Cooper in the Forest

Sometimes, you have to walk a bit to get to a forest. Sometimes, the forest comes to you: this week has been especially windy, with leaves and even small branches zipping along my window. Nevertheless, a nice long walk was tempting. In the woods and parks, the municipality doesn’t clear out the autumn leaves like they do on the city streets. Instead, a thick, mushy carpet covers the ground. The wind whizzes through the trees, and as tiny raindrops start to fall, you can almost imagine even the barren leaves on the floor coming to life.

Inspired by this weather, I entered new sewing waters and made my first bag! This project has been a long time coming. Making a bag has been on my list for a while, but I stuck to sewing clothing. Clothing felt a lot less intimidating than sewing a bag. I know it’s supposed to be the other way around (as you do not have to deal with things like sizing); and indeed the pattern itself advertises that it needs no fitting and should be easy. But neither that, nor the friendly reassuring words from bloggers was enough to reassure me: because I had been knitting clothes long before I sewed my first garment, making clothes has always felt more familiar and less daunting when sewing. The parts and concepts seemed that much more familiar.

In the end I needn’t not to have worried so much, while there were a couple of new techniques to discover, most of this project went fast. The pattern was great, and because of the clear description it was a lot easier than expected.

Backpacks are my favourite kind of bags, and I basically use them all the time so choosing what kind of bag I wanted to make was easy. It was surprisingly hard to find nice backpack patterns out there, or perhaps I’m not looking in the right places? (Do tell me if I’m not!) I found very few, and those that I did find were either children’s patterns or not really in line with what I was looking for. I wonder why, do pattern companies think that there is no market for bag patterns? In the end I found two pattern candidates, but went with Cooper by Colette, because it looked like it had more interesting finishing than the other. It has tons of pockets, both inside and outside the main bag. I’d seen some versions of the pattern floating around on blogs which I really liked. So I bit the bullet, and started gathering supplies.

I got my materials from a bunch of different places, as none of the places where I usually get my fabric had the hardware involved in making this bag. In the end I ordered the webbing, magnetic snaps and jiffy rivets, during the process I discovered I had even ordered the wrong ones of the latter so they didn’t even make it into the bag. As far as I can tell they only have a aesthetic function, so it isn’t a big deal that they’re left out (apart from wounding my pride in my sewing related material gathering skills, of course). I used canvas for the outer fabric of the bag, and cotton for the lining. I was really pleased to have found the forest print canvas. The dark green uni-colour canvas complimented the canvas printed with all kinds of forest animals: foxes, hedgehogs, owls and squirrels. In the photos, I’m wearing it together with Freydis for extra forest-vibes. Sewing with a fabric print that has a difference between right-way-up and upside-down seemed a bit daunting because of the many pattern parts, but the sewing pattern provided all the cutting advise needed.

The hardest part was keeping track of all the different pieces and fabrics. There are a lot of pattern pieces involved in the construction of the bag, scattered over 3 different fabrics. As I said, I was not familiar with the construction, I had a hard time keeping track and visualizing where everything should go. In the end I just gave up trying to understand it all, and blindly followed the pattern. Honestly, that worked out well.

Another new thing was installing all the hardware. I stressed a lot about the magnetic snaps, but in reality they were installed in a couple of minutes (after which I felt ridiculous for all the stressing).
The webbing caused some more problems. I had relatively thick cotton/nylon webbing (cotton on the outside, nylon on the inside). I like the feel and look of these a lot more than pure nylon webbing, but problem I had was that the webbing was so thick at certain points that my machine refused to sew it. I searched the internet for some tips, and tried a couple of them. What worked best for me was to change the canvas needle I was using (one of the higher numbers of the universal needles) to a thick denim needle, but more crucially I stopped sewing electronically on the machine. I still used my machine, but instead of turning on the motor, I turned the crank by hand. This worked wonders, and after that I had no trouble with sewing the webbing any more.

Here you see the backside of the bag, with a tree that was friendly enough to model it.

I learned quite some new things, while working on this project. This was my first experience with top, edge and under stitching. With dresses you usually try to hide all the seams and stitches, but these techniques are all about being visible. I’m glad I tried these now, as I know it is used on clothing as well, and (when it is done properly) gives a really professional look to the project. In this case it also servers to make the bag a lot more sturdy. I’m satisfied with how my stitches came out. There are some wonky bits but most of it is decent enough. Slow and steady definitely wins the race with these techniques. Speedy sewing is not so speedy if you have to unpick all your top stitching because the lines resemble a line drawing made by a 3 year old.

This project makes me very happy. I made something that I’ve been wanting to make for a while and it actually came out nice. I tried a bunch of things I hadn’t done before, learned loads in the process, and it didn’t end in disaster!  I hope it has opened the door to other new/more advanced sewing (such as knits). Who knows, maybe I’m even up for making a coat in due time. The first snow has been forecast where I live for next weekend, so I hope you’ll enjoy these last autumn walks!


6 thoughts on “Cooper in the Forest

  1. Wat een prachtige rugzak heb je gemaakt!!! Zo goed en precies gemaakt petje af! Geweldige stoffen gecombineerd met een super leuke print. Een geweldige uitstraling!
    Daar kun je mee op straat komen ����������

  2. DAt ziet er heel goed uit.
    Je kan van een hobby je beroep maken, als je dat zou willen.
    Ook een mooie kleurencombinatie.
    Nu gaat het echt vies worden buiten (kan je de truien uittesten en de mutsen )
    Groeten aan iedereeen.


  3. I am very much a backpack person, pretty much carrying one around at all times. And this backpack is SO awesome, I'm very envious!! Yet another reason to crack on with learning how to sew..

  4. @Kat Thank you! You know, I'm really glad to hear I'm not the only one with that problem!

    @Mim Thanks!

    @Tahnee Ahw, thanks! I think I've had a shoulder bag, like, once, but backpacks are just so much more comfortable. "Don't mind me, I'm just throwing half the stuff I own in my bag. What, vacation? No, I'm just going for a walk around the block, why do you ask?". Good luck with learning to sew, you can do it, I'll be cheering you on!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *