((A little preface - I don't post often, but when I do, my motto is Go Big or Go Home. This is an overwhelming amount of info for one bag, but I wanted to record it for posterity's sake. I highlighted things that did or did not work well for me in hopes that it might make your Weekending a little easier.))
I think I am in good company when I say I'm not quite sure what to think about this bag. The infamous Amy Butler Weekender Bag. What an exhausting but incredibly rewarding project. I haven't sewn many things I've been prouder of than this bag, and now that I have a bit of amnesia, I absolutely love it.
To be honest, I wasn't originally planning on making a Weekender. But as Sewing Summit drew near, I kept seeing incredible versions popping up left and right, and I didn't have a zippered bag for traveling. I am so not immune to peer pressure. I caved. Ordered the pattern from Pink Chalk Fabrics. Played with fabric. And then packed everything up and took it to the beach. It turns out I'm not so productive at the beach. I got the stars and front pocket panel finished there, ate a ton, played with my babies, and snuggled my new niece.
Once I got home I kicked it into high gear. I decided not to use interfacing, instead using duck cloth as a base (Like Elizabeth at Oh,Fransson.) I finished all the panels using improv piecing, then quilted them onto duck cloth with batting in the middle - it was like the most miserable, stiff, unsnuggly little quilt in the world. I made the improv piecing a little larger than the pattern piece to account for shifting during quilting. After quilting I cut out the pattern pieces. I suggest you serge or zig-zag around your individual pieces if you're using canvas or duck cloth. As you can see in the pictures below, it frayed like crazy, therefore driving ME crazy.
I tried the Heat-n-Bond piping method, but it was slow going and I made much faster progress using my zipper foot. One of my favorite new tricks is making 5+ yards of bias tape using a fat quarter. (This tutorial is great.) I didn't have to waste a ton of fabric to get a perfectly coordinated piping. I also used UHandbag's inset zipper pocket tutorial for a fabulous little zippered pocket! I felt fancy.
The top zipper panels are designed ingeniously and went together without a hitch. The pattern calls for a 30" zip, but I used a 24" metal zipper that I got from JoAnn's for about $4 and it worked perfectly. There is a section where you machine-baste for the zipper opening, and I just made that shorter to account for losing 6" of zipper length. Honestly, I would hesitate to use a longer zip because I think it would go down into the side pockets and that would be a pain to dig around in just to unzip your bag. Anyone have thoughts on that?
As you can see above, I used small binder clips to hold the layers together, which worked well, and I used my walking foot for attaching all the panels together. The first side panel attached without any problems, but I'm not joking when I say I almost threw a full-blown temper tantrum while attaching the other side. It was UGLY. And heavy. My husband very helpfully held the bag up while I slowly sewed the second panel on. I suggest wine, chocolate, a sedative, and maybe a some band-aids for that part. And don't forget to put your deodorant on prior to sewing this bag - it is a full body workout.
I interfaced the lining using a medium-weight interfacing (not the feather-weight, the next step up) and I'm so happy I took the time to do that. I imagine that it would be quite flimsy without it, and I'm not sure it would be strong enough to bear the weight of any additional pockets. I also put a little 3-slot pocket across from the zippered pocket for my wristlet, pen, & phone. I hand-stitched the lining in (using the same stitch as when binding a quilt) according to the pattern instructions, but I did turn the bag inside out while stitching to avoid having twist the bag to see the lining. It was much easier, and only took about 45 minutes.
Due to time constraints (and sheer laziness) I didn't put a pocket panel on the back of the bag. The front pocket is so loud I figured I could get away with it. I love the stars - I was chatting with my friend Amanda on Instagram one day and she said she was using the Sparkling Cider pattern and that inspired me. Now it's time for her to finish her bag! I got to see the pieces at Sewing Summit and it is so gorgeous.
I really surprised myself by remembering to attach a label on one of the side pockets. I really recommend doing this - it adds such great personalization and I forget to do it on so many of my projects. Amber said she cut the straps to 5" rather than the 3" suggested in the pattern, so I followed suit and it is the perfect width. I interfaced them using the same medium-weight interfacing as I used on the lining. (The handles and star centers are a gorgeous gray cotton linen from Drygoods Design.)
I attached purse feet to the bottom of the bag, and they are pretty pointless. I installed them too far out, and only used 4, so the middle of the bag hits the ground. I would suggest moving them in a little further than you think is good, and buying an extra set so you're able to put 2 more feet in the center. They are only around $1 for a package so it's worth it. As for the removable bottom, I used 3 layers of fusible Peltex and it worked great.
I think? those are all the notes I jotted down during the sewing process, but feel free to leave your tips/complaints/battle scars in the comments so this can be a great resource!
Below is a picture of my sad self at the Salt Lake City airport on the way home from Sewing Summit. I'm still trying to process that trip, honestly. I don't think I've ever been at a point in my life where I needed it more that I do right now. I am working finding some puny little sentences that will try to describe the experience, and I'm positive I don't have them. But I'll try anyway.