Travel Bags – Sewing with Leather & Adding Zips

Earlier this month I headed off to New York for 8 eight days with my family. Our trip started on the Tuesday after the Easter weekend. This lovely long weekend before we headed off meant that once I had got my classes finished and the house and family prepared for the trip, I had a day to myself to dedicate to sewing a leather travel set.

To put this in context, I’d had the pattern for 3 months ahead of this time, the fabrics for 2 months before that, and a month ago I’d traced the pattern and decided on the hacks I was going to make to the design, ready for a day when I got time to sew for myself. So this was nothing like a spur of the moment thing! The pattern I’d chosen was the Portside Travel Set by Grainline Studios. I make a lot of their dressmaking patterns and was intrigued to have a go at this set.

The set comprises a large cabin bag/weekend bag, along with a zipped document holder and a structured zipped pouch which could be used for toiletries, but I found it super useful for the chargers, plugs and all that type of paraphernalia that a family on tour requires. I’ve recently been enjoying sewing with leather when making free machine embroidered gifts, where I’ve added leather panels to  ‘pimp up’ the pouch. For a similar reason, I had bought leather to make this bag just a little bit more special. Adding the extra zipped compartments and meshed pockets made the bag more functional – as key items could be held securely and found quickly when travelling. All the linings with this travel set are drop-in – which I opted to hand sew in place, so were easy to modify.

Whilst the pattern, like all Grainline patterns, was great, having some knowledge of bag making allowed me to swap out plain interfacing for more structured foam, and to add in meshed and pillar box zip pockets in the travel bag and the ‘toiletries’ bag.I also felt the travel bag needed a firm base, so I added a fabric covered stiff removable bag bottom, as well as adding bag feet.  These things are easy to add and you can customise this bag however you want to because the base pattern is so good.

This was not a hard make at all. With all bag making, there is a lot of time required to cut all the various pieces out in fabric, lining, leather, interfacing, foam etc., but when that is done, this is a really enjoyable make. At points I was sewing through 2 layers of leather along with foam, for this a size 90 leather needle, a longer stitch length and going slowly was required.

Having returned from New York, the bag was a roaring success with a couple of people asking where I had bought the set! The document holder is a great size and my charger bag was perfect for chargers and earphones which always end up rattling about at the bottom of a bag. The meshed pockets in the main travel bag worked well.

The Portside Travel Set Pattern retails for £14 for the ‘proper’ paper version or around £11 ($16) if the pdf is download from the Grainline website.

For details of the 3-evening classes to make this set visit GillyMac Designs website or click here.

Handbag Projects

3-102-2There is a friend of mine who has introduced me to the concept of having a “handbag project”. She always seems to have a zip lock bag in her handbag which has something creative she can do when she gets the odd moment. She finds this really useful as her children don’t go to school locally and they do a lot of sport, so there are many car journeys for her each week and lots of hanging around and she finds it enjoyable to be able to pull out a few hexagons and sew them together whenever she can.

English Paper Piecing (EPP) is particularly good for handbag projects. ExplIMG_5202-100ained simply, you would draw a shape on paper, (I used freezer paper as it has a wax layer on one size and will temporarily stick to fabric when heated) and cut it out. Hexagons or other basic shapes are easy to start with. Once you have cut around the shapes, iron (or place) them onto the wrong side of the fabric and roughly cut them out. Next fold and iron down the overhang of extra fabric and tack it in place. IMG_5203-101

For a handbag project the roughly cut pieces, a needle, some thread and small scissors can easily be put in a zip lock bag and ported from place to place to be continued whenever the moment is available. This worked really well for me my adventure with Katie to Australia last year, as from Heathrow, there is no problem having small scissors in your hand-luggage. However, Katie was utterly embarrassed when at Singapore, as we changed planes, we were treated as potential terrorists when the scissors showed up on the X-Ray scanner. Our boarding cards were written on and we had to stand at the end of the queue in shame… So if you are taking a handbag project on a plane… check you know the rules of any transiting airport as well as your departing one !

Once there are a number of prepared paper pieces, these can be joined together to form a new textile piece, which maybe an item to be used as embellishment, as with my flowers above, or a new textile based from which to make a quilt, or a smaller item like a bag or a cushion.

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My friend has been using her time all these months to prepare and join tiny 1” hexagons together. A 1” hexagon needs only a tiny scrap of fabric, so she has been doing just that, and using all our scraps up. The resulting piece is still growing and is now only just small enough to be considered a handbag project. Without a doubt the resulting piece will be an heirloom after all this work.

Lindsey's Masterpiece ... So Far ...

Lindsey’s Masterpiece … So Far …