I was very daunted at first- after perusing Craftster & other online reviews. Everywhere I read, it sounded as though the instructions were easy to follow- and yet the bag itself was incredibly difficult. Now just to explain, I consider myself to be an intermediate to advanced sewer- depending on the project… and I have a serious problem following normal patterns & directions (like Simplicity, McCall’s, etc), they just seem Greek to me.
Amy Butler’s directions were incredibly simple to follow- until I got to the section about the zipper, at which point I was just not “getting it” and after checking and rechecking the pictures on the pattern, material pieces, etc, I finally just did the zipper the way I would have done it on my own- and it worked out just perfectly. Perhaps her instructions were telling me something slightly different, but I guess I’ll never know.
As for making the bag itself- I didn’t have any trouble. Cutting out the roughly 80 bazillion pieces of fabric, fleece, interfacing, etc was extensive- so set aside a huge chunk of your time towards doing this. I also suggest reading and rereading the list of pieces needed ahead of time, as I got everything I needed traced & cut out before I noticed a little asterisk telling me that if using a 44’ piece of fabric, I would need twice as many interfacing pieces then I had cut- and because I hadn’t planned correctly to begin with, I didn’t have enough interfacing.
One other thing that was incredibly helpful was creating a pile for each different pattern piece, and pinning all the pieces together, labeling them “Front top panel” and so on. They all look pretty similar, and you end up with sometimes 8+ versions of each one so organizing from the beginning really pays off when you finally start sewing.Other then that- the two tips I found online that made my life easier were to get a denim needle (so my Janome Sew Precise had NO trouble getting through all the layers), and basting everything I possibly could before working with it. I almost never baste- considering it to be a colossal waste of time (and I’m frequently sorry I didn’t) but I think this project may have been impossible if I hadn’t- and I’m surprised the instructions don’t direct you to more often. So when in doubt, baste.
Also- the piping was a little difficult to sew into the bag. I put it on, then had to go back and sew again to make it tighter, then I had to go back a couple more times in different spots to make it even tighter. Luckily none of that shows- so it looks flawless from the outside- and I figure its just makes the whole thing stronger anyway. I didn’t find the bottom piece to be much more difficult then the rest- but if you are already frustrated with the piping and sewing through all the layers- you can probably skip the piping on the bottom just to make things easier. I’ve seen a number of people say that they did with no ill effects.
The piping itself was extra simple to make (my first time using piping ever)- because I didn't have quite as much of the striped fabric as I needed (and because I thought a contrast would be nice), I simply bought some wide bias tape, ironed it flat and then sewed it around the cording. I think this saved me a ton of time cutting all the bias strips from a normal piece of fabric and then sewing them all together. I definitely recommend this little shortcut.
My lining turned out a little bit wonky... its the same pattern as the outside- so I think next time I might shrink it down just a little for the lining, so it will fit more tightly instead. Right now its pretty baggy. Also- after using my prototype awhile, I've decided that in the future I will make the handles a bit longer... they're fairly short for a bag of this size.
The whole project took me about 8 hours (of concentrated work), there were no major problems or screw-ups to fix, and I think the results were WELL worth it. Just make sure it’s a fabric you LOVE- because its not worth doing with a mediocre design. I will certainly be making more in the near future. It is a beautiful bag.