Serendipity came calling when I saw Sew Mama Sew was having a summer bag making challenge using a sparkly version of Robert Kaufman's chambray--which is similar to a metallic version of Essex Linen I spotted at Fabric Depot only a few days earlier! I could tell from the photos this fabric looked pretty much just like the metallic Essex Linen, so of course, I wanted in on the challenge and emailed Kristin ASAP.
When I got the message letting me know I'd been selected to take part in the challenge, I was delighted to get my chance to make a beach style bag using this very shimmery and beautiful fabric.
The challenge was straightforward: sew a summer bag using Manchester Metallics and any other Kaufman solid fabric.
Manchester Yarn Dye Metallics are 92% cotton/5% Lurex/3% polyester and at 4.3 ounces per square yard they are on the lighter end of the cottons. Hawthorne Threads carries this line and says they are: "Heavy enough to quilt with but it's their soft hand and beautiful drape that makes them a wonderful choice for clothing as well."
Robert Kaufman kindly supplied the fabric (thank you!), so I had a chance to pick my fabrics, but also had to make my choices fast, so I went for the Sky version because if you follow my work, you know there is a special place in my heart for chambray. I've made lots of things from a variety of chambray fabrics and even though each version looks basically the same, they all have subtle variations and I love them all! My second choice was Onyx and if this wasn't a summer bag, I may have picked the steely grey.
After choosing my exterior and lining fabric, they showed up in my mail box quite quickly and then I spent a few days pondering whether to wash this fabric or not. I'm 100% in the camp of wash any washable fabric before using it to make something, but also don't typically use metallic fabrics like this and it's pretty fine fabric that does fray some. With just 1 yard for my exterior, I didn't want to wash it and lose a good chunk at each end.
However, my sewing habits are hard to break, so after reading the care instructions (machine wash cold, line dry), into the machine it went. It came out looking just like it did when it went in, which was great for me, and also good to know because the light weight and soft drape of this fabric makes it ideal for clothing. If you need some sparkle in your summer wardrobe, one of the Manchester Metallics would be an excellent option.
Once it was time to figure out what style of bag to make, I decided to go with a simple large square tote with box bottom corners--something big enough for a towel, books, etc. A recent sewing experiment making this type of bag didn't quite work out exactly how planned, so this was my chance to refine the dimensions and details.
Because this fabric is different than the 100% quilting cottons I'm used to working with, I wasn't sure how it was going to sew or if it could be interfaced (it can), so making a square bag with all straight seams was me being safe, but also a different look from the usual curves I tend to use in my designs.
Since I knew I wanted a bag with some weight and body, but without the puffiness of fleece or batting, one thing I decided right away was to foundation piece the exterior to canvas (also a Kaufman fabric).
A few seams are always helpful in adding structure, so I divided the main body into one smaller section at the top, joined with a much larger section at the bottom. This also allowed me to use the exterior fabric at the top of the lining.
I had a basic idea of the dimensions, so I cut two pieces of canvas slightly larger than needed. Then I pieced together one side and then cut it out the dimensions in the graphic below. Then I made my second piece using the first as a template. This way of sewing might sound familiar if you've made my Intro to Improv Zip Pouches.
Another thing I did to make this more sturdy--and this worked out really well--is to make a base piece for the bottom. Adding the base made it possible for this not super stiff bag to stand up on its own. I took a photo, but it's really impossible to see, so let me tell you about it in some detail.
This piece is 5.5" wide x 18" long. I didn't interface it, but did add some fusible fleece (Pellon 987f) after folding each side in 3/8" along the longer edges. A really easy way to do this is to mark 0.75" from each long edge of the piece and then press the fabric to meet the mark. It's much easier than using a seam gauge to do it this way, and I've used this technique in the flap for the Daphne Handbag, the Fabric Bookmark, and also in the waist band of the A-Line Skirt.
After sewing the bottom seam of the exterior pieces, I centered the base piece over the seam and then quilted it in place.
This bag has about a 4.75" box bottoms and if you use a base piece like this, the width of the base determines how deep you'll sew the box corners. When you are ready to box the corners, feel where the side edges of the base are and that is where you make the corners. That will make sense when you try it out. :0]
The exterior has two pockets that are 7" high x 8" wide (finished).
This bag is lined in Kona cotton in "cactus". This is a very fresh and really bright green. At first I was gravitating towards a dusty pink, but thought since this was a challenge, my personal challenge was to pick a color I don't use much and green is one that doesn't get a lot of play in my sewing.
The lining was foundation pieced to muslin to give the lining some weight to help it feel more substantial and also hold it down.
The straps are made from interfaced pieces 4" wide x 28" long that were pressed into 4ths. Before edgestitching them I added a 1" x 27" piece of fusible fleece inside one of the quarter folds and pressed the strap to fuse the fleece in place.
Finally, because it's such a simple shape and I choose to keep it monochromatic, this bag needed some visual interest. So I sewed a fabric rose and added that to one side. This is the rose from the Rose Pincushion Cuff pattern, but it's about 10% larger than the one in the pattern.
Check out the other bag makers and their finished Manchester Metallics Summer Bag Challenge bags at these links:
This bright print is a fine example of the bold style of the 70s. It's polyester, so I wouldn't have a use for it, but it's fun to look at and someone out there (you?) might need it in your collection.