My Bag

Since about February of this year I had so much shoulder pain that I couldn’t knit at all. My physical therapist said “no knitting!” since that was what caused my injury in the first place. So I did some sewing instead. I have also been on the search for the perfect bag, since forever, and thought “well, I’ll just make my own!”.

I started by making a couple of cloth shopping/tote bags.

The green one was made mostly from curtains we weren’t using and the blue one from face mask material and a pair of pants I cut up. I made 2 of the green ones and gave them to my mom and sister. The pattern for that one is from Bagstock Designs. The blue one I use all the time for shopping and sometimes for a beach trip. The pattern for that one is an old Butterick pattern I’ve had for a long time. I felt like I really had this bag making down pat. I got cocky.

In June we all had high hopes for being able to go to a music festival later in the summer. Vaccinations were rolling out. Things were opening up. I thought it would be fun to make a festival bag – something shiny and festival-like and a real celebration bag. I found some cool vinyl and fake leather on a German fabric shop called Fabrics Hemmers. I bought everything I needed from this web shop. Except for the pattern. I bought the backpack pattern from RLR Creations.

I had never sewn this kind of material before so I went to my local sewing shop and asked for advice about what needle to use. Just a regular needle would be good, but had I thought about the presser foot? Huh? Yes, I needed a special non-stick presser foot, otherwise the vinyl would stick and not feed through correctly. Gulp. That was an expensive addition. Ah well, a learning experience. I also had to buy clips to hold the pieces together, instead of using pins. You can’t pin vinyl because once a hole, always a hole and you don’t want holes where you had pins.

Finally I could begin with the cutting and sewing. What an experience! What I learned….

  1. Vinyl is more flexible than you think so don’t be afraid to hem edges.
  2. Vinyl is thicker than you think so making an article that needs to fold in half, like this backpack, was maybe not the best choice.
  3. Working with endless zippers was something new and challenging. It took many many tries to get the zipper pull to go onto the teeth correctly.
  4. With this pattern, and endless zippers, you have to sew over zipper teeth. Do it by hand, letting the needle slide between the teeth. Don’t use power to sew over this because you’ll just break the needle. Which I did a couple of times.
  5. My sewing machine was just barely able to handle all the layers of material when sewing in the top zipper and it was hard work with my hands too. I don’t think I want to do this again. It also doesn’t look really good – the seams don’t line up at the top and the stitching is a little wonky. Since it’s vinyl, and I’m tired of working with it, I’m calling it GOOD.
  6. Working with clips instead of pins is a pain when you are working on something in the middle of your fabric (instead of just edge seams), like the outside zipper pockets. If I were to make this again with the same materials I’d just skip those outside zipper pockets.
  7. The large size backpack is not as large as I thought it would be. It’s like a medium sized purse, especially once you fold it down and clip it closed. Of course if you want to really pack it full you can leave it standing up and zipped closed.

More photos of the bag in process and finished:

I will definitely use this bag. Tomorrow I’m taking the train to Tillburg to visit the Textile Museum with a friend and I’ll take this bag with me. It’s not perfect but it is very useful and fun.

I still haven’t found the perfect bag but I’m willing to keep making my own to find it. I think next I’ll try making a bag with waxed canvas. Something waterproof would be perfect for our weather.

And just in case you thought this new-version blog is just about sewing, I’ve also got knitting news coming up.

I’ve started knitting a hat with some beautiful and incredibly soft Western Sky Knits Merino 17 Light. I also found this cute case (“etui” in Dutch, stolen from the French) at my local HEMA which is perfect for small projects.

I’m also working on a test knit for a friend, which I can’t really talk about, but next week I’ll show you a nice tip for starting a new skein when your project needs a neat edge.

AND I’ve started on a very exciting spinning and writing project that I’ll talk about in the coming month.

Until next week, happy crafting! (By the way, festivals were not allowed this summer after all. Hopefully next year.)

The Perfect Face Mask

3 sizes of masks, PDF pattern link below in text

We’ve been dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic for well over a year now and I have finally discovered the perfect face mask. At least it fits me, and DB, and my mom, pretty darned perfectly. They are also very simple to make yourself.

I was finally able to travel to the U.S. to visit my mom early this month and I wanted some new face masks for the long plane ride. I also wanted to make them myself because, well, I can. I was looking around the internet for fabric and mask components and came across everything I needed at Textielstad. They had fabric on sale for only 5 euro that was printed with masks in various prints that you just needed to cut out and sew together. They also sold the metal nose bands so important to glasses wearers. I was really excited to find a special interfacing that is sold as a mask filter, so my masks would be 3 layers yet still breathable. I still had lining fabric I could use (100% cotton). Here’s what I started with:

pre-printed mask fabric
filter fabric, lining fabric, nose clips, elastic and example masks

I quickly discovered that the mask fabric was printed in 2 mask sizes. I made several of each. I liked how the larger ones fit, but they were still too small for DB’s manly nose. So I created a larger size by simply adding a seam allowance around the larger size, which fits him perfectly. I took my masks with me to the U.S. and ended up giving my mom the small ones I had made, which fit her well.

This week DB is going back to work at an actual office so I made a couple of new masks with this pattern for him. Then I decided to make paper patterns of the different sizes because I like them so much and want to share them with the world. 🙂

Here is the pdf file. Below is a short description of how I made the masks. If you know how to sew, this should be pretty obvious. If you are a beginning sewer, these masks are a great place to start honing your skills! Print out the file and make sure that the 2cm / 3/4″ square measures correctly after printing and adjust the scaling as needed for your printer.

Cut out the pieces in the outside fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric is best), the filter fabric (if using) and the lining fabric (100% cotton quilting fabric, or plain white sheeting is best).

With right sides together, sew each layer together along the front seam with 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance.

Then trim the seams and snip them along the curves to that they will lay flat when opened.

Open up the pieces. Put the outside and lining fabrics together, right sides facing. Then lay the filter fabric against the lining fabric. It doesn’t matter which side of the filter fabric faces the lining fabric. Pin the top and bottom edges of all 3 layers together and sew the seams with the same 1cm / 3/8″ seam allowance. Again, trim the seams and snip the curves.

Turn right side out by opening up between the outside and lining fabrics and pull through.

Next I did a first pass at top stitching along the top nose of the mask. I did this now because it is easier to put the metal nose piece in after topstitching. If you are not putting in a nose piece, you can skip the top stitching for now and go on to the elastic ear pieces.

Press the seam flat with your fingers and top stitch along the top curve from about 2cm from the edges (not all the way to the edges because you still have to add elastic and turn those edges in).

pinning the nose piece in place

Slide the metal nose piece between the lining and filter, centering it horizontally and pushing it snug up to the top of the mask as far as it will go. Then stitch from edge to edge, under the metal piece, so that it will stay in place. Be careful not to hit the metal with your needle! Oops, replace the needle if needed.

outside view
inside view

Now time to add elastic and finish top stitching.

Cut elastic to the size indicated on the pattern pieces (or a size you think will fit you best). Fold in the edges 1cm / 3/8″, tucking it all neatly in. Slide the elastic in between the layers and pin in place. Do this on both sides.

Beginning at the top where you left off the previous top stitching, continue stitching all around the mask, from top, the sides (back stitch over the elastic to make sure it is strongly attached), around the bottom (make sure the seam is well open) and up the other side to meet up with the previous top stitching.

And you’re done!

One last thing – for the large size, I made a small tuck on the sides. This makes the mask itself the right volume for the face, but takes less room on the side and seems to fit better. This is a matter of choice and you might try both ways to see what works better. Here’s a photo of the tucks (one for the outside fabric, one on the inside for the lining/filter). I didn’t do this tucking for the medium and small sizes.

Here are finished photos of the 3 sizes so you get an idea of the differences in them. I hope you find this useful, even at this late date in the pandemic. I hope that we in the Western world are more used to wearing masks now so that even if you have a cold and still have to ride a train you will wear a mask as a courtesy to your fellow passengers. When I was working in Thailand I was impressed by how people cared about each other and masked-up when they were sick. Maybe I’m only wishful thinking that the rest of us will be so considerate.

top to bottom: large (with tucked edges), medium, small