Craftsy Class: Beginner Serging: Exposed Zipper Bag

My latest sewing project is the “Exposed Zipper Bag” from the Craftsy Online Beginner Serging Class. So far I love this class. It is appropriate for the serger novice like me. The Exposed Zipper Bag is fully-lined squared off small pouch with pull tabs at each end of the zipper. It would be a perfect pencil case or makeup bag for a quick sewing project. Um, my bag is missing the pull tabs. I am going to call this a design element rather than a mistake.

Exposed Zipper Bag from the Craftsy Serger Class
Exposed Zipper Bag from the Craftsy Serger Class

Even though my serging is still totally sloppy and uneven it is miles better than it was before I started this class. I couldn’t thread my serger, so it sat in my closet untouched. Now I am wondering if I will need a better serger someday (hmm a Babylock with auto tension?). FYI, if you are buying a sewing machine or serger it is important to look up the sewing machine review and the price that others pay for their machines first on Pattern Review, and to also post the price that you paid. The retail price is apparently kept secret by the manufacturers and customers have to negotiate price with dealers. Lame.

The Exposed Zipper Bag is the first project in the Craftsy class for serging. I haven’t done the other projects (a multi-ruffled apron and a scarf) yet. The instructor of the class does a great job, so I think I will complete these classes too. Plus the Craftsy website is actually very user friendly. The instructional videos are easy for a student to use because they let you replay a part of the video over and over automatically so you can understand that tough new technique. The videos integrate student questions and so far the instructors seem very responsive to questions.

I needed a lot of help start serging at all. I found a few websites that helped me develop some remedial serger skills. The post on Fiberosity (Serger 101) helped with basic information and balancing tensions. The post on Make it Handmade (Perfecting Serger/Overlocker tension) was particurally helpful with threading advice and stitch length and stitch width information.

This was a fun project that didn’t take long. I plan on making more of these, perhaps in some sort of waterproof fabric. I hope everyone like their Christmas presents!

Craftsy Beginning Serger Class: Exposed Zipper Bag
Craftsy Beginning Serger Class: Exposed Zipper Bag

craftsy beginner serging exposed zipper bag

craftsy serging project 1 exposed zipper bag open

Hobo Bag from Sew Everything Workshop

Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag
Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag

My latest project is  the Hobo Bag from Sew Everything Workshop.  It’s a three-spool project (the highest level of difficulty). And, it was a success!  It’s a zippered hobo bag that is big enough to carry a laptop in.

This is a self-drafted pattern, but drafting it was really easy- it’s just two differently shaped rectangles, one with a curved corner.  Painless!

I’m excited to say that this is my first truly successful zipper installation!  I carefully hand-basted the zipper, then sewed it in with my machine.  The stitching around the zipper pull veers to the outside of the zipper instead of staying in the middle, but still- success!  No weird gaping holes, and mostly even stitching!

I did make several basic alterations to the pattern- I added pockets on both sides. This is a large bag, so pockets are a must if you want to avoid being disorganized.  I also lengthened the strap from 20 to 29 inches- the instructed length just sounded too short, and adding extra length gave me enough leeway to make sure I could attach the strap very securely, instead of with just one line of stitching.  Since this bag is so big, I could see it being very heavy if it was full of stuff, and the last thing I need is a broken strap. It probably would have been fine if I didn’t lengthen the strap though- it was just a personal choice.

Overall the instructions were very clear- the only real critique I have (besides adding pockets and securing the strap more securely) is that the instructions for attaching the strap are not clear- attach the strap to the wrong side of the lining, then proceed. Yes, this is pretty straightforward and obvious- but jittery new sewists like me sometimes make stupid mistakes, and it’s nice to have everything spelled out in detail in a beginner’s book.

Interior of Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag
Interior of Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag- I added patch pockets to both sides

I do have one more alteration that I plan to make when I make another version of this bag- I’m going to add heavy duty interfacing to the handle.  It has a tendency to fold up a bit, which is a little annoying.

I give this project an A.  it’s a great bag that would be easy to size up and down.  I’m very happy with it, and am planning to make another one in a more neutral/versatile color scheme that I can travel with. I’ve been using this as a yoga bag- it feels great to get use out of my sewing projects!

Plookiss’ Threadware has a step-by step tutorial for this bag here.


Practical Sewing: Duffel Bag Repair/The Perils of False Economy

Well, this isn’t an exciting post about a fabulous new project or a new technique learned, but it is exciting if practical things interest you. I’ve been pretty busy lately, so I haven’t had time to sew until last weekend. My first project: fixing a duffel bag that belongs to my boyfriend.

The duffel bag was seriously broken- one seam had burst, which is annoying but easy to fix, and most of the handle/binding straps had fallen off. The handles/straps are made out of one piece of fabric that is attached under the bag and on the sides to add structure and strength, with gaps for the handle. So, all in all a pretty standard duffel bag construction. It’s the sort of simple, utilitarian travel bag that my partner likes.

It was easy to fix- just sew up the seam and follow the stitching lines to re-attach the handle. I used the triple stitch on my machine for extra strength, did two to three lines of stitching, and added extra reinforcement to the handle attachment areas. Now we’ll see if the areas that haven’t broken yet are going to break the next time the bag gets used, since I didn’t feel like reinforcing every seam.

Looking at the bag, it was easy to see why it broke the first time it got used- The fabric itself is a cheap, thin polyester or nylon that obviously is much too weak be used for a very large duffel bag. And the stitching is terrible- there are only 5 stitches per inch in a thin, weak thread! No wonder it didn’t even last one use. How could something that is obviously shoddy NOT break almost immediately?

OK, now onto a little diatribe about false economy. Not to be a nag, but I pointed out that the bag was obviously cheap, and if if you buy cheap stuff from places like Walmart (the scourge of America and other countries) it is clearly going to break. If you spend $15 on a large duffel bag, or any piece of sizable luggage, you have to be realistic and realize that any luggage that cheap is going to break immediately.  It would be faster to just go ahead and throw your money into the trash can. So, save your money for a while and buy a better quality bag that you won’t have to replace immediately. Or, buy used! I love my local Goodwill- sure, a lot of the stuff people donate is worn out and should really be in the trash. But, a lot of the stuff is in good condition! And, since its older and not the cheap made-in-China stuff we have in stores now, the quality is much, much better than new stuff. Sometimes used is just a better buy.

As a side note, my partner claims he got the bag at Academy and that it wasn’t cheap. Ha ha, I’m not buying it- Wal Mart has the bag on their website, while Academy does not. Ug. If you buy the cheapest thing you can find in a durable good, you’re just throwing money down the drain. Sure, he saved money by not having to replace the bag- but only because I was willing to spend hours fixing it!

Sew Everything Workshop: Hobo Bag

Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag
Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag

So far the Sew Everything Workshop sewing book (by Diana Rupp) has been a great resource for learning how to sew. It outlines sewing techniques in the nitty gritty detail that I (as a complete novice) need. Since I have a few sewing projects under my belt, I decided to try one of the daunting three-spools-of-thread rated projects: the Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag.

The Hobo Bag project uses a self-drafted sewing pattern rather than a pre-made sewing pattern printed on tissue paper. As noted by the Colette Sewing Handbook you can use freezer paper to draft patterns. I used freezer paper to make the hobo bag pattern, and it worked like a charm.

Keep in mind, this is a somewhat big bag. As a hobo bag, it folds in on itself along the vertical center, making its size less overwhelming. It is big enough to accommodate a laptop. You will need 3/4 of a yard each lining and main fabric. Of course my fabric had some fraying issues, so I had to use a different cutting layout than suggested. It still worked fine, I would be careful with directional fabric..

The great thing about this pattern is that even though I was unsure about several construction details (and made poor material choices), the bag turned out better than I expected. I was expecting for this to be a failed sewing project, but I can happily keep and use this bag!

Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag
My dog loves this bag!


  1. For this bag pattern, you are instructed to make various marks on the fabric and on the zipper, and to line them up in such a way that the zipper hangs off the fabric in a specific way. Lining up the zipper with the marks made on the pattern did not make sense to me. Maybe my zipper size was off: I bought a 20″ zipper as instructed, but it had one extra inch of material on it. Never having examined a zipper before, I didn’t know how to make the adjustments correctly. I just sewed it in and I am happy with the result.
  2. Why do you need to have the end part of your zipper unsewn and unattached to the bag?
  3. I was a little fuzzy on what to do with the unsewn end of the zipper when attaching the lining to the main body of the bag. I ended up just trying to make the lining, main fabric and zipper lie smooth while I sewed everything in place.
Added pockets to bag linging
Patch Pockets in the Sew Everything Workshop Hobo Bag

To help visualize some of these problems, I tried looking up this bag to see how more experienced sewers dealt with my questions. Think Liz made the Sew Everything workshop hobo bag. I am not sure but it looks like she made the bag a little bit smaller, and it looks super cute. (EDIT:her bag is the regular size– my mistake!)  Plookiss’ Threadware made this bag and included some great step-by-step pictures to help you along in making this bag. Stitching Sewlo made the hobo bag in a cute black and white print.

And in conclusion…

I am very glad I made this bag! I even added patch pockets to the inside for extra organization. As with all larger bags,you can lose your stuff in a seemingly bottomless pit if you are not careful.

Tote-ally Awesome: Tote Bag from Sew Everything Workshop

This project from Diana Rupp’s “Sew Everything Workshop” went pretty well!  Diana Rupp has instructions for a hand tote, a shoulder tote, and a long-handled tote.  I decided to make a long-handled cross-body tote.  This isn’t usually my style, since my body type isn’t suited to cross-body straps.

Tote bag worn across my body

But, I was in the mood to make something I wouldn’t normally make, and I didn’t need any more grocery bags, which is what I would have used the short-handled tote for.

I drew the patterns directly on the wrong side of the fabric, since its pretty simple, and I don’t need to keep a bunch of rectangular pieces of paper around my already crowded apartment.

My problems were:

1)   As written, the strap is much too narrow. No one needs a tiny little strap that is gong to cut into your shoulder because it doesn’t have enough surface area to distribute weight comfortably.  I started to make the strap as indicated, but ended up more or less doubling the width.  I think it looks fine, and will be much more comfortable. Make the strap wider for the long-handled tote.

2)   This is just a personal problem, but I found it difficult to match up the proper bag style with the proper strap style.  In fact, after I finished, I realized that I had in fact used the cross-body strap with the shoulder tote.  But, you know what?  This is my fault for not reading the directions twice, and then a third time because I am a beginning sewer. Lesson: read the directions, lazy! Then, read them again to make sure you really understand what you are supposed to do. 

I added an inside pocket so I can stay organized and I won’t have to dig around for my wallet and keys and get all frazzled.

Tote lining and pocket
Tote lining and pocket. I should have positioned the pocket lower down!

I felt like the bag looked a little plain, and I also wanted a secure way to close it, so I got a 1 ½ white ceramic button and broke out the buttonhole foot. The button had raised linear dots, so it fit in perfectly with the theme of the bag, and I was excited about using the buttonhole feature.  Unfortunately, it was at this point that I realized that the most aesthetically pleasing place to put the button is right on top of the pocket.  Gah! Always think two steps ahead. If you think you might want to add a button, place pockets accordingly. I ended up sewing in two snaps inside of the tote instead.

So, this project was a success!  There were some problems with less-than-perfectly straight stitching, but that is just something I will have to work on and learn over time.  I think I could use this bag for walking my dog in the park, when I don’t want to use a backpack, but when I want to have some water with me, or for just roaming around.

Tote worn across shoulder

Grade: A- .  No major problems with this project as written, I just feel the strap is too narrow.