Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Piece of Cake Shopping Bag - A Sewing Story

It's been a few days since I posted the photo mosaic on Flickr but now I've finally got some time to explain this project further.  It's the "Piece of Cake Shopping Bag" from Ayumi Takahashi's book, Patchwork, Please! (Or pretty close to it in any case!)

I fretted over fabric choices for quite awhile and finally settled on a strawberry theme as I had a fat quarter of Kokka Trefle strawberry print (thanks, Amber at Dapple & Grey!) and a yard of Heather Ross' Briar Rose strawberry in orange.  I made two, outside pockets in coordinating colors.  The main bag is Essex Linen and the lining is a decor weight polka dot from IKEA.

But before getting to any of that, I comissioned the hand-woven straps.  They are the real stars of this show.  My dad made them on his inkle loom.  He just started weaving this year and his work is really impressive.  He's actually about to start a beginner course at the Textile Center of Minnesota because he doesn't want any "bad habits"to sink in from the self-teaching phase.

I chose the pattern out of a library book and the colors from his growing collection of crochet thread; he wove them over a few days last week.  I did notice that because of the color order I chose, the baby pink and the natural white look identical but the straps are really beautiful and I'm extremely glad (and proud!) he made them for me.

Now to the unsavory part of the program.  Mistakes were made in this project and once they started, they never really stopped.  First, I misread the pattern and sewed my beloved straps to the longer, end panels rather than the side pieces.  Once I figured this out, I didn't want to risk damaging the straps or the linen by removing all the stitches holding them so I sort of stalled progress while I tried to decide whether to trim around the straps and cut new side panels (wasting more of my precious linen) or to plow ahead with a slightly off-dimensions bag and only a new base panel.  Economy won out in the end and I decided to plow ahead and cut my lining to match (adding a zipper pocket and a patch pocket to the lining panels and some strawberry appliqués to the outside which made me feel pretty good about things again at that point.)

Already behind schedule (because of the stalling) , I packed the pieces up and toted my project to my parents' lake cabin to finish.  Where I ignored it and generally had lake-filled, end-of-summer fun for a few days.  It wasn't until Sunday night, sewing machine set up on a card table in the front window, that I realized there were more problems.  Down to the wire, my drawstring panels were too short so I made some discreet tucks in the lining (problem solved! No one will know!) but of course, the outside bag was also too large so then I had to make more tucks -out there- for the world to see.  Even worse, I was rushing and so there are tons of tiny folds in the seam - some of them so bad I had to rip them out and repair but always rushing because the sun was going down right in front of me.  Finally, I had it complete and quickly added the drawstring and some bed pillows.  Then I ran out to the dock and took some pics in the dying light (which I heavily filtered to look much brighter) and arranged a ride into town so I could upload the pics to Flickr and link up with the host blog.  I celebrated with s'mores around the campfire.

There it is.  A finish and a failure - of sorts.  I've learned that procrastination and neglecting problems doesn't work quite so well in sewing the way it worked in writing essays for school.  I should have read the pattern more closely, I should have employed the seam ripper in the first place, I should go back and cut some new drawstring panels at the very least.  And maybe I still will.  The bag is beautiful after all. And I cherish those straps!  And I'd love to use this bag for toting finishes to guild meetings in the future because it means something to me; it means a lot of things to me.

There.  I feel a little better now.
Warts and all.



  1. I think it's lovely and those warts are invisible! Thanks for such a realistic sewing post...keeping it real! And those straps are awesome!

    1. Thank you for saying so! I've been admiring all of your Zakka 2.0 projects as well (especially the market tote!)

      It was good to just "put it out there" instead of fretting further about my mistakes. Actually, as I typed up this post, I found I really like the bag more and I knew what I wanted to do with it.

  2. This is a stunning bag! I love that your dad handmade the straps for you and those mistakes were teeny. Just enough to stop you ending up with a bag that's the same as anyone off the street and to have one that's really unique and beautiful :)

    1. Thanks! I know you're right. Now to find some unicorn fabric...

  3. The straps and fabric choices are amazing! It is so great your family is so textilely inclined. I have been having a ton of fun with this book and sewalong, but dang, that bag pattern was just confusing so don't be too hard on yourself! It looks great and I can't wait to see what you haul to guild meetings in there!

    1. Thank you, Rozina; I love seeing your projects on Flickr! I've been thinking of the books my parents taught themselves with (canning, gardening, fixing machinery, name it) and everything in them is a distressingly grainy black & white with few, clear illustrations...not to mention no club or video at hand to rescue or encourage them... How did they do it? See you on Thursday!


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