Over the years, I've made many of these handy six pocket tote bags - they make especially nice nappy bags for new mums. In fact, the last bag I made for a co-worker going on maternity leave was such a huge hit at the baby shower, that I received requests for a few more. They're a really nice sewing project and whip up easily within a day. So, now that I'm on summer holiday, I headed down to the fabric shop and walked out with these gorgeous Amy Butler fabrics:
Aren't they absolutely lush? I surprised even myself, because green is my least favourite colour and yet it was that beautiful emerald swirly print that just kept drawing me back to it. I guess the copious amount of turquoise mixed into the colour palette made the difference.
And viola! A finished handbag, which I think would make a lovely beach bag (not that we currently have much in the way of beach weather so far this summer...):
Now, over the years I've made a number of changes to the original pattern, which I thought I'd share with you in case you were interested in making a similar bag.
The original pattern calls for firm batting. I have traditionally used Thermolam, which works well and gives the bag moderate structure while remaining soft and flexible. However, as the bag construction requires a lot of layering, the thickness of the Thermolam is less than ideal and makes precis sewing a bit challenging.
My change: This time I decided to try a light-medium weight fusible batting. It took longer to fuse to the fabric but the sewing through the multiple layers was significantly easier. Structure wise, it was softer compared to the Thermolam but adequate for a tote bag. If you want a lot more stiffness and less bulk, then fusible interfacing would be the way to go as another alternative.
Measurements & Cutting
The original pattern produces a tote bag measuring 8 x 10 x 4 inches. This is a nice size but I wanted something just a wee bit larger so I decided to increase it by 1.5 times. Below are the measurements I've been using.
My change - Shopping:
Body & lining fabric - 70 cm (3/4 yard)
Pocket fabric - 60 cm (1/3 yard)
Handle fabric - unchanged
Batting - 40 cm (1/2 yard)
My change - Cutting:
Body & lining fabric - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 25 1/2 inches
Pocket fabric - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 21 1/2 inches **
Handle fabric - cut 2 each, 4 inches by 34 1/2 inches
Batting - cut 2 each, 19 1/2 inches by 12 3/4 inches
** If you'd like a bit more of the body fabric to show behind the pockets, cut 2 each sized 19 1/2 inches square instead. This will make the pockets slightly shallower but they will still be plenty deep and roomy and I really like the extra background fabric on show.
Also remember to check your pocket fabric for print directionality before you start cutting! I know that it seems obvious to say this but even despite all of my sewing experience, this can still bite me in the rear.
The original pattern instructs you to sew the handles up to the height of the batting (which extends beyond the pockets). This is fine but I've always found the straps are a bit tight around when slung over my shoulder and if you're wearing a bulky top/sweater or a coat, it's extremely tight.
My change: This time I only sewed the handles up to the top of the pockets. This means that provided the bag isn't filled to bursting to the top, there is extra room for my arm and bulky clothing to fit through the handles while not needing to use any extra fabric. Win/win.
The original pattern requires no finishing on any of the edges. However, I have often felt that the top edge of the body print needs just a little something to keep the shape and prevent the batting inside from flopping around.
My change: I now top stitch around the top edge of the bag body. I keep it very tight to the edge, about 1/8 inch. It gives a very professional looking finish, adds structure and helps to keep the batting inside in place.
Now, don't you need a snazzy new beach bag of your own?