Sandhill Sling

My heavy-hitting Making backpack is sadly wearing out (heavy-hitting in terms of how often I use it, but the fabric is actually shredding, wah). But that gives me a good excuse to sew a new bag!

This is another Noodlehead pattern, the Sandhill Sling.

I bought the paper pattern. In this case that means a nice little plastic bag containing an instruction booklet, a rounded-corner template, and a cutting list, but it was the same price as the PDF so might as well! As a bag amateur, I also appreciate a physical booklet (easier to follow).

I kind of like the feeling of being busted back down to beginner. I also picked a new-to-me fabric, dry oilskin from Merchant & Mills. It is fine. Sorry, pronounce that “fyne”. This bright navy color isn’t particularly eye-catching but it was mostly a dream to sew. I was originally very careful with it – skipping a pre-wash, storing it on an old gift paper tube instead of folding it – but it’s a sturdy fabric meant for heavy use and I quickly got over my preciousness.

Tolkien reportedly thought the most beautiful words in the English language were “cellar door”, but I guess no one ever told him “you can skip the interfacing”. The pattern didn’t explicitly say so, but the oilskin was so stiff already and I thought interfacing would make the bag layers unmanageably thick. Plus I had no way to attach it. You’re not supposed to apply heat to oilskin (just handling the fabric with my body heat gave my hands a non-unpleasant waxy feeling), and in fact the only time I used an iron during this whole project was turning back and pressing the edges of the lining where it’s attached to the zipper.

Finger-pressing dry oilskin is amazing. It creases like thick paper and then it just stays put. If you need it to be flat again, you just smooth it, and then it’s flat. It doesn’t shift, it barely frays, and it doesn’t grow at all. At one point about 2/3rds into the project you’re supposed to true up your main panels and mine were exactly the same size as when I started.

The only downside of dry oilskin is that it doesn’t really heal. Solution: just go ahead and get it right the first time. Iiii did not.

All of its friendly qualities became frenemies when it was time to attach the gusset.

I sewed the lining first to get comfortable attaching the gusset loop to the rounded corners, and in quilting cotton it was a relative breeze. It conformed to the curves and I invisibly eased the straight edges a little when necessary. Lemon-squeezy.

Attempting that same step in a thick, rigidly stable fabric that shows every stitching hole? NOT SQUEEZY AT ALL.

I got everything attached but not well. I misaligned the main panels, placed the cross-body strap off-center, sewed the top edge of the front panel less-than-parallel to its zip, and gathered one straight edge on a few inches of the gusset. I finished the bag (including hand-sewing the lining to the zip), but it was bad. I felt bad when I looked at it. I started making plans to give it away but I didn’t want to punish anybody by giving them a bag that was madly askew. Here’s a couple un-glamour shots:

 I fretted about it for 48 hours then decided it was time for this mésalliance to end in divorce and ripped the outer layers apart.  

Side note: I had more than enough fabric to recut pieces as necessary, which made this decision easier. The pattern called for 5/8 yards, I bought ¾ yards, and even though I cut the strap out of self-fabric I probably would have been fine with ½ yard total. That said, I didn’t have to recut anything. I re-measured the gusset loop and the seamline of the main panels (easy to do when the needle holes are just hanging out) and discovered my gusset was 1” longer than my seamline. I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I sewed out the excess, and it’s a billion times better now. A billion. I ran the numbers.   

Also, once I was in there anyway I figured I might as well make another change. Using the leftover foam from my Making backpack, I cut two Sandhill Sling main panels sans seam allowance, and now they’re floating around between the outer and the lining. I couldn’t work out a way to attach them (probably should have left them some SA after all), but they seem to be staying put! I didn’t have enough foam to construct a whole third inner layer, but I’m not sure that would have been the right move anyway; the Making backpack just has it on the big panels.

My second-sew-around didn’t affect the lining, or I might have added an internal hook for keys. If/when I make a second, I’ll probably use foam again, plus add a key hook, and maybe some webbing carry handles a-la-Raspberry Rucksack, too. Kind of a greatest hits tour of all the bag patterns I’ve sewn so far.

I love hardware but I hate buying it. Mine is all from Wawak and I’m happy with the quality and even happier I could buy it all in one place, with the exception of the webbing; I chose to sew the self-fabric strap 100% so I wouldn’t have to order from two places.

Also at the last moment I changed my zipper color from “Navy” to “Pennant Blue” and I have zero regrets! I ran the numbers on that, too.

Last time I sewed a Noodlehead pattern I bought the hardware kit from there, but the Sandhill Sling kit is divided into two lots. Zippers and hardware are separate and neither includes webbing, and in the operatic words of the sex pest from the musical I cannot stop listening to, “I don’t know about THAT, Pierre!”.

Happily I do like my finished bag, part 2: Bag Harder. It’s nicely hands-free but I can swing it to the front if I want to get something out of it. Due to my manhandling, it already looks pleasantly rumpled and broken-in, much like Scott Bakula. I’d like to make another one for Professor Boyfriend. Maybe that time I’ll measure *before* punching a ton of permanent holes in it. Learning Is Fun!!

Pattern: Sandhill Sling, view A

Pattern cost: $9.00

Size: NA

Supplies: 3/4 yard M&M Dry Oilskin in Navy, 3/4 yard Resilient Creatures quilting cotton, Gather Here, $36.58; hardware  (Antique Brass, Pennant Blue), Wawak, $12.73

Total time: 5.25 hours

Total cost: $48.31

Raspberry Rucksack

Oh hellooo! This may become an annual tradition – it’s the second April running that I’ve posted a backpack. The difference between my Making backpack and this is that this is a furbelow, a frill, a bibelot, and a trifle. Maybe even a bagatelle. I love it.

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It’s my Raspberry rucksack, in the size “little”. Arguably, “li’l”. It’s SO li’l! I’m inexperienced at sewing bags, making it an act of blind faith until each step is complete and I actually understand why I’ve done what I’ve done. So I was initially surprised at the size, even though I made paper pattern pieces (the pattern gives measurements). While planning, I thought the Little Raspberry would be a cute accessory that could carry exactly 1 bag of granulated sugar; after sewing I thought I accidentally made a child’s backpack; now, post photos, I’m back to cute accessory.

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It was quite a journey (especially compared to the signal lack of journeys it’s actually been on – we’re staying home, pal).

Okay, where to start? Maybe with the pop-up pocket. It’s so tiny.

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It’s useless. Again, adorable. But it’s so much work to go fishing for the zipper that I probably won’t bother. My furbelow has a furbelow!

The sew along with photos was a MUST. I used it faithfully, except I ended up unpicking one line of topstitching, the one that delineates the zipper-covering flap from the “roof” of the pop-up pocket. I thought it was too wobbly and an eyesore, but that’s probably why my pocket is more floppy, less boxy. I am glad I sewed the pop-up pocket either way. It was a fresh and exciting process, and I kept trying one more step just to see what would happen!

Next, the main zipper. I didn’t understand how this would relate to the backpack front at all. (I promise I read the whole booklet several times before starting – it just wouldn’t attach to my brain!) Now I wish I had done a better job sewing my curved corners, and probably made the curve larger and gentler as well. These are traced-a-thread-spool curves, I would even go up to roll-of-tape curves.

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There was NO WAY I was ready to attempt Sew North’s clean finish hacks, but now I’m super interested! I don’t actually mind the zipper tape edge (or the bias bound finish), but I like trying new things. And conversely, I like repeating patterns. So I could do both.

May I brag on myself for a moment? Thank you. The result is concealed under the main zipper flap, but I actually shortened my bag zipper the right way, by moving the little metal stop thingie with a pair of pliers. It is so tidy. I like it very much.

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The inner and outer fabrics are Ruby Star canvas. They’re nice and strong and cooperative and fine to unpick, which I for SURE took advantage of. I topstitched the main zipper several times, since I kept stitching tucks into the tape.

I changed thread color all over the place with this project – three different spools (outer color, lining color, strap color) and bobbins. Since I didn’t need a ton of any one color, I cleaned out a lot of odds and ends. I was beaming with gratitude that I had the right leftovers in my stash, since my only thread source right now is the hardware store and they have about 6 colors. I feel like one lucky ducky!

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Finally, the straps and hardware. These were a pain! I found the zippers locally at Gather Here, but I couldn’t turn up 1” wide strapping in any colors that worked with my fabric. I had 1” wide natural-colored cotton strapping in my stash, though, so I figured why not try to dye it myself!

I decided on yellow onion skins because I was open to a wide range of yellows, and because it was

  1. Free.
  2. Non-fugitive (unlike my other contender, turmeric, which fades over time.)
  3. Food safe, so I could use my existing pots and pans, which kept it
  4. Free.

It went fine! I made an absolute dye BONANZA, pints of it, but I only soaked my strapping for about an hour, then I dumped the rest down the sink (like a dodo, because there were dishes in there). I used this and this tutorial, neither of which mentions that while the dye is simmering, your kitchen will smell like warm B.O.

This yellow isn’t perfect, except that it was a perfect match for my thread, so I guess it was perfect after all. Phwew!

A curious thing about my strapping: I dyed WAY TOO LITTLE of it! The pattern calls for 100” for the arm straps, 18” each for the handles, and 3” each for the connectors. I dyed 100” TOTAL. I didn’t have enough for the fancy crossover situation, obviously, so I sewed my arm straps the way the Making backpack pattern calls for. They’re juuust long enough, but it definitely contributes to the child’s-backpack flavor.

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I had a heck of a time finding 1” sliders, which I eventually got on Etsy. I used sliders instead of rectangle rings for the connectors to save a purchase. Intensely Distracted linked to her webbing and hardware sources, also on Etsy, and I wish I had seen it sooner since she found two US-based shops! If like me, you’re struggling to find 1” webbing and hardware, 1.25” or 1.5” actually seem like they would be fine, too. I’ll report back if I try it!

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I learned so much sewing this, I want to turn right around and do it again. Sourcing fabric is an issue right now, so I need to wait – and obviously I don’t need another backpack instantly – but I really want to apply what I learned! And it might make a good gift! And, okay, I don’t normally end with a geyser of photos, but it’s so cute!

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It’s just so cute!!

Pattern: Sarah Kirsten Raspberry rucksack

Pattern cost: $10.50

Size: little

Supplies: 3/4 yards of Ruby Star Society canvas in Brushwork, Teal; 3/4 yards of Ruby Star Society canvas in Circles and Lines, Amethyst, Gather Here, $21.00; 30″ double-sided zipper, 10″ all-purpose zipper; Gather Here, $8.15; 4 1″ sliders, LIKEBAGS (etsy), $6.63; thread, strapping from stash

Total time: 8.25 hours

Total cost: $46.28

Making Making Backpack

What did I make? A backpack! What did it cost? A fortune! What’s inside of it? A throw blanket!

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Okay, it’s not really an expensive trifle for transporting fuzzy throws. It’s just stuffed so it will stand up for these photos. So far I’ve used this backpack for an overnight trip, a picnic, and a Trader Joe’s snack run (R.I.P. dark chocolate peanut butter cups, gone too soon. I’ll buy more), and it’s been a trooper!

This is the Noodlehead Making Backpack, a PDF pattern I bought last November. This is the only bag I’ve sewn in the last several years, and the first backpack ever. I finally sewed it because of the release of the Raspberry Rucksack pattern, which I purchased pretty much instantaneously! One backpack pattern marinating in the stash is one thing, but two? That’s one too many, pal. For…some reason. Who knows, but it got me started.

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The single best purchase I made for this project was the official hardware and zipper kit. I’m sure there’s a cheaper way to assemble those supplies, but I couldn’t find them locally, and I hate, hate, hate shipping things if I can otherwise avoid it. Buying in one place cut down on 1) shipping costs 2) environmental costs (less packaging, less fuel) and 3) stress. For a backpack first-timer, there was nothing like the peace of mind of needing a certain ring or strap width, puttering over to my manila envelope, and fishing it out, no further questions.

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My ultimately least successful notions purchase was Otter Wax! This isn’t a poor review of the product, just good ol’ fashioned user error. I thought I could wax the leftover linen/cotton from my Flint shorts and get a piece of fabric as thick and heavy and waterproof as storebought waxed canvas. You might see the flaw in my plan – part of the operative phrase there is ‘canvas’. One small bar of wax was more than enough for 1 yard of fabric, but even coated as thoroughly as I could, my fabric was still essentially lightweight. And as far as I can tell, you can’t interface waxed fabric!

I dithered for a bit – I couldn’t find information about deliberately removing Otter Wax from fabric. Plus, the fallacy of sunk costs got me for a minute. But in a reckless moment, I threw the fabric in a hot wash followed by a hot dryer. The result? Fabric I could interface (though the bond was unenthusiastic), with no water resistance but a pretty lovely waxy aroma. That’s not sarcasm! I love the smell of wax.

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I had a packet of Merchant and Mills bag rivets sitting around, and I tried them for the first time on the front pocket here.  I wasn’t madly impressed. They didn’t seem very sturdy on their way in, and one is already scratched, just a few uses into the life of the backpack.

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I’m very happy with the quality of the Noodlehead notions, though!

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This project was all about the notions, too! I bought foam! I’ve never bought foam! It’s cheap and makes a huge difference to the final shape, I’m glad I didn’t skip it, even though I had some spending fatigue at that stage of the game. The only new fabric I bought was 1 yard of cotton for the lining. I love the colors of this design and I’m hopeful it won’t show wear and tear too obviously.

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1 yard was exactly right for all the lining pieces, with a big enough piece remaining to make enough 2” wide bias tape to bind all the raw seams. I initially tried running the seam allowances through my serger, to compress them and for extra security, and broke my very first serger needle. A lotta firsts with this project. In the end, I hand-sewed all the binding, and eventually figured out how to miter the corners (not right away, but inside a backpack is a good place to learn!). One pulpy finger, a bit of experimentation, and many hours later, and my backpack was done!

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I can see why people get a bag bug! I’m eyeing the Range Backpack next…and as soon as I buy that pattern I guess I’ll sew the Raspberry Rucksack. Time to emerge from my cocoon of rarely sewing bags to become the kind of butterfly who owns too many backpacks!

 

Pattern: Noodlehead Making Backpack

Pattern cost: $9.00

Size: NA

Supplies: scraps from Flint shorts; 1 yard of Rifle Paper cotton, Gather Here, $12.00; hardware kit, Noodlehead shop, $21.50; Otter Wax, foam, interfacing, Gather Here, $23.55

Total time: 11.5 hours

Total cost: $66.05