Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

I Am Making an Ultimate Travel Bag

I Am Making an Ultimate Travel Bag

I bought the Craftsy class for Annie Unrein’s ( Ultimate Travel Bag a few years ago. I watched most of the lessons soon after—Annie is a very pleasant instructor and I got into the habit of watching one lesson before bed every night. I bought all of the supplies and put them together in a plastic bin. I never made the bag.

My sewjo is threatening to go on walkabout, so I decided that this would be a good project to tackle while waiting for the last of the snow to melt. If I time it right, the bag will be done—or close to being done—just about the time I need to start working in the garden. On Monday, I went stash diving. (One of the rules was that all the fabric had to come from the stash.) The plastic bin with the supplies held some Jane Sassaman fabric earmarked for the bag at the beginning, which I still like, but I decided to try something different. Most of my fabric stash is remnants or less-than-a-yard pieces. I needed a yard and a half each of both exterior and lining, so I pulled out my bins of yardage and started looking.

I noticed that my yardage purchases are all very similar. I tend to buy yardage when I find a designer I really like. Anna Maria Horner’s daughter Juliana designed a line of fabric for Joann Fabrics a few years ago—the last time that Joanns had attractive fabric designs, in my opinion—and I bought everything I could get my hands on. Her designs are bright and a bit on the quirky side. I have a whole lot of Tim Holtz, but he tends toward more muted colors. I also have a lot of what I would call “folk art” type fabric, with birds and flowers on it.

I settled on this combination:


It’s not my usual choice of retina-burning, deeply saturated bright prints, but I like it. The top fabric is from the Mon Ami line by BasicGrey for Moda. Something about the colors in that line of fabric really caught my eye. The red polka dot fabric will be the exterior contrast. I buy polka dot fabric whenever I see some on sale because it is so darn useful. The yellow will be the interior. I love yellow but I can’t wear it, so I use it as much as I can in my sewing.

I also put together a couple of additional fabric combinations in case I want to make this bag or another one of Annie’s designs again.

The first step in this project is to quilt a sandwich consisting of the exterior fabric, foam, and interior fabric. The pieces for the bag are then cut out of the quilted sandwich. The instructions call for two sandwiches—one 20” x 45” and one 22” x 45”, presumably because two smaller pieces are easier to quilt than one large piece. I put the first sandwich together and set up the Janome with the dual-feed foot, some 40wt Superior Thread in grey in the top and Aurifil 50wt in yellow in the bobbin. The instructions suggest quilting straight lines on a home machine, although I’ve seen bags with other free motion designs.


Even with the dual-feed foot engaged, the layers tended to shift a bit. I had to take out my first line of stitching and realign everything and use a lot of pins, especially at the edges. (Annie says in the video to “pin in a few places.”) I started quilting in the center and moved out to each side alternately, quilting lines about 3/4” apart. Sewing goes much faster in videos than it does in real life (duh). I always underestimate the amount of time it’s going to take to quilt something. Despite quilting only straight lines, this took the better part of two hours.

Once the first quilt sandwich was done, it was time to cut out the pieces. I knew I was going to run into issues here. Annie assumes a width of fabric of 45” in her cutting layout. Not all fabrics are 45” wide. Also, the quilting process tends to cause the fabric to pull up some, so by the time I cut off about half an inch of uneven edge at each end of the sandwich, I was about 3/16” short. I was able to get around that by switching the cutting for some of the pieces and moving them from the first sandwich to the second sandwich. I’ll re-draw the cutting layout page for myself in case I make this bag again.

She suggests stitching a line around 1/'8” in from the outside edge of each piece to tack down any floppy edges.


I think this also helps to reduce bulk in the seams, as I’ve seen similar instructions to zigzag along those edges in other patterns calling for foam.

[I did press my fabric and hit it with some Best Press, so I am not sure where all those wrinkles came from. I think the foam has something to do with it. Perhaps next time, I’ll try interfacing the fabric before making the quilt sandwich, although that’s going to add some extra work (and bulk). I also wonder about using batting instead of foam. A single layer of quilt batting won’t give this the structure it needs, but I could experiment with multiple layers of wool/polyester, wool/cotton, etc.]

The next step will be to quilt the second exterior-foam-interior sandwich and cut the remaining pieces out of it. I’ll also have a bunch of fiddly bits to cut out of the red polka dot contrast as well as use it to make bias binding. As is common with these kinds of projects, the prep work tends to take a lot longer than the actual assembly.


We have seedlings!


These are cucumbers, although we also have squash, pumpkins, and one or two tiny little tomato plants peeking up. Elysian brought over a couple of trays of her seedlings, too. We have plenty of space in the greenhouse.

I might be able to get out and work on the raspberries this weekend. I can walk the whole garden now—still trudging through about 8” of snow—so I checked on the grapes yesterday. I don’t see any buds yet. Hopefully they had enough snow insulating them that they survived that extended period of subzero temps.


I had a very bizarre social media experience last night. I was trying to use up a few minutes before leaving to play for the Lutherans, so I popped into my office to check Twitter. The Spokane news station is in my Twitter feed, and they often re-tweet posts from the Seattle police department. There was a post about a shooting in NE Seattle, followed by some video of police cars in a cordoned-off area. I watched the video and thought I recognized the neighborhood, so I replayed it. Sure enough, the footage panned past a building with “Seattle Mennonite Church” on it. We had our denominational board meeting in Seattle last November and attended Seattle Mennonite’s 50th anniversary celebration. It doesn’t appear that anyone at the church was involved, although two people died in the shooting, sadly.

The Blind Spot in My Brain

The Blind Spot in My Brain

A 10,000 Mile Tuneup and Some Thrift Store Shopping

A 10,000 Mile Tuneup and Some Thrift Store Shopping