As an autistic, I find that often there are "unwritten rules" about sewing that neurotypicals tend to get easier than I do. As a result, I often struggle with bag patterns assuming I know how to do something that I don't.
Obviously I don't expect every single thing to be spelled out in a pattern, but there are some things that I would prefer to see. I decided to start writing up neurodivergent reviews of the bag patterns that I sew, just to help other autistic bagmakers (are there any others out there?) who might want to make the same pattern.
My first review will be of the Blue Calla Speedwell Sling (pattern here). I made this bag in April 2022.
Now, I consider myself an intermediate bag maker. After making this bag, I realized that I hate gusset bags. Maybe I'll come to appreciate them in time. But even though this one looks nice on the outside, it's a hot mess inside, so I'm keeping it for myself.
I've made other gusset bags before. This one turned out better than the Blue Calla Coneflower Crossbody, which was an absolute shitshow. I tried that one way too early in my bagmaking journey. The primary problem with this bag was the binding, which I'd never done before. But I realized while making it that I just don't enjoy making gusset bags, primarily because my fingers, wrists, and hands get achy after trying to manipulate the piece around my sewing needle. Perhaps a long arm machine would help with that someday, but I'm not holding my breath on getting one of those, and wouldn't just to be able to make gusset bags.
So, on to my neurodivergent review of this pattern.
The pattern was written in 2017 and could really use a rewrite. I have successfully made Blue Calla patterns before, but I often struggle with her pattern writing style. The most frustrating part is that the pictures for each step come before the step. So I'll look at a picture, then read what it's showing me below the picture. It doesn't work for my brain. Even knowing that the picture is before the text, my brain still wants to look at the picture after the text. It takes me longer to get through the pattern because I keep making errors by looking at the wrong picture.
What I DO like about the way the pattern is written: good list of notions and supplies, sewing tips, seam allowance.
I do NOT like that there are extra pieces to cut out that don't have a pattern piece, and it's not specifically called out in the cutting list. This is a dumb thing to care about, I realize that, but I look at the pattern pieces and cut them all out, and I'm like "yay! I can start!" and then I realize I need to cut out 11 billion more pieces by measurement. A note at the start of the "Cutting" section that this is necessary would help me.
The designer has a good sense of word usage but misses some things that need to be spelled out, which is why I think the pattern needs a rewrite. For example, at the end of step 67, she misses telling me to turn the piece right side out. Even though the following photo clearly shows the item right side out, often by the time I'm well along in the piece, I am not looking at the photos unless I need more help from the instructions (often because I do not print in color in order to save ink).
I also struggled with the installation of the turn lock, to the point where I got confused and had to swap it out for a magnetic snap instead. I'd purchased a hardware kit for this make from 2Minutes2Stitch on Etsy (her kits are great, highly recommend!) and she included a turn lock with itsy bitsy screws for this bag. Now, in the pattern, first it tells you to install the male piece of the turn lock on the strap tab piece, and when you do that you only cut through the one side plus the Peltex. On the next page, you install the female half of the turn lock on the magnetic snap tab piece. However, she doesn't go into detail there, just says "complete steps 25 and 26 then install the female half of your turn lock at the mark" and then moves on. In other words, she says to follow the same steps as I did for the male half of the lock
My issue with this was that I only went through the one side plus Peltex for the male half. So I thought I was supposed to do the same for the female half. Not having used a turn lock before, I was thoroughly confused as to how I was supposed to use those teensy screws from inside the fabric shell. I even messaged 2Minutes2Stitch to ask her what the heck - she kindly explained to me that when you install the female portion of the lock, you have to cut a hold all the way through the piece for the male part to come through when you close the lock. Derp. I felt pretty dumb at this point - I'm sure she had a laugh about me in her Etsy Bag People FB group or whatever, and I deserve it. I'm just glad I didn't give a negative review (which I never would have) because the fault was all mine.
So to make a long story short (too late!) a note about making a hole through the magnetic snap piece would have been much appreciated there.
Ultimately I really struggled at the end of this bag, which was too bad because it was turning out super cute. At the end, the binding screwed me. I couldn't get the piece manipulated well enough under my sewing machine walking foot to machine sew it, so I spent about 3 hours and several YouTube videos trying to learn to hand sew a binding. 0/10 Do Not Recommend. After that fiasco, I managed to wrestle it into the machine and machine sewed it using a zigzag stitch, and it looks fairly terrible. As a result, I'm keeping this bag to use myself, which makes me sad for the money spent (at least $30 to make this bag) but also happy because, hey, new bag!
In summation, my suggestions to make this pattern more neurodivergent friendly would be:
a note in the Cutting section that there are pattern pieces to cut out AND pieces to measure and cut as well
Photos of each step after the written step
More instructions about installing the turn lock because the instructions were unclear and confusing.
Finally, just a shout out to my youngest son, who designed the Rolly Cats in the fabric I used for the bag. I had the pattern printed at Spoonflower on linen cotton canvas. I think it turned out super cute! I need to get more printed to make more bags, because this bag took almost an entire yard of it (and the canvas was heavier than a cotton would have been, which added to the bulk of the bag when I tried to do the gusset and binding).
I'll be doing more neurodivergent bagmaking pattern reviews here in the future. I also have a TikTok account under the_wonky_stitch where I post bits about bagmaking, mail opening, projects I'm working on, and also videos of the Clydesdales at the barn where I volunteer. Come check it out sometime!