(Not a) Field Bag

A series of not-quite-flops but certainly-not-triumphs have left my soul damp and robbed my hair of its vigor. I’m pivoting briefly to sewing gifts for others while I rebuild my powers!

This first is a knitting bag for my sister, who is unaware of this blog and hates surprises anyway. I was leaning towards the Noodlehead Crescent Tote pattern but feeling a bit blah about sourcing the notions when I remembered the Grainline Field bag. My vague sense of this bag: trendy, but something off about it. The off thing, I rediscovered, is the price. The PDF is $16 dingitty dang dollars! I spent a few minutes skipping around the video sewalong at 2.5x speed to discover what justified this price point and was aghast to realize it’s as simple as it looks. The whole pattern is three rectangles. And two of those are the same width!

That said: the technique of folding in the boxed corners at the base is lovely, and the sewalong is excellent. And I like how slim the notions list is. But whether I’m with a fox, or in a box, I will not spend an amount of money that nets you 32 pounds of sweet potatoes at Haymarket for the privilege of sewing a dead simple tote, so I just sort of went ahead and made one. Well, two. But first, one!

Mine is not an accurate, proper Field bag, obviously. I used the dry oilskin scraps leftover from my Sandhill sling and based the dimensions on that available fabric. This version was meant as proof-of-concept, so I only used stuff I could find around my house fo’ free. It’s got two grommets instead of the Field bag’s three; I harvested the leftover grommet from an old Kelly anorak kit, plus the extra grommet from an otherwise-unused Kelly anorak kit (it’s a good kit). The drawstrings are just grosgrain ribbon from my drawer of gift wrap supplies. I’ve got some odd lengths of natural cotton webbing kicking around; this one was 11” long. The finished base of this bag is about 5” x 8.5” inches.

Overall it works! A boxed-corner tote is a boxed-corner tote, etc. My least favorite part is that the stitching to attach the internal pocket is visible on the outside, and my bobbin stitching is almost never as pretty as my topstitching. Especially on this oilskin, where the bobbin stitches almost ‘float’ on top of the fabric and seem to scar the surface. I decided to choose something toothier for the final version in hopes that the stitching would sink in more.

To jump ahead, I *still* don’t like the look of it, even on this nice textured cotton/linen canvas. If I was doing this again I would cut an underlining layer, attach the pocket just to that, and then afterwards treat the underlining/outer bag as one. It’s too late now…unless I start over, which is tempting. On the one hand, it’s a gift and I want it to be nice. On the other hand, it’s a gift destined for Germany, so pretty soon I won’t have to look at it anymore. In the meantime I’m just quietly disliking it.

This final version is a slightly different size than the oilskin one, by the way, because this time I based the dimensions on ½ yard of 45” fabric. I was given a generous cut (19”, <3), but the base is a little wider than the first time (skinnier pocket = wider base + shorter sides), 5.5” x 8.5”.

This one has the three grommets, though I’m not at all clear what they’re for! Buying the grommets was an unexpected pain. Neither Gather Here nor Michael’s carries 6 mm grommets, which is the size I have the tool for. Gold Star Tool will sell me 100 6 mm grommets for about $11 including shipping, which I could then share, but without the tool, so the next user would have to have a 6 mm tool of their own. Wawak will sell me 25 grommets for about $9.00 including shipping, with the tool, which is a strictly worse deal but easier to share because I could give away the extra tool too. I could also buy a similar but different size of grommet and its corresponding tool locally, but then I’d be spending money and ending up with two tools, and I don’t want two tools! I already have one tool!

It’s a cursed economist’s word puzzle: if Lia can buy 100 grommets at 11¢ apiece, and 25 grommets at 36¢ apiece, why can’t she just have 3 grommets? Why?!! Just gimme! I eventually got 25 grommets for around $7.00 from this US-based etsy shop, feeling like Alice through the Looking Glass with her two hard-boiled eggs. They’re fine.

I used wide piping cord for the drawstrings, but I hadn’t anticipated how much it would fray. Luckily my on-the-fly fix seems to be holding – I had a handful of zipper stops purchased in haste and never used, and I clipped them onto the ends of each cord. While they don’t wrap around the whole cord, they seem to be pinching it together just fine.

I also made a little tag from the selvedge, just for fun. This Ruby Star canvas has a really wide selvedge on one side, but the pattern bleeds to the edge on the other, so it evens out.

The last minor change I made was to fold and sew the edge of the handles – I’m not really sure what that one dinky handle is for, but I thought this treatment gave it a little more polish. I went back and did the same thing to my practice bag, but upside-down, oops! Whoever gets this version from the Buy Nothing (if anyone wants it) can change it with my blessing.

And there we have it! Hopefully my sister will find this useful, but if not she can pass it on. I believe in the ‘it’s yours now’ school of giving – once a gift is given, the gift-ee can do whatever they want with it. Boil it, mash it, stick it in a stew.

Anything they like. No matter what, I’ll enjoy how few scraps remain!

Pattern: almost but not entirely unlike the Grainline Field bag

Pattern cost: NA

Size: finished base 5” x 8.5”/5.5” x 8.5”

Supplies: scraps of M&M dry oilskin in Navy, thread, hardware, webbing, string from stash; zipper stops, Gather Here, $1.00/1/2 yard of Noodles Dove on Canvas, Gather Here, $7.50; 2 yards of 1/8″ cotton piping cord, zipper stops, Gather Here; eyelets, etsy (WeiFashionDesign), $9.07

Total time: 1.75 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $1.00/$16.57

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

Thfreepeats

Not just repeats, but freepeats. Three free repeats. Thfreepeats!!! That is, uh, a misty word to try and say aloud.

Hey, guess what? My blog is one year old today. 🙂 Speaking of threes, is this a good time to mention I have a posting schedule? 3x a month, on days ending in 6. I didn’t want to announce it anywhere until I was sure I could sustain it*! Anyway, in the 35 posts that I’ve shared so far, some pattern repeats have already appeared – and here’s two more.

*’I’ is a strong word for an endeavor in which every photo not of my boyfriend is by my boyfriend. ‘We’, this is a ‘we’ project.

First is the Stellan tee, a free pattern from French Navy. The first time I sewed this in a slinky-ish rayon knit, but these new two are in a sturdy organic cotton knit that the Stoff & Stil website strongly implied was for  babies, but don’t I deserve nice things as much as a baby?! I’m not sure they ship to America, but my German-citizen-sister does. Thanks sis. ❤ My particular fabrics are out of stock, but their printed jersey selection is darn cool and the quality is super…BEEFY. Seriously, is there a funnier fabric word than beefy?  

First up, beefy tigers. The tigers are toddler-approved. Since this is printed jersey, the wrong side shows on the cuffs, but I quite like the contrast. I always wear the sleeves rolled, but this is how the shirt looks uncuffed/untucked.

Secondly, beefy bananas! This is a talk-to-me shirt. Strangers tend to talk to me anyway (they do not find me intimidating for some reason?), but a banana shirt causes an epidemic of chit-chat – all friendly! I sewed these two tees back-to-back and made the same changes to both. I lengthened the neckband about 4”, sewing it in flat after one shoulder seam was sewn, and then trimming the excess. Also, um – I followed the directions. Just for the hem! Last time I could not get it to turn neatly. This time I actually sewed the foldline as instructed, and surprise…it folded! I continue to skip the neckline binding, though. I yam what I yam.

Professor Boyfriend says I can’t wear the banana shirt with these pants because “One is French vanilla and the other is vanilla bean!” but what does he know?

This cotton jersey presses well, stays cuffed, has good recovery and is easy to sew. However, those same properties mean that the neckbands could use an ironing now and then. WELL, THEY WON’T GET IT. I’m not going to iron a tee-shirt. Nevaaaarrrr!  

But look at my happy banana accident! It continues across the wrinkly neckband! Complete coincidence, the banana gods must be smiling.

For the tiger tee, I sewed the side seams and then the hems; for the banana tee, I sewed the hems and then the side seams. I think I slightly prefer the banana treatment for ease of sewing.

From here on out, please ignore my straps – since these photos were taken in a public area I needed a layer beneath the tees so I could change in the middle, and since I was getting weird show-through from the double layer of hems, I decided to photograph the pants with just my slightly ratty RTW cami.

So let’s talk about pants, bay-bee! These are the Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants, and I love them, as I loved them the first time I made them. I still haven’t solved my main fit issue though, i.e., the front pockets. I’m pretty sure I need a protruding stomach adjustment. The overall width is okay (you can tell because the side seam is hanging straight) but the front waistline dips a little instead of sitting level. I’m happy to make another pair though, and trial that adjustment! They fly together and I feel very happy and comfortable in them.

The fabric I used is something mysterious from TMOS. It’s quite heavy. It almost feels like indoor/outdoor fabric but it’s not waterproof and it burns like natural fiber. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s coated, though. The pocket linings are a scrap of shirting cotton, and the leather button is from my flea-market stash. I have a healthy chunk of this mystery fabric left but I don’t have a plan for it! Any thoughts?

I only made one change to this pattern, which was to grow-on the fly extensions. However, I forgot to extend the pocket bags to match! See those short lines of stitching to the farthest left and right? Those are keeping the edges of the pocket bags in place. Luckily they’re not visible when the pants are zipped. Also, I only changed thread color once (I like tonal topstitching) and it was to match the zipper tape – at the time I readily acknowledge it was a pain in the neck to rethread for, like, two 6” lines of stitching, but now I think it was worth it. Mm. Tonal.  

I quite like these patterns and garments as a benchmark, actually – a year ago I never would have worn wide cropped pants or exuberantly printed tees, and yet I have not travelled so far that I don’t appreciate a $0 pattern price tag.   

Also, my basket-weave button matches my basket-weave shoes. Ladies, gentlemen, and others, I feel I have ARRIVED.

See you on a six-day!

Pattern: Stellan tee

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: M

Supplies: 1 meter of organic cotton (tigers), $17.30, Stoff & Stil; thread, $1.91, Michaels/1 meter of organic cotton (bananas), $17.30, Stoff & Stil

Total time: 2.5 hours/2 hours

Total cost: $19.21/$17.30

Pattern: Peppermint Wide-Leg Pants

Pattern cost: $0.00

Size: F, with adjustments

Supplies: 2.5 meters of heavy linen/cotton canvas (?), $15.19, TMOS; zipper, Sewfisticated, $1.40; thread, Michael’s, $1.79

Total time: 4.75 hours

Total cost: $18.38

SBS at Gather Here

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A small change can make a big difference!

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Lawd, my face in this. Anyway, this isn’t actually a post about how I should always tuck in my shirt and roll up my sleeves (though I should) – it’s actually about small businesses and how I learned to sew!

In the fall of 2010 I moved in with my boyfriend. With almost no forethought we nabbed a studio apartment, bought the world’s most uncomfortable futon, and discovered we did in fact get along well.

I realized pretty quickly we lived within walking distance of my beloved Cambridge Public Library (I cannot stress enough how casually we signed that lease, yikes, kids), and on one such walk to the library, I saw a notice in a tiny shop front that a store would soon be opening…Gather Here! I was there on opening day. I bought…YARN.

I do not have the thing within a person that makes them knit. However, the store was cozy and warm and bewitching, and I’d always wanted to learn to sew, so that winter I signed up for a class. I remember it cost $60 (no small thing to me then, and still not a sum to sneeze at now) and we students each made a tote bag in 2 sessions. I was smitten!

After experimenting with rented machine time, which quickly adds up, I badgered my mom out of her old Singer (sorry mom, hi mom). 8 years later, both I and that business have moved into bigger digs (they’re still in Cambridge, I’m now next door in Somerville). It’s safe to say that class changed my life. It’s not that I was careening towards disaster, but since then I’ve spent a ton of time and money on sewing, and consider that cheap for the skills and self-love I’ve gained.

Obviously Gather Here was my most exciting port of call on Small Business Saturday. It’s not the place you go when you’re seeking a bargain, but the selection of fabric and yarn is lovely, and I’m not going to spend what I spend on rent and then undercut the character of the neighborhood I love, only to save, like, $6.

I bought fabric for a shirt! I made a shirt! I did not like that shirt! I tucked it in! Now I like that shirt! See, small changes can = big effects!

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The shirt is my camp-collared Archer; my changes to the pattern are detailed here. This time I grew on the facings to reduce bulk. My fabric was a stiff linen/cotton so the collar sits pretty traditionally despite the lack of a collar stand.

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I also made…tum-te-tum…a fanny pack! The cotton webbing, buckle, and zipper were also Small Business Saturday purchases. I had the fabric left over from a much, much earlier project (though it also originated in Gather Here, once upon a time).

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I quilted my largest canvas scrap and used it to sew an unlined boxy zipper pouch, plus little side tabs that connect to the webbing. You could use almost any box pouch tutorial, adjusted for the size you want – how about this one?  Or, lucky you, Sarah Kirsten recently released a free pouch pattern calculator!

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Guys. Fanny packs are LUXURY. Mine fits my wallet, keys, phone, and a folded-up fabric shopping bag. My hands are free! No straps are slipping off my shoulder or slicing into the side of my neck! I am ready for adventure*! *provided that that adventure requires my wallet, etc.

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Anyway, I clearly have some squishy feelings on the topic of shopping local and shopping at small businesses. So don’t ask me, ask the American Independent Business Alliance – they have CITATIONS. If you have the ability and access to shop at a small business, I strongly encourage it! It can really have a big effect on you and your community.

Do you have a local fiber store that changed your life? How did you learn to sew?

 

Pattern: modified Grainline Archer + Colette Negroni

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: 8 at bust, graded to 12 at hip

Supplies: 2.625 yards of linen/cotton, Forage, $27.96, Gather Here; buttons, $3.87, Gather Here; thread, $1.49, Michael’s

Total time: 6 hours

Total cost: $33.32

 

Pattern: self-drafted fanny pack

Pattern cost: N/A

Size: N/A

Supplies: zipper, $1.30, buckle, $1.00, webbing, $4.47, Gather Here; canvas scraps, thread from stash

Total time: 3.5 hours

Total cost: $6.77