The truth is…
The Amy Butler Weekender Travel Bag is probably the most talked about sewing pattern I’ve ever seen. Sewers every where have been lured in with it’s gorgeous design of clean, simple design. But, only to disover the darn thing is a challenge to make.
“I was frustrated but determined to finish. Just like the instructions said I would be,” wrote A Handmade Tale.
“I finished this bag yesterday and breathed a huge sigh of relief. I have made many bags before, but this is the most difficult,” blogged Sew Sweetness.
“The bag was quite fiddly to sew at times – including joining the main panels with top/bottom panels, particularly around the corners,” said Oh Sew Rosy.
“If you are a beginner, stay away! If you are easily frustrated, stay away! If you do not have a machine that can handle layers and layers of fabric, run away!” wrote Sewing Mel.
Yikes. That doesn’t sound promising. But you can’t deny the gorgeousness of this bag. So, if you’re up for the challenge, here’s some feedback from my experiences and some tips to help you get through it.
When you get your pattern in hand you will first notice a laundry list of materials. Namely, interfacing. Stiff, thick interfacing. It’s what AB is known for and it’s what gives her bags their undeniable professional look.
I spent six…yes six…hours cutting everything out. There’s only four pattern pieces but you’ll need exterior pieces, lining pieces, and two types of interfacing. Not to mention the bias strips for the cording, fabric and interfacing for the handles, and fabric and interfacing for the false bottom. It’s a doozy.
FYI: If you sqare off your edges when you cut, you’ll end up with this…
I found the layout suggestions to be a little confusing. So, after folding it like she suggests, I just went on my own. There’s plenty of extra fabric, too. This is not the case for the lining. It’s measured to the inch. Be careful there.
You’re first step is to sew the bias strips together, then around the cording. Five daunting yards of it, too.
I’d never done this before (I’m not much of a home dec sewer) but it was simple enough and I got through it. In fact, I got through the first nine steps pretty easily. I remember even thinking to myself how easily it was going.
Pretty soon, I had all my main pieces. And was confidently proud of myself.
Then I got a reality check. It comes for everyone when you have to assemble the bag. At that point, each piece you are sewing has an exterior piece, two different interfacings, the lining and the piping. It’s stiff, it’s thick, and it’s hard to work with on just a 1/2” seam allowance.
I attached the first panel with extreme care like AB suggests. I went slow, I was patient, and took my time. But, when I turned the bag out I had a mess. Some parts weren’t sewn at all, others just weren’t close enough to the piping. I even managed to have raw edges sewn on the outside. What the…?
So, I gave up on keeping it neat and just sewed over the everything again and again inching closer to the cording each time. It wasn’t pretty.
Yuk. But, look what’s going on on the outside…
See? So the lesson here is to forget about what it looks like on the inside. It will NEVER be seen as it’s all hidden away in the lining.
Oh, and once you’re pleased with getting the first panel on. Don’t get too excited. There’s still the other panel…and it’s even more finicky…if that’s possible. It’s just more bulky with the first panel attached and all the same issues as before. Again, forego keeping it neat and only focus on what the outside looks like.
Et viola. My finished exterior. At this point, I’d been sewing (not included cutting time) for eight hours. My finders hurt and my head did, too. I needed a break. So I slept on it.
When I got started again, I was glad I stepped away. The lining is finicky, too. Except this time, it’s for the opposite reasons…there is no structure to it. The corners will bunch up on you and it will be frustrating. Not only that but AB wants to you slip stitch the lining to the exterior. Slip. Stich. Oh, H*ll NO! So, I shoved the top panel into my machince and stitched it all together using the top stitching for the zipper as a guide. It’s not the best option, but at that point, I was just ready to be done.
And, there she is! My completed bag! Yippee!
Now for some “If I could do it all again” tips:
- I sort of hate the way the handles are done. It’s the “sandwich” style which I think is lazy and ugly. You konw, when you fold in the raw edges, the fold the whole thing in half and topstitch. It leaves the one “sandwich” side uneven and just not pretty. I’d make a tube, turn, slide the interfacing in and topstitch both sides.
- Add “feet” to the bottom. I read somewhere where someone just added buttons to lift it up. An easy adjustment to add before you add the lining.
- Use another fabric for the pockets, like this:
- Add piping to the side pockets instead of the double stitch that’s called for.
- I extended the length of my straps by about 6”. I new I wouldn’t be able to get it over my shoulder which is what I would prefer when traveling.
- Add velcro to the side pockets.