Real Life: Sewing Can be Difficult

I felt it was time to share another Real Life post with you guys. In these posts I aim to show you that nobody is perfect by projecting a light on my failures and imperfections. Are you ready?

I believe that I’ve told you I’m planning to make a bunch of lunch bags for the guys in the faith-based substance abuse recovery program that my Small Faith Group at church has “adopted.” You might recall that this is the group who received all of my crocheted hats last year.

41 Hats 11-24-20

I wanted to make a gift that could be both fun and useful. Also, I enjoy trying new techniques and patterns so I thought this would be a great opportunity. I did a lot of searching and then I stumbled upon the OklaRoots YouTube channel. She does a lot of sewing tutorials, mostly bags but some quilting stuff, and she had a video called: The Best Lunch Bag Pattern! Dillan Lunch Bag by I Think Sew. I watched her make it and thought that I could handle this pattern. So I purchased the pattern and was on my way!


This pattern was everything I was looking for in a lunch bag to give away. Not only was it roomy, but you can tell by looking at the picture that it’s sturdy and well insulated. In the video Jess used quilting cotton for the exterior fabric and waterproof canvas for her interior. I wanted something that could withstand some handling so I decided to use waterproof canvas for my exterior and a nylon ripstop fabric for the interior.

Lunch Bag Materials

I cut out the pattern pieces and then had Jay cut them out of 1/8″ plywood for templates. I’m going to make 25 bags so I didn’t want to worry about making them different sizes due to my paper pattern moving on the fabric.

The first problem I ran into was when I was attempting to sew the handle onto the top of the bag.

Lunch Bag Lid

Due to the foam that I chose to use (more on this later) I barely had enough room to get this under my pressure foot. Then as I was trying to turn corners I apparently forgot to put the pressure foot back down so I had a bunch of thread loops on the bottom. It was not fun.

The next part of the bag that you assemble is the front pocket. I followed the instructions and watched the tutorial again.

Lunch Bag Pocket

I was getting a lot of puckering, my machine was fighting me because the feed dogs kept pulling the pocket the wrong way, and it wasn’t working very well. This pocket ended up across the room and I decided the bag was not going to have a pocket.

I struggled a lot on this bag. I watched the tutorial at least three more times. When I was finished I was not happy.

Lunch Bag Front

It looks okay, but I see all of the imperfections when I look at this bag.

Lunch Bag Back

My intention was to use this as my practice bag. I actually learned a LOT by making this, imperfections and all.

Lunch Bag Inside

I think I’m going to let Jay give this to one of the guys at work. It’s good enough to be used for lunch and it will definitely keep things cold. I just don’t feel that it’s good enough to be given as a gift. I do plan on making another practice bag because I learned a few things from this process.

Number 1:

You can NOT compare your talents, experience and skill to anybody on social media. Everybody comes from a different place so no two people will have the same results when doing something for the first time. Jess on the OklaRoots YouTube channel has made a LOT of bags so she’s automatically starting out with a different skill set than what I’m bringing to the table. Also, this is not a beginner bag. I knew that going in, but I was quickly reminded of this fact as I started to sew.

Number 2:

You can’t compare your results with another person’s especially if you use completely different materials and tools. Cutting a board requires a saw of some sort, but you’ll get different results if you use a bandsaw or a circular saw or a hand saw. When attempting to sew this bag I was using foam insulation, but it was different than what Jess used. The pattern calls for an insulated bag foam. I’m not quite sure what that is, but Jess used Insul-Bright and ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable. I also used Insul-Bright, but I used a 1/4″ rolled foam packaging material.

What is the difference? There’s actually quite a BIG difference. The Soft and Stable is an open-celled foam that squishes down when you apply pressure. It’s soft and doesn’t crinkle because it’s more of a fabric-type of foam (think of the kind of foam used for chair padding). I went with the rolled foam packaging material because when I tore apart one of Jay’s lunch boxes this was what they used for the insulating material. This foam is a closed-cell foam so it’s got really great insulating properties. The problem is that it doesn’t condense and squish down on itself when pressure is applied. This difference allowed Jess to maneuver and squish her bag down as needed when sewing in difficult areas. I didn’t have hardly any wiggle room at all when trying to sew mine.

Number 3:

The anatomy of your sewing machine matters. In a lot of Jess’ videos she uses her Bernina 770QE sewing machine. This time, however, she was using her Juki Tl-2010Q machine. The big difference that I noticed (when watching Jess’ video for the 5th time) is that her Juki does not have a lot of “head” space. By this I mean that there’s not a lot of machine to the left of the needle that would get in the way of maneuvering a bag when sewing. I used my Singer Merritt sewing machine, which has quite a bit of head space.

Singer Merrit Head

Imagine trying to sew a curved 1/2″ seam on a bag that has very little give to it. I did a LOT of cursing.

Number 4:

I used a lot of materials that I’d never used before. Yes, I’d used waterproof canvas, but I’d never sewn nylon ripstop, I was using zipper by the yard and I had never sewn a bag in this style. There were a LOT of new-to-me things. You can’t react to something that you don’t know how it’s going to work.

Now that I have a better idea of the challenges I can approach the second one with a different mindset. Since this will only be my second bag I have to expect that there will be puckers along the seams and that the pocket might go flying across the room again. I still want to use the 1/4″ rolled styrofoam (mainly because I have 85′ of it) so I won’t be changing any of the materials I’m using. The biggest change I’m going to make is that I will use my Singer 301A machine, instead. I think this will make it a lot easier to get around the curves.

Singer 301A Head

This machine has very little body to the left of the needle and I know it can easily power through the thick layers of the canvas and styrofoam.

Hopefully the next time I post about this lunch bag you will read about how it went smoother and there will be a front pocket! 😉

This entry was posted in bags, Charity, Real Life, Sewing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Real Life: Sewing Can be Difficult

  1. Pingback: Lunch Bag Attempt #2 | Kerry'd Away

  2. Pingback: Lunch Bags – Finished! | Kerry'd Away

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