Zippered laptop bag? CHECK! | Week 34 | #52wonderfilledweeks

I am super excited about this week's project.  I bought a new laptop in January and knew I wanted to make a custom bag for it almost immediately.  The funny thing is that I have an awesome Eagle Creek bag but I can't find it and it is so padded it's almost too thick for my needs.  See last year for my big 4-0 birthday I treated myself to a black, leather, Coach bag. 

This baby holds everything and I love it.  I had been putting my laptop in the bag but I found that papers, crumbs (where do those even come from?) and other random items would wedge themselves between the screen and the keyboard. 

What I needed was a nice, thin, laptop envelope to keep it clean while in transit.  I've had this cotton fabric since P was a baby and it's one of my most favorite prints.  I used it on a stroller cover I made her when she was still a wee baby.

I knew that I wanted something thicker than a layer of cotton but not as thick as the lost Eagle Creek bag. 

Fortunately for me my Mom is a long arm quilter (she owns and operates, KTBugg Quilting in Anchorage Alaska) and suggested just adding some batting and backing and quilting the fabric to give it a little more "oomph".  I mailed the fabric (along with another project that is still to come) to her in Alaska and selected the pattern I wanted quilted.  She gave me a few options for some backing fabric and viola! I had the perfect material for my custom laptop bag.  Too bad I let it sit, and sit, and sit in my design studio for months...I knew what I wanted to use it for but I wasn't sure HOW to make it.

 All the tutorials I found on line were for simple laptop sleeves and often did not have a zipper closure, which was paramount to my project since I need to keep all the little crap off of my computer.  Then I ran across this tutorial and it gave me a good starting point.  I really liked how she measured for her pieces and the tip to clip the zipper corners to fit around the edge of the rounded bag edges...though that actually came back to bite me in the'll see.

Read on to see my super custom, and totally WonderJo Laptop sleeve and strap!

I started off by measuring my laptop by wrapping my tape measure around the laptop from side to side and top to bottom.  Per the instructions in the link above I divided the measurements by 2 (since there would be two pieces sewn together) and I added an inch and a half to those measurements to account for the seam allowance and to allow some space in the bag.  I am not sure what happened but my cut pieces ended up a quarter inch too I had to make my seam allowance smaller and only a quarter inch instead of the half inch I had planned on. 

Once I had my two main pieces cut I used one of my pattern weights (aka  a large, metal washer) to round the corners of the pieces to fit the laptop more snugly. 

Since my material was quilted I knew I need to finish the edges or I would risk the stitching coming undone so I ran it through my serger.  I was lazy though and didn't want to change to black thread.  It all worked out in the end though because the inside of the bag is more gray!! And that's the only place you would even see the serged edge.

I also knew I wanted to add a zippered pocket to the front. Something that could accommodate my charger and mouse or even my phone and notebook should I need to grab the laptop and go somewhere. I cut a piece about two thirds the height of the main pieces and rounded the bottom corners only.  The top edge will be sewn to the zipper.  I also cut a strip of fabric about three inches wide for the top of the pocket.  I could have sewn the other side of the zipper directly to the sleeve but I thought adding some fabric above the zipper actually gives more space for bulkier items in the pocket.

Now it was time to sew! I laid out my pocket pieces to make sure the birds were all facing the right direction.  I took the zipper and placed in right side down on the bottom pocket piece and with my zipper foot sewed them together.  A quick press of the iron (with a pressing cloth! You don't want to melt your zipper) followed by a quick top-stitch and I was on to sewing the top strip of the pocket. 

With the pocket assembled I needed to attach it to the front piece of the sleeve.  I matched up the bottom corners and then decided how far up I wanted the pocket to go.  I flipped the pocket up so that right sides were facing and sewed the top of the pocket down.  Iron the seam down and in place and again top-stitch. 

Then I basted the rest of the pocket to the main piece so I could treat them as one unit moving forward.

Adding the zipper to the rounded edges of the bag were what freaked me out the most but once I got into it it wasn't that bad at all.  I found the center of the bag and the center of the zipper. 

Matching the centers I pinned the zipper to the front sleeve piece and per the blog I had referenced I clipped the zipper at the curve to help it curve along the fabric.

Going slow and steady I had no problems attaching the zipper to either of the main pieces.  But here's where it starts to go down hill...I, being proactive, think I should top-stitch along the zipper now, before I sew the I do...and it looks terrible (especially around the corners) and it's starting to get bulky and I sew, and then seam rip, and then sew again and seam rip and this continues until I have it top-stitched well enough I feel I can move on...time to undo the zipper (most important part ever - you will not get that bad boy open if you sew it while it's closed!!). I put right sides together and start from one side (where the zipper ends) and sew down, across the bottom and up to meet where the other end of the zipper stops. 

Things are great, sews easily...then I turn it right sides out and there's all this funky stuff where the zipper meets the bag.  UGH.  I finally turn my brain on and I realized that since I top-stitched the zipper I didn't have the seam allowance to hide the zipper ends when I sewed the main bag together. 

I'm getting pretty tired of seeing this thing around this week...

I take out the stitches I had just sewn and the top-stitching I had just spent half of my afternoon perfecting... After lots of fiddling around I get the zipper ends to lay the way I want and resew the sleeve together.

Now I get to REtop-stitch around the zipper...sweet baby Jesus I was about ready to throw in the towel at this point.  I also start to panic that the bag is too small for my computer.  Moment of laptop fits, but just barely.  I'll take it.  Unfortunately I noticed that the clipped zipper corner started to fray and was pulling out...NOOOOOOOO...I hand whip stitched the seam back together and slathered Fray-Check all over the area...crisis averted (for at least right now).  So then I start thinking that this is awesome but what if I had to carry this without my super duper Coach's sort of ridiculous that I would have spent all this time to make the sleeve and not a way to carry it so I dove into my bag hardware drawer and pulled out some square "rings" and some D rings.  I also found my stash of 1 inch strapping and cut some of my non quilted bird fabric into a long strip.  I ironed the the raw edges of the cotton under and sewed it to the strapping.  I love little touches like a matching strap! I attached the square rings to the sleeve with some strapping and added the rings to the front left corner and the back right corner so it would hang evenly and I could still open the zippers while wearing the bag.

*Tip* you need to seal the ends of your strapping by running a flame along the cut edge.

I wanted to make the strap adjustable but I didn't have an adjustable split plate on hand so I used two D rings to make the strap adjustable.  Basically you take one end of your strap and loop it through both D rings and sew down the edges.

Then you take your strap and thread your clip (I was using a swivel clip) onto the strap before you run the free (non sewed end) of the strap back through both D rings, making a circle, then double back and thread the strap over the closet D ring and through the farthest one.  Attach the second swivel clip to the free end and you have an adjustable strap. 

I was so happy my vision was completed and almost perfect (darn that fraying zipper).  I was so excited I sent a picture to my Mom and I then I started to really look at the sleeve and the strap and it started to drive me nuts that the square rings pulled funny when I was wearing the bag and that the D rings were bunching the strap and making it bulky...ack...I figured out I really should have used the D rings on the bag itself and the square rings for the I got guess it, my trusty seam ripper...again and removed all the hardware from the bag and the strap.  

I realized that the square rings were too big for my strap and that they too would pull funny on the strap so I ran to JoAnn's to pick up an adjustable splitter plate.  They had two styles and I grabbed both.  When I got home I tried each and settled on the one that allowed for the thicker strap to lay more flat.  I also used my zipper foot when attaching the strapping to the bag and the hardware to the strap which allowed me to sew super close to the D rings, keeping them in place and making it almost impossible for them to twist and turn when wearing the bag. 

I love it.  It's compact, practical, oh so me with that bright, vibrant, bird print and it's one of a kind! It fits in my leather bag beautifully yet if I need to I can grab it and a few accessories and head out to a meeting at the drop of a hat with everything on hand. I did keep a list of things I would do differently should I ever make another one or just things to keep in mind for any future bag making I may encounter, which may happen sooner than later since I have just enough quilted birds to make myself a little clutch, eep!

Things I learned...

  • The line on the zipper matches perfectly with the line on my zipper foot and if I pay attention to that when sewing I will end up with a perfectly sewn zipper!
  • The "notch" in my zipper foot is to accommodate the zipper teeth!! Say what??

  • Measure twice, cut once...I'm lucky my computer fits.
  • Make the sleeve out of one piece of fabric, not two that need to be sewed together eliminating the the bulking seam along the bottom of the sleeve.
  • Maybe not clip the zipper corners.
  • Save the top-stitching of the main zipper until the end!
  • Use the right hardware the first time.
  • Zipper feet are handy for more than just attaching zippers!
  • Sew D rings down as close as possible to eliminate shifting.
  • It's almost always worth it to rip it out and do it right.  

And just like that I checked off a project that has been haunting me since January and I learned a few things too!


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