Make this pattern if: you want a truly versatile bag with some chunky hardware – making it feel professional and substantial.
Don’t make this pattern if: you are new to sewing and/or are looking for a quick sew.
Hello hello everyone. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be sitting down typing this. I didn’t intend to take such an extended break from blogging but I underestimated how much time and energy is involved in moving house, moving country, saying goodbye to old friends, trying to make new friends, ending schools, starting schools, unpacking boxes (who knew just HOW much paper is involved in packing?!), and discovering a new community. We’ve also had the additional adventure of adapting from city-living to country life.
So far we’ve had to deal with stampeding juvenile cows in the garden (and very nearly in the house), mice, a baby bird in the dishwasher, wasp’s nests, nesting birds and our fair share of bramble scratches and nettle stings. It’s all good stuff – great, in fact (well maybe not the nettle stings and wasps) – but it has meant much time away from my beloved machine and all that fabric!
I have so many fun sewing-related things to share but today I am focusing on a new bag – THE RETRO RUCKSACK by Sara of RADIANT HOME STUDIO. Sara kindly invited me to join her tour and I gladly accepted – there’s nothing like a nice new bag to try to detract from the fact that I’ve been wearing the same clothes for the last three days! I wanted a bag that’s solid and chunky – a workhorse of a bag that could be dragged through all those brambles and nettles yet still look great when venturing in to Canterbury or Faversham. To achieve this balance of utilitarian and chic I knew just where to turn – Merchant and Mills for some divine British Oilskin.
Sara’s pattern has been designed for the multi-tasking woman. With a variety of pockets (zippered inside pocket as well as large, interfaced patched pocket large enough for an iPad or other such device), recessed zip, exterior pockets, and choice of shoulder or backpack-style carrying she really has covered all your needs. (She is a mother of SIX after all so it’d venture to say she knows a thing or two about multi-tasking!).
In terms of construction, there were a few hiccups along the way. I must stress that this is the first project I’ve sewn since our move last month so I’m pretty rusty and am by no means a bag sewing expert. The written instructions were clear but a few extra photos wouldn’t have gone amiss. I thought I’d struggle with adding the bits of hardware (first time doing this) or with the zip (which turned out to be the easiest part!) but instead I got tripped up over attaching the exterior side panels to the bag. I ended up doing it incorrectly but then the next day I looked at the bag and the penny dropped – I knew exactly what I should have done! TIP: if you get stuck and things still aren’t making sense after reading the instructions for the 73rd time, take a break, go to bed, and try again in the morning.
Even with this mistake, I love the bag. The hardware and heavy oilskin give it a substantial weight which makes it feel solid and professional. The size is perfect for my needs. The choice of carrying methods (on back or over shoulder) is handy. The way the pattern pieces are divided up means that there’s lots of scope for personalising this bag with contrasting fabric (I chose to sew mine entirely in oilskin).
Some other details
- In addition to the oilskin, I also used a touch of Liberty fabric along the exterior pocket edges.
- For the straps I used 2-in wide woven tape. It’s actually made to be used in upholstering chairs – you know, that woven bit on the bottom of the chair? I think it works great here.
- I upcycled all my hardware from old bags (which is why it doesn’t all match!).
- I did a little decorative zig-zag stitch to secure the buckles. Subtle? Yes, but I love it.
- I top-stitched along the outside of the zip. I like the way it looks but, more importantly, it helps to hide the exposed edges on the inside.
I loved sewing with the oilskin. It’s different from laminate cotton (which is great for this bag too – see the post over at Casa Crafty) and surprisingly easy and liberating to sew with.
Here are the reasons why you should make your next project – whatever it is – with oilskin
- The fabric isn’t washable (but can be re-oiled) which means you don’t have to pre-wash it.
- You can’t iron it but it creases really well with your fingers.
- I didn’t want to pin it (for fear of ruining the water-proof quality) so instead used clips to keep everything in place – worked perfectly.
- I used a size 90 needle which handled everything well – even when sewing through 6 layers!
- At the end of your project your hands will feel insanely moisturised!
After making this bag and using it for a few days I’ve realised that I prefer carrying it as a shoulder bag; so much so that I’ve now fixed the strap in place which makes it easier to throw over my shoulder and go. And if, like me, you tend to always leave the house in a rush, I think it still looks great if you don’t have time to fasten the buckles. Just grab and go!
In short, this pattern and fabric are a match made in heaven! A huge thank you to Sara for inviting me on this tour. It has forced me to pause the unpacking and get back to sewing and I feel all the better for doing it! And of course I have a new bag to boot! If you want to give this pattern a go you can find it here. The oilskin I used can be purchased from Merchant and Mills here.
Thanks for reading – there will be more sewing goodness coming up soon.