Using Your Domestic Machine to get Professional Results

Hi everyone! I’m so excited to be taking part in this awesome series! I’m flattered to be included among this fantastic group of ladies.

So, today we’re going to talk about how to get professional results using your domestic machine.  Personally, I use a Kenmore sewing machine and I think you can get great results with your domestic. Am I considering an industrial? Sure, but they’re a big investment so in the meantime these are some tricks I’ve learned over the years of sewing handbags & wallets…

  1. Stitch Length-The typical range for stitch length on a domestic machine is 0-4mm, sometimes up to 6mm. Most machines have a default setting of 2.5 mm (10-12 stitches per inch). Obviously, the smaller the number the smaller the stitch. Smaller stitches are harder to rip out and can cause damage to your fabric, I generally sew my bags with a stitch length of 3.0.However, when top stitching I like to use a length of 3.5mm on fabric, and if I’m using vinyl I like to use a length of 4.0-4.5mm. It gives a nice even smooth look, especially if I’m using a top stitching thread.
  2. Pressure Adjustment-On most machine there is a place to adjust the pressure on your presser foot, it comes in handy to know these settings when sewing lots of layers for your bags. On my machine there’s a dial on top that has 3 settings- 1 is for Extra fine fabrics (It puts more pressure on the foot so your fabric will feed through evenly) 2 is for appliqué, and 3 is the regular setting. These are important settings to look at if you’re having tension issues (coming up next).
  3. Tension – Speaking of tension issues… have  you ever tried to sew something and the thread just bunched up on the bottom of your fabric or just looked wonky? You really need to know how to adjust the tension of your machine-and don’t be scared of it! I will often have to change the tension when using different materials (fabric or vinyl) for one bag. When the tension on your machine is balanced the stitched lines look even on both sides of your fabrics. Threads Magazine has a great article on tension…
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    “When upper and lower thread tensions are balanced, knot between top and bottom threads is hidden between fabric layers (top). When lower tension is too loose (or upper tension is too tight), knot is visible on right side (left). When upper tension is too loose (or lower tension is too tight), knot is visible on wrong side (right).”
  4. Seam Jumpers– Have you ever had a thick seam that you’re trying to sew together and your machine just won’t forward the fabric through the feed dogs? A seam jumper is a great little tool that can help you out. You set your presser foot on top and it will hold it up to the same level as your thick seam and your machine will glide right through and your machine won’t chew up your fabric!
    seamjumpera_WeaverDee.png(image from weaverdee.com)

Needles-There are so many options of needles how do you choose the right one?  11/80, 18/110, 16/100, 14/90… what do they all mean? I like to use a heavy duty universal needle when I sew my bags. Selecting the correct needle for your project is just as important as selecting the fabric, thread and stabilizer. There are different sizes and types of needles for different types of fabric. The European metric sizing system for sewing machine needles is numbered from 60 to 110. The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18. For both sizing systems, the lower the number the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the needle. Most needle companies show both sizes on the package.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: the lighter the fabric the smaller the needle size and the heavier the fabric the larger the needle size.

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6. Etcetera -My last tips are bits and pieces, mostly for the inside-generally the part that no one is ever going to see but can make or break  your bags.
Seams.. I always, always, always press open my seams (unless using vinyl of course-but even then finger press!). I also like to top stitch down those pressed seams when I can then trim the excess inside to reduce bulk for top stitching around the bag later.
Using the right interfacing is important.. I know we all have our favourites (I’m a sucker for foam interfacing – I love the look and structure it gives a bag) but if you’re not sure what to use.. PLAY. Seriously, some of my favourite bags are when I switched up what was called for in the pattern, now keep in mind you may need to make some other adjustments to the pattern so it’s best to do it with a pattern you are familiar with.

I really hope these tips were helpful! If you have any questions or have any additional tips, let us know in the comments below!

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Purse Palooza 2015 – Hydrangea Hobo Bag

Hi everyone! So happy to be participating in Purse Palooza again this year! Big thank you to Sara for organizing everything! Of all the Paloozas out there, Purse Palooza is totally my favourite 😉

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This year I chose to review the Hydrangea Hobo Bag by Blue Calla Patterns. The Hydrangea is a large size hobo bag with a large front exterior pocket that has an additional zippered pocket built into the flap closure. It has a large gusset to give it a lot of depth and on the inside there are 2 large slip pockets. Celine has also provided instructions on making an adjustable strap so the bag can be worn cross body or over one shoulder. The Hydrangea Hobo is 14 inches wide (at widest point) and 10 inches high at the centre and is 4 inches deep.

The pattern is rated for intermediate/advanced sewers. I’m guessing that rating is because of the zippers which some beginners may find intimidating, but I think a confident beginner with a couple of bags/zippers under their belt would easily be able to complete this bag.

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First off, to make your own Hydrangea Hobo you’ll need the following supplies:
Exterior fabric:
1 yard exterior fabric of your choice: quilt weight, cotton, canvas, denim Note: this is the total amount required for body, front pocket and strap. More may be required if you are fussy cutting a pattern
Lining fabric:
3/4 yard quilt weight cotton for lining and front pocket lining
Interfacing:
1/2 yard medium/heavyweight interfacing of your choice (sew-in or fusible)
1.5 yard lightweight fusible for pockets and strap
2 small scraps of fusible 2” x 2” for snap
2 small scraps of peltex or duck canvas 1.5” x 1.5” for snap
Notions:
(1) 18mm magnetic snap
(1) 12” zipper (metal or nylon)
(1) 8” zipper (will be cut down)
(1) 1.25” rectangle slide
(2) 1.25” or 1.5” O-rings

One of the things I like the most about the Hydrangea Hobo is the versatility of the pattern. You can easily showcase a special fabric on the front pocket. Since it was just released and begging to be used, I chose Tula Pink’s Crouching Tigers in sapphire from her Eden collection. I used a solid home decor canvas for the rest of the exterior. On the second bag I did, I used vinyl for the front pocket and the gusset which was a little tricky, but with a heavy duty needle and a walking foot my machine didn’t complain too much 😉 I then used a woven Houndstooth print for the exterior (I’m not sure what it is exactly, I had originally planned on making a cape with it but I can’t seem to move beyond sewing bags-but that’s another blog post).

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I really like the pockets on the front of the bag. The small zippered pocket on the flap is perfect for a cell phone or bank card, and the larger pocket is great for those small things that have a tendency to sink to the bottom of your bag. I like to keep my lip gloss, mints, and keys in there; it’s also easy to open with one hand if necessary.

I found the way the gusset is inserted rather clever, and dare I say simple? I also like that the gusset is nice and wide, I find it helps you to find things inside and when you set your bag down on the floor, it doesn’t completely collapse into a heap and the things inside don’t get all jumbled up.

When constructing the bag, I appreciated that in the instructions Celine advises which way the zipper should go if you’re left or right handed. I think I may have had a light bulb moment.. I don’t think that’s something I ever took into consideration when making bags. Now I’m curious, do you insert zippers according to your dexterity?

On both bags, I opted to do just a shoulder strap instead of an adjustable cross body strap. I don’t use cross body bags often so it wasn’t necessary. That said, I can tell with the shape of the bag that it would make a great cross body and would be comfortable to wear for a long period.

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Another thing I really enjoyed about this pattern is, the simplicity of the interfacing. As bag makers we all know interfacing is an important component in making our bags; and while I love foam interfacing and how it’s completely changed the way structured bags can be made, I found the Hydrangea Hobo refreshing in that it wasn’t necessary at all. I used Pellon SF101 in both of my bags. I do realize it’s a hobo and not meant to be structured so the comparison of foam interfacing might not be fair, I just liked the break from the foam – and am no where ready to give it up 😛

All in all I found this pattern very easy to follow and most importantly comfortable to carry and roomy for those of us who tend to pack a little more than necessary 😉

So now as I close and bid you adieu, I suggest you dig through your stash and make one (or two) for you!

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Purse Palooza 2014 – Swoon Blanche Barrel Bag

Hi All! First off I’d like to say thank you to Sara for once again hosting Purse Palooza and asking me to participate. You’re awesome!

Secondly, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Wendy, and my alter ego is W.D. Handbags. I started sewing 10ish plus years ago on a bit of a whim.  Sewing is my preferred creative outlet (I love to sew handbags and accessories mostly); I’ve recently learned the love of crochet through YouTube and online tutorials. I’d love to conquer knitting but my fingers just don’t seem to want to cooperate with 2 needles. I’m usually caffeinated; I’m addicted to Pinterest, nail polish and all things chocolate. That’s enough about me. Now onto the main event…

When Sara asked if I’d like to participate in Purse Palooza, I jumped at the chance and knew almost immediately what bag I wanted to sew. I’ve sewn a lot of bags in my time, and lately I’m all about Swoon Patterns. Alicia designs some great on trend patterns and is super encouraging and helpful to all who create with her patterns.  There is also a Swoon Facebook group filled with Swoon addicts, so if you ever have a question or need an opinion they’re happy to help. Sorry, back to topic, I chose Swoon’s Blanche Barrel Bag (in the small size) I had 2 fabrics I knew I wanted to use so I made 2 bags, each a little different.. I’ll elaborate more down below 😉

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Black Watch Blanche

 

Blanche is a stunning, rockabilly-inspired barrel bag in three different sizes, 10.5”, 12” and 14” wide.  The materials you’ll require to make your very own are:

  • 2/3 yard 44” wide exterior fabric (1/2 yard for Small Bag)
  • 1 yard 44” wide lining fabric (extra if making piping)
  • 3 yards 5/32” cotton cording (or premade piping)
  • 1 yard fusible fleece (Pellon Thermolam Plus)
  • 3 yards stiff fusible interfacing (Pellon Craft-fuse 808)
  • 1/2 yard fusible stiff stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 71F)
  • 14” all-purpose zipper (11” zipper for Small Bag)
  • 6” all-purpose zipper
  • Four 3/4” metal loops
  • Two 3/4” lobster clasps
  • Two 3/4” D-rings
  • Coordinating thread

It’s rated at a difficulty level of 3 out of 4, meaning you should already be somewhat familiar with sewing patterns and terms.  I think that’s a pretty fair rating, I also think a confident beginner with a bag or 2 under their belt and ready to expand their skills would be able to tackle Blanche. This bag has everything to push you out of our comfort zone slightly, but not enough to make you want to hurl your half finished bag across the room (I’m looking at you AB Weekender)!

I feel like the pattern is laid out well and makes sense with the way I approach bag making. There are detailed explanations throughout the pattern as well as illustrations. I find they’re both thorough, and clear. The illustrations show clearly where to sew, and when measuring 4″ from the top for example, where exactly that measurement should start and end. Also included is a great mini tutorial on how to make the piping for the Blanche, which can be used for piping on any other bag.

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I think the hardest part for me are the connectors, there is a tutorial on the Swoon Blog (http://swoonpatterns.com/tutorial-blanche-connectors/) to help with the construction, but even with that mine always seem to come out slightly (or totally) wonky. Keep trying.. you’ll get them! As you can see, I often opt for pre-made handles. I hand stitch them on before adding the lining to the bag so you can’t see the stitching inside. I also left the connectors off the ends of the red bag this time, as I knew I wouldn’t be using a cross body strap for this particular bag. I did add my simplified version of them to the blue bag. I think that’s one of the things I like most about bag making, it’s so easy to customize exactly what you want!

 

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I also added some vinyl to the bottom of the red bag, which isn’t called for in the pattern but it’s pretty simple to do.  I basically split the main body pattern piece to the where I wanted the vinyl and fabric to meet and added ½” on both pieces for seam allowance. You may notice in the pics, my vinyl puckered slightly at the bottom of the bag. I probably should have gone in and ripped the stitches and tried again, but I was nervous about being able to see holes left from the previous stitches so I left it alone. If you decide to go with vinyl go slow, and use lots of clips to make sure it doesn’t shift on you. If you have a walking foot, it’ll be your best friend.

On the blue bag, I added strips just for a different effect. I cut 4 strips 4″ x 10″ and folded them much like you would for handbag straps. I measured 3″ in from each side. I then pinned the handles to the strips, sewed around them and voila! A whole new look! 🙂

One other thing the pattern doesn’t call for, but I always do is after sewing the bottom together, I iron open my seam then top stitch down each side. (It may not need to be said, but I will just in case, don’t iron vinyl!) It can be a little tricky, but I arrange my walking foot inside the zipper opening. Not necessary, but I like the look in the end 🙂

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As metioned above the interfacing in the pattern calls for 1 yard fusible fleece (Pellon Thermolam Plus), 3 yards stiff fusible interfacing (Pellon Craft-fuse 808),  and 1/2 yard fusible stiff stabilizer (Pellon Peltex 71F). I used ½ yard of Soft and Stable instead (again the small size), my local quilt shops don’t always have the right interfacing products available but Soft and Stable (or Inn Control Plus) is easily found and I use it in all of my bags. I love the look and sturdiness of it.

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One other thing is that, I cut my main panels of the red plaid on the bias just so the plaid pattern wasn’t so linear; I’d suggest not doing that, as it made things shift slightly during sewing. It might not even be noticeable but when I look at the bag I feel like there is something off and that’s the only thing I can guess that happened.

 

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I’m including a couple of extra pics of other Blanche bags I made, large and small size.. my printer broke on me before I could print the medium size or else you’d have a pic of her too 😉
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All in all I think the Blanche Barrel Bag pattern is great, on trend and well written! I think you should give it a try!

Once again, I’d like to thank Sara for this fab opportunity to share my current favourite pattern with you, and to you.. thanks for reading! ❤