bags · sewing

Style Arc London tote

I’ve sewn many, many bags over the years, but this is the first time that I’ve sewn one in leather.  I don’t think that it will be the last time.

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

The pattern is the Style Arc London tote bag. From their website: Gorgeous tote bag with clever but simple design that creates a flat base. The buckle closure makes this bag secure and the inside pocket includes a phone compartment. This bag is fully lined. FABRIC SUGGESTION & DESCRIPTION Leather, canvas, denim.

london-tote

The leather I used was from NSW Leather Co in Collingwood.  It was rather thin and very soft, so it was actually very easy to sew.  The brown has a metallic sheen; the contrasting mustard leather is matt.  I can’t remember what type of skins they were unfortunately, but they were lovely to work with.  I took the pattern pieces in and selected the skins that would fit – the staff there were very helpful and provided me with plenty of advice, even though it’s really more a wholesale place (but happy to assist with retail, even small purchases like mine).

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

Bags are really difficult to photograph effectively! The lining fabric is quilting cotton, from a now discontinued Anna Maria Horner range. I included a key leash, and an internal pocket on each side of the bag.

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

I decided to use contrasting stitching throughout, which was a bit of a gamble as it required very slow and patient stitching! I had done a bit of testing before I decided what needles, machine feet and threads to use. On my machine, with this fairly thin leather, a fresh sharp needle, regular Gutterman thread and the normal presser foot worked the best! Who’d have thought! My machine doesn’t have very strong presser foot pressure, which probably helps – others may have more luck using a walking foot, or a teflon foot, or leather needles. My advice is to sew a few samples and see what works best in your situation. I used quilting clips to hold the pieces together – well worth it, as you can’t pin leather without leaving holes!

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

I carry a fair bit of stuff in my bags, so decided to add some rivets to the handles for extra security. I also folded the handles in half around cording and sewed them together to provide extra strength and support. As it turns out the cording tends to move out of the straps when I’m using the bag, so I probably need to glue the ends of it in place. Some of the handle stitching has come undone where it attaches to the bag, so this also needs reinforcement. Handles do a lot of work!

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

I have to give lots of my bag making credit to Nicole Mallalieu – I learned all my bag making skills and techniques from Nikki, and strongly recommend her books and patterns (and classes if you’re in Melbourne or online classes on Creativebug) if you want to learn how to make bags well. All the tips she teaches can be applied to sewing any type of bag, and you can often apply those skills to other types of sewing as well. Nikki knows her stuff and has a number of formal qualifications and plenty of experience.

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

Oh, the little buckle on the front that provides a closure for the bag came from Jimmy Buttons. That place is a whole other story – I have never seen so many trims, buttons, buckles, closures, etc in one place – but with highly eccentric owners who apparently prefer to sell in bulk! On the advice from a shop assistant who was trying to sort the shelves (and wasn’t allowed behind the counter) I left the money for my single buckle on the unattended counter and quickly left.

Style Arc London Tote Bag in leather from NSW Leather Co

Actually, a magnetic or clip closure would have been much better than that buckle – threading the strap through it is a bit of a pain.  I’d adapt that if I sewed this bag up again.  So in summary, this bag isn’t perfect, but it’s not bad either for a first effort in leather, all sewn on a domestic machine without any special tools.

bags · sewing · Uncategorized

More Genoa totes

I now feel that most sewers I know have made at least one Genoa tote.  It’s no wonder – such a satisfying pattern, with such a practical and pleasing result!

Genoa Tote

The pattern description says: Designed with denim in mind, the Genoa Tote borrows it’s name from the Italian city, where the first denim trousers were made. The Genoa Tote is fully-lined, features a zipped pouch and a clip for keys. The leather straps can be made in two lengths and two widths, and are attached with double capped rivets, creating beauty, strength and longevity.

Genoa Tote

I have tended to do as the description says, and have sewn my Genoa totes from denim. This one is lined in printed drill, and was a birthday gift for my delightful sister-in-law Donna.

Genoa Tote

I really do love those leather handles! Donna’s was the Medium size, which is probably my favourite. However, I recently gave the Small size a go too.

Genoa Tote

It’s really a bit hard to tell the size without something else in the photo for scale! As you can see, this one was also from denim. I cut the straps from some leather scraps that I had in stash. They are fairly soft, so don’t stand up well on their own, but the colour goes nicely with the lining.

Genoa Tote

The crochet print lining was designed by Cam and has been in stash for a few years. I’m really happy to have finally used it in something special! The pocket fabric is a Denyse Schmidt quilting cotton also from deep stash.

Genoa Tote

I’ve seen some beautiful versions of this bag sewn from leather. I’ll add that idea to my to-sew list!

bags

Genoa Totes

Sometimes it is extremely satisfying to sew a pattern that doesn’t require fitting.  For me, that means a bag.  Or two.  Or three. Maybe even four.

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Most of my readers know that I am friends with Anna, who has designed the Genoa Tote in conjunction with Nita-Jane of Pattern Fantastique. So take that into account when you read the rest of this blog post – I might have unconscious bias. But I don’t think that I do – it’s a terrific tote pattern and I think that the results speak for themselves.  But boy, bags are difficult to photograph well!

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Yes, there are a million free patterns and tutorials for tote bags out there on the internet. But I think that there are a few points of difference that make the Genoa Tote pattern worth the money (I will point out here that I didn’t pay for my copy of the pattern as I helped with final testing). This pattern comes in three sizes, all nicely proportioned. I’ve made the Medium and the Large (the orange bag). The facing at the top of the bag gives structure, the lining is nicely attached to the main bag, and there is a nicely constructed inner pocket and key leash. And of course, those leather handles. They’re great.

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

I used denim for the outer of all my bags. The most difficult part is sourcing the requirements for the handles. I got my leather directly from Anna – she will be selling some kits – but you can get it from places like NSW Leather Company. Or you can do as I did with one of my bags and cut up some old belts!  I bought rivets and punches and other bits and pieces online from Adelaide Leather Co (their service was great) and now I have enough to sew Genoa totes for the rest of my life.  My rubber mallet came from Bunnings and the bread board from the supermarket.

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

Genoa Tote

It’s lots of fun putting together fabric combinations for this bag. Anna’s instructions are excellent (she has an extensive teaching/training/writing background) and combined with Nita-Jane’s drafting you are assured of a great result. I’ve already given one bag to a friend for her 50th and can tell that this will be a go-to pattern for gifts.

The pattern description from the website is as follows: Designed with denim in mind, the Genoa Tote borrows it’s name from the Italian city, where the first denim trousers were made. The Genoa Tote is fully-lined, features a zipped pouch and a clip for keys. The leather straps can be made in two lengths and two widths, and are attached with double capped rivets, creating beauty, strength and longevity.

Genoa Tote

I’ve already seen loads of these pop up on Instagram.  It’s a basic, but a basic that has all those elements that in my opinion elevate it above the ordinary.  Nicely done, Anna and Nita-Jane!

bags · sewing

Grainline Stowe Bag

I rather enjoy sewing bags.  Never any fitting issues, making something useful.  Generally I turn to one of the many brilliant bag patterns by Nicole Mallalieu of You Sew, Girl!  But late one night when browsing the internet, possibly after a glass or two of wine, I decided to press the buy button on the Grainline Stowe Bag.

stowe11_b70f2344-47ab-4647-9102-4e972076fc75

This bag is styled so beautifully in the website photos, and looked to be a good project bag. The description on the website is as follows:

BAG DETAILS – Designed by Fringe Supply Co., purveyors of fine knitting supplies, Stowe is the ideal project bag – whatever your project may be! The main compartment is perfect for works-in-progress while the many side pockets organize small tools, patterns & notebooks. It may have been designed with knitting in mind but you’ll find it equally useful for a variety of purposes from travel to everyday!  Techniques involved include sewing a straight seam and applying bias binding.

SUGGESTED FABRICS – Medium weight woven fabrics such as denim, linen, twill, and canvas. Fabrics over 9oz are not recommended for this pattern because of potential sewing machine difficulty.

NOTIONS – Thread, double fold bias binding 1/4″ to 3/8″ wide: Small bag requires 1 1/4 yds. Large bag requires 1 2/3 yds.

Eventually I printed off the pattern and taped it together, pulled some denim out of stash, pulled some pretty quilting cotton out of stash, made a whole lot of double fold bias binding (I think I used the 25mm bias tape maker) and sewed up some Stowe bags. I sewed both the small and the large.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

So, they look rather cute, don’t they? I really like the bias bound handles and the way that they fold into the side gussets. I also rather like applying bias binding. I did it the way I usually do, by sewing it to the wrong side first then wrapping it around to the front and top-stitching it down about a mm away from the edge. This keeps it all neat and there are no issues with accidentally missing any spots.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

However, there is a WHOLE LOT of bulk and raw edges in the bottom of this bag if you make it according to the instructions. It’s an unlined bag, so all those edges are visible. I overlocked the seams, and stitched the thick triangles of denim down to the base to secure them, but it’s all so heavy! Remember that there are pockets on the inside of the bag, so that bottom seam and the side seams have four layers of denim sewn together in lots of places. Add a few folded sections and that is a whole lot of fabric.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

There is one upside to all that bulk – it helps the bag to keep it’s shape and makes it nice and square and work well as a project bag. I gave the small bag to my mum, and she’s been using it quite satisfactorily. So I decided to sew another small bag and see if I could improve things a little. This time I butted the pocked piece to the main body piece so that I could just fold the pocket back up against the body after sewing one seam between two thicknesses between the front and back of the bag rather than having four thicknesses along that bottom seam.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

Now the inside bottom seam looks like this:

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

No raw edges along that seam and much less bulk. However, I didn’t figure out what to do with the side seams to improve things there and forced my poor overlocker and machine to deal with the layers.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

So, the final verdict on this pattern? Okay, the denim that I used was probably right on the edge of the maximum weight possible, so I didn’t make things easy. I really like the handles and the bias binding finish, the internal pockets (sewn directly to the outer of the bag, but you can’t see the stitching on this denim) and the boxy structure. I really dislike the bulk and exposed folded corners on the inside, and think there would definitely be another (better) way to do this. I’m happily using my little Stowe bag – it is an excellent small project size – so I suppose that overall the pattern is not a bad pattern – but it’s not a great one either. It is however rather expensive for what it is, especially given the suggested construction method, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you could find similar patterns as free tutorials online.

Grainline Stowe bag in denim

If you want to make bags – simple through to more advanced – I highly recommend Nicole Mallalieu‘s books You Sew, Girl! and The Better Bag Maker.  (This is where I say that I know Nicole personally but honestly I wouldn’t be giving these a plug if I didn’t mean it).  The great thing about her patterns and books is that she teaches you techniques so that you know how to do things like reduce bulk where it matters, and how to get a really good finish on what you make.  She’s a qualified fashion designer and pattern maker with years and years of experience and it really shows in what you can learn from her patterns and books.  Next time I’m temped to press the “buy” button on a pattern like the Stowe I’ll be heading straight to my bookshelf and pulling out The Better Bag Maker instead.

bags · sewing

pencil case

Oh the blog post titles are getting even more mundane.  This one is about a – you guessed it – pencil case.

New pencil case to start year 7

Just before school started and we were sorting through Clare’s things, making sure that we had everything she needed for high school, she realised that she needed/wanted a new pencil case. One large enough to fit her ruler and assorted other bits and pieces. So it was off to the stash we went, where we chose some fabrics and even managed to find a coordinating chunky zipper. The outer fabric is a home decorating weight designed by Denyse Schmidt, and the lining is a quilting cotton. Both very pretty colours. Because the outer was a heavier weight I didn’t even interface it.

New pencil case to start year 7

There are a plethora of instructions on the internet that can help you to make a simple lined zippered pencil case, but I used a combination of the instructions for the zippered pouches in You Sew, Girl! by Nicole Mallalieu and those in her make-up purse pattern. I strongly recommend Nicole’s book(s) for anyone wanting to know how to make bags/purses and similar items well – they are packed full of simple tips and tricks that really improve the finish. I based the pencil case size on an existing pencil case and then tweaked it to Clare’s specifications.

New pencil case to start year 7

I can hardly believe that I managed a whole blog post on this! It was very quick to make and highly satisfying, fits all Clare’s stationery requirements (including her calculator) and apparently the other girls in her class have admired it quite a bit. It’s a winner!

bags

a bag for Sam

We have been so blessed with the teachers that my daughters have had at their primary school.  Stella’s prep teacher has been especially wonderful.  She has the perfect mix of warmth and control that makes her classroom a positive learning environment and a pleasure to be in (I helped out with reading occasionally during the year so was able to see her in action).  What does this have to do with sewing?  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that our thank-you gift to the teacher each year is generally a thornberry bag.

thank you bag for teacher Sam

I was able to use Nicole‘s recent zippers for bags class to make a start on this bag, and finished it off at home shortly after. Stella hasn’t given it to teacher Sam yet – we’ll wait until the last week of term for that. But I couldn’t resist showing it off now!

thank you bag for teacher Sam

Here’s zipper #1 – the closure across the top of the bag. The bag pattern is the Large Tote and Satchel, which is just perfect for customisation. I decided to use webbing for the strap, and used a fairly heavy weight denim for the exterior in combination with decorator weight Denyse Schmidt fabric.

thank you bag for teacher Sam

There are zippers #2 and #3, securing fully functional pockets on the outside of the bag. Both are lined in quilters cotton. And on the inside (and oh so difficult to photograph)?

thank you bag for teacher Sam

Zipper #4 is across the top of a divider pocket. There is also a patch pocket on the inside just the right size to slip in a mobile phone. There is a key leash in there too but you can’t see it in the photo. The lining fabrics are quilting cottons, other than the decorator weight fabric used for the divider pocket.

thank you bag for teacher Sam

This bag was a delight to make, with Nicole’s instructions helping to give a very professional result as always. I also added purse feet to make it a little more sturdy, and included an internal structured base. Luckily for me I still have some of the exterior fabrics left and am considering making myself a similar bag.I still have some more zipper techniques to practice – maybe I need to make more than one!  Now I need to consider what to make for Clare’s teacher – she has a male teacher AGAIN this year!  Maybe some of my husband’s home brew would be a successful home made gift for him instead of a bag…

bags · sewing

the hurrier I go…

I counted up the items on my “finished but needing to be blogged” list this morning.  There are eleven items on that list.  My “sewing plans for me” list has seventeen items on it. My “sewing plans for the kids” list has eleven items on it – but there is a pile of fabric on my cutting table calling out to become special dresses for the girls as well. I have a basket of semi-completed fabric necklaces that are destined to become Christmas gifts. My phone also has a list of Christmas gifts to buy, and the ever present “Thursday’s List” – the list of things that I have to do on Thursday, the day after I finish paid work for the week. The hurrier I go*…

2013-10-26 12.25.44

We were interstate last week.   First we visited family then I attended a work conference once my family had returned.  It was a very productive and enjoyable conference but I was SO exhausted when I returned! Fortunately for me I was able to spend yesterday recuperating by sewing at Nikki’s Zippers for Bags class. Karen has reviewed this class before, and I second her comments. It was well worth attending.

2013-10-26 15.48.01

I managed to get through three of the six zipper techniques that Nikki had available for us to choose from. I really enjoyed the freedom of selecting which of the techniques that I wanted to practice, because I chose ones that were all appropriate for the teacher bag that I want to make this year for Stella’s teacher. And I have instructions for the others and will do them at home. Despite having tested patterns for Nikki in the past, and having sewn plenty of bags from her patterns, there is nothing quite like having an uninterrupted day to dedicate to sewing a particular technique with the teacher right there on hand to help with with any part of it!

2013-10-26 13.45.35

GJs was an excellent venue for classes too. And there was great coffee and strawberry & chocolate muffins at Padre across the road. I had a wonderful day with only four of us in the class, tim-tams as bribes, an outstanding teacher, and very pleasant company.  A big shout out to Carmel for successfully managing a lapped zipper in crocodile textured PVC!  Very impressive.

Now I suppose that I should consider getting back to some of those lists…did I mention that I’m going to Sewjourn the weekend after next?

*The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.  Lewis Carroll.