As promised, here is the tell-all of my experience with making the Everything Tote from Heather Ross' Weekend Sewing book.
I have been writing about this book a lot, mostly because the projects in it are so fun and useful. If you haven't bought this book already resistance is futile: it will be yours someday. The Everyday Tote goes together quickly and I will probably be making lots more of them. I used a Denyse Schmidt home dec weight for the exterior and an Amy Butler for the interior. Both are available in our webstore which, by the way, is now up and running!
The book lists the fabric amounts needed for this bag at 1/2 yard exterior fabric and 1/2 yard lining fabric: almost as soon as the book was out the internet lit up saying that these amounts were incorrect: you actually need 1 yard of each fabric.
I am here to tell you that if you want to cut your handles out of fabric cut on the bias (as indicated in the book), you will need 1 1/4 yards of each fabric. I have cut out a pattern or two in my day but I was unable to get the handles on the bias as in Heather's illustration no matter what I did and I was using 54" wide fabric.
Now, I am also here to tell you that cutting the handles on the bias from 1 1/4 yards creates a lot of leftover fabric. There are two ways to look at this: you can look at this as "Wow, I have some great scraps leftover," or you can look at this as "Wow, I wasted a lot of fabric." I tend to be a glass half-full gal myself, but having said that, I decided to cut my handles on the straight of the grain and they turned out just fine.
If and when I make the Everything Tote again, I would probably use home-decorator weight fabric for the exterior and the lining. The book calls for a heavier-weight for the exterior and a lighter weight for the interior, but I think if you are going to use this bag for carrying around groceries and heavy stuff (sewing machine, anyone?) the tote would definitely benefit from a little extra heft.
If and when I make this bag again I would also pay MUCH more attention when sewing on my handles as I sewed not ONE but BOTH of them on with a twist and then spent many minutes of my life that I will (probably) never get back tearing out stitches while Mom sat next to me and said "Why don't you just cut them in the middle and tie them in a knot?" To which I replied "No, that's what YOU would do... I would tear out the stitches and complain about it the whole time."
And I did.
I'm pretty sure there is a second flub-dub in the directions. Heather tells you to make your binding and straps by sewing a strip of lining to a strip of exterior fabric with right sides together and then turn them right side out. You with me so far? Basically, you have a "tube" of fabric which you iron flat and then fold into quarters, horizontally.
Here's where my opinion and the book's directions differ: Heather wants you to treat this fabric tube like single fold bias tape and stitch your handles down accordingly, but if you do this you get really skinny, really thick handles and bindings and they don't look like the pictures in the book at all. They're also well-nigh impossible to stitch through (and I have a heavy-duty machine!).
If you look at other pictures of the Everything Tote on the internet you will see lots with skinny straps and lots with thicker straps. That's because some people (the ones with the skinny straps) followed the directions and some people (like myself and other gals with thicker straps) went renegade and disregarded the directions. I'm pretty sure that you are just supposed to fold your fabric tubes in half once, with the lining fabric on the inside, and sandwich the bags' raw edges inside the fold and stitch. That's what I did and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
It's seems crazy, I know, that if you follow the written directions, you will end up with something that looks drastically different from the bag in the book but if you don't follow directions, you will get the bag in the book. Let this be a lesson in thinking for yourself!
In my next tote I will probably do a little more gathering than the directions call for (just because I think it would be cute) and oh, yeah, I made my pockets a little differently, too.
Maybe this sounds like a lot of belly-aching about the discrepancies in the directions, and changes I made to the pattern, but I think Miss Heather would be the first to tell you that's what this book is all about: you have permission to change things around. She says it right there in the introduction.
Making this tote was really fun. I looove patterns that only have a couple of pieces to cut out and that don't take long to whip up and the Everything Tote falls into this category. Once you have made one you probably wouldn't even need to look at the directions again. You could easily make this bag with a younger child and re-size it for all kinds of goodies.
Let me know what you think and if you don't already have a copy of this book, as Mae West said "Why don't you come by and see me sometime?"