Tote Bag Beginning Sewing Project: Sew Everything Workshop

For my third major sewing project, I decided to sew another bag:  The Tote-ally Awesome Tote Bag from the Sew Everything Workshop. This tote bag sewing project looked simple and useful.

OK, to be honest I don’t think that tote bags are exactly my style, but this project seemed like another opportunity to work on my sewing skills.

Tote-ally Awesome Tote Bag from Sew Everything Workshop
Tote-ally Awesome Tote Bag from Sew Everything Workshop

In particular, I need to work on correct fabric alignment as well as precision in measuring.

Again, this project does not come with an included pattern. Since all the essential elements of the bag are rectangles, this works fine. Simply measure out the correct dimensions and you will be on your way. I added a large pocket inside.

One thing I did have a problem with was sewing an exact 90 degree angle using just a ruler. A quick visit to the garage for a right angle ruler fixed this problem. The ruler is pretty huge, so I will consider looking for a smaller one in the future.

The design offers three options. A hand tote, a shoulder tote,  and a long handled (cross body) tote.

Inside Pocket of the Tote-Ally Awewome Tote Bag: Shoulder Version
Inside Pocket of the Tote--Ally Awewome Tote Bag

Each bag has different dimensions for the corresponding bag size. I decided to make the shoulder tote since that is the most useful design for me. I selected fabric that would be easy to work with because it was random and abstract– nothing to line up here! I settled on a black with cream cotton print and a natural cream canvas for the lining.

Overall I think that this is a good project for a beginner. As with the Tokyo Tie Bag, I found the finished dimensions to be a little small. Even a beginner can make the bag bigger easily, so this is not really a problem. Again, I think that the author, Diana Rupp, kept the novice sewist’s best interests in mind because a smaller bag is more affordable (in the likely case of a fatal mistake) and a smaller amount of fabric is more manageable on the sewing machine for a beginner.

Easy Project: Den of Pin Pincushion

We are using the beginner’s sewing book ( “Sew Everything Workshop” by Diana Rupp) to learn how to sew. I needed a pincushion, so I made the Den of Pin Pincushion. It’s a one-spool project (easy).

I was fully prepared to have had to have done my Simplicity 1971 reversible aprontwice in order to actually make an apron instead of a disaster, so I bought twice the amount of fabric needed. So, I had plenty of leftover fabric to use in other projects. I chose my black and white fabric with green embroidery thread. I chose the circular pincushion- you just use a cd to trace a circle on the wrong side of you cloth, so it’s super easy. It’s supposed top be topped with a button, but I didn’t feel like doing that step.

Den of Pin Pincusion
Den of Pin Pincushion

Even though this is an easy project, I still had a few problems with it.

1) Luckily I already had polyfill from when I made a scissors keeper from Crewel Embroidery by Sue Hawkins.

Scissors Keeper
Scissors keeper from Crewel Embroidery by Sue Hawkins

I think I went a little overboard with the stuffing, because I wanted to make it nice and firm. Oh well, not a big deal.

2) It was difficult to get the embroidery thread through the pincushion. I was using a big, thick needle, but I actually managed to break it. You can see that it isn’t a perfect circle and the “petals” aren’t perfectly spaced, but I am happy with it.

3) You hand sew the part where you put the stuffing in using whipstitch, which turned out a little messy when I did it. Yes, this is probably 100% my fault, but I like to complain.

Den of Pin Pincushion Profile
You can see that the hand stitching (on the left-hand side) is messy. Oh well!

4) What is the pun or reference? Den of Pin Pincushion- I don’t get it. Can anybody tell me?

Project grade: A. Yes, there were some problems, but they were my fault. Easy and useful project.

Sew Everything Workshop: Tokyo Tie Bag

Tokyo Tie Bag from Sew Everything Workshop
Tokyo Tie Bag from Sew Everything Workshop

My first project from Diana Rupp’s Sew Everything Workshop was the Tokyo Tie Bag.  The Tokyo Tie Bag is a simple but very cute pattern.  It had the added bonus of looking like it would be something that I could actually make.

And I was pleasantly surprised (OK, astounded) to find that I actually made the bag successfully!

The Tokyo Tie Bag does not have an included printed pattern in the Sew Everything Workshop.  The book says to cut out the pattern for the bag on blank pattern paper.  Unfortunately I could not find pattern paper, and my local fabric store, JoAnn, does not appear to have any employees so there was no one there for me to ask for help. (I made up a new slogan for them: JoAnn: A Horrible Place to Shop.)

I cut my pattern out of wrapping paper, which lent my project a festive air.  I read the instructions thoroughly, and was cautiously optimistic.   I was a little skeptical about the whole put-this fabric-piece-into-the-other-and-it-will-magically-turn-into-a-bag thing, but lo and behold it worked!

I did find that unfortunately, the bag is a little… petite.

Sorry, but I think that it is seriously too small for a woman to wear without looking ridiculous!  If you are  above the age of 6, this bag will be too tiny for you.  On the other hand if you have small kids who want to play dress up then this bag will work.

I can appreciate that the small size of the pattern lets the novice sewist avoid spending money on fabric for a project that can potentially be ruined due to naive mistakes. Also, the small amount of fabric is easier to work with on the sewing machine.

Tokyo Tie Bag Size Comparison
Tokyo Tie Bag Sizes: Tiny and Regular

I did like the pattern over all, so I decided to try again by making the pattern bigger.  I increased all the measurements by 50% or so.   I rounded down any weird numbers, since this pattern is simple and does not have any weird pieces that need to match up.  Then I drew this pattern on my new blank pattern fabric that I found at a different fabric store in the next town over.  This fabric store has employees!  I also found pattern tracing material at Nancy’s Notions.

Using this pattern helped me understand a French Seam. As the book notes, this seam seams strong, so I don’t feel like the bag is going to fall apart if I put something in it. I also found this explanation of seam finishes from Sew, Mama, Sew! helpful.

My second bag was a much more comfortable size, hanging easily off my shoulder and not making be feel like a giant. I added an inside pocket, but forgot to do the quarter turn of the inside fabric first, so the pocket is in the side of the bag instead of the front or back.  I don’t care, I deem it a success!

Tokyo Tie Bag Pockets and Lining
Tokyo Tie Bag Pockets and Lining
Tokyo Tie Bag Bigger Pattern
The Tokyo Tie Bag Pattern, Enlarged