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Wine & Dine Bag – Lessons Learned

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Hopefully I am safe in posting this… I don’t *think* my cousin follows this page… But in case she does… Hi, Paige! Surprise! I made you a wine tote…

Recently she opened a new Wine & Design franchise in Washington, NC. If you aren’t familiar with them, it is the sort of place where you bring your own wine (or whatever you want to drink/eat) and then make a painting with a group. I have only done this once, but it was pretty fun.

The basic gist of the experience is that the painting they are doing in the “class” is sketched out onto canvas for you before you arrive. All you have to do is paint in the lines, which means any and everyone can do this and have fun no matter what their experience level is. When I did it years ago with my husband and mother, we made a painting with koi in a pond. My mother has been painting since she was a child, and my husband had aspirations of becoming a professional artist when he was younger (although he hasn’t really painted in many years), and then there was me… I can’t draw to save my life. But I can color inside the lines!

All three of us had a great time doing it. My mother of course stressed over the final product and went home to finish it and make it look better than any of us, my husband was just happy to be drinking wine and painting, and I was just happy that my koi looked like koi when we were done. I highly recommend giving it a shot if you are looking for a relaxing and fun way to spend a night with friends. There are lots of different places that do this across the country, I think we have three or four here alone.

Anyway, she opened her business a couple weeks ago and I have been trying to find time to trek out there (almost 2 hours away) to see her studio. There is a pumpkin painting class on Halloween for kids, and I just might have to go for that one. I think Anna would have a blast painting a pumpkin, and she is too young for a lot of candy anyway.

I didn’t want to go checkout the new studio empty-handed, so I decided to make a wine tote for her. Since she is theoretically going to be taking wine to work quite often, it seemed practical. To fill it I also picked up a bottle of wine and a candle made from an empty bottle of the same wine. Since the bag has side pockets, I also picked up a folding bottle opener to slip in a pocket and I might put some paintbrushes in the other side pocket. If I happen to come across some cute art-themed wine charms I will include them as well.

After some searching around, I settled on Atkinson Designs’ Wine & Dine bag. Originally I had planned on making two bags, but after finishing the first one… I don’t know. I still have the material for a second one, but I need to go back to the drawing board on interfacing I think. The pattern calls for using heavy weight fabric, laminated fabric, or interfacing on a quilting weight cotton. To make the bag stiff and add a little padding I decided to use Bosal’s In-R double-sided fusible foam batting, but I wish I hadn’t. Sure the bag is nice and stiff, and decently padded… but it was such a pain in the arse to maneuver under the machine once the bag started coming together.

I ended up doing some things by hand that I would normally do with the machine just because it was easier! Like the binding on the zipper, and the tab that covers the end of the zipper. I tried several times to do it with the machine, but it kept ending up wonky. After the third time ripping the binding off the top of the bag I decided to just stitch the zipper-side of the binding on with the machine and finish it by hand, because every time I tried to stitch it all at once the backside would end up wobbly, the stitches would miss the binding material entirely, or the tension would be terribly wrong causing the stitches to look terrible.

I had already finished the binding along the sides by hand anyway, but that was more because I like the look of hand finished binding. However after dealing with the binding along the zipper, if I had wanted to do the sides by machine I probably would have ended up with the same conclusion as I did with the zipper binding… pain.in.the.arse. And binding by hand through the In-R foam isn’t exactly easy either. My poor fingers were pretty sore after shoving the needle through that thick foam batting, and I must have stabbed my thumbnail about a hundred times in the process.

The binding is another thing I would do differently next time. The mitered corners in the binding overlap in different directions because I just did the hand stitching from one raw end to the other without really thinking about the finished looked. If, or when, I do another one of these bags I think I will hand stitch the binding along the bottom of the bag first, and then do the sides so that the corners match up. It is a minor detail, but it bugs me.

Thanks to the thick foam batting, it was also difficult to make the finished bag look smooth and unwrinkled. All the manhandling I had to do to get the bag positioned for stitching kept resulting in wrinkles forming in the bag’s exterior. In the end I had to put my hand inside the bag with a hot pad, and then press the iron against my hand to work out as many wrinkles as I could. And the sides are hopeless because of the crease that forms when the bag is zipped shut. I am afraid it won’t look good after it has been used a while.

The pattern itself though was just fine, and I do like the finished bag. When I get around to making the second one though, there are some alterations I might make aside from what I have already mentioned. The divider that goes between the wine bottles leaves a good sized gap at the bottom of the bag where the bottles could potentially clink together… but that is another thing that was rather frustrating to stitch in thanks to how stiff the bag was, so any changes to that may depend on interfacing choices. The bag is also a bit short, and the wine bottle that I bought to go in the bag sticks above the top of the bag a bit so that I can’t zip it up. The thickness of the In-R batting makes me think that the bag could potentially be slightly taller without it, but it probably wouldn’t be very noticeable.

A “long pull” zipper would also be a better choice for this pattern, as the tiny zipper pull on the standard YKK zipper I used gets lost in the binding. That might also be a consequence of using the In-R batting though. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to find the long pull zippers at local shops. Only one of my local shops carry them, and the color selection is limited. There are some great Etsy sellers that sell them in economically priced bundles though… one day I will get around to building up my zipper stash. In the meantime I will just have to add decorative zipper pulls!

If you are considering making this bag, or any bag using a thick foam batting like this… the only other tidbits of advice I have to give are: 1) stitch the divider on opposite sides (think Z instead of C) because I did mine on the same side and it bows out to one side, effectively making one side of the bag larger than the other. 2) shorten your stitches drastically for the seam on the bottom of the bag. With thick stabilizers, seams have a tendency to show stitches. Shortening the stitch length really helped with this. I also stitched over it several times out of paranoia.

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