Thursday, September 20, 2012

Amy Butler Blossom Handbag Tips - needle and thREAD

Good morning! Its Thursday again, and time to join Elizabeth for her weekly Needle and thREAD sew and read-along.  May I introduce to you the Blossom Handbag by Amy Butler?

Careful, put on your shades.  The fabric is pretty funkalicious! I'm still not sure how I feel about it ...

Of course the really exciting part is I'm getting ready for Sewing Summit in just a few short weeks!  Ahhhh! And if you follow the "Travel Handmade" threads on bloggerland, you'll find that most attendees are busy sewing something useful for the journey. I have had some Amy Butler Lark fabric hanging around that I've been dying to use. I was saving it for the Weekender Bag, but won't get around to that in the very near future. So I decided to try out Amy's Blossom Handbag, a free pattern online.

Pretty darn roomy inside! I'm thinking a great little sewing bag for the conference. Can stash my scissors, thread, unstitcher and other unmentionables ... and maybe a little knitting project for the road as well!

The pattern itself is a JOY to construct. Honestly, it was not difficult, just take your time. It does help to have some experience.  I searched online for tips before diving in, and there were only a few.  I'd like to share a few more here, in case you are inspired to whip one up for yourself :).  Can't beat an Amy Butler freebie ...

Here are some things to note:
- you CAN use quilting cotton, as I have, even though the pattern calls for a heavier-weight home-dec fabric. The only thing I would suggest is to ALSO apply fusible interfacing to your lining pieces, not just your exterior pieces as per instructions.

- think hard about fabric placement. My main fabric "motif" runs exactly down the middle of the bag. The yardage requirements are VERY generous, so you should be ok, just plan where you lay your pattern piece

- one of the first things you do is attach a magnetic snap. Use a little piece of Pellon to stabilize it. I also placed my snaps about 1/2" higher than pattern, based on tips online. Glad I did.

- don't bother with Pellon in the side flaps. Use a softer fusible fleece instead. I saw too many complaints online about difficulty sewing bartacks through all the Pellon layers in the side flaps. Substituting fleece makes the sewing easier and the product is still very strong and stable.

- and about those side flaps, that came up as one of the "difficulties" of the bag, because you are sewing curved side flaps to a straight edge.  Here's what I did, in picture form.

This is a side flap (lining piece). Mark the bottom center with a pin.

This is the bottom panel, attached to two exterior main panels (lining). Mark the center of the bottom panel with a pin.

Right sides together, pin side flap to straight edge of bottom panel. Poke!

Now pin the side straight edges, matching raw edges at the top. Leave the curve part unpinned.  Just pin all the straight edges. Then over to the machine.

Begin sewing from the CENTER of the bottom panel and head straight into the curve. Stretch and ease the fabric as you go, gently sewing around the bend. Raise and lower the presser foot every few stitches as you sew the curve, if you have to. Sew right up to the top.  Then, turn the piece over and begin back at the bottom center again, sewing around the other curve and up the side. Voila!

Another great tip - when attaching the lining to the exterior, the pattern would have you put right sides together, leave an opening and turn it all right side out.

I say P-shaw. I read online that this turning process caused a lot of crinkling of the pellon (which is hard to smooth out again once crinkled).  I also saw somewhere (I think a tip to do the following, which I thought was brilliant:  Just fold over your raw edges and set the lining directly INSIDE the bag exterior, pin and edgestitch all the way around.  I edgestitched twice, for added strength. Oh yeah. 


Hard Mike (cranberry) bottle in background. Empty. Sometimes it helps ...

The interior divider panels are lined. Which means you have to sew right sides together, but not all the way around. You need to leave room to turn it right side out, about 10" so says the pattern. Anytime you have to leave a space for turning, sew a little notch. It helps hold the fabric folded in place when you go to iron and stitch it down:

Can you see the little blue dot of fabric marker? That's where I start stitching, about a centimeter down to the actual stitching line; pivot and turn and carry on. That's what I mean by a little notch.  

When you attach the interior divider panels to the sides of the bag, there are a LOT of layers going on.  So don't bother with pins.  Use binder clips instead to get you to your machine.

Nice little bartack! Can you see it in white?

And I'm ready for date-night with my husband :)

When I make this bag again, I will opt for the shorter handles (I think it looks nicer) and a softer, more subtle fabric. 

As for reading this week, I've delved into Jane Eyre for a second time.  Its the first book we are discussing over at Classic Moms next week. Gonna be great.

Head over to Elizabeth's to see what everyone else has been up to.  Happy sewing!


  1. you did a fabulous job on your bag!!

  2. Thank you so much for your tips ---- just wish I had seen this before I made mine this past weekend --- I also had some trouble with the side panels --- almost gave up, but was persistent and finished the bag ---- I put my magnetic snap where the pattern called for it, and I wish now I would have placed it higher. But not bad for the first bag. My next bag will be out of cotton (first is made out of medium weight home decor --- talk about unraveling!)

    1. Kristine, I'm glad you persevered 'cause I bet you have a great bag! Those stinky side flaps. It really is an accomplishment, not without challenge, so way to go! Next time I'm going to add purse feet and I'd also like to try reducing the size by 25%. Thanks for sharing your experience and happy sewing!

  3. I cannot thank you enough for this post! I just tackled the bag, [as seen here: ] and give you a huge shout-out. Your tips were invaluable, and helped make construction so much easier. Thanks!

  4. how can I have a bag like that ?


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