Ethel and Jennie

Through this blog I’ve tried to give you a glimpse of how my creative process works. I think it’s important to communicate just how unique each of my repurposed projects really is. I think this bag is a good example. Let’s walk through what it takes to make a prototype.

*Some* people called this an ugly dress.  🙂

A couple of years ago I found this dress at Goodwill. When I find an item of clothing like this it stays in my mind. I really loved this piece and didn’t want to ruin it. One detail of this dress that you can’t see here is the sash which ties in the back. Lately I’ve wanted to experiment more with adjustable straps, and I’ve been thinking about that sash.

This time around I started with a pattern I already have of a bag from Swoon. All of their patterns have women’s names, and this beauty is Ethel. Someday I may even make one according to the directions! 😀

I don’t like the lining on this bag.  

I made the above tote from a couple of shower curtains and omitted the closure. What I love about Ethel is her beautiful curves. Unfortunately, she’s made with foam interfacing and finishing and turning her is a bit like wrestling a hippo. Very bulky and frustrating.

So, I have a basic pattern I like, and a pretty dress. The first thing to do is rip that baby apart. This process can actually take hours so as to carefully preserve all of the little details, like the zipper and sashes.

I’m not sure if I’m especially attracted to florals or if that’s just what is out there. 

And this is what happens when I get impatient:

You know that sound fabric makes when it rips?  Like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Ripped it right up. I was going to use that piece for a pocket, but not now. Patience! (Eventually I did use this black fabric to line a couple of smaller pockets.)

I’m not going to use all of the dress for this bag. The shoulder straps, for example, can be saved for a future project.

While I’m making my projects I’m visualizing the finished item, which I’m sure is quite common. Sometimes I’m also visualizing the next three finished projects. 😉 And for this particular bag I wanted a little pop of bright color for the lining.

Rescue fabrics, if you don’t recall, are pieces of yardage that I’ve picked up second hand.

I pulled out a piece of rescue fabric, as well as a zipper I picked up from St. Vinnie’s, and you can also see I’ve gotten out my interfacings.

I iron everything on the upstairs walkway and then drape it all over my railing until I’m ready to use it.

Next I pressed everything. Sometimes twice.

I tried to keep everything grouped together so I could always find it when I needed it.
I’m starting to wonder if my coffee cup has a thing for being on camera.

I cut out my pieces and fused interfacing to everything. For the lining pieces I used Pellon P44F fusible interfacing.  It seems to me like a good, basic interfacing that I can use for a variety of projects.  For the outside of the bag I used fusible fleece. I thought that would give it some body without being too crazy. I did use the foam interfacing in the bottom of the bag for some structure.

In addition to the straps and lining, I was also seeing this bag with a recessed zipper. I’ve done this once before with a slightly different method, but this tutorial gave the finished look that I was looking for. That called for altering the lining pieces. After a bit of math (gotta get those seams right!) I cut the new pieces.

I actually managed this step pretty well.  Totally making it up at this point.

After all of the deep thought I needed to do some easy bits, so I decided to sew together the outside of the bag. Except I had decided to add pockets on the ends, so more pieces to cut and interface and baste. No pictures of that, though!

I thought a picture of something under the needle would be nice.

I still love this print. This is the bottom of the bag.

Curvy lady.

Yep, looking pretty.

I don’t usually take the time to baste but I definitely should.

I also took those sashes and basted them to the bag.

Next it was time to tackle the lining. This was where all of the zippers were going, so I took my time for each step. The first one was going on a pocket. I followed this video tutorial and it really was quite simple. The most complicated part was choosing the placement.

More needle action.
Ignore any puckers you may notice.

Once I was done with all of that I went back to the previous tutorial for the recessed zipper and made the casing. This is the zipper I saved from the dress.

I can’t even tell you how pretty I think this is.

For the most part this method worked, although I think the ends were a little clunky. There’s twice as much fabric as needed, really. Looks pretty though!

This is starting to get complicated again.

Here we have all of the pieces coming together, and it’s here that I’m going to stop and tell you that each of these steps took so much longer than it seems. Right here is where I realized I was trying to add a straight piece between two curved pieces, and what had I been thinking? Altering a pattern for the first time- I should have kept it a little more simple. I put her in time out more than once.

Looking for pins?  I have them all!

Apparently I also pin the hell out of curves. Oh, well, it worked!

It took me a day of pondering to decide how I wanted to sew the outside and lining to each other and in the end did it the way I always do. This tote bag is a good example. (It’s also a really good basic tote pattern, easily made reversible.)

Now she was almost finished, so I excitedly sewed around the top of the bag, finally close to the end only to find I had run out of bobbin thread halfway through. Another time out!

Different kind of pins here.

This morning I finished putting her together. There are some changes I would make on the next one, but overall I think she’s great.

Topstitching makes me so happy!
Interior reveal.
Completely adjustable handle.
Side pockets!  I’m still working on getting these just the right size.

But she’s not an Ethel anymore, more like her daughter. So the Jennie bag is born!*

Vivian loves her new bag!

Maybe I’ll make more some day. 😉  Next up, though, I think is another tote bag.  I have an idea that’s been nagging me.

*Ethel was a lovely lady who passed away just a few months ago. Jennie is her loving daughter.  I was thinking of them both as I was working on this project


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