Monday, June 02, 2014

My Bionic Gear Bag - Pattern Review (long and pic heavy)

The Completed Bionic Gear Bag
 Well I finally finished my Bionic Gear Bag.  What can I say?  I laughed, I cried...

This pattern makes a very cute bag and overall I am happy with it.  On the other hand I did run into some hiccups and perhaps my timing could have been better with purchasing this pattern.  The Bionic Gear Bag was designed by Sally AKA Ripstitcher.  She had purchased a similar pattern from Craftsy, made it, reviewed it on her blog, designed her own version that met her needs better, and put it up for sale on Craftsy.  The internets went crazy and major drama ensued.

Now I will be honest and say that the first pattern caught my eye in the first place because I saw Sally's review of it.  When I then saw the design Sally came up with I thought it would better suit my needs, so I bought it.  Unfortunately when I bought it the drama was at its height and even though there was email communication from Sally about appreciating my support with buying the pattern, I didn't get a response to emails asking for specifics regarding the pattern.  In other words,  pattern support.  I'm all for supporting indie designers, but one of the reasons I (perhaps naively) believe you fork out $12 for an indie pattern for a bag is so that you can get clarification from the designer.  In theory there is supposed to be a sew-along on the bag's website but it seems to be more of a gallery of completed bags.  Beautiful bags, but not really a format for a forum discussion.  There is also a tutorials page, but again to date there is only one tutorial about patching together the outside skin if you choose not to cut it out of a solid piece of fabric.

It really wasn't that complicated, and I consider myself an intermediate sewer, but I could have used some direction.  The pattern states "I made a very kick-butt (if I do say so myself!) series of videos on this section… just go hit up and look for the series of Lining Assembly Piece B - 1st Zipper."  It also includes a password to access the videos.  Well, as of the date of this review (and I bought the pattern a month ago) the only video on that page is the demo one that shows the completed bag and what she has in it.  There is no place I can find to enter the password to get more information.  And when I sent my first "help" email asking for a link to the videos I got crickets.  I understand that she has been heavily involved in the above mentioned drama, and perhaps has not been as attentive to getting the website up and running.  But she later send me an email asking me (presumably as part of her mailing list) to forward her Craftsy information to all my sewing friends for them to buy her pattern.  I thought "oh good she's back" and sent a second "help" email as as reply to her marketing email (so presumably it didn't get lost in cyberspace) with a basic question about whether the batting needed to be quilted.  I am not a quilter and there is no reference to quilting in the pattern even though she suggests batting for lining the outer portion of the bag.  So should I learn some quilting techniques before assembling the final skin?  After two more days of crickets I gave up waiting for a reply and assembled it unquilted.  Looking at the finished bag I think some quilting would have offered some support and structure to the bag.  If I do make another one I will either quilt it or use a firm interfacing instead of batting.  She alludes that adding the binding may be second nature to a quilter, but it is definitely done differently to a neckline binding where the binding is opened up, sewn down, folded over, raw edges tucked under and then sewn again.  In other words the type of bindings I have experience with.  And the specifics weren't included in the pattern.  Hence more seam ripping on my part.  Again, more explicit instructions would be helpful.  You can't assume that the customer has any prior experience with a particular technique such as quilt binding vs garment binding and should spell everything out.

This probably sounds like a lot of whining about a lack of hand-holding.  Others are posting positive reviews so what's my problem, right?  Well I am a visual learner.  I am a Tool & Die Maker by trade and I am used to working with blueprints.  The pattern includes some pics but to be honest it is not always easy to see the details I am looking for in a pic.  Perhaps I am too much of a perfectionist, because I am used to working within such close tolerances, but taking the time to draw out some diagrams would have been SO helpful.  There is only one pattern piece included in the pattern and the rest are given as dimensions.  I would like a visual to see seam lines, for example.  I had to tear apart the sides and redo them because I found the instructions wishy-washy at this point.  You are to put a pin in the zipper at a specific point that happens to be about 3/4" from the raw edge, and then sew your 1/4" seam to the left of that.   The seam allowance stated has no correlation to the point on the zipper that you are supposed to enclose, and therefore this part of the instructions didn't make much sense to me.  So what is the priority - where you encase the zipper or the 1/4" seam allowance?  Again, maybe that's just me, but I think a scale diagram or drawing would have been MOST helpful at this point.  Or perhaps one of the MIA videos.  This could also explain why I ended up with a 10" wide bag when the description says it is 9 1/4" wide.  Where did the extra 3/4" go?  (For what it's worth I was METICULOUS with my measurements when cutting out)  Not that the finished size difference matters to me, but either I'm missing something or the math in the pattern isn't adding up.

I realize that these points are all minor to the completed project, but they did add to a whole lot of frustration for me when you don't know how important a particular dimension is to the success of a completed project the first time you make it.  And, at $12, you shouldn't have to make a "trial" version of a project to figure it out.  I finally gave up on following the directions and just flew by the seat of my pants, which is why my main zipper is not bound the same as the original pattern.  As she mentions several times throughout the pattern, this was supposed to be fun!

So now that I've got that out of my system, I do have to say that the completed bag is well designed for what it is supposed to do.  I hope that as the drama becomes a thing of the past that Sally is able to get the website up to where I think she wants it so that support is there for those looking for it.  This will be a really good project once she fine-tunes the pattern.  I do think it is labeled as being easier than it is with a 2/5 easy rating, at least with the current instructions.  I couldn't imagine being a beginner sewer trying to make this bag without additional support or diagrams.  And as an aside I first learned to sew 44 years ago.

I heart my new labels, courtesy of Phoebe

The completed interior

The wide middle section holds my Pfaff bobbin and foot tray and my magnetic pin cannister

Fully loaded and ready for action!

Can you spot the most important accessory in the room?


Esther said...

Hello, I totally agree with your post and review of the BGB. I actually did make a mock up of this bag, and am glad I did because I made several mistakes on that one. My "real" bag is nice, but there are still a few ripples in it, but overall I am pleased. I like to think of myself as an accomplished seamstress, but this one had me scratching my head a few times.

Anonymous said...

Although the videos are now available and were somewhat useful, have found the pattern chaotic. My bag has turned out beautifully and is very useful. As someone who writes lesson instructions and training manuals for a living, I think for the price the pattern could have been much more structured without all the chatty portions. I found it very hard going to read and understand and I will be editing my copy to get it back to bare bones instructions.

Rochelle @ eSheep Designs said...

Thank you for writing this detailed review. Unfortunately, I was thinking pretty much the same thing when I first opened up the PDF and had a brief read-through. Right now I am only at the point of selecting my fabric, but I find myself searching the internet for others who have "gone before" so that I can gain the benefits of their experience. Not exactly what I thought I'd have to do with a pattern at that price.

Zouli said...

I too have purchased the pattern and am now in the process of desperately seeking some other tutorial. I love the bag and it will be awesome for me to stow my sewing gear in. (currently using ziplock bags). The down side is that I am fairly new to sewing and while I have had great success with several other online tutorials to sew a skirt and scarf and some home decor.. this bag has me frustrated. The instructions are like a chat session. I am a visual learner as well and I need step by step images to check my work against. *sigh..Your points in your review are valid and insightful and I'm so glad I stumbled in here to see that ok I'm not the only one :)

sindy said...

Drama is long time past and I still get no "customer support".
Bag idea is great. I too will write my own concise detailed directions for the next go round. I guess the idea of the chattiness is that it is to be a personal conversation .... actually it interferes with the instruction. Several times it is alluded to trimming the width to 9.25". I never could find where it actually said to do that and mine too is 10" wide. Just before the sides are added it says trim the seam but that is after a 1/8th" stitching line has been done. Trimming would remove that ..... what would that accomplish? I recommend the pattern be given to several sewers to rewrite into a concise usable form. Excited about the bag but disappointed with the process thus far.

Emlyellen said...

I have searched high and low to find someone that is making and selling these but there is no one! I guess the supplies and time are not cost effective but if ever anyone sells them I will be the first in line.

Julie Vanderhoek said...

I am surprised that with all of the photos and step-by-step instructions that any of you had any issues with this pattern! I occasionally had to just sit and think of what would happen when I did "whatever" but that is because I had a preconceived notion about how things "should" go. This is only because I have used some really crappy patterns in the past; this is not one of these! You need to wrap your mind around each step, RipStitcher has everything laid out perfectly already. Take it as she write/shows it and highlight the important bits as you go. The designers get no instant notifications, by the way, if someone asks a question and you are buried down fifteen comments below. Why not just email her with the question; her address and phone number is right there!

Jacqui said...

You need to wrap your mind around each step, RipStitcher has everything laid out perfectly already. Take it as she write/shows it and highlight the important bits as you go.

Julie I am happy that this worked for you, but this was not my experience, and based on comments left here by others I am clearly not alone in that. I don't have an axe to grind with Ripstitcher, I have no horse in the race over the bag wars, I simply wrote about my own experience with the pattern on my small personal blog (rather than posting it on the Craftsy page). The fact that others were even able to find this review and then post of their own experience with the pattern certainly says something.

Why not just email her with the question; her address and phone number is right there!

As I wrote in my review above, I did email Ripstitcher - several times - with no response. As far as calling, I shouldn't have to make an international call for support, especially when an email address is posted.

My review is intended as constructive criticism and I would hope that Ripstitcher would take it in that light and possibly make some changes to the pattern and website.

a frog named purl said...

I've just purchased this pattern, months after your post, and i had the same experience with the site. The videos are still not available on the site. I couldn't find anywhere to input that password either.

I appreciate the pattern writer's intention when making the instructions more of a conversation but it really wasn't successful. The chatter hides the instructions and many things are repeated within those 82 pages. (my version came with two patterns/pattern pieces to print.)

As you can see, I too am googling away for other experiences with this pattern. It's confusing! I recently purchased a bra pattern having never ever made a bra before. The bra pattern came with all of 3 pages of instructions and have more detail and diagrams than this bag. And that is an advanced pattern.

I knew nothing of this BGB or the Sew Together bag until a few days ago so, I have no vested interest in the drama between the designers. I chose to purchase the BGB o ver the STB because the dimensions and extra pouch seem to fit my needs better. I just hope I get this thing together without too much more headache.

Thanks for your post!

superspryte said...

Been reading about this pattern for a bit and after so many are confused, I'm finding myself staring at photos trying to figure out the construction. There's no way I'm spending $12 to need to coax meaning from a pattern.

It's too bad, it looks like a nice bag.

Anonymous said...

I love the concept of the bag, I bought the pattern and then have taken 8+ hours to format it and re-write it so I can make sense of it..

Repeatedly throughout the pattern there are do x... then a paragraph later.. before you "do x" do this.. the I love the concept and I love the bag, however the pattern does need work

Zouli Pious said...

She is still not responding to emails requesting help. She is in fact very active on Instagram sharing all the expensive goodies she purchases. She thanks everyone for their support (money) yet she doesn't seem to give a moments thought to customers who are having problems. Great bag. Crappy support.

Ali w said...

Hi. Today is 31 March 2015, so a while after your blog post. I made this bag at the weekend. I enjoyed the chatty nature of her pattern but at the same time I found that I lost the detail and the instruction through that chattiness. So if I had a choice I would like bang-bang-bang instructions and then a chatty cover note if you like. My bag also finished at 10" and I too didn't find where the trimming instructions actually were even though they were referred to at the beginning. I also found the "left of the zipper" 1/4" comments a bit hard to understand and broke 2 needles trying to do as she said without exceeding the 1/4" seam she had also said was very important. The side panels did not indicate to cut one in one direction and one in the other, but luckily I spotted that before cutting! I am very pleased with my bag and will no doubt make this again. I think Sally has designed a very useful item and frankly I don't care about the hoo-ha as everything is a regurgitation of something that went before - it is the cycle of life! It took me 8 hours to make this bag, including removing and resewing the sides panels which I managed to sew on upside down the first time! I am an intermediate sewist with not a lot of 3d object experience but lots of patience and willingness to take it slow and learn. I too would have rated this a 4/5 for difficulty, not least as man-handling the side panels to the pockets was bloody tricky!

CJ said...

I think the bag is awesome. The pattern? It's awful. The author and I apparantly speak different languages.

alstuff said...

I think the bag design is genius. The instructions not so much. I spent an afternoon rewriting the instructions to make them more understandable. Luckily, this evening I took another look at Sally's web site and found a series of tutorial videos that are great.
Now I know how it is all supposed to go together, step by step, and I feel confident I can sew the bag without undue frustration.
I am even looking forward to it. 😊

So I encourage folks to check out the tutorials on her web blog.

alstuff said...

My apologies, it seems the great tutorial I was referring to was on this blog:

And NOt on Sally's site.


Jacqui said...

Thanks for clarifying that, Alstuff. After reading your first comment I went back to Sally's site and still couldn't find a series of "kickass" videos lol. Thanks for sharing the link to the sew-along.

Janet Ollman Blackmer said...

I'm so grateful to read all your posts, ladies! I, too, am an accomplished seamstress/quilter (for 55+ years!) and had a very hard time with this pattern. I'm still in the middle of constructing it. I have the pattern instructions always before me on my iPad, where I can see the actual pattern and a series of videos that a gal from Australia posted. Those videos are, to me, a lot more helpful than the actual pattern. Ripstitcher seems to be a bit scattered in her approach to writing. I thought it was just me, but realize now that the instructions truly could be improved. Nevertheless, I am forging on, and like many of you, am re-writing and simplifying the instructions to be instructional, not chatty. I'd like to make more, but it's got to be a LOT easier next time or I won't. Ripstitcher probably got involved with another project and isn't interested in posting other videos. The only two I've found so far are the original "show and tell about the bag" and the one showing how to install a zipper. I wish, too, that she'd use the same bag (with the same fabric) for each video or picture for less confusion. I've started taking pictures of what I'm sewing for my own "picture book".

Maggie said...

I'm about to make one of these. 82 pages of directions! But nowhere can I find its finished dimensions when closed--I'm using multiple fabrics for the exterior panel and don't know how large the bottom of the triangle when closed. Do you know? Thanks!

Jacqui said...

Maggie I think mine is approximately 4 1/2" across at the base of the triangle.

Maggie said...

Thanks so much Jacqui!!

Sakina said...

Thank you for this post! I thought it was just me struggling with the inconsistencies and lack of diagrams.

Frances said...

I am so lost with this pattern. Can anyone tell me how to test to see if my printer is printing the correct size? Bag looks amazing! I'm trying to forge ahead but I don't see it working out. Can some one post the size of the only pattern piece, I have searched everywhere for it.
Thank you in advance.

Jacqui said...

Frances when you print the pattern piece make sure you go to your print properties and click on "actual size". This will print the page as it was uploaded rather than adjusting to whatever paper size or printer you are using.

On my printout of this the second piece on the page (with the triangle on the right) measures 6 1/2" wide x 4 5/8" high.

Hope that helps :)

Handmade Whimzy said...

My guild just had a workshop on Saturday to make this bag. Our teacher (one of our members) was great. SHe had made it several times and had the steps memorized.
However, I hate this pattern. The hoopla when Sally released it was because she copied the Sew Together Bag by Sew Demented and just made it bigger and changed some stuff. That pattern was also written very poorly. So neither one of these ladies has any clue how to write a pattern so that it makes sense. The bags though, are great.

I'm wondering if I can rewrite the patterns so that they make sense and post them on my blog for reference = I would not charge for the patterns as they are copyrighted. I'm going to look into doing that though.

Crafty Girl said...

I was considering getting this pattern after watching the Birdcage and Thread videos. Unfortunately, they were removed because of questionable business practices, so she was no longer willing to help us poor souls out. I like the layout, but cannot justify the high price of a pattern that has not been updated in response to all the complaints.

I have since seen a Spanish woman who created her own, and a similar pattern offered in German with a great tutorial. Ultimately, I will probably purchase it, but I hate knowing that I am giving Ripstitcher money for a pattern that I will struggle with.

What to do, what to do!

Anonymous said...

I was really fed up when using this pattern as I really didn't pay all that money to hear all about Ripstitcher's life. I mean, come on 82 pages for one bag! The directions were absolutely awful with extremely poor quality photos and very haphazard and muddled instructions. As for the sewing rating being 2/5 well all I can say is I'm a really experienced sewer and quilter and I teach both , but I had great difficulty following her instructions. I managed by my experience to work out the pattern and also looked at the great videos that were done by Sandie P on you tube for free. Thank goodness I did that as I would not have managed to do the bag without them. The idea seems to be a bit of a rip off of a previous pattern with just the dumpling dish and a front tray being different. As for Ripstitcher and her after sales support this was non existent despite my contacting her and asking for advice three times. I received no reply to any of my emails. Frankly I think this person has just taken the money and not provided the support that was needed. I will never buy another of her patterns again as simply not worth my very valuable time. Yes the bag I made is great but it took too long due to the poor instructions. My opinion is that it was very expensive for very little effort on the part of Ripsticher. I'm only surprised her trade name isn't Rip off as I felt I had been!

S said...

I am so thankful for this review and all the comments. The inadequate instruction is the thing holding me back from purchasing the pattern.

It is actually not a trivial matter and not only can it be very annoying, but it really results in a lot of time and material wastage, and the sewer learns nothing new, except for how to be a frustrated and confused sewer. Not to mention the price is like rubbing salt in the wounds!

I have previously purchased that Sewing Needle Organizer pattern (can't remember the correct name) from the same seller and I was also disappointed with the instructions. VERY chatty ... which would be okay if the actual instructions part of it was clear.

If anyone is willing to share their re-written instructions, or tips, to a new-ish sewer, it will be greatly appreciated. I can even verify that I made the purchase if that would help.


S said...

I should add, just to put things into context, even though I am a fairly new sewer by comparison to others, there are several sewers in my family, I've used machine in my childhood for basic things, I pick things up very quickly, I am good with my hands, I can usually visualize where things are leading, and I pay attention to details. SO I feel that when things are confusing, they're really confusing.

Anonymous said...

Another blogger noted this bag was made and posted in 2010 by a lady in Russia? But the cutting instructions she shared are from China or Thailand or somewhere that make their words in blocks. How many years ago was the project really created? You can see it right? So, the drama actually has little to do with the pattern and more about RipStitchers business practices...of conning people out of their money with VIP memberships, Workshops (she doesn't know how to sew) no pattern support (she doesn't know how to write a pattern, zipper buys (she spent the money and never paid the supplier), more zipper buys, more thread buys, now selling the free Retreat Bag in tiny version and internal frames claiming her son is cutting and bending them in real steel after the aluminum fiasco, but likely just buying them from shop dot factoryguy dot com