|by Taylor Hackbarth|
A few years ago I took up the ukulele and pretty much fell in love. So much so that I sold my keyboard and now my guitars sit in the corner and gather dust. Beginner chords are easy to learn, and unlike a guitar which is relatively large, ukuleles are the perfect size. Mine is small and quiet enough that I can sit on the couch and practice without it getting in the way of my wife’s TV show or my cat’s important nap.
After three years, I decided that my ukulele needed a proper bag. For this project I raided my wife’s fabric stash. Since she doesn’t sew anymore, I consider her stash fair game now. She likes much brighter colors and designs than I do, which seems to fit with the overall sound and personality of a ukulele.
Since ukuleles come in four different sizes, there is no one size fits all approach to the pattern. Hopefully this method will allow you to make your own pattern and bag that fits your instrument perfectly. By the way, this method could also be used for other small instruments like mandolins.
You will need a large blank piece of paper roughly twice the size of your instrument. For me this meant taping 9 sheets of US Letter sized paper together. (You might need less if you have a smaller instrument).
Fold the paper in half to create a center line. In the photos this is the black line on the bottom of the pattern. Then measure the depth of your instrument. When lying on its back, measure how deep the instrument is at its thickest point. For reference, mine is 3.5”. Divide this measurement in half since we will be drawing half the pattern then folding the paper. In my example this is 1.75” (half of 3.5). I’ll refer to this as the “half gusset width”.
From the center line, measure up the half gusset width and draw a line parallel to the center line. This is the green line in the photos.
From here, lay your instrument at an angle on the half gusset line, and either trace around it, or draw a shape similar to mine that is based off of the instrument’s widest and narrowest points. This is the red line in the photos (the inner most curved line). Then add seam allowance, which is drawn in purple in the photos (the outermost curved line). I added 3/4.” Even though I will be sewing at 1/2” seam allowance, I want a little bit of extra room to account for the batting once the bag is finished.
The next step is to fold the paper in half on your center line and cut through both layers of paper along your outermost line to create a perfectly symmetrical pattern. At this point it should look sort of like a spaceship.
There is only one more pattern piece to create, and that is the gusset strip that will hold the zipper. With a curved ruler, measure from your center line (the black line in my example) along the outside curve of your bag line (the purple line in my example). This measurement is actually longer than we need this piece to be, but I’ve found that when easing a straight piece to a curved piece, it’s nice to have a little extra length (any extra will easily be trimmed later). Mine is about 44” long and I’ll call this the “gusset length.”
Take the half gusset width from above (mine is 1.75”) and add 1” for seam allowance, for a total of 2.75”.
The gusset strip pattern piece will be a long rectangle that is the “gusset length” (44”) by this new number (2.75”). Draw out your dimensions on paper and cut out the pattern piece.
Fabric and batting requirements, as well as zipper length, depends on the size of each instrument. I suggest making the pattern first and then sourcing materials.
Here is a general guideline:
Exterior fabric yardage: 1 yard @ 45”
Lining fabric yardage: 1 yard @ 45”
Zipper: at least 30” long (can always be shortened)
Batting: 1 yard @ 45”
Bias tape: 3 yards, extra wide double fold 1/2”
Webbing: 1 yard
Cut 1 of main pattern piece in exterior fabric.
Cut 1 of main pattern piece in lining fabric.
Cut 1 of main pattern piece in batting.
Cut 2 of gusset strip piece in exterior fabric.
Cut 2 of gusset strip piece in lining fabric.
Cut 2 of gusset strip in batting.
Seam allowance is 1/2” throughout the bag.
Quilt your main (spaceship) pieces together using your preferred method. You’ll want to pair each exterior piece with a lining piece, wrong sides together, with batting in between. I chose to use the #68 Wave Quilt stitch on my Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0. I set the waves 2” apart and at an angle. I also trimmed my batting by 1/2″ all the way around so it was out of the seam allowances.
For the gusset strips, I machine basted these together with the batting inside, and then ran a single line of the #68 Wave Quilt stitch the length of each strip. The last bit of prep work on these pieces is to finish the right side of one and the left side of the other with an overlock or zigzag stitch.
Next we need to determine the zipper length. The zipper needs to be long enough to get the instrument in and out easily. I decided to have my zipper start 3” from the bottom of the front, and end 6” from the bottom of the back. I made marks on my pattern and then measured the distance between the marks to determine the zipper length.
With right sides together, sew the quilted gusset pieces together along the zigzagged edge. I sewed with a regular stitch length (2.5) from the edge of the fabric to where my first zipper stop will lay, and then sewed with a long basting stitch length (4.5) to where the next zipper stop will lay. Then I finished sewing the seam with a regular stitch length (2.5). This isn’t necessary, but the once the zipper is inserted, the stitches between the zipper stops will be removed, and longer stitches are easier to take out.
Press the seam open, and center the zipper over the seam on the wrong side of the fabric, right side down. Pin in place. My first zipper stop starts 3” from the front edge of the gusset. Using the Pfaff zipper foot 4 with IDT System, I sewed the zipper in place approximately 1/4” from the center of the zipper teeth. After both sides of the zipper are sewn in place, rip out the basting stitches between zipper stops.
Center the zipper gusset piece at the front end of the main body piece. Pin in place right sides together and sew, starting and stopping 1/2” from the right and left edges of the gusset piece.
Pin and/or baste one side at a time, the main body piece to the long edges of the gusset. Sew each side together, leaving an opening centered at the back/bottom of the bag that is the width of your gusset.
Starting and stopping 1/2” from the edges, sew the gusset to the bottom of the bag to close the opening at the back. Then trim off the excess gusset.
I used bias tape to finish the raw edges. The corners will be a little bit awkward to sew, but they aren’t really visible inside the bag, and with a little finessing, can be covered with the bias tape. I love the little red marks on the standard presser foot. They are a perfect edge-stitching guideline for applying the bias tape.
The last step is to attach the handles. Handle placement will depend on the size and shape of each instrument, and how you want the weight to balance. I suggest placing your instrument inside the bag, zip it up, and grab the top along the zipper gusset at various places and lift up the bag. Find the place where it makes the most sense to place the handles, taking into account how the instrument balances. Mark the handle placement with chalk or removable pen.
I used two 16” long pieces of cotton webbing 1.25” wide for the handles. The raw edges are folded under 1” on each side, and the handles are sewn to the side of the bag.
For those who don’t have a small instrument, maybe you need a new cat bed…?
TAYLOR HACKBARTH TaylorTailor
Taylor started sewing six years ago after commandeering his wife’s sewing machine in an attempt to make a pair of jeans. He has been making clothing and bags ever since, and spends nearly all of his free time drafting patterns, or happily hunched over a sewing machine. Taylor currently lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three crazy cats.
Sewing machine: PFAFF® quilt ambition™ 2.0
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