On Wednesday, I set myself the challenge of making not one, but TWO ‘Teloujay’ bags by Jo Kay (@countrycowdesigns) in 48 hours! This requires a back story: It’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow (5th June). I’ve been been wanting to make her this bag for a while but the fear of bag making, coupled with being unwell this week, made me do some serious procrastinating.
I really had to give myself a talking to, telling myself that fabric and notions would not defeat me! Then, as a middle finger to my doubting inner voice, I decided to make 2 (plus, I knew I’d want one for myself). Forget the fact I only had 48 hours to complete them after motivating myself to get started.
With less than 24 to go, the above photos are what I had got to show for my time. I’m no bagineer so this make was very slow. Thank goodness the pattern is so informative, and had lots of photos, and a video tutorial to keep me on track.
I really pushed the boat out for this make: D rings, magnetic clasps, sliders, swivel lobster claps, zips and rivets! Never before had I taken a hammer to a project (for riveting purposes) and it felt so exhilarating! I think it’s a stroke of genius being instructed to make the straps first. A lot of care and attention is required to make them and they are integral to the handbag. Had these been left until the last section, I’d have lost all focus and rushed them.
I’m relieved to report that both bags were completed in time. 🎉 For those of you who followed the journey via my Instagram stories, you’ll remember that it was down to the wire and a very late night/early morning.
My mum adored her bag and I’m really happy with mine. Hats off to all the bagineers out there. Bag making isn’t easy. ALL THAT BULK!! I thought quilters had a lot to deal with but this was just next level.
I’m rocking my mum’s bag in these photos because I only had the time to get photos with one, which happened to be the bag I needed to remember to leave the house with. 😂 I’ll be taking mine everywhere!
If you’re thinking of making this bag, go for it! Yes, it’s a challenge and the process is time consuming however, this pattern takes you through each step with detailed, written instructions, includes a video tutorial, and lots of very useful photographs.
No more sewing for me until tomorrow (7th June). I’m having a well-earned 48 hour break. 🙌🏾 Then, a little FPP project to cleanse the sewing palette.
It’s been on my mind for a few weeks to start an Etsy shop. After much deliberation, I have decided that I will definitely be going ahead with this plan. Although I am new to sewing, my long-term goal is to find my niche in the sewing community and have a business of my own that is sewing related. I do think that by starting something small, I can obtain a small income to fund my fabric addiction, and also give myself the opportunity to develop the skills required of a small business owner. The experience will certainly be beneficial for my future sewing endeavours (whatever they may be) and I am going to fully embrace it.
At present, the first products that I have chosen to sell are zipper pouches. I find them relatively easy to make and I like the finished article. There are many sellers on Etsy who make zipper pouches that have all the bells and whistles (fancy zips, different shapes and sizes) however I have chosen a simple and versatile design, in order to cut down on the time I need to spend making each pouch but without compromising on the quality.
This is especially important as I will be running this venture alongside a full-time job, planning a wedding, preparing to sell a property and searching for a new home. I have taken some photos that I intend to use for my Etsy shop. Photography is not my strong point, so I downloaded an app called Afterlight to help with editing. It’s very easy to use and costs 99p. I’m happy with the results I achieved:
I’ve made sure to test my products. I regularly use one of my pouches and have gifted a few to friends and relatives, in order for them to be used and abused. They have all reported that none of the zipper pouches have fallen apart (durability achieved) and that they are lovely to look at (result). Fit for purpose, easy on the eyes and durable are exactly the properties that I require from this product. I eventually intend to extend my product range and I have already written down a list of potential, future products. However, this will all be dependent on the success of the zipper pouches. I certainly don’t want to run before I can walk and I will be concentrating on executing one product very well, before introducing another to my portfolio.
I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say that I feel somewhat apprehensive about starting an Etsy shop. The following questions have buzzed around my head on multiple occasions: ‘What if I have no sales?’ ‘What if no one likes the product?’ ‘What if no one visits the shop?’ ‘What if I get an unsatisfied customer?’ The answer I give myself, to all of these questions, is simple: ‘You never know until you try!’
I’m excited about my new venture and I am looking forward to learning more about selling online and the intricacies of running a small business. I am hopeful that I will be relatively successful with selling the zipper pouches, but most importantly, that this experience will lead on to other things in the world of sewing. I am tentatively taking my first steps outside of my comfort zone. I am so grateful that I can share the start of my very small thing, that will hopefully turn into something wonderful and amazing as time goes by. I will certainly be sharing my experiences and progress along the way.
This week, my aim was to consolidate all of the basic sewing skills I have very recently acquired in my sewing adventure. This is particularly important, as I want to make my first attempt at sewing a dress next week. In order to adequately consolidate my skills, I set myself the task of making more of the items that I had made during my previous 3 weeks of sewing. I have been helped along by the fact that Mothers’ Day is fast approaching (26th March for us UK folk).
From my previously completed projects, I would be giving my mum and my fiancé’s nanny a few of my previously completed projects. All I had left to make were 2 cushion covers for my mother-in-law (to be). I have also made the decision to start an Etsy shop, in order to sell some of the accessories I have started to make.
I have various items that I would like to eventually start to sell, however zipper pouches are the first items on which I want to concentrate. This meant making more zipper pouches in order to practice improving upon their quality. I particularly like working with the PVC coated cotton but wanted to practise working with this material much more. Keeping my sewing goals at the forefront of my mind, my list of chosen projects was: 2 cushion covers and 5 zipper pouches.
With my consolidation plan decided, I anticipated that I would complete an item a day, spanning across the entire week. This did not happen (many are the plans of a person’s heart) but I’ll save the reason why for my next post. What actually happened is that I took a break from the sewing machine for 4 days, then had the bright idea of challenging myself to complete all 7 items over the space of one evening/night.
I currently suffer from insomnia, a side effect from the work-related stress I sustained in my previous job, and thought it best to turn this weakness into a creative strength. I started my first zipper pouch at 17:30 on Friday evening (GMT) and finished my last cushion at 02:00 on Saturday morning (GMT). Every single item was completed within this time. In hindsight, this was a very ambitious task for a newbie sewist, however it was during this time sewing that I had my ‘EUREKA’ moment.
I cannot explain exactly what happened, except to say that everything suddenly clicked. I knew which steps to undertake next without the aid of a video tutorial, having continuously stumbled on this particular skill in previous projects. I finally began to understand why things had to be completed in a particular order or in a particular way. I noticed that my understanding of the fabrics I was using had greatly improved. I was cutting the fabric much better and working more efficiently, which meant that I was working much quicker. It felt amazing! I only used the seam ripper three times, a feat I still cannot quite believe that I achieved.
I encountered a few problems along the way, but they were minor and I was able to change my technique in order to accommodate for these issues, yet achieve the overall effect for the particular item. In the 4 days that I spent away from the sewing machine, I must have given my brain the time to properly process the new skills that I have been learning, therefore enabling me to effectively put them into practice when they were next called upon. Not only am I absolutely thrilled that the very basic sewing skills are no longer incredibly difficult for me to achieve, this situation has taught me a very important lesson: to take my time, because everything happens in good time.
Up until this week, I had been sewing practically every single day, eager to ensure that I rapidly improved upon my skills, pushing myself to learn a new skill with each new project. While this has been beneficial to my learning, in hindsight, there were a few key moments when I really should have taken at least a few days break from the sewing machine to give myself the time and space to fully take in what I had learned so far. Thankfully, this week I realised the need to take a break and ensured that I stayed away from the sewing machine. Instead, I read chapters in my sewing books that provided more in-depth knowledge of the basic sewing skills that I have been practising. I also rested.
Resting is equally as important as being busy and I never appreciated just how involved with sewing I have been, until I stepped away from it. The short break has done me the world of good and led to the creation of 7 items of a far superior quality than I have previously been able to achieve. I am absolutely elated and I cannot wait to see where my sewing will lead me. I now have the much needed confidence boost to continue with sewing and also to believe that I can become an excellent sewist.
I have also received sincere and genuine feedback from the gifts that I have recently made. The feedback has been very positive, particularly regarding the professional look of these items, despite me being at the start of my sewing journey. Today, I am very proud of what I have achieved so far with my sewing and I will continue to enjoy this moment while it lasts.
Sewing: I think I might just have cracked it. From now on it’s onwards and upwards!
I finally completed the project I recently set myself: a zipper pouch. I opted to use some PVC coated cotton I recently purchased. It looks and feels as though it is relatively durable, which is exactly what is required from a zipper pouch. In order to make the zipper pouch, I followed a tutorial from ‘MADE Everyday’. This is the third tutorial from this vlogger that I have used, simply because they are really easy to follow and she has a range of projects that I am particularly interested in creating, which are suitable for beginners like myself.
This project enabled me to see that my sewing skills have really improved in a short space of time. I think this is predominantly because I am currently sewing almost every day (I have a lot of time on my hands at the moment). Plus, I make sure that each new project builds on a skill that I have previously learned, as well as teaching me a new skill.
The most challenging part of the project was working with PVC coated cotton. Sewing on the wrong side of the fabric did not pose any problems and I was able to install the zip without any issues. In hindsight, this was because the right side of the fabric was sandwiched between the silky cotton fabric I used for the lining, when I was sewing the wrong side. Had the right side of the PVC coated cotton been exposed to the feed dogs, I would have discovered the impending problem much sooner. Next, it was time to topstitch on the right side of the fabric.
I used the standard presser foot for this and immediately noticed that something was not right. The fabric would slowly go through the feed dogs then grind to an unexpected halt. I unpicked the stitches and started again but the same thing kept happening repeatedly. When I looked at the threads in the fabric I was attempting to sew, I could see that the stitches on the wrong side of the fabric were pulled up really tightly, compared to the stitches on the right side of the fabric, which were as normal. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the tension needed adjusting. *Note to self – always check on the simplest of potential errors before rushing to fix presumed larger ones.* Thankfully, this thought came to mind before I started playing around with the tension of my sewing machine!
I tried increasing the length of the stitch, to no avail. I re-threaded the sewing machine and re-wound the bobbin but there was still no change. By this time, I was fed up and decided to pack away my project for the rest of the day. Overnight, I kept wracking my brain to try and work out where I was going wrong. The two changes I had made with this project compared to all of my previous projects was to use a different type of needle (I was sure that this was definitely not where the problem lay) and a different type of fabric.
The next morning, I woke up determined to find the solution to my sewing conundrum. I decided to Google “Working with PVC coated cotton,” to find out if anyone else had encountered similar problems to me when working with this particular type of fabric. If I could rule out the fabric as an issue, then the solution would most likely be to readjust the tension of the sewing machine, something that for me needed to be the very last resort. Lo and behold, there were blog posts galore about the difficulties of working with PVC coated cotton.
The most common suggestion was to purchase a Teflon presser foot, which would easily glide over the surface of the material without sticking to it. I went on to order one via ebay, but there would be a significant wait for it to arrive and I wanted to complete the project as soon as possible. The second suggestion was to cover a standard presser foot with scotch tape, in order to get a similar effect to the Teflon presser foot – I tried it but this technique did not consistently work for me.
Unsatisfied after another unsuccessful attempt at completing the project and with frustration quickly setting in, I stepped away from the sewing machine and gave myself the rest of the day to mull things over. I set about finding my own solution to the problem. After much thought and careful consideration (to document my thought processes would require another post, so I’ll spare you…this time) the next day, I set about my mission: to successfully complete a zipper pouch!
I thought it might be a good idea to cover the right side of the material in baking paper. YES, BAKING PAPER! I sewed my topstitch to the right side of the garment and through the baking paper. The fabric went over the feed dogs with ease and the stitches on both sides were even. Once I had finished the topstitch, I carefully ripped the baking paper away from the stitches.
This method worked perfectly every single time. The baking paper was strong enough to provide a barrier between the presser foot and the sticky PVC coated cotton, yet fragile enough to enable me to tear it away, leaving the stitches intact. Using this method enabled me to finish not one, but two zipper pouches within a few hours. SEWING TIP ALERT: having issues sewing oilcloth/PVC coated fabrics and you don’t have a Teflon presser foot or scotch tape? Using baking paper works like a dream.
Another con of working with PVC coated cotton is the fact that the remaining holes from unpicked stitches can be quite noticeable. I did make sure to press the wrong side of the fabric with a warm iron after unpicking seams, in order to help minimise the holes. However, this fabric can be unforgiving if constant mistakes are made. Of the 2 zipper pouches that I made, I kept one and gifted another to a relative in order to obtain some much needed feedback about the pouch’s usability and durability. My plan is to eventually start selling handmade items on Etsy – zipper pouches being a favourite of mine to make – so the more feedback I can get on my handmade items, the better.
I really enjoyed completing this project, particularly independently overcoming the difficulties with using my choice of fabric. I stretched and challenged myself just enough to learn some new skills without getting too disheartened when I reached a stumbling block. Over this next week, I plan to consolidate what I have learnt so far by making more of the same items that I have completed over the past 3 weeks. My next challenge is to sew my first ever garment, so I will need to practice the basics as much as possible beforehand. For now, I will leave you with some photos of my finished zipper pouch. Until next time, happy sewing!