The wicked weekender bag – take two…

Hi! So I had a holiday and kind of forgot that blog posts weren’t just going to write themselves…oops! My mum was here for two weeks, and amongst all the eating and shopping and drinking, I did a bit of sewing. You remember my weekender bag that I made? No? You can read alllll about it here. I’ll wait.

Melody Miller typewriter weekender bag

Ok, so making that bag that was quite traumatic, but very worth it. So when Mum arrived and decided that she would quite like one for herself, I was up to the challenge. I figured I might have it made for her by Christmas if she was lucky, but she had other ideas. When a trip to the mall involved a detour into spotlight and resulted in this GORGEOUS fabric, I knew she was serious.

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I made a few changes to the materials used this time – mainly to the interfacing specified. The pattern calls for 6 yards of Pellon, which you can buy at Spotlight under the Legacy brand, but is quite expensive. And we’d already spent about $80 just on the fabric alone. I had about 5 yards each of a cheap fusible fleece, and a medium weight and heavy weight interfacing at home (Lincraft, about $3 each a metre) so I figured I could come up with some combination of those to get the required finish. After a few tests I settled on 2 layers of medium weight interfacing, and one layer of fusible fleece. I also used pre-made piping (which was much thicker than the pattern specifies, so not actually the best idea). I omitted the false bottom and all the extra layers of Pellon, and just used two layers of heavy weight interfacing on the bottom piece of the external bag, one layer of fusible fleece on the bottom of the lining, and I used two layers of a really thick sew in stabiliser (again from Lincraft), which I anchored with bag feet.

We went to the Gold Coast for a couple of days, and after two days of walking round the shops we needed a day at home. So we cranked up the air con, Mum made sure I was fed and watered, and I started cutting out all the pieces. Mum manned the iron and by the end of the day we had all the pieces cut and interfaced and ready to sew (a helper to do the ironing saves so much time – there is a lot of interfacing to be done!!)

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A couple of days later, after another big day walking around the shops, and with a 31 degree day forecast, Mum decided we could do with another day at home, and that’s when I realised she was determined to take the bag home with her!

So, again with Mum on chores, and me chained to the machine, I spent another day at the machine. And this time, the construction went beautifully! My new sewing machine (a Janome 6600P) handled those seams like a dream! By the end of the day, the housework was done, and the bag was almost complete, with only the lining left to attach. Another couple of hours of hand stitching a few days later and she was done.

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But wait, there’s more! No good overnight bag is complete without accessories! So the scraps got turned into a tote bag, a zipped pouch, and an earbud pouch.

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I LOVE this fabric. And the bag turned out fantastic, if I do say so myself. And Mum is pretty happy with it, so that’s the main thing!

On a different note – as those of you who have made one know, this is not a cheap or a quick bag to make. A few people have mentioned I should be making them to sell, so I thought I’d give you a breakdown of the costs involved, and explain why as lovely as the thought is (quit my job and sew for a living? I’d love to!) it’s just not feasible. Those of you who sew know what I’m talking about!

Costs (note all figures are Australian dollars):

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So there you’ve got almost $120 for materials alone, and I used cheap materials. If you were to make it with quality home décor fabric or quilting cotton and the specified interfacing, you’d be looking at about $150.

Now, you’ll notice this is JUST cost, there is no profit at all in there. And if I was to make something like this to sell, I sure as hell ain’t doing it out of the goodness of my heart (after all, in this scenario I’ve quit my job, and a girl’s got to eat). So, I need to add some profit on top of that. If you google ‘how to price handmade goods’, you’ll get this formula from almost every hit:

Cost of Supplies + Labour + 10-15% Overhead = Total Costs
Total Costs x 2 = Wholesale Price
Wholesale Price x 2 = Retail Price

If we ignore overheads, and assume my total costs are as above, $263.96, that means my wholesale price (that I’d sell to a shop for example) is $527.92, and my retail price is a staggering $1,055.84!! And that’s charging my time out at only $10/hour, when in reality it’s worth a lot more. If you were to make a living, you would be charging your time out at what you might otherwise be earning in a paid job, so in my case the $30 to $40 per hour range, so my final sell price would actually end up being between $2,255.84 and $2,855.84!!!!

Obviously I could make the materials cheaper (buying wholesale, importing from overseas etc.), and probably cut down the production time (batch making, amphetamines), but even if I could cut them in half (unlikely), it’s still upwards of $500.

So if I love you, I’ll make you one for free (ok, for food and housework). If I don’t love you, and you’d like to buy one, email me at tara@tarasews.com – I’ll give you a discount and we’ll say $2k. (I’m kidding. Mostly).

Thanks for reading, and hopefully that last bit was useful!

 

The wicked weekender bag…

Hi all! Thanks for coming back! I know most of you are probably as surprised as I am that I’ve actually written another post – I’m going to TRY and do one a week – we’ll see how that goes!

So, I thought I’d talk about one of my favourite makes so far – my Amy Butler Weekender Bag. (I can’t find this pattern on Amy’s website anymore, but if you’re in the US you can buy it here and if you’re in Australia you can find it here.


Lots of you have seen pictures of this bag (and some have even seen it in person!), and I know a few of you have made your own, and if you haven’t, then you’ve probably heard people talk about how difficult it is. Well, they’re right. Sort of.

The pattern itself is not difficult – in fact it’s very straight forward and well illustrated and easy to follow. The difficulty lies in all the freaking layers you have to sew together, and whether your sewing machine can handle them or not. Mine could not. More on that later.

I’ll start with the materials I used and the changes I made (because of course I did). The pattern calls for home dec weight fabric for the exterior and lining. I used my loooong hoarded (and out-of-print-so-stupidly-expensive) Melody Miller Ruby Star Shining typewriters. I snapped up half a yard of this from a destash back when I started buying fabric, and knew straight away I wanted to make the Weekender Bag from it. I was then lucky (or stupid) enough to find a yard of it for sale on a difference destash a year or so ago and pounced (and then had a heart attack when I realised what the USD – AUD exchange rate was). I used a plain quilting cotton for the lining, and the eleventy billion yards of Pellon equivalent interfacing from spotlight. (I still don’t know why there are SO MANY layers of interfacing – why not just use one thicker layer??)

ANYWAY, so I had the fabric. And I had the pattern. And then I freaked out and could not cut into my precious typewriters. I had read every tutorial and blog post out there about this bag, and the one thing they all mention is how challenging it is. So I read and re-read the pattern, thinking I must be missing something – the pattern seemed straight forward, so how hard could it really be? (I say this a lot – so much so I have a future post dedicated to this very topic. And it turns out – really bloody hard!)

One day I decided to JFDI* and after re-reading the pattern for the millionth time, and NOT having a glass of wine (that’s how nervous I was to cut the precious) I cut out my first piece of lining. And it wasn’t that hard! But it took forever (there are something like 55 separate pieces of fabric/interfacing to cut out) and some careful fabric placement to make sure I could get all the pieces out of my typewriters.



While I was cutting, I decided to make a few changes, based on some of the tutorials I read. I added an inside zip pocket (using this tutorial), lengthened the straps by 10” so I could put it over my shoulder, and I had planned to add purse feet, but I forgot about them. In hindsight I wish I had added a separating zipper (the pattern specifies a non-separating one) as the zip pull gets lost in the end pocket.

So what about the actual construction? Well it’s really quite simple, as long as you can read a pattern and follow directions (duh), and as long as your machine can handle it. Mine could not. I now have a new machine. The two may or may not be related.



I constructed to top panel with the zip and end pockets, and again thought I must have been missing something, it was so easy! And then I got to attaching the side panels. HO. LY. SHIT. My machine COULD NOT cope with all the layers (three lining, three exterior, two THICK pellon, three more layers of interfacing, and some piping. Phew.) I could only get four or five stitches before the thread would break. And I tried every trick in the book – denim/heavy duty needles, different thread, hand cranking the dial thingee on the machine, you name it I tried it.


I swore and I cried and I read more blogs and more tutorials, and almost gave up. And then the genius (not genius) idea to hand sew it popped into my head, which I promptly dismissed as madness. But it niggled at me and since I couldn’t see any other way to do it, I gave it a go. And it worked! And it was tidy! And the piping was neat!


I did one side in about 8 hours, and was stoked with how it turned out, so decided to keep going. Man it was tough on my fingers though.


But after a weekend of hand sewing, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I had an exterior. Then it was a fairly simple process to assemble the lining and hand stitch into the exterior.


I am SO happy with how it turned out. I just love it. It makes me happy to take it places, and I’ve had loads of compliments. I’ll make another one day – here’s hoping my new machine can cope, but even if it can’t, I would be ok hand sewing it again.

If you have any questions or would like any more details, let me know in the comments!

*Just Fucking Do It