I'm finally getting back into the swing of things after visiting family for a few weeks, moving out of one apartment and into another, and putting my little studio together (more on that soon). I promise to get my newsletter out on Thursday for those who've signed up. I have so many neat things to share, I'm excited to send it out again!
But on to today's post! I recently finished up a swap with one of my sisters. It was great fun. The bag I made is from Kay Whitt's book Sew Serendipity Bags. This is a great book and I'm glad to have a copy of it in my library. The book contains 12 patterns for bags in a wide variety of styles ranging from simple to complex, basic to fancy. The book begins with some pictures of bags patterns included. Although this was useful, it did not show ALL the bags in the book or provide page references, so some page-flipping is necessary to see an example of bags not shown. One thing I love about this book is that, once you open the book to a pattern, it will stay open because of the wire binding. If you've ever put a heavy object in the middle of a book to hold it open, you know how awesome this little detail is.
Every bag pattern includes at least one photo of the finished bag before the instruction section, so you have an idea of how it should look. There is also a written overview of the features of the bag, which is helpful for visualizing the parts of the bag not visible in the photo. Although dimensions are given for all the bag patterns, the photographs don't always show the scale relative to a person or other object (as in the photo below of the pattern I ended up using).
The materials list includes all necessary notions and fabric yardages. This made it easy to gather everything I needed before starting. One problem, though, is that I ended up using more of one print than was listed. I would recommend adding a bit of length to whatever fabric you purchase or use. Cutting diagrams would also have been useful to ensure that the fabric was being used efficiently and in the amounts listed.
The author divides the instructions into easy-to-follow steps. Most of the steps are accompanied by a sketched illustration of the relevant pieces and how they come together. For complex, three-dimensional projects, these sketches are ideal. There are no hands holding the pieces to get in the way of what you want to see, and everything is simplified to the essential parts. The sketches for the handle-making steps were less clear than I would have liked as a novice bag-maker, but I managed, in the end, after reading the instructions several times. Once I figured it out, I made a note in the margin (something I recommend doing for all patterns you plan to make again). The instructions on making the decorative pocket ruffles were obviously written for someone with a ruffle foot attachment. I had to make a guess as to how densely to gather by hand. I opted for gathering as much as pleased me, but I ended up having to make a second batch of ruffles in order to have enough.
I made a couple simple changes to the pattern. First, I opted for a continuous cut for the main bag body fabric and interfacing piece, which meant deducting a little for the seam allowance. I like that it reduced bulk at the bound edges, but I would not recommend doing this if you are using a very directional print, which I was not doing. Second, I finished all the binding by hand rather than having a line of visible stitching through all the layers. I'm not so good at keeping straight lines through bulky pieces, so hand-finishing gave it a much nicer look. It was a time-consuming change, so don't do it if bulky sewing is one of your skills.
Overall, I recommend this book. It is clear enough for beginner bag-makers as long as they have some sewing experience, and there are projects for every skill level except beginning sewist. The instructions and sketches are generally clear and easy to follow. And the dozen bag patterns are a great range for any pattern library.