When I’ve been having a few fitting issues or just need a little break from apparel, I usually turn to making a bag. There are many advantages to bag-sewing:
- Bags don’t give you fitting problems!
- They are wonderful scrap/stash busters as they tend to need small amounts of different fabrics
- All those bright quilting cottons sitting in your stash that you bought because you liked the pattern/colour? PERFECT for bags.
- They’re usually pretty quick to make
- You get to use your bag all the time, as opposed to a great dress, which may only see daylight once in a while
- They’re actually quite forgiving – if you go a little off your seamline or misjudge cutting, you can usually get away with it
Have I convinced you? Well, aside from all those reasons, I actually really needed a large tote for carting around my everyday bric-a-brac. I have made the Noodlehead Trail Tote before in a smaller version as a gift , so I decided to tackle the larger size as I knew it was a quality pattern. Oh – one other thing guys – this pattern is FREE. Yes: diddly squat, nada, zilcho – just download it from the Robert Kaufman site. And then, you know, buy some of Anna Graham’s other patterns, because she’s a great designer.
Anyway, the Trail Tote is a lovely shaped bag with a rounded bottom, which is aided by the inclusion of small darts at each corner. It is fully lined and has a zipped pocket on the front, plus a sizeable side pocket on the back lining. The bag is closed with a magnetic snap and the strap is made from one of your fabrics. There are also instructions to make your own piping, but I was feeling lazy and had the exact shade I needed already, so used shop-bought.
For the fabric (oooh… the fabric…) I used (what else?) some lovely Cotton & Steel cottons I had in my stash. For the outside of the bag I used Cutlery Periwinkle from Sarah Watts’ Bluebird collection. Such a beautiful fabric collection. If these came in rayon or lawn, my bank account would be in trouble. More trouble, that is. As an aside, I was listening to the new podcast from Helen of Helen’s Closet and Caroline from Blackbird Fabrics yesterday. It’s called Love to Sew and has gotten off to a good start. The third episode was about fabric stash where they both confessed how much they had in their stash amongst other things. Oh my gosh. I had wayyyyy more than both these ladies put together. And one owns a fabric store! I don’t what that means or why I’m telling you this, but it was an interesting episode and worth checking out.
Anyway, back to the fabric. For the lining I used a delightfully named yellow and gold cotton, also from Cotton & Steel. It’s called Goldilocks Metallic and is from the basics Netorious collection. It’s a little thicker than the Bluebird fabric, so, as well as providing a fantastic contrast pop, also adds a little structure to the bag. My third contrast fabric was, I think, a Birch Organics lightweight cotton called Abacus Multi. I just had a scrap, so it was perfect for pockets.
The construction of this bag is straightforward and there are good instructions to keep you on the right track. I usually put my bag pieces on card since you end up tracing round them a lot. You use the same piece for outer fabric and lining, and you also interface all these pieces. Apart from that, you need some squares and rectangles for pockets, and finally some long lengths for the strap. I was going to use a leather strap, but it ended up being a bad match, so I whipped up the self-made version. Hardware-wise it’s quite painless – you need a magnetic snap, some D-rings and a slider. You could opt out of the last three in theory though, so could get away with just the snap. Personally, I think using a little hardware avoids the totally handmade look and adds some extra professionalism to the bag, but it’s a matter of preference.
You follow the usual order of proceedings: make the outer bag with zipped pocket, stitch and turn. Then the lining with pocket, stitch but don’t turn. You insert the short strap pieces onto the outer bag, wrap the lining around both of those and stitch the whole thing around the top.
Then it’s the magical turning part: pulling the whole thing through a gap you left in the lining and DA DA! A bag! I love it.
One nice thing about Cotton & Steel fabrics, if you’re familiar with them, is that they always have GREAT selvages. I decided to try and keep a bit of the selvage from this fabric on the edge of the bag and I’m really glad I did. I think it really makes the bag actually, for such a small detail.
Alright, that about wraps it up. I’ll be back with more garments very soon, but this was a nice break!