Remember my Bag Making Bible Challenge? It’s the one where I want to make all the bags in the Bag Making Bible. So far, I’ve finished three different styles of tote bag. They were good preparation for the workshops I’m offering at Studio Jurk. The clutch, however, put me into entirely new territory and it was a bit scary.
I had a really hard time with my fabric selection. This is in part because I’m not a clutch carrier myself. A suede or leather bag in this style wouldn’t suit my personal style at all. Both options felt too formal. On the other hand, upholstery fabric or canvas felt too informal. But there was this accidentally felted sweater on my shelf that started calling out to me, first in a whisper and later in an incessant whining voice. “Why couldn’t I be a clutch? Why couldn’t I be fabulous?” it insisted. So, I finally gave in. This is the part where I want to tell you it was all fabulous, but that isn’t the case. This bag just plain didn’t work out in the end. While that’s been a disappointment, the process has taught me loads about bag making and given me way too many ideas about my own future designs. The wool looks great. The colors are fabulous and a clutch turns out to be an awfully intriguing bag style. A series of color blocked wool clutches would be pretty nifty, don’t you think?
So, what did I learn? First of all, there’s big difference between working with suiting wool (the brown trim is suiting wool) and felted wool. Technically, one is woven and the other is a mass of fibers clinging to each other. The felted wool is so thick that some of the finishing techniques used in this pattern didn’t work. Specifically, edge stitching was hard because the felt doesn’t give a firm edge. It’s also so thick that it just wasn’t possible to edge stitch a fold into the fabric. Even with a 5mm edge stitch, I was only stitching through the middle of the fold, not through the layers. I also feel like the felt might have stretched as I worked it, especially around the top of the bag. That’s my bad for using the wrong material for the pattern, but also good to know for the future.
I had neither the fusible ultra-firm interfacing the pattern called for nor the patience to hunt it up on-line and order it. I did have ultra-firm interfacing and a spray adhesive, though. The interfacing was purchased in the US last September and, since I’ve started this project, it’s the first time I’ve used an interfacing or lining that I can be certain matches the pattern. Up until now, my choices have been guesses trying to match the English in the book to what’s available on the Dutch market. It hasn’t always worked out. It took some help from the ladies at Studio Jurk to figure out the difference between regular and woven interfacing. They happened to have some in their box of interfacing. It was a revelation. That aside – using the non-fusible wasn’t that bad. I was a bit perplexed when it came to turning the body right side out, but there is enough stitching through the body and the interfacing that in the end, everything would have been held in place.
While I’m still on interfacings – I had a bear of a time fusing the interfacing to the lining. It wasn’t a case of it not sticking, but it seems that wrinkled interfacing was going to be inevitable. It probably says more about the interfacing material than anything else, but next time, a test will be in order before committing to the fabric. Does anyone have experience with good combinations?
Beyond that, things seemed to be going well right up to the end. I ended up aligning the snaps myself instead of following the pattern for the flap and my machine balked at the layers when it came to stitching on the flap, but it worked out. I made a the beginner mistake of not putting down the presser foot and therefore engaging the tension while trying to attach the flap to the bag. This resulted in many, many tangled threads under my work. Mind you, I managed to make this same mistake about half a dozen times before figuring it out. Ahem.
In the end, the thing that totally, absolutely did me in was attaching the lining to the bag. It turned out that the lining was smaller than the bag (something to do with those seams I didn’t sew? who knows) and the ultra-firm interfacing made it an absolute bear to try to bring the bag along under the free arm of my sewing machine while I finished the edge. Picking stitches out of felt is also a miserable thing to undertake. The thread was sunk nice and deep in to the pile each time I had to take out stitches. It was so frustrating.
This is the point where I stopped.
It’s so sad. So close but yet so far. I’m not sure whether I’m going to try again with some changes or just chalk this one down to “some challenges cannot be met.” We shall see. On the bright side, I tried something entirely new, learned a lot and can thank it for more ideas waiting to get out of my head and onto paper and (eventually) onto the sewing table. Not bad for a few hours work, right?