African Wax Print Weekender Bag

I have been wanting to write this blog post since I started SewingInstead. I have never really made bags as I enjoy making clothes so much and I have my few trusty bags that I use regularly and so I am not someone who has loads of different bags for every different outfit. However, this was an exception as I had some very special fabric that I wanted to use for it. I felt that if I made it into a dress or another item of clothing I wouldn’t have many occasions in which I would wear it so it would just sit in my wardrobe unused. My Mother-in-law suggested a bag which I thought was a fab idea, I use weekender bags quite a bit when travelling which was so apt for this fabric.

So… the Fabric. Last August I went on an amazing once in a life time holiday to Tanzania. We were on safari and so I wasn’t expecting to be able to do any fabric shopping but I was on the look out for some Wax Print fabric if I found any. Having seen the episode of the Great British Sewing Bee where they had used it to make dresses I really wanted to have a go at it and what an amazing souvenir it would be if I could get some. On our way to our third and final game reserve we stopped off at a place called Gibb’s Farm. It was a beautiful Coffee plantation with a lodge on the outskirts of Ngorongoro National Park. While waiting for our lunch I went into the small shop there and they had an amazing range of Wax Print and Masaai fabric. It was all precut but to huge pieces, eventually I decided on a gorgeous navy, green, yellow and cream print. I picked it because I thought it was most suited to me and I would be more likely to use it.

Once I decided that I was going to be making a bag I started searching for a pattern. Having not made many bags before I decided I wanted to use a pattern. The fabric was so special to me as it had come from an amazing trip and I couldn’t easily go back to get more, I wanted to make sure that I got it right 1st time. After looking at so many ideas on Pinterest I finally found one from U-handbag.  The “It’s a Cinch Tote bag” was perfect. I liked the idea of having the straps going all the way around and thought it was a very useable bag. The pattern was very easy to follow and gave me a list of all the bag furniture I then needed to get. Initially, I wanted to use leather straps but could not find any suitable so when I was at the Sewing for Pleasure show I found some navy strap webbing which was ideal. I also managed to get all the metal furniture from there, as well as the smaller front pocket zip. The only thing I couldn’t get was the main pocket zip, I wanted a metal zip to match the one on the front pocket and through that it would go well with all of the other metal, I ended up ordering one of eBay which matched perfectly.

Again, because I wanted to make sure I did it perfectly I waited until this week to make it as I had a whole day I could commit to making it. The first step was to make up the pattern pieces using the measurements given however I made the bag an inch taller than stated as comparing the size to my other weekender bags it was slightly smaller. I cut out both of the exterior pieces so that they both had a yellow part of the pattern in the centre. I then had to attached the tabs to the end of the zipper, this was more difficult as my zip was metal and so I made sure to use the wheel instead of the foot pedal to make sure I didn’t break my needle. The measurements on this section of the instructions were a little confusing as they didn’t quite match what I had cut out but I adjusted the length of my zip to match my bag pieces. Now it is finished I wish I had sewn a zipper tab to both sides of each end of the zip. From the outside it looks fine but on the inside it is the only part of the bag where you can see the wrong side of the fabric and the raw edge of the zipper and so I think it would have been neater and not needed any extra work to do this.

I then had to sew the zipped pocket on the outer and elasticated pocket on the lining. I was really pleased with how these both turned out, although again the measurements for the hole for the exterior zip pocket meant that there wasn’t much excess fabric on the pocket fabric so I had to be careful when sewing the pocket together but it worked out fine, they both look so neat and tidy. I think an additional zipped pocket in the lining would be useful and so if I was to make it again I would add one in.

The pattern then stated to attach the straps with basing tape before sewing them on. I didn’t have any so I just pinned it in place but I could see how it would be useful. I put the straps further apart than stated in the pattern but was careful to make sure that they were the same distance apart on both exterior pieces so that they matched up on the bottom of the bag. The straps looked great when they were sewn in place, you can’t see the stitching at all and they are very secure.

I then had to attach the zip. This was easier than I expected but once I had finished I wish I had taken a bit more time to pay attention to which way round I had placed the zip. Now it is in place the zip opens from the right side of the bag when looking at it, this is not a massive problem but when I am carrying a bag under my left arm I prefer the zip to close to my front which I doesn’t, this would also match the direction of the front pocket zip. When looking at the bag there is nothing wrong with it and I think I have sewn it in really neatly so you wouldn’t know anything otherwise. 

The next step was to sew the lining pieces and exterior pieces together. When I did the lining pieces I made sure to include a tag which I had got from the Sewing for Pleasure show. The corners were the trickiest bit of the whole pattern, making sure that the seams all matched up and putting in the extra metal furniture and webbing. It was also difficult trying to pull all the pieces together, this was the bit where I was confused by what I was doing I couldn’t see how it would work when I turned it through the hole in the lining. Luckily, it did all work!  When I pulled it though all the corners of the lining were attached to the exterior so they don’t fall in and the seams matched up really well.

The final job was to work out the size of the straps to attach to the rectangle rings. Once these were sewn in place I was done! I am so pleased with how it worked out. It definately suits the fabric and fits the bill for what I wanted to do with it. I can’t wait to use it on future trips!   

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