Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Review: The London Backpack by LBG Studio

As you may have read in my post that briefly mentioned Quilt Market, I had the opportunity to make a bunch of LBG Studio's The London Backpack for the Dear Stella booth at Fall Quilt Market 2015.  Each bag featured fabric from a different collection.

Top (L to R):  Asuka, Luck of the Irish, Pixie Dust
Middle (L to R):  Hello Sailor, Cat's Meow, Lilypad
Bottom (L to R):  Desert Bloom, Enchanted
After making 8 of them, I feel like I know the pattern pretty well, so let's get on with my review. 

My first impression of the pattern was quite positive. I liked the shape of the bag on the pattern cover, and the picture on the following page that shows the size on kids and an adult.  With an approximate finished size of 12" tall x 13" wide x 5" deep, I would certainly call this a purse-sized bag rather than the jumbo size version that springs into my head when I hear "backpack."  

This pattern has a magnetic snap flap that covers a drawstring. There is a zipped pocket on the interior of the bag, as well as one on the back side of the exterior. 

Getting into it
Like the Senna Tote (also by LBG Studio) that I previously reviewed, the materials list recommends duck cloth/cotton canvas for interlining (I used a 10oz 100% cotton duck). Fusible fleece is listed as an alternative, but I don't think I would be as happy with the finished project. 

The majority of the pieces for the pattern are rectangular, so I LOVE that the dimensions were provided so that the pieces may be rotary cut instead of using pattern pieces. This saved me from having to print a bunch of extra pages that I wouldn't use.

This pattern marks the first time that I've used grommets (the pattern says eyelets, but you really want grommets).  To be honest, it was a little nerve-racking to put them in, but it really gives the bag a professional looking finish.  I found a good tool for punching the holes plus a grommet setting kit at Tandy Leather.  As a side note, the pattern calls for eyelets.  Eyelets look different from the back than they do on the front.  in addition, eyelets are usually smaller (at least that's what I noticed when I was trying to find the hardware).  Grommets look the same on the front and the back.  With the hardware being clearly visible, grommets are going to give you a uniform look.

Yup, it's a grommet.  It really gives the bag a professional look.
As far as construction goes, you will be working with heavy materials that are also thick, so I will definitely also recommend using a jeans needle. You might also find it beneficial to slightly increase your stitch length and take it slowly. 

The single most frustrating part of the bag for me was sewing the exterior bottom piece to the sides. There is a fair amount of easing that needs to happen, and the rigidity of the duck cloth can make it a pain. I used a ton of Clover Wonder Clips, and I'm pleased with how they turned out. 

These clips have a lot of different uses.  One of them is take the place of a straight pin.  Putting a needle through layers of interfaced fabric and duck cloth isn't going to turn out well for your pins, so I use the clips instead.
I can't say that I really made any modifications to the pattern other than using a 3rd fabric as an accent on the flap and bottom at the request of the lovely folks at Dear Stella.  To do this, you will need to add an extra fat quarter or a 1/3 yard (1/3yd x WOF) of fabric from the bolt of the fabric that you wish to use as your accent.  When cutting out your fabrics, just don't forget that you are using the accent fabric!
Wrapping Up
Now for the real question - would I make it again?  Yes, I would absolutely make this pattern again.  It's well-written, and it makes an awfully cute bag.

Want to see more pics from the Dear Stella booth?  You can check out their recap post here.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Review: Power Trip by Patterns by Annie

Today, I thought I'd share my thoughts and write a review on the Power Trip Case by Patterns by Annie.

This one has been on my to do list for a while, and I thought that my trip to Glamp Stitchalot in Michigan would be the perfect reason/excuse/justification to go ahead and make it.

If you have been following me, you will not be surprised that I picked another one of Annie's patterns.  I think they offer the perfect balance of functionality and usability, and I don't think her Soft and Stable products can be beat for durability, stability, and giving your bags a nice, professional finish.

Also, this bag would be a great gateway project for somebody that's thinking about making Annie's A Place for Everything bag.  Some of the basic construction steps are very similar.  I've written a pretty lengthy blog post on it.  There are also some tips and tricks in there that you may find handy when making this bag too (especially the part about trimming back the Soft and Stable when installing the zippers).


This bag finishes at approx 7.5" tall, 10" wide, and 3" deep (if you are holding it in your hand by the handle).  It features 3 zipped pockets (2 interior and 1 exterior), 5 open mesh pockets, and 1 section with elasticized loops (in the center of the case along the inside of the spine).

For mine, I picked one of my favorite fabric combinations (yes, again) - Tula Pink MoonShine + Tula Pink Fox Field with white mesh, white elastic, hot pink fold over elastic, and Annie's handbag zippers in the lipstick color.

Mesh, elastic, zippers, and Soft and Stable are all available on

Like most of Annie's other patterns, you begin by quilting a sandwich of Soft and Stable with your main and lining fabrics.  Once quilted, you cut the pieces into the sizes listed in the pattern and begin to assemble the bag's components.

All cut and partially assembled

One cool option that you can do with this bag is pick if you want to see more of the lining fabric or more of the exterior fabric on the inside of the bag.  It's as easy as flipping a piece over.  

Not sure what I'm talking about or why you might take this into consideration?  If you look at the pictures that Annie shows of the pattern on her website, you can see that some of the examples have the interior fabric facing outward on the interior and some have the exterior fabric.  While it isn't technically a functional issue, I think it's more of an issue of usability.  For my bags, I prefer to use the fabric that will allow the mesh to "disappear" into the background more.  Using the aqua print allows the white mesh that I picked to be as visible against the fabric.  I don't want the mesh to be a star of the show, I'd rather see the pretty fabric!  I also prefer to use a less busy print for my lining fabric so the contents of the pockets are easier to see against the lining.


I decided that I wanted to modify a few things on the pattern to make it work better for me.  These are not major changes, and do not have much of an impact on how the bag is constructed.

When making the bag, one common modification for me is to hand stitch the zipper side strip binding.  Why do I do do this, you ask?  By hand stitching them down, you don't run a line of stitching through the visible part of where the handle is attached on the center side strip/spine of the bag.  It's really an aesthetic choice more than anything.

The largest modification that I made is in how the pockets are installed.  In the pattern, the mesh pockets are open toward the zipper of the bag not toward the spine.  Why did I decide to do this?  Ah, good question.  It's all about how the bag will be carried.  With a handle on the spine of the bag, installing the pockets as the pattern instructs means that the pockets will be upside down when carried.  Even though the items wouldn't have very far to go if they started to slide out of their pockets, it's not unrealistic to expect that could happen.  

One thing to think about if you are considering making this same modification is the zipper pockets that are below the mesh.  The zipper pockets may be ever so slightly more difficult to access if you have a thick cord (like the black cord in the picture below).  It's easy enough to work around the issue, but I think it's worth the little bit of extra effort for how I knew I'd be using the bag.

To do this modification, you just rotate the assembled zipper pocket/mesh pocket units 180 degrees.  Using Clover's Wonder Clips to clip the pieces together and do a quick assembly test can be very helpful to ensure that the pockets are oriented properly.

Loaded up and ready for my trip!

One of the things that I almost always do to give my bags a really clean finish is to hand sew my binding like I do on my quilts.  If you want to do this, I recommend attaching your binding on the zipper side of the bag and hand sewing it down on the exterior panel.  Be sure that you are using the 1/4" seam allowance as mentioned in the pattern and that you are using bias binding.  You want the binding to be nice and smooth.  Wonder Clips, as mentioned in the pattern, are one of my favorite tools to hold your binding in place as you stitch it down.  

Even though it takes a lot longer to finish, I prefer the look of the hand stitched binding.  


To recap, I think this is a fantastic bag.  It worked very well for me on my trip.  If I planned to make this bag again, I think the only change that I would make would be to omit the stitching that holds the center down on the elastic installed into the spine of the bag.  In fact, I might even grab my seam ripper and remove those few stitches as soon as I post my review.
Here's a shot of both sides of the exterior plus the interior of my bag