I managed to finish my diaper bag this weekend with great success! I’m quite proud of this little (big!) bag. I love the way it sits on my shoulder and I just love those pretty pleats or gathers on the outside. So lovely! I’ve made this bag three times now but this was the first time I made any significant changes to the pattern. I thought I’d share the process just in case anyone else out there is trying to make Amy Butler’s Birdie Sling into a diaper bag. Even if you aren’t making this into a diaper bag, I recommend taking a look at the tutorials I’m going to link to as they are handy additions to the bag that I will incorporate from now on!
First of all, I follow Amy’s pattern pretty much to a T. The only changes I make (other than the additions I will mention next) are to the interfacing. My bag is made from two different fabrics – a piece from Heather Ross’ Far Far Away 2 line (which is heavier weight than regular quilting cotton) and a heavier weight natural cotton canvas. I decided that I’d like my bag to be a little “floppy” so I only interfaced the canvas pieces and left the Heather Ross fabric alone. I only used mid-weight fusible interfacing and I skipped the fusible fleece (used it in my first attempt at this bag and didn’t notice that it made a huge difference).
I knew I wanted different pockets than the original bag called for. I’ve made one other diaper bag in the past for a friend and felt that the pockets in that bag worked out really well. I followed the instructions in this tutorial from Sew4Home (a great website by the way!) to make my pockets. Here’s my process: I took a big piece of Freezer Paper (tracing paper would work just as well) and put it over top of the interior bag pattern piece. Then I drew out how big I wanted my pockets. NOTE – since you will be gusseting the sides of the bag you can’t have your pockets go all the way to the bottom. I left about 2.5″ at the bottom of the bag pocket free and it seemed to work for me! For one side I wanted big gathered pockets, so I added 3″ on either side plus a little bit for seam allowance (probably ended up to 3.5″ on either side). For the other side I wanted shallower pockets which would be reinforced by an elastic top, so I just used the width of the bag and added a little bit extra on either side for seam allowance – just like it shows in the tutorial I linked to.
Keep in mind that you will be folding over the top of each of these pockets to create a spot for the elastic to go. Also you will be fold over the bottom of the pocket to create a finished edge.
To make the pockets I first sewed the elastic casing on top and then sewed a hem on the bottom edge. Follow the instructions in the tutorial I linked to above (you have to scroll down a bit on the page). Again, remember not to place your pockets at the bottom of the bag otherwise they’ll get caught up in your gussets. I sewed down the sides of the pockets in both cases just in case my seam allowance didn’t catch all the edges (it did in the end).
Do this in place of Step 4 in Amy’s instructions.
I really wanted a place to store my wallet, phone, lip balm etc. so they weren’t rolling around the bottom of the bag under diapers and wipes. I made two zippered pockets in the lining and I have to say I am totally incorporating these into EVERY bag I make from now on. The steps may seem a little confusing but once you go through them once, it’s so easy! I followed the instructions exactly as outlined on SewMamaSew, I simply used a 9″ zipper rather than a 7″ zipper and made my measurements to fit. I thought this would be a great way to use some fun fabrics inside my bag since I used the natural canvas (I like light colours for bag interiors because it’s so much easier to find your stuff). I’m fine with the fact that you can see a bit of the fabric poking out in the interior of the bag. I’m not sure how one would avoid this in the future.
Do this after you sew on your pockets (whether it’s the pockets that I talked about above or the pockets that Amy has in her instructions).
Adding a magnetic closure
This is one thing the bag is really missing – a closure of some kind. I knew I wanted something I could open quickly and easily, so a zipper was totally out. Magnetic snaps seemed to be the next best bet and this tutorial really helped me get secure snaps. Make sure you do this before attaching the bands to the interior lining pieces.
Adding a swivel hook
I wanted somewhere I could attach my keys or perhaps even a pacifier so I could find it easily. Enter the swivel hook. This was probably the easiest addition. I simply made a small fabric loop out of the exterior fabric and sandwiched it between the band and the interior lining pieces when sewing on the band. If you need to see instructions, the diaper bag tutorial I linked to previously has this as part of their bag too.
Tips and Tricks
I always find hand sewing closed openings after you turn a project right side around is the trickiest part and for me, usually looks the least professional. Well I will complain no more because this tutorial over at Taffy Talk is so genius and really makes for an invisible seam! I recommend using the technique she shows to close up the bottom of your bag.
In Step 10, part F you are supposed to “stitch in the ditch” between your exterior band and the main bag part. I can never seem to keep my stitches in the ditch, so I opt not to do it and instead do another edge stitch right around the bottom part of the band. That way the stitches show all the way around (which is just fine by me!) rather than the occasional rogue stitch that came out of the ditch.
I’m really excited and proud of this bag. If you don’t have Amy Butler’s Birdie Sling pattern, I highly recommend it. My first sewing project since middle school was actually this bag for my sister’s birthday a few years ago. It’s that easy to make. Keep in mind that this bag is BIG. If you want to downsize it just google “downsized Amy Butler Bag” and you will find lots of tutorials on how to do it. I personally like the size of this bag and have never attempted it smaller. If you do, let me know!
Next on the “to do” list is to make a changing mat to go in this bag. Stay tuned!
But before I go, one more shot of those pretty pleats that just MAKE the bag: