I saw a tote bag somewhere on the internet early last week. Over the past months, I’ve been trying to decide on the best crossbody bag pattern for the vintage fabric my cousin’s wife, Diane, sent me with her request for three bags—one each for herself and her two sisters. But there are two pieces of fabric, and wouldn’t it be nice if I could give each woman two bags. The “Tourist Tote Bag” from Sew Many Creations grabbed my eye and my imagination. All the reviews and accounts of this pattern say it’s easy and quick. Several members of the Sew Many Creations fan group on Facebook said they could make the bag from start to finish in about four hours. There is no hardware and there are no pockets. Of course, I couldn’t make one without pockets, and I spent some time figuring out what pocket patterns to use, so it took me a little longer than four hours. And I’m short on dedicated time right now, so I finished it in snatches of time over the course of a week.
I dug into my stash and came up with an option that I liked:
The exterior is Paula Nadelstern’s Duets in color Gold/Multi. I wanted a print I could pair with one of the cork fabrics that has been hanging around my sewing room for over two years. The cork is a deep rose—I don’t remember where I got it. I like Sara Lawson’s corks at the SewSweetness website and SallieTomato’s corks on that website. There are a couple of other reputable fabric stores that have good cork. But all too often, store owners go for a cheaper cork product and it doesn’t sew as well. The Duets fabric had some hot pink in the print that I really liked with the cork. I dug deeper into my stash for a black that would make nice straps for this bag. I came up with Tula Pink’s Fairy Flakes print in her Linework collection. The color is called Ink—it’s black. I loved the subtle gray birds and hearts and stars in this print. To make a bag strap, you cut a long strip 4″ wide, then fold each side in on itself to get a 1″ wide strip. So I wouldn’t get a lot of print on the strap, just little bits of gray here and there. For the front inner pocket, I chose a hot pink mesh from ByAnnie and a coordinating YKK bag zipper. And for the back pocket, I found an amber-colored #3 (dress) zipper and chose Tula Pink’s Mineral in Amber. I really love how that zipper pocket turned out.
These are the fabrics Diane sent me. Given the width of the elephant fabric, which is what I want to use for these totes, the widest I can cut the body is 17″ inches. I dug into my stash to find something to use for a test bag with 17″ wide panels. I cut the bottom (cork) 1″ shorter in height than the pattern measurement, and cut the top fabric 17″ wide and the bottom cork 17″ wide. Once the exterior was finished, I cut the lining to match those completed panels. Once the bag was completed, the bottom was almost square. I may try one more test bag with the dimensions above, the changing the cut-out corners to 2.5″ or 2″ rather than 3.5″. I believe that would make the bottom less square. Another alternative would be to simply multiply all the dimensions (except strap) by .87. That would give me the 17″ width and decrease everything else accordingly.
I added a hanging zippered mesh pocket to the back and a zipper pocket to the front. I had made a key leash, but forgot to sew it in the lining side seam like I had planned to do. I realized I could just sew it to the free-hanging mesh pocket without taking any seams apart. 👍
For my own use, I planned to carry my big iPad Pro and cords in the bag, with my page-turn pedal in the mesh pocket. But the squareness of the bottom won’t accommodate the iPad horizontally, and if I put it in vertically, the bag wants to tip over. (Working musician here, with all my sheet music on the iPad.) Maybe the NEXT test bag will be mine.
P.S. On the first day of YSU’s Dana Vocal Performance Clinic today, I carried the new bag with both my iPad and my MacBook Air inside, along with my pedal, music glasses (midrange to read the iPad on the Steinway music stand), phone, charging cords for USB-C and Lightning, Apple Pencil, a couple of masks, and my keys hanging from the key leash. I really liked the bag when carrying it today, but think I’ll like it better when I modify the boxed corners to be shorter so the big devices—normally just my iPad—won’t be so unstable inside. I did test carrying my pedal in the mesh pocket, but it didn’t lie easily on the bottom of the pocket, thus encouraging the bag to tip over. So I’ll just carry it loose, next to the devices.
Oh, wait, I have a bag I made just for that pedal. (You’re not surprised, are you?!) I can just stash it in the padded bag and drop that loose in the tote bag. That way I can find it easily. 👍👍
One thing I will add to the bag next time is a small mesh pocket next to the location of the key leash. Everyone with a car newer than, oh, 2016, has a key fob attached to the keyring with all their customer loyalty swipe cards and their house key(s). I didn’t like having to pull the big bunch of keys up from where it was resting on the bottom of the bag. If I give it a little cage to rest in, like dog lovers do with their fur babies, then I won’t accidentally set off the car alarm or other such silliness.