Enthusiasm all round for Emmaline’s Retreat Bag

I belong to a Canada Birthday Group. It started last year as a way to gift to other crafty women (we’re all women in the group). Last year’s group fizzled out after a few months but the seed was born. This year there are 15 of us. The concept is that as seamstresses, we donate and give away a lot of what we make without receiving much of anything in return. In the birthday group we have committed to send a gift to the birthday gal within 3 months of her birthday. The gift can be homemade, a gift certificate, fabric or notions. In fact anything that as creative people we’d appreciate.

I really didn’t know what to make for the first three presents. Canada Post prices are pretty horrendous, but I wanted to make something rather than send a GC. One of the ladies asked if I’d make Emmaline’s Luxie Lunch Bag for her sister. I wasn’t planning to buy the pattern but saw there was a similar freebie pattern, The Retreat Bag. I haven’t made any of the Emmaline patterns yet, so decided to try it. After all, a free pattern will give me a good idea of the designer’s written and visual instructions, and more importantly how I work with them. The added bonus is that Emmaline’s owner and designer, Janelle, lives in Alberta. A great complement to our Canada Birthday Group!

Whenever I make a bag (purse) or purse (wallet), I also make myself one as a trial run. I figure that way I can iron out the wrinkles (literally). For Christmas Himself bought me a professional steam press. It has become one of my favourite pieces of sewing room paraphernalia. It gives a great burst of steam and manages to fuse interfacings in less time than it takes the iron to warm up. Anyone, who has made a bag will know just how long you can stand at the ironing board pressing interfacing onto the back of the fabric, and praying that it doesn’t wrinkle as it cools. The steam press is great because it adheres the interfacing’s sticky side to the fabric in one foul swoop! I now take the sheets and pillowcases to the steam press for a good pressing.

Emmaline Bags has an easily navigable website, a great blog and tutorial links, as well as the usual social media sites. I am a FaceBook girl with a sprinkling of Twitter, and find the main FaceBook group a great resource.  Janelle has recently recorded a Craftsy class, which I understand is still on sale. No hints, but I’d love to try that one! Reece from Happy Okapi has written a great review on her blog; here’s the link.

The website is a one-stop-shop for all the notions and supplies needed for your project. I bought the internal wires to hold the bag open. They come in two sizes and I bought the large ones .. No guessing which bags I made! There’s also a discount for multiple purchases, so yes, I bought lots of them. I must admit to being surprised when I was re-credited some money when the postage was less than expected.

But I digress …

I have a bunch of Tula Pink Eden fabric. It is very whimsical with obvious designs overlaying more subtle ones. I like that. Himself doesn’t. Enough said? The women in the birthday group all seem to like it though, so I thought I’d use some up. As one lady said: “Yeah, husbands hate it. We love it. They just have to live with it”.

The pattern is well written, doesn’t have me printing off obvious rectangles when I could measure and cut them out, and I managed to follow it pretty easily without asking for help. That’s promising! I also like the visual instruction. I’m a visual person and if there are diagrams or examples in the pattern it helps to have obvious colour differences, so I can understand what the pattern means. I decided to give my bags sturdier bottoms; and most encouragingly there is also a tutorial to do that! The bag is in two sizes, and the wires are optional. That said, I’d chosen my notions and decided that if I could fit them in a jiffy envelope then I’d continue with the large wired bag.

Feeling enthusiastic I set up a production line, got out my size 16/90 Jeans needles and the jeans top-stitching thread, and set to choosing fabric combinations. Then life happened … and a month later I looked at these strange rectangles with cut out corners and thought, ‘ahh, I know what that relates to!’ Bonus!

The sewing part was the easy part to be honest: Well apart from sandwiching long zippers into several pieces of fabric. I tried the heat and bond tape (literally pressing the fabrics together with double sided (sticky) fusible web). I also tried using my fabric glue stick with better success. In the end I basted the zipper to one side of the fabric before adding the other piece on the other side. I’m glad I’m used to dress zippers, but boy oh boy, those little buggers almost had me at times. Inserting the (optional) wires means the bags stay open when unzipped. I call them my ‘Wide Mouth Frog’ bags. It’s a real treat to be able to see my bags contents when I open it.


The end results: Bliss! I’m so impressed at how professional they all look. As always I learned a lot about fabric placement amongst other things. The recipients love them. Himself also loves one of the colour ways that I really didn’t think he would. I’m enthused to make some more, mainly because they have gone over so well. They also flatten nicely to fit into an envelope, rather than having to box them to mail them. I look forward to trying the Necessary Clutch Wallet (NCW) and a whole bunch of the other patterns. If you’ve in doubt, I hope I have encouraged you to make one. If you’re lucky enough to receive one of Emmaline’s patterns: Well, you’re a lucky person.

Disclaimer: These views are my own. I did not receive anything bar a lot of thanks from the recipients for making The Retreat Bags. 



3 thoughts on “Enthusiasm all round for Emmaline’s Retreat Bag

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