Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Pattern Review: The Caravan Tote

While browsing a fellow Canadian's sewing blog recently, I discovered the Caravan tote pattern by Noodlehead. I have thought about designing a tote bag pattern many times but was never really inspired by an idea. I immediately loved the look of this tote bag and decided to give it a try!

Like all patterns by Noodlehead, the instructions were clear and easy to follow. Although the pattern piece dimensions were provided, I am lazy and prefer to print out the pieces and cut my fabric that way.

However, I did make some modifications because I was missing some notions. I didn't have a 14 inch metal zipper and I thought that the metal zipper in her photos really improved the appearance of the bag. So I ended up using a 12 inch zipper and just increased the width of the zipper tabs. It worked out perfectly!

I also didn't have size 24 snaps so I ended up using some of my cowgirl snaps. They aren't as prominent on the flap but I like that I can match them with the fabrics I used.

I also decided on using real leather for the straps AND I added a leather rectangle to the bottom of the bag. I like to set my bag down and I don't like doing that with fabric bags - they get dirty so quickly! So I stitched up the bottom seam first, pressed the seam open and then stitched on a leather rectangle that matched my straps. I then continued sewing the sides and corners of the bag.

I ended up adding an additional slip pocket inside the bag. It seemed like such a shame that a large bag would only have one slip pocket so my tote has 2.

This bag sews up fairly quickly and it is quite easy to make. The only thing I didn't care for (and this is just my personal preference) was the 1/2 inch seam allowance. I really prefer a 3/8 inch seam allowance because it is so much easier to follow the edge of your presser foot rather than follow a guide line. Again, maybe just laziness on my part!

I plan on making more of these beautiful tote bags! I don't currently carry tote bags in my Etsy shop and my customers seem to really love this design.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Faux Leather Strap Tutorial

In one of my latest patterns - the Zinnia bag -  I provide instructions on how to sew faux leather straps. I thought that sharing my technique would be extremely helpful as I get so many questions about sewing with faux leather.

With the right tools, you do not need to be afraid of faux leather! My one recommendation is this: get a walking foot attachment for your sewing machine. You will not regret it. I realize they are expensive but I have used my walking foot in so many projects now, it has paid itself off time and time again. It is not just for quilting. It deals with sticky materials such as vinyl and faux leather much better than a teflon foot. It also sews PUL, ProCare and Ripstop nylon beautifully!

Without further delay, here are my instructions for the faux leather strap taken directly from my Zinnia sewing pattern. These instructions are for shoulder straps but you can apply the same technique if you are making a longer adjustable cross body strap.

Start by cutting out your faux leather. You will need:

  • (4) pieces faux leather 22 inches W x 2 inches H
  • (4) pieces faux leather 5 inches W x 2 inches H

You will also need (4) 1-inch O rings - 2 for each shoulder strap.

Take one of the shorter strap pieces and draw a line through the centre horizontally.

Now fold in one half of the strap piece in towards the centre line you just drew and sew it
in place. Keep folding and sewing as you go until you’ve sewn that whole side.

Do the same for the other side.

Now pass the piece of strap through one of the O-rings and sew both ends together.

Repeat steps 1-4 for the other 3 short strap pieces. Now take 2 of the longer faux leather strap pieces and draw a horizontal line through the centre of the strap.

Now take the 2 pieces and sew the short ends RST.

Open up the seam you just sewed and topstitch the seam allowance down on both sides.

Now pass that strap piece through 2 of the O-rings with the shorter strap pieces you
created in steps 1-4.

Sew together the other 2 short strap ends RST. Once again, sew down the seam
allowance on both sides of the 2nd seam.

Like you did for the short strap pieces, you need to sew down one half of the strap
towards the centre line you drew. You will need to move the O-rings as required as you
are sewing. Sew down the other half also.

Now you should have one long strap loop. Place your O-rings at opposite ends of the
loop (I place them at the seams on the strap) and then clip the 2 sections of strap together
to keep them in place.

Now you are going to sew the strap halves together to create one strap with 4 thicknesses
of faux leather and the open section sandwiched inside. You will sew one rectangular
shaped seam with a 1/8” seam allowance.

You should end up with a strap that looks like this with 4 lines of stitching:

Repeat the same steps to create a second strap and you are done! You just need to sew them onto your bag. To attach your straps to your bag, you need to measure equal distance from the outer
edge of each side of the top of your bag's exterior and baste stitch your strap in place. Make sure you
do not attach your straps twisted!!

I hope this tutorial was helpful! Please do leave any questions you may have in the comments below and I will do my best to respond quickly.