Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Highbrow Hobo

Highbrow Hobo

For some reason I keep calling this the Highbrow Boho, which doesn't make much sense. This is the Highbrow Hobo, a PDF pattern from Lisa Lam at U-Handbag. I don't have a lot of bag/purse making experience, but I found it to be an easy-to-follow pattern and I really love how this turned out.  I will definitely try it again. Generally, I'm just winging it (per my usual), but here are my notes for what they're worth.

I made this bag over three days with many breaks and interruptions. I cut out the parts and fused all the interfacing in one evening. I had to run out for hardware and pink thread the next day and started assembling the inner and outer pockets. Final construction and top stitching on the third day. All this to say, I'm not sure how long it would take to make one.

The outer fabric is a homedec weight cotton that I bought at Joann's. The accent/lining fabric is a 100% cotton shirting that I bought at Hancock's for 95 cents a yard.

Highbrow Hobo

The pattern calls for fusible fleece and woven interfacing to be fused to the outer fabric. I have been playing around with the placement of interfacing in bags. I know that some people do not care for fusible on the outside fabric because of wrinkles. I really think it depends upon the fabric you're using and the look you are going for. This bag doesn't have pleats and it is not designed to show off the drape of the fabric.  This is a somewhat structured bag that holds its shape, so you could even make it more rigid by using heavy-weight fusible. Lots of interfacing advice from Lisa herself and some great tips from Kathy at Pink Chalk.

Because my outer fabric already had more body than quilter's cotton, I wasn't going to fuse both types of interfacing to it. With the 241 Tote, I've been putting fleece on the lining and the woven interfacing on the outer, home dec fabrics. That way, the bag has a little structure and shape, but the outer fabric isn't overly stiff.  For the Highbrow, I reversed that and put the fleece on the outside and the woven on the lining. I just like the idea of having a little reinforcement on the lining. In retrospect, I think that I might cut the fusible 1/4" smaller than the outer bag pattern and also use woven on the outer fabric when using home dec weight fabric because the has a little wider weave than quilting fabric and there is a considerable amount of stress at the bulky seams, meaning it's a little more likely to shred. (Wow, run-on much?!) If I were to make this in quilting cotton, I think I would do woven interfacing for all inner and outer pieces and fleece on the outer pieces.

Part of the challenge in this project (like many bags) is bulk. So, I had to fiddle with needle size and stitch length. I think it's probably about knowing your machine. My machine (the Craigslist Wonder) doesn't really like to deal with bulk. I have somewhat adjustable presser foot pressure, so I dialed it down to the lowest amount of pressure. I started out using a denim needle, but my machine was skipping stitches like ca-ray-zee. When I moved back to a universal 14 needle, it was better. It didn't skip stitches, but it did get hung up in places, making the stitches very small. At some of the bulkier spots I used a 2.5 stitch. I didn't want the stitches to be so small that they acted like a perforation. So, that's just something to watch for as you are going forward.

Other alterations: I used D-rings instead of O-rings. I saw some cute black rectangular rings (oxymoron?) but went for the slightly more economical option instead.

Pockets: The pattern calls for 1 outer pocket. I made this for my sister-in-law who has an almost 2-year old, so I know pockets are a premium. So, I made two outer pockets. The pattern piece makes a deep pocket that runs almost the width of the bag. so, I shortened one of them, like so:

Highbrow Hobo outer pocket construction

The outer fabric and lining fabric for the pockets are sandwiched and connected by double-fold bias binding at the top. For the shorter pocket, I flipped up the outer fabric of the pocket and stitched the lining pocket fabric to the outer shell of the bag (the black and white fabric in this photo).

Highbrow Hobo outer pocket construction

Then I folded the outer pocket fabric down and attached it to the bag shell as instructed in the pattern.

Highbrow Hobo
This is just a mock up - I stitched the bias binding on before stitching the short pocket

I attached the bias binding by stitching on both sides like so, rather than just the one line of stitching (I tried it that way once but my stitching was really bad, so I did it the traditional way and it looked better). I also added two inner pockets (haven't graduated to zippered inner pockets, yet).

Highbrow Hobo inside

Topstitching: I think if you used two quilting cottons, you would be able to stitch in the ditch more easily. But the pattern calls for pulling up the lining fabric and then stitching in the ditch to create the contrast a sort of pseudo-piping. Because of the weight of the outer fabric, the lip of the seam was inverted from what is shown in the pattern. So, instead of stitching in the ditch, I just topstitched around the pink and it somewhat mirrors the topstitching across the pocket pieces and the straps. I noticed on Flickr that some folk omitted this step or just topstitched around the outer fabric. Another thing you could do is just use pre-made piping.

Highbrow Hobo

Continuing my bag-making frenzy, I just jumped on the bandwagon (a couple years late) and ordered Amy Butler's Birdie Sling to make my friend a beach bag. I will definitely be documenting that process here in the near future.

Must now make some decisions about Father's Day gifts. I'm thinking about burlap coffee bag aprons. Sewing for men is so hard...

[News update: at a time when things in my non-crafting life (the so-called "real world") are a bit stressful, I have had extraordinary giveaway luck.  I'm starting to feel guilty.  Thank you, Corey & Hawthorne Threads, AnneMarie & Swell Cloth, and Kaye & Fat Quarter Shop! Your generosity has really brightened my days!]