I found a free bag tutorial from Free Time Frolics for a Tag Along Tote. I’m quite happy with the end result but a few things I learned along the way:
- Paper pattern size - when I printed the pattern, I had some doubts about whether my printer had changed the size of it because it may have been created in letter size rather than A4 size paper. I decided not to worry about altering it and went ahead anyway.
- Seam allowance – the tutorial didn’t mention the seam allowance. I adjusted between 1/2″ in some places and 1/4″ in others as I tried to figure out whether it was going to fit together or not.
- Substituting canvas – I didn’t have canvas to hand so I used a mid-weight iron-on interfacing for the handles to give them some strength, but I decided not to use anything in the body of the bag. I’ll have to wait and see how it lasts.
- No hemming of straps – rather than hemming the straps, I sewed both edges when they were right sides together, and then turned them inside out. I had realised that they were wide enough and should turn around easily. I find this technique usually gives me a neater finish.
- Extending the side seams – the pattern has dots to sew the side seams up to, but as I looked at the bag I felt that they weren’t high enough. I went around each seam on the lining and outer fabric and increased the length of the seams by around 3 inches. It’s a fault of city-living, but I like to avoid gaps in my bags that might encourage a hand to slip inside them.
- Straps go inside the bag when joining – I’ve done this silly mistake on a bag before, but I carefully pinned the handles in place and checked that they weren’t twisted and then sewed everything together (admittedly getting puzzled at how jumbled the straps were getting and having to maneuver them around while I sewed), only to find out as I’m turning the bag right side out that the handles were sitting inside, in between the lining and main fabric. Oops! I should have taken a picture, but instead I got to work with my seam ripper and quietly grumbled to myself. To do it right from the start, you need to make a sandwich of main fabric, strap, and lining, taking care that the straps aren’t twisted or getting in the way as they rest in-between the fabrics until you’ve sewn the top. The straps will pop out in the right place when you turn the bag right side out. Hopefully that’s the last time I make that mistake.