Hi! I’m Pam from Hip to be a Square, a quilting and sewing blog and podcast. Although I’ve been sewing since I was five, it took me until a couple years ago to get into making bags and purses. A basic totebag was no big deal, but I quavered a bit when it came to hardware and handles that were fancier than a basic strap. To help me overcome my trepidation, I got a copy of The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam, who runs u-handbag.com out of the UK.
What’s funny, however, is that from the time I got the book to when I made my first project in it, I overcame a lot of bag-making trepidation by making quite a few of Sara’s bag patterns. That’s neither here nor there, however, since I was pretty excited about making the Great Getaway Bag for my own great getaway – a 4-day quilting retreat a couple weeks ago!
What I like about this particular bag is that the bottom is wide enough to fit a pair of shoes perpendicular to the length, so you can fit 2 pairs of shoes in the bottom without taking up the bulk of your storage space. The interior has two pockets – a zip pocket inset to one of the sides and a divided pocket on the other side. The exterior has one big flap pocket that perfect for boarding passes or cellphones, or even a tablet.
There’s both short handles and a long adjustable strap; I chose to make my adjustable strap detachable by using swivel clips, and it’s an easy switch to make in the pattern. One of the reasons that switch was easy to make was because of how the book is organized. It’s laid out primarily as a reference-style rather than project-focused layout, so there are chapters on structure, linings, closures, handles/straps, pockets, and trimmings with a project at the end of each chapter. It’s not the sort of book you buy for the patterns, but it’s a great reference for a beginner who wants to understand basic bag construction techniques, or for a moderate to advanced sewist who wants to adapt other patterns or design their own bags.
My guildmates were present while I was sewing part of this bag and they gave me a hard time for getting exasperated with the layout of the book; when going through the pattern to make the Great Getaway Bag, there is a lot of referencing previous chapters for particular construction techniques. Since I dove in to the pattern without intently studying the previous chapters, it was a bit jarring for me to flip back and forth. It doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of the bag or like of the pattern, but rather speaks to my own impatience in sewing!
Ms. Lam recommends a combination of fusible fleece and medium weight interfacing to give the Great Getaway Bag body, but I ended using Soft & Stable on the exterior and medium weight fusible interfacing on the interior since the Soft & Stable gives a little more body than the fleece.
One note to make on this and most of the patterns in the book: Ms. Lam doesn’t mention topstitching as a finishing design element, which I think adds a polish to any bag. I topstitched along the outside edge of my exterior pocket flap, by the main exterior zipper, and the top of the side bottom panels to give it a more professional finish.
I’ve made both the Weekender Bag by Amy Butler and Sara’s Aeroplane Bag, and I think this one falls between the two in terms of difficulty of construction. It’s a lot of steps, but they are broken down into achievable chunks; when making this bag my goal was to finish one page of instructions per night so it took me about a week of sewing in 60 minute chunks per day.
The two tricky bits of construction are marking your cut pieces so you know the difference between a “pocket tab” and a “pocket tab loop”, and sewing the lining to the exterior via the seam allowances so the lining does not flop down into the bag. Aside from that, a bit of organization makes this bag do-able for a confident beginner.
The bag finishes at a length of 19″, height of 11.5″, and depth of 10″. It will fit at least one cat, which is a key measurement at my house!