Ruffled Hobo Bag and a Book Review

I’m rolling out the book reviews lately! I’m sure you think I’m just saying this (it’s really quite true), but another of my top 3 sewing pattern designers! It’s Kay Whitt from Serendipity Studio! Her new book is called Sew Serendipity Bags. Her first book, Sew Serendipity, was all about clothes, and this one, as the title might lead you to believe, is all bags.

There are 12 different bag patterns to make in the book, with pattern pieces in a little envelope at the back of the book. Some of the patterns also have variations (i.e. small, large, etc.). The beginning sections of the book discuss some of the techniques you’ll use to make the bags, such as making bias, installing grommets, and making handles. These are all illustrated with step-by-step photos.

One of the Intermediate bags from the book, the Socialite Handbag

The subsequent chapters break the bags up into difficulty levels: Simple, intermediate, and challenging. The simple bags are great for everyday and functional uses (a lunch bag, foldable shopper). The instructions are laid out in very detailed language, and are accompanied by illustrations. It’s always nice to see step-by-step photos, but I think illustrations can sometimes be even more helpful because the illustrations show things that photos can’t, such as where exactly on the fabric the stitches fall, what areas need to be clipped or pressed, etc.

One of the Challenging bags from the book, the Laptop Messenger Bag

I also like that Kay Whitt shares her original sketches of each bag, as well as a little anecdote about it or personal fabric recommendations. There are also some really cool variations that you can add to your bags, such as the wool version of the Tulip Tote with a ruffled flower in the center.

I want to mention that I have sewn the Sew Serendipity patterns before (see my Monique Dress), and you can probably see that even then, I thought that Kay Whitt’s written instructions were extremely detailed. She explains a lot of things that most patterns don’t even go into; all of her patterns contain many, many variations (in the instance of the dress, how to add a belt, patchwork bodice, ruffles, and many other things). I can just imagine how much work goes into each pattern! This was the first dress I ever made in which I didn’t have to make any adjustments to the pattern pieces (which was quite amazing to me!).

Anyway, back to the bags! My favorite bags from the book are the Socialite Handbag and Laptop Messenger Bag (pictured above), as well as the Ruffle Hobo bag, which is the one on the cover, and also the one I made. I love all the bags, and plan to make at least 5 of them for sure! This book is a great value, in my eyes it’s like paying for 2 sewing patterns and getting the rest free. It’s also some great eye candy!

My ‘production team’ (aka my 4- and 3-year-old) took these pictures

So, as you can see, I made the cover bag from the book, the Ruffled Hobo Bag. It just caught my eye right away…what a conversation piece!

Fabric – For the ruffled portion of the bag, the pattern calls for a jelly roll (which are 2-1/2″ strips of fabric from an entire fabric line). I didn’t have a jelly roll handy, but last month I won a fat quarter bundle of Sis Boom Poodle fabrics courtesy of a giveaway on the wonderful blog of Jennifer Paganelli (she is so sweet!). I decided to cut two 2-1/2″ strips from each fat quarter and piece them together to form my “jelly roll”. The fabrics are just gorgeous (I so love the copper-colored fabrics thrown in with the blues, greens, yellow, and pinks!), and it’s a great color palette to work with as well! Each portion of the bag is broken up into different fabric requirements, which is just perfect, because I wanted to use a different fabric for each portion (the straps, top of the bag, interior, interior pockets). If you’re making this bag, you’ll also need fusible woven interfacing, fusible Thermolam, and Peltex.

Pattern Pieces – There are a few pattern pieces to cut out (2 for the straps, one for the exterior/interior of the bag, one for the inner pockets, and one for the side/bottom of the bag). The pieces are all at the back of the book in a little folder, and the instructions let you know which page you can find each piece. Easy peasy! Oh, I also love the paper pattern pieces (as opposed to tissue).

Illustrations/Instructions – I mentioned in my book review above that the step-by-step instructions are accompanied by illustrations, and those illustrations are marked with text explaining said steps. It’s a great way to work through the pattern, and I had no question about what I was supposed to do in each of the steps.

I noticed that the cutting instructions did not preface the sewing instructions; they are just mixed in with the overall instructions of the pattern. I like to have all my fabrics cut and fused before I begin sewing, so I just combed through the instructions to cut and fuse before I began. It was no big deal, it just took a little extra time to do. I’m sure everyone works in different stages, this just works for me as my sewing space at the moment is a bit cramped!

My fabric strips sewn together, getting ready to be cut on the bias and made into ruffles

To make the ruffles, the jelly roll strips are sewn into one big, square unit, and then you cut that up into strips on the bias, which makes for some beautiful arrangements of all your fabrics. I used my ruffler foot to make the ruffles, but the book also has instructions on how to make them with gathers, in case you don’t own that foot. It was actually my first time using it, and I felt a little nervous, but it actually went by fairly quickly, and with nice even gathers. The bag also uses a sport zipper, which is something I haven’t had in…ever? A purse with a zipper, I am definitely loving it! Nothing can fall out, ha!

I assembled the exterior and interior of the bag like I normally would, but then I noticed that instead of joining the two at say, the top seam, you attach the zipper to both the inside and the outside pieces, and join them together with double-fold bias tape on the inside of the bag (similar to a Vera Bradley bag, if you’ve ever seen one). I’ve never done this before, but I thought it was pretty cool. I had a little bit of difficulty sewing the side/bottom piece on because it was fused to a thick piece of Peltex, but then again, Peltex is always tricky to work with! It just requires an extra ounce of patience is all. Oh, I’ve forgotten to mention that the strap is connected with a metal buckle…another thing I had yet to work with! The buckle is attached to the strap and then a button hole is sewn, through which the metal ‘tongue’ of the buckle goes through.

I have to say, this is a very unique and beautiful bag, and all the little details of sewing it together were just great; how wonderful to have created something so one-of-a-kind! This is one of those bags that, when made, I’m sure people will not be able to believe that you’ve made it yourself!!

Conclusion – I definitely agree with Kay Whitt’s label of this bag being ‘Intermediate’ level. It was super-fun to work with, and has me thinking about using ruffles on other things (such as a matching wallet!). If you’re into making bags, or if you’re a fan of Amy Butler’s Style Stitches book, then you definitely must get this one too…you’ll just love it!!

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