Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Everything Tote

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?"




Anonymous said...

I with ya, do it to suit your needs, I am going to have to make note of this blog site to refer back to when my book arrives, but you made perfect sense!

Carissa Kemna said...

I'm so glad I bumped into this blog and this post! I am in the midst of working on the everything tote. I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to situate the fabric to cut out the handles. I figured it was because I was a novice and decided to make a note in the book to get more than 1 yard for each. It is nice to hear I'm not as clueless as I thought. Next up I'll be making the handles as I've already made the tote body. I will take you up on your tip to fold it just once. Thank you! I love your blog and will be bookmarking it and buying fabric from your shop! Carissa

Tara said...

Thanks so much for your honesty! When I bought the book I didn't even get home before I was at the fabric store buying 1/2 yards of fabric for the tote. Getting home and pulling out the pattern had me really annoyed. So I got the errata and just bought 2 yards of fabric only to be really annoyed that I can in no way cut the handle on the bias!

I cut them straight and read everything I can find before I flub and more of these patterns! I love the book and the ideas, but when everything I want to make has issues(i.e. the yard sale wrap skirt that I seamed up and added a zipper to!) I need to do more research!

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I am currently sewing this bag and have run into the strap problem. Just figured to go online and see if I could google some help and I found this post. Am going to get off line, take a deep breath, and rip out the stitches and do as you have suggested. Mant thanks!

Claudia said...

Thanks for your post! I was searching for someone who had made the bag and did not cut the handles on the bias; I am so glad I found your post! I figured it wouldn't matter too much but am glad to be reassured now!

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness, you felt the same about the binding and handles. I am sewing this bag right now and I read over the directions 100's of times and something was amiss about the binding and handles.

Much thanks for your corrections. Now I can carry on with my first sewing project!

sewswell said...

I just finished making this bag. Not only does the pattern have all the errors described here, but there are so many easier/better ways to do things. There is no reason to make the binding tubes. Use a double layer and if you stitch it from the wrong side, you can flip it over to the right side, turn under the raw edge and see exactly where you need to topstitch(I also cut the length of the piece to 12" so I had some gathers in the bag front). On the straps, I seamed the lining and the main fabric. then sandwiched the bag between them.This way you can stitch all the way around in one seam. then topstitched. then I turned the raw edges in on the other side of the handle and topstitched the handle. this way the lining showed on the inside of the handle. The bag shape is really cute and very serviceable. I would look at pattern pieces before buying fabric for any of her projects.I think she should have a correction page on her website.My daughter came with plans to try a few things from the book and now we have not enough fabric for what she wanted to make.