Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thirty-One Utility Tote Liner Sew Along Part 6 - Mission Complete!

The tote liner turned out FANTASTIC!  And yes, though I'm guilty of dragging out my postings, I did complete it and send it to my friend _before_ her baby debuted.  Gorgeous little K.T. joined us Jan 14, and I'm so pleased this reached her loving momma in time.  :)

So, are you ready to see the final step?
First, let's recap what the goals were when I designed the liner project:

- Create something with plenty more organizer pockets on the interior
- Make the liner easily removable and washable
- Make sure it will hug the sides of the bag so it will be functional and not constantly in the way
- Give it enough padding and body to seem professional and luxurious
- Put handles on the liner allowing it to stand alone -- increasing the capacity to 2 bags in a pinch!

I wanted to put this out there first, because a big part of the design process is allowing your design to evolve as you go.  It's okay for your design to change, even if it changes your goals.  With my tote liner, that absolutely happened.  I got to the end of the construction stage and fell in love with the product so far.  All I knew for sure was that I was really happy with the product at this point and didn't want to fuss with it until I ruined it.

If you haven't already seen the process up to this point, you might enjoy catching up by reading these previous postings:

Step 1 - project planning and fabric prep
Step 2 - cutting and interfacing the pieces
Step 3 - preparing the organizing pocket pieces
Step 4 - attaching and dividing the pockets
Step 5 - constructing the liner

When I seated the liner in the Thirty-One Utility Tote to fit it, I realized that no matter how well I reinforced the bag, it wasn't likely to hug the sides unless I actually stitched it to the tote or made some elaborate attachment that would be a lot of work and not very attractive.  Then I realized I was okay with making some changes to my original idea.  My babies' diaper bags never had removable liners.  I even custom made one for myself without that consideration, and it was (and is) beautiful and perfectly functional.  So, I decided to prioritize and ultimately change two of my goals:  I no longer cared if the liner was removable or its own stand-alone bag.  By giving those ideas up, I was able to make sure that I met the goals that were more important to me...making it hug the sides of the tote so it wouldn't be in the way, and having it look professional, luxuriously padded and pretty. 

Knowing that, you can now see why I took the following finishing steps...

First, insert your liner into the tote and make sure it fits.  The liner should be slightly taller than the tote.  If everything went as planned, it should be about 1/2 inch taller all the way around.  For some reason, I forgot to take a picture of this step, but if you're still with me on this project, you can envision what I mean.  :)

Next, with your liner inserted into the tote, fold the liner lip over 1/2 inch (or you can adjust and fold more if your tote liner is still too tall) towards the wrong side of the liner.  Pin the liner in place all the way around the tote.  If you've done this correctly, none of the interfaced back side of the liner bag should be exposed.

Time to stitch the outer tote bag and inner liner together.  (woo HOO!)  But first, I needed to take a few things into consideration:

- The outside of my Utility Tote was a very different color than the inside liner. This is one of those few occasions that required different thread colors on top and bottom.  (Correct tension is more important than ever when you sew with mismatched threads in your machine, btw.)  For this project, I put a deep plum color through the needle to match the bag's exterior and a neutral beige on the bobbin to match the liner.

- The Utility Tote itself is made of pretty thick, coated synthetic canvas.  So if you haven't already put a heavy duty needle in the machine, now's the time.  I used a Schmetz Universal size 90/14 for this project because I had one on hand, but if you have a heavier denim needle, that might work even better.  Likewise, program your machine to use a larger stitch length.  I think I used 3.5 or 4 for this.  (I much for writing it down, right?)

- Also, with so many thick layers, I decided a walking foot would help me keep everything moving through the machine smoothly.  The walking foot forces the top layer of fabric to move at the same rate as the bottom layer.  If you don't have a walking foot to actively drag the top layers through on pace, a rolling foot would at least cut down on the friction and resistance caused by the presser foot.  Though a specialized foot isn't absolutely essential, it really can help.

- The corners of the Utility Tote are joined with a heavy duty binding (see below...the liner is already inserted in this photo).  I realized at once that I would not be able to sew continuously around the bag to attach the liner.  The binding at the corners meant starting and stopping my stitching on each of the four sides of the bag.

Having made all these adjustments, place the project in your machine with the outside of the Utility Tote facing up and the liner facing your machine bed.  Stitch with 1/4 seam allowance, or if you're sure you'll get the folded lip of the liner in your stitching, you might want to hide your seamline by stitching right over the large stitches on the outside of the tote.  That's what I did.  The thread matched so nicely that you can't see my seam line in the photo above...the big purple stitches you see are the ones the manufacturer put in the tote bag.

Start as close to the bound corner as you can and stitch across each side, knotting off when you get close to the next bound corner.  When you're done, the tote and liner lips should look more or less even.  Here's what it looks like from the inside.

Check the lip of the liner closely and make sure you caught the fold all the way around.  Let me try to explain that more clearly.  When you folded over the lip of the liner and pinned it to the bag, your stitching should have caught both of those layers of the liner.  If it didn't, the lip will unfold and expose a bit of the interfaced underside of your tote liner.  You don't want that!

If you missed a spot, just seam rip about 1-2 inches on either side of the mistake, repin and restitch, lining up the beginning and end on your existing seamline.  When you do that, always overlap the new line of stitching about 1/2 inch over the old broken line of stitching on either side.

Check your bag where the liner meets the tote at the bound corners.  As a finishing touch, you might want to hand-stitch the corners in place. 

And voila!  Just like that, you went from a bag like this (same bag, different color):

To this:

Thanks for joining me on this journey!  Next week I'll show you how to make this cute, last-minute matching changing pad!

Don't forget to Pin It!