Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Chevron Weekender.

A couple of years ago, my mom made the notorious Amy Butler Weekender bag. She's such an amazing sewer that I thought she bought it somewhere, and I demanded to know where. When she told me she made it, I was like, I'm doing it. Now. But then she told me that it was probably the hardest thing she's ever made... and she used to sew professionally. I mean, she's made wedding dresses, and elaborate quilts, and those awesome 80's shoulder-padded sequin jackets, so I feel like she knows what she's talking about when she says it's hard. Dreams crushed. I was not a great sewer back then (not that I'm phenomenal now, but I'm certainly much better), and I just knew that there was no way I could handle a project of that magnitude. But then last fall my in-laws decided that they wanted to take us on a cruise in February to celebrate a milestone birthday, and I started thinking about things I could make to wear or take on the trip (mostly nautical dresses, if we're being honest), and my Weekender desires resurfaced.

I have a large bag that I made a couple of years ago that I usually take as my carry on when I fly, but it's shaped like a beach tote, has only one tiny zipper pocket inside, and it doesn't have a closure for the top. I always worry that I will tip it over and everything will come spilling out, or the plane will be really crowded and they will try to make me gate check it, and I don't see a bag with no closure keeping its contents inside while in the baggage hold. Certainly not an ideal situation, but I just hadn't gotten around to making something better. So really, this was the perfect opportunity to tackle this project (which is almost like a rite of passage for sewers, and I so wanted the feeling of extreme accomplishment)- get a new carry on bag, make something awesome that I'd been wanting for while, and feel great about myself. Ready, go.

Step one for me when starting a big project is to Google the heck out of it. I came across a lot of Weekenders that were done using the quilt-as-you-go method, which creates such a sturdy fabric that you don't need all the interfacing that Amy Butler patterns are known for. I was like, bingo. That's perfect. BUT, I didn't really like the patchwork look, so I just took the idea of these bags and did it my own way. I picked out my fabric- Kona in coral and Riley Blake Medium Chevron in gray. I know that both coral and chevron are kind of trendy right now, but I guess I'm either hoping that those trends stick, or I will just decide I don't care because I loves them too much. To make the panels, I layered the chevron fabric, a layer of cotton batting, and a layer of cotton duck. Then I used my walking foot (and a denim needle, so crucial) to quilt a chevron pattern to hold everything together. So it's the same idea as quilt-as-you-go, but just no patchwork. Much more my style. The Kona coral was something I already had on hand, so I didn't have enough to make the straps, handles, AND linings, but I had a yard of Too Muchery damask in a pinky coral that went, so I used that to line the pockets. The inside lining is a basic gray. I see no need for expensive prints inside of the bag. And just for fun, I used fabric glue to attach some rhinestones to one of the large pockets.

Here are my tips for this bag. I am positive that most or all of them are elsewhere on the interwebs, but I think that a little reinforcement is never a bad thing.

  • Like most people, I lengthened the straps by about 6" to make it easier to carry over my shoulder. 
  • I used fusible tape to make the piping instead of sewing it, and I am so happy I did. There is no way I would have been able to cover the stitching.
  • Just sewing the handles onto the bag at the two points she tells you to will only work if you plan to carry the bag around empty. The bag holds a lot, and there's a lot of stress on those handles. Sew from the top mark all the way down to the bottom of the bag. I also sewed big Xs between the two stitching lines- I can't remember if this was in the pattern or not, but do it. Much more secure.
  • The only Peltex I used was in the bottom of the bag, but I didn't do the three layers that she has you do in the pattern- I just did one.
  • I used binder clips to hold everything together. Aching fingers, bent pins, and anger are what you'd get if you used pins.  
  • I don't see any reason to use expensive fabric for the lining- this is a good place to cut down on the cost of your bag. I just used some solid gray from JoAnn's and it's fine. 
  • I flipped the bag inside out when I hand-sewed the lining in place. Otherwise you kind of have to get inside the bag to do it, and it's awkward. 
  • I know that a lot of people had trouble finding a 30" zipper, but I didn't. I think it was a jacket zipper, and it was right there in the zipper section at JoAnn's. 
  • Break up the sewing. I sewed for an hour or two a day until it was done. I think I would have either thrown my machine out the window or had a nervous breakdown if I'd tried to do it in larger blocks. 

But here it is! My own personal Weekender. I've already gotten a decent amount of use out of it- it holds a shocking amount of stuff. I went on a girls' night to San Francisco, and it held three outfits, two pairs of high heels, a leopard fur coat, a makeup bag, straightener, and a magnum of champagne with room to spare. Yeah. It was that kind of night. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Owls for me!

Two years ago, my sister came out to visit right around her birthday, so I waited to knit her a gift until we could pick out a pattern and yarn together. She picked the Owls sweater, and I got it nearly finished during down time while she was visiting- it was that quick. Bulky weight yarn is always quick, and it helps that she's petite. I love owls, and I knew that I wanted an owls sweater as well, but I didn't get around to it until last month.

I bought a bunch of Universal Yarns Classic Chunky in lilac because Jimmy Beans was having a really good sale. And I cannot resist a really good yarn sale. My plan was to knit a pullover in a large-scale lace pattern with the yarn, but I hated every swatch I tried. So I just stuck the yarn in my stash for awhile until it occurred to me that I could make an owls sweater with it. I try to keep one "Friday night knitting" project on the needles at all times- something with large stockinette portions, usually- and this sweater totally fit the bill. Unfortunately, I finished it just as the weather got amazing, so I haven't worn it yet. Every single year I finish knitting a sweater just before the everyday-is-72-and-sunny time of year. Seriously, I love California. This is the best time of year to live here. I just don't get to wear my sweaters, which is a price I will pay for glorious days full of barbecues, flowers, and outside lunches.

I put the sweater on so we could take pictures, and in the literally 5 minutes I had it on, I thought I was going to get heat exhaustion. Oh, poor me, right?