07 January 2007

Big Betty

There’s something not quite right about following posts about restraint and shopping avoidance with a project called the “Betty Shopper.” Sorta like starting a diet the day before you have to bake someone else a birthday cake. Sure, you can say you’re measuring sugar for someone else, it’s a rare and special occasion, you promise not to taste the frosting before you put it on, but we know better. We all know better…

Anyway, I started cutting this one out awhile ago and thought I better whip it up while I had access to my mom’s fancy new super dooper strength sewing machine.

Pattern: Betty Shopper by Amy Butler, large size

Materials: Vintage curtains found at a rummage sale; decorator weight fabric for lining; grommets; Pellon Peltex 71 F Single-Sided fusible; fusible fleece interfacing/lining

Dates: November 2006 – 1 January 2007

Notes: I think the fabric really makes this project. The curtains are marked “Inspired by Little Lady Toiletries” and must have been sold to match sets of powders and perfumes for little girls. I’ve looked around a bit and have found few items on ebay so I don’t know how popular the brand was. I wrote before that I’m not entirely sold on the cuteness of these little ladies and I wish I would have centered the pattern on the curtains differently so the ballerina would be in the center rather than the gardener girl. Oh well, live and learn. I do have just enough leftover to make some small zippered bags so I’ll be sure to get the cute girls on those.

The fabric is quite soft, nearly a flannel, so I decided to use fusible fleece for my interfacing. This gives it body while keeping the soft appearance and really helped to minimize the stretching that I noticed while cutting and ironing the fabric alone. I fused the fleece on my two outer panels and the handles at the point it calls for basting and found that to work quite well. I really like the added padding in the handles, even if it was a challenge getting them through the grommets with the added bulk.

The pattern has you really do a ton of basting, a step I’m often prone to skip, but it does help quite a bit in keeping all the layers together. And are there layers…. I honestly don’t know that my el cheapo sewing machine would’ve been able to put this sucker together, or if it did, I can only imagine the puckering, pulling and cursing that would’ve occurred. Word to the wise, test out how your machine handles multiple layers of fabric and the thick interfacing before you set out. Oh, and speaking of strength, we had to rope my father into installing the grommets. Be sure to eat your wheaties before whipping out the hammer.

The pattern warns you that the large is rather large. I think if I made it again, I’d start with the small bag. The bag is designed so that the top tapers in, keeping your purchases secure and making the handles more comfortable, but also limiting how you can pack it. I used the bag to haul holiday loot and was surprised at how little it seemed to hold. Granted, I was trying to pack it full of clothing and bulky items so I think that’s to blame. I’d say it really would be a perfect bag for a day of shopping where you planned to purchase small things, like, say, um… fat quarters and yarn, or maybe the groceries for that cake you’re baking for a “friend.” I used it on our last day of running to all the fabric and craft stores we could find and it was very easy to tuck away all my purchases, too easy to store away and forget all about, in fact. My only complaint in using it was that it was so stiff at the bottom that I was a bit clumsy. I sorta felt like I was trying to walk around with a sword and scabbard or something so you may want to practice in wide open spaces before hauling her out to a crowded market.

The bag has two pockets on the inside, but they seem to work more like dividers. Since the bag is so large, they can’t really stay perfectly flat against the sides to keep items like cell phones or keys from getting lost. Perfect excuse to make coordinating bags, but be sure to plan for that if you take this one on.

Like all the Amy Butler patterns I’ve used, it’s printed on heavy paper and you do have to do one bit of piecing the paper together. I’m planning to copy the pattern pieces onto other paper soon as I’m worried about all the pin holes even in making this just once. You have to cut many, many pieces out of the main panel so it gets quite a bit of wear. My mom has used something called PatternEase (sp?) for this before so I’ll give that a try if I make this one again. And speaking of all the pieces, pay attention when you cut. You do the main panels in the outer fabric, lining and interfacing and the pockets in both fabric and the Peltex/Timtex all from the same pattern piece but some with certain areas folded under. I cut my Peltex first on the pockets and then ended up cutting my fabric panels too small.

I also made a change and used some of my outer fabric for parts of the lining so I’m sure my quantities are off what the pattern calls for. I’ve read that her patterns are both too generous and too skimpy on their fabric requirements so you may want to plan extra, especially if you’re going to make smaller bags to keep your cell phone and lipstick contained in the cavernous inside!

I substituted the Pellon Peltex 71F for the Timtex the pattern calls for, primarily out of my tendency toward cheapness. The Peltex can be found at JoAnn’s and with a 40% off coupon, is considerably less than the Timtex. I’m planning to do the CD organizer project from the In Stitches book and may try out the Timtex just for comparison. This stuff was a little different to work with so do follow the directions for trimming your seams and again, baste, baste, baste. I actually used a regular stitch set to the longest stitch length for my basting and didn’t remove any of my basting stitches after I was finished. I didn’t find that they showed anywhere and I felt any extra stitching would help hold it all together. The Peltex I have is fusible but I didn’t use it that way. The pattern calls for you to stitch it all together so closely, I don’t know that fusing would help or make it difficult to turn all the corners and do the shaping called for.

Overall, this is a great pattern and I know I’ll make it again. I think it would make a great sewing or knitting bag, or even a nice bag to take the library, if you were ever inclined to go and do some actual work rather than sitting at the sewing machine all day. Not that I’d ever do something of the sort…


redheadskydiver said...

Glad to see you back! Great bag! Good luck on the "goals" for the new year. I have some myself but they were happening anyway, just a coincidence that it's the new year.

Meredith said...

The bag looks great! You're right, that fabric does really make the bag.
Congrats on finishing. Isn't it nice to work with such a great sewing machine?

a. said...

Well hello Betty! She's a big old gal but man...I've got that book and well, I'm mighty tempted. Besides I need a big bag to keep the sundry wee royalty related items in. Right now I have a plastic rat in my bag since the Frog Prince thought he wanted to camp out in there. And the rate is named Maxie Babe.

BTW, the fabric is the perfect choice for the bag. Congrats on a lovely FO!

alissa said...

i've been thinking about you, and i just rediscovered your blog. i've enjoyed it tremendously, and it's sure to become one of my new library diversions. i miss you. love, alj

Kelli said...

Woah Mama. That is a big bag! But you know what, it is super cute! And it would be great for shopping. I try to take cloth grocery store bags to the market!

Lone Knitter said...

Yeah! I love the bag. I always that that fabric was adorable, and it's neat to see what you've done with it. Hey, I know what FAT QUARTERS are now, and I want lots of them.

Anonymous said...

Little Lady toiletries were sold in the Miller & Paine department store in Lincoln, Nebraska, where my mother shopped when I was a little girl in the 50's. My mother even made me curtains for my bedroom out of the Little Lady fabric you show on your website. I have been thinking about those toiletries and my curtains, recently, wondering if I could find any of the bottles OR the fabric. Queenie