Monday, November 12, 2012

A Weekender Weekend

Drumroll, please................

It's finished!!

I finally got the chance to sit down and have a good chunk of (mostly) uninterrupted sewing time to tackle this baby.  In case you haven't see it, Fabric Mutt and Lori H. Designs put together a sew-along for Amy Butler's popular/dreaded Weekender Bag.  Making this bag seems to be the Holy Grail for sewists across blogland and is well-known for its difficulty.  I came across the pattern last year when I was just starting back into sewing, but I put it off after reading all of the horror stories about it out there.    Now that I have been making bags and other accessories for over a year on a regular basis, this sew-along gave me the needed push to buy the pattern and try it out.

I'm going to do a little show and tell for those who just want to see the bag.  Then I'll add my two cents about modifications and a little tutorial on how I machine-stitched the lining to the zipper.

This is by far the largest bag I have made, and it is in fact a piece of luggage.  Tons of interfacing (even the super stiff Peltex sew-in that I had never used), home decor-weight fabric, and a very long zipper made this one expensive project.  Think close to $100 in materials.  But it is going to be very sturdy and useful!  The size reminds me of a bowling ball bag.  My sewing machine would definitely fit inside the bag without a problem.  It will be perfect to bring as a carry-on piece for a plane trip, especially for someone like me who travels in and out of Alaska and always packs a change of clothing for each family member for unexpected stops along the way.

I was happy to learn new techniques along the way, like making piping for the edges.

The inside...not bad, considering it is sewn into the corners by hand!

Note the size of this compared to a park bench.  Pretty roomy.

I even remembered to attach a label (although in truth I had to go back and put it in after I sewed the strap, because I forgot to do it first, as usual).

In short, I love this bag.  And--I know I'm going to get dirty looks for this, but I want to encourage others to try sewing it-- it wasn't hard for me to make.  I consider myself an experienced bag maker and intermediate-level sewer.  Had I attempted this bag a year ago, I don't know that I could have done it.  But really, now that I know the basics of making bags, it was pretty simple but time consuming.  Between cutting and sewing, it took me about 10 hours.

So now on to the tips and tricks.  I perused blogs for quite awhile and rounded up my favorite tips on a Pinterest board.  Had I not done this, making the bag would have been much more difficult!

  • I made the bias tape for the binding out of a fat quarter of fabric, using this tutorial.
  • I used Stitch Witchery to make the piping, rather than worrying about hiding stitches the whole time, as suggested by Jen here.
  • I widened the straps like Providence Handmade.  I also added a couple of inches in length to each strap.
  • I left off the end pockets and added a magnetic snap to the center of each side pocket, about an inch from the top of the top of the pocket, like hey porkchop.

I also made a few changes of my own, from my prior bag-making experience.  On the inside, I inserted a zip pocket on one side and a large patch pocket on the other.  I never make a bag for myself without a place to securely zip my keys and other valuables.  Since this bag will be used for travel, I gave myself a nice-sized place inside to securely keep airplane boarding passes that is still easily accessible.  I am always paranoid to walk through the airport with those in an outside pocket.

I made a 6" tall piece for each end of the bag by tracing the bag end after inserting the zipper.  I folded down and pressed the top inch and then made a little 1.5" wide strap to hold a D ring.  I attached the end piece, with the D ring strap centered underneath it, to each side.  This gives me the option to make a clip-on shoulder strap later on. I haven't made it yet, but I'm sure I will.  This bag is so big, that even with my slightly longer handles it could still be a bit awkward to carry when full.

Now on to the tutorial part.  The original pattern has you hand sew the entire lining in.  I don't know about you, but after spending this much work on the outside of the bag, I want the inside to actually hold up to some wear and tear.  My hand sewing skills are not the greatest.  I did see others mention machine sewing the lining into the bag, but I didn't find specifically how they did it.  So I made it up as I went along.  It worked out pretty well.

After assembling the bag lining and inserting it into the bag, pin it in place at the top curves.

Fold under the raw edge along the zipper so that the folded edge is flush with the zipper teeth, or even a little bit away from them if you can.    

Using your zipper foot, start as close to the beginning of the zipper as you can (I ended up being about an inch and a half away from the zip pull).  Working on the inside of the bag (the lining fabric is on top, followed by the zipper tape), fold the outside fabric under and away from your presser foot.  Stitch very closely to the edge of the lining fabric while using the folded-back outside fabric as a guide for your zipper foot and get as close to the opposite end of the zipper as you can.

Here's another view.  See how the outside fabric is turned back away from the zipper?

  • Repeat for the other side.  Be sure to check that your zipper will move freely next to (or over top of) the lining edge.  I have a big chunky sport zipper on my bag and it works fine.
  • Hand sew the rest of the lining zipper opening to the zipper tape, and then hand sew the other areas in the bag according to pattern directions.
  • I also managed to hide a 2" seam on the outside top of my bag, right where the piping attaches, sewing through both the outside and lining.  I did this on either side of the top middle of the zipper to help hold the lining up inside the bag.
And for a few last things that made it a bit easier.  Use clothespins to hold the layers together when sewing the bag sides to the part with the zipper.  The little curved parts of the clothespins that are meant to grab onto the clothesline fit perfectly over the piping.

Don't be in a rush!  I have read about others breaking 10 needles and walking away with sore shoulders from shoving the layers through their machines.  I only broke one needle, and it was because I wasn't paying attention to where my zipper teeth were when sewing across them.

I realized when sewing the outer sides to the middle section that it's not really necessary (or easy!) to sew with a half-inch seam allowance.  I just got as close as I could to the piping with my zipper foot, and then went back around the bag a couple more times to get closer in the spots that were too far away from the piping.  It worked just fine.

A quality sewing machine makes a big difference!  I sew with a pretty simple Husqvarna Viking, and it always works wonderfully for me.  If your machine is powerful enough, you won't feel like you are trying to shove your layers through.

I think that's about it (finally, I know!).  Thank you so much to everyone out there who offered up their tips and experience with this bag so that it was easier for me!


  1. Beautiful job. If I have decide to give this pattern a try, I'll come back to your post for instructional reinforcement!

  2. Great job, and thanks so much for the tip on sewing in the lining with the machine. I've done alright with mine. It's really not that bad if you know what you're doing and you go slow. I haven't broken a needle yet, so I must be doing something right!

    Just waiting on my lining material to arrive so I can finish my bag.

  3. I love your fabric choices! I have only ever made one bag (though I plan on making more!) but when I feel confident enough to try the weekender, I will be sure to come back here to look at your tips! :)

  4. This is gorgeous! I love the Momo birds! You really did a great job! I'm so glad others played along in the blog hop :-)

  5. your bag is great, what a great fabric choice!! Your lining looks so nice, my lining makes me sad. lol.

  6. Your bag is beautiful! Love that fabric! Thanks for including the part about machine sewing the lining in. I completely hand-sewed my lining in this time, but I would like to try it that way if I ever make this bag again!

  7. That tutorial is brilliant -- I'm definitely going to try that! Your bag is perfection, Christy! I absolutely love the Oh, Deer collection, and it looks beautiful here!

  8. Wow! Your Weekender bag is true beauty! I LOVE it!

  9. WOW! That is a gorgeous bag! I have seen the pattern and I love to make bags myself but I haven't had the itch to tackle this one. I may have to. BTW - love the blog name. My daughter is an "Amelia". :)

  10. Great job on your bag! I am finished with the outside of my bag and getting ready to make the lining but wondered if you had any problems with the gusset fitting. Mine seems slightly too big and I had to give it a little gather on the bottom to make it fit. I checked the measurements again and everything was exact. Also, I don't like the way the peltex sits in the bottom. The corners are rounded but the three layers of peltex make the bottom pointy or boxish. The rest of the bag is beautiful but when I look at the bottom it upsets me. I will make another one but next time I want to make the gusset round to the bottom.


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