weekender bag: part one: the pipening

so, i started working on my weekender bag the other day. i cut out all the fabric & interfacing i need for the exterior, as well as fabric for straps & piping, on sunday during ramona’s nap. it took the entire nap: a couple of hours. that’s a lot of cutting, considering that i was using a rotary cutter, which makes things go pretty fast. but i was always taking care to pattern match my exterior pockets to the body of the bag.

i started sewing yesterday during her nap. first i made piping. people on the internet went on & on about how much faster & easier it was to make the piping with stitch witchery/hem tape, rather than basting. i had some stitch witchery that i got in a big bag of sewing notions at a yard sale over the summer, so i figured i’d give it a try.

people who say stitch witchery is easier or faster than basting are filthy rotten liars.

dude, you have to press each little bit for ten seconds. instead of just placing the cord, you have to place the cord & the tape & try not to fuse the tape to the cord. it was a giant pain in the ass. basting is SO much faster & easier. maybe you run the risk of basting stitches showing if you don’t sew close enough to your cording during final construction, but that’s why embroidery scissors exist. i don’t know how long it took me to make the piping, but i know it was well over an hour because i listened to an entire episode of “this american life” & i still wasn’t done.

& then i had to make my straps. amy butler has this whole strap-making method with peltex & interfacing…eff that. i basically just made extra-wide double-fold bias tape & ran strapping through it. it remains to be seen how sturdy it is once it’s sewn on to the bag, but it looks & feels very profesh. my edgestitching was to die for, if i do say so myself.

then i spent 87 years pressing my interfacing. i think i had ten pieces of fabric that needed to be interfaced? & all of them were pretty big.  i just put some TV on my computer & spaced out while i did it. i didn’t actually have enough interfacing to do the three layers required for the top/sides (??? why not just say that slightly thicker interfacing is required for that part?), so i did one layer & then basted on a layer of duck canvas. we’ll see how that goes when it’s time for zipper installation.

then i started constructing my pocket. i was nervous about this part because i was veering off course & doing my own thing. the pattern calls for a simple open pocket, no closure, with piping along the top. easy peasy. but i wanted to create two pockets in one: a zippered pocket with an open pocket behind it. i did this by cutting two more pocket pieces, basting the piping in place, basting the zipper over that, stitching on the lining, basting around that pocket half, basting the other side of the zipper to my other pocket piece, sewing on the lining, basting that pocket piece together, & then basting the whole pocket together. when it’s sewn to the bag exterior, i’ll leave the top open, per the actual pattern instructions, & voila: a zipper pocket with an open pocket behind it!

there’s just one problem. in my mind’s eye, my piping would be on the back part of the pocket, closest to the main body of the bag. so that’s how i sewed everything. it wound up looking like this:


(sorry my photos are kind of dark. i took them at like 5am, while it was still dark outside, & my house is surrounded by trees, so it’s like a cave.)

it looks…all right. but see how you can see the zipper? i was laying in bed thinking about it (since i sleep for shit when i’m in the middle of a sewing project), & suddenly i thought, “how does it look with the pocket reversed?”


damn! doesn’t that look so much better?! the zipper is hidden & you just see the piping! so profesh!

the problem is that this nicer-looking side of the bag is not interfaced with peltex. & the visible-zipper side is. the idea is that the entire exterior of the bag, including pocket exterior, is interfaced with peltex, i guess for sturdiness & protection. i could sew it the other way round, but then the peltex sides are right next to each other, which is kind of silly.

it’s not a huge deal, & you can kind of hardly even see the difference, since the piping & the zipper are the same color. i doubt anyone passing me in the airport is going to be like, “look at that visible zipper. what an idiot.” but I know.

now that i know, i can sew the other pocket piping-side-out, but then my pockets won’t match. or i could have one side with peltex out & one side with peltex out. who would really know besides me? i can’t really re-do the pocket because i already trimmed my seam allowances, & it’s literally like nine layers of basting (because i basted each layer separately for precision), two layers of regular stitching, & two layers of topstitching. that’s A LOT of stitching to rip out, possibly destroying my seam allowances.

now i know for the next time i make this bag or one like it, &…honestly, so far, i’m not seeing what’s so difficult about this bag. there’s a lot of interfacing, but the sewing is fairly straightforward. granted, i have yet to try to stitch piping around my curved corners. maybe that’s the awful part? but there’s no peltex in the seam allowances, so…?

we’ll see what i’m able to get done today, given that i woke up at like 4:30am & couldn’t get back to sleep. thankfully, ramona is being super-chill right now. she’s just sitting next to my desk, listening to her fisher-price record player & talking to her stuffed cat about how it has bonked its head & might feel better if it lays down.

last night the back of my chair fell off in the middle of dinner (i ran this chair over with the car a few years ago–accidentally–& jared tried to screw it back together again, but you know, he’s not a carpenter [though i think a repair job that lasts four years is pretty impressive]) & ramona LOST IT. “chair flopped! chair flopped!” she exclaimed. when we didn’t seem appropriately concerned, she elaborated, “chair sad! chair bonked head! chair SAD!” we tried to explain that chairs do not have feelings or heads, but she was not having it. she’s on a real “bonked head” kick lately.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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