Week 1 Complete: My Long-Awaited Lap Belt Backpack is Finally Finished

Two short weeks ago I challenged myself to complete one project a week for the next seven weeks.  I’ll be honest, I already kind of failed, but I figure if I have seven projects done at the end I’ll be proud of myself.  I made the rules after all right?

I say “kind of” failed, because my week one project took about one and a half weeks as it was a bit more complex than I had planned for.  If you’ve seen my Instagram, you know that a few weeks ago the two lap belts I ordered finally arrived and I was excited to get them onto a project.

I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my week 1 project completing the lap belt backpack I decided to use the blue buckle on.  This was a fun and challenging project, because I had no pattern I was using for the project, just a collection of pictures from Pinterest I wanted to combine and make my own. Usually, I would take these pictures and make a detailed sketch of what I wanted my result to look like…

This time around I must have fell and bumped my head, because I never competed a full sketch of the project!  Instead I just started from what I knew how to make and strove to make it look as much like my main inspiration picture as possible.  It either says something about my reverse engineering skills or my sheer luck that the backpack tuned out as well as it did, but that’s a discussion for later.

uber cool bags made from recycled car seats and seat belts from rePack (on FB).

My main project inspiration

Looking at flap backpacks on Pinterest I figured that a flap backpack or drawstring backpack are in general nothing more than a tote bag with flaps and/or drawstrings added.  Luckily, I have making square bottom tote bags down to a science.  All I had to do was measure another backpack I had that I liked the size of and add some extra L X W for the seam allowance.

I decided I wanted the bottom of the bag cut on a fold so that the base would all be one piece and the sides would need to be stitched up.  Next, I added the accent leather (pleather?) fabric on top of the main upholstery weight leopard print fabric.  I debated putting an outside pocket on the back of the backpack, but in the end decided to leave that for the bags next improved iteration.

Embarrassingly, I accidentally stitched all the accent fabric on before adding the bottom half of the lap belt and had to remove some of the stitching, so I could slip in the lap belt.  It was no big deal but felt like a rookie mistake.

It was at this point that I took a break to think out the design more before I made a mistake that would be hard to fix.  Since I didn’t have a detailed sketch I spent a lot of time mentally working out the different options for reaching my end result.  I asked myself questions like: When should I add the flap, should the top half of the buckle go on top or underneath the flap, how do I keep the heavyweight Pellon interfacing in place at the base of the bag?Although these were important questions to ask myself, I think they were also mixed in with a good amount of procrastination.  In the end, I inserted the bag lining with an added pocket (see the cute bee print fabric) and then added the flap.  I decided on splitting the top portion of the buckle into two pieces.  I left the adjustable strap out and the part attached to the buckle was sewn onto the end of the flap.  I also used some of the leftover belt to make a grab handle on the top of the backpack.

The most stressful part of making any bag is always inserting the lining for me.  I’ve tried all the methods, but somehow, I always seem to misjudge the lining and must adjust. *Facepalm* The thickness of all the layers is also a stressor for me and with this bag it was especially stressful.  With my upholstery weight fabric, lining fabric, two-layered flap and two-layers of belt buckle I had my machine put to the test!

Ruby did remarkably well given all I (literally) put her through.  Honestly, all the needles I broke on this project are entirely on me.  I learned a whole lot about the right mix of speed, needle type and stitch length making this backpack.

Anyways, sorry there aren’t more pictures of the process!  I’ll do better next time.  I think with my lack of planning and extemporaneous sewing (is that a real phrase?) I was afraid the process would be especially ugly; I wasn’t wrong, but I’m sure now that would have only made it that much better to share with my readers.  Embrace the process and all that.

In the end, I ended up with a beautiful, heavier than standard backpack, that’s great for carrying the essentials and a light laptop or tablet.  Let me know what you think in the comments.  I’m already preparing a list of what I’d do better for next time.  See you in a bit, when I reveal how Week 2’s project went.

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Stay sweet, Sweeties!

One Project a Week: Will I Succeed?

You ever feel like you have too much fabric?  If you’re a sewist, that’s very much a rhetorical question.  What’s the fun of having a hobby if you’re not doing the absolute most and living your best life?  Plus, you never know when you might need two yards of that green and white gingham print knit!

Anyways, my excessive stash is what’s led me to my decision to challenge myself.  The holiday season is coming up too, so I figure this is the perfect time to give sewing from my harvest a chance.  Each week leading up to Christmas I am going to complete one sewing project a week, using only fabric from my plentiful stash.

Now at this point you may be reading this blog and thinking, “This sounds like a fun challenge!  But can she do it?!?”  Honestly, I’m asking myself the same, but really looking forward to the fun that is to be had.  I can finally get around to making those bags and things I keep meaning to make for myself, plus I can make some interesting handmade Christmas gifts!

The other result of this I’m looking forward to with this is curbing my shopping addiction.  I love to shop for bags and I love to go to Joanns.  If you follow along on my Instagram (@sewstrawberrysweet), you’ll know that my recent move means I am now within walking distance of a JoAnn Fabrics.  So close in fact, that the other day I realized I still have a bit of a WiFi signal from my apartment!  The temptation is high to be at JoAnn’s every second of the day.  Working from my stash will give me chance to use all the fabric that I bought without a purpose in mind.

I have also been feeling like I’ve hit a low motivation point in my sewing journey lately.  I was going really strong there for awhile, even amid moving cross country to the South.  I think focusing on some new projects should help give a jump start to my motivation!

I’m sure by this point, you’re wondering just what I’ll be sewing; that’s where I need your help.  Starting this Monday, I will be posting pictures on my Instagram of my fabric along with project options and asking for your help in deciding what projects would be best.  Think you’re up to the task?  I sure hope so.  I can’t do it without you!

I’ll leave my Next to Sew Pinterest board below ,that I have been adding to for just about the last billion years.  Let me know in the comments what projects you want to see come to life with my own personal flare.  Or even better, let me know if you’re in for the challenge!  Just use the hashtag: #SSS7in7challenge

Stay Sweet Sweeties!

My Crafting Space is Complete!

Bigger and Better – Craft Desk Expansion:

If you’ve been following my Instagram (@sewstrawberrysweet) you know for the past month I have been hard at work building my sewing/craft desk bigger and better than ever before.  I made my first craft desk about two years ago, but decided a fresh start was needed since I was making a big move to a new place.

A Great Start:

Below are some pictures of my old sewing table (ignore the mess) that I made for my Brother LB6800 Sewing and Embroidery Machine.  I got two cube shelves from Target for the base/legs.  Fun fact: that second cube shelf is actually brown not black…  I didn’t want to paint it, so I covered it with black wrapping paper and sealed it on with ModPodge.  It gave it a really cool look, but I still can’t decide if that was wisdom at work or not.

I absolutely fell in love with my first sewing desk.  I was so proud of myself.  I bought a jigsaw and power sander and cut the hole in the top myself.  Plus, I went in the with the washi tape and really gave it a personal flair.  I added magnetic knife racks from IKEA to the fronts so I could keep my little containers of notions and things super handy.

My favorite part though, as always, has to be the lace painting I did.  Lace painting is my favorite painting method and it is was easier than it looks.  You simply paint the surface with the base color you want, black in my case, and let it dry for a bit.  Then you lay your lace fabric over it.  You can secure it with some painters tape or something underneath if you like, but I personally like the depth that comes from having the fabric lay a bit less flush in some spots.  Then you just take spray paint and paint over the lace.  Bam, let it dry and you are done.  You can take the lace off and lightly sand for a textured look with a smooth feel.

So, all this is to say my original sewing desk was really awesome, but I wanted something bigger and better.  I really needed it too, because a few months before my move I upgraded to the Husqvarna Viking Designer Ruby Royale Sewing and Embroidery Machine.  I needed a desk that could support (quite literally) such a gorgeous (and expensive, ugh) sewing machine.

A Failure to Plan is a Failure to Succeed:

The first step of any project is planning of course, so I made note of what areas I could improve on my new desk.  The top one was space.  My old desk was really just a sewing/embroidery desk, because there wasn’t much room for much else.  The first go round I used 2′ x 4′ pieces of wood.  My bedroom in my new apartment is by no means small, but if I was going to put my sewing space in there I knew I wouldn’t be able to push the width of the desktop any wider.  I decided on upgrading to (roughly) 2′ x 8′ mdf wood for the desktop.

The next thing I wanted in my table was functionality.  The magnetic knife racks on the front of the desk were pretty nice, but I wanted more.  More! Of course this meant heading over to Pinterest for inspiration.  See my Sewing/Craft Spaces inspiration board below.

After consulting Pinterest I deciding adding a trash chute and in table power strip were must haves.  I probably had the most fun with this part of the project.  Making the holes with my hole saw attachment on my new powerful corded drill was exhilarating.  I swear the table almost caught on fire from the friction. Don’t worry, my dad warned me if the table was getting that hot I just might be doing something wrong. *shrugs* I had fun though.

Don’t Try to Fix What’s Not Broken, Build it Up:

There were also features of my original desk that I knew were too good to change.  I’ve seen sewing tables built ten different ways on Pinterest, but I think I might have found the easiest and most functional way to do it with my two tier design.  Instead of trying to figure out how to attach a platform to the desk for my machine to rest on so it was properly recessed in the desk… I found an easier route to the same results that also allowed for extra storage underneath the desk top.

I bought two identical pieces of 2′ x 8′ of MDF wood and cut six pieces of wood I measured to the right height to make my sewing machine flush with the desk top. I then placed the pieces at each of the four corners and two in the center of the desk for extra support.  Below are some pictures of the table after I added the corner supports, but before I added the desktop.

This design allows for space to store cutting mats, rulers, a laptop, embroidery hoops or whatever else you want.  This means the spot the machine rests on isn’t adjustable, but this wasn’t a drawback for me.  I made the hole in the desktop custom to hold my sewing machine, so it’s unlikely I would ever need the machine rest at any other height.

Once the basics of the table were built it was time for me to add the trash chute and and round surge protector.  I ran into a small issue with the trash chute I ordered as the fit was a bit too snug, but it was nothing I could not fix with my handy sanding drum drill attachment.  I was also concerned with lining the base desktop with the main desktop, because the space between them made it a bit hard to tell when they were aligned.  However, I found that placing the trash chute into the holes was a great way to line up the layers.

It’s All About the Aesthetics:

After this my focus was on aesthetics.  I added the washi tape around the edge of the desktops like last time, but decided to use ribbon on the cube shelves.  I would definitely recommend this for anyone trying to recreate the look of my table as pulling the fabric storage bins in and out would rip the washi tape over time.  I also had to add a cube shelf to the center of the desk for support, so I added washi tape to the front and sealed with ModPodge before adding the magnetic knife rack.

I used a white ruler washi tape on my last desk, but wasn’t a huge fan of the huge space that was between ever 12″ increment.  I used some PeelnStick paper ruler tape I bought at Hobby Lobby this time around.  It stands out nicely against the desk top and had normal spacing between the 12″ increments.  Like everything else paper I used in this project I sealed it with matte ModPodge glue.

Behind Every Great Custom Table… Is a Beautifully Decorated Wall:

Once the desk itself was complete it was time for me to put some creativity into the wall behind it.  If you look on Pinterest, every single craft table that was created seems to have a pegboard nearby.  I couldn’t break with tradition, but I didn’t want to anger my landlord with the kind of hardware that’s necessary to support a pegboard.  Especially a metal pegboard, which I had decided on, because I wanted to be able to attach magnetic items to the pegboard.

So, I attached the pegboard to the desk itself by drilling through the desktop and aligning the holes in the bottom of the pegboard.  Then I used a smaller screw and washer to secure the board, so moving the desk later wouldn’t be an impossibility.  I leaned the top of the pegboard back a bit and secured it with two screws into the wall.  However, with how sturdy the pegboard already was I think the same impact could have been had by placing command strips on the back, but you live and you learn.

From there it was easy sailing.  I added my thread racks on either side using command strips and filled the pegboard.  I found a some pretty cool strawberry bookends at Target that were perfect for my Sew Strawberry Sweet branding that made an awesome addition to my desk.

And Then She Finally Showed Us the Darn Desk:

Well, enough talk…  Here’s the finished product!  Let me know what you think in the comments or if you have any questions on any part of the process.  Anddddd there will be a video tour of my craft space that I’ll post on my YouTube in a bit here!

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