Running Up That Hill

I interrupt the normal dressmaking theme of this blog to bring you: BAG MAKING! ?

But first, lemme roll back a decade or so…

There’s only a handful of you dear readers who will know that throughout my teens (and in fact into my early twenties as well), I was overweight and HATED sports and pretty much any form of exercise.

Brace yourself:

Yep ? Eeeesh. That was on my 21st birthday, and is pretty much reflective of what I looked like throughout my teenage years.

Sports was my LEAST favourite subject at school, and I’d often fake the ‘Sarah has a bad ankle so please can she be excused’ sick note. I think in one yearly report my PE teacher said that I hadn’t attended enough lessons for her to give an opinion on my sporting ability ? I don’t know what it was, but I just hated PE. I was one of the fat kids, which probably didn’t help matters, but I really, REALLY disliked the weekly session of exercise. It could also be because we were made to do team sports (like hockey, and netball, and usually in the freezing cold) and even to this day I still don’t like collaborative exercise – I prefer solitary running or training. I come out in sweats every time someone mentions the phrase ‘office rounders team’ followed by ‘is a player short for tonight’s match’.

It wasn’t until I hit my twenties that I sort of stumbled (probably quite literally – I’m pretty clumsy) into running.

It happened one day, when all of a sudden I said to the husband (who was the ‘fiancé-beast’ back then) “let’s go for a run”. Quite naturally, this statement was met with uncertainty and suspicion at this person that had clearly taken over my mind. I still don’t really know what made me say it. Like Forrest Gump, I just had an urge to run.

“Ok… where do you want to go?”

“Just to the pub and back.”

I wasn’t a good judge of distance back then (still aren’t, really), and that pub was actually a fair distance away – like over a mile – but the husbeast agreed to come with me. No mention of ‘erm, do you realise that you’re not gonna be able to *actually* run that’ or ‘do you think maybe we should walk it first?’, he was just going to humour me and run with me until I couldn’t run anymore.

As I was totally unfit, and overweight to boot, you won’t be surprised to hear that I did NOT make it to that pub running – but walked what I had to so that I went the distance. That day marked the start of my – pretty sporadic, if I’m honest – running.

I ran in dribs and drabs for a few years, and then in 2014 I decided it would be a good idea to enter a race. Simply Because I like a good challenge, and you got a medal for completing it. Ooh, shiny. Turns out, those medals are like crack – properly addictive after your first hit, and you just get anxious wanting to get more and more of the shinies and wondering when your next race/hit is gonna be.

Not one to pick something sensible like a Parkrun, or an official 5k, or even a 10k, I booked a half marathon. Thirteen miles. Thirteen point one, actually. Which – in the end – turned out to be the weekend before I moved to London for my first job in the City, so not really the best timing ??‍♀️

We ran the Grand Union Canal half marathon, in 2 hours 9 min – I wanted to beat 2 hours, but hey, I wasn’t too hard on myself. I finished it – and that was something in itself, given my previous exercise history.

As I said, those medals are basically drugs and I’ve since ran the Milton Keynes half (finally beating the two-hour barrier – YAS – but nearly died) and the Edinburgh and Loch Ness marathons (why I insist on running marathons only in Scotland, I’m not sure ??)

Eight weeks before my first full marathon, I busted my knee on a works ‘fun day’ thing. It turned out to be Not Fun, in the end. I fell down onto a very hard, solid surface and my right knee hit it first, bearing all my weight. Not one to cause a fuss, I got up, saying ‘I’m finnnnnnne‘ and proceeded to limp around the rest of the ‘fun activities’. After that I hobbled to the pub where I sat down and passed out in the chair, and was taken to the nearest hospital in a cab. They told me I was extremely lucky not to have broken anything and that I was to do as little as possible on it – definitely no running, and most definitely not the marathon which was six weeks away. Welllll I had already paid for my entry, flights and accommodation so there was no way my inner finance nerd could let that slide ?

It took me one knee brace, six hours and a fair bit of walking but I damn well made it to that finish line and got my medal. I gave it a break for a little while – about a year and a half – then ran the Edinburgh marathon in May 2016 and shaved 40 mins off my time ?? but it turned out that my knee STILL hadn’t healed. I’m hoping that by the time I run my next marathon (Edinburgh again in May 2019 – I was unsuccessful in the London ballot) that the knee will have healed some more and I can get an even better time ?

After my head injury at the start of the year, I’m not ashamed to say that times were bad and I comfort ate – and put on weight at an alarming rate. I hadn’t run for a while at that point, but Forrest Gump kicked in again and all I could think about was running. Funny how when you can’t have something, you all of a sudden want it ?? The healthcare people I was seeing at the time told me I was in no condition to be running, because of the damage I’d sustained to my neck and shoulder. But I wanted to run. I missed running, and needed to do SOMETHING to turn around the slippery slide of weight gain that I was on.

I used to run in my lunch breaks at work, and loved it. Depending on where I was working at the time, my routes took me along the Thames Path, through the quaint-looking Wapping and St Katharines Dock, over Tower Bridge or through Regent’s Park. Every week at my physio appointments I’d ask if I could run yet. Can I run yet? Can I run yet? CAN I RUN YET? I must have been worse than a whingey child on a long journey. I’m sure they got sick of me pretty quickly, but running was all I could focus on. Eventually, they said YES, you can run. Maybe just to shut me up, I’m not sure – but a yes is a yes. Running was BACK ON.

I was told to start with the Couch to 5k program – which aims to get someone with no previous running experience off the couch and running a 5k within 9 weeks. That’s about three miles. You start off with a combo of running and walking (literally like 1 minute running followed by two minutes walking, on repeat) which was pretty frustrating for me given that I used to be able to run double-digit miles at the weekend. But, I stuck with it, and did as it instructed – getting the runs in during my lunch breaks at work, just like I used to do. It helped my mental health, as well as my physical health.

So that lonnnnng story of fat-kid-turned-slightly-less-fat-kid-who-now-runs brings us back around to SEWING.

Once I completed the Couch To 5K program, I decided to sew myself a new kit bag as a little reward. I was currently lugging my running stuff to work in a very tatty (and a bit embarassing) barrel bag:

I know, grimy right?

I started scouring the internet for suitable bag patterns, but just couldn’t find the right one that ticked all of the boxes. It had to be pretty much the same size as the current bag I had, as it was the right size and shape for what I wanted to use it for. My rolled shower towel fitted just perfectly,  although a tad longer would be a bonus. The new bag had to be round, and it had to be lined. And I didn’t want handles that wrapped around the whole bag if I could help it. Demanding? Nah. Particular.

So the rejects looked like this…

Too big:

Too small:

(yep, even the largest size)

Too much like hand luggage:

Weird shape:

Too square:

Not sure if it’s lined:

This one *almost* made the cut, despite the handles:

(and I might still make it one day, just to see how it turns out)

Honestly the list of rejections went on, and on, and on. I scoured eBay, Etsy, and many pages of Google search results. I wanted something of similar dimensions to what I was using – it was just about the right size, but possibly a tad small for the winter when I need to pack more layers. Something that was a smidge bigger would be perfect, but not *too* big because I gotta take this on packed London commuter trains and nobody wants to be THAT person that tries to get on the rush hour train with massive luggage/a double buggy/three huge dogs.

Then I found it. The one. The perfect bag.

It’s the Daily Duffle bag by Sassafras Lane Patterns. This pattern company is new to me, but then that’s probably no surprise given that I don’t sew bags.

The size is right (just a tad longer than my current bag, like I wanted), isn’t too fussy and doesn’t require a list of hardware that’s as long as my arm. And it ticks all of the boxes.

With the pattern found, I then had the dilemma of choosing the fabric. I didn’t want to fall into the trap of having it look like a ‘quilters bag’. Know what I mean? Some bags just have that *look* about them. That… *homemade* look I guess you’d call it. I started looking at home decor fabrics, but didn’t find too much within my price range that didn’t look like curtain fabric. I moved on to quilting fabrics, but again a lot of them looked like – well, quilting fabrics.

I eventually came back to my ol’ faithful, Alexander Henry. I did consider using the Las Elegantes print – as I have a spare yard(ish) of that kicking about – but I wanted to take this opportunity to use a print that I liked but wouldn’t necessarily *wear* (and plus that would avoid that awkward scenario when your outfit and bag are matchy-matchy).

I had a bit of a mooch about t’internet, and kept on coming back to one particular print – ‘All Fired Up’ – which fitted the bill of being something that made me happy to look at, but probably wouldn’t get used as clothing. Decision made. Fabric and supplies bought.

I had to wait more than a month (?) for some ripstop fabric for the lining to arrive from China (it’s not just ANY old ripstop, it’s purple leopard print ripstop – PURPLE LEOPARD PRINT I TELL YOU) but eventually I had all my supplies to bring my vision to life.

I’ve had to buy some weird bits like fusible fleece, fat 5mm piping cord and some realllly long BRIGHT ORANGE zips – stuff I’ve never used before – but I’m actually really looking forward to trying something new. Who knows… maybe bag making could be my next new hobby that I don’t need or have time for ? Or perhaps I could move on to bags when I literally can’t fit another garment into my wardrobe ?

Do any of you guys sew bags? Are there any amazing pattern companies out there that I might have missed? Any pro tips you can pass on?

Stay tuned for the finished bag!

Regular readers among you will know that we’ve just been to NYC – I’m pleased to report that we are now safe and sound back in London ?? The new additions to the fabric stash haven’t been unpacked yet but DON’T PANIC – there will be a ‘fabric haul’ blog post reeeeeal sooooon ??

Oh hai, home ?

So it seems that I buggered up the publish time of last week’s post (well, rather WordPress didn’t make things clear) and it got posted at 8am New York time rather than London time ? So apologies to those of you that like to read it over your Sunday morning breakfast! If you missed it, you can head on over to the post here to catch up –  it was a good one, the husbeast was back for his second guest spot! Go show the boy some love ?

Next week on the Wanderstitch blog… the first of my NYC series – the round-up! What we did, who we met, where we went? Subscribe below to make sure you don’t miss out!??


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  1. Sam
    October 21, 2018 / 7:55 am

    Hi Sarah, love the back story to your bag making, it looks as though you’ve found ‘the one’. I’ve made a couple of bags but not gym bags, as like your former self – I don’t do P.E! It’s all the hardware that can make them expensive & awkward to get hold of, especially I think in the UK. The Sew My Style challenge this month is for Klum House Portsmith or Fremont bag & to buy the finishing kit for the Fremont is $60, I will just use what is easily & cheaply available. Bag making is relatively straightforward, you may need a walking foot to get through the layers and maybe use a jeans needle depending on the thickness. Yours is going to look great in that fabric.

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 8:51 am

      Thanks Sam! PE at school was just AWFUL, wasn’t it?! They really need to make it more fun for kids, especially these days with all the junk food around. Nobody wants to play hockey outside when it’s zero degrees ?
      It seems really hard to get hold of bag hardware… I’ve had a look around but the places I’ve seen only have a really small selection ??‍♀️ and yes it soon pushes the price up doesn’t it! $60 for a finishing kit?! ??? What’s in it? And as the name probably gives away, I’m assuming this is just the buckles and bits and bobs and you’ve still got the cost of actually MAKING the thing as well?
      I have a walking foot! I’ll use that, thanks for the tip! Do you have any good U.K. stockists that you use for bag making supplies?

  2. Bren Holmes
    October 21, 2018 / 9:35 am

    I love your weight loss/running tale. I, too, hated PE at school, although I did enjoy netball, swimming and dance. Hockey? You have to be joking! Tennis – nah, not for me. As for bag making, I love to make bags, more than I enjoy sewing garments. I look forward to seeing photos of your finished bag. I have no need of a gym bag, since I still hate exercise, lol

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 8:54 am

      Hi Bren! Haha, PE was just THE WORST wasn’t it. I often think about swimming, I’m not averse to it, but then I think about what the chlorine is going to do to my hair colour ? could get a swimming hat, I suppose ??‍♀️
      Do you have any favourite brands for bag patterns? I’m still very new to the world of bag making and it seems like there’s a whole bunch of materials/supplies that are available (foam interfacing?! ??‍♀️) that I have no idea what to do with lol. But I think bag making is definitely something I could continue with… ?

  3. Brenda Evans
    October 21, 2018 / 9:49 am

    Hi Sarah, I just really enjoy your blogs every week and look forward to reading them, they are always ssoo interesting, funny and .informative and soo is the husbeast. Thank you very much for a good Sunday read it really makes me smile.xx

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 8:55 am

      Ahh thank you so much Brenda! ? It makes me really happy to know that you enjoy them! Hope you had a lovely weekend ☺️☺️☺️

  4. October 21, 2018 / 9:51 am

    That part about PE really hits home! I wasn’t overweight because I cycled for an hour each day (I just gained 20 kg after leaving high school) but I’m really clumsy with some breathing problems and joint problems that were diagnosed pretty late… Basically I had been hurting from running in school for a few years before they found out I shouldn’t be running or jumping too much because it was literally destroying my knees, ankles, hips and back. WOOPS.

    Hope your running goes well from now on, and curious to see the bag!

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 8:58 am

      Ohhhhh see now that’s why they shouldn’t force kids to do sports like that, especially high impact sports like running/football/hockey etc! There should be more choice, including more gentle exercises and low impact sports! Once you get to a certain point with running, it basically becomes ‘injury management’ ? I am trying to shake it up a bit though – rather than just running ALL THE TIME – I’ve joined the gym opposite my work and I’m trying out different classes like Pilates (harder than it looks) and spin (which nearly killed me) ???

  5. Cindy
    October 21, 2018 / 6:01 pm

    My God, you’ve done amazingly well with regards to your weight loss, you were a beautiful 21 year old , bigger lady but now you’re amazing 21 plus slim pretty lady, well done to you, and you HAVNT even had it easy, bad knee, bad neck, shoulder etc, amazing , but you kept it all off and you look great for it, what a wonderful supportive husbeast you have, a great couple, I love the bag fabric and your lippy tee shirt pattern top he made is perfect, very you I think. What a talented pair you are, maybe one day leave the world of finance and enter a new world?….. pay may not be as good though, but whatever you do be happy . I must add that my Sunday last morning guilty pleasure was missing in my inbox, don’t worry just caught up now xx Cindy xx

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 9:01 am

      Hi Cindy! Ah, thank you for your lovely comments ? I hope that one day we can leave finance (we would love to start our own real-life craft store), we will keep working towards that and hopefully we can make it a reality! And happiness is more important than money, in the end ☺️
      Glad you caught up on the blog – bloody time differences lol ?
      I need to look at my calendar to get potential dates to you – I haven’t forgotten, it’s just been mental since we got back from New York! Would a weekend be good for you? ?

  6. October 22, 2018 / 8:23 am

    What a story! I was pretty unfit until I started tap dancing, sport didn’t do it for me then. It’s hard to find your place in a limited curriculum. Kids these days though, huh? … everything from horse riding to hang gliding! All at the sports centre!
    I love making a bag, but I’ve never bought a pattern (… or even looked at many!) it’s as much of a mine-field as I suspected ?! You chose a great one though, I’m looking forward to seeing it ??
    Keep that knee warm! ???

    • Sarah
      November 1, 2018 / 9:09 am

      Sport in schools was just awful, wasn’t it! I’m not averse to dancing (it’s not impossible that one day I may even take your tap class ?) I think they defo needed more variation other than just hockey, running and netball ? horse riding hey… wow it really has improved since I left school ?
      Yes bag making does seem to be an almighty minefield… but it’s also kinda fun! I may even make more bags after this one… ?
      The damn knee is still giving me jip… I feel like it’s my age lol ?

  7. October 22, 2018 / 10:28 am

    HI Sarah I enjoyed to read your post! I love sewing my clothes but I love sewing my bags too… Thank you for sharing so many ideas 🙂

    • Sarah
      November 2, 2018 / 8:53 am

      So glad you enjoyed the post! ?? I think bag making is something I could get into… do you have any favourite patterns?

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