Follow us


February 21, 2018 by
Casey Unrein

Sewists and makers come in a wide variety of skill levels and each brings a different set of experiences to the sewing table. For this week’s blog, we wanted to interview a first-time sewist, Alicia, to see her perspective on making a ByAnnie bag. Alicia is Annie’s sister, and works at the ByAnnie warehouse.

QWho is the bag for?

A: I made this bag as a graduation gift for my daughter. She just finished her master’s degree, and I’m so proud of her! I wanted to make something special to celebrate that great accomplishment.

QWhy did you make this particular bag?

A: I knew she’d really like this style of bag and could get a lot of use out of it. I also chose it because of the name. Not many people know that the “MJ” in the MJ’s Messenger Bag is actually named after my mother-in-law, Mary Jane. MJ was a librarian, and always carried books around with her, and enjoyed writing a lot of letters. I thought my daughter would like having a bag that was designed with her grandmother in mind.

QWhat is your daughter planning on using the bag for?

A: She’s an occupational therapist and will use it to carry notebooks for charting and information to be used on the job.

QHow did you choose the fabric for this bag?

A: I actually let my daughter choose the fabric! I sent her pictures of different designs, and she liked this one the best. She loves the owls.

Featured fabric: Folkwood by Rae Ritchie for Dear Stella

QHow was your experience as a first time sewist?

A: The experience was great. I was a little nervous at first, but I’ll admit it helped having my sister, Annie, there to help with cutting the pieces out and to guide me along the way

QWhat were your initial thoughts going into the project and how did those opinions change once you were finished?

A: My initial thoughts were, “I can’t sew – I don’t like to sew!” But, tackling this project gave me a lot of confidence, and I learned I can sew, and I actually liked it!

QWhat was your favorite part of the process?

A: It was a lot of fun seeing the bag come together as I went along. It felt good to create something from scratch. The best part though, was getting to make something special for someone I love.

QWhat parts did you think were easy, and what parts did you need help with?

A: With not a lot of experience with sewing, I liked that the instructions were easy to follow, and it was nice to see pictures and diagrams to show me what needed to be done. I thought the general sewing was easy and fun to do. The hardest part was sewing the binding, because the layers were thick. I just took my time through those parts, and it turned out okay.

QDo you have any advice for other beginners?

A: I actually have three things 1. Go slow, re-read the pattern as often as you have to, take your time and just have fun! 2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re lucky enough to know a more experienced sewist, see if they have any advice to give you before you start or ask them to help with the trickier parts. If you don’t, try taking a class or get some tips from people at your local quilt shop. 3. Make sure you have the right tools for the job! Things like wonder clips or a stiletto were so helpful, and I couldn’t have imagined creating the straps without the wide bodkin or the quick turn tool. It’s little things like that, that will make it much easier!

QWhat was your daughter’s reaction when she received the bag?

A: She absolutely loved it and was amazed that I made it!

QWould you like to keep sewing in the future?

A: Yes! I’m already planning some smaller projects to give as gifts for Easter. I’ll be making some placemats as well as some plastic bag holders from the Coordinated Kitchen Set.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed reading about Alicia's experience and learning a little bit about what it's like to make the MJ's Messenger Bag. We thought it might be fun for those who have been sewing for a long time to think about some of their early projects and feel proud about how far they've come. For newer makers, we wanted to inspire you and show you that you can do it too!

In the comments below tell us about your favorite project, first experience, or what you've learned along the way!

Share this post

Sign in to leave a comment