Saturday, 6 October 2012

Episode 1: The Weekender Bag - Pattern

You've probably gathered that I've decided to make the Amy Butler weekender bag.  I thought it might be useful to chronicle the process and throw in other useful bag making advice.  Any time you see "Episode" and a number in the blog title you'll know the post is related to making The Weekender Bag. That way if you're an old hand at making this bag or just not interested you'll know to skip these posts.

I may need a weekend away just for reading the pattern...

I have decided to use the Quilt-As-You-Go method that Elizabeth mentions here.  I've decided to go down this route for two reasons: 1) I love the look of bags created this way and 2) it saves a whole stack of money on fabric and interfacing. As Laura pointed out to me after she'd made her great bag - you could easily spend £80 on making a weekender bag.  If that sounds high start totting up how much home decor weight fabric costs and add in the interfacing and notions. To be honest if I was going to spend £80 on a bag of any kind it would not be one I'd made myself.

One of the things I'm asked most about is bag making. I have made a lot of bags. If someone is going to email me with a sewing related query you can bet it will be bag related.  I was concerned recently to read on someone's blog (I forget which) that they rated the Weekender Bag as a suitable project for a confident/advanced beginner.  I understand that people that make this bag are keen to dispell the ideas that have floated around about this bag that it is hard to make.  I'm all for people encouraging. However, I think all too often the more experienced and proficient we become at something the easier it is to forget when you're a beginner a lot of stuff the experienced do with ease, is difficult.

I have not made this bag. But the first thing I did was read the pattern from cover to cover. I always do this with any bag pattern long before I go anywhere near fabric. It took about 6 reads to get my head round certain parts of it. Having cut all the pattern pieces out of duck cloth and then wadding yesterday afternoon I decided I didn't want to make it any more - too complicated. (I even sent Chief a text saying I was stressed I couldn't get my head around it. He later said as nobody was about to die it was hardly a reason for major stress.)  It was only when I read it yet again in bed last night everything slotted into place.

If you are about to purchase this pattern but not sure of your skill level ask yourself these questions:

Are you confident about your ability to sew something in 3 dimensions?
This bag has a boxy shape to it.  You will have to construct something that has effectively has a huge gusset in it all the way round. A gusset with a zip in it. Add to that there will be lots of layers to sew through and match up.

Are you used to reading patterns which give few diagrams but plenty of texty description? 
If you're used to making bags or other items from Internet patterns or tutorials you are most likely used to seeing patterns with step by step photographs and often limited amounts of explanatory text.  This is one of the fab things about patterns by the likes of Anna at Noodlehead.  The Weekender Bag pattern is an entirely different beast.  The process is broken down into steps, with comprehensive instructions, but it's heavily text based. There are a few diagrams. It does not include photographs and some of the construction explanations are more like you'd get in a traditional dress making pattern - which might give an advantage to you if you're a dressmaker looking to make this bag.

Can you put in a zip?
I've put in lots of zips and I still find them a hit and miss affair. I don't know why as I've followed so many different methods. If you've never ever put a zip in something before then go and practice by making a few (hundred) zippy pouches.  

Have you made and sewn with piping?
Many years ago - before I knew any better I decided my sofa needed piped cushions. I did buy some ready made piping, but for most off the cushions I made my own. I didn't know it was supposed to be hard. It worked with varying degrees of success. There always seemed to be one corner on the cushions that either repeatedly killed needles or looked wonky.  I didn't have a piping foot and found my zipper foot was fine for the process. I have decided I will only pipe my pockets and not the whole bag. Partly for economic reasons - partly because I'd like to see this bag without piping.  If you are going to be piping without much experience go to the library or look online for patterns for inserting piping in cushions.  You can often learn an awful lot about inserting piping from soft furnishing sewing rather than bag making books.

On the plus side with this pattern all the pieces are the size you make the bag - I really HATE it when you have to go copy something 200% or something. I'd much rather have pattern pieces I could tape together. In fact I did a lot of taping with this pattern as I chose to trace the pieces onto copier paper in case I destroyed them trying to cut out various pieces. Whenever I make a bag from the pattern I keep one uncut set for reference and one to use for cutting out fabric.

A final thought about making this bag.  I am going to be making this bag over a long period of time. I have no pressing immediate need to do it by a certain date.  Therefore I'm under no pressure. Unless you are supremely confident of you skill level I suggest you don't try making this in half a day.  

I'm going to be breaking this bag down into sections to do for maybe an hour or so every day.  I think there is more chance of trouble if you rush this bag and expect to whip it up in the time it takes you to make a simple tote bag. I'm also prone to get bored if I don't get immediate results so I'm going to be doing other stuff in between making this bag.


Playing with fabric and starting to QAYG one front pocket. You can see all the pattern pieces cut from Duck Cloth and wadding in the plastic bag.  

Any other questions please ask in the comments.


  1. Wow Jan - I am going to be watching like a hawk - I just happen to have a reason to make one now! x

  2. I expect to see you sporting it next July. I won't need to make one, I'll be stealing Laura's in SLC ;o)

  3. I am going to let you forge a path before I go down it! Di x

  4. loooking forward to all the "episodes" have looked at the bags made by Elizabeth and Laura they are fab as will yours be ............good luck :))))

  5. I'm also going to be following along with fascination - I quite fancy one for all the knitting/crochet projects I seem to have started!!

  6. I'm keen to see this progress, but oh god are we ALL going to have weekenders at the retreat?!!! I love it, I want one but I know for sure it won't hold enough clothes for me....perhaps sewing supplies for the weekend though ;-)

  7. Great post Jan, you make some really good points re text/photos on patterns like this

  8. I've had that pattern stashed away for years but now thinking I need to make one for FQly 2013!
    Can't wait to see your progress and pick up a few tips along the way!!

  9. If anyone can conquer this you can! Good luck. Jxo

  10. Great post and look forward to following your weekender journey!

  11. Love this plan - maybe you should host a slow speed sew-a-long! I'd join up in a minute (or an hour or next week) teehee.


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