I had hoped this article would be “project complete” for the Yellow Weekender duffel bag. I almost got there on my birthday.
That was before The Accident.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s review the progress so far.
Finishing the Sides
The bag side panels have rounded decorative corners. The class instructor has you sew a basting stitch around the curve, 1/4 inch in from the edge, then fold/press around that.
That seemed a little loosey-goosey for me. Instead, I made a cardboard template from the pattern, with the 1/4 inch allowance removed, and pressed the corner pieces around that. I was amazed how remarkably well this worked; the canvas molded and shaped itself around the corners with the steam from the iron.
After attaching corners and strap pieces, both side panels were complete.
The Main Zipper
The main zipper sandwiches between the outside facing and the inner lining and joins the outer sides together. Again this went well, even though the lumps from the zipper pull created less than perfectly-straight seams.
This is where the project starts to get difficult; many layers of fabric end up underneath the machine, and it gets difficult dealing with all the layers of bulk. Also, the bag is now one large piece, making it difficult to handle it in a precise way. The extension table on the Juki is a BIG help here in terms of stabilizing this big mass of fabric as I wrangle it through the machine, but having a dedicated work table with the machine sunk into the surface would be even better.
The End Panels
The end panels of the bag are yet more difficult. Not only are there bulky seams, but it’s sewing around a curve. Plus, the end panels have the linings turned inside out and the body of the bag is bundled burrito-style inside them. Finally, there’s an embedded loop for a D-ring that must be caught into the top of the seam.
In the photo below, I’ve traced in a line for a 3/8 inch seam allowance, and I’m using Wonder Clips at the top where the D-ring loop is caught at the main zipper point. Pins were simply no longer sturdy enough to go through the bulk at those points.
The good news is that the Juki F600 is proving itself a capable workhorse that plows through multiple bulky layers of canvas, interfacing, lining, zippers, and even doubled-up webbing with almost no complaints.
At the top points with sandwiched webbing + zipper + canvas + lining + fleece + interfacing, it only occasionally refused to sink the needle through the fabric.
When that happened, I was not able to get the needle through myself by manually turning the handwheel – it felt like the needle was literally hitting a hard surface. Backing up the item just a millimeter or two to allow the needle to sink somewhere else solved the problem.
Otherwise, the machine’s piercing power and feeding ability is really meeting the test on this project, and making it easy to work with. The knee lift allows me to use both hands to position bulky seams under the presser foot, which is way handier than I could have imagined before having a machine equipped with one.
Though you baste the D-ring loops into place before attaching the bag ends, even so the end panel seam is treacherous. I had to twice reposition one of the D-ring loops to get it centered with the zipper pull. When I stitched on the end panel, the loop missed getting caught in the seam. How on Earth did that happen?
To fix it, I had to rip the seam at top, cut a new loop of webbing, reposition and restitch the end panel seam. I deliberately cut the new loop an inch longer than the pattern directions, basted the loop shut with a zigazag, and allowed it to extend past the end of the seam allowance as I restitched the end seam. Then I trimmed the loop flush against the seam allowance. I may just do it this way from the start on the second duffel bag.
The other D-ring loop suffered from a related problem; the end panel missed getting caught in the seam allowance at top, allowing the end of the zipper facing and some of the interfacing to “leak out” at the seam.
Again, the solution was to stitch over the same seam line with a slightly wider seam allowance.
The D-ring loops ended up slightly off-center, but at this point I reassured myself Perfect is the Enemy of Good.
The Bag Base
The base of the bag goes on at this point. After stitching the base, you end up with several three-way corners, where each seam leading into the corner has several layers of canvas and interfacing. If there was ever a challenge to getting a pointy corner to turn out, here it is.
I got out the sharpest pair of scissors in my notions chest – my Gingher Knife-edge Tailor’s Scissors. I bought these after hearing Kenneth D. King extol their virtues – and explain their features – in his Craftsy Class “The Carefree Fly-Front Coat“. They really are truly sharp scissors that, like the Juki, have no problems at all going through several layers of canvas, lining and interfacing.
As I trimmed a corner while forcing through the fabric way harder than I needed to, the scissors completed the cut, and my excessive force carried them right into my left hand, where they snipped right into my left index finger.
I’ll spare you the graphic depiction except to say the scissors are very sharp and with such a precise cut, blood started flowing immediately. After applying pressure and bandaging the cut, I discovered that the lining of the bag had been stained by blood.
The bag was never intended to be washed. I deliberately chose not to pre-shrink the outer canvas at the start, because I had just enough canvas in the primary colors (yellow, blue) and didn’t want to risk not having enough. So laundering the bag at this point has a real risk of ruining the bag. Similarly, dry-cleaning is likely not an option because the bag has an inner zipper made from nylon, which apparently can get dissolved by dry-cleaning solvents.
Spot-removing the stains with concentrated laundry detergent (above) and a toothbrush was only partially successful. Using my remaining fingers, I Googled and learned that hydrogen peroxide is effective against fresh blood stains that have not had time to set.
And yes, it was remarkably effective. The hydrogen peroxide took out the blood stains without bleaching the fabric. You can see a trace of a stain just above the middle pocket, but that is due to the laundry detergent. I think I can spot-remove the detergent with plain water without immersing the whole bag. But I’m also thinking that once again, Perfect is the Enemy of Good.
Where next? The bottom lining must be attached, then the outer straps must be cut and attached, then finally the bag base is inserted and handsewn shut. It truly is close to completion, and it looks really sharp.
But this project also been way more work than I initially expected.