Thursday, March 10, 2011

Amy Butler's Cosmo Bag Pattern Review

As promised, here is my review of the Amy Butler Cosmo Bag, which appears on the cover of Amy Butler's new book, Style Stitches.

I want to start off by saying that I love, love, love the Cosmo Bag. I loved everything about the finished product and I will definitely be making another of these bags in the near future. If you remember from a couple of posts ago, my friend Allison went home with this particular bag at the Craft Swap.

However, I do have one criticism of the pattern that I think is pretty significant.

Style Stitches lists this project as being suitable for a beginner, and although I am super-reluctant to disagree or disregard anything upon which the fabulous Mrs. Butler puts her stamp, I have to respectfully advise against a beginner taking this project on.

Normally I am the biggest cheerleader for the "ambitious beginner." Someone who takes on a challenging first project, something a little bit more than they can chew. I think that's a great way to grow and learn and it definitely fits my teaching philosophy...

But, there is a big difference between a "challenging" first project and a "frustrating" first project. After having made the bag, I personally think that this would be a very frustrating project for a beginner.

It's not because any of the steps are challenging in and of themselves, but because I think there are several steps in the making of this bag where the sewist would benefit from prior experience: something a "beginner" by definition does not have.

There are places where you need to match short, fat curves, places where you need to faithfully follow directions without deviation, places where you need to follow written directions that are not accompanied by illustrations, and places where you need to be able to think ahead and anticipate a little bit.

As I said, I had no problems whatsoever, but, with 12 years experience under my belt, this aint my first rodeo! I think a beginner might attempt this and then be frustrated with their results and if it were their first project ever, I think they may even come away frustrated with sewing in general.

Now, stick with me, because that is truly the only criticism I have of this bag. If this pattern had been labeled as an "intermediate level," I would have nothing but good things to say.

Here are some other pearls of wisdom where the Cosmo Bag is concerned:

There was a lot of cutting with this bag, but that is true of any Amy Butler pattern. You aren't just cutting the bag pieces, you are cutting the lining and the interfacing and the pockets as well. Oh, the pockets! Pockets galore on this bag. It would make a great diaper bag for any young, hip moms out there.

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I truly hate cutting. So that was a personal obstacle of sorts, but it always is for me, and I always overcome! You kind of have to do the cutting before doing the sewing. Maybe one of these days I will be rich and famous and can hire minions to do all my cutting for me...

If you are planning on making the Cosmo bag, set aside several hours for cutting. That's right, I said Several. Hours. And labeling the pattern pieces is a very good idea, as well, since several of the pieces look similar in size and it can be hard to keep them straight once you get going.

The biggest, most positive break-through I had concerning this bag was that for once, I used the exact interfacing Amy calls for in most of her bag projects, which is a woven fusible interfacing, or in other words, a thin muslin with a layer of fusible adhesive attached to the wrong side.

I will admit (confession!) that I usually disregard the call for woven fusible interfacing and just use the regular, non-woven fusible interfacing. Even though we carry both types at the shop, the non-woven fusible interfacing is a bit less expensive, and I never really thought it made that much of a difference, so this is usually what I steer my customers towards.

Well, for once, I thought I'd just give the woven-fusible a try and I am a total convert! True, the woven fusible is a bit more expensive, but what a dream to work with! It fuses tight and it fuses the first time. It really helps the bag pieces keep their shape and your finished bag will look exactly like the one in the picture.

Like I said, total convert... Hallelujah!

I have seen the light and must now repent for my wicked ways! Never again will I steer a customer to the less-expensive non-woven but instead go straight for the jugular and strongly suggest (demand) that they give the woven-fusible a try.

I am so in love with the woven-fusible that I listed it in the notions section of the shop. Practically every Amy Butler pattern calls for this stuff, so now you have a go-to resource should you want to give it a whirl yourself.

I think that's it for my experience with the Cosmo Bag, except to tell you that I made mine with these three fabrics, all of which are Amy Butler designs.

Can't wait to see which three I choose to make my next Cosmo bag, BUT I will have to gear myself up to do all that cutting again (any volunteers?)




Cindy said...

I totally agree with you. Love the finished product, but definitely was challenging. The second bag went better once I figured everything out. I love the fabrics you chose!

embracingitall said...

The finish on your bag looks lovely. Will have to have a search for the interfacing you have mentioned, although here in Australia, it will probably be really expensive or hard to find than regular interfacing.
Love the fabrics you chose. Looks like you could stuff lots of things into the bag. Jacinta

mommyk8 said...

Rhea, thanks for adding your honest opinion about difficultly leve. I'm still looking forward to dipping my toe into the sewing world. I'm a busy girl! I love your blog and your fabrics, very inspiring.

Andrea said...

Ugh, I hate cutting, too. But I have been thinking about making a nice big bag with lots of pockets (or buying one off Etsy...). Yours turned out super cute, though I think I'd want a longer shoulder strap...

Darcy said...

Rhea, thanks for your feedback. I am definitely the "beginner" who bought this book so excited to see an entry level project that looked so cute! I am glad I read your post before attempting this one. Any advise on resources that would help me to successfully navigate through this project? Thanks!

Rhea Butler said...

Hi Darcy,

I think the best resource here would be to find yourself a good friend who has a bit of sewing experience under their belt and enlist their help, perhaps in exchange for tea and a pain au chocolat? If you have a local shop that gives private lessons (like we do here at Alewives) then I would hit them up for a lesson or two. If you have your heart set on making this bag, it's definitely not impossible... Just begin at the beginning, get all of your cutting done and then take it step by step until you hit a snag. Then: ask for help! You may surprise yourself and be better than you think!



Kaylovesvintage said...

love the colors.. very much summer
also in the winter ( tell you still got snow??)

Libby said...

I'm in the middle of making this bag right now and am totally confused with what is labeled as figure 2 on pg 26. Yikes. I think the issue here is that the written instructions just aren't clear. I WILL finish this bag, since I spent the better part of my Sunday cutting the pieces. But yeah, It's a thinker.

kraftworks krew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kraftworks krew said...

I am just starting this bag and I have a few year's experience.

I did my initial read through first and hit a bump... on page 29 step 13 I can't fathom having the bag RIGHT side out in step A and then turning it RIGHT side out in step C...

Did you just naturally know that wouldn't work and start with the bag right side in and the lining right side to the bag right side inside of it, and then flip?



Anonymous said...

Please help
lost the pattern piece for the button hole for the cosmos bag....please post demensions of the rectagular strip....thank you

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous-
There is not a pattern piece for the button loop - on pg. 23 of the directions it lists the dimensions as 5"wide x 12"long :)
good luck!

Anonymous said...

I have been sewing for YEARS and quilting for over 10 years. The instructions and illustrations are AWFUL! I took this bag to two sewing friendship meetings where many of us pondered what the instructions meant. Finally I put the instructions away and sewed it as I thought it should be sewed. The bag looks great but I will NEVER make it again. There are so many easier patterns out there that give more sewing enjoyment. I agree that this is not a beginning sewers project.

Anonymous said...

I changed the way the handles are connected
I am not a fan of hand stitching the bag together in the front of the bag after you turn it. I reached into the lining where I left a six inch un sewn area and pulled the handles through and sewed them and then pulled them back it looks much better.

TravelWise Maine said...

Can you email me what you mean I do not like the way the handles are sewn.