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Clutch Trial Run

One of my goals this year is to work with fabrics and materials that I don’t have any experience with. There are certain materials that give me the willies and over the years I have dipped my experiential toe into working with them. This year is to basically work with leather enough that it doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s not that Aunt Toby lusts after a leather skirt or something like that (I am, ahem, post-leather skirt, if you must know). But it’s an intriguing material.

For one thing, it’s non-directional. It has no warp or weft. It is not knitted. It just IS. And because of that, there are things you can do with it that are more difficult to do with woven or knitted goods, and most of the time, those things are fun and interesting: accessories, trim, that sort of thing.

And now Aunt Toby has to tell you a secret: I am accessories mad. I have always loved them. It’s genetic: My mom had purses out of every skin except I think for fish(and that only because it had not been developed at the time, I think), including several out of species that are frankly out of reach or endangered (same diff) at this point. In many cases, she had shoes that matched the purses. Although if you went through my drawers (well, what holds my clothing etc., not..ahem..the other sort), you’d find more scarves than anything else (I am passionately fond of scarves), I do love a nice purse, an interesting handbag. And my big beef in life is that either I can’t find them or if I can, they are usually out of reach in terms of price. Very annoying indeed.

And the one class of purse that I can NEVER find, either in the size, material, color or price is a clutch. Not one of these:minaudiere

These are not clutches. They are interesting and sort of, IMHO, “carry-able jewelry”, but I am the sort of person who imagines social occasions ending with my being in a mess, needing to call and pay for a cab, a small injury…that sort of thing. You can’t carry a wallet, lipstick, credit cards, a cell phone, Bandaids™, car and house keys, etc. in one of these. At most, you carry A credit card, A lipstick, one of those weeny and flat cell phones, and a car key that actually will get given to the valet to park the car, so you won’t have to put it into the bag at all. Actually, I have seen hard cases for sunglasses that were bigger than some of these socalled evening bags.

Aunt Toby requires something capacious. Not that I want to be able to carry a tire iron, a set of vicegrips™, and a roll of duct tape in my evening bag (although goodness knows, I have had an evening where the experience ended with the DH requiring all of these, but they were in the trunk of the car and were used to haul up and secure the exhaust system so that we could get home in one piece). But invariably, when I go out, I will meet someone who either will want to give me their phone number and email address (or vice versa), or wants my recipe for making biscuits or home-made noodles, or the URL for fabric or interesting covered buttons or canning supplies (all of which Aunt Toby has had tattooed on her brain and can be called up on a moment’s notice). And that requires a pen and at least a small pad. And perhaps a calendar (you see where this is going, I am sure).

Enter: Hot Patterns Plain and Simple Envelope Clutch. Hot Patterns Clutch
“Oversized, lined, slouchy Clutch has a carrying strap on the back and closes with a zipper under the front flap; flap also features concealed magnetic closures. Clutch is completely flat, and the interior has 1 large zippered pocket and a smaller open/cell phone pocket.”

I had already bought some leather, but being the ‘belt and suspenders’ person that I am, I decided to give it a trial run. Not exactly a ‘muslin’ because I wanted it to be something that I could use as intended if it worked out. I also wanted to give a trial to some interfacing that I thought would work well, Pellon™ Peltex. It’s described as ‘firm’ – it’s also described as being a substitute for foamcore™ and cardboard. That should have been a clue that it might have been too firm for the project but I soldiered on.

Aunt Toby is very very bad when it comes to reading directions. My brain doesn’t seem to work the way that the technical writers’ do, and many times what gets me through are my 40+ years of sewing and the drawings and diagrams. In this case, what got me through was Ann Steeves’ experience with the pattern Ann Steeves’ Review
and my giving it a good think in terms of what I thought it looked like on the inside at the after end. (Please note: I did contact the lovely people at Hot Patterns and Trudy offered to ‘fly me in’ using emails, but I am a very stubborn sort of person and seem to feel the need to figure things out myself, even if I end up doing it wrong).
The difficult part for me was visualizing what was happening on the inside on the lining pieces, which have, on one piece, a zippered pocket, and on the other piece (because it comes in two separate pieces), a patch which is separated into a regular pocket and a pleated pocket for a cell phone. The individual techniques involved in making the purse are not difficult at all; here is the list of techniques:

1. Cutting out the pattern pieces. If you are making this from leather, using some sort of marker on the back side of the material is key – you don’t want to use pins to mark this.
2. Cutting out, trimming for seam allowances and then Ironing on interfacing. The interfacing I used produced something that would substitute for a portfolio – very stiff. I need to find an iron-on interfacing for leather that will give it some substance but still allow for the slouchiness.
3. Putting in magnetic fasteners. Marking these on the back of the material is key. Also making sure that you put the opposite part in the proper place on the other side of the front so that when you close the clutch, it will actually lock in place. it helps to give this a trial run before you put the fasteners through the material.
4. Putting in centered zippers. You will need to have 1, 10” zipper for the pocket in the lining and 1, 16” zipper for the opening into the clutch (which is NOT in the top of the bag. You need to visualize this as a grocery bag with the top stapled shut and the opening in one side. That is where the other zipper is going to go).
5. Straight stitching, trimming and cutting corners – this will help give the corners shape.
6. Rolling. (rolling? – yes, rolling) There are several points in the process where you will need to roll the body of the clutch in order to make the sewing easier. One of them is putting on the strap on the back (see Ann Steeves’ photo at the link above). The other place is once you’ve attached the lining pieces to the seam allowances for the opening zipper and then want to sew the lining together. It really helps in terms of sewing the lining pieces together if you roll the front of the bag into a cylinder to keep it out of the way of the needle. Then, when you want to fasten the back of the bag itself to the front, you will want to roll the lining into a cylinder to keep it safe as well. Needless to say, putting Pellon™ Peltex on the felt did NOT make rolling easier.

So, here are the two places where I think people might get frustrated and how to do them.
The front of the clutch:
Once you’ve ironed on your interfacing (if you are going to do that) and put on the magnetic closures corresponding to the marks on the pattern, go to the corresponding lining pieces. One will have a pocket with a zipper on it – do that and put that on the lining piece to correspond to the markings on the pattern. The other one will look much too long for the other piece of the front of the clutch. Don’t panic! This will be folded to provide a protective flap at the entry to the purse.
Put the top and bottom pieces of the purse front together using the magnetic closures – the edges where the zipper is going to go should line up. Baste that edge together, flatten out, and then put in a centered zipper (this is where the bigger zipper goes). Remember, if you are making this out of leather or faux leather or Ultrasuede™ or something like this, don’t use pins..use tape or something because you don’t want to make holes).

Take the piece of lining with the zippered pocket. With it facing you with the pockets opening up, fold toward the wrong side, 5/8”. Take that fold and place it right up on the tape of the zipper, on the larger piece of the bag front. Visualize when you put your hand inside that zipper, it will go into the pockets to pull out your cell phone, right? Tape that down. Flip that over and using a zipper foot, sew next to the original stitching you did to put the zipper in, BUT NOT ALL THE WAY TO THE OUTSIDE EDGES. Remember, we’ve got the be able to roll this thing around to put the lining together and then do the bag outside seams, so you only sew these lining pieces down to the bottom stop and at the top stop.

Take the other piece of lining for the front of the bag – it’s plain right – no pockets, nuthin’. It also looks too big for the other half of the front of the bag. With the wrong side of the bag front facing you, line up the top edge of that top piece of the bag with the top edge of the lining piece. Smooth the lining down to where the other side of the zipper tape is. Secure that in the seam allowances and stitch the lining on the tape all the way through to the other side of the bag. You now will have about 4” of flap. There are directions on the pattern sheet to handle this. Here is what I did (because I am annoying this way): visualizing what I felt this was meant to look like (that is, that there would be a flap across the zippered opening), I folded under a 5/9” hem and sewed that. Then I folded the flap again and secured that against the place where I had sewn the lining to the zipper tape and sewed through all of this. This produced this situation:

Then, with the bag front and the bag front lining facing me(just like in the picture), I put the back of the lining on top and sewed that on, rolling up the bag front as I went so that I would not catch that. You can sew the lining all the way around because you do not need to turn that inside out. At that point, I had this situation with the bag front. My kind assistant opened up the zipper so that you can see the opening, the pocket AND the other zipper, which is part of the zippered pocket in the other part of the lining.

At this point, what you have facing you is the right side of the front of the bag. Placing, right side to right side(making sure you get the strap in the right spot), the back of the bag on top, and rolling away the lining as you go, I sewed three sides of the bag, leaving the fourth open so that I could cut and trim the corners and turn it inside out, putting the finished lining bag into the inside of the purse. I then ironed down the seam allowances at the bottom and sewed those closed to finish the bag.

Bag: Wool Felt
Lining: Polyester ‘technical’ taffeta
Magnetic Closures: two sets
Zippers: 1, 10”, 1, 16”
Interfacing: Pellon™ Peltex

Will I make this again: You bet, but with something softer than Peltex, which I think would make terrific bills for newsboy caps but just ruined the look of this. However, having said that, I actually like this; it’s sort of portfolio-y and my son made the observation that it would be a perfect way of sneaking in a mini-laptop into an event. He would think of that.

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