The last sewing project of 2013 became the first finished project of 2014.
After finishing Mom’s 2013 Holiday Wardrobe, I knew I had to step away from wearable garments for a few weeks. What better way to take up a challenge than making a bag!
The Cooper bag by Walden for Colette Patterns was purchased from Colette’s pop-up store, Gifts for Crafters, during promotion of 15% off the Walden collection. This is my 2nd handmade bag, the first was a messenger bag back in Grade 8 Home Ec. The bag was a patterned blue quilting cotton with yellow straps along with a pink bunny embroided onto the flap.
Every bag is a different character. There are endless options to customize a bag to suit one’s need. For me, I went with the version 3 Satchel bag, replacing the back handle with a full handle (didn’t need it to fit a bike rack).
Fabric was purchased from Fabricana during the Black Friday sale. This pattern required two fabric; main and a contrast. I picked out a brown as the main fabric and a tan as the contrast; they are both vinyl leather with an embossed pattern. Lining is from an old bolt of canvas.
Since this project is more heavy-duty, I purchased some leather needles before-hand. Hardware for the bag were a pair of magnetic clasps. The pattern also called for some jiffy rivets. The only rivets I found were short for scrapbooking or small for leather making. Keen on getting started, I omitted the rivets and decided to stitch a few more reinforcement stitches around the stress areas.
Construction and Alternations
The instructions booklet and the sew-along are very informative for first-time bag-makers. I made some changes to suit my needs and preferences.
Sewing on Vinyl Leather
The fabric tends to stick onto the surface area of the machine as it is sewn. Adjusting the pressure of the foot didn’t help, neither did giving it a slight pull. I asked Dad about this and he gave me a bottle of machine oil.
I thought it was a crazy idea! To oil up the sewing area and sew it as usual. But to my surprise, it worked wonders! The oil acts as a barrier between the machine foot and fabric, preventing them in sticking together. Throughout the project, I used tweezers and dipped a gauze pad into a foil packet of machine oil. The reminders are to only use machine oil since it won’t damage the machine and test on fabric first.
There are 2 pockets on the bag front; one near the top (covered by the flap) and the other near the bottom to create 3 multi-pocket. Construction for the top pocket calls for 2 pieces in the same main fabric. I tried this and the pocket felt extremely bulky and difficult to stitch onto the bag. Personally, I think this is an impractical use of fabric that won’t be seen. Then again, it might work if the fabric were thinner. My method was to make the inside piece in lining fabric and sew that to the main fabric. The results are more practical and it’s nice to see something different on the inside. I did the same with the bottom pocket.
Forgoing the bike rack option, I made 2 pieces of the front handle. Colette’s method of sewing the strap is to press down the seam allowance on both sides, fold the piece in half so both folded seams meet, and sew. This is the straightforward method but it results in sewing through 4 layers on one side and 2 on the other. Even simulating this on a scrap piece was bad…
My solution was to sew a bias tape onto one edge, fold the piece together in thirds, then sew it close on the bias tape. Now I have a handle sewn through 3 layers of fabric on both sides.
By default, there are 2 large pockets. My preference is to have one that is 50/50 and a large pocket. The larger pockets have a tendency to spill out heavy objects but I like that it fits a brochure/pamphlet nicely without creasing.
No Pins Allowed
This fabric is notorious for exposing pin marks. While I used the Clover clips to hold onto layers, some areas were too small for them. Again, Dad introduced me to another handy tool, washable school glue. (…can things get anymore weird…) A small dab was all it took to keep the pieces together and sew over it.
This pattern is a friendly introduction to bag making. Although the bag is on the larger side, it still fits nicely on my shoulder. Mom already requested a messenger version with some adjustments.
- Shorten the bag
- Lower back piece which holds onto back handles
- Add extra keychain loops
- Include pocket on back of bag