|The Completed Bionic Gear Bag|
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 www.bionicgearbag.com/tutorials 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?|