Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition 2014

In which it takes me far too long to make a simple yoga mat bag, but the sweet bits of Umbrella Prints fabric make it worth it.

I’m pretty sure I screwed up my time zone conversions and am submitting this a few hours late, but OH WELL. I had fun.

The Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition was a surprisingly interesting challenge. The total amount of fabric you receive is pretty slim, so it takes some creativity to figure out how to make the most of it. My goals were:

  1. Do something I hadn’t done before: namely, improv piecing.
  2. Make something I’ll use (almost) every day: a bag for my yoga mat, with pockets so I’m not awkwardly stuffing my jacket pockets full of keys, wallet, phone, and a water bottle.
  3. Showcase the Umbrella Prints fabric as well as I can.

My approach to showing off the (awesome) fabric was to combine the bright yellows and oranges and firey crimsons of the “Earth” packet I chose with a muted blue canvas, so they would really pop. My approach to improv piecing was to just run with it. My approach to making a yoga mat bag was also to just run with it, which turned out to be the hardest part of this whole thing.

So first: the fabric.

Gorgeous, right? The second I saw the Earth packet I knew that’s the one I’d be using.

Once I opened up the packet and ironed out the few wrinkly bits, the improv piecing bit came easily. I found this post by Kelly of My Quilt Infatuation to be helpful in bolstering my courage, and then I pretty much went for it. My goal was to end up with two long strips of randomly assembled bits of fabric.

Next step: throw caution to the wind, ignore the many excellent patterns and tutorials out there, and decide you want to a) use a zipper; b) have that zipper be shorter than the length of your bag; c) draft a pattern entirely from scratch.

The pocket and strap bits went well, as did inserting the strips.

I even managed to insert the zipper without too much fuss!

Umbrella Prints Trimmings Competition 2014

And then I crashed hard into the brick wall of “yoga mats, once rolled up, aren’t actually that bendy” and “cotton canvas, especially when lined, isn’t actually that stretchy.” In other words: see how the zipper is centered along the length of the bag? I could slide my mat into one end, but in order to slip the other end of the bag up over the mat and zip up the bag, I needed to bend the rules of matter.

Fail. I almost gave up at this point, but Mr. Jones convinced me to spend some quality time on our porch this weekend with my seam ripper and a helpful beverage.

After ripping out the zipper, cutting and sewing in two new additional panels (one for the exterior and one for the lining) to make up for the lost circumference, and resigning myself to the use of a drawstring instead of a zipper, I was back on track.

Bonus: using a drawstring meant I needed sturdy openings for said drawstring, which means I got to sew buttonholes for the very first time! After that, all I had to do was turn down one edge to make the channel for the drawstring and attach the bottom panel and strap.

Voila: bag.

“Sew Together Bag” by SewDemented

In which I boldly install four zippers.

Sew Together Bag

Two potholders in, and I already have more sewing supplies than I can comfortably carry around in my hand. The Sew Together Bag, which I was able to put together in a weekend with relatively little sewing experience and a little bit of bravado, is a pretty amazing solution to this problem. I love that it has a million (well, 7) pockets to separate my bobbins from my sewing machine feet from my pins, that it holds both my scissors and my rotary cutter easily, and that the way it’s designed allowed me to choose a bunch of coordinating colors (and matching zippers!) for one project.

Sew Together Bag (inside view)

Less than stellar things (mostly my fault):

  • I wasn’t paying attention and fused the interfacing to the outside (linen) side pieces, rather than the lining side pieces (pretty foliage). Not sure how much of a difference this ended up making in the final product, as you sew both pieces together right away, but it’s perhaps worth noting.
  • So. Many. Layers. At one point I think I was sewing through three layers of interfacing and eight or nine layers of fabric. My poor, poor, poor sewing machine. I gave up on the idea of attaching the zipper tabs to the bottom binding—there’s no way I could have wrangled the bag into the correct position, and even if I could have, I don’t think my machine could have handled it. I ended up tacking them on with embroidery floss instead, which so far is holding up just fine, but isn’t technically according to instructions.
  • I used invisible zippers instead of regular zippers because I bought the wrong kind and was too embarrassed to exchange them. Everything still works, but I would have liked the look of regular zippers better, and I think they would have laid better (especially the outside zipper, which is curling up on itself).
  • My seam allowances were a bit off for the binding around the top zipper, and I ended up having to make new zipper tabs for the top zipper because the final product was too wide. I’m assuming precision will come with practice, but trying to sew the bag to the zipper and the binding after most of it had been constructed was awkward.
  • Sewing the sides on: even though the bag is made, I’m still not sure exactly how I was supposed to match up the various edges/pockets. It all worked out in the end, but I could have used better guidance (and some photos) from the pattern.

Now: on to the good things!

  • So. Many. Pockets! No other bag I found had this many different compartments.
  • I loved the option to embellish the outside (patchworking/quilting, embroidery, etc.). I embroidered four simple straight lines across the front in colors that matched the pocket linings. I really like the way this came out.
  • Yay for surprise colored pocket linings! Double yay that they match the zippers—I love the pop of color when you open up one of the interior pockets.
  • It holds all of my stuff! Mission accomplished.

Sew Together Bag (side view)

PATTERN: Sew Together Bag by SewDemented (pattern from Craftsy)

FABRIC (all from Gather Here):
Outside and binding: Kona Essex Linen in natural
Lining: Carolyn Friedlander Botanics, Foliage in Charcoal
Pocket lining: Kona quilting cotton solids in sprout, sunny, and spice (I think; doing a bit of post-sewing color matching here….)

Zippers from Gather Here
Thread from the Cambridge Quilt Shop, left over from the quilted potholders
Embroidery floss from a giant craft pack I bought to make friendship bracelets with for a costume (I pulled the threads apart and used half of the strand, instead of the full 6 threads)