Friday, 9 May 2014

Bird Bag and Bunting, or, Sewing Regrets I Have Had This Morning

I'm going to visit my friend tomorrow. She has two children under two (!) and this is the first time I'll be meeting the new baby.

My friend is very into home-sewn stuff so I made her some bunting for the new little girl. Here it is:

Cute or what?? I made it reversible so they could use it for a random party decoration or whatever as well as in the nursery. I got the idea while I was making baby blocks (look for an upcoming post about cutting sixteen million sodding squares for these) and decided Eliana couldn't have any because her name was too long. Also she is too young to really play with them yet. But I had a bunch of this fantastic alphabet fabric which I bought half price (yay!) in our local craft shop which is closing down (nay!) and it was perfect for the bunting. I used my new Tri Tool and magical rotary cutter (more on this later) which made cutting the triangles very quick. I didn't have any bias tape long enough so I ordered this cute red gingham with little hearts and flowers on.

I am so pleased with how it came out! I sewed the triangles right side together (the backing fabric was just scraps), then clipped the corners before turning them out and pressing them. I topstitched them too and that was the most difficult part. For some reason my machine really doesn't like me to pivot at any angle smaller than 90 degrees, and I end up with bunched fabric and, you guessed it, a thread monster. I Googled and other people have that problem too. I found it easier to stitch down one side, then start at the top again and stitch the other. Then I just pinned and topstitched the pennants into the bias tape, which I had pressed in half. Simples!

So then I had to think about what to bring the toddler. Of course she had presents when she was born too, but she doesn't remember that, and I haven't seen her for a long time and want to bribe her into liking me.

I decided I wanted to make a little bag shaped like a bird. I don't know why this idea occurred to me, or why I thought I could make something without a pattern or tutorial, but it did. I wanted to make it so the flap was the wing. I looked around but I couldn't see anything exactly like I wanted so I decided to make it FROM MY BRAIN. I know. I'm way too big for my boots.

I drew the shape I wanted and it seemed doable. I planned it out in advance and got all my materials together this morning. I took some pictures but please be aware that this is NOT A TUTORIAL. Tutorials are for people who actually know what they're doing. This is a list of things I did wrong, with visual aids.

Here's the finished bag. I KNOW. So cute, right??

And so simple to make! If you're not a fule like I am.

To make your very own bird bag, you will need:

Outer fabric (I used a heavy natural linen)
Lining fabric (I used yellow quilting cotton)
Interfacing (I have a ton of fusible to use up, sigh)
Scrap for the handle, if you want one
Scrap for the beak
Button for the eye
Sewing machine, thread, rotary/cutting mat or measuring tape and scissors

First cut your pieces. I used a yellow felt scrap and the tip of my tri tool (I love this thing!) to make the beak. For the main parts of the bag (I made it as an envelope clutch) I measured 6x18 inch rectangles quilting ruler is 6 inches and I'm lazy, then used my tri tool (yay!) to cut the top 6 inches into a triangle. This will be the wing of the bird.

For the strap I just dug a random coordinating scrap out of my tin (I recently ironed and sorted everything in there by size and colour because I know how to rock and roll) and cut it to 1.5 inches. I didn't have a piece long enough so I sewed two together.

I am new to cutting with a rotary cutter, and while it is super quick I am also taking a while to get used to it. I find I need to cut in small sections or I go flying off in a random direction. If you are new to rotary cutting, DO NOT cut 'into' the fabric. Make sure the straight edge is protecting your fabric and the only place your cutter can go is into the excess you're cutting off anyway. I am sure none of you need to be told that, but I do. REGRET NUMBER ONE.

After I had cut my fabric and my finger (yep), I cut my interfacing. I actually decided to iron it on before trimming the linen as I found the linen so hard to cut! It wouldn't go in a straight line or lie flat! I had never sewn with it before and wanted to give it a try on a small project and it was a fucking nightmare. REGRET NUMBER TWO.

Ok. I ironed everything including the god damned interfacing onto the linen (seriously, the only way I can get it work is on cotton setting, without a pressing cloth, which is the exact opposite of what everyone says. I think I have a defective iron) and also pressed my strap right sides together. Ready to start sewing!

I sewed the strap up first, then turned it right side out using a safety pin. REGRET: not making wider straps. I actually like the skinnier strap on the finished bag, but this was a pain in the arse.  And remember earlier, when I sewed two pieces together to make one long piece? And I didn't trim off the seam allowance? And I had to super carefully pink the excess off while i was turning because it was blocking everything up? REGRET.

Press it flat and put it aside. Next, put the main pieces right sides together and sew them, leaving a gap for turning. Turn right side out. Realise the interfaced linen is now stiff as a board and turning it is a bitch. REGRET. Struggle womanfully until you've got it all turned, only to realise you forgot to clip your corners or the seam allowance. REGRET. Turn it wrong side out again, clip and trim, turn it right side out again. Ugh. Don't forget to bodge the corners out with a chopstick! And don't trim the seam allowance by the turning gap.

Iron it, as it now looks like a crocodile hand puppet that narrowly survived an apocalypse. While you're at the iron, press it into thirds so it's the shape you want. Burn your finger. REGRET.

Topstitch your turning gap. Mine was the short edge which is under the flap. Now sew your beak pieces together (I used felt, which I DON'T regret, as it doesn't need turning etc and adds a nice texture) and position your eye and beak to a place you like.

Isn't that button great? It has three surfaces so when the light hits it, it makes it look like the bird is 'looking' in a specific direction. To remember where you want to sew the eye, dab the back of it with a fabric marker and then press against the fabric. Now you have a sewing mark!

Sew the button on. Remember shank buttons are a pain in the arse to sew. REGRET. I actually do know how to sew on buttons (thanks Mum!) but if you don't, here is a clear tutorial.

Ok. now the wing. I wanted to use velcro to close the bag, but I didn't want to be able to see the usual box with an x in it stitching on the front of the wing. I cut and positioned the velcro (in a diamond rather than a rectangle) and then top stitched the wing, catching the velcro on both sides. You can use whatever stitch, I used zigzag to look a little like feathers.

Then I sewed parallel lines onto the wing, to look more like feathers and also to secure the velcro again. I am really pleased with how well this worked. On the inside:

 And the outside! Pretend this isn't a picture of the finished bag.

Then I stuck the corresponding piece of velcro to it, closed the flap and held the velcro down while opening it again. Sew it on. I just used a regular box with an x in straight stitch for this.

A NOTE ON ZIG ZAG STITCHING: because I'm an idiot, I tried to back stitch the way you do with a straight stitch to lock it. WRONG. Threadmonsters a go go. So instead I thought I would set my stitch length to 0, back stitch a few straight stitches and then switch to zig zag, then back to straight at the end. This actually worked so long as you remember to change the stitch length before zig zagging. REGRET REGRET SO MUCH RIPPING OUT REGRET. Some places it worked better than others and is practically invisible:

Some places I just thought, 'Fuck it, she's two.'

All right! Now the strap. I realised I had in no way considered how to add the strap. REGRET. I tried different ways but in the end decided to sew the ends together so it was a loop, then sew it flat against the back piece of the bag. I forgot to take pictures at the time but here:

I redid that a bunch of times. I kept doing it too fast and getting the strap all tangled up and my stitching was even more horrendously wonky than it is here - REGRET - but I'm happy enough with it now.

Okay, all that's left is to sew up the bag! Don't forget to position your beak (which you should have sewed together) inside before sewing! Regret! Twice! REGRET.

Snip your ends, give it a final press, and ta-da! Bird Bag :D

I really like it, and I think the not-even-two-year-old it's for will like it too. I will put some sweeties inside and she shall love me forever. MUAHAHA.

I hope you enjoyed this list of things I did wrong while making a very simple gift.

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