This post is a love letter to my darling Stella Weekender bag. Ahem:
Dear Stella Weekender,
Oh beautiful Stella. My heart swells with pride whenever I carry you around and someone gasps and says “You made that?!” You were a labor of love and also of last-minute madness and also I probably shouldn’t have tried to make you in such a hurried fashion, but I just couldn’t help it. Once the idea took me that I needed to sew up a Stella, I was a girl possessed. I had to have you for my British Isles trip, so I slaved like a fiend to finish you in time. There were many hurdles, and many late nights spent in anguish, but I believe you were worth it. You saucy minx.
Your devoted admirer,
Ha. But in all seriousness, the story of me+Stella is pretty crazy. A few months back, the husband and I went on the coolest trip ever to Ireland, Scotland, and England. It was our first big trip in a few years, on account of the babies we keep having, and we were both really excited to go. Since the only bags I own are diaper bags that have eternal crumbs and dum dum sucker sticks plastered to the insides, I got the idea to make myself a cute bag for my carry-on and to tote around Britannia.
Enter Stella Weekender. This pattern is by Swoon patterns and it’s PERFECTION. Such a well-written pattern, so beautifully designed, and all-around gloriousness in a bag. It’s rated as an intermediate/advanced pattern (3/4 on their scale) and I would agree with that. They specifically state that it’s not difficult, but time consuming. So of course deciding to make it a week before our departure on an international trip sounded like a great idea at the time. Spoiler alert: it was not. Not a great idea. Did I mention it’s the first bag or purse I’ve ever sewn? Because it was. Really bit off a lot to chew with this one.
I ran into hurdle after hurdle making this bag. Accidentally printed the 30+ page pattern full color at a shop which cost me a fortune? Check. Bought the wrong zippers? Check. Bought the wrong snaps? Check. Ran all freaking over town looking for the right hardware? Check. Tried to take a shortcut and use half the required number of snaps, then having to unpick and resew the ENTIRE front panel when I realized that half the number of snaps was, gasp, not enough? Check. Lived in a constant state of fear that I was ruining two of my very favorite and long-hoarded fabrics? Check. Sewed the main compartment zipper incorrectly (the very last step, the NIGHT before our flight) so the zipper wouldn’t close and fear that the whole bag was useless? Check.
Never mind that I had other things I should have been doing, you know, like packing and caring for my children. I became a girl possessed and had to finish this bag. Lots of unpicking. Lots of self loathing.
Had I not been under such a terrible (self-inflicted) time constraint, this really wouldn’t have been a bad project at all. It was really satisfying to follow each step and see little by little how it came together into an awesome and totally professional looking bag. If you are smarter and less insane than I am, you can sew this bag like a champ. Order your hardware online, or collect things here and there, and you’ll be just fine. It seems intimidating, but it’s just a lot of steps, a lot of pattern pieces, and a LOT of interfacing. But just follow each step one at a time and you’ll be fine.
The Stella Weekender is a BIG bag. It was great for the long flight and the hours in the car. (We flew to Dublin, rented a car, drove to the Irish countryside, back to Dublin, flew to Scotland, rented another car, drove all around England. IT WAS AMAZING.) My cardi, a book, my knitting project, wallet, passport, huge stash of British sweets (Cadbury, yo. Also rhubarb and custards.) and then some all fit in my bag. It has an interior pocket that I actually split into two to keep it from being floppy, two side pockets (that fit a water bottle!), and the exterior zipper compartment and two snapped pockets you see on the front panel. There’s also a pocket on the back.
The only problem was that once I had it all packed it was far too heavy to cart around all day. We did a ton of walking and lots of places like museums won’t let you take big bags in anyway, so I mostly left it in the car and took nothing with me. As a longtime lover of carrying all my stuff with me like Mary Poppins, this made me feel a little sad, but there’s no way I could’ve lugged it all over. I really wanted pictures of it with famous British landmarks too, so it’s a shame I didn’t get any. That’s probably the most insane sentence ever typed. The day and age we live in, amiright?
That being said, it’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. I used my tiger canvas from Cotton and Steel’s very first collection (squirreled away in my stash for years) and decided to pair it with some Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs canvas for contrast. If you cut my heart open to see what fabric combination was inside, it would be this one. That makes no sense, except for it does. These two fabrics are true love. For the lining I used this hounds tooth quilting cotton I’ve had forever. Happily there were leftovers to make a zipper pouch from the floral (pictured above) and this rad toiletry bag from the tigers. I roughly followed this tutorial to make the boxy pouch. I made it bigger though so I could fit all my crap.
Now I use my Stella Weekender as my traveling sewing bag, and it’s perfect for that. Fits fabric, a pattern or two, my smaller rulers, scissors, pin cushion, snacks (not as much Cadbury to be had here, alas) and more. I thought about using it as my new diaper bag, but I just can’t bear to subject it to such a disgusting and sticky fate.But I’d consider making a second one as a diaper bag, should I ever need a new one. (Will I have another babe? Depends on the day. And who you ask.) Anyway, that’s another topic for another time.
In conclusion, I really love my Stella Weekender bag. I’m absurdly proud of it, probably because making it was so stressful (again, MY fault!) that it probably took two years off my life. A real piece of my soul is in that bag. Like a horcrux. Except I didn’t murder anyone, promise. I want to make another bag soon; I purchased this pattern to try a smaller one, which I probably should have attempted BEFORE I did this larger and more complicated bag, but I always dive into projects with wanton abandon and foolish optimism. It usually kinda pays off.