Friday, 27 May 2016

How to waterproof cotton bags

My little Miss Eight Year Old is super duper excited for next week's half term. Not just because she doesn't have to wake up early for school (we're not early risers in this house!), she also has a packed social schedule that involves lots of playdates with her BFFs (in her own words, not mine!). So she asked me for a little bag that she can store her usual playdate kit ; snacks, change of clothes, arts and crafts pack etc. Problem is, she wanted me to make her a bag with this cheap, thin quilting cotton from my stash; because it's pink, and girly and cupcake-y. Delighted as I was at the prospect of making her the bag, I was slightly worried about the lack of protection the fabric offers - it's not waterproof, it's really thin and although it's pretty, I'm sure it will absorb all sorts of ickyness from the elements when she takes it out. (yuck!) Until I remembered the solution to the same problems with our cotton shoes. 

We were introduce this Nano Protector for our purchase at our local Brantano's. Basically, it contains this revolutionary nanotechnology that when used, will make your bags, clothes and shoes water and dirt resistant as the nano elements cover individual fibres.  As a mum, I was a little apprehensive about products that are too good to be true. But truth be told, I am actually quite impressed by it. The only thing I need to remind you is to read the instructions carefully before using it because it is not suitable for all materials. And when you are going to use it, DO IT IN AN OPEN OR WELL VENTILATED SPACE, AWAY FROM YOUR CHILDREN. I used it in my closed workshop and almost fainted from the very funky fumes. Very interesting experience.

After leaving it to dry for a few hours, I tested it by spraying the bag with water and as you can see, it simply runs off like little pearls and instead of being absorbed by the fibres. Absolutely amazing! So if you ever plan to make bags with non waterproof materials, bear this trick in mind.

I just saw the weather forecast for next week, wet and horrible for 3 out of 5 days. At least I have one less thing to worry about now. 

If you have any other tips on waterproofing non water resistant materials, feel free to share them in the comment box below. I would love to hear about them.

Fely xxx

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

How to make detachable straps for your handmade bags

This has got to be the one of the top 5 questions I get asked a lot : How do you make a detachable strap? Is it difficult to make? But it looks ever so complicated! The thing is, everything is easy if and when you know how. Making straps was one of the first few things I learnt when I started making bags myself, because nothing compliments your project like a perfectly co-ordinated handmade strap. 

Detachable straps can really elevate handmade bags into a more 'professionally made' and ironically, make it look like commercially produced bags. They just give it that certain je ne sais quoi. Besides, I have a thing for metal hardwares on handmade bags. To me, they add to the characteristic and the ability to draw people's eyes on different elements of your handmade bags. 

Why detachable straps? Detachable straps are mostly found in bags, usually bigger bags, that have the options of carry handles as well as straps for slinging across the body. For a mother with two children like me, I need my hands to constantly be free, ready to catch my two children who tend to run in two separate ways! So bags with shoulder straps are vital on days out. Some smaller bags that could be converted into elegant carry pouches also benefit from detachable straps - to give you that instant Kate Middleton look. 

Either way, detachable straps are handy and making them couldn't be simpler. In this picture tutorial, I will try my best to explain in great detail how I personally make these straps. All crafters make them in their own ways and this is my go-to version. So keep reading if you want to learn how to make them. 

1. You will need these items handy to make your detachable straps. Clockwise from top - foldback paper clips (lots!), a teflon foot (if you are working with oilcloth), a three bar slider and two swivel spring snap hooks. Now you need to make sure your three bar slider and your swivel spring snap hooks are the same size, otherwise you won't have a lovely finish.

2. Cut your material according to the finished size that you want BUT with a little bit of formula in mind.  I need a strap that is 1.5 inches wide. To get this finish, I need to multiple the width by 4, minus 5 millimetres. For example, to get a 1.5 inch wide strap, I work out 1.5 inches x 4 = 6 inches. From this, take 5 millimetres so you'll get 5.8 inches. This formula works with all width of straps you are planning to make. The reason for this being, although the measurement of your metal hardware might indicate, say 1.5 inches, the strap will be far too snug to fit in those gaps if you make them a perfect 1.5 inches wide. You need a little bit of room for the strap to 'move around' so when you adjust the length of your strap, it won't feel like it'si mission impossible. 

3. So this is my strap to fit into my 1.5 inches metal hardware. I usually cut along the width of my fabric roll because I found that they always produce perfect length. Fabric rolls usually come in 52 inches - 53 inches wide.

4. The fold you material in half lengthways, wrong sides together. This is to find the middle point of the strap.

5. Once you've found the middle position, open it up and fold outside edge to centre line and hold with foldback paper clips like so.

6. The fold the entire strap together, and again, hold with foldback paper clips.

7. Set your machine stitch to 4mm wide stitch.

8. And stitch with a 5 millimetres seam allowance. Don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and at the end.

9. Repeat on the other side. Again, don't forget to backstitch at the beginning and at the end.

10. Next step is to push one end of the strap into the middle loop of the three bar slider and hold the ends with the foldback clips. 

11. And sew a rectangle with an X in the middle for extra hold. I always mark mine with air erasable pen because I get nervous about sewing free hand.

12. Next, thread one of the swivel spring snap hooks from the other end of the strap.

13. And then push the end of the strap into the three bar slider like so.

14. Finally, attach the other swivel snap hook at the end of the strap and again, sew a rectangle with an X in the middle to secure your metal hardware.

15. That's it, you're all done! Not that difficult really, isn't it. Once you know how. If you notice, I didn't fold the end of my raw edge because the ends of oilcloth don't fray. But if you are using cotton, it is a good idea to fold you raw edge in to stop it from fraying in the future.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Feel free to share your finished straps with me on Instagram and Facebook if you are making them for your projects. Good luck lovelies!

Fely xxx

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Jenn's Bag

Dear Jenn Reilly,

Thank you for that message you sent me a few weeks back on my Facebook Page enquiring about a wheelchair bag. Your message caught my attention immediately. You see, I've never made a wheelchair bag before and have never thought of attempting to make one either, since I specialise mainly in baby changing bags and smaller handbags. And I don't usually say yes to projects that could potentially 'stress me out' because of the unfamiliarity of the whole concept. Contrary to popular belief, not all bags are alike. The construction for each bag differs, depending on its use ; how the bag is carried, how much weight will it take, how big/small will its content be, how frequently will it be used etc. These are some of the countless points that needed to be considered when designing a bag. 

Truth be told, I was more than ready to decline the project because drafting a whole new pattern can be very very scary and exhausting, especially when there are so many existing orders waiting to be made and completed. And clearly, I am also a coward for 'the unknown'. But something you wrote changed my mind completely - 'It's people like you who make being disabled SOOO much easier x'. That was that really. That to me sounded like a challenge and the utmost gratitude all rolled into one. I said yes and sealed the deal. Can't go back now. Oh crumpets!

But thankfully  the more I thought about it, the more I can see the finished product in my head. Now whether or not this will be as what you would imagined it to be, is a different matter. Armed with that bit of vision in my head, off I went into what feel like a sewing battle. 

But I think I came out on this side of victory and I'm really happy to share with you the finished product. Thank you so much for this wonderful and amazing opportunity. It has been such a pleasure to make this bag for you. I sincerely hope you love it as much as I enjoyed making it. And I hope it will go on lots of wonderful adventures with you. 

 The bag measure approximately 14.5 inches wide x 11 inches tall and 7 inches deep. On the front, it features two front pockets with twist turn locks. The bag has two carry handles, made with dark brown canvas with a leather trim and a detachable shoulder strap.

The back of the bag features a zipped slip pocket.

Side view of the bag

 I've chosen a hot pink waterproof lining for the bag as a wonderful surprise and contrast to the grey exterior.

 Detachable metal hadware

View of the front pocket

These handmade straps are specially made to hook on to the side of the bag so it can be attached to the wheelchair's push handles. 

Fely xxx

Monday, 9 May 2016

Basic sewing necessities

When I first started making bags, I didn't quite know what and how to equip myself with the basic sewing kit. I knew the obvious ones like needles and threads but the absence of some of the most basic essentials can be quite frustrating. It can make you unwillingly stop mid project and potentially lead to PhDs in sewing - Project half done.
So if you decided that you are going to embark on a sewing journey, bag making in particular, make sure you have these items in your sewing box or stored somewhere, ready for use.

1. A large cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a long patchwork ruler - These are the holy trinity of cutting large pieces of materials accurately. It makes cutting straight lines a breeze and takes half the time compared to cutting by scissors. They are by no means essentials, but once you've used these, you will never go back. Alternatively, a tape measure and normal fabric scissors work just as well.

2. Sewing scissors - Invest in a good quality pair of fabric/sewing scissors and they will definitely not disappoint. When you need to tackle curves and small areas, sewing scissors will make working on your project a more pleasurable experience. 

3. Unpicker (seam ripper) - Oh Lordy! I have a love and hate relationship with this one. Never be without one ( or two) when you are sewing, especially machine sewing. It's always needed when you are in that smug stage thinking you've sewn all gazillion metres of that straight line just perfect, only to find that you've either sewn on the wrong side or your machine tension wasn't right and it all looks really messy at the back. Or you've stitched what you shouldn't have! Either way, this little tool is the answer to your prayers. But only if you don't have to unpick a gazillion metres of that stitchings! At which point, please make sure you have a bar of chocolate handy as well, to help you ease the pain.

4. A sewing machine - Ok, from my experience, you don't need one that could end up making you feel like you have a second mortgage payment. A mid range one will do. As long as it has enough power and foot lift of about 8mm, you're good to go. And if your machine doesn't have a built in light, get one for it. Sewing in good light is key to a lot of projects. 

5. Special sewing foot - Anti clockwise : walking foot, zipper foot, teflon foot and roller foot. Especially in bag making, these sewing feet are crucial to making or breaking your projects. Some projects call for more hard wearing materials like interior weight cottons and oilcloths/vinyls. Normal sewing foot aren't made to tackle those materials in bulk but these ones will make sure your sewing glides with ease on the machine. If you have to choose just one, I recommend the roller foot ; the most fabulous invention in the history of sewing, according to me. The zipper foot is obviously for the purpose of zip insertion, if and when your projects call for it. Again, not absolutely essential, but a zipper foot will ensure perfect zip placements everytime, all the time. 

6. Sewing thread - This one is a no brainer. If you have everything and no thread, then it's a definite no-go with your sewing. However, for the purpose of bag making, I personally prefer using Top Stitch Thread for sewing. These are strong and heavy polyester threads, which hold your projects together a lot better than normal quilting thread. Nothing worse than your bags falling apart when picked up from being put together with the wrong thread. Trust me, i've had a few of those mishaps!!

7. Sewing machine needles - When tackling sewing projects that constantly deal with a varying degree of bulk, you will need strong needles to be able to sew through the layers. In my experience, Jeans (Denim) needles that come in sizes 70, 80 and 100 are the 'go to' needles for bag making and these can be used for projects made with heavyweight cottons and oilcloths. Bag projects aren't usually made with light materials unless that is the sort of look and finish you are going for. And if you do work with lighter materials, universal sewing machine needles that come in sizes 70, 80, 90 and 100 are the best ones to use. 

9. Embroidery scissors - This magic little pair of scissors doesn't only look wonderful in your sewing kit, it is also really handy when you need to snip that teeny weeny ends of thread at the end of your project. The big sewing scissors are sometimes just a bit too big and too clumsy for such task, and this is when the embroidery scissors are heaven sent. 

10. Foldback paper clips - Yes, I know, how odd! But when you are putting different pattern pieces together and have run out of your 10 fingers and 10 toes to hold them together, these foldback clips will come to the rescue. They are good at holding pieces together without leaving marks and potentially damaging your projects. You can get proper (and actually more fancy) fabric clips but we always have these foldback ones around the house and they work just as well.

11. Tailor's chalk - You can get so many types of fabric markers available in any fabric stores. These are used to mark or outline your pieces, ready for cutting and sewing. My absolute favourite is the Tailor' chalk because these have been used for as long as I could remember. When I was a little girl, I used to see these inside my mum's sewing machine drawer and it is quite nostalgic to me that way. These markers are best to avoid leaving permanent marks on your projects. All you do is wipe the marks clean with a damp cloth and you're good to go. I also had a pink and a white one of these but I think the dog (or my children) have stolen and stashed them somewhere. 

12. Hand sewing needles - It is necessary to have a good selection of hand sewing needles because  there is a small amount of hand sewing involved in most bag making projects. They are usually the little finishing touches that are too fiddly to complete with a sewing machine. As I took this picture, I realised that I needed to re-stock my kit. I was convinced that I have tons of these needles. Now that I think of it, my daughter did mention she was making a hedgehog a while back. I was obviously paying attention to what she was saying!! 

13. Sewing pins - Mostly useful when making bags using cotton or interior weight cotton materials. You'll be able to hold the pieces together better with these sewing pins. Not really suitable for oilcloths and vinyls because they'll leave pin marks on the materials which could look unsightly to your finished projects.

Hope this information is useful for you and good luck in your future projects. If you could think of more useful items that you find necessary to have in your kit, please share with us in the comment box below. Thanks all!

Fely xxx