New bag: House of Klum Oberlin tote in waxed canvas

This was one of the #sewmystyle projects for 2018 and I knew pretty quickly that I wanted to make one for my sister for Christmas as the styles were pretty much up her street. I got a little distracted with other things and didn’t make it in time for the October #sewmystyle deadline, so just aimed for Christmas and here it is now!


House of Klum has a range of different bag patterns and kits – and the first thing to say is that they aren’t cheap. I was originally going to make the Fremont bag, but the finishing kit (straps and hardware) for that was $60 and then there was the pattern and fabric on top. Now, I’ve made a few bags and I know sourcing good quality finishing can be pretty difficult and expensive, so I’m not saying the price is unfair – but there’s no denying that it’s at a level that makes you think twice about your project.


When I went to buy the finishing kit at Drygoods Design here in Seattle, the main one they had left was the Oberlin Tote finishing kit (and it was $30 as a simpler bag), so that made my decision for me. I also havered a bit about the pattern itself. I could see it was going to consist of a lot of rectangles and I’ve made a few totes, so a $13 price tag seemed a little excessive for something I probably already had. But in the end I bit the bullet and went for it.


It’s a very simple bag to construct and if you’ve made any before, it’ll be a doddle. If you haven’t made a bag, there are a few little techniques to get used to, but it’s pretty straightforward technically. You’re mostly sewing a lot of straight lines. However, the tricky part with bags (of course there is a tricky part!) is that you need to get physical (Phy-s-ical! I wanna get physicalllll… ). Usually it’s due to the thickness of the fabric, especially when you encounter a few layers together, plus the size of thebag when you’re joining it together, so get your muscles prepped and don’t be shy.


I used wax canvas that I bought from Drygoods Design in Seattle, and – boy – my machine really HATED it when I started sewing. It was very hard to keep my needle straight and I ended up with some of the worst stitching I’ve sewn in a while. Of course, the problem with something like waxed canvas is that you can see every stitch that is made and there is basically nowhere to hide. So I just did the best I could and ploughed on (literally, to be honest). However, it got a lot better once I got the main body together. My little Brother just didn’t like the wrangling I don’t think, and to be fair this has been true for a few bags I’ve made. My cheap and cheerful machine is an absolute star for most projects, but I think it meets its match when confronted with multiple thick layers.


The interior pocket was constructed differently to one I’ve done before and took a little looking at. Usually, I’ve been instructed to cut a long thin rectangle in one part of the pocket and then you place the zip underneath this hole and stitch around it to secure. This zip was put in one one side and then the other side was folded around it. I think the normal method may have been tricky in waxed canvas, so maybe that’s why they suggested it. I rather liked the binding the sides part – it looks really nice with the contrast binding.


Apart from the construction of the bag, it was interesting using waxed canvas for the first time. It leaves a discernible mark when you bend or stretch it and you can see it much more prominently in the brown fabric. This is absolutely as it should be and is, of course, because of the wax coating. It gives quite a unique look and the idea is that it looks rather like weathered leather over time. I wasn’t sure at first and was slightly annoyed that the sales assistant had wrapped my brown canvas into a tiny square at the store, leaving quite prominent lines everywhere, but now that I’m used to it, I think it looks pretty cool. Looking at some of the other examples on the House of Klum website, you can get some interesting effects.


Anyway, overall, I ended up with a very professional looking bag, although I’m not sure the pics do the product much justice. Since I made this as a gift, that’s exactly what I was after. If you’ve never made a bag before, this is a good place to start for a solid introduction to the craft. If you have, I suspect you may find the cost a little prohibitive, and particularly if you already have some hardware. That’s the nice thing about crafting though – the choice is yours! 🙂

2 thoughts on “New bag: House of Klum Oberlin tote in waxed canvas

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