Does anyone else ever wonder how big Sara Lawson‘s closet has to be to fit all the purses, duffles, and backpacks she makes? On the heels of her 2013 hit Big-City Bags comes Sara’s newest release: Windy City Bags. Just released from That Patchwork Place, Windy City Bags adds 12 more designs to Sara’s copious portfolio of bag patterns. This newest collection trades in some of the softer elements of the previous book (pleating, less interfacing, etc.) for more structure and hardware. A lot of the bags use ByAnnie’s Soft and Stable (which, if you’ve never used it, is sort of a foam sheet of interfacing) and include intermediate-to-advanced techniques like thumb-catches, exterior pockets, and piping.
If you’re brand new to sewing bags, I recommend jumping to the back part of the book first. Sara explains the different types of interfacing needed to create her designs, as well as the trickier techniques like zippered pockets and hardware that can trip up bag novices. That said, her instructions for each design are crystal clear with fabulous illustrations and photos, and Sara has little “pop-ups” throughout to offer helpful targeted advice. I’ve found that That Patchwork Place books tend to be less modern than some other publishers’ in their photos and designs, but Sara obviously had a hand in bringing a more trendy aesthetic and color palette to Windy City Bags. It’s both really comprehensive and really pretty, which is everything one might want in a craft book.
I also think the designs themselves are even better than in Sara’s first offering. She seems to have upped her game — they’re really sophisticated, polished, and professional, and the increased emphasis and use of hardware makes them look expensive. (It’s also helpful to note that all hardware featured in the book is available at Sew Sweetness, which makes Sara not just a great designer but a savvy businesswoman.) There are no clutches here; all the bags, from purses to totes, are generously sized and contain lots of detailed elements like interior and exterior pockets for everyday use.
If there’s one critique I might have, it’s that a lot of the bag designs seem very similar — not necessarily in the structure or shape, but in the fabrics used. Sara’s a longtime fan of Tula Pink, who definitely makes an appearance throughout, and she also almost always gravitates toward really bright colors and bold prints. Some of her patterns are really sophisticated (a laptop bag that’s completely unlike anything I’ve seen before, for example, or a weekender tote that puts Vera Bradley to shame). In the back of the book, Sara provides additional colorways as inspiration, but they are often the same really bright styles as the originals. It might be nice to diversify a bit (maybe with alternative substrates like denim or linen?) to appeal to folks with different tastes.
But for those who are able to look past fabric choices (or who love Sara’s aesthetic), Windy City Bags provides tons of exciting options for crafting their own bags. I predict it will be a raging success, I can’t wait to see what people make from it, and I heartily recommend it for you or for any bag sewist on your list.