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Making Mama Bird a Duffle Bag

December 11, 2015

When I was 9-years-old I met a woman named Michele Hill. She was my dad’s new girlfriend at the time, and they ended up dating for almost a decade. By the time I was 15-years-old my biological mom had made a few shaky appearances, but for the most part Michele was the person that came to mind when someone asked me about my mom. After all, she was the one that came to my choir concerts, helped me with my algebra homework when tears of frustration welled up, taught me important lessons like ‘if you want it, you can/will make it happen” and “you can’t dry nail polish with a hairdryer.” My birth mom gave me my creativity, vision, taste, and poor sense of direction; Michele made me strong, happy, and loved. And when my dad attempted suicide in front of us my senior year in high school, she’s the one who brought up adoption. Shortly after that, we stood in front of a judge and told her that we’d like to officially be mother and daughter.

What do you make such a wonderful mama bird? A duffle bag for her to take on her work trips that’s super effing cute. She had mentioned to me earlier this year when I started sewing that she’d eventually love a vera-bradley-esque duffle bag; so I knew right away what her Christmas present would be. Once I found the bird fabric, the idea really started to come together.


Main fabric, accent fabric, and lining fabric

I found the bird print first, and that set the whole theme for the bag. Michele enjoys warm neutrals so I thought I would ground the bag with an earthy suede cloth for the accent fabric. Finally, as a nod to her proud Russian heritage, I found this adorable Russian doll print to use as the lining. To really sharpen the look of the bag and to add some elegance, I picked out gold hardware, including a beautiful, hand-made twist lock in the shape of a bird, which serves as the focal point.

It's all about the hardware; I love using gold accents

It’s all about the hardware; I love using gold accents

This bag features a bellows pocket in the front, 3 internal divided pockets, as well as an internal zippered pocket. It has handles with an attached handle grip, as well as an adjustable strap. To help me through the process I watched a Craftsy class with the duffle bag pattern designer, Betz White, which made things seem very doable. There are so many pieces to the puzzle when starting a new sewing project, especially with something as involved as a duffle. Below you can see my initial pieces cut out and labeled (if you aren’t labeling your pattern pieces, you are making your life much harder)


I can happily report that although the process was a little intensive, it was also very fulfilling and enjoyable. I am so happy with the final results and will be counting down the days to Christmas when I can give this special handmade gift to a most special person. Here are a few more pictures for your enjoyment.

Sweet mirror shot to show bag size

Sweet mirror shot to show bag size


Front of the bag


Back of the bag


Featured Materials

  • Charley Harper “Red-eyed Vireo” organic canvas fabric
  • Lecien Minny Muu “Matryoshka white” cotton fabric
  • Polyester suede cloth
  • Gold hardware (found from various places on Etsy)
  • Pellon SF101 Shape-Flex fusible woven interfacing
  • Pellon 987F fusible fleece

signoffUntil next time
(P.S. I welcome (nice, kind, sweet, gentle, funny) punctuation advice)

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  1. Michele HILL says:

    Most beautiful, thoughtful and best gift I EVER received. Thank you Baby Bird! I love you.

  2. Michele Hill says:

    I can’t express how much I love you and how proud I am to call you my daughter. ❤.