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Summer Vacation

I took the summer off. Not sure exactly why, except that I couldn't find the perfect gusset.

That might be the strangest summer vacation story I ever heard, and I haven't even told it yet. But bear with me.

In case you didn't know, the gusset is the strip of material that gives a bag width. See Google for more on this. Making a really nice bag means sewing around the curve in three dimensions. That's hard to do, so most videos today demonstrate box corners, which make the bag round with a kind of rectangular bottom.

Box corners are weird to me for several reasons. First, you get these floating, short seams at the bottom. Second, these short seams are hard to sew straight and even, so they often look seriously homemade. Third, the top and bottom of the bag aren't the same shape, so there's some difference in how the bag feels – and carries – from bottom to top.

But mainly, I don't like it because it feels like a cheat. I know some people like these kind of bags, and I know a lot of people make them, successfully, and sell lots of them. It just makes me uncomfortable.

So I postponed a few commitments to fiddle around with the real gusset. I tried box corners, straight stitching, and several other geometries, but I haven't been satisfied. I think the rounded gusset is going to be the one for me, but with some additional learning.

First, my cutting and stitching needs to be more precise, especially on the gussets. I should probably draw some washable pencil lines to help me here.

Second, I've learned how to sew the inside and outside of a bag together so that there are no exposed seams. Your only topseam will be in the bottom inside of the bag. Even if you have a strap. Even if you have a zipper.

Third, I've improved my tools and techniques quite a bit, mostly through the practice. I have a cutting table with built-in measurement grid; a much better arrangement of cutting table, ironing board, and sewing machine stand; and I'm beginning to develop some standard sizes and cutting techniques.

I guess the short version is I'm developing "soft hands" when it comes to sewing purses and bags. Not bad for a summer vacation.

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