Thursday, November 15, 2012

Deploying That Fabric

Friends, I've been busy making things for babies recently.  After the success of the doll, I felt ready to tackle a diaper bag and changing pad for another friend who is pregnant.

Because my friend's husband is in the military, it only seemed logical to make things from this book:

She is a total rock star and sent me all the uniform pieces I would need, as well as batting and cotton fabrics to complete the projects with flair.  I decided to tackle the changing pad first because the book said it was a beginner's project.  No sweat, I thought.


So here's where I tell you that I went through about six denim needles making these items because the seams on fatigues are RIDICULOUS.  I wore a pair of free sunglasses while making these because I was worried I was going to lose an eye from a projectile needle.  

The changing pad should have been easy, but the outside leg seam runs down the center of the main cargo pocket.  The main cargo pocket is about four inches from the hip pocket and about four inches from the mini cargo calf pocket.  I could tell this was going to be problematic.  The diagram in the book outlines that the main cargo pocket should be near the top of the changing pad and the whole piece should be 17" long.  With the other pockets positioned as they are, and wanting to avoid sewing over as many seams as possible, I placed the main cargo pocket in the center of the changing pad.

The main cargo pocket, mocking me with its centeredness.

So the pocket ends up in the middle of the changing pad, which makes it difficult if my friend wants to put something in and then roll it up.  Difficult, but not impossible, so it's still functional.  I had issues quilting along side the pocket and attaching the handles, but eventually, it was finished.

The handles are only attached for three inches on each side, so they can fold up as well.  They are quilted around a slender piece of backing.

It's one big sandwich of cotton fabric, two layers of incredibly soft batting (because babies need cushions), and then the fatigues.  

The cotton fabric is adorable, though, and I think the quilting makes it a bit stronger.  I pre-washed everything so it should last through many washings!

Let's talk about the "Military Monster Tote" now.

First off, it's larger than my sewing machine once completed.

It has military belts made out of webbing for the handles.  This was surprisingly easy to sew through, though the stitches are a bit crooked in places (mostly due to wearing sunglasses while making it and not being able to see everything clearly, but still wanting to see when it was finished, youknowwhatI'msayin?)

The bag has eleven pockets of various sizes.  I managed to include two of the breast pockets on the outside panels.  Now she'll have two pockets with closures to go with the larger padded pockets in the centers of each panel.

A close up of the webbed belts (from an Army Surplus store here in Chicago) and awesome Hawaiian fabric she sent me.  You can see the large center pocket here.

Peeking inside.  I loved combining the heavy black cotton with the tan/pink/black linen - I thought they looked marvelous together.

I had to make a hard bottom insert for the bag, so I used some plastic canvas and covered it in the black cotton.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It snuggles right in that open spot between all the pockets.  Seven pockets on the inside, including a shallow zipper pocket in the lining.  BOOM!  Storage queen!

Besides learning how to put zippered pockets in linings, I also learned how to do bag shaping darts.  These turned out exceptionally well, considering the bulk of the fabric plus the batting between the fatigues and lining.

It's an incredibly sturdy bag, but wow, did my machine hate sewing it.  The thickness of all the layers, plus the zippers and seams ... I didn't know if it was going to happen.   I hope she likes it - I think the design is really lovely with all of the colors, and if for some reason she wants to go out without the camouflage  or have an accessory to match the diaper bag:

I made her a wristlet with some delicious peacock fabric for the lining.

Total time for all three items: 13 hours.  Eight hours spent on the diaper bag alone.  

I was glad for the experience of learning how to sew with fatigues, as well as learning zipper pockets in linings and bag shaping darts, but would I make this again?  No.  I don't think my machine could handle it.  I oiled her and talked sweet to her but I think she is FURIOUS with me now.  This project also gave me great perspective on sewing with denim ...

and that I should possibly invest in clear goggles instead of sunglasses.

Friends, have you ever made a diaper bag?  Or do you have another gift that you love making for friends and family who are expecting?



  1. UGH x20. But, for what it's worth, the changing pad/diaper bag turned out beautifully! I hope your friend loves them!

  2. wow, way to persevere! You are such a sweet friend. I'm still trying to work up the motivation to finish some scrub tops for my friend who is a nurse--she bought all the fabric, and it's been nearly a year. the embarrassment of not finishing in a timely manner is becoming good motivation... :( I'd love to see a pic of you sewing in the sunglasses, teehee ;)

  3. I can't believe there is a whole book devoted to reusing military uniforms. But there is and you used it and what you've turned out is amazing! I'm sure your friend will love them and being made by you will make them even more special. I'm glad you kept your eyes too, they're very helpful things.

  4. Im so impressed by your hard work.. u are such great friend

  5. Why, why, WHY is there no photo of you sewing whilst wearing your freebie sunglasses? Sob! What an image! Great work, though - I am very impressed.

  6. Good job! I'm still afraid to make bags...

  7. Methinks YOU are the Rock Star, Miss Megtastic! That is some serious combat sewing, that is! Good on you for the sunglasses, though I would definitely love to see a pic of you wearing them in action. Booyah! LOL!

    I used to make diaper bags all the time. Oilcloth lining is what I love - it wipes clean, doesn't stain, and doesn't fade. Happy!

  8. It turned out great! Even if your sewing machine doesn't agree.

    I've never made a diaper bag, and probably wouldn't unless it was for myself, since everyone likes different features. My baby gift for the last couple of pregnant friends has been geeky bibs--I did Lord of the Rings bibs for one friend, and Star Wars bibs for another! Whatever the mom is into. :)

  9. Wow -- I knew fatigues were tough, but I didn't think they'd fight back against a sewing machine.

    For baby gifts, I tend to do clothes or quilts - in the midst of one right now actually.

  10. My next project is going to be baby related for an expecting friend. I'm thinking little booties and a bib. Hopefully my machine won't put up a fight!

  11. I was in the military but never hear about that book. Maybe that is why there is so many army wife's who use ACU stuff. I was wondering if it was just because their husbands do it. I do feel you in the part of knowing as a fact that ACU uniforms have very hard sewing edges, pockets and everything. After my first deployment I got pregnant and when i got my baby i got so depressed with my body weight that i decide i would buy only one medium regular uniform and i wont buy any other one. because i was wanting to exercise and get back to my regular size (small regular)I wear that uniform every day for an entire year!!! wash it and dry it every day!!! I still have that set of pant and top. Thank God i don't wear it anymore but there is no broken parts on that uniform. I have an entire box of them in my house. Thanks for sharing your ideas

  12. Your future's so bright, you gotta wear shades.....!

    Ugh, sewing through multiple layers of thick-as fabric. So not fun! The end product looks fab, though, so yay for you for persevering!

  13. I'm glad I know no one expecting because I soooo would not be making one of these, especially after reading this post. How hilarious though, and it came out totally awesome. (I'm resisting using a word I'd never use, "totes" even though there's the obvious pun...) Seriously, I'm really impressed even with all the problems you had with your machine. Give her a glass of wine and a nice rub down with, um, sewing machine oil?

  14. Sounds like "extreme sewing" to me! Your makes turned out awesome. In the future if you want to make a quick and easy project, bibs and burp cloths are the way to go: they are square(ish) and you can make a ton assembly line style. I'm sure your friend will appreciate the time invested on this lovely gift.

  15. Oh you totally passed Major Cuteness and gone on to Colonel cuteness or brigadier get the idea. Love them!

  16. Oh my god, I totally feel for you!! Those layers are a damn fine pain in the rear! I've made myself a nappy bag and changing mat, I must get around to blogging about it. If there is a next time I recomend laminated cotton or oilcloth sooooooo much easier :)

  17. My goodness! Sounds you and your machine have been through the wars! The outcomes are fantastic, I'm sure your friend will be over the moon. I loved the mental image I had of you sewing in free sunglasses!

    Zoe xxx

  18. I am the friend who got the goodies. OMG I am in love!!!! All of the ladies on the street were jealous. The bags are amazing and the changing pad is too adorable. Thank you thank you thank you