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Saturday, 19 September 2015

Creativebug Class Review: Betz White Flight Bag

Betz White Flight Bag crafted by eSheep Designs
I'm pleased with how my Flight Bag turned out...
Before I present my review of Betz White's Flight Bag class offered over at Creativebug as promised, I want to mention that Wendy's Pride & Prejudice hat took second place in the competition! (I updated the end of the post from last week with a brief message that I received from her.) I'm over the moon!

But back to the topic at hand, I recently spent a weekend making this very functional bag and thought I'd provide my thoughts on how the class was presented. It is classified as an "advanced" class, but on Craftsy where Ms. White sells the essentially same Jet Pack Bag pattern, the project is labelled as "intermediate".

Having completed it, I think "intermediate" fits... when I think of an advanced pattern or project, I picture something that has more features and even more pieces to put together (although this project was no slouch in the "number of pieces to cut" department).

The bag took me two and a half days (about twenty hours) to complete, although I never spend several consecutive hours uninterrupted whenever I sew, so I'm not certain how many of those twenty hours were actually spent on the project. But it gives you an idea.

The Creativebug User Interface

Watching a class on video works pretty much as you would expect. You can pause at any point in time. You can add notes. I will caution that my browser (I use Google Chrome) hung up whenever I left a lesson on pause for a lengthy period of time, so you may find that it's easier just to let a particular chapter play itself out and then go back to it again.

Betz White Flight Bag class offered by Creativebug
Screen shot courtesy of creativebug...

If you close down your browser entirely, it will remember where you left off and give you the option to resume or start over. One thing that I don't like about the video player is that there is no actual "fast forward" or reverse button, per se. You need to drag the "progress dot" (for lack of a better term) to move to where you want to go, which is hit and miss most times.

The class gives you access to a PDF that provides the templates (pattern pieces) to cut out your fabric. You'll need three different fabric choices (exterior, exterior trim/accent and lining). Virtually all pieces will have to be interfaced with something, so be prepared to spend some time prepping for this project! I recommend that you run the video in the background while you do this; it'll give you a chance to hear the instructions for the first time. In terms of time required, the class itself runs just under two hours in total (although for some reason it says one hour on the intro screen).

Check out Craftsy's latest promos...

Notable differences from a Craftsy class? Well, there is no "direct line" to your instructor, and at present, Creativebug does not appear to have a huge number of active users with whom you can communicate if you run into a problem. Although I personally don't see where any problems could crop up (and a reminder again that this has been flagged as an advanced class), one never knows.

Class Overview

Okay, what does the class cover and how well does it do the job? In short, everything and very well.

Again, it's not a beginner project, but Betz takes you thought every step required — I'm talking cutting, interfacing, pressing, sewing, attaching hardware, all of it — so that even if you are an adventurous newbie looking for a project to task you beyond your skill set, you will have the know-how to be able to power through this thing.

The only issue is that without some prior experience, a few of the components are challenging and you may not get the best looking results. Just looking at the finished bag, you can tell by the rectangular shape that if you don't sew straight, it will likely be noticed. You may imagine that sewing around those corners to get a perfect curve is not a breeze. If you've never tried it, it won't be easy. Even if you have tried it, it's still not easy, but it's ultimately doable. I even rose to the occasion and edge-stitched around the gusset on both sides, a step that I absolutely refused to tackle on my Bella and Genevieve bags!

Betz White Flight Bag crafted by eSheep Designs
I was in the mood to pull out all the stops in making this bag...

Betz provides clear, concise instruction at a relaxed pace, exactly what you require any instructor to be. (The video chapters are structured so that you can follow right along and make your bag at the same time.) She also offers some interesting tips and nifty suggestions along the way when she runs into "real life" problems during her demo. Overall, she's easy-going on camera and doesn't look out of her element. I guarantee that the viewer will not be frustrated into thinking, "I can't do this..."

So kudos, Ms. White, on a great class and a great project!

Areas for Improvement

I do have a slight critique to offer, however, and I believe it's constructive. While I'm always happy to encounter a pattern that uses a 1/4" seam allowance, sometimes it's not quite enough. I'm referring to the strap tabs being attached by just a quarter inch of fabric.

Oddly enough, this didn't strike me as an issue until after I had completed the entire exterior of the bag; at which point, I had to go back and do some artful bar tacking to ensure that the tabs were more securely attached and would not pull out over time.

I added a row of reinforcement stitching to the bottom of the strap tabs...

In lieu of doing this (which wasn't easy considering the zipper was already installed and very much in my way), I would suggest that you embed the strap tabs deeper than a quarter inch (you can go half an inch without increasing the length of the original strap tab fabric). Moreover, when you sew that seam, it doesn't hurt to run over the stitching several times to reinforce.

Other suggestions that I would make for anyone taking on this project: 1) add a piece of Peltex to the bottom (always good to have extra support on the bottom of a bag, particularly one like this that may carry some heavy stuff), 2) cut the interfacing for the exterior back pocket pieces and zipper strips smaller to keep the bulk out of the seams, 3) tape the top and bottom front panel pattern pieces together when you cut the fabric so that their edges will ultimately match, and 4) maybe attach the bottom half of the twist lock hardware before you complete the pocket lining so that that anchoring piece is not visible inside the finished pocket.

Those are just small things, but I think overall, they can produce a superior result.

Final Verdict

All in all, I'd say that for free or for $4.95, this class is a bargain. You may not think that a hour and fifty minutes is enough to cover the making of a structured, functional and professional looking bag, but here's the proof.

As she says in the introduction, it's a great skill-building class; it gets a 5/5 from me.

Want to get started? Click here to sign up for your free 14 day Creativebug trial, which provides unlimited access to all premium content, along with the ability to keep this class forever. Or, if you're reading this sometime in November, click here and use the promo code COZYCRAFTS to get one month free access!

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