Sewing Circle Tote

As some of you may not realize sewing is a very social activity.  Quilters and Seamstresses alike love getting together on a regular basis to eat, drink, and most importantly to sew.  So it should come as no surprise that we love to make tote bags to carry around all of our sewing supplies to various retreats, classes and meetings.  Lately, I have noticed a ton of great bags popping up on blogs and Instagram, and even in my own sewing circle, so I just had to jump on the bandwagon.

I wanted something big enough to carry a cutting mat, rulers, and an iron but with pocket for my smaller items like scissors and pin cushions.  Being a quilter I decided on Elizabeth Hartman’s Sewing Circle Tote.  She is in the process of redesigning her patterns but they will be available as a pdf download soon.  Her pattern is great for quilters because she gives a straight forward list of block sizes that can all be cut with a rotary cutter (i.e. no pattern pieces).  It’s also nice and big with LOTS of pockets.  Three interior zipper pockets (with great instructions for installing them), and five interior pouch pockets.   She also includes instructions for these great quilt as you go pocket panels for the exterior.  I decided to use some of my favorite Heather Ross and Echino scraps for these.

pocket 5 pocket 4 pocket 2 pocket 1

The construction is a bit difficult, with several layers of interfacing and its bulky three-dimensional structure (quilters are used to working on flat surfaces).  But with a little time and patience, it is easy to see it through.  I did make a couple of minor modifications, because that’s what I do.  I found this great cotton webbing at my local quilt shop, Crimson Tate, and paired it with brown peppered cotton for the exterior and and orange Sun Print by Alison Glass for the interior.  And FYI, if you haven’t seen the peppered cottons, they are AMAZING.  Super soft and lovely shot colors.  These are going to be my go to solids from now on I think.

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The webbing is a little wider than the 1” webbing that the pattern calls for, but it saved me having to make fabric covered straps, winning.  And I decided against the short set of straps.  I am tall enough that I can hold the long set of straps in one hand at my side and the bag is still off the floor, so I didn’t feel that the second set of straps was necessary.  I also think they would just get in my way when putting things in and out of the bag, which would basically just make me bonkers.  (And we all know I am bonkers enough on my own).

Once I got my bag all put together and was ready to finish the top edge I felt like it was a little too floppy.  All the pictures I saw online looked so structured and crisp, so I cut two pieces of peltex interfacing and slid them into the sides of my bag to add a little more structure before I finished the top edge.

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All in all I am super happy with my new Sewing Circle Tote, and I can’t wait untill my next sewing get-together to show it off.  Who am I kidding, this will probably be my new all-purpose travel bag as well.  (Dreaming of QuiltCon 2015).

Makin Mail Sacks

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things I worked on over the holidays were Mail Sacks, using Pink Chalk Studio’s pattern. After I made one, I completely fell in love with this pattern….for lots of reasons…let’s count (and no, I wasn’t paid for this endorsement).

1)  The pattern is very well written and easy to follow. I think even a novice sewer could easily tackle this project.

2) The pattern offers options for different sizes, pockets, and fabric choices.

3) The finished bag is the perfect size (at least I think). Not too big and bulky, but big enough to carry all the things you may want (wallet, keys, sunglasses, cosmetics, first aid stuff…I sort of have a mom purse even though I’m not a mom).

4) Most importantly (to me) the pattern is easily modified to create even more options and variety.

With that last point in mind I decided I was going to really challenge myself and make as close to a fancy store-bought bag (think Fossil or something found at Anthropology) as I could.  So here is a little info, so you can make a fancy grown up bag of your own.

First I moved the exterior seam between the yoke and bag base down so I could add a leather base to my bag.  Leather always seems fancier to me, and I just happened to stumble across some leather at a fabric store in my home town when we were home for the holidays.  If you would like to get some of your own you can buy it online here.  I decided if I was going to go all out with the leather, the rest of the fabrics should be high quality as well, but I wanted to keep that Fossil vibe.  I just happened to find with was probably the last piece available…anywhere…believe me I’ve looked…of Elk Grove canvas in the dusk colorway.  I love this fabric.  It is made by Birch Fabrics and it 100% organic.  And I paired it with Elk mod basics in Sun, also by Birch fabrics.

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mail sack 7

On one of the first versions of this bag that I made I discovered how to add an exterior pocket.  The pocket I added in much the same manner as the hidden pocket on Jessica Abbot’s Waterfront Park Pleated Tote Pattern.  I really love this exterior pocket, because it is just the right place to put a cell phone.  I wanted to keep this pocket on my fancy bag, but with the yoke seam moved down I wasn’t sure what to do.  That’s when I decided to put in a floating inset pocket.  Again, a great tutorial that I followed is here.

Mail Sack 8

The final decision was shoulder bag versus cross body bag.  I was really torn over this one.  I usually love a cross body bag, especially when I am out and about running errands.  It keeps you hands free.  But, sometimes I like a shoulder bag, especially when I go out to eat (a cross body bag hanging on the back of a chair usually ends up on the floor).  So ideally I like a bag with an adjustable strap.  But how was I going to make an adjustable strap with the Mail Sack Pattern, and if I could modify it, where the heck was I going to find the right hardware for it?  Well I looked and looked online and had a good think on it and came up with a fairly simple solution.

birch mail sack

I changed the top curve of the yolk piece of the bag and the strap to be asymmetric.  The left hand side narrows to approximately 2 inches and extends up an extra 3.5 inches, and the right side I left the same (for both the exterior and lining).  The strap I left one end the same and just kept the rest of the strap straight for the length that I wanted (approximately 53 inches total).  I constructed the bag just like the instructions state, but when the bag is turned right side out at the end I was left with one short stub and one long strap.  I used a 2 inch wide rectangle ring and a slide to connect the square end of the strap to the short stub on the bag body.  The hardware I found on Etsy, here.

adjustable strap detail

The final touch is a simple magnetic closure to keep the bag closed.  But you could use any number of closures for this bag.  And here is the finished product.  I LOVE IT!  And for once I feel like I have a handmade bag that looks grown up and not hand made.

finished birch mail sack


And what is a new bag without a new wallet to match?  I found this great pattern by Wood Violet Handmade on Pink Chalk Fabrics website.  It has all the features I need in a wallet; lots of room for cards, room for a checkbook (I almost never use it, but I still like to keep it handy in case I ever have to leave the country unexpectedly) and a zipper pocket for change.