Thursday, February 4, 2010

Lessons learned: Project Keeper Bags

When I was planning my project of the month ... umm ... project, I found a great tutorial for making project keeper bags on Craftzine from Diane Gilleland of CraftyPod. Perfect! What a cute way to organize everything -- I don't have to use ziploc bags, they're not see through so I can store them in plain sight, they'll fit different sizes of project (not all my projects are knitting projects). Aaaand, I just happened to have an old plastic tablecloth in the basement I hadn't used in years. So after a minor panic when I couldn't find my sewing machine presser feet (I found them the next morning, in the closet exactly where they should have been), I set to work. The pictures on the tutorial were beautiful -- crisp, colorful oilcloth tote bags with cheery hang tags and bright buttons. Everything was shiny and neat. How hard could it be?


The disclaimer here is everything that went wrong was my fault. The tutorial was great -- clear instructions, well written and planned out. But although I've sewn a lot, and something with just straight lines and seams should have been easy, I've never sewn on vinyl. And vinyl is a whole other animal. I didn't iron my tablecloth because I wasn't sure if it would melt or not (it's one of those with the fuzzy backing -- not thick like flannel, since I got it from Big Lots, and it's very flimsy plastic), and I didn't want to experiment with my iron, so I just left it creased and wrinkly, something every seamstress knows never to do. Strike one, but I predicted that one.

What else went wrong? Or, I should say, lessons learned if I ever decide to do something crazy like sew plastic again.

1. Vinyl never forgets. Ever. So make sure your bobbin is completely full when you get started, and be very sure everything is lined up right. Make sure you don't, oh, have your fabric folded in half and accidentally sew the pocket through both thicknesses, sewing your bag shut. Because when you pick out the stitches from your mistakes, you'll be left with a little row of recriminating holes, mocking you like tiny, accusing eyes forever. See them in the picture above?


2. Since you can't pin your pieces, you'll have to use tape. Diane made pretty little zigzag stitches, so I decided to do the same. Unfortunately, tape doesn't come out easily from the zigs and zags. Use a straight stitch if you're not very patient. Also, use small pieces of tape -- the smaller they are, the easier they are to remove. You just want to hold your material in place, not secure it for a hurricane.

3. Go slowly. I know it's easy -- straight lines, a few steps -- but really. How much more embarrassing is it to make really dumb mistakes on an easy project than on a hard one? Let me answer that -- a lot. This is why when I make harder things, I only do one step of the pattern at a sitting, walking away before moving on to the next.

I'm more or less pleased with my final result. I mean, they're kind of crappy and flimsy, but I didn't have to buy any material and they do the job. I did add little loops to them (not in the original tutorial) so I could hang them from the hooks on the closet door, and I'm pleased with that. I haven't added the hang tags or closures yet because I don't really need them and I was afraid of screwing these up even more. But it's a great tutorial, and a fun project, and maybe one day I'll get some prettier, sturdier fabric and do this when I can take my time and not make so many mistakes.

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