Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fabric... Welcome to the Patriotic Quilter where I like to share all things quilty as well as red, white, and blue! Please feel free to look around and enjoy yourself! I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I lost some battles, but eventually won the war!

Last week I was surfing around blogland, and clicked on this entry with instructions on making a retro travel bag on the Riley Blake blog.

I fell immediately in love!  I was so smitten that I started searching all over for the laminated chevron fabric.  I found some on Etsy and discovered that there was navy!  I already had a set of red handles.  Hmm, what fabric could I use for the insides?  The perfect answer was My Mind's Eye Stars and Stripes, which I've been drooling over for a while now.  I had my credit card out and my orders sent out before you could say "retro travel bag."

The fabric arrived in Monday's mail.  The only things I needed were the piping, the zipper, and some bias tape.  You know my frustration with that.

Yesterday after my Bee, I didn't even go home, I went straight to the fabric shop and got my 16" zipper.  They didn't have piping, but I didn't stress--I bought some single fold bias tape and some narrow cord to make my own.  Have you ever made your own piping?  It is really easy.  You can cut your own bias strips, but I used the bias tape to be quicker.  I just pressed it open.
Then you just fold the bias strip around the cord, forcing the cord tight up against the fold, and using a zipper foot, just machine baste tight along the edge of the cord.  Easy!

I started working away on the bag and I got to the zipper assembly.  I followed the directions, cutting two strips of the laminate fabric 2" x 17" and the same for the lining.  I attached them to the 16" zipper as directed.  There are some tabs on the end.  I finished the whole assembly and the next step says to measure the width.  It should be 6" but if it is a little off, just adjust the next step.  I measured and mine was 4" wide.  Something was wrong.  I reread.  I reexamined.  I finally thought that maybe the instructions were wrong, so I emailed the creator, Melissa, and she very nicely replied right away that upon checking her notes, there was a mistake.  Those strips should have been cut 3" x 27" and the zipper needs to be 26" long.  Oh, and it needs to be a separating zipper--like a parka zipper. 

*note:  Melissa is so generous to design such an awesome bag and to share it with everyone for free(!)  This bag is pretty complicated and I can't fault her one iota for getting the wrong measurement.  She was so sweet about getting me the correct ones--and right away.  I can't wait to try some of her other fabulous ideas!

So I had to wait until today to get another zipper.  Guess what?  Apparently there is no demand for parka zippers here in Hawaii (go figure!) so there weren't any 26" zippers.  (insert the head slap here!)  Stumped, I looked over my options.  I wanted a white, plastic zipper.  There was a 22" white, plastic zipper.  There was a 24" metal (heavy duty) navy one.  I bought both.  (I was not about to need to run back there again for the 4th time this week!)  I really wasn't in love with the metal one, but the metal was at least "gold" and I knew the metal on my handles was "gold."  When I got home it became apparent that the plastic one was too short, it wouldn't go around the corners far enough.  I realized that if I had a shorter zipper, I should make the whole zipper assembly 2" shorter but add 2" to the bottom strip.  I also had to add 2" to the bottom lining.  That worked out! 

So I started sewing away in earnest.  Let me just say right now that if you are ever going to use laminated fabric, your teflon machine foot will be your new best friend.  Mine worked like a charm.  Let me also say that Melissa put right there on the blog that this is an intermediate to difficult project.  She is right!  I consider myself "advanced," but this bag was kicking my behind.  It isn't so much "technically" difficult as it is just bulky and cumbersome. 

My second losing battle (the first being the wrong measurements) was that when I was sewing the piping in between the bag front and the bottom/top strip, the stitches would not connect.  I was skipping over an inch at a time.  I tried changing the needle.  Four different ones!  It still didn't help.  I changed the thread.  Twice.  I was using my zipper foot because of the piping, so I tried something else, and that did the trick.  Those zipper feet don't "grab" the fabric too well.  By the time I got that problem solved, I think I sewed all the way around that seam three times in some places. 

That was clearly a major problem when I turned the pieces back to check my work.  Despite the fact that I marked the middle of the bag side top and bottom, and the middle of the strip, somehow it got off and was totally a mess.  I needed to rip it off.  Yep, all three of those seams going around the piece.  That was the third lost battle.

By then my defense was getting stronger.  I was able to finish the bag--winning the war, without losing any more.  Whew!  Oh wait, that's right--when I was doing some hand sewing finishing work, my stitches showed on the front, so I had to rip and do them again.  Not too major.

Anyway, I bet you would like to see how it turned out!  I have to say that I am pretty proud of it!

This is one of those "Did I really MAKE this" projects!

I fussy cut the stars for the tabs on the sides and front. 

The inside:  I love using multiple fabrics.  It makes for such a fun interior.  The polka dot fabric pieces on the side are quilted pockets (the instructions just had one pocket, but I put them on both sides.)  The bottom is stabilized with Timtex/Peltex.  The lining (the blue print that you see near the top) is quilted to fusible fleece.  All those layers make for tricky construction but give the piece such nice body.

It was a tough go, but it was totally worth it.  Thanks Melissa for such an awesome project!!!



  1. You really did have to overcome some obstacles! You deserve gold stars for perseverance, and the bag is awesome!

  2. Wow! You picked just the right fabrics......it's AWESOME!

  3. Gorgeous! I had seen and bookmarked this project also but wondered how challenging it would be - although I've been sewing all my life, I don't like anything too far out of my comfort zone! You did a great job and thanks for highlighting the rough parts!

  4. It looks amazing well done.Love the fabrics you have used. It was well worth all the running about. Could do with one of those bags in my life at the minute I seem to be carrying allsorts about at the minute. x

  5. this bag couldn't be more you! I so admire your tenacity and the end result looks like it's worth it. Isn't there a saying about achievement being sweeter when you've had to work for it?

  6. Wow, what a great bag! Beautiful and practical!

  7. That is beautiful! Do you ever sell items you make?

  8. That is beautiful! Do you ever sell items you make?