June 3, 2011

as promised: Sew Fun Diaper Clutch sewing tips

Back when I was blathering on about how great I think the Grab & Go Diaper Clutch is, I promised that I would be back with some tips and tricks for sewing your own. Well, wait no more, because here I am! Ready?

The first thing I want to talk about is lining up your print so your clutch looks fab and professional. The clutch that I carry is NOT a good example of this, as it was my prototype bag so I could get a feel for the pattern and I only had a wee bit of fabric to work with- not enough to be concerned about lining up the print. And since it's mine, I didn't really care. The bags that I make for sale in my shop, however, are typically made using the following method:

First, trace the pattern pieces onto tracing paper or vellum or something else that is transparent enough to see your fabric through it. You only need to trace the flap and body piece, and you don't really need to worry about transferring the marks, except for the snap placement mark. I punched this out with a hole punch on both pieces.

Next, choose the section of fabric that you want to highlight on the flap. In this case, there's a regular repeat, so I just chose to center a couple of the paisley designs for a nice symmetrical look. On my clutch, I centered the flap on one of the daisies so it was the focal point of the flap.

Cut around the flap piece with a rotary cutter. You can pin and cut if you prefer, but I just hold the pattern piece in place and cut around carefully. It's a basic shape so it's not hard.

Now, pick up your flap piece and move it up (or over) to the next repeat of the print. Line it up perfectly. It's impossible to tell, but the flap piece that I cut out is underneath the flap pattern piece in the photo above.

Now, put your body pattern piece on top and line up those snap placement holes. Make sure that the straight edges are parallel (on the top and the sides).

Cut around the bottom curved edges of the body piece. Then move your flap fabric and pattern piece out of the way and cut across the top edge.

Mark the snap placement with a fabric marker before you cut the second body piece. You'll want to be able to identify the one you lined up with the flap later, so mark that snap placement dot now! You did it! Once your bag is assembled, the magnetic snap will hold the flap in perfect alignment with the front body piece. Easy, right?

Now, regarding the back body piece you can make a choice depending on your fabric and on your personal preference. If you want to line up the back body piece with the flap (so there will be continuity to the pattern when the flap is open and viewed from the back) you can do the following:

Move your previously-cut flap piece and line it up with the repeat of the fabric again, same as before. This time though, line up the body piece and the flap piece by matching the dots on the top edges. Cut around the body piece as before, making sure to move the flap out of the way before you cut the straight edge so as not to slice right through it.

Now if you're like me, you might think that the upside-down paisley on the back would be weirder than having the flap not line up perfectly. In that case, you can just cut your back body piece from any section of the fabric, placing the pattern piece facing the same direction as the first body piece you cut.

You're done! Cut the rest of the pattern pieces and stitch it up. When assembled, the prints on the flap and body front should line up (very nearly) perfectly like this:

Sweet, huh? It's really easy to take a little bit of extra time before hand to make your bag look a lot nicer. It does take more fabric, and depending on how frequently the print repeats, sometimes a lot more, but I think it's a nice touch. Jen, the designer of the Sew Fun patterns and also a super sweet gal, also has a tutorial for this. You should check it out here. And keep in mind, this would work with any bag that has a flap and a closure on both pieces, be it a button, magnetic snap, or otherwise. Just line up the marks for the closure the same way and you're assured that when your bag is fastened, the print will line up beautifully!

Alright- moving on! There was a question in the comments on the giveaway post about the type of interfacing that I use to make the bag look so crisp and lovely. I mostly use the same interfacings that are called for on the pattern packaging: a combination of fusible fleece and a midweight non-woven. Specifically I use Pellon 971F fusible fleece on the body and flap parts, and Pellon Craft Fuse 808 to reinforce the flap. I also always add fusible fleece to the changing pad, to give it a little extra cush under the tush for baby. This is not called for in the pattern, so be sure to buy enough extra fleece if you would like to do this too. It takes a piece measuring 16" x 20" to cushion the changing pad, so one fat quarter extra will do.

The last tip I have for now is also about that changing pad, which I love to make with laminated cotton. Laminated cotton is the best thing since sliced bread, seriously. It's like oilcloth, which has been around forever and is nice too, but laminated cotton is a cut above. Laminated cotton is just what it sounds like- a cotton fabric that has been laminated with a layer of BPA and PVC-free polyurethane coating. The coating makes the fabric wipeable and water-resistant and still maintains the relatively soft hand of the fabric underneath. It's machine washable, dry-able, and iron-able (with a pressing cloth). I LOVE this stuff. I've made tons of bibs and messy mats from this material, and we use them every day for Lincoln's meal times. When I decided to make the Grab & Go Clutch, it was a no-brainer for me that I would make the changing pad from laminated cotton.

The first few times I sewed the pad, however, there was a fair bit of swearing and seam-ripping going on. Laminated cotton is not quite as easy to work with as regular quilting cotton, but it's certainly not the worst material I've worked with either. Hopefully knowing a few tips will help things go smoothly for you the first time.

First of all- invest in a walking foot if you don't have one already. I've tried other things that are recommended for working with laminated cotton- a teflon foot, painter's tape on your foot and machine base- and the walking foot is hands-down my favorite. In case you've never used one, it works by pulling the fabric along from the top, just like your feed dogs pull the fabric from the bottom. This results in an even feed and less (or no) puckering. If you use the walking foot and sew slooooooowly, you'll almost certainly have fabulous results when working with laminated cotton on this project or any other.

The next thing that I found only through trial and error, was that by flipping the changing pad upside down and sewing with the laminated cotton down and the backing material up, I ended up with smoother results when sewing the long quilted lines that run across the changing pad surface. It was counter-intuitive for me, because I thought that the laminated cotton would stick to the baseplate of my machine and drag, but it actually worked great.

I guess that's all for now. In case it's not clear enough already, I think this is a great pattern, and I highly recommend it if you need a small diaper bag, or even just a cute clutch. The instructions are easy to follow and understand, and it's seriously genius the way Jen has engineered the bag and the lining is inserted. The first time I sewed it, I had to just close my eyes and trust in the process, but now that I know how it works, I think it's brilliant!

Please let me know if you have questions or if any of the instructions that I've given are unclear. I really hope that this will help you if you're making this bag for the first time! And if you need the pattern, it's available for purchase directly from Sew Fun, in my Etsy shop, or at your local fabric store.

Happy stitching!