It’s finally time to post this project. Here is the big takeaway for me: I love this bag. I did not love making this bag.
I made the Portside Duffle from Grainline Studio to take on a weekend retreat, and it was perfect for that. I finished with time to spare, and it was so much fun to have handmade luggage to take along with me. I really love how it turned out. (I also learned that both “duffle” and “duffel” are correct ways to spell this word, so I’ll go with “duffle” for this post.)
I was inspired in my color choices by this excellent bag on the Skirt As Top blog. Mine is a little different, but the influence is pretty clear. Her version is great!
The process of making it presented a number of challenges, however.
The first challenge for me was my inexperience with bag-making. I decided to only make the duffle, as I was under a deadline, but because I’ve made so few bags, I was really stuck on how to choose things like interfacing and my zipper. You know how it is when you are just starting out–you really need things spelled out. I know how to shorten a zipper on a pair of pants or a skirt, but what if you can’t find the exact zipper length for a bag? And do you need a separating or non-separating zipper? Does it even matter?
As it turned out, the length specified (21 inches) is very hard to find. What I did find out is that when you run into this situation, you can buy a longer zipper and shorten it, and a separating zipper is just fine (I’m pretty sure you can use separating or non-separating). This may seem obvious, but it was something I didn’t know and had to learn. Luckily I had a longer zipper in my stash, so I was able to use that.
The other area that confused me was the interfacing. I looked around online for ideas, but it was all so overwhelming! I had no idea there were so many kinds of interfacing (and stabilizer!) or so many things you could do with the interfacing. You can even combine interfacings! Here is what I ended up using: for the bottom, I bought 2/3 of a yard of 20″ wide Pellon Peltex 71F Single-Sided Fusible Ultra Firm Stabilizer. (The bottom pattern piece of this bag is 21 5/8″ x 12 3/8″.) For the sides/top of the bag I used Pellon 809 Decor Bond (Firm Iron-on Backing with Extra Crispness). My bottom fabric (the gold) was heavier than my top fabric (the off-white), so I used one layer of interfacing on both, but also added a layer of quilting-weight fabric to the top portion, like the way you might underline a garment. I did not interface the striped pocket on the outside or my lining fabric. I bought all my interfacing and stabilizer at JoAnn Fabrics.
In case you also struggle with the interfacing/stabilizer question, I found some helpful information in this article on sew4home.com: “Top Interfacing Solutions For Bags and Totes: Fabric Depot“, as well as this one from Sew Sweetness: “All About Bag Interfacing“. Sew Sweetness had a lot of good information for bag-makers of all experience levels.
The other area that I struggled with was the overall cost of this project. I tend to have a pretty limited budget, so cost is always a factor. When I started to realize how much the pattern, fabric, and hardware could cost, I decided to get creative and see where I could save money. Here is what I did.
I decided to make my own straps all with a width of 1.5″, rather than some at 1.25″ and some at 1.5″. This would also allow me to use the 1.5″ D-rings I had in my stash rather than buying 1.25″ D-rings which I didn’t have (and which were harder to find). There were two books that I found really helpful as I dug into the details of this project. The first was On-the-Go-Bags by Lindsay Conner and Janelle MacKay, which helped me see that I actually could make my own straps (something I didn’t know as a newbie to bag-making). The other book, which was the most helpful, was The Better Bag Maker by Nicole Mallalieu, which was filled with all sorts of helpful information. If you sewed through this book, you would come out the other side with a lot of bag-making knowledge and skills.
I also realized that since I had so many D-rings (I have no idea why I have so many!), I could use those instead of the swivel bolt snaps/hooks the pattern called for, and join them with a carabiner since we had a few little carabiners in the house. I didn’t end up making the leather zipper pulls. I was kind of hoping I would find something in the jewelry section of the craft store to go with my lining, but I didn’t find anything I liked, so I skipped it.
The next thing to consider was fabric. In case you are wondering, Fabric A on the pattern is your lower fabric and Fabric B is your upper fabric.
The off-white and striped fabrics came from my stash, and I ordered the gold bottom fabric from Fabric Mart when it was on sale (love that store!). I think that 2/3 of a yard of 54″ or 57″ fabric for the bottom (Fabric A) would have been enough, although if you use a print, you may want more so that you can position it just how you want it. The pattern calls for 1.25 yards of 54″ wide fabric. This amount of fabric turned out to be helpful in making my straps, so I’m glad I had extra for that (I probably ordered 1.5 yards).
I also used a quilting cotton from my stash (with octopi!) for the lining, which saved me money. I had been looking for just the right thing to use this fabric on and now I have both octopus pants and a bag with a surprise lining! (This fabric, by Cotton + Steel, and my pattern came from Pintuck & Purl.)
I’m going to share some technical details in this section, so feel free to skip it if that isn’t helpful to you.
***One important note: I think there may be an error on pattern piece #4 (the side, bottom piece). I would think that where it says “strap placement”, it would line up with the strap on the piece above it, but as printed, it looks like that text is on the bottom of the piece…where no strap is supposed to go. I decided to ignore the strap placement marking and assumed that was the bottom of the piece (so that the words are right side up as printed).
Also, you can skip the part in the directions about choosing your size. This duffle only comes in one size.
In Steps 6 and 8, I used Steam-A-Seam 2, 1/4″ (double stick fusible tape) to hold things in place before sewing them down. This wasn’t perfect because the bond was pretty light, but it was still helpful.
In Step 11, I used a zipper foot to sew the zipper in.
For Step 12, I found this blog post from Handmade By Carolyn very helpful. She suggests leaving the last half-inch at the bottom of your sides and end panels unsewn to help with attaching the bottoms. Press your seams toward the end panels after sewing.
In Step 13, sew the long sides first and then the short sides.
Before beginning Step 14, I think you should flip the bag so right sides are out (at least that is what I did). The tip in the instructions about using your machine’s free arm is helpful here. Even with that, though, this step is hard if you have heavy interfacing in the bag! What worked for me was to sew a side, backstitch, cut the threads, and then move on to the next side.
For Step 16, as in Step 12, do not sew the bottom 1/2″ of each seam so it will be easier to attach to the bottom in the next step.
I did not do Step 18 as written. Instead, I used Steam-A-Seam 2, 1/4″ to baste the lining to the zipper and used Wonder Clips to help hold it because the Steam-A-Seam isn’t very strong (something different would have been better, I think). Then I basted outer fabric, zipper, and lining togewith my machine, with the lining up. I just sort of tacked the ends because my machine didn’t love sewing over the zipper. Then I sewed the long sides with a zipper foot and the bag’s outside facing up (in other words, I topstitched). I tried to sew over the zipper ends, which was somewhat successful, so I also hand-tacked the lining to the zipper tape by the zipper ends. Use a thimble for this!
In Step 19, I wasn’t able to fold the raw edges under, since the straps I had made were so thick. I used Fray Check on both ends and then zigzagged over them before stitching them down as in the directions. It’s not as professional as I would like, but it should work.
In Step 20, I think it should say “tops of the rings” rather than “top of the top ring” in the second sentence.
At this point, I used more D-rings rather than swivel clips. I attached the D-rings to each other with mini carabiners.
After Step 20, I tried to tack the lining to the bag by sewing two parallel lines across the width of the bag on the bottom and by sewing for an inch or two on top of one of my stitching lines on each strap. The lining doesn’t look smooth inside, but at least it won’t billow out now.
I didn’t do Step 21, even though I think the leather zipper pulls are a nice touch.
One thing that happened that was unrelated to the pattern was that when I used my yellow Chaco Liner on the off-white part of my bag, it didn’t wash off afterward (I ran it through the washer and dryer). I saw this once before when I was at a jeans workshop and someone used yellow Chaco Liner on white denim, and it also didn’t brush off. Normally I don’t have any problems with the yellow, and it doesn’t bother me too much in this case, but it’s something to be aware of. (You can faintly see it in the picture below. It’s faint, but it’s there.)
So, there you go! I hope this is helpful to someone out there. I know I spent a lot of time hunting down blog posts about this pattern and searching the web for information and materials. Hopefully this will save someone some time should you decide to go for it and make this bag.
This week’s recommendations are all bag-related!
- These colored vinyl zipper pouches are so cute! In this tutorial, Sew Hungry Hippie shows you “How to Sew a Vinyl Keep Case.”
- Also by Sew Hungry Hippie, but on a different blog, you can learn to make a glitter lips zipper case!
- I love Heather’s Portside Duffle in Pendelton wool. Great pattern placement, especially by the zipper!
- Some other cool bag patterns: the Make Your Getaway Duffle by Gingercake, as sewn by LBG Studio and the Aurora Big Boston Bag by ithinksew.
Do you have any favorite bag patterns? I still enjoy sewing clothing the most, but I’m opening up to the idea of sewing a bag here and there.