Holiday Surprise Cooper – Complete!

Good evening out there!

After lots of waiting around for materials and trying to find uninterrupted time to sew, I finished Tom’s surprise gift this morning! Today happens to be our wedding anniversary (#6 of marriage, and also the 8th anniversary of our first date!) and while we were out to dinner, I casually asked him when he wanted to do our gift exchange. Usually we don’t do it on Christmas, since we have family to visit that day; he suggested Christmas Eve, which I said was fine. I told him I had one thing for him that was here and that he could open, but that I needed him to leave me alone when we got home so I could wrap it. At that point he decided he’d rather open presents tonight, so we did! I am very pleased to say that he was thrilled with his new bag, and that he honestly couldn’t believe I’d made it! (Trust me, that’s a compliment.) Wanna see?????

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Proudly modeling his new bag!

Cooper bag, just chillin' on the couch

Cooper bag, just chillin’ on the couch

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Peek at the snaps and pockets

Lining and cavernous insides!

Lining and cavernous insides!

Back! (Sorry about the color--forgot the flash.)

Back! (Sorry about the color–forgot the flash.)

Pretty nice, if I do say so myself! I used gray and orange for this bag; the shade of the latter can only be described as “Construction Vest Orange” or perhaps “Screaming Bitch Orange,” but Tom likes it. Orange is sort of his thing! My canvas arrived on Tuesday Dec. 16th, so I washed it that night so I could sew on Wednesday. When I stopped for the night on Wednesday (at the hanging loop installation step), I had a flat front and back piece, and my two straps. The front piece had the snaps attached, too. I was feeling pretty good about being able to finish it in one more workday, and planned to get back to it this weekend. I got up at 6AM today (ugh I know) and started up again, and was done by 10. I would definitely say that this pattern is suitable for an ambitious beginner, because I was able to execute the entire thing without any real trouble.

The hardest part for me was sewing through all those layers, especially at the bottom gusset piece when squaring the sides of the bag. At that point, you have installed the straps on the bag, and are working with about 5-6 layers of material at that spot. In my case, I opted to interface the bottom gusset; that was a decision I made on a whim, and I nearly paid for it in the worst way. As I started sewing my new seam at the bottom to square off the bag, my machine suddenly shuddered and made the beeping noise that it makes when there is an error. I was afraid I’d broken my Janome!! Fortunately, the worst of it was that the machine just couldn’t force the needle through all the layers, not even when I turned the handwheel manually. Having no other options, I skipped a couple of stitches here and there on that section and went back to the foot pedal once the worst of it was over. The handwheel saved my ass. I am wondering whether it would have been easier with a larger denim needle (I used a 14), but I’m glad things worked out!

This was the first thing I’d ever lined, and holy hell was that easy!! The instructions and sewalong made this process very easy to understand, and I am pleased to say that I didn’t have to redo any part of that section. The only possible issue with this bag in the future is that the rivets I got are just a liiiiiiiiiiiittle bit too short for the thickness of my fabric; I struggled to get the second half of the rivet to really mold over the first part and had to do quite a bit of extra tapping with my mallet. I warned Tom that those may not hold up well, but that I could get longer ones if that happens.

So there you have it! My first total surprise project was a rousing success, and Tom LOVES it. He wants to wear it on his motorcycle, which wasn’t my intention (the opening of the bag doesn’t have a closure, and I didn’t modify the pattern to add one; it relies solely on the magnetic snaps on the flap). I am going to order a bar of Otter Wax and test it on scraps, because he is intrigued by the idea of waxing the bag. I nearly did that on my own, but wanted to see what he thought first. 🙂 I’m so excited that this worked out, and that I was able to make something for someone I love that will get a lot of use!

Happy Holidays to all of you–may your season be merry, your travels safe, and your hearts and minds at peace in the days and weeks ahead. ❤

Holiday Surprise Progress


I’m pleased to say that I’ve made a little progress on Tom’s Cooper backpack. Not much, but I’m trying to do what I can with what I’ve got!

My shell fabrics and magnetic snaps will arrive this Tuesday, so I’ll be able to really get to work later this week. Nothing like cutting it close, eh?? My webbing and hardware arrived this past week, so I went ahead and worked on the straps today. I expected the straps to be much more complex than they turned out to be, but hooray for surprises!

Lining and straps!

Lining and straps!

The webbing was very easy to work with; I even finger-pressed the required folds rather than mess with my iron, and it was all that was needed. I got my webbing from AGraffSupplies on Etsy; it’s cotton and feels very sturdy, and this shop offers various yardages of it in a very wide array of colors. I definitely recommend looking there if webbing is something you need for a project! (I also got webbing from another source after my post office said that this first package was returned to the sender. Imagine my surprise when this package showed up later that day, LOL! I had a good customer service experience with the other vendor–Strapworks–as well, but haven’t used their webbing yet.)

After I cut the two long pieces of webbing, I realized that I really ought to get a heftier needle in my machine before I started with the sewing. I had planned to do that once I got to the shell, but it was absolutely necessary for handing this webbing. I opted for a size 14 denim needle, and it had no issues punching through the straps. My machine did struggle a bit with three layers of this material (at one point, you sew through a folded section and the main strap section to secure that end of the strap), and my presser foot couldn’t really lower due to the thickness. As a result, the rectangle of stitching on one of the straps is a little, uh, off. 🙂 Fortunately, this appears to be the heftiest section of the sewing for this project in terms of bulk under the presser foot. From cutting to finishing, including the futzing around with changing the needle and thread and bobbin on my machine (and the digging for the correct thread color!) and walking to the living room to check the sewalong posts, I was finished in under 30 minutes. Not bad for a bag-making n00b, huh?

Unfortunately, this is all the progress I can make until my shell canvas and snaps arrive and get washed, etc. But I’m really excited for this project, and hopefully the end result is something that makes Tom very happy. I’m determined to finish this before xmas, since everything else I ordered for him is going to arrive after the new year; the company didn’t bother telling me that half of my order was out of stock until I contacted them this week to ask about shipping (which I paid to have expedited when I ordered at the end of November). Needless to say, I’m not happy about that, since that was everything I’d planned for Tom for the holiday. 😦 I’ve never been happier to execute an impulsive sewing project, LOL!

Hopefully I will be back with updates next weekend–wish me luck, and no broken needles!!

Another Holiday, Another Surprise

Hello there!

I hope everyone is having a good holiday season. Here in the US we’ve had one holiday already–Thanksgiving, aka “EAT ALL THE THINGS” Day–and shopping for xmas is in full swing as December advances. For the most part, we “Mads” house residents tend to buy our gifts for everyone rather than make things. I even bought most of the things I’m giving to Tom rather than go to the trouble (and stress, and time) of making something. Well, earlier this week I got a bright (read: fucking stupid) idea: I should make Tom a thing!

What “thing” have I decided upon for my husband? The Cooper bag from Colette Patterns! I have never made a bag before, but this one seems simple enough for a newbie like me with the instructions and sew-along. I ordered 2 colors of cotton canvas–orange and gray–for the body, magnetic snaps, strap sliders, webbing, and rivets, and now I’m just waiting. But rather than just sit on my ass and think about this bag (and agonize over whether or not to order Otter Wax and wax it), I decided to go ahead and make the lining. I figured it would be good practice for the real thing and save me some work as the holiday approaches and I run out of time. Here it is:

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

Lining!!! With pockets!!!!!!

So I opted to make the lining out of muslin. The pattern recommends ripstop of some sort, or general waterproof fabric. I’m not really worried about this being waterproof particularly, though I am considering getting Scotchguard or something and spraying the lining down if I opt to wax the outside. The idea behind this bag is that it will be something Tom can take with him when he and Mulder (dog) go for their nature-y walks, or if he takes a trip to the store for something small and portable. It’s not like I expect him to take this on outdoor camping trips or anything! I just didn’t see the need to go out and get ripstop when I had this suitable (for my purposes) material at home. Plus I can press and manipulate this stuff without trouble; I can’t feel as confident about ripstop!

The lining is turned inside-out for this photo (which I took before I pressed anything, in typical Mads fashion), as the pockets will need to be inside the bag rather than sewn up against the inside of the shell. I admit to having a moment of panic once I finished squaring the bottom of the lining–a point of no return, since you cut stuff–and doing what I usually do, which is to turn the seam allowances to the side that isn’t facing me to have a look at my results. I had to wrap my head around this whole bag thing and remember that the ugly side of my lining would be up against the ugly side of my shell, and the pockets would end up where they should be: facing into the cavernous interior of the finished bag. A big sigh of relief was heaved, let me tell you!! The actual shell is more involved, what with the straps and hardware, but I feel prepared for it now that the lining is done and looks good. The squaring of the bottom was the scariest part, and I was able to accomplish that successfully. Attaching the bottom gusset was confusing at first, but I took my time and figured it out. Bring on the shell (as soon as all my shit arrives)!!

Are you making any gifts for xmas?