another of my muted, understated bags

After checking out my boards on Pinterest, a friend of mine remarked not too long ago that she was surprised to see how attracted I was to bright colors and prints, when I tend to wear rather neutral-colored clothing. The funny thing is that my fabric stash, both the apparel and crafting fabrics, is anything but neutral. But she’s right, when I buy ready-to-wear, I gravitate towards solids — and not bright ones. And since I can’t say (yet) that my wardrobe consists of very many self-made items, it is definitely more understated than my stash closet. Very interesting. I will continue to give this some thought and will get to the bottom of it! Maybe I tend not to like the colors and prints that are offered to me off the rack? Or for some reason I try to be more “practical” when shopping for clothes than for fabric? Or possibly, it’s just that I don’t want my clothes to clash with my bags…

butterfly bucket bag / The Reversible Bucket Bag pattern from The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam

Amazingly, with the number of times that I’d used some technique or another from The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam, I’d never actually made one of the eight patterns included in the book. A recent brainstorming about subjects for our upcoming book club meetings brought this to my attention. To me, the value of this book has been in its absolutely fantastic photo tutorials of just about any technique you could want in order to customize a bag as you like. Various linings, pockets, closures, handles, and trimmings are all explicitly explained in a way that makes even the most complicated process do-able. Not to mention the scads of tips about fabric choice, interfacing, bag structure, etc.! Anyway, I’m clearly a fan, and it was time to remedy the lack of experience I had with its actual patterns.

While I do like most of the designs in the book, several of them are more complicated and require a few specialized notions — nothing off the deep end but not the quick fix I was looking for this time. Ah but this one, The Reversible Bucket Bag, was calling to me. And I had some new, very understated Alexander Henry fabric which was also speaking up.

The Reversible Bucket Bag / The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam

This was an easy project, and it’s quick in theory, although you’ll see below that I added some time by departing from the script. There are only two pattern pieces! I agree with the author’s note that this design is a perfect showcase for three fabrics that look fabulous together. Making fabric selections, especially combining prints, is one of my favorite parts of the sewing process. Lisa Lam comes out with another book in May, and I can’t wait!

My notes:

  • I made all of the required bias binding (almost 3 yds of 1″ double-fold) using the continuous bias method rather than joining strips. Lots of tutes out there for this. Here are a few.
  • Though it’s designed as reversible, I never intended for this bag to be reversed. I tend to believe that’s a better theory than it is a reality… mostly because I love pockets in the lining of my bags, and I usually like larger-scale prints for the exterior. And then there are the various stains that can accumulate on the inside of a handbag. So knowing that I wouldn’t reverse it, I added a couple of different kinds of pockets.

A flush zipper pocket on one side (Lisa has a tutorial on her blog for this one!):
flush zipper pocket

and a slip pocket on the other side (see the end of this post for instructions):

flush slip pocket

  • The pattern calls for a quite reasonable machine stitching of the binding, but I hand stitched it. This has nothing to do with binding snobbery (is that a thing?) and everything to do with the fact that I suck at attaching binding by machine.
  • I didn’t put a yo-yo on my button. To date, I have only found one yo-yo usage that I liked. They remind me of scrunchies. Don’t get me wrong, I used to totally rock a scrunchie, but I’ve never felt moved to embellish pillows with them.
  • I really only have one critique of this pattern. As I’ve mentioned before, attaching a straight piece to a curved one is always tricky; it’s where any imperfections in the pattern pieces’ harmony are glaring. (I’m comparing sewing to a symphony. Too much?) Maybe it’s just something I don’t understand about geometry — I absolutely allow for this possibility! :) But this one did not go very smoothly. The author notes that if necessary you can create tucks that “form attractive gathers.” While that’s helpful, I would much prefer that the pieces just fit together precisely at the seamline. I plan to futz with the pieces to attempt to perfect them, because otherwise, I completely loved this pattern.

You’re still here! That *must* mean you wanna know about that pocket. :) Here’s how I did it. First, you get some tracing paper or other pattern paper of your choice. Trace the sides and bottom of the bag side to which the pocket will attach, then draw a top edge where you want the top of the pocket to be, including an extra 1″ for the seam allowance.  My apologies for the blurry pic but it was the only one I got of this step:

creating a pattern piece for slip pocket

Using your newly created pattern piece, cut out two pieces from your fabric — one will be the pocket exterior and one will be the lining. Place the pieces right sides together, then stitch along the top edge only, using a 1″ seam allowance. The extra-wide seam allowance helps give structure to the top of the pocket. Turn the pocket right sides out and press the top edge well.  Tip: If you kind of roll the exterior piece just slightly to the inside as you press, the finished pocket will look better, without the lining peeking out.  Hopefully the below picture helps explain.  Here, I am holding the piece with the lining side facing the camera. (Kindly ignore that the topstitching has already been done in this pic.) See how the exterior piece is slightly visible at the edge?

the top edge of the pocket

Next, topstitch along the top edge of the pocket. I like to do two rows for a little extra stability. Pin the completed pocket to the bag piece, with both pieces right side up, aligning side and bottom raw edges. Then, baste the two pieces together, roughly 1/4″ inside the seam allowance. For a pocket this big, I also recommend making at least one vertical line of stitching, dividing the pocket into two pockets (or more if you like), so that it’s not too loose and floppy.  I ended up doing that after assembly, so I had to do it by hand… take heed! :)

Now continue as your pattern instructs, using this piece just as you would have without the pocket!

6 thoughts on “another of my muted, understated bags

  1. I’m reading through all your old blog entries. I just recently came to the realization that I do this same thing with solids in my purchases and more outlandish choices in my handmade garments.

    Isn’t that funny? I never have quite figured out what that’s about, but I know that my garment shopping has often tended toward utilitarian. It wasn’t until I began making my own clothes that I viewed it more as a creative/style expression. Thanks for reminding me of this! :)

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