Sewn: Stowe Bag
I love bags, seriously.. love bags and I am known to have one or two bags, so much that it is a standing joke throughout my family. This passion/obsession also means I have a few bag patterns.
So when Yang, a work colleague, for whom I made this shawl for, asked me to teach her how to knit, I thought a little bag each would be nice to hold our projects in. The Stowe Bag immediately jumped to mind. I purchased when it was released and it has been sitting in my to do list since then. We have also decided to call our two person group the Yaffanie Knitting Club (I know pretty bad huh?) and as a giggle we will have matchy matchy bags.. and as Yang is a cat lover like me, I am 100% sure cats will be involved.
So over the weekend I thought I would give it a test run and see what I thought of it. And I did..
Few notes: I purchased the PDF version of this pattern and all opinions and observations are my own.
Printing: When printing out the pattern, please read the "Read me" file first for the layout as there is a lot of paper involved. The patterns are written in that the small bag is in between the pieces for the large one. With the large one, I reckon they only needed to create one pattern for the pocket for this and have different lines for the different sewing lines (each pocket has different sized compartments). It is just a waste of paper: you have to print 8 pages just for one of the pockets, which comes after the small bag.
***thinking about this, each piece could have just been drawn in half to be placed on a fold. There are 38 pages if you print the "at home" pattern - way too much.
Fabric: The pattern calls for 2 1/4 yards / 45" wide fabric or 1 1/3 yards of 54" for the large bag and 7/8 yards for both widths for the small bag.
I was up in Spotlight on Saturday buying elastic for another project and wandered around, which I know I should not do - as the squirrels came out and I bought just over 2 metres (45" wide) of this Ikat fabric (damn I wish those squirrels would go on a permanent holiday). I was originally going to make the big one, but changed my mind when I got home and after cutting it out, there is still enough fabric to make a big one. So don't be fooled by this.
The structure of the bag will depend on the type of fabric you use. The pattern suggest medium woven fabrics such as denim, linen, twill or canvas. Mine is is like a loose canvas and therefore my bag does not have a lot of structure.
Also the main point of this bag (and hence its name) is that when you are not using it, it can be folded up and stowed away, but if you don't care for this, something with structure would work as well.
Construction: All in all this is not a difficult make and up to the point of making up the handles it is quite easy. The pockets threw me for a few seconds at first. (I have also just discovered that my print out of the instructions was missing all the sewing lines so check the online version and compare it to the hard copy.. this would have helped me immensely when making mine up - the below yellow lines were not on my hard copy version but are when viewing this on my laptop).
The above yellow lines are how/where you sew the pockets onto the bag. There is a lot of wasted fabric around the pockets themselves, but I guess this adds structure to the bag. When I sewed the sides up, I didn't think to make sure the lines that are circled above are lined up with each other..
And as you can see above, oops.
I also found that the bias binding used on the handles was a bit small (pattern calls for 1/4 to 3/8"). You could easily go up a size here, but not too big. As my fabric frayed a lot, I was just catching the edge of the fabric when sewing it first on, so could have done with something a bit wider. I have also worked out that I suck at sewing on bias binding..
The next bit that gave me grief (and now knowing that some of the lines were missing on my printed instructions, I don't feel so bad), was putting the handles together and then sewing up the gusset.
The handles were a bit confusing but in the end I worked it out.
Once you put on the bias binding, you have to sew the handles together then with wrong sides together, flipping edge A to edge B. This pulls the handles in with the bottom gusset, so to assist when folding.
As I was missing some of the lines on my printout, it took me ages to work out how to make the gusset, but I finally worked out what the written instructions were saying and this was only after looking at a few bags on the internet.
Basically you fold the side edges inwards to the centre (3" for the small bag) and then sew this fold along the bottom side seam. I had overlocked the side edges before doing this and before sewing on the bias binding.
Once I had done this the bag was finished. I gave it a good iron and voila! One little bag.
So what did I think? Meh - it didn't blow my mind. I don't really like the inside look of it with all the seams showing.
I don't particularly like the look of the lines of the pockets on the outside of the bag (I could have done mine a bit better when strengthening the top of them). Depending on your colour colour of fabric and thread, you could hide them if you didn't want them to show.
I used this bag yesterday as a handbag and got quite a few compliments on it. But do I love it? Not really. As a project bag for knitting? Not sure. I don't knit standing up as I have seen in some of the pictures and I believe you really need to be careful with the fabric if you want it as a project bag. Mine was too saggy and putting things into was a bit of a pain as it just flopped everywhere.
If you want a permanent gusset, there is a mini video tutorial on the Grainline website that shows you how to sew this. Apparently there has been a lot of confusion on how to do this as per the written instructions (step 15).
Also I don't think it is worth the $$'s. In AUD it is $18.40 for the PDF or $23.70 for the paper copy. If you put your mind to it, it wouldn't be hard to come up with your own pattern. Plus I am sure if you look real hard, you can find something similiar for cheaper or even free. I have a Japanese bag pattern somewhere that might work just as well. I have found this free pattern, which I think will be nice for putting a work in progress in. I do know of other websites who have better bags for half the price of this.
So there you are, the Stowe Bag. Have you made this bag up? If so, what are your thoughts? Do you love it or not? Comment below as I would love to know.