Bag Blog – First Bag I Made In Class

I’m going to talk about the first bag I ever made, back in 2013, in a class. I had only sewn very simple things, some of them not very well, and was ready to finally get serious about sewing. I love bags, so when I saw this class available at my beloved local sewing machine shop, The Presser Foot, I signed up.  I really threw myself into the deep end with this one, and while I struggled to get up to speed, I loved every minute. Here’s a photo of the pattern, called Professional Tote:


and the here’s the link to the website where you can buy this pattern for yourself:

A few photos of the finished bag, taken right after I made it:

professional-tote-2              professional-tote-view-from-topprofessional-tote-back-2

This bag, called the Professional Tote, has 10 pockets. I remember feeling excited that I would learn how to construct something so elaborate, in my mind, and also useful. The first thing I learned about most of these modern patterns is that *they have no pattern*! I had learned about sewing at my grandmother’s knee, before she was claimed by Alzheimer’s, and she never used patterns herself, but instead just drew up her own. However, she did teach me about using store-bought patterns, and I had used a few myself, and so I was expecting the usual tissue-paper pattern that you have to cut out and possibly alter, and then pin to fabric before cutting the fabric. Nope, not this “pattern”.  For this, what I needed (and didn’t have) was a giant gridded cutting mat, large quilting rulers, straight edges, and a rotary cutter. I did have a tiny old mat and rulers I had used back in my Interior Design studies days, but they weren’t suited to measuring out large swaths of fabric, and I also didn’t realize at the time that that’s the equipment I needed. Instead I was using my tape measure to draw out the dimensions of the various rectangles used in the bag, and then cutting them out with my scissors. It took me days to get it all cut out.

Here’s another brilliant sewing discovery I made during the main of this bag: interfacing. I had never used it, and had only the vaguest sense of what it was. This bag uses a medium-weight iron-in interfacing, and I was so impressed at how much body it added to the fabric. The bag uses a quilting cotton, which is very light and easy to work with, and I had been wondering how such a thin fabric could make a sturdy tote. The answer is interfacing.

So, for class we needed to have all of our fabric and interfacing cut out and ready to use, as well as having all our supplies. I was definitely the youngest and least-experienced sewer in the class, and everyone was so nice to me. The edges of my fabric weren’t as tidy as everyone else’s, and that’s when they introduced me to the cutting mat, see-through rulers, and rotary cutters. It was a revelation! Those tools alone instantly sharpened up the work, because now I could follow crisp, accurate edges when sewing my seams. Previously I would just eyeball a smooth sewing line, like my grandmother had always done (and which she did beautifully), but following a precisely cut edge was easier and ultimately saved time.

This class, the experience of the other ladies taking the class, my instructor, and the process of sewing up the bag really catapulted me into a new level of sewing. I learned how to make a folded strap, how to insert zippers, one way to line a pocket, how to insert magnetic snaps, and how to work with a drop-in lining (which is my very favorite type, I’ve decided, now that I’ve made many more bags). I also learned how to work with some different presser feet and move the needle to get the type of edge I wanted with my thread. Let me tell you, I was, and still am, so proud of this bag. About a year and half later I made another one for my teen daughter, using different fabric. Overall, this bag probably took around 15 hours to make, but I shaved a few hours off that time when I made that second one for my daughter, with the experience under my belt and better tools. Now that I’ve been using my own bag for awhile, I can see one or two minor details I would change, but overall, this is one of my very favorite bags.

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