Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

Sewing the Huxley Bag – a convertible rucksack

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it.

A little while ago, I was debating designing a new bag. My messenger bag was threadbare and I’d cut it apart to remove the hardware for my daughters’ bag! I wanted a bag that I could convert from a shoulder/ crossbody bag into a rucksack and although I had come across quite a few – I especially liked this one – they weren’t quite what I wanted. Then I saw the Huxley Bag by Goheen Designs and I was smitten. The idea of using rivets and other hardware seemed like good fun!

Originally, I’d hoped to have it finished in time for Festival of Quilts, but that didn’t quite happen……kids, holidays and the like mean everything’s taken a bit longer. I also decided to take my time to enjoy the making process: the pattern is rated as confident and there are a number of steps to follow – not in a scary way, mind! – and I’d made a few adjustments to it due to the fabric that I was using, which involved a bit more thinking!

I made a large View A and used a waxed cotton (from here) – it has a leather-like look, but is a bit thinner and provides an element of being waterproof which is handy! It meant that I could do without the webbing but had to adapt the pattern – both in terms of width and length (on some strap pieces, the pattern calls for leather to be top stitched to a longer piece of webbing) which required a little bit of planning.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I also decided to add a zip to the back pocket – I love having a secure place to keep valuables, especially when it’s being used as a messenger bag. I added the zip in between the outer and lining fabric of the back pocket and then secured the ‘free’ zip side straight on to the back piece of the bag with a few lines of stitching. However, I didn’t really read the pattern fully through – schoolgirl error! – and then realised I would have to alter the length of the bike straps in order to make it all look ok! Ah well, if you chose to do this, you can learn from my mistake!

Overall, the pattern is really well written. On first look at the download, it can seem slightly intimidating – there are over 40 pages! However, many of the early pages are used to share tips, and the rest of the pattern takes you through step-by-step in a clear and concise way.

Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Sewing Tips

  • If you are using fabric instead of leather, make sure to add a seam allowance to the bag strap guide – I added 1/4″ – and cut two pieces for each strap. Place two pieces wrong side together and sew around, leaving a gap for turning. Turn through and topstitch before proceeding as per the pattern.
  • For fabric straps, cut all pieces at 4″ wide x the length of the pattern piece or webbing (whichever is longest): fold one or both ends over (dependant on if it’s a visible end), fold in half along the length and then fold the edges into the middle. Top stitch around the edges of the strap to secure
  • Check position and length of the bike straps before adding a zip pocket on the back of the bag! They need adding before the zip is sewn on and I altered mine to be a bit shorter so that the straps sit at the top of the pocket and only used one popper.
  • If you want to add a zip to the back pocket, make tabs to go at each end of the zip. There should be at least 1/2″ of fabric at each end for the seam allowance to allow for ease of sewing the bag together (see my tutorial here if you’re not sure how).
  • To mark sewing lines – especially where they are not going to be seen – I found that placing the paper pattern piece on top of the fabric and using a Hera marker would create a guideline (similar to what I would get from creasing) the fabric.
  • Using a zipper foot for sewing the sides (especially where I’d added the zip pocket) and sewing the outer and inner bags together around the top gave a better result, and meant the foot didn’t get pushed out of the way by all the straps. I also found it was less likely to give me skipped stitches where there were lots of layers.
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Tips for accurate placement of rivets & poppers

  • Laying the paper pieces over the fabric, I would push a pin through the guide mark – sometimes this would leave a visible mark that I could then punch, other times I would use a quilting pencil to make it more visible with a dot.
  • Where possible, I folded or layered pieces together so that I could punch holes in all of them at the same time and therefore increase my ‘accuracy’.
  • I used 6mm rivets for this bag, I figured the waxed cotton would be a bit thinner than leather. Largely, this was okay but there were a couple of spots – mostly on the handle at the edge of the bag flap – where slightly longer rivets would have been handy, so next time around I will definitely look at getting some bigger ones!
Sewing the Huxley Bag - a convertible rucksack (Goheen Designs) by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I think that covers everything?! Someone on IG asked me if the bag was heavy, which is a really good question and one I had to think about! It makes sense that it would be with all the hardware on it, however, its actually quite tricky to tell. The waxed cotton is a heavier fabric anyway (the bag I made for my daughter weighs probably double the one I’d made out of cotton and wadding!) but having never sewn with leather, I’m not sure how this would compare? So far, all I can really say is that it is a good weight and I’ve not been put off using it!

Overall, I am so happy with the bag! It’s not the biggest rucksack – it’s best to think of it as a shoulder bag that converts into a rucksack – but is perfect for my needs. Having never used hardware before, I feel that it really lifts the finished look to a much more professional level. Not all of my rivets are perfect – in fact, there are a number of things that I could pick on as ‘could be better’ – but I think that’s the makers’ curse, isn’t it?! I’m trying to let these little things go though and concentrate on all the skills I learnt! I can see myself making another in the future, maybe using different fabrics and having made this one, I can see (hope!) that others will go together a lot quicker and easier!

See you soon,

Sx

Today’s sky::: blue skies with the odd cloud

Candy Swirls quilt and mini

Candy Swirls quilt and mini

A while ago now I finished a quilt which I’ve been itching to show to you, and today is finally the day!

Candy Swirls quilt in Love, Patchwork & Quilting, Issue 64 by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

A few years ago, I made a cushion for Fat Quarterly magazine using Gardenvale fabrics. Trying to channel my inner Jen Kingwell (!) and with the theme being curves, I played around with Drunkards Path block, splitting the quarter circle with a curve and called it the Drunkards Wheel. I had lots of fun making the cushion, and playing with how the block could be tessellated in different ways to create new patterns but then…..life! It’s been in the back of my mind for a while now and earlier this year, I decided to pick it back up and Do Something With It.

Drunkards Path & Drunkards Wheel template set by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I found a lovely UK based company who could make the templates for me – which makes the whole cutting process soooooo much easier! – and set about writing instructions, finding packaging and everything. It was quite confusing and exhausting at times!

Drunkards Path & Drunkards Wheel template set by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The templates are a transparent blue to help you locate them on your desk (or maybe it’s just me that loses them?!) but still fussy-cut fabric if you desire. There are five pieces – the traditional Drunkards Path pieces, and the Drunkards Wheel sections as well as a little cut-out for making applique circles (these pieces can create fabulous flowers!). They come in a cardboard box – which will arrive with you in a cardboard envelope – so that you have somewhere to keep and store your templates together when they are not in use. The sets can be purchased in my Etsy shop here.

Drunkards Path & Drunkards Wheel template set by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I really believe that everyone can sew curves – it seems scary, but I promise it’s really not! There are so many different techniques to try to find the ones that work best for you……before you know it, you’ll be sewing curves without thinking about it!

To help with this, I have included a number of tips to help you find what technique works best for you – there are so many and I would love to hear from anyone who has any others!

Within the instruction leaflet, I have included some of the different ways in which the templates can be arranged. I have also created a downloadable booklet with larger layouts so that you can plan which size quilt you would like to make and calculate fabric quantities.

If you would like to make your own Candy Swirls Quilt – or experiment with sewing curves – there is a special offer in Love Patchwork & Quilting Issue 64 for a discount on the template set, which you can buy here.

Drunkards Path & Drunkards Wheel template set by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I’m looking forward to sharing more projects with you over the coming months, every time I sit down to play with the layout drawings I come up with lots of different patterns. It’s never ending!

And finally, I’ve been wondering if anyone would be interested in a sew along for the Drunkards Wheel? If there’s enough interest then I could look to put something together, although it probably wouldn’t be until September when the kids are back at school!

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast, grey and raining. Yuk!

A new Messenger Bag using waxed cotton

A new Messenger Bag using waxed cotton

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it.

A few years ago now, I made a messenger bag that I have absolutely loved and used so much it’s actually gone thread-bare in parts! 

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I’ve been debating making another one for a while because it was such a fun make, and decided one would be perfect for my Girl for her birthday. I also thought I’d have a go at using waxed cotton fabric for the fun of it and, being in the UK, it generally rains a lot here! I found a company which do an antiqued waxed Barbour type fabric and went with the Gold Stone colourway (just in case you’re interested!)

I’d never used waxed cotton before and confess that I was a little nervous beforehand. Not so much about stitching through it but about the build-up of wax on my machine – the fabric feels waxy (obviously!) and I was constantly washing my hands! Some of the stitching was done on my old Singer Featherweight, and I have to say she breezed through the fabric no problems! My Janome also sewed through it okay with no build up. I think the only thing I will have to do is clean the bed of my machine as it does feel a little extra slippy than normal!

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Helpful tips for sewing with Waxed Cotton

  • Use a Jeans/Denim sewing needle
  • A slightly longer stitch length (3 or higher)
  • A walking foot really helps with easing fabric through the machine
  • Use clips or pin within the seam allowance to avoid marking the fabric
  • Finger pressing/pressing tools help with flattening seams instead of ironing
  • A polycotton thread worked well, but doesn’t give a huge amount of stitch definition – I’m using a thicker thread next time just to see the difference!
  • Overlocking around the pieces at the beginning will help to avoid any fraying

The pattern is the Messenger Bag by Michelle Patterns and is really well written. Having made it before I knew that it would come together fairly quickly, but did make a couple of adjustments…..

Omitted Interfacing: the waxed cotton is a much thicker fabric than recommended and I also used a cotton duck type fabric for the lining so I chose not to interface any of my pieces. The bag still has a good structure (and was a lot quicker to put together!) so I would probably do the same again! I did still add wadding to the bottom gusset of the bag though as it definitely helps with the shape!

Bag Strap: the recommended strap length is really long, and so I cut one at the width of the fabric – about 58 inches. After cutting off the footing, it came out the perfect length!

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Extra Pocket: I added a hidden zip pocket on the back of the bag, before joining the linings together. I love a zipped pocket – somewhere to keep the valuables safe! The trickiest bit is turning the fabric through and getting a crisp edge to the zip opening when pins can’t really be used. I didn’t want to risk ironing it so used a lot of finger pressing and wonder clips to press it into submission!

Button Closure: for a change, I decided to add a button loop closure – the only thing I’d found annoying with my bag was that it wouldn’t always stay fastened up – more to do with my buckle than the design – and I thought a button would look cute! I used a piece of fabric 2″ wide by about 5″ long, folded it in half along the long side, and then pressed the edges into the centre before stitching along the edges to secure and sandwiching between the bag flap pieces.

Messenger bag and tips on sewing with waxed canvas by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I am so pleased with how it came out and absolutely looove the look of the waxed cotton – it’s already starting to lose it’s overly waxy feel and almost looks like leather or suede. I’m looking forward to seeing how it wears over time and love that it gives the pattern a more luxurious look. If I’m honest, I’m just a little bit sad that I’ve promised to gift it to my Girl…..I am definitely going to have to make another for myself but for now, I’m already working on a different bag using a darker brown version of waxed cotton. More on that next week hopefully!

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast and cloudy, but occasional blue sky and still warm

A hand-pieced Wedding Quilt

A hand-pieced Wedding Quilt

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it.

Earlier this year, I finally gifted a quilt to my brother-in-law and his new wife for their wedding. It was a little late by about a year, but not bad by my normal standards!

Wedding quilt: 8" hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I don’t know about you, but as much as I love making things, I am quite careful about who I actually create for……some just don’t appreciate the effort that goes in to making something, and there’s maybe also a bit of self-consciousness from me that they feel I’m fobbing them off with something hand-made?

So, when my brother-in-law announced his engagement, I asked them firstly, if they would like a handmade quilt? And secondly, if they did, what sort of style/colours would they like so that I could be as certain as possible that it would be exactly what they wanted! They said they would and so I passed them a copy of Jen Kingwell’s ‘Quilt Lovely’ book (one of my favourites!) and they soon came back to me saying that they loved the Home Run cushion – which is based on the Kansas Dugout block – but in blues and greys please.

Home Run cushion by Jen Kingwell, inspiration for a wedding quilt by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Image Copyright: Jen Kingwell – Quilt Lovely

I was planning to hand-piece the quilt, and as my BIL is over 6′ it was going to need to be of a reasonable size. Eeek! Eventually, I settled on increasing the size of the blocks slightly to a finished size of 8″ (with a finished block layout of 6 x 8 to give a quilt size of 48″ x  64″) using the following cutting measurements;

Wedding quilt: 8" hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I collected a range of blues and greys (and snuck some teal colours in too) – quite a lot of Carolyn Friedlander, some Jen Kingwell, Cotton & Steel, batiks and a few other blenders.

Wedding quilt: 8" hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

When I eventually finished piecing the quilt – which was quite a workout towards the end – I started looking for some backing fabric and came across some Wild & Free fabric in midnight by Maureen Crackenell that I had in my stash. It was a few inches short of the length I needed and then I remembered the diagonal cutting technique…..it’s not one I’d tried before but I have to say it’s like magic! Essentially, if your fabric is wider than your finished top, you cut the fabric diagonally from corner to corner and then slide the two pieces along the cut edge – so the sides come closer together – until you get the desired width/length that you need (I found this website calculator to be useful). As a bonus, if you’re using the right kind of fabric, eg. one with a fairly abstract pattern, you can hardly even tell there’s a join!

Wedding quilt: hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

I went for a simple quilting pattern, stitching a quarter inch either side of the seam of the bigger sections to reveal a grid pattern, using an Aurifil variegated blue and yellow thread, which worked perfectly to knit all the colours together.

Wedding quilt: 8" hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

For the binding, I decided to try something new and went for a 1″ wide binding: the blocks were so bold, I thought it would help to tie them all together. On the recommendation of a blog post I saw, I went for a single fold binding and, whilst it worked well, I will go for my normal double fold binding next time…I just prefer the feel of it on the finished edge!

Wedding quilt: hand-pieced Kansas Dugout blocks by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

Now that it’s completed, I can say that I am really pleased with how it came out but, during the making process, I did struggle a little. They’re not my usual colour choices but actually, in retrospect, it’s good to go outside the comfort zone and try different things as sometimes it’s surprising how much you like the finished results. What with this and the Green Triangle Quilt, I seem to be doing it quite a lot recently!!!

S x

Today’s sky::: overcast but still warm!

The Clip’n’Pincushion

The Clip’n’Pincushion

NOTE: this post may contain affiliate links. It will not cost you any money if you click on them and just means that I get a small commission for recommending it.

Hello! Today I thought I’d talk about the inspiration behind the clip’n’pincushion that was launched a few months ago. To be honest, this mostly came about as a result of my lack-lustre sewing habits!!! I love using wonder clips as I find them so useful…do you ever use them? Mine are in constant rotation – holding thick layers of fabric together, keeping pattern pieces together for quilting and dressmaking, keeping blocks together in order whilst sewing a quilt top together, clipping binding in place……..the possibilities are endless!

I’m not quite so good at tidying them away as I go along though – tending to throw them in the vague direction of the box they came in. Then they end up everywhere (buried under fabric!) and I can never find one when I actually need it!

Clip’n’pincushion by fabricandflowers | Sonia Spence

The clip’n’pincushion has a trim around the edge which is the perfect size for clips to be attached to, and the pincushion has enough depth that the clips are still easy to grab a hold of, and pins can go in without stabbing you in the finger when you pick the pincushion up!

For these samples, I used HSTs left over from previous projects, but you could also use any scraps of fabric you have lying around. I found a spare economy block and made a mini-version to use when I’m sat on the sofa/out and about. I love the ones that Tara at Wefty Needle made with her EZ Miter corner templates, and Kim at Persimon Dreams created with ‘Sew’ appliqued on.

Clip'n'Pincushion by fabricandflowres | Sonia Spence

Anyone who knows me will most likely agree that I’m terrible at following patterns and am always thinking of ways that I could tweak them or shortcuts to make it a little quicker!!! So with all my patterns, I’ve written them as Pattern Guides: Each PDF includes the standard step-by-step instructions and then at the back some ideas on how you could personalise/tweak the pattern, alternative instructions if for example (non-) directional fabrics were being used and also a space to write any notes or plan any changes. For this pattern, this means instructions on how to adjust the trim to fit any size pincushion that you would like to make.

If you would like to make your own clip’n’pincushion, you can check out the pattern in my Etsy shop here and if you have any questions then please do drop me a line!

Have a great weekend,

Sx

Today’s sky::: lots of blue sky and beautifully sunny!