Discovering new bag construction techniques

…with sewing organizers from Aneela Hoey

What makes Aneela Hoey’s bag and organizer designs stand out is a combination of good design sense and interesting construction. In many cases her bags open in interesting ways to reveal additional pockets or simply make it easier to access what’s stored inside. She also frequently uses somewhat unusual materials, like vinyl to create “windows” that show what’s inside of a pouch or interfacings that can be fused to fabrics to give them more stiffness. The latter allows for the creation of trays and boxes.

Because I was interested in a whole range of Aneela’s patterns I decided to buy her book, Stitched Sewing Organizers. I think the book is a great resource to learn different techniques related to making bags and organizers. The projects vary in difficulty, materials used and construction techniques, which makes it easy to learn lots of new skills. There are also several introductory chapters that give detailed information on materials (this was particularly useful for getting comfortable with buying and using fusible interfacings) and techniques (I’m still a little scared when it comes to sewing zippers).

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Projects from “Stitched Sewing Organizers”

To start, I made a couple of “fold up pouches”, which were quick and easy, but a good way to get comfortable with how instructions are presented in the book. For the first one I followed the instructions precisely, but for the second and third I started to vary the shapes a little.

Next, I wanted to learn how to work with a very stiff interfacing that allows you to make trays or boxes. It’s a surprisingly easy material to work with, but depending on the construction the stiffness can make it hard to finish certain seams with the sewing machine. As a consequence some of the final stitching is done by hand. Here is a little box I made:

Finally, I decided to make one of the larger organizers in the book, the “boxy pocked pouch”. There were a couple of steps toward the end that I found a little harder to follow, but overall it was a pretty smooth ride:

Materials

I made all of the above projects using a cotton canvas from IKEA’s Svartan collection, which is all about textures and prints (there’s actually an interesting connection to India, which would have been the last place I would have thought of looking at the collection). To add a pop of color I used a turquoise cotton and a silvery, coated fabric that was a left over from a jacked my grandmother made many years ago (it is nice for bags, because it repels water). The right interfacings to chose are described in detail in Aneela Hoey’s book.

Sewing organizers on the road and in action

A few weeks later I got a chance to first test these little cuties on a road trip. I could easily fit all the tools for a small hand sewing project into the roomy pouch — and then work on the project in the car and one of my favorite cafes!

Skill transfer

What I learned in the process are clever ways to hide seams and use interfacings to manipulate the properties of common quilting cottons. I decided to put these new skills at a test by attempting to construct my version of the zipup tray pouch from images. It’s a great design with a fun little origami action, but unfortunately not included in the book I purchased. I have no way knowing if what I did matched the original pattern, but the end result looked pretty similar. One big mistake I made — which is easily correctable in the future — was to not take into account the width of the zipper. As a result the closed pouch has more of a diamond than a square cross-section (in other words: it looks wonky). My guess is that when you make a larger version of this (which I plan to do in the future), the added width of the zipper is going to matter much less and you might get away with some imprecisions when adding it to the pouch.

Conclusion

Aneela Hoey’s book “Stitched Sewing Organizers” is a great resource packed with useful information, interesting sewing projects and good instructions. I’ve learned a lot and recommend it to anyone who likes to sew!

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