Friday, February 24, 2017

The Absolute Bag

A good friend of mine gave me a bag pattern, batik sunflower fabric and Soft and Stable already cut to size to make the Absolute Bag. The pattern was designed by Marilyn Forestell, who is the owner of QuiltWorks, a quilt shop located in Bend, Oregon. This bag is a large bucket-style tote bag which holds a lot. Marilyn says you can wear it as a backpack and shows a photo on the back of the pattern worn like this, but I would be afraid small items would tend to fall out of the bag if worn that way, so I would just carry it by the handles or on my shoulder. It's a fun and easy to sew bag.
The Absolute bag, with changes I made to the bag.
This is the Absolute Bag photo on the cover of the pattern. See the handles sewn to the top of the bag? Then look at how I changed this and sewed the handles to my bag differently.  

As a bag tester for several online designers, I found a few things in the instructions to be a bit confusing. The cutting measurements for one were not listed as to which measurement was the width and height, so if it wasn't cut on the true grain then there could be problems with the fabric sagging and puckering. (I did find my lining was a bit saggy, but not sure if that was "operator error" or not, LOL!). A quilter knows how to cut 2 1/2" strips, you would cut 2 1/2" wide (parallel to the selvage) x the length of the fabric. You wouldn't cut the fabric 42" first and then the 2 1/2" strips. But this pattern listed the long measurement first by the shorter measurement, which seemed backwards to the way most bag designers list their cutting measurements, so that is why it would be helpful to list the width, such as cut 42" W x 12" H, or 12" W x 42" H. If you cut fabric for an article of clothing that you are making, you can see the true grain line marked on the pattern piece. The grain line is marked so that you place your fabric correctly on the fabric or else your fabric might not drape properly. Luckily this was a simple bag pattern and I could figure it out or do it my own way.

Some of the wording was not easy to understand what she meant, especially without a picture to go along with it. Maybe I am spoiled, but I find the wording and picture together really help me to understand the instructions so much better. Sometimes having a picture really does help to clarify things that the wording alone doesn't. The format used for the pattern was essentially a paper folded in half with the photo on the cover, the material list on the back and the instructions in the center. This leaves only so much space for instructions. There was an addendum included too, which tells me the pattern could have and/or should have been thoroughly tested first. Apparently this bag was taught in a class, and of course having questions asked and answered in a class is great, but for those people not taking the class, then that's where things can get confusing trying to understand the wording with no pictures in places that needed some pictures for clarity.

I also like to make changes in bags that I make to suit my taste and needs. The only thing about the Absolute Bag that I didn't care for was sewing the straps to the top edge of the bag. If you are carrying something heavy that would put a lot of stress on the bag straps. I prefer tote style bags to have straps that are sewn the full height of the bag because it reduces the stress on the bag and it also gives you the perfect place to add a pocket in between the straps and having extra pockets is always a plus in my book! So that's one of the changes that I made was I lengthened my straps and added a pocket in between each strap.

I have small hands and grabbing a strap that is too wide will crunch the strap in my hand, so I also folded the strap in the center and sewed it, making the strap narrower in the center and easier to hold and also by doubling it over adds more cushioning.
Interior of bag with slip pocket. You can see the lining is a bit saggy on the right side.

This bag pattern did not call for interfacing, but knowing that I do add interfacing to all my other bags that I make, I did fuse Pellon SF 101 interfacing to both the exterior and lining fabrics and the pockets and straps too. I also quilted the exterior and bottom of the bag. If I were to make this bag again, I think I might quilt the lining and exterior fabrics together to avoid having a saggy lining and then add the pockets and straps.

I am not trying to be negatively critical about the instructions, just helpful. After all we all want patterns that we use to be easy to follow, right? If it's not easy to follow, would you want to make it again? That's one reason that I became a bag pattern tester, because I bought way too many patterns in the past that were poorly written or confusing. Once I discovered several online designers, I found their patterns to be well written and with lots of pictures, making it so much easier to follow the patterns. I am partial to pdf patterns for that reason because they are very thorough! Some bag pdf patterns I have are 70 pages long! I do not print the entire instructions out, only the templates. As my eyes are aging, I also find it easier to read a pdf online and I can enlarge the text on the pdf if I need to. While with those paper patterns I find the font size too small to read. So sometimes I will scan the pattern and turn it into a pdf to make it easier for me to read and I can type notes on the pdf too and then save it. So pattern writers out there if you are reading this, I just want to give you my observations about patterns so that you will make sure that your patterns are easy to follow. :0)
The bottom of the bag I quilted to hold the layers together better. This is the lining view.

You can see the handles at the center top where I folded over and stitched to give me a smaller and more cushioned place to grab and hold.

You can see here how the bag is a round bucket shape.
All in all I am pleased with how this bag looks and it was an easy sew too.
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  1. Your tote came out really nice! I'm always suspect of bag patterns that don't include interfacing, haha!

  2. You are the Master of Tote Bag sewing and this bag with your adaptations is quite the shopping bag for market. You spend a lot of time making certain instructions are clear and we average sewers are very appreciative. Happy Sewing Dear...

  3. I appreciate the way you assess a pattern, you really are an excellent reviewer. So often one or two word changes can make all the difference. You have a good eye for changing a pattern to make it easier as well which I love. Your version is great, I love the fabric choices and I find the "bucket style" to be so helpful for carrying a variety of things.


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