weekender bag is 14” wide at the top, 17” wide at the base, 14.5” high, and 7.5” deep). Instead of using the combination of fusible and non-fusible interfacing that Jodi recommends, I used the quilt-as-you-technique as I wanted the bag to be quite robust.  I used quilting fabric for the outer, a canvas fabric for the foundation and a remnant of curtain interlining for the padding. After completing the quilting, I applied a heavy weight non-woven fusible interfacing to each panel, but in retrospect this may not have been necessary. I do think interfacing can be one of the stumbling blocks when it comes to converting bag patterns for European use. My local sewing shop doesn't stock the full range of Vilene interfacings and I often have to pick a generic equivalent and try to match it to the American version. My contrast fabric was an upholstery fabric and may have been a bit too heavy, especially when combined with the heavy weight interfacing, but I needed something hard-wearing for the base of the bag.

As my bag is quite large, I included some extra features on the outer pockets to make it easier to find things. I added a small swivel clip to act as a key keeper and on the inside of the pocket I stitched a length of wide elastic divided into sections to hold my phone and pens. I also customised the lining - rather than make two elasticated pockets in the lining, I inserted a zipper pocket on one side. I added two pairs of feet to the base of the bag, but on a bag this size it may have been better to have included a third pair of feet in the middle. For the straps, as I didn't have the riveting tools but wanted the look of rivets, I found some 1/4" "screw rivets" which I used instead of the double cap rivets (I think these are called "Chicago screws"). I punched the holes as instructed and then screwed the two halves together. In theory these can be unscrewed if need be, but to make them permanent then some fabric glue on the underside of the heads would sort that.  

When sewing the side panels together, I struggled to get the corner/side patch seams to line up. Rather than stitch the entire seam only to find they didn't match, I stitched about 1" either side of the corner/side patch seam and only stitched the entire panel seam once they were matching. It was much easier to unpick a couple of inches of stitching than an entire seam. Given the heavy weight of the fabric I used, I realised it would be a difficult to turn the bag through an opening in the lining and so I folded a 0.5" turning and topstitched it. I handstitched the lining to the bag using the top stitching as a guide - by stitching in every second or third top stitch, the hand stitching is almost invisible.

I am so pleased with how this bag has turned out, though I think at times my fabric choices made it difficult for me.  Stitching through all the layers when making the straps and handles was too much for my modern Husqvarna machine, but my old mechanical Pfaff machine coped admirably.  I love how the addition of the internal frame changes a simple tote bag shape into something completely different.

Jodi has done an excellent job with pattern and as it can be used for a variety of frame sizes I think it will be a very versatile pattern. Do check the pattern section of her website for her other designs (some of which are free) and to see when this pattern is released.


  1. Wow, this looks fab, well done you (and Jodi). Looks a bit beyond me tho, sigh!

  2. You did a great job.. the Bag came out lovely! Good for you taking the time to get those corners matched up. Mine didn't :)

  3. Love that you used the feet for the bottom of your bag! The chicagoo screws are a great idea! Hope you don't mind, but I think I'll be employing that method when I make mine!

  4. LOVE your version of the bag! Do you happen to still have the Excel spreadsheet handy? I would love to try my hand at the Mega Poppins :D

    1. Hi Megan
      I've tried to reply with an email, but you are a no reply blogger. Can you change your settings or leave a comment with your email address?

    2. Hi Sara! Sorry about that. I thought I had changed that setting. Should be fixed now, but here is my email in any case. hellokitten1378@gmail.com


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I’d like to be able to respond where appropriate - if you are a no-reply blogger, please leave an email address.