Monday, January 03, 2011

Thoughts and Tips on Making an Amy Butler Birdie Sling Bag

Happy New Year everyone! I had a fabulous New Year's Eve, then decided to celebrate the new year by getting an awful head cold. Exactly how I wanted to be starting the new year.

However, I did manage to make a project that's been sitting in my fabric closet for quite some time. I've been planning to make an Amy Butler Birdie Sling Bag for over a year. However, I kept getting distracted by other shiny things like my owl quilt (to be posted soon) and my mom's Springtime Pillow. So the Birdie Sling Bag just sat there, waiting for me.

When I started it, I was surprised and impressed with how well written Amy Butler patterns are. She explained things very clearly through words, then each section had a diagram that completely summarized all of the written content inside the drawing. I have never seen sewing diagrams so clearly labeled. The fact that I, advanced beginner sewer, could follow this pattern while having a vicious head cold speaks for itself. Her designs are clean and beautiful, and her patterns are very well written. This was a great break from another bag I'm making, whose instructions are incredibly convoluted and open to multiple interpretations. It's very clear that Amy's patterns were proofread, while the other pattern was not.

This bag was a pleasure to sew. It took me a bit longer than I thought it would, but that might just be because of the head cold. There was also a time when I somehow managed to break my bobbin housing, luckily only temporarily. That's why I love my Bernina sewing machine. It's all mechanical and all metal. It doesn't break. In this case, the bobbin pieces simply came apart, they didn't break. It was simply a matter of reassembling them in the correct order to get it working again.

This pattern also has a lot of cutting. There aren't very many pattern pieces, but nearly each piece is cut several times, and is interfaced at least once. Some even use multiple layers of interfacing. However, I would much rather cut out duplicates of pattern pieces than cut out a hundred different pieces.

Overall, I am really impressed with this bag. It's a great modern bag that has minimal pieces and is easy to sew. The instruction are very clear, and well depicted. I plan on using it as my everyday purse, to carry all of my personal items in addition to a knitting or embroidery project. I could even carry my DSLR in this bag. I'm sure I'll make another one in Spring fabrics, and perhaps another for Summer. The possibilities are endless.

Tips for Making the Birdie Sling Bag
  • When matching up the centers of pieces (pockets and lining, and bands to exterior and lining) pin from the center outwards. Fold each piece in half to find the center. Place a pin on that center fold, then match up the pins on both pieces and pin together. Then work your way from the center out. This way you eliminate all potential fabric shifting.
  • Press your pleats with a warm iron before basting - then they will stay in place during the basting.
  • If you find your pleats are a little uneven, don't be afraid to re-iron them in the correct position! Although fusible interfacing can get so hot that it no longer sticks, as long as you press with moderation you will be fine. I had my iron set to the wool setting (5 out of 6) and it was just fine. It takes a lot of heat to burn out the fusible, and a little re-ironing will go a long way with this bag.
  • When easing the band around the exterior of the bag, you can always modify your pleats so that the band stretches more along the length of the exterior. This was my first time pleating and I found that some of my pleats were a little too shallow, therefore the exterior was a bit too wide than the length of the band. A quick snip to the basting stitches holding a narrow pleat together allowed me to make the pleat deeper and line up the band and the exterior correctly. If the band is a little smaller than that exterior( 1/4 inch or less) that's okay because you will pivot while sewing. But if it's more than that I recommend adjusting your pleats.
  • Add a magnetic snap to the interior band. The Amy Butler Sling Bag is big. Really big. While that is fantastic, it also means that as soon as you put weight in it, it's going to gape open a bit at the top. An easy way to prevent that is to add a magnetic snap. Although they look like creatures from the black lagoon, they're really easy to add. Craft Apple did a great tutorial on this, as did JanetsJunk. I added the snap without additional interfacing, as each piece of the band is already backed with interfacing. When I do this bag again, I'll probably add another piece of interfacing behind the snap for support.
  • When top stitching the band, make sure you pin really really well! I pinned when doing the first top stitching, but I didn't pin when I stitched in the ditch between the exterior of the bag and the band. Big mistake. The fabric slipped, and the stitching on the inside migrated about a cm down on the lining, instead of staying between the band and the lining. I'm going to need to rip out a bit of the stitching, pin, and re-stitch.
  • An edge foot is a beautiful thing! If you have one, use it! If you don't have one, get one! Presser feet can be expensive, but don't forget that you can always get third party presser feet that are designed to fit your machine. It can save you a lot of money. Offbrand presser feet can be found in a variety of places, but I prefer eBay.
Fabrics Used
Body - Birds of Norway by Michael Miller (Patt#CX-3589)
Handle - Beatnik Blur by Hoodie's Collection for Michael Miller (Patt#C-3184)
Lining - Fresh by Deb Strain for Moda (orange)

All fabric purchased at Boersma's. Normally it's quite a drive for me, but I was in the area. However, it's such a beautiful store that it's definitely worth the trip!


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