Pattern Review: Melly & Me Raspberry Ripple Handbag

Hello, I'm popping in to The Oz Material Girls today to share a review of the gorgeous Raspberry Ripple handbag by Melly and Me.  You can read about my sewing adventures over at Pretty Bobbins.  Sewing is my passion, my stress reliever and my creative outlet.  I sew whenever I can between running around after my three young children and navigating French culture in the Pacific.

Ever since I first saw this bag I wanted to make it.  I have made a few other Melly and Me patterns including the Black Forest hand bag.  They have such a good eye for colour and their patterns have a definite Australian style to them that I find I am drawn to them.  You can find Melly and Me patterns here on Patterns Only including kits for Raspberry Ripple.

Melly and Me patterns come in hard copy with a colour photograph of the finished product, pattern pieces that require tracing, some cutting and pasting, and written instructions with some diagrams.  I would say that this pattern is suitable for intermediate level sew-ers.  There is a certain amount of assumed knowledge.  The bag construction itself is not difficult, but it is fiddly and you will often find yourself sewing through 6 or 8 layers of interfacing plus fabric. Don't be put off though!  With a heavy duty needle and a walking foot you'll be fine.  However, I don't expect that a beginner sew-er would necessarily have a walking foot, long quilting pins and a range of interfacing.  Hence I believe that this pattern is aimed more at intermediate sew-ers.  Further, the pattern does not come with the thousands of photographs that some PDF patterns, e-books and online tutorials do but there are some drawings to help you through parts of the construction.

As with any pattern, it is best to first read through the entire pattern before you begin.  Here are some things to think about before you get busy with your scissors:
  1. are you using a direction print?  This may affect how much fabric you need.
  2. the pattern includes a 1/4" seam allowance (it's always nice when they tell you that!).
  3. do you want to use three (or more) different fabrics?  I'm only using two because I want to feature my main print.
  4. what do you like inside your bag?  This pattern includes a zip pocket that is the full size of the bag, however I also like a small zip pocket and a small pocket that I can slip my phone in.  I also added a key loop with snaps.  
  5. what colour thread are you going to use for topstitching?  Bags generally require top stitching.  You can try to blend this in (which might be a good idea if you're scared of making a mistake or wobbly stitching lines) or make it a feature.
  6. you want to cut out your interfacing and iron it on to your fabric before you cut out your pattern pieces.
  7. you will need a heavy duty needle (I used 110) and a walking foot ready.  Sure, you could make this bag without a walking foot, but it will be easier if you have one.
I usually follow a pattern to the letter the first time I make it.  I figure that each pattern maker utilises different techniques and I might learn something new.  Having said that, I've made another Melly and Me bag so I feel that I can do things my way as I have a feel for their bag patterns.  For example, I'm not tracing my pattern pieces onto my fabric, I'm just cutting them with a rotary cutter freehand or with my quilting ruler as is my habit.  

After tracing my pattern pieces onto baking paper (I always keep the original pattern pieces in tact so for future reference) I cut out all of my fabric and interfacing.

Two additional pocket pieces are not shown here.  The white
material is interfacing.

I want to feature my main fabric so I am keeping the strips in order so that the pleats will look somewhat continuous once the bag is made up.

Let's pretend that they're nicely ironed...

I have decided to add some extra internal features and it is always easier to add these on when you're working with flat pieces of fabric.  So I cut these out and attach them to my lining first up.

The next bit is very straightforward.  You just sew all of your strips together.  Don't forget to put them the same way up if you're using a directional print.  Then you iron on your interfacing.  I ironed my seams open to get a more accurate finish.  Then ironed on some heavy weight interfacing.  To be honest, I hate adding interfacing, it is such a tedious process standing at the ironing board, but you do need it for strength and shape. 

Please ignore my hideous ironing board cover!

The next step is really important in giving your bag it's shape.  You want to iron your bag panel at each seam and then top stitch it in place.  Look at those beautiful curves!

The lovely look of this bag is achieved by using pleats.  Isn't that a great idea?  It does means that you will be sewing through a lot of layers though!

As I mentioned above, I really wanted to feature my black and white fabric so I have used it for the bag top as well.  The top piece is attached after securing the pleats in place.  I would recommend that you take this slowly and ensure that your pleats meet for at least an inch.  Otherwise there will be a slight gape when you sew the bag pieces together.

Can you see the slight gape in the pleats?  Next time I will pin the pleats
together for at least an inch. 

At this point I set aside my outer bag pieces and finished sewing all parts of the bag that didn't require my walking foot.  I am somewhat lazy and this way I don't need to keep changing feet.

The pattern calls for an internal zippered pocket which is the same size as the bag lining.  I was very hesitant about this idea but went with the pattern.  The zip is sandwiched between two pocket pieces and then attached to a bag top piece.  It is a great idea because you end up with a lovely neat finish.

I didn't have a 13" zip so I used a larger zip and cut it back.

After attaching my walking foot I returned to my bag pieces.

Here is a walking foot just in case you are wondering what I'm talking about!

I used quilting pins, which are nice and long, to ensure that the bag pieces stayed in place.  You could use regular pins, but I wanted to ensure that my pleats stayed as perfect as possible.

With my walking foot on and taking it slowly I finished off both the inner and outer bag pieces.  The patterns calls for a magnetic clasp to be attached after the body of the bag is sewn together, but I attached it at the stage as I decided it would be easier to do so.

See that little round thing?  That is a magnetic bag clasp

One of the reasons that I feel this pattern is more suited to intermediate sew-ers is that there is some assumed knowledge.  For example, you are not told to clip your curves to ensure a nice shape.

The handles of this bag are a lovely feature and are attached last.  Like most bag patterns, the outer bag pieces is placed right side out inside the inner bag piece (a hole is left in the bottom of the inner bag piece to pull the bag out through itself).  It is REALLY IMPORTANT to line up your side seams when you're joining you inner and outer bag pieces together.  You will get a much nicer finish if you open your seams and ensure that they are aligned on both the left and right side of the bag before you start sewing.

I like to have a nice firm bag so  I used heavy weight interfacing on my:

  • outside bag pieces and bag tops,
  • 2 of the bag straps,
and a medium weight interfacing on my:
  • lining pieces and internal bag top pieces,
  • large internal zippered pocket, and
  • 2 of the bag straps.
I must say I was very happy with how well the pieces came together and the stiffness of the bag.  

Look at that lovely shape!  Ploughing through all that
interfacing paid off :)

The straps are attached externally which makes finishing off the bag itself quite easy.  This does however mean that you are sewing in a somewhat restricted space, so you will need to go slowly.  The pattern calls for tacking, but I just pinned my straps into place and ended up sewing them partly with my machine in reverse.  If you want to save time you could attache some pre-made straps, but by making your own bag straps yowww.theozmaterialgirls.comu can get the exact look that you want.

I am glad that I followed the pattern and made a large zippered pocket.  I also have a smaller zippered pocket, key loop and small pocket that I added myself.

I hope you found this pattern review and pictorial helpful!  I am happy to recommend this pattern and I hope you are as happy with you Raspberry Ripple bag as I am with mine :)