My new yoga mat bag and why it’s always a good idea to use a pattern when sewing

If I was being generous I would call myself a beginner sewer. So far I have made two yoga mat bags, a cushion cover and two tops. Sewing is a skill I’ve wanted to acquire for years as my Mum and several of my friends are excellent sewers and I would love to be able to replicate the kind of bespoke dresses, trousers and tops I see them skipping about in. I started my mission to become a proficient sewer about a year and a half ago. I asked around to see if anyone in the  family had a machine they didn’t need and found out that my Nana had an old Singer she’d bought in the 70s and barely used. As she was sorting out a lot of her belongings before she moved into sheltered accommodation she was happy to let me take it. I also took a sewing course where I learnt the basics and badgered various people for tips.

After a productive start progress stalled for various reasons. However now that the winter is drawing near, and the sunshine won’t be around to tempt me outside, I’m determined to get started again. Last weekend I dug around in my fairly modest fabric stash and found some fabric for a new yoga mat bag. I thought that a mat bag would be a good start as I’ve made one before and I figured I could do it without a pattern. My old bag had a drawstring at the top and then a separate shoulder strap. The plan for the new bag was to have one strap going through the drawstring and acting as the shoulder strap. I though it would be a fast sew and so less likely to join the half finished dress that taunts me from my sewing box.

I made a good start, cut out the fabric and impressed myself by remembering to press my drawstring fold properly.  I found some lovely thread, threaded up the machine and was about to make a start. While I was feeling very keen the sewing machine was in no mood to do anything. It’s always been temperamental but it had suddenly decided to become down right unusable. About half an hour later when miles of thread had been chewed up and I’d picked out various knots I finally admitted defeat.

Luckily for me a friend near by has a lovely sewing machine and she was kind enough to let me nip round to her house and use it. She even threw in dinner and a glass of wine. I promised that I would be done in no time and that I literally just had to whizz along the seams and press and I’d be done. However, my lack of proper planning became apparent as soon as I dug my strap out of my bag and showed it to her. I’d found a lovely strip of fabric in just the right colour. I knew that it was not meant for bag straps but I hadn’t realised that it was bias binding and so stretchy and rather unsuitable. As I didn’t have an alternative I just sewed up the edges and made the best of it very much hoping not to wear it around bemused sewers who might wonder why I was walking about with a strap of bias binding through my drawstring.

The next problem with my lack of proper pattern use came when I turned the bag back to the right way around after stitching the seams. I’d sewing the fold for the drawstring on the inside, folding it in rather than over, making it very difficult to pull the drawstring through to the outside without the seams poking out and lots of fabric getting in the way………. A little bit of panic, some scissors and hand sewing later the problem was fixed and I was able to sew the strapping to the bottom of my bag. By this point it was about 10:30 and my quick bit of stitching had taken rather longer than anticipated!

When I got home I realised that the bias binding really didn’t look right as it was and I should have taken my friend’s advice and sewn it in half. It began to annoy me a lot so I decided just to be done with it and hand stitch it down. It’s a long strap so it took me forever. Luckily I rather like hand stitching so it wasn’t as bad as it should have been.

I’m really pleased with the finished bag and it has made me even more keen to get sewing. I’ve finally taken the plunge and found myself a sewing machine shop and taken my machine to be fixed. I should have it back in a couple of weeks and I’m very excited about it!

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