I started my love of sewing in thrift stores. I enjoyed removing sleeves, shortening dresses and being able to stand out in a crowd. The world was a fashion show in the 1980s and for $20 I could buy a very vintage wardrobe. The store shelves were full of Hepburns, Jackson Fives and Mrs. Ropers. Simply hanging out in the store was a lesson in style. I could name time periods, sleeve styles and different dress cuts that I still use today.

When someone tagged me in TheZe Dealz- A Thrifty Boutique post about sewing lessons it took me back to my roots. I started following the page and the owner because the posts from both were extremely positive, inspirational and uplifting. I wanted to be a part of that good vibe. When I saw an upcoming event called Walk in my Shoes I had to go. You donate a pair of shoes with a story written on them and you get 10% off in the shop.

They also had cupcakes from El & Al Cakes!!! The sweet potato cupcakes were the bomb!

I purchased an argyle sweater vest to upcycle and asked my local sewing group, The Dayton Garment Designers Meet Up, what they thought I should use it for. I wanted to keep it simple and transform this sweater vest into a useful treasure.

What about a laptop bag that zips and is padded? I gathered supplies and ordered leather handles. Bags are all about the hardware. I had a heavy duty zipper and heavy craft interfacing in my stash. The sweater with my discount was $3.20 and the handles were $10. This puts my bag at about$14 total.

The kicker was that this project was anything but easy! Yep, I’m getting ready to share all of my mistakes. You ready?

Let’s start with the basics just in case you want to make one.

After doing that I baste stitched the heavy craft interfacing to my outside pieces.

Here’s where the problems started!

I serged, sewed down and pressed my back pockets that I had previously interfaced. I did this so the interfacing would not pop up. Somehow, it got distorted a little. I didn’t think it was a big deal? You can see it here. Perhaps the sweater was made that way or the direction I serged pushed the grainline out.



Now to get started making that bag that I thought would be easy.

I did the same things to all of the lining pieces with the exception of the zipper. I serged it to those strips. I must have not been clear in my head about the inside and outside because I put the zipper in upside down aaand I wouldn’t realize it until the bag was finished!

I even checked it over and over again.

Before I could put all the layers together I needed to sew my handles on. I have done coat toggles with these leather pieces and knew that they can’t be machine stitched. You have to sew them by hand with heavy embroidery floss. The first one I put on wrong and had to redo. This added an extra hour of tedious backstitching with needle-nose pliers to my bag.

This was also where it became really noticeable to me that the back pocket was not centered.

I thought I was almost done, just put the main bag inside of the lining with right sides together, stitch around the outer edge, flip it and boom. HaHa


This is where I realized I forgot to leave the hole in the lining to flip it.

After ripping my self a new hole and flipping the bag I saw the big problem of the zipper being in upside-down with the pull tab on the inside. Dang.

I learned from my mistake here. For linings – the zipper needs to face out to all of the raw seams.

I took another hour to rip it all apart and fix my mistakes. This is just part of learning and sewing.


This project and my experience has truly brought me back to my youth and I love that feeling. I also love it that Theze Dealz houses and promotes 18 other small businesses.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it! Sew it!





Tracy McElfresh
Latest posts by Tracy McElfresh (see all)